What’s In A Name? Um, Well…(coral Naming)

Posted by on November 1, 2013 - zero

So,  I have a bit of a confession to make. I am starting to understand the whole idea behind the goofy “names” we assign to various corals in the hobby/trade.

Man, when Joe and I launched the new Unique Corals website last year, I was pretty adamant about avoiding coming up with ridiculous names for every coral. I was like, “Joe, that’s an Acropora micorclados. It’s not a ‘Strawberry Shortcake.’ Where in Veron’s book does it say that?”  I was convinced that we would simply label every coral by its scientific name and leave it for the consumer to decide what stupid name they wanted to call it…How absurd- and arrogant- that presumption was! I just didn’t get it!


I’m a marketing person by education, so if anyone could appreciate the value of using a popular name, or creating one, it should be me. And it took this slightly arrogant reefer-with-the-marketing-degree about one week to realize that he was…um, wr-, um- wron- ok, ok- “not entirely correct.”

I get why these news are so important…Not only do they serve as a means to identify a specific morph of coral within the organization, they provide a basis for discussion among hobbyists worldwide. It’s much easier to say “ Dude, I’m getting a frag of the “Shades of Fall Acro” than it is “I’m getting that Acropora nasuta morph with the gold and green and yellow coloring…”


The problem that I always had with names is that it was somehow “understood” that the party offering the said “named” coral was the one who “discovered” or “invented” it. Absurd. Just ridiculous. I’m a hobbyist, a person with more than causal understanding of marine science, and a way-better-than-average understanding of marketing and branding, and you will not ever convince me that the person that came up with the catchy name “discovered” the coral. I will, however, concede that the person who “named it” may have coined the name for this particular morph because it stood out dramatically from the masses, and would be worth propagating for the hobby.

Although I will be the first one to poke fun at the absurdity of the named corals, I will tell you that I’m more excited to think about the fact that these little corals have driven ordinary (ok- we’re reefers- WIERD) men and women to such lengths to acquire and take care of them. Ok, it may be overdone and a bit silly at times, but these names are really just a way of identifying life forms that we admire and love so much. What’s wrong with that?


Well, nothing- unless the obsession to secure such a coral drives prices into the absurd range. Paying a ridiculous price for the “_____ Tort” as opposed to the same Acropora tortuosa from another source is kind of funny. I mean, again, all watches tell time, but the Rolex is the aspirational brand, so I kind of get it. However, how do you tell a “true LE” from one that is not? To the scientist, Montipora undata is Montipora undata, right?

I would bet a “Red Planet Acro” ( from ORA, of course) that the parent colony of the “Chili Pepper Monti” was “Discovered” by some reefer a long time ago in some forgotten bin at a local wholesaler, given some love, and then displayed with pride in someone’s reef- and on the message boards for all the world to see. Although genetically, it’s just another Montipora, to the hardcore reefer, it’s a true thing of joy and beauty, as they say.

And of course, it’s not just a name. It’s a frame of reference. An embodiment of our fascination with corals, and an identifier that reinforces our culture via a common language and aspirational values. When used for these purposes, a name can be valuable. When it’s used to create a sense of ‘elitism” and a rationale for an absurdly inflated price, I personally become cynical.

Yes, I’m in the coral business, and yes, some of the corals I sell have goofy names. And some of them are very expensive. However, when we replace true value or mis-use the relative scarcity of a “named” morph of a coral as a means to simply drive up pricing, we’re doing you a disservice, I think.

Let’s face it. Some corals are simply rare or otherwise hard to come by, regardless of wether or not they have a goofy name attached to them. Some WYSIWYG specimens are simply better than others. Just like some diamonds are better than each other. That will always drive supply and demand. But let’s not fool ourselves into believing that so-and so’s “Strawberry Shortcake” Acropora micorclados is somehow a genetically superior to someone else’s. Sure, the color might be better in one or the other, but they are both the same species. That’s all I’m saying. And despite what people might think, “X” did NOT “invent” the coral. There are literally people I’ve talked to that believe that “X” somehow “propagated” a coral into existence. No , no NO!!


Someone might have selected a particularly nice Acropora horrid, for example, but they did not “create” a “strain” of it, like you might with a fancy guppy or a Clownfish. If this is a legitimate point, and if’ I am totally missing it, I’d love to hear from scientifically-minded types who can clarify this for us all.

Fifteen years ago, if you would have mentioned that you’d be picking up specimens of CAPTIVE PROPAGATED live corals at a “frag swap” (what’s THAT?),*most hobbyists would have looked at you like you were some alien! How far we have come- how amazing WE are as hobbyists- to be able to have such awesome events that bring people of all walks of life together, sharing their common love for the ocean and the creatures found in it.

So, dear hobbyists and industry people, you go right on coming up with these goofy names. Names that make us remember why this hobby is so darned fun. Names that get the blood flowing in any hardcore reefer’s veins. Just don’t forget to take a reality check once in a while, that’s all.


So what’s in a name? A whole lot, actually!

I’m so proud to be part of this hobby world that we have- and you should be, too! Thanks to all of the fine folks that participate worldwide, the future will just be brighter and brighter for both the hobby and the animals that we keep. You can bet your “Miami Hurricane”  Chalice on it!

To quote Forrest Gump, “That’s all I have to say about that.”  Your thoughts, please?

Until next time,

Stay Wet.

Scott Fellman
Unique Corals


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