THE PATCH REEF

Liagora Sp.Patch reefs are located behind the reef flat or barrier reef and are typically located in shallow waters of 10-20 feet in depth. They are small and isolated coral skeleton islands that form a circular or oval shape. The outer edge of each patch reef is completely surrounded by sand that extends to meet deeper sea grass meadows. This sandy area is formed by the distance that herbivorous fish feel is within safe foraging range from the patch reef. Patch reefs are highly variable in both size and development and contain species that are adapted to living on the open reef. These include: hard corals, gorgonians, boring sponges, and sporadic colonies of macro algae as well as adjacent sea grass beds. Because of the lack of nutrients in this habitat, macro algae are much more limited in diversity and colony size. 

Depending on the location of the reef, many open water macro algae thrive in this environment, including calcerous algae such as Halimeda, Gracilaria, Halymenia, Haliptilon, Liagora and other calcified encrusting red algae. The brown algae Dictoya also makes its appearance on the patch reef, but its growth is smaller and more compact due to the strong current and lack of available nutrients. 

Jaide Swarthout's Planted TankPatch reefs certainly fall into the category of most mixed reef aquariums today. They are typically formed by stacking live rock high in the tank to create a wall on the back of the aquarium. Then the rockwork is filled with a combination of photosynthetic organisms including hard and soft corals, single specimens of macro algae and other invertebrates to form a miniature reef biotope. While this can be done attractively, a true patch reef would have a single collection of rocks arranged to appear as one structure located in the center of the aquarium. Just like a lagoon style biotope, this type of aquascape is more suited to wide, shallow tanks so that a substantial area of sand can be arranged around the reef. 

The unique aquascape (pictured) of aquarist Jaide Swarthout mimics a miniature patch reef surrounded by sand and a surrounding sea grass bed. Notice the use of driftwood, which is normally seen in freshwater planted aquariums. This minimalist approach is very appealing and allows for easier maintenance

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Table of Contents

Lagoon Biotope