coral reef

All eyes on you: Dozens of colorful fish appear to intently watch the camera in this gorgeous scene on the reef at Rose Atoll in National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa. 

The vibrant coral reefs of American Samoa are a hotspot for marine life – hundreds of fish species can be found in the sanctuary! 

(Photo: Wendy Cover/NOAA)

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Ray swimming above coral reef, Maldives

ecosystems coral reef

diverse underwater ecosystems held together by calcium carbonate structures secreted by corals. Coral reefs are built by colonies of tiny animals found in marine waters that contain few nutrients. Most coral reefs are built from stony corals, which in turn consist of polyps that cluster in groups. The polyps belong to a group of animals known as Cnidaria, which also includes sea anemones and jellyfish.

Gather round the Christmas tree…worms? 

Far from the North Pole and only a few inches in height, Christmas tree worms are small worms that can be found on reefs in a number of your national marine sanctuaries. Brightly colored and shaped much like your favorite seasonal evergreens, these little worms use their bristle-like appendages to catch meals of phytoplankton and to breathe. While the body of the worm buries inside its host coral structure, each worm projects two tiny “trees” above the coral surface. These two little trees were spotted on the reef at Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, creating their own miniature winter wonderland. 

(Photo: Steve Miller)

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Clownfish swimming on healthy coral reef, Indonesia. Look how vibrant this whole setting is.

Corals like this one in Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary are gorgeous, diverse marine species found throughout our world’s ocean. But did you know that corals actually provide humans several critical services? 

In addition to sustaining biodiversity and providing us food, medicine, and recreational opportunities, coral reefs can serve as a critical, natural defense for coastal communities. Healthy coral reefs like those in Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary can diffuse much of the energy of hard-hitting ocean waves before waves ever reach the shore, helping to protect coastlines from damage, especially in the event of a large storm. 

(Photo: Tom Moore/NOAA) 

I don’t buy new fish very often, my reef only has 7 fish total. I’m one of those who believe less is better when it comes to fish in a reef tank…
I saw this little guy yesterday and couldn’t resist, he’s a Ruby Red Dragonet and he’s a stunner!
I took this pic while he was being acclimated because I wasn’t sure how often I’d see him once he’s in the reef!

It’s Corals Week! Coral reefs are thought to contain the greatest level of biodiversity of any ecosystem in the world – even more than tropical rainforests. 

Hundreds of marine organisms rely on coral reefs for food, shelter, mating grounds and more, like this mithrax crab in Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary. While some species eat coral, others protect corals from algae overgrowth and filter water surrounding corals, recycling nutrients and removing debris. Mithrax crabs like this one munch on algae and decaying material on the reef, obtaining food while helping clean the reef. 

Without healthy reefs, hundreds of marine organisms would lose valuable resources they need to survive, and biodiversity in our ocean would suffer. Stay tuned this week to learn more about reefs, and what we can do to protect these critical habitats! 

(Photo: NOAA)