Live Corals in the Marine Aquarium

 


Adventure Pets takes pride in the large selection of high quality fresh and saltwater fish. We also have a nice selection of hard to find large to show size fish.We bring in regular shipments direct from Asia, bypassing the wholesalers, offering a higher quality specimen at a much lower cost.

Click Here to see some of our In Stock Corals

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In Stock Corals

IMG_3334 by ctenophore, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License  by  ctenophore

The practice of culturing live corals in the marine aquarium is called reefkeeping. While this was the mark of a true expert aquarist just a couple of decades ago improvements in equipment, information on the needs of various corals and the availability of cultured specimens have made successfully keeping corals a reality for average hobbyist today.

There is nothing that truly maks an aquarium as a marine tank quite like live coral. just like marine fish there are many varieties of live coral and their needs can be very different.

Corals in the aquarium

The name coral can refer to any of well over 3000 known species of marine polyps. This puts it on par with the term fish in describing a particular specimen. At this level there are some similarities they all share for example just like all fish, all corals need water. Fortunately just like fish coral species can be broadly grouped by similar characteristics and requirements. This makes it much easier to manage the information you need to successfully maintain them in the reef tank.

As with fish not all species are suitable or even desirable additions to the reef tank. The majority of corals that are though typically fall into the groups listed below.

Common Types of Coral

Live Corals while often referred to as a group fall into one of six categories. Corals in each of these groups share many characteristics and environmental requirements. Familiarizing yourself with the different types and their basic needs and preferences is the most important factor in successfully keeping these exotic inverts.

No matter which type of coral being kept they will have specific environmental requirements particularly when it comes to lighting, water chemistry, temperature and water motion. Biological factors like coral aggression, disease, predation and competing algae growth are the major biological concerns.

Coral Groups

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Small Polyped Stony Corals(SPS)

Light
Most SPS do well under 5-8 watts per gallon using a 50/50 Daylight/Actinic mix supplied by a combination T-5, Metal Halide and HQI lights.
Current
Compatibility
Most SPS Corals do well with strong current supplied by powerheads and a wavemaker or surge device.
Most SPS Corals are peaceful to moderately aggressive but some like the Horn corals can be very aggressive.
Growth
Food Size
Most SPS Corals exhibit medium growth rates but some like the Horn or Bird's Nest Corals can grow quickly if given the right conditions.
Most SPS Corals require phytoplankton to rotifer or smaller zooplankton sized food.
Difficulty
Propagation
Almost all SPS Corals are better suited to those with some coral experience but the Psammocora Pillar corals and some of the Echinopora are easy enough for beginners.
Fragging is the typical propagation method for culturing LPS Corals
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Large Polyped Stony Corals(LPS)

Caulastrea furcata by Nat Tarbox, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License  by  Nat Tarbox
Light
Most LPS do well under 3-5 watts per gallon using a 50/50 Daylight/Actinic mix supplied by compact, VHO or T-5 fluorescent lights
Current
Compatibility
Most LPS Corals do well with indirect current supplied by powerheads
Most LPS Corals are peaceful to moderately aggressive but some like the Hammer, Torch, or Anchor corals can be very aggressive.
Growth
Feed Size
Most LPS Corals exhibit slow to medium growth but some like the Anchor, Brain. Hammer, Torch, or Candy Cane Coral can grow quickly if given the right conditions
Most LPS Corals require rotifer or smaller zooplnkton to mysis shrimp sized food
Difficulty
Propagation
Most LPS Corals are easiest with at least some experience but there are some notable exceptions that are suitable for beginners like The Acans, Bubble some Brains and Fugia species to name a few
Fragging is the typical propagation method for culturing LPS Corals.
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Soft Corals

Light
Most Soft Corals do well under 3-5 watts per gallon using a 50/50 Daylight/Actinic mix supplied by compact, VHO or T-5 fluorescent lights.
Current
Compatibility
Most Soft Corals do well with indirect current supplied by powerheads gut some like the Colt, Finger Leathers and a number of the trees do better with a stronger current.
Most Soft Corals are peaceful to moderately aggressive but some like the Millepora Fire Corals can be aggressive.
Growth
Food Size
Most Soft Corals exhibit medium growth rates but some like the Xenia, Kenya Tree, Colts and Fire corals can grow quickly if given the right conditions.
Most Soft Corals require phytoplankton to rotifer or smaller zooplankton sized food.
Difficulty
Propagation
Many Soft Corals are ideal for beginners due to their hardiness, tolerance of less than perfect water conditions and low to medium lighting requirements.
Both Budding and Fragging are typical propagation methods for culturing LPS Corals.
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Polyps

Zoanthid by Nat Tarbox, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License  by  Nat Tarbox
Light
Most Polyps do well under 3-5 watts per gallon using a 50/50 Daylight/Actinic mix supplied by compact, VHO or T-5 fluorescent lights.
Current
Compatibility
Most Polyps do well with indirect current supplied by powerheads.
Polyps are peaceful to moderately aggressive.
Growth
Food Size
Most Polyps are fast growing corals.
Most Polyps require phytoplankton to rotifer or smaller zooplankton sized food.
Difficulty
Propagation
Just about all of the Polyps are ideal for beginners due to their hardiness, tolerance of less than perfect water conditions and low to medium lighting requirements.
Both Budding and Fragging are typical propagation methods for culturing Polyps.
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Mushroom Corals

Blue Mushroom Coral by la.kien, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License  by  la.kien
Light
Most Mushroom Corals do well under 2-4 watts per gallon using a 50/50 Daylight/Actinic mix supplied by standard, compact, VHO or T-5 lights.
Current
Compatibility
Most Mushroom Corals do well with indirect current supplied by powerheads.
Most Mushroom Corals are moderately aggressive.
Growth
Food Size
Most Mushroom Corals exhibit medium growth but when happy can grow quickly.
Most Mushroom Corals require phytoplankton to rotifer or smaller zooplankton sized food.
Difficulty
Propagation
Most Mushroom Corals are ideal for beginners due to their hardiness, tolerance of less than perfect water conditions and low to medium lighting requirements.
Both Budding and Fragging are typical propagation methods for culturing Mushroom Corals.
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Gorgonians

Sea fans by Joi, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License  by  Joi
Light
Most Gorgonians do well under 2-4 watts per gallon using a 50/50 Daylight/Actinic mix supplied by standard, compact, VHO or T-5 lights.
Current
Compatibility
Most Gorgonians do well with strong current supplied by powerheads and a wavemaker or surge device.
Most Gorgonians are peaceful.
Growth
Food Size
Most Gorgonians are medium to fast growers.
Most Gorgonians phytoplankton to rotifer or smaller zooplankton to newly hatched brine shrimp sized food.
Difficulty
Propagation
Most Gorgonians are better suited to those with as least some experience feeding corals.
Fragging is the typical propagation method for culturing Gorgonians.

Major Coral Care Consideration

Environmental Factors

Biological Factors

Lighting

With a fish only aquarium an aquarist will start to get a feel for the three main characteristics of light that affect corals, temperature (color), intensity and photoperiod. The temperature measured in degrees Kelvin (°k) will affect how their fish look. They also notice how their fish look different as they swim closer to the top than they do when resting on the bottom where light intensity is lower. Finally they quickly get an appreciation for how the photoperiod affects photosynthetic organisms when they leave the lights on too long and have to deal with algae blooms.

Fired up! by Nat Tarbox, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License  by  Nat Tarbox

The appearance of corals is certainly affected by temperature and intensity but most corals in the aquarium are also photosynthetic. Because of a symbiotic relationship with algae that provide nutrients and affect their color the photosynthetic corals are particularly sensitive to all three characteristics of lighting.

There are also non-photosynthetic (NPS) species such as the sun corals. These are called azooxanthellate corals because they do not rely on zooxanthellae algae to produce food, these naturally are less dependant on specific lighting conditions for their well being.

Besides buying the right mix of bulbs to provide an acceptable spectrum placement within the aquarium, which affects intensity, and a consistent and proper length photoperiod is important. Individual species will have individual preferences that need to be considered and balanced when keeping a variety of corals. X

Coral Aggression

Since corals depend on specific light and current level crowding is a problem because both are affected by competition. Because of this corals have developed a few different strategies to deal with encroaching competitors. The strategy they use depends on the coral but in general hard coral use sweeper tentacles with specialized stinging cells called "nematocysts" or mesenteric filaments produced from their stomachs that can actually digest coral that they come in contact with.

Soft corals on the other hand tend to release irritating or toxic substances into the surrounding water. These are called terpenoid compounds and are chemically similar to the turpentine used in painting. All three of these defense mechanisms work to preserve the corals necessary personal space in the wide expanse of the reef but within the close confines of the aquarium can lead to the damage or death of your corals. X

Water Chemistry

September 1 - 7, 2010 by osseous, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License  by  osseous

Just about all of the major salt mix brands will create artificial seawater that is similar enough to natural seawater for corals to do well. However the chemical makeup changes over time due to chemical and biological processes that are continually occurring in the small volume of water in even the largest aquariums.

One of the most important chemical components in the water as far as hard corals are concerned is calcium that they use to produce and maintain their skeleton. Adequate calcium levels themselves are of course important but it must be in a chemical form that can be easily used by the corals. Corals utilize calcium as calcium carbonate the percentage of overall calcium available in this form is known as its saturation state. Along with overall calcium levels alkalinity and pH affect this percentage. In fact low alkalinity is more often a problem than low calcium levels particularly in well-established tanks.

The levels of the inorganic nutrients that matter to fish ammonia, nitrate and phosphate are less of a concern to the corals. X

Coral Disease

There are roughly thirty distinct diseases or syndromes that affect corals in the wild however only about a third of these are seen in the home aquarium. Stress just as in all other animals has been identified as the major contributory factor in disease.

Stress forces an organism to alter its normal biological processes diverting resources to deal with a short term threat and away from those that affect long term health like the immune system.

In the aquarium variations in temperature, salinity levels, pH, ultraviolet and visible radiation (light) can cause stress. Sedimentation, algae encrustation and pollutants are also physical sources of stress.

This makes regular water testing a critical component in maintaining healthy coral. Another effective tool is quarantine. Often species from different geographical ranges are included in the same tank. This means that when adding new corals there is the potential for the introduction of a problematic organism that a coral may have little or no natural defense for. Quarantining new specimens is a good practice especially if the coral is collected in the wild.

Contamination risk, reducing the depletion of natural stocks and their prior acclimation to captive conditions make a strong case for purchasing captive bred corals over wild collected specimens. X

Water Temperature

The temperature of a tank containing corals should be maintained close to those normally found on a reef between 21-27°C. Temperatures that rise into the 30's °C for as little as a day can cause corals to bleach. Bleaching occurs when the corals expel the zooxanthellae algae that contribute to their color and dietary needs. While many will recover if these conditions are quickly corrected both growth and appearance will suffer and the coral will be more susceptible to other problems until they do. X

Predation

Predation, also known as corallivory, simply put is the feeding on corals by certain species of fish and inverts. This is often the major consideration when determining whether an individual species is reef-safe. While opinions on a particular species may vary somewhat there is usually a wealth of opinions available for you to consider.

This behavior is natural for a number of corallivorous species and given the wide expanse of the reef is actually beneficial to its overall health. However in the tight confines of a reef tank the ratio of available coral to even a single coral predator can lead to decimated coral. X

Water Motion

Being sedentary corals depend on water motion to bring nutrients to them. Their various forms and structures have evolved to be most effective in harvesting what they need from the water with a particular amount of current.

All corals need some current but their position in relation to water outflows vary and along with light intensity will determine their best position in the tank. Position itself can make the difference between a coral that thrives and one that slowly waste away. X

Algae Growth

All algae especially the simpler types compete with the zooxanthellae algae of the photosynthetic corals. They either compete directly by encrusting the coral and blocking the light or by utilizing dissolved nutrients.

Undesirable algae growth is always a concern but can usually be kept in check by maintaining proper lighting and water chemistry in the aquarium. X

The structure of the colony, reliance on photosynthesis and polyp size are the major influence on care requirements for the individual species of coral. They affect the mineral level, lighting, feeding and current requirements as well as optimal tank placement.