A good reef tank mimics the real deal. Coral both large and small provides that finishing touch to bring the reef tank to life. These marine invertebrates form colonies and a rigid structure suitable for fish to live in. Maintaining coral within the aquarium is vital for the comfort of its occupants.
Create a Healthy Environment for the Coral
Coral is a very sensitive organism in terms of its relationship to water quality and lighting. The water in a reef aquarium must be low in ammonia and nitrite. These elements contribute to the acidity of the tank’s water. An ideal and coral-friendly pH level is between 8.3 and 8.4. It is easy to maintain this level by testing the water regularly and keeping an eye on the nitrogen cycle within the tank. Nitrate is one of the end results of this cycle. Ensure that the water is between 72-78° Fahrenheit. The water should also have good current.
Lighting in a reef tank is also a delicate balance. The majority of coral is zooxanthellate. They get their nutrients from organisms called zooxanthellae. Zooxanthellae perform photosynthesis to keep the coral healthy. These organisms require specific lighting to get the job done. Some hobbyists use lighting systems designed for aquariums. Metal halide bulbs provide a bright and intense spectrum that supports the photosynthesis process. Be aware that these bulbs can get very hot so it may be necessary to add ventilation and a larger ballast. Change the bulbs regularly. The zooxanthellae have better access to lighting when the water is clearer.
Not all corals are created equal. Each subspecies deserves a unique pride-of-place within the aquarium based on its physical qualities. Stores that offer coral for sale can provide additional guidance on what species of coral may be a good fit for the aquarium in question.
1. Leather Corals
Leather corals, or Sarcophyton spp., look very similar to mushrooms. They are often light brown at the base and have green tentacles. These tentacles retract regularly so the coral can secrete a waxy substance. The substance is how the coral cleans itself. If the aquarium has the strong current mentioned earlier the coral will slough off to reveal the tentacles once more.
2. Trumpet Coral
Caulastrea furcata is typically colored a bright green or blue-green. They get their name from the trumpet-shaped polyps that compose the organism. Trumpet coral is more tolerant of polluted aquarium water.
3. Open Brain Coral
Unlike its siblings, this type of coral is only one polyp. The open brain coral works best on the bottom of the aquarium because it thrives under low lighting. Nourish this coral with meaty seafood such as a piece of krill or other shrimp.
4. Bubble Coral
The Plerogyra sinuosa is a delicate species of coral and definitely looks like it. Bubble coral has tender pink-yellow polyps that can tear easily. They are perfect for shadier nooks within the aquarium.
5. Star Polyps
Pachyclavularia spp. is often chosen by beginning aquarium hobbyists. Star polyps are referred to as the “coral weed” because they grow very quickly and adopt a mossy appearance. This species is also inexpensive to obtain from places that offer coral for sale.
After selecting the perfect coral it is time to populate the aquarium with fish. Avoid large angelfish because they eat coral. Clownfish enjoy burrowing within the coral. Gobies are small and innocuous fish that fit in just about anywhere. A local pet store can supply both the fish and advice on how they work together.