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Have you tried setting up a coral reef tank? Selecting your first corals can be overwhelming but there are certain important things to consider about this high maintenance hobby. Corals thrive best in larger reef tanks but they can also be kept in small aquariums. One of my most favorite items in the marine hobby is soft coral.
On a side note, soft corals are composed of soft tissues. Among the fastest growing flower animal, they lack skeletal structure. They have the widest range of brightest colors available in the hobby.
They can live in moderate lighting but more intense lighting makes them bring more intense coloration.They usually feed on suspended food particles.
Soft Coral Types:
- star polyps
Some corals can only tolerate high nutrient environment. Most of them need slow flowing water. Various types of corals are available in the market. They are categorized from easiest to hardest to care for:
- Soft Coral – one of the favorites
- LPS Coral – large polyp stony
- SPS Coral – small polyp stony
- NPS Coral – non-photosynthetic corals
Best Soft Corals for Beginners
- Mushroom Corals – Many varieties available. Avoid Yumas though as they aren’t as hardy
- Colt Coral – Hardy and tree like.
- Toadstools – These very hardy soft corals come in brown, yellow, and pink colors.
- Zoanthids -They are the most popular. They come in a wide variety of colors and sizes. They reproduce very quickly.
Corals are marvelous. Keeping them is fulfilling with proper maintenance and knowledge. Here are some corals that can be bad for beginners to buy:
- Invasive corals: green star polyps, xenia, anthelia, yellow polyps, generic palys. They are fast growing corals and extremely hardy. They need to be isolated or on a separate rock not touching the rest of your corals to prevent them invading the other rock formation.
- Goniopora – also known as Flower Pot Coral. This require intensive care and feeding.
- Non-Photosynthetic coral (azooxanthelle) – Sea Fans, Chili Corals, Sun Corals, and Gorgonians require feeding three times a day. They have the most odd textures, shapes, and cryptic behaviors. Because of their demand, you need experience and advanced filtration systems to maintain the water parameters in good shape.
Important Thing to be Aware of When Packaging:
The stone where the coral is glued must be attached to a styrofoam before putting in the plastic bag with saltwater. This makes the coral protected even if the plastic bag is tossed around, especially during delivery or travel. When the bag turns over, the styrofoam floats and turns over leaving the coral unharmed. The styrofoam with rock and coral should always be in inverted position.
Introducing Them to Your New Tank:
Acclimation is also necessary for them to equilibrate the temperature. There are three steps to properly acclimate corals:
- Let the plastic bag with coral floats above the water surface of your tank for 10-15 minutes. This enables the coral to adjust to your tank’s temperature and avoid stress.
- Drip accumulate the corals by using an airline drip to allow them to adjust to your tank parameters.
- Place them first on the ground rather than putting them on higher spots because the corals must adapt slowly.
Don’t go for dirty water, though corals can tolerate, eventually it leads to a disaster. Go for clean and nutrient-rich water to ensure their good health. Iodine supplement is also necessary. Seek recommendations from experts.
Drip and Quarantine Them:
Drip every corals you introduce to your system. If you are new to the hobby, a solution like CoralRX is pretty standard to use. As you get more experience, you can move on to Bayer, which is a surprisingly effective coral drip and superior to the standard drips sold by your LFS.
Any procedure that should be done is quartaining your corals. This is done to not only light accululate your corals, but to also prevent pests and diseases from entering your aquarium. Any coral you purchase runs the risk of bringing in all sorts of pests like flatworms, glass anemones, red bugs, and nudibranchs.
A coral QT is easier than you think. I personally follow the FishOfHex method as shown below in the video:
Must-Haves During Maintenance:
- Eye goggles – This will protect your eyes from squirting of slime coming from accidental cutting through coral tissues.
- Mouth and nose cover (mask) – Having this prevents your mouth to get in contact with toxin.This will also protect you inhaling the bad fumes.
- Tight gloves – You need to always wear this during cleaning and touching the rocks.
- Carbon – this absorbs the poison (toxin) in the water.
Avoiding Palytoxin Poisoning in a Reef Tank
Palytoxin is poisonous. The fumes that comes out from corals are toxic. Here’s how to avoid it in a reef aquarium:
- Avoid the slime and wash your hands thoroughly after touching the coral.
- Enough ventilation in the room is necessary.
- Never boil live sea rocks or corals because this will release playtoxin in the air and poison not only you but the entire house!
- Do not let the coral gets near to your mouth or eyes. Mucus (palytoxin) squirts which are dangerous. Avoid touching coral reef tank if you have open wound. When the mucus enters your bloodstream, you need to seek medical assistance.
- Carbon is needed to remove the palytoxin in your tank.
- Dispose the water contaminated with toxin and pieces of corals with concern to the proper place. Seek recommendation from experts how to properly get rid of them.
3 Ways Palytoxin Can Enter Your Body:
- Direct contact: eyes, and mouth
- Ingestion (eating)
- Inhaling the fume
They are alive. Unlike plants that produce their own food, corals catch their food to survive. Coral larvae can swim then eventually attach to hard surfaces or rocks to form a reef. Corals belong to the class Anthozoa of phylum Cnidaria (flower animals).
These marine (saltwater) invertebrates are diverse underwater ecosystems that secrete calcium carbonate forming a structure. They have polyps (composed of thousands of tiny animals) that cluster in groups.
How Do They Die?
- coral mining
- blast fishing
- destructive fishing practices: using cyanide and dynamite
- global warming
- outbreaks of predatory starfish
- digging of canals
- Barrier – They border a shoreline but they are separated from land by water forming an open water, usually deep, between the shore and the reef.
- Fringing – grows seaward forming borders along the surrounding islands and the shoreline
- Atoll – oval or circular in shape. From being a fringing reef, they grow upward from a volcanic island that has sunk below the sea ground.
Corals can live up to 900 years, growing as large as 6 feet (1.8 m) or more. Worms, fish, snails, and sea stars prey on corals. Coral is immobile and when it dies, the hard calcium structure remains and eventually a new coral will form. The process is repeated over and over and expands.
Overtime, the coral colonies that are being buried by sediments when they die turn into limestone. They become fossils on Earth.
What is a Polyp?
It does not have brain, tongue, nose, and ears but it has nerve net that goes from the mouth to the tentacles. Coral is the simplest animal to have dedicated reproductive system, muscular system, and nervous system.
Setting up an indoor coral reef is rewarding. The artificial marine ecosystem provides a stunning display. This hobby requires expertise to be successful and ensure the safety of your family. Know the pros and cons. Awareness is vital.
Avoid letting wastewater contaminate Earth’s bodies of water. Participate in campaigns against global warming. Coral reefs play an important role in sustaining our economy and the health of our oceans. Preserve coral reefs. Provide homes for millions of aquatic species.
Mark is the founder of Aquarium Store Depot. He started in the aquarium hobby at the age of 11 and along the way worked at local fish stores. He has kept freshwater tanks, ponds, and reef tanks for over 25 years. His site was created to share his knowledge and unique teaching style on a larger scale. He has worked on making aquarium and pond keeping approachable. Mark has been featured in two books about aquarium keeping – both best sellers on Amazon. Each year, he continues to help his readers and clients with knowledge, professional builds, and troubleshooting.