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If you are keeping a marine tank, the chances are that one of the most potentially beautiful and intriguing things about it is the coral you keep. With so many colourful varieties on offer, in different shapes and sizes, they are often the stunning feature point of your tank.
Perhaps just as important as that are the functions coral performs. When coral is done right, it becomes the life-force of your tank, becoming the home to many reef fish and aquatic vegetation, including beneficial bacteria that act as a filter within your aquarium keeping the water quality better for all the other colourful critters in your tank.
While some corals require a lot of experience, keeping care of simple coral it is easy when you know how, so let’s look at the best ways to let coral thrive in your tank and how to set it up so your coral is at its’ glorious best.
Providing your coral with the right amount of light is absolutely essential to coral survival and growth. In nature, most corals grow quite near the surface, in shallow clear waters where they can get lots of sunlight for the organisms inside them to photosynthesise their food source which the coral feeds off.
For coral to thrive, you need to simulate that environment for them by setting up coral lighting to give them the type of light they require. To do this, select lighting tubes that state their suitability for Marine tanks, eg Marine Blue, Marine White, Fiji Blue, etc. These types of lights give most corals the type of light they need to keep growing. To select the right one for your tank, you need to look at the depth your coral will be at.
Different lights have different abilities when it comes to penetrating the depths of the water in your tank, and this is called the ‘Par rating’ of the light, while the colour spectrum is called the ‘Kelvin Rating’. You should research at what depth your chosen coral should be kept and what light is best for it, taking both the Par and Kelvin ratings into consideration.
Although photosynthesis from sunlight is the main source of nutrients for coral, some also catch free floating plankton and algae too, so make sure you give this some thought when choosing your coral – can your tank supply the coral with what it needs?
It’s a simple matter of chemistry
Lighting isn’t the only factor when it comes to good coral care, your water quality is a big factor too!
Marine corals live in salt water, and require just the right pH balance to be able to develop and grow. This means that maintaining the chemical balances in your tank at their optimum levels becomes of the upmost importance.
Research here is key, so either use your tank’s current levels as a guide as to which coral you can purchase, or if you are starting afresh and are in a position to choose your coral first then make sure you can bring your tank to levels in which the coral can thrive using coral additives and treatments to maintain the delicate chemical balance and give your coral the nutrients it needs to grow it’s exoskeleton.
It sounds straight forward enough, but positioning of your live rock for the coral to grow on is crucial to it’s survival. While a coral structure might look good when you first put it into your tank, you might find that some corals suffer as they are not at the optimum depth for the light to penetrate or they may be in the shade created by other aquarium ornaments.
You need to think about your fish too by constructing the coral formation is a way that gives them places to safely swim through and hide in if they are feeling a little stressed. Likewise, don’t over stock your tank with coral leaving cramped conditions for your fish to swim in.
As with introducing anything new to your tank, you need to make sure the coral you choose is compatible with the other life in your tank. While some organisms in your tank will thrive off the algae that grow on it, others may suffer from it and some may even be coral feeders, hell-bent on destroying your newly bought coral.
Research into the relationships between your fish/invertebrates and your new coral is key to the survival of both, and the information is generally easy to acquire either through your aquarium life stockist or through an internet search.
Each type of coral can be very different to the next, from soft to hard coral and photosynthetic to prey-feeding corals. Research is always the best way to ensure success, and when you get it right you will truly have something to show visitors that will really impress them.