Great Aquarium Corals and the Ease of Keeping Them
There is an influx of beautiful coral...
With the ever growing saltwater aquarium hobby, it is no wonder that the influx of diverse corals has increased dramatically as well. Whether the corals are farm raised, fragged or wild caught, coral diversity is at an all time high. The myriad of colors, patterns, shapes and styles has also followed suit with the diversity and number of corals now obtainable at you local pet shops, online or friends tank.
Many of these corals have a proven track record in captivity. Experts aren't the only beneficiaries reaping the rewards of purchasing and keeping these corals with long term success anymore. With technological advancements, such as protein skimmers, halide lighting, calcium and phosphate reactors and chillers, prudent research, and the success and popularity of coral farmers, novice aquarists are now able to enjoy the many vibrant and wonderful corals, now being propogated.
The introduction of coral farming and fragging, has helped to eliminate the need to collect coral from our diverse and fragile reefs of the world, decreasing the damage often ensuing as a result of this activity. Moreover, coral farming has created numerous job opportunities and financial support in many of the poverty stricken island locations residing in the reef areas.
These farmed corals are also more hardy than their relatives in the wild and better adapt to survive successfully for years in a captive environment.
Not only are they more hardy and diverse, but are easier than ever to keep under less stringent conditions. Lighting and water parameter variations are now less likely to pose a major problem with farmed corals, that would ultimately kill wild caught specimens.
Soft corals(Octocoral) such as Xenia, Anthelia, Pachy and Clavularia, Zoanthids, Corallimorpharians, Sarcophyton, Lobophyton and Sinularia are numerous in number, color and variety. Many of these corals are associated with weeds not in terms of their being hated and dispized, but because of the elevated growth potential associated with many of these Octocorals. These corals will fair well in captivity under a variety of water conditions.
Temperature fluxuations and light intensity variances seem to be the major problems that effect soft coral growth and health. An iodine supplement and the presence of disolved organic matter/nutrients in the pelagic areas of your tank will afford your soft corals, better coloration health and growth potential in my opinion.
The addition of trace elements will also lend to the health of your soft corals as many of these beneficial elements are adsorbed and absorbed rather quickly in tanks containing large populations of corals, Tridacna clams, fish and the use of carbon and efficient skimming.
Another important thing to incorporate into your tank to ensure perfect health of your soft coral is water movement. Water movement is best in a sporadic manner, not laminar, focusing on one directional current. Like the tides and waves generated in our natural reefs of the world, a varied water flow will help to rid detritus while carrying nutrients and benefical oxygen to your soft coral, while carrying away carbon dioxide.
As for the Scleractinians(Stony Corals), there are some very interesting, colorful and dynamic small polyped stony corals as well as their cousins, the large polyped stony corals. Scleractinians are known as hermatypic, because they add to the matrix of calcareous framework which is responsible for the creation of our reefs.
Some of the more hardy and easy large polyped stonies, which are notably easier to keep in a captive environment than small polyped stonies, are many brain corals, Euphyllia, Caulastrea, Fungia and Heliofungia, Plerogyra, Nemenzophyllia, and under a target feeding regimine, Tubastrea.
Among the many types of small polyped stonies available, there are a few that will survive and thrive in your tank. Pavona, Porites, Pocillipora, Montipora and a few types of Acropora species such as Millipora and Slimer will make a great addition to a reef environment.
The stonies are more difficult to keep but are by no means out of the question to keep, though certain species of coral such as Dendronepthea, Catalaphyllia, and Goniopora present numerous pitfalls and short term success at best. The lighting and water parameter recommendations associated with stonies are more stringent than for the Octocorals.
The nutrient rich water associated with soft corals has to be reduced somewhat for stony corals. Though these stonies will grow, though slower than under intense lighting, they will survive. The main drawback with these corals is the vibrant coloration symbolic of these corals, will not be truly encaptured and enjoyed under less than ideal lighting.
Sponges(Porifera), and symbiotic Gorgonians(Gorgonidae=Scleraxonia and Holaxonia) are often a wise choice as well due to their anatomy, distinct nature and a varied colony form that offers a nice diversification in your tank with some distinct patterns, colors and features unable to be copyied by any other type of coral.
Hopefully, this will help you, who are just starting to dive into the saltwater hobby, and offer some reassurance for those intermediate and expert reefers to try some of these beautiful corals.
Best of luck to all ou you and your journey as you get your feet wet under the sea, in your little part of the oceans reefdom becomming up close and personal with the many corals, invertebrates, and fish associated with the vibrant and diverse reef biotopes of the world.