Feeding Your Corals for Elevated Growth Potential Color and Health

Many aquarists assume that providing adequate light for their symbiotic corals is all that is necessary to maintain them successfully in a captive environment...This is only part of the equation!

How times have changed from the glory days of under gravel filters, hang on or cannister filters and bleached corals that provided shelter for our marine animals and eye appeal to us as avid aquarists...Yeah right! It is truly amazing how far the saltwater hobby has advanced. The plethora of marine fish and invertebrates available to us over the past few years is astonishing. Not only is this a result of technological advancements and research but a credit to the marine life that has become a mainstay in the hobby.

Then their is the aquarist with the full blown reef aquarium that has incorporated corals into the equation. Lighting is viewed by many aquarists as the major key concept when it comes to a maintaining a successful saltwater aquarium. Lighting only touches the surface of creating and maintaining a stable and successful marine biotope. Filtration and water parameters play a major role in the success, or lack thereof, of the corals/reef biotope we wish to maintain, however, this is only part of the equation. One needs to realize that feeding, the type of food plus the amount of food also dictates the likeliness of your tank being maintained at optimal levels.

Yes... Lighting can be a crucial key to sustaining the life of corals, clams, anemones and so on! Light can only represent part of the necessary components needed to maintain a successful reef tank long term. CORALS! They are actually animals that are made up of solitary or colonial polyps that are either symbiotic or aposymbiotic in nature. Those that are symbiotic contain dinoflagellates called zooxanthellae that require light for their health and success, whereas aposymbiotic corals do not.

As for the amount of light required by symbiotic corals is concerned, it varies from coral to coral as well as where the coral is from in terms of water depth. Also, many species of coral, anemones and Tridacna Clams are exceptionally versatile in their ability to adapt to varying lighting conditions. Some symbiotic animals are able to live under less than adequate lighting intensities, though, often, their vibrant coloration is sacrificed.

Often times, light promises symbiotic animals the necessary though, not always adequate lighting PAR(photosynthetic available radiation) and PUR(photosynthetic usable radiation) required for efficient nutrient fixation. Photo inhibition occurs at all light level intensity though seems to be more prevalent and proportional as the intensity of light becomes reduced.

As I mentioned above, light provides adequate levels of the nutrients needed to deliver necessary glucose, amino's and carbohydrates to light requiring corals. To carry this a step further, however, we need to provide our animals with a food source that can ascertain that they are receiving more than just the minimum required amount of nutrients necessary for not only survival but cell growth and development, color and sexual reproduction. Corals vary in their ability to take in foods and nutrients. Food capture through polyp expansion and retraction, absorption, adsorption or filterization such as that illustrated by sponges and ascidians are all important means of increasing the necessary nutrients for that particular animal.

Providing a diverse array of food sources such as zooplankton, phytoplankton, cyclops, rotifers, oyster eggs, brine and mysis shrimp will enable your reef inhabitants to receive more than just the basic, enough nutrients to get by scenario. I guess the best way to get my point across is to relate this to a runner preparing for a marathon. If a runner does not exceed the minimum requirements with regards to calories, carbohydrates, electrolytes, nutrients and vitamins the fate and likelihood that the runner has a chance of winning the marathon race becomes highly unlikely. Granted he may finish the race, but without the carbohydrate overload and provisions needed that differ from someone that leads a more sedative life, potential is limited.

A compliment of adequate light (kelvin and intensity) supplemented with a varied diet of liquid and frozen foods can definitely provide the extra nutritional components that will not only ensure survival but offer the best chances of growth, color and sexual reproduction in an otherwise stagnant biotope.

I am not saying that the maintenance of your corals, clams and anemones can't be achieved through light alone though turbidity, amount of dissolved organics(Gelbstoff) and particulate matter, intensity need be factored in determining if lighting is adequate or not. Increasing available nutrients to possibly otherwise average levels needed to get by can possibly increase the potential for growth, coloration, expansion, and reproduction along the way that lighting alone may not be able to ensure.