Many years could be spent learning and studying how to best care for corals in a saltwater aquarium. Maintaining a reef tank involves some hard work, some luck and a lot of patience.
One major challenge with keeping corals in a saltwater aquarium is that even though they may be sitting one next to the other in the display tank at your local fish store–the corals themselves may have been plucked from reefs half a world apart, and very likely have considerably different husbandry needs. Even within a specific category, the care requirements for individual species can vary significantly. Because of this, I encourage you to research the specific needs of the species you are most interested in keeping–and keep the generalization as…well…generalizations.
Generalizations are good for one thing–they are a good place to start (which, ironically, is also a generalization). With that in mind, and recognizing that only so much content can be covered in an introductory article, let’s get on with the section.
For the most part, the corals that are commonly available in the saltwater aquarium hobby can be grouped, non-scientifically, into one of five categories:
I characterized this categorization as non-scientific because it groups sometimes drastically different coral species together because of very broad, shared characteristics. Scientists debate over proper classification and taxonomy, but that is well beyond the scope of this article here. For our purposes, the non-scientific version will be sufficient.
Maintaining the proper reef tank aquarium water parameters is important. Read more about the 9 most important water parameters.
One of the most interesting aspects of keeping coral invertebrates in your saltwater aquarium is the fact that you can reproduce (propagate) miniature colonies by a process called fragging.
Corals are evolutionary survival machines and are designed to survive being broken up into tiny pieces. One scientific study shows that even as embryos, each coral has the innate ability to recreate a successful colony from being fragged.
For more information about propagation and fragging, check out this e-book, How to Frag Corals:
That is an affiliate link to where you can purchase the book on Amazon.com. I will earn a small commission, at no additional direct cost to you, if you buy the book via the above link or image. Thank you.
If you aren’t ready for the book but want to keep learning, check out these other free articles:
- Introduction to fragging corals
- Tools and techniques for fragging corals
- Having success fragging corals
- Frag corals in separate containers
Corals Under Stress
Most coral species have a symbiotic relationship with zooxanthellae, photosynthetic dinoflagellates that turn light into food energy. Unfortunately, when stressed, these animals expel their zooxanthellae, leaving the remaining organism pale and colorless. This is called a bleaching event. One major study shows that the number of zooxanthellae affects bleaching.
Bleaching isn’t the only challenge they face–coral in Hawaii are under attack from an infection caused by a fungus and cyanobacteria.
But it’s not all doom and gloom –according to an article in the journal Science, helper gobies are on the way. Read about how these curious fish help protect the reefs they call home.
Written by Albert B. Ulrich III.