Keeping coral in a saltwater aquarium is now a trending hobby among aquarium owners. Some coral species have even become collector’s items and an excellent conversation starter.
The fascination with coral is understandable. They are colorful and can add a lot of personality to your aquarium. If you own an aquarium, you can buy coral online to complete the marine setting.
However, keeping a saltwater coral aquarium is not the same as keeping fish. For coral to survive, their ecosystem needs to meet certain conditions. For these conditions to be achieved, you must prepare your aquarium in a process referred to as ‘cycling’ which, when done correctly, gives amazing results.
1. Water Quality
The salinity, pH, temperature, and other water factors need to resemble conditions in the natural seawater for coral to survive. The conditions within the aquarium should be as follows
- Temperature between 76-82 degrees Fahrenheit
- Calcium at 400-450 ppm
- Specific gravity at 1.023-1.025
- Alkalinity should be between 2.1 and 2.5 meq/L
- Ammonia, nitrate, nitrite, and phosphate at 0 ppm
- Magnesium levels ranging between 1,200 – 1,400 ppm
These factors must always be within the stipulated ranges. There are saltwater aquarium additives that can be used to maintain these conditions. However, performing partial water changes regularly will be more affordable and safer for your coral. Adding excess supplement might harm their health.
2. Water Flow
The sea waters where corals are naturally found is turbulent. Your saltwater tank should have flowing water to imitate the sea setting. There are devices you can add to your aquarium to ensure there is continuous flow of water.
Flowing water is essential for coral to thrive as it
- Brings food closer to the coral
- Washes away mucus that forms as a result of agitation from other coral
- Carries away dirt or particles that may have fallen on or into the coral
To create a turbulent effect, have the circulation outlets point their outflows in different directions or into each other. This is important because unidirectional flow can damage your corals.
3. Use the Right Lighting
Different coral species require varying light intensities to thrive. Once you buy coral online, ensure your aquarium lighting is suitable for the frags you want to introduce.
For instance, hermatypic corals (ones that host zooxanthellae) require light to grow. On the other hand, ahermtypic corals can thrive with a little light as they get their energy by feeding on other organisms as well as filter-feeding. Depending on the coral pack you go for, the lighting needs may be as follows:
- Mushroom corals- do well with low light intensity. You can use regular fluorescents.
- Stony or hard corals- Require a lot of light, and metal halide lights are suitable
- Soft corals- These fall on both spectrums of the light intensity needs
- Zoanthids- They do quite well where there is a lot of light
- Corallimorphs- Perform better with higher light intensity
It is important to note that higher lighting demands might marginally increase the cost of keeping corals in two ways. Firstly, electricity costs will increase as the lights have to be on for 8-12 hours per day.
Secondly, the heat generated from the lighting will increase the temperature in the aquarium. Therefore, you will also need to purchase an aquarium chiller which will also increase electricity usage.
If you choose to buy coral online, the shipping process may be stressful, and they may take some time before they adjust to their new habitat. However, if you know how to handle them and the aquarium has the right conditions, they will acclimate within 15 minutes. If you encounter any challenges in the acclimation process, you can always seek help from a professional.
Should You Buy Coral Online?
Keeping live coral comes with its own set of challenges and requires a lot of patience, to begin with. However, on top of the beauty, you can create from chalice corals, the undertaking is fun and can just turn out to be your next hobby.