Adding corals to your marine tank

Taking the mayhem out of marine fish keeping


Adding corals to your marine tank


So if you're not going fish only and venturing into the world of corals then these require acclimatising just like any other animal.


Of all the debates in the marine fish keeping world (and believe me there are thousands) acclimatising corals is one of the great ones.


Whilst you are still getting used to the way the tank works you should refrain from adding corals as if there are still swings in parameters corals can be a lot less accommodating than fish.


All corals will wage war in your tank no matter how inert they appear in the fish shop. You need to remember this if you are considering running what's referred to as a mixed reef. This is usually a combination of hard and soft corals but they don't always enjoy each others company. Soft corals can release toxins which can inhibit the growth of would-be competitors, whilst hard corals (LPS) can shoot out posionous missiles attached to sweeper tenticles which can cause damage to their neighbours. All this needs to be considered when considering coral placement.

Corals are interesting things, they look a bit like plants and indeed can rival any plant for texture and colour. On the other hand they have some animal like tendancies, no great surprise to learn then that corals are actually part plant and part animal. They are a coral polyp (animal) that contains within it algae (a plant ), You can read more about this here but for now I'll just concentrate on describing the best ways to acclimatise them.


Corals are no different to fish and have the same potential to introduce disease and parasites to your system, again whenever possible you should aim to quarantine any new corals before they go in the display tank. After you have put them in the quarantine tank you should allow them to settle for a few days before you consider dipping them in one of the many specialist dips available for getting rid of parasites and general conditioning.


Soft corals


As I've already mentioned above, there are many debates out there regarding the acclimatisation of a marine animal. Here I will just describe what has worked for me for many years.


I've never really worried too much about soft corals, as long as your tank parameters are within acceptable limits (for soft corals we're looking at pH 8 - 8.4, Nitrate below 25, Ammonia 0, Nitrite 0, Phosphate ideally at or below 0.03) then your tank should be able to accommodate them easily. The other parameters you will hear so much about such as Magnesium, calcium, Alkalinity, Potassium etc are more important when considering sps (small polyped stony corals). If you are using a marine branded salt you can be confident that your water will hole enough of these other elements to keep soft corals happy without the need for expensive testing.


All I've ever done with soft corals is float the transport bag in the tank for about 15 to 20 minutes then remove half a cupful of water from the bag (and discard it) and add the same amount of tank water. Repeat this process for about half an hour (after the initial 15 to 20 minutes equalising the water temperature by floating the bag) then your soft coral is ready to go in the tank.


I've never been too scared of taking the coral out of the water completely for a few seconds whilst transferring it and I've never lost a coral this way. Try to make sure none of the fish shop water gets into the tank as this is often of a poorer quality than your own.


Hard corals - LPS


Many LPS have fleshy polyps over a hard skeleton, it's important to make sure you hold them gently at the hard base as there is the possibility you could puncture the flesh if held upside down. You can follow the same procedure as above for acclimatising the corals the the aquarium water.


Hard corals - SPS


The procedure is the same as that described as above for soft and LPS corals


Once you are happy that you coral is disease and parasite free and you are ready to transfer it into the display tank it is again good practise to get the coral used to the different water paramters slowly to reduce shock. It's often also considered good practise to put the coral low down in the tank on the sand bed for a few days to allow it to get use to the display tank lighting which is usually far stronger than what the coral has experienced for a while.


Helpful tips




Corals are like the rest of your marine tank inhabitants. They are always willing to wage war on their neighbours so becareful to give them enough room to grow


Whilst soft corals are much more forgiving of swings in paramets and less than perfect water conditions SPS demand the highest water quality you can provide





Corals - in a nutshell

Soft corals are considered the easiest corals to keep, they provide pleasing, swaying movement and can be quite forgiving in terms of water quality

Soft corals can release toxins that can inhibit the growth of ther corals

Corals are part plant, part animal, some require additional feeding, particularly ones that are non-photsynthetic

LPS can produce long 'sweeper' tenticles that can cause severe damage to a neighbouring coral that is placed too close

When considering coral placement it is best to have a vision of what your finished tank will look like remembering that some corals will demand more light than others


As with fish corals can introduce unwanted nasties into the tank, it's a good idea to quarantine them in the first instance



Corals are subject to stress just like a fish is, they need time to settle after being transported, let them chill out for a few days in a quarantine tank before treating them with any sort of coral dip



When you finally put your coral in the display tank keep it low down to let it get used to the strong tank lighting before putting it in its final place