Caring For Corals

The Importance of Age

It is unwise to add any coral to a reef tank from one to three months after initial setup. This varies depending on your specific tank and the speed of cycling. During this time there can be dramatic swings of ammonia, nitrite, and pH. Calcium, carbonates, and other critical elements are also lacking at this point.
After this time soft corals are generally the best animal to place in the tank first. You should have no more diatom algae or “local problematic” areas in the tank. Soft corals for the most part are less susceptible to small fluctuations that happen. They are a lot less dependent on calcium for skeletal growth and digestion. Also the nutrient pathways needed for the survival of soft corals is also usually establish by this point.
The next step would be adding corals referred to LPS (large polyp stonies). The best time to start adding these animals is after the tank has been set up for 5-7 months. Ideally you should have started to see small patches of coralline algae with a diameter of 3mm or more.
The last corals should be the SPS (small polyp stonies). These require excellent water conditions and good advanced knowledge and experience. These are also some of the most rewarding and colorful corals in the world. It is well worth your time and money to wait 9-12 months before adding these animals. They need vary stable and specific conditions. When you start to see many patches of coralline algae larger than the size of a quarter it is a good biological sign that your tank may be ready for these corals.

Suggested Filtering Methods

Biological Needs:
We recommend a light fish load.
The tanks should ideally have between 1-2 lbs of live rock per gallon depending on the porosity of the rock.
A layer of sand will give further surface for beneficial bacterial to grow, help buffer the tanks parameters, and allow beneficial organisms to breed in the tank.
We recommend a sump that houses a refugium that is growing Chaetomorpha to further help nutrient levels and provide additional food supplies. On a reverse daylight cycle this will help stabilize pH levels at night. The turbulent flow will facilitate gas exchange and devices such as heaters and calcium reactors can be easily put in this space.
Filter the freshwater using an RO or DI system before mixing with your salt. Make sure you are using a high quality salt and mix the saltwater at least 24 hrs before use.
It is critical to use this same filtered fresh water to replace water that was evaporated out of the tank. Using ordinary tap water invariably leads to algae outbreaks.

Mechanical and Chemical Needs:

We strongly recommend using a skimmer on the tank at all times. It is the most critical tool to keeping your tank and its inhabitants healthy. The skimmer removes organic waste before they become ammonia and cause nutrient issues. It works with the biological filtration and increases the water quality. Running skimmer-less is for experts only who fully understand the dynamics of their tank and even then there are risks of bad situations developing at an alarming rate.
Some carbon or other organic resins may be needed from time to time to keep water quality ideal. We do not recommend a canister filter however as this can lead to an increase in nitrates.
A wet dry filter has no place in a reef tank. These are great for fish only tanks, but is a nutrient problem waiting to happen in a reef environment. Equipment used to Control the Environment: Heaters, fans, and/or chillers are recommended if there is not a stable temperature. Temperatures ranging from 77-84 are generally acceptable to corals. The most important thing is consistency. There should NOT be more than a 2 degree fluctuation throughout the day.
Water movement and circulation is one of the most important parts for long term health. You want as much turbulent (non-linear) flow as your tank and its inhabitants can handle. In the wild most of these animals have hundreds of thousands of gallons pass over them daily. Get high flow but make it turbulent so it does not become a straight stream of water that will strip the flesh from the corals. Wavemakers are recommended, but not absolutely necessary.
Chemical supplementation can be done through many different methods, but the most important aspects to keep up are Calcium (350-440), dKh (8-12), and pH (8.1-8.4).
Last is the great light debate. We believe that it is virtually impossible to give a coral too much light. Some animals may need to be acclimated to the higher light levels, but in general the more light you can give them the better off the corals will be. Sunlight is about 5500K, 10000K is the color temperature around a depth of 8m, and 20000K simulates light around 17m. In general 65K gives the best growth rates as they have a higher PAR value, while lights toward the higher end of the Kelvin spectrum tend to highlight the phosphorescence colors of the corals. We primarily use very high wattage 20K metal halide lights to get the benefits of both growth and color.
Apart from this there are many different aspects of the modern reef aquarium that simply is not in the scope of this text. We encourage you to research different methods with these guidelines as a foundation.

Also check out your local Marine Aquarium Society!

“In a reef aquarium, only bad things happen quickly.”

Above all be patient and research the needs of the animals under your care. If you stock your aquarium too quickly or before it has cycled properly, you will have ammonia and/ or nitrites in your tank that will probably kill your animals. The best case scenario would be that you will have severely stressed animals, nuisance algae, and an unstable system. Please understand that we want you to be in this hobby for a long time. Many of these animals will live for over decades if treated properly and we want to do our part to ensure that this happens. This is general advice that we want our customers to understand before a purchase is made from us and we would encourage you to reconsider buying animals from us if you feel that your tank does not fit within these suggestions.
To help you provide the best home and care for your corals, we’ve prepared the following care guide. It provides basic information on lighting, flow, etc. required for each of the corals we sell. You’ll also find additional general info and reefkeeping advice from Frank, our resident husbandry manager.
Please note that although we’ve been doing this for a long time, much of this information is based on our own experience and is not “written in stone”. These are just general guidelines to point you in the right direction.

Lighting

  • L – Low light (Normal output lights stacked over the entire tank)
  • M – Medium light (Power compacts, VHO, few H.O. T5s)
  • H – High light (Metal halides, A lot of H.O. T5s, or equivalent)

Flow

  • S – Slow to Medium current
  • M – Moderate flow (should never be linear and directly flowing across the coral)
  • H – High to Very High flow (should never be linear and directly flowing across the coral)

Difficulty

  • B – Beginner (easy to keep, generally very hardy corals)
  • I – Intermediate (requires very clean water and/or feeding)
  • A – Advanced (hard to keep and/or other special requirements)

Food Size

  • P – Phytoplankton/Dissolved nutrients
  • T – Tiny (Rotifers or smaller)
  • V – Very small (about the size of mysid shrimp)
Scientific Name Common Name Lighting Flow Difficulty Food Size
Acanthastrea M S-M I T-V
          Feed regularly to prevent tissue loss.
Acropora H H A T
          Very dependent on good water quality with an emphasis on calcium and carbonates.
Alveopora M S-M A P/T
Astreopora H M-H I T-V
          Great corals that are only recently being made available on a large scale. High light and feeding will give some impressive looks to this coral
Australogyra M M I T
          Target feed 2-3 times per week for best health.
Blastomussa L-M S B-I T-V
          Feed every other day foods enriched in HUFAs to promote health, growth, and color.
Capnella Tree Coral L-M M B P
          Feed Phytoplankton 2 times per week
Catalaphyllia H S-M A T-V
          Has become difficult to keep in last 5 years. Feed every other day foods enriched in HUFAs to promote health, growth, and color.
Caulastrea Candy Cane L-M S-M B T-V
          Target feed 2-3 times per week for best health.
Cynarina Meat Coral M-H S I V
          Feed every other day foods enriched in HUFAs to promote health, growth, and color.
Scientific Name Common Name Lighting Flow Difficulty Food Size
Diploastrea Moon Coral L-M M B T
          Target feed 2-3 times per week for best health.
Echinophyllia Challice L-M S-M B-I T
          Develops multiple different color patterns. Does best in lower lighting, but needs more than just standard fluorescents.
Euphyllia M-H S I T
          Strong stinging abilities. Keep away from other corals.
Favia M M B-I T
          Target feed 2-3 times per week for best health.
Favites M M B-I T
          Target feed 2-3 times per week for best health.
Fungia Plate L-M S B-I T-V
          Place on the sand.
Galaxea Galaxy L-H S-H B-I T
          Strong sweeper tentacles. Give more flow to reduce their size and prevent nearby corals from being damaged.
Goniastrea M M I T
          Target feed 2-3 times per week for best health.
Gonipora Flower Pot M-H S-M A P/T
          Reds and purples more hardy. We don’t sell Gonipora stolki. If you do get one place it on the sand only.
Heliofungia Long Tentacle Plate M-H S A T-V
          Place on sand. Regular feeding is a must.
Scientific Name Common Name Lighting Flow Difficulty Food Size
Herpolitha M S-M B-I T
Hydnophora L-H S-M B T
          Target feed 2-3 times per week for best health.
Lemnalia Tree Coral L-M M B P
          Feed Phytoplankton 3 times per week
Leptoseris M M I T
Lobophyllia Open Brain M S-M I T-V
          Feed every other day foods enriched in HUFAs to promote health, growth, and color.
Merulina M M I T
          Target feed 2-3 times per week for best health.
Micromussa L_M M I T-V
          Feed foods enriched in HUFAs to promote growth and color.
Montastraea M M I T
          Target feed 2-3 times per week for best health.
Montipora H M-H I T
          Very dependent on good water quality with an emphasis on calcium and carbonates.
Mycedium L-M M I T
          Feed every other day foods enriched in HUFAs to promote health, growth, and color.
Scientific Name Common Name Lighting Flow Difficulty Food Size
Nemenzophyllia L-M S B-I T
          Target feed 2-3 times per week for best health.
Nepthea L-M S-M I P
          Feed Phytoplankton 3-4 times per week
Non-photosynthetic Gorgonians Sea Fan NONE M-H A T
          Needs advanced feeding. Every species requirements are different.
Oulophyllia M M I T
          Target feed 2-3 times per week for best health.
Oxypora Elephant Nose L-M S-M I T
          Feed every other day foods enriched in HUFAs to promote health, growth, and color.
Pachyseris Elephant Skin M M B T
Palythoa Button Polyps M-H S-M B T-V
          Will grow fast with direct feedings, but not necessary for survival. Feeding enriched foods adds coloration.
Pavona M-H M B-I T
Pectinia Elkhorn L-M M B T
Photosynthetic Gorgonians Sea Fan M-H M B T
          Easy to keep with good lighting. Makes excellent perches for seahorses as they tend not to sting and are easy to grab.
Scientific Name Common Name Lighting Flow Difficulty Food Size
Physogyra M M I T
          Target feed 2-3 times per week for best health.
Platygyra M-H M B-I T
          Target feed 2-3 times per week for best health.
Plerogyra M M I T
          Target feed 2-3 times per week for best health.
Pocillopora Cat’s Paw H H A T
          Very dependent on good water quality with an emphasis on calcium and carbonates.
Porites H H I T
          The best biological indicator of water quality.
Propalythoa Moon Polyps M-H S-M B T-V
          Will grow fast with direct feedings, but not necessary for survival. Feeding enriched foods adds coloration.
Psammocora M M B T
Rhoadactis mushrooms L-H S B P
Ricordea M-H S-M I P/T
          True Florida Ricordea requires more light and flow than Pacific counterpart. Ricordea yuma can have diverse requirements
Sarcophyton elegans Yellow Fiji Leather H M-H I P
          Higher light closer to 10K will give the best yellow coloration
Scientific Name Common Name Lighting Flow Difficulty Food Size
Scolymia Donut M-H M-H I T
          Feed every other day foods enriched in HUFAs to promote health, growth, and color.
Seriatopora Bird’s Nest H H A T
          Very dependent on good water quality with an emphasis on calcium and carbonates.
Stylophora H H A T
          Very dependent on good water quality with an emphasis on calcium and carbonates.
Symphyllia Open Brain M S-M I T-V
          Feed every other day foods enriched in HUFAs to promote health, growth, and color.
Trachyphyllia L-M S-M B-I T-V
          Feed every other day foods enriched in HUFAs to promote health, growth, and color.
Tubastraea NONE S-M B-I T-V
          Must be fed at least 3-4 times a week. Feed foods enriched in HUFAs to promote growth and color.
Turbinaria M-H M B T
Xenia Pulsing Hands M-H S-M B P
          Needs good dissolved organics. Pulse rate seems to coincide with pH levels.
Zoanthid Zoos/Zoas M-H S-M B T-V
          Will grow fast with direct feedings, but not necessary for survival. Feeding enriched foods adds coloration.
  Clove Polyps L-M S-M B P
          Feed Phytoplankton 2 times per week
Scientific Name Common Name Lighting Flow Difficulty Food Size
  Star Polyps L-M S-M B P
          Feed Phytoplankton 2 times per week
  Finger Leather L-M M B P
          Feed Phytoplankton 2 times per week
  Toadstool Leather L-M M B P
          Feed Phytoplankton 2 times per week
  Mushroom L-M S B P