How to Feed and Keep Hard Corals
With improving technology and a better understanding of what is required hard corals are getting easier to keep in a home aquarium. Hard corals are a lot more colourful then soft corals. They get there name due to the fact that they have a hard skeleton. This skeleton will remain in place even after death.
There are two types of hard coral, these are LPS and SPS. LPS stands for Large Polyp Stony. SPS stands for Small Polyp Stony. Some people will refer to LPS as meaning Long Polyp Stony. Also some people refer to the S at the end as meaning Scleractinia. So if you hear any of these terms you know they are talking about the same things, hard corals.
The SPS hard corals are proper reef builders. These types of hard corals are usually covered in a thin layer of “skin”. This “skin” is made up of living tissue. The SPS hard coral skeleton will feel heavy and are very dense. The hard corals have calcium carbonate skeletons, which grow to increase surface area. This allows them to have a greater area exposed to light for energy. The water flow will bring them food and wash away any waste off these hard corals.
SPS hard corals will rely heavily on the sunlight. Although very heavy and dense, in a storm these hard corals will break quite easily. However they can withstand huge amounts of normal water movement. If a SPS hard coral is heavily damaged it will still be able to survive. The living tissue on the broken bits of the hard coral will die off. The remaining bits of the hard coral will then re grow.
The broken parts of the hard corals will fuse together with the help of calcium deposits. This then makes a new structure for different hard corals to grow on top of. This natural cycle is one that will help to build a reef.
The LPS commonly live a lot deeper then the SPS hard coral, where it is not as well lit. There is also less water movement in the deeper areas as the LPS cannot withstand as much as the SPS hard corals. The LPS hard corals will use their large polyps to trap their own food. These hard corals often eat at the same time as the fish in the aquarium.
It is said hard corals are harder to keep then soft corals and LPS hard corals are easier to keep then SPS hard corals.
When it comes to water condition all hard corals will need the same levels of chemicals. The PH levels should be around 8.2 to 8.4. Calcium levels should be 425 ppm. Magnesium should be somewhere between 1300 to 1500 ppm. Alkaline levels of 8 DKH. The water temperature should range between 82 degrees Fahrenheit and 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Toxin levels in the water should be 0, or very close to 0. Some of these toxins include ammonia, nitrite, nitrate and phosphate.
If the water condition is kept as stated above, there is no reason why soft corals and hard corals can’t all live alongside each other in the same tank.
The reason we say that hard corals are the harder of the two corals to keep alive is because there tolerance is lower. Soft corals are more likely to withstand changes in their environment which are different to those they are used to. Of the hard corals, LPS are more likely to withstand a change in environment. SPS hard corals are not very susceptible to imperfect water conditions. If you can’t provide the premium conditions then the SPS hard corals will die quickly.
The different types of hard coral need different environmental factors to survive so therefore should not be kept together in the same tank. It is not that they couldn’t survive together but that tanks are usually far too small for you to be able to provide different lighting and water movement at the same time. This is why we say don’t keep the different types of hard corals together.
LPS hard corals tend to have larger food and require food more frequently. They will have small fish, squid, krill and others alike. They will need feeding around every two to three days. Some SPS hard corals feed off light using photosynthesis. Others will feed off food the fish waste and phytoplankton.
Another reason why you have to be careful when keeping the different types of hard coral together is if the polyps and tissue can touch they will sting each other. This causes the hard corals to release chemicals into your water, or the hard corals in some cases will eat each other. The LPS hard corals have stronger stings and are the more aggressive hard corals. It is not known as to why this is the case. The SPS hard corals are the weaker of the two hard corals and therefore will live closer together in nature. This is why having SPS hard corals in your aquarium is an advantage.
SPS hard corals can now be cultured, so your hard coral collection doesn’t impact on the ocean.
When deciding which hard corals you want in your tank remember that LPS hard corals are more suitable to bigger tanks as they need more space to live in peace with each other. Therefore if you do not have a large tank please do not attempt to keep LPS hard corals as they will not last very long and you will surely be disappointed.
If you are looking for some easy hard corals to get you started then you should consider bubble coral for a LPS and Montipora Capricornis for a SPS. Then after a few months if they are thriving you can add more hard corals to your aquarium. You need to be patient when putting hard corals in your aquarium. Don’t rush and add them all at the same time, the key to success is taking your time.
Perrys Aquatic Centre in Lincoln have experts on hand who will be willing to help with any questions you might have about hard corals or anything else. They offer FREE water testing services. They also have a wide range of stock and will provide excellent customer service.