Reef Coral

image of reef coralReef Coral, as we see them, come from living creatures that create aragonite structures of carbonate mineral. This coral structure is an exoskeleton for these living organisms.

A great in-depth book on the subject of coral reef husbandry is Aquarium Corals: Selection, Husbandry, and Natural History, by Eric H. Borneman.

Knowing how to care for the individual reef coral that you want to have in your reef tank is essential. The book by Eric Borneman goes into great detail about both easy to care for, and hard to care for species.

Tropical regions are what we think of when coral comes to mind. For the most part this is true. However, there are coral reefs that do well in cold water, and in much deeper water.

The material saltwater reef aquarium enthusiasts use to brighten up, and add dimension to the reef tank is itself a polymorph. This means that CaCO3 (which is what the coral exoskeleton is), exists in more than one crystal form. Simply stated; the secretions from the living organisms that form a coral reef is just one way CaCO3 exists as a material. One of the other natural ways this compound occurs in nature is limestone.

The unique coral structures that scuba divers, snorkelers, and aquamarine reef tank enthusiasts love, come from polyp creatures. These coral exoskeleton building animals are exactly identical;yet so unique from one family, genus, or species to the next that each polyp in a colony will build the coral head in the exact same mesmerizing pattern and color as the generations it is building upon.

Many authorities on various types of coral and live rock husbandry emphasize that treating reef coral as animals first, and ornaments secondarily will greatly add to the life of what is truly an animal. This type of animal is referred to as a polyp. And the phylum that is modernly used to categorize reef coral animal characteristics is cnidaria.

Coral polyps as animals feed on photosynthesis for the most part. They also have stingers like other invertebrates that sting the smallish prey like plankton to be consumed as food. This happens during the nocturnal hours of the day.

Reef coral reproduce asexually and through spawning: Aiding the process of building the exoskeleton over many generations.

The spawning process for polyp reef coral consists of them releasing eggs and sperm into the water. The resulting planula is the larval stage of life for reef coral polyps.

The ensuing life cycle leaves the jellyfish like planula floating about in the tide.

Usually these small creatures are washed back against the reef they were spawned from.
But, no matter where they land, a larval coral reef planula polyp will attach itself by forming a small shell. This shell is usually open at the top. Some people describe the shape as being vase like.

Colorful exoskeletons indicates that the polyps inside are alive. When the reef coral polyps die, the shell or exoskeleton will turn brown.

Recipes and formulas for keeping coral alive in a saltwater aquarium tank have increased the in tank life span of the coral themselves up to a year or more. And the knowledge is increasing as more calculated experimentation is done by enthusiasts and professional scientists alike.

In general in the wild and in the reef tank salinity should be 34 to 37 parts per thousand. Any less than that and the creature can die easily from exposure to too much fresh water.

Reef coral in the aquarium tank should not be crowded out. Each desirable species has a range and parts per radii unique to itself. Knowing what you have, how it grows in nature, and what other researchers, as well as hobbyists have both failed or succeeded with is a best practice.

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Posted in Articles, Corals on December 20, 2009.

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