So you want to Mail Order Corals

By: Ashley Gustafson

3333Corals are one of the most fascinating, beautiful, and misunderstood animals on the planet. Often mistaken for rocks, coral is very much a living animal that like any animal eats, creates waste, and reproduces. Coral is a beautiful staple of the ocean and some of the world’s most intricate and important ecosystems. It is no wonder that professionals and hobbyists alike would want to capture the essence of coral and coral reef ecosystems in their own tanks but finding, buying, acquiring, and acclimating coral can be a complicated process.

Commercial coral businesses have boomed in the last several years and buying coral has never been so accessible and set up for success. Perhaps it is the development of technology or the pressing need to conserve coral, but there has never been a better time to buy live coral. Many people simply can’t believe the fundamental idea of coral breeding and reproducing. Even though keeping coral in aquariums may seem like an impossible feat, marine coral is quite popular in not only commercial aquaria but for hobby aquarists too thus it successfully reproduces and survives in a tank set up, thanks to the advancement of not only technique but innovative technology as well. This article aims to simply touch on the broad topics of coral biology, acquisition, and conservation.

Marine corals are sold through many different venues like specialty retailers and even online on coral websites like ours. For hobby aquarists, looking at coral online is an exciting way to research and check out what coral is best for your aquarium. Buying corals online can be tricky for a beginner though and there are definitely some tips and tricks to successfully finding and purchasing mail order corals.

Coral-reef-2

Coral Biology and Life History

Before shopping for coral on a coral website or at a local specialty store, it is pertinent to understand coral biology and life history first. Like I previously stated, coral is in fact a living animal. That’s right: it is not a rock, flower, or plant it is a part of the animal kingdom. Coral is a marine (meaning saltwater dwelling) invertebrate (meaning it lacks a spinal column) classified in the phylum Cnidaria with jellyfish, sea anemones, hydras, and other relatives. All members of Cnidaria are radially symmetrical, or symmetrical around a central axis. Some other common characteristics cnidarians possess are nematocysts, or stinging cells. There are currently about 9,000 individual living species of cnidarians discovered. Marine corals specifically belong to the class Anthozoa which also includes sea anemones, sea pens, and sea pansies. These organisms are all solitary or colonial polyps that must live attached to a substrate or surface to survive. Out of the 9,000 living species of cnidarians, 6,000 are anthozoans, and out of the 6,000 about 2,500 of these species are marine coral. The ocean is a vast place and only a fraction of it has it even been touched. It is completely likely that there are even more coral species that remain undiscovered.

cnidarianshalfsizeNow, class Anthozoa is split into two subclasses: subclass Octocorallia and sub class Zoantharia. Subclass Octocorallia is classified as anthozoans that have eight pinnate or side-branching tentacles and are mostly colonial. This includes soft corals, sea pens, sea pansies, organ pipe corals, and gorgonian corals. Subclass Zoantharia is classified as anthozoans that have tentacle sin multiples of six and those tentacles are hardly ever pinnate. Zoantharians can be solitary or colonial in nature and are also known as “hard corals” or “stony corals” based on their reef-building abilities. Both types of coral have a mouth part surrounded by tentacles containing nematocysts that allow coral to stun and capture their food. Along with a mouth and tentacles, corals also have digestive, reproductive, and nervous systems.

This brings us to another fundamental but often surprising fact about coral: they eat food. Being an animal, they must gain their nutrients and energy from producers or other animals since they can’t produce their own. Like I mentioned previously, corals have a mouth part surrounded by tentacles with nematocysts that trap, stun, and capture the coral’s prey which is most often tiny floating plankton. The best time to view coral polyps is when they are feeding because it is when they extend themselves the greatest. Often times in the ocean these events occur at night. The polyp is the living component of the coral organism. Polyps eat plankton using stinging cells (nematocysts) and feeding cells (tentacles). Once the food is captured it is digested in their stomach. The polyp body is soft and vulnerable and just about the size of the average pencil eraser. When polyps die they leave the skeleton that once protected them behind. If conditions allow, a new polyp will grow right on top of the old one to replace it. But why would a coral polyp die? That brings us to the next section: zooxanthellae.

Another critical component of coral biology is zooxanthellae. Zooxanthellae are dinoflagellates that are present in the cytoplasm of many marine invertebrates like coral. They are photosynthetic algae that live in the tissues of coral organisms and many times give coral their vibrant hues. Zooxanthellae and coral have a mutualistic symbiotic relationship, thus they benefit each other by a cooperative existence. Coral gives the zooxanthellae a safe environment and compounds they need for photosynthetic events while zooxanthellae produces oxygen and helps the coral remove waste. Zooxanthellae also provide coral with essential products of photosynthesis like amino acids, glucose, and glycerol which is critical for the coral in order to make essential molecules such as fats, proteins, and carbohydrates. They also use the products zooxanthellae provide to produce calcium carbonate used to build their hard exterior. The relationship between zooxanthellae and coral reefs is so important that it drives the growth and productivity of coral reefs or the vast groupings of hard coral outgrowth. This relationship is responsible for a tightly knit web of recycling nutrients in the often nutrient poor tropical ocean waters coral is most commonly found in. It is so prominent and important is the ocean, that 90% of organic matter that is photosynthetically produced in seawater is produced by zooxanthellae and is transferred to a host coral tissue. That is a lot of organic matter!

zooxanthellaeBesides the critical productivity and recycling of nutrients, zooxanthellae are also the component of coral that give stony or hard coral species their beautiful, vibrant colors. Zooxanthellae is not a true part of coral; that is in stressful or less than optimal conditions it leaves or expels from the coral tissue. These conditions could include any range of water quality or a taxis the zooxanthellae is exposed too. This could include but is not limited temperature, pH, dissolved oxygen, salinity, light, and water movement. When an exodus of zooxanthellae occurs from a coral, the coral becomes a white or bleached color. This of course gave rise to the nickname “coral bleaching” which sadly is very prevalent in ocean news today. Coral bleaching events are occurring in massive occasions all around the globe due to rising ocean temperatures and pH. It is without a doubt that global warming and pollution go hand in hand with this big problem for coral. In the most recent news, the National oceanic and atmospheric administration (NOAA) has released a new prediction on the fate of coral reef systems around the globe. They suspect that within the next two years that 6% of coral reefs will be destroyed due to bleaching events. While 6% may seem insignificant at first glances that could lead to more than a third of coral disappearing forever. It is important before buying coral for an aquarium to understand the critical condition coral health is in the ocean, and to understand the responsibility we have in protecting, conserving, and saving coral.

zooxanthellae2Sadly, coral cannot survive very long without their zooxanthellae. Zooxanthellae provide coral organisms with so many vital components that without them, the coral will eventually die. This relationship is one of the most intimate and conversely dependent mutualistic relationship seen among organisms in the ocean. This closeness causes an animal (reef building coral) to respond to stimuli in their environment like a plant would. Zooxanthellae need light for photosynthesis thus healthy coral organisms are found in clear water that sunlight can easily penetrate. These waters tend to be areas of low turbidity (calm water) and also low productivity. These facts are what create the coral reef paradox that is part of what makes coral reefs such important ecosystems: they require clear, calm, nutrient-poor water but are one of the most productive and diverse ecosystems on the planet.
A very important component of keeping coral in an aquarium as well as selling and buying coral is being able to produce it. Reproduction is an important (arguably the most important) part of any successful organism.

Reproduction is an incredible, fascinating and fundamentally crucial component of every living creature from plants to animals to even bacteria. As life itself is immensely diverse, the methods of reproduction can vary greatly from organism to organism. Coral have both asexual and sexual stages of reproduction. This may seem odd, but is actually a common strategy in the world of living organisms. Asexual reproduction, as its name suggests, produces offspring that is identical to that of the parent, a clone. That is there is no meiosis or combination of genetic material. Thus the offspring has the exact same genetics as its parent. This can have some perks for the organism such as low energy cost and convenience (no mate necessary!) but it can create problems for an organism since cloning creates low to no diversity making them vulnerable to fatal pathogens or even genetic mutations. Sexual reproduction is the combination of two parents supplying genetic material to produce a unique offspring. There are many benefits to reproduction such as genetic diversity which can allow organisms to adapt and change over time. While sexual reproduction may seem like the best option, finding a mate can be costly in terms of energy and the fusion of gametes is complicated and can malfunction causing nonviable offspring.

As I previously mentioned, corals are examples of organisms that have parts of their reproductive cycles that are asexual and parts that are sexual. While coral reefs have many parts, the living and reproductive part of the coral is the polyp. In the asexual part of the reproductive cycle, the young clonal polyps will bud directly off the parent polyp. This process is called budding and allows the parent polyp to grow and expand and thus begin a new colony of coral. This can only happen in mature polyps that are a certain size. Coral organisms can also reproduce through an asexual method called fragmentation where the coral simply fragments or breaks and is re-settled somewhere else. Coral fragmentation is considered a method of coral reproduction all on its own and coral frags are often sold online and in specialty stores. Frags are VERY important if you are looking to purchase marine corals online and this will be covered more extensively later in this article. Fragmentation can happened naturally, by outside force, or for growing purposes.

The sexual part of the reproductive coral is naturally a bit more complicated as sexual reproduction is fundamentally more complex than asexual reproduction. While each coral species is unique, the majority of stony coral species produce male and/or female gametes. In some cases, some species of corals will produce both male and female gametes depending on conditions. Most species of coral are broadcast spawners, meaning that each coral releases massive numbers of male (sperm) and female (egg) gametes into the water in order to distribute their offspring throughout the water. As one can imagine, the timing of these mass spawning events must be timed perfectly and synchronized to be successful due to the stationary nature of mature corals. The goal is for the egg and sperm from the individual corals to meet in the water, fusing to form free-floating or planktonic larvae. These larvae are called planulae. To compensate for the hazardous mode of reproduction, coral reproduce incredibly large amounts of planulae. Within the coral lifecycle, the highest mortality rate is in between that of the planulae and the stage of settlement. Environmental cues allow for the success of these reproductive strategies particularly over wide ranges. These cues can include but are not limited to light, temperature, day length, and lunar activity. Successful planulae exhibit positive phototaxis meaning they swim towards light. This is very important for survival because coral organisms thrive in shallow (more light), nutrient rich water.

Choosing your coral type

Now that you have a substantial background in coral biology, history, and current events you can dive right in to deciding what type of coral is best for your aquarium. The types of corals that are most commonly kept in aquariums are mushroom corals, soft corals, polyp corals, large polyp stony (LPS corals) hard corals, and small polyp stony (SPS) hard corals. It is not unheard of for hydrocorals and sea fans to be kept as well but they are far less common than the others above. First, let’s break coral into two broad categories: soft corals and hard corals.
Soft corals are called soft corals because they lack rigid permanent skeletons thus the name soft. Soft corals are made up gorgonian coral species and black coral species. Gorgonian coral colonies must be attached to a hard substrate. This is accomplished by a single anchor mechanism at the base of the stem which acts like a tree trunk. Gorgonians have branches that create many different patterns. On the other hand, black coral species live in the deep and shallow ocean. Unlike hard corals whose, black coral polyps live in the skeletal surface. Each of these polyps has its own set of six, tiny, non-retractable tentacles just barely visible to the naked eye. These polyps make a black substrate that becomes tough and hard. This substrate builds up into circular layers that form a wire-like skeleton which when cut in half resemble the growth rings of a tree. Like all coral species, black coral is critically endangered and thus protected by international laws. They are extremely slow growing corals that can take over 100 years to grow into a flourishing colony.

Hard corals are composed of hydrocorals and stony corals both of which have skeletons composed of calcium carbonate. As far as hydrocorals go, there are two types which are fire corals and lace corals. Fire corals are interchangeably called stinging corals because they have powerful stinging affects that can be quite painful when exposed to bare skin. It is normally not a tremendously dangerous sting but it can itch and give rise to a moderate rash which can take a few days to heal. Therefore, it is important to wear gloves and be highly aware when handling not only hydrocorals but any coral you are unsure of. All corals contain nematocysts but fire corals are very prominent. Lace corals look exactly like their name. They have many branched, intricate webs of calcium carbonate that look like lace. In the Caribbean there are three known and identifiable types of growth patterns that are branching, blade, and box. Lace corals are normally beautiful shades of purple, lavender, and burgundy with combinations of pink and white and even can have ombre or fading like affects. Lace corals can also irritate skin but not nearly as badly as fire coral. Next are the stony corals, which are the hard corals that make up the brunt of tropical coral reefs. They are the building blocks you see in every coral reef picture you have ever seen. The polyp of hard coral species creates a hard and protective cup like shell out of calcium carbonate called corallite. This corallite protects the fragile polyp from its vast exterior environment. As many of you could guess, hard corals grow in colonies of many hard coral organisms together. Polyps used calcium carbonate from the marine environment to create reef structure and thus beautiful coral reef systems. Hard corals can be divided up into six groups which are branching and pillar corals; encrusting, mound, and boulder corals; leaf plate and sheet corals; fleshy corals; and finally flower and cup corals.

Being Prepared for Coral in your Aquarium

Once you have made the decision on which type of coral to purchase, it is important to be prepared for the requirements of keeping captive coral. Regardless of the coral species you choose, all corals require proper water quality, food, light, and water flow or movement. As a general statement SPS and LPS corals require a narrower range of acceptable conditions than their soft coral relatives. That means for beginners that soft corals like mushroom corals and leather corals are can be an easier start. Corals are notoriously particular animals that can be tricky to keep healthy and productive in captivity. Based on the wide range of conditions specific coral species need, it is critical to not only know exactly what type of coral you are purchasing but also know the and research the required conditions of that species thoroughly through reliable sources.

Water quality is a critical component of any tank’s health, regardless of the creatures within it. Water quality may sound simple but is a complex but often delicate cocktail of components. Some of these important components are trace minerals and elements like calcium, strontium, Iodine, and Magnesium. Ammonia, Nitrites, and Nitrates should not be present in a healthy aquarium with levels near or at zero being optimal. The pH or a term for expressing the acidity or alkalinity of a solution should be between 8.2-8.4 which is just slightly above neutral. On a logarithmic scale where the number value 7 is neutral, the lower values are more acidic and higher values have a higher alkalinity. In terms of chemistry, the pH is equal to -log10 c, where c is the hydrogen ion concentration in moles per liter. Luckily, you don’t have to be a chemist to test pH though. It is very easy to buy simple, at-home strips that change color and give you a pH reading in a flash. No computation needed! Temperature is another component that is super basic to monitor and regulate. In general, most corals will do best at 80 to 84°F. Finally, whenever dealing with salt water it is important to measure and monitor salinity in your tank not only with captive coral but with any marine organism. Salinity with the specific gravity of seawater (1.025 to 1.075) is optimal. This may be tricky as with a salt water tank you may have to use products like Instant Ocean to create salt water. The water regardless of origin should be in between 32-42 parts per thousand (ppt).

All living organisms need food to survive. All animals must acquire energy to survive and maintain homeostasis either through primary producers or by eating other animals that consume primary producers. As I mentioned in the coral biology section, marine corals eat zooplankton. Different species of coral require different types of plankton, which are quite diverse. Some corals can take nutrients from broken down or decaying organic matter in the water column. Although your coral may be able to process these dissolved organic compounds, they should not be allowed to accumulate in large amounts in your aquarium. This can lead to the possible build-up of nitrates in your tank, which as we outlines earlier should be close to or at concentrations of zero. To help keep dissolved organic compound matter to a minimum, it is important to have a sufficient filtration system and a good protein skimmer is tremendously helpful.

Light is an important component to the health and longevity of all coral species. Coral in the ocean often live in shallow waters where the sun can easily penetrate the seawater and reach it. As seen with all the components of coral quality, the amount and spectrum of light needed is very much individual species based. As a general statement, soft corals normally require less light than that of their hard coral relatives which need more light. The necessary intensity of light is often greater for hard coral species as well. This is because hard corals have zooxanthellae that need light to complete photosynthesis. Coral bleaching can occur to captive stony corals that don’t receive enough sunlight or a high enough intensity light.

Finally water flow or movement not surprisingly also varies greatly between different species of marine coral. While some species of marine coral require water surges to help flush and clense debris from there surfaces others require completely calm water. Coral species in general need low turbidity water that is crystal clear.
Another aspect that should be taken into account when composing your home aquarium is that it is important to remember that not all species of coral are meant to, or for that matter can be, kept in the same tank together. In general, corals that would not be found together in the ocean shouldn’t be kept together in captive aquariums (there are always exceptions!). Not only can different coral species require vastly different conditions, but not all corals play nice together. Most species of soft coral (example Actinodiscus) should not be kept close to nearly all LPS or SPS marine coral species since they can have damaging effects of different species of hard coral.

Now this brings us to the question; which corals are the best for beginners and where can I buy them? It is important to recognize that the requirements and care for captive corals is still not very well understood and even experiences aquarists are still learning when it comes to marine coral care. With lots of research, trials, and devotion coral is becoming more and more mainstream in captive tanks of all sizes. Here is a list of some of the easiest corals to keep successfully in a captive aquarium.

actinodiscus

1. Mushroom Coral (Actinodiscus)

These corals flourish in terms of growth and reproduction is calm water with moderate amounts of light. They do not do well with bright lights or strong water flow. Lower light conditions, like fluorescent lights are ideal for these corals. They do well with fish, crustacean, and motile, capable of motion, invertebrates but don’t play nice with other coral species and sessile, or stationary, invertebrates.

 

Cladiella sp. FJ

2. Mushroom and Leather Corals (Cladiella)

These coral species are excellent starter corals as they are highly adaptable to nearly all light and water current conditions. They do best with moderate light and water flow.

 

Pachyclavularia_violacea-10-1280x800

3. Star Polyps, Green Star Polyps, and Daisy Polyps (Pachyclavularia)

Also extremely tolerant, these guys can survive in both high and low levels of light. They also can survive in a wide range of water current velocities. However, they are sensitive to iodine and aluminum oxide levels which can be found in some types of phosphate removing sponges so it is recommended to avoid using these types of materials in your tank and take great caution to what goes into your tank with these corals. They are quick to colonize, and can often overgrow other coral species around. If you chose this coral for your aquarium it will need to be cleaned of detritus often to prevent slime and algae growth.

Protopalythoa

4. Sea Mat and Button Polyp Corals (Palythoa and Protopalythoa)

These species desire brighter light but are also tolerant of lower light exposure. They like water flow that is on the stronger side but at minimum moderate in nature. Palythoas have a high rate of reproduction and thus are very aggressive in nature. Some individual species actually possess a type of neurotoxin (inhibits nervous system) which affects humans. Normally brown to dark brown in color, many species are fluorescent tips to their tentacles which appear quite beautiful in actinic blue lighting.

 

Fingerleather

5. Finger Leather and Colt Corals (Cladiella)

This group of corals is most excellent corals for the captive coral newbie. They are highly adaptable but prefer the moderate range of the light and water current spectrum which is often easy to maintain even for a beginner. In the ocean, these marine corals are found at mid-water depths which are why everything in moderation is prime for them in captivity as well.

 

Sarcophyton

6. Toadstool, Leather, and Mushroom Corals (Sarcophyton)

These corals are very easy going and also great for beginners. They adapt to nearly all appropriate lighting levels and water current levels for coral. They also grow rather quickly and are considers great for propagation.

 

Zoanthus

7. Zoanthid, Sea Mat, and Button Polyp Corals (Zoanthus)

These corals do best in bright light conditions but can survive in lower light conditions. They do best in moderate to strong water flow. This genus is full of aggressive coral species that have rather high levels of reproduction and can easily expand throughout an aquarium. It is also notable that some of these corals contain a type of neurotoxin that has a strong effect on humans that come in contact with it.

 

Lobophyllia

8. Lobed, Flat, and Open Brain Corals (Lobophyllia)

Coral species in this group flourish inn bright direct light with calm currents. This being said, if these corals are given adequate light with low water movement they will also grow well in an aquarium. These corals are nocturnal feeders which means they actively feed at night. Occasionally, their tentacles will extend outward during the day and they may take food offering strictly of zooplankton and Bacterioplankton. Bacterioplankton is free-living bacteria, detritus, particulate, and suspended organic matter. While Lobophilla are normally not considered an aggressive group, there have been incidents of the formation of sweeper tentacles, or patrol tentacles, when they come in contact with other corals recorded.

 

symphyllia-wilsoni

9. Closed and Dented Brain Corals (Symphyllia)

These coral types are highly successful in captive tanks and very tolerant of various conditions. They prefer bright, indirect light and low to moderate rates of water flow. These hard corals can be sensitive to the presence of certain types of soft corals and are very reactive to their food in the water column.

 

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10. Moon, Pineapple, and Star Corals (Favia and Favites)

These corals like bright light best but will tolerate much lower levels of lighting. They require a gentle current, as Favites attach to a substrate and will not move for several months. Favites are special because they can be fed and enjoy a small amount of brine shrimp at night. It is also important to take care in the placement of these corals as they are known to send out transparent sweeper tentacles at night.

 

Goniastrea)

11. Honeycomb, Star, Wreath, and Moon Corals (Goniastrea)

These corals are among the best in terms of ease of care. They are great for beginners because they thrive in strong water currents and bright lighting.

 

Nemenzophyllia

12. Fox, Jasmine, and Ridge Corals (Nemenzophyllia)

This group of coral prefers gentle currents without heavy water skimmer or high efficiency filtration. They calcify and grow best in low to medium light conditions. These species don’t have feeding tentacles so all their nutrition is absorbed, not fed.

Mail order Corals

Buying marine coral for the first time can be overwhelming and intimidation. As you can see, there is a lot of information out there about coral qualifications and coral species. At one time buying live coral online would have been unheard of. Even looking back 20 years, corals for sale were nearly unheard of. Marine corals for sale have skyrocketed in the last couple of years thanks to advancements in technology and science. Coral for sale online is accessible and like all online shopping fairly simple. Shopping for corals online allows you to weight out your options and prices without having to drive all over looking for the best deal.

Popular corals are fairly easy to find and are often bought as coral frags. Like I mentioned in the reproduction portion of this article, coral has a complex way of reproducing and one of those ways is fragmentation. To reiterate, fragmentation is when a piece of mature coral breaks off from its colony and then resettles somewhere else as a new colony. This can happen naturally during upwelling’s or storm surges or accidently if an animal or scuba diver makes a strong impact with the coral. In the cases of coral sales, it is done by a coral expert. Coral frags are a great sustainable way to grow coral and many coral species are available in frag form. Frags have a high success rate when introduced into the right conditions for the right species of marine coral. The price of frags varies greatly based on the size of the frag. Smaller coral frags can be as low as $10.99 while larger ones can be in the $100 or more range. The great thing about frags is that if you can’t afford a large frag and start off with a smaller one, if placed in the right conditions, they will propagate and spread on their own.

LPS coral

LPS corals or Large Polyp Stony corals are popular but have a wide range in difficulty in terms of maintaining. They are larger calcareous corals that have much larger fleshy polyps than that of the also popular SPS or small polyp stony corals. LPS corals are often very popular because they are very beautiful but they can have some challenges. Coral species of lps corals can have long tentacles called sweeper tentacles that are designed to clear or destroy other corals with proximity. This obviously is not ideal if you are trying to keep multiple corals close to each other in one tank setup. However many species of lps corals are quite hardy and potentially fast growing. In general LPS corals are easier to keep than SPS corals because they require less intense lighting and less water movement. Since LPS and SPS corals are hard or stony corals they require higher levels of calcium to thrive. Here is a list that includes the common names of coral species that most agree are LPS species:

– Elegance coral
– Hammer Coral
– Galaxy coral
– Torch Corals
– Frogswan corals
– Fox corals
– Jasmine Corals
– Disk Corals
– Plate Corals
– Bubble Corals
– Pearl Corals

Buying coral on line can be overwhelming. Simply from searching on google “mail order corals” I came up with a countless number of sites to sift through. When looking for corals online it is important to do your research and find the best fit for you and your tank. For instance you have to be careful what you search. For example, search coral uk and you find a sports bar/ games/ events venue. Another example, coral.com, is actually an industrial chemical company. Also avoid sources that say live rocks for sale. As I have mentioned many times in this article coral is not a rock; they are living animals. But have no fear, I have found some great sources for buying corals online uk and in North America as well.

Corals uk actually has many great options in terms of coral for sale uk. One great source is Reefworks, the UK’s premier coral form. They offer the premium captive bred marine corals for sale in the UK. If you are looking to buy coral in the UK they are great reliable source for healthy coral frags, coral colonies, live copepods, and plankton for your marine tank. They pride themselves in sustainability so you know you are getting an eco-friendly coral. This is great based on the status of coral in the wild. You know when you buy from Reefworks that you are getting a beautiful coral that has no detrimental effect on coral reefs in the ocean.

Another great source for mail order corals is Worldwide corals based out of Orlando, FL USA. They not only give a 100% happiness guarantee but have beautiful coral species of all kinds available for online purchase. They have trained aquatic specialists on staff to answer any questions and monitor your coral during the ordering process. They boast each and every coral mailed out is handpicked. They have very large facilities that can sustain over 8,000 gallons of pure reef and propagates including LPS, SPS, Zoanthids, and soft corals.

Finally my last recommendation is of course Reefnation. The reefnation website is not only a great way to connect to marine science news but also to check out product reviews for all things aquarium. They also have store tab where they sell SPS corals, LPS corals, Soft corals, dry goods, and a collector’s corner full of specialty corals. Also fully sustainable, they vow to leave the ocean better than they found it.

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Coral Acclimation

Now hopefully that puts you in the right direction of finding the perfect mail order coral online for your home aquarium. The next step is knowing what to do when you receive your box full of coral in the mail a few weeks later. In a perfect world, new coral would be placed in a separate quarantine tank for observation and acclimation before place in the permanent tank. However, this might not be a possibility if you only have one tank. The whole idea of quarantine is to protect any of the other fish, coral, or organisms in your aquarium since it is possible for your new coral to have some uninvited guests on it. Once you receive your corals, make sure they stay at an appropriate temperature for them. This may mean keeping them cool if it is very hot or keeping them warm if it is very cold. The box may be wet which is normal so don’t be alarmed. You may need a knife to open the box and bags but this knife should be able to be exposed to salt water. Also whenever dealing with coral tight latex rubber gloves are always a great idea to protect you from the coral but also protect the coral from any harmful pathogens. Keep a bucket with your tank water nearby and make sure it is aerated in some way; usually an airstone is easy and effective. This bucket will be for dipping to sanitize the coral. The coral will be in a bag of some sort. Cutting the bag is the easiest way to remove the coral but can be messy. Make sure that if you cut the bag you dump all of the water contents into an inbound water bucket. Inbound water should never be placed in your home aquarium. Now, you should have your coral in a bad with no water in it. Carefully, and gently pull out the coral and place it in the dipping bucket. If you have ordered multiple corals you can place them in the bucket together if they are the same exact type and they do not touch each other. If this is not the case you will need multiple buckets for each individual coral species. The choice of dip is up to you based on your coral and tank needs but most dips last only 5-10 minutes. Now using another bucket with your tank water, rinse the dipped coral slowly and gently and then place it in your tank (if quarantine is not an option). At this point specific species of coral may have different needs and additional steps. I cannot stress enough to thoroughly research your coral species before it arrives!

Coral Conservation in the Wild

It is without question that coral reefs and the coral organisms that create them are in a state of great decline. Thanks to average ocean temperature increases, pollution, and global warming delicate corals are being killed off in masses. Coral bleaching events make headlines every day is marine science news and it has gotten to the point where seeing bleached coral in the wild is more common than finding healthy coral. As worldwide coral bleaching events become closer together and more sequential, it is much more difficult for previously bleached surviving corals to rebuild. It is important to remember that your daily actions and choices make a difference for coral reefs. There is no doubt that if we do not make major changes in how we treat the planet and our beloved oceans that as early as mid this century we will lose coral reefs in the wild and likely the life that they support forever. We can’t continue to take our planet for granted and we must make eco-friendly choices to start healing the damage that has been done so that future generations will be able to enjoy the magical world of coral reefs. By doing substantial research and being educated on sustainable captive corals, you are already playing a huge role in coral conservation.

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References

http://seaworld.org/en/animal-info/animal-infobooks/coral-and-coral-reefs/scientific-classification/
http://oceanservice.noaa.gov/education/kits/corals/coral02_zooxanthellae.html

Coral Basics

http://www.naturefoundationsxm.org/education/coral_reefs/kinds_of_coral.htm
http://www.tfhmagazine.com/saltwater-reef/feature-articles/getting-started-in-the-reef-aquarium-hobby.htm
http://www.liveaquaria.com/product/aquarium-fish-supplies.cfm?c=597+321
http://www.worldwidecorals.com/
http://www.aquariumcreationsonline.net/lps.html
https://reefworks.co.uk/
http://www.livestockusa.org/ACCLIMATINGCORALS.html