Increase Coral Color & Growth With Feeding - Beginner's Guide EP: 46
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Do I Need To Feed My Corals?
It is not 100%, absolutely necessary to feed your corals because they get most of their energy via photosynthesis so all they really need is an appropriate light source. There is, however, quite a bit of scientific evidence that suggests providing alternative sources of nutrition (feeding) your corals does increase growth rates and improve natural coloration. Naturally, corals do collect suspended particles of food from the water and/or absorb dissolved nutrients through their tissue.
Types Of Coral Food
Choosing the right size and type of food for your particular corals is important to ensure your corals can actually acquire the food. Most of this is based upon particle size because corals with smaller polyps like an Acropora (SPS) cannot consume larger particle size foods as you find on many LPS corals.
Coral food is similar to fish food in that there are a few different types of food and corals benefit from many of the same sources of protein as your fish. From fish meal and freeze-dried plankton to live copepods and rotifers, using a variety will ensure your corals are getting balanced nutrition while also providing a range of particle sizes too.
Coral Feeding Tools
- Mixing container - small cup to dissolve frozen foods or mix foods with tank water for broadcasting feeding.
- Squirt bottles - makes it easy to mix food with tank water and target feeding using the bottle underwater.
- Bulb syringe - allows for easy target feeding underwater.
- Larger syringe - just like a turkey baster, they work well for target feeding underwater.
It's easy to overfeed your corals because they cannot move around and catch the food like your fish. The food must come to the coral via the water flow or target feeding. It is best to start with just 1-2 coral feedings per week, monitor nutrient levels closely, and then increase the feeding so long as your not causing a spike in nitrate and phosphate. You do not need to feed your corals daily, most certainly not multiple times per day, unless you are confident that your filtration can handle the excess waste.
Feed Corals At Night
Many corals actively feed upon suspended foods at night. In your tank, you might see corals shapeshift each night as they display their "feeding response". This might look like long feeder tentacles waving in the flow, the uptake of extra water resulting in swollen flesh, or the release of clear slime designed to capture prey.
For this very reason, it's a good idea to feed your coral at night, after the lights have gone out and you see a feeding response. In the daytime, the presence of food suspended in the water will often instigate this feeding response as well which works too. Sometimes broadcasting a small amount of liquid food or amino acids first will instigate the feeding response, then you can come back and target feed thereafter.
How To Feed Corals
Use some kind of syringe or squirt feeder to draw up the food/water combo and squirt it directly onto the corals. This is referred to as target feeding because you are targeting the individual coral. This is the most common approach because you can more effectively deliver the food with less waste in your filtration.
Broadcast feeding is when you simply dump the mixed or prepared food directly into your aquarium's water flow and allow the corals to collect that suspended/dissolved food themselves.
- In a separate container, mix some coral food with tank water. You can use a combination of foods in the container along with liquid foods like plankton and amino acids.
- Turn off your return pump and set a timer so you don't forget to turn it back on. Alternatively, use the feed mode feature.
- Keep your powerheads running to help distribute the food and keep it suspended. Ideally, you can just reduce the speed of the powerheads to a gentle current.
- Feed your corals.
Corals should be exposed to coral food for about 15 minutes before turning your return pump back on. It's not a bad idea to increase the flow from your powerheads for about 60 seconds after feeding to kick up settled foods into your filtration. Do not be surprised if the extra food in your system results in more collection from your skimmer. Sometimes fine-particle and liquid coral foods can even cause a skimmer to "over-foam" as it removes the residual food from the water.
Adjust the frequency of your feeding based on how much nutrients your tank can handle. If rising nitrates are a problem, cutting back your coral feeding is one of the first steps you should take.
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