As hobbyists have gained knowledge of how to keep toxins corals are sensitive to—primarily nitrates and phosphates—under control and balancing and stabilizing essential trace elements, corals are now successfully kept in biotopes all around the world.

As coral lighting requirements became more understood and higher-intensity systems developed, even more corals are now being kept successfully in closed saltwater systems. Understanding and recreating the varied water currents that corals require have helped fuel this mammoth success even further.

The final threshold that has made the saltwater aquarium hobby so successful is our ability to supply the specific food requirements for individual corals.

Corals have three methods of ingestion of particulate food matter and organic waste.

Zooxanthellae Algae

  • Provide nutrition, remove metabolic waste and contribute to production of calcium carbonate skeletons.
  • Corals with zooxanthellae grow rapidly because they can deposit calcium carbonate 2 to 3 times faster than those that do not have zooxanthellae.
  • Waste from fish, decaying matter, and the end result of foods which are implemented are consumed and absorbed by the algae; ammonium, nitrate, and phosphorus are readily absorbed by corals.

Direct Feeding

  • Most corals have an actual polyp which they use to consume macroscopic and particulate matter; even larger polyps, which occur in many LPS and soft corals, can consume even larger prey.
  • Food can be supplied through manual direct feeding and through means of flow as well. Polyps are specifically designed to capture prey in its path; oscillation in flow rates work best for this method of feeding.
  • Tentacles help capture and paralyze prey with the nematocyst, present in the actual polyp itself. This allows the coral to ingest prey into its mouth, which will be further ingested into the pharynx to digest the prey.
  • Experimentation with feeding regiments and particulate matter size should be practiced, as many corals accept and require different particulate sizes and nutritional food sources.
  • A few of the best live foods, which offer corals a wide array of vitamins and amino acids are Oyster EggsDTs Live PhytoplexLiquid Life Coral PlanktonBio PlanktonMarine Plankton. These offer the most widely available plankton strains which your corals will be able to consume. Keep in mind many corals will only take live foods. While others adapt to dry and frozen foods, most corals will ultimately do best with live strains of plankton.

Indirect Feeding

  • Corals can absorb dissolved organic waste and compounds (i.e. dead decaying fish, invertebrates, and corals)
  • Waste products and uneaten food are major sources of coral food as diversity in species plays an important role in providing corals with amino acids and organics. This is not a recommendation for over feeding, in most cases the absorption of phosphates and nitrates is very minimal, and it is a good practice to keep your phosphates and nitrates near undetectable using colorimetric test kits.

A standard practice in tank husbandry is to feed your tank inhabitants foods which are also acceptable and beneficial to corals as well (preferably live strains of phytoplankton, krill, pieces of shrimp, squid, oyster eggs), as it greatly simplifies coral feeding. Many of the smaller particulate matter which is left over from feeding, which the fish do not eat, are consumed by corals. Ammonium, Nitrate, and Phosphorus are readily absorbed by corals, and they are then used by the zooxanthellae (D’Elia, 1977; Muscatine and D’Elia, 1978).

The particle size of food also determines what a coral can consume. A chunk of food the size of a pea can be consumed by many Large Polyps Stony corals, but will be of no use to a Zooanthid Coral or any smaller mouthed corals. On the other hand, a Button Polyp can absorb Dissolved Organic Compounds directly from the water, as can many LPS and SPS corals.

Researching and identifying the reef zone and area at which a particular coral is most commonly known for dwelling will go a long ways in determining what foods that coral prefers. Talking with other aquarists (i.e. Forums), online research and reading books and articles on specific coral species’ food requirements are excellent places to find information before purchasing a coral for your tank.

In addition, Marine Depot team members are well-equipped with a solid knowledge base as well as personal experience to suggest or recommend coral foods for your pets.