How to Take Care of Coral in a Home Aquarium

How to Take Care of Coral in a Home Aquarium

Maintaining a healthy reef tank can be overwhelming if you don't know the basic needs of coral. To help you keep your coral alive and thriving, here are some things you should know:


Like all living things, corals require a balanced, healthy diet. It's essential to know not only the type of food they eat but also their feeding habits. This mixotrophic species can produce their food and indirectly consume other living organisms in their environment.

Using energy from sunlight, corals can create and feed off something called zooxanthellae, which provides the majority of their daily energy requirement. But for them to grow, they still need additional proteins, lipids, and carbohydrates. They can gain those nutrients by absorbing foods like zooplankton, phytoplankton, floating plankton, and bacterioplankton.

Before feeding your coral, it's best to research the specific species you own. Not all coral prefer the same type of food. And if they don't receive the proper amount of nutrients, your coral reef may die.

Some can ingest small bits of the same types of food you would feed your aquarium fish. And with others, you may be better off purchasing commercial foods designed for corals, such as marine snow, rotifer cultures, and phytoplankton. You could also try creating your own coral food by blending shrimp, clams, krill, commercial foods, and fresh vegetables into a puree, making it easy for certain corals to absorb.

Water quality

To maintain corals, the water quality in your aquarium is just as important as the food. For instance, having the correct concentrations of trace minerals and elements in your tank's water is essential for all corals to generate the necessary chemical reactions to process food, reproduce, and thrive. Generally, the levels for these minerals and other parameters should be close to the following:

  • Calcium: 400 to 450 ppm.
  • Magnesium: 1200 to 1400 ppm.
  • Alkalinity: about 2.1 to 2.5 meq/L
  • Specific gravity of natural seawater: 1.023 to 1.025.
  • Temperature: about 76 - 82 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, and phosphate: 0 ppm.

Commonly found in saltwater aquariums, ammonia can be harmful to your corals, invertebrates, and fish. To maintain zero traces of ammonia, you can get in the habit of performing routine checks. Regular testing will help you know when to adjust the water to get ammonia or the other parameters back to their respective levels.

Water movement

It's best to research the requirements of water movement for your coral since it varies by species. But usually, most corals develop well in turbulent water conditions. That's because the rough water tends to push food closer to them. Plus, when the water is choppy, that helps clean coral from any mucus or sediment that may have landed on or inside them.

To create turbulent water effects in your aquarium, first, you can adjust your flow rate to 20 or 30 times per hour. Then, shift your powerheads or closed circulation outlets to flow in different directions or crash into each other. You can also purchase a particular device that attaches to the end of your powerheads and helps create a circular or wave-type motion.


Similar to the other basic needs of coral, it is critical to research your species of coral first to know the correct amount of light necessary to keep them healthy. For instance, soft corals need less light than their hard counterparts, which require intense light. If your particular species lacks the appropriate amount of light, it may result in coral bleaching, where they lose their color.

Before you add coral to your home aquarium, there's one other thing to consider. Between the cost of the lights and electricity consumption, you may discover that lighting your aquarium to accommodate your coral can get expensive. Not to mention, the lighting could increase the tank's temperature, forcing you to purchase another piece of equipment to cool down your aquarium.

Other maintenance tips

Here are some other helpful tips on caring for your coral:

  • While you can maintain them in small aquariums, corals grow best in larger reef tanks.
  • It is imperative to wear eye goggles, face masks, and gloves to protect yourself from corals' toxins.
  • You can use carbon to limit the number of toxins in the water.
  • For beginner reef caretakers, soft corals are easier to care for than hard corals.
  • Be mindful of mixing different corals in your aquarium. They can get aggressive with each other competing over territory.

To learn more about coral maintenance at home, you can contact us, and we'll be happy to help.