03-18-2008, 06:55 PM
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Basically, upgrading from a fish-only tank to a reef tank requires 3 main changes. First off and probably most important is the upgraded lighting. The majority of corals offered these days are photosynthetic, meaning they require higher lighting to carry-out photosynthesis. Corals can generally be broken down into 3 main categories, softies, lps, and sps. Soft corals such as polyps and leathers are generally less dependent on photosynthesis for nurishment and can be maintained under moderate lighting, possibly 3 watts per gallon. Mushrooms would also fall under this category even though they are technically an anemone rather than a true coral. Lps, (large polyped stony corals), are generally more demanding than softies, but can still often be kept without upgrading to metal halides. They are however, alot more dependent on proper calcium levels. The final category, sps, (small polyped stonies), are generally the most demanding of the corals commonly available. They require pristine water conditions, as well as very high lighting, heavy circulation, and a calcium level maintained between 400 and 450ppm to thrive. The second requirement is supplementation of calcium, iodide, strontium, magnesium, and various trace elements. There are several ways to accomplish this. There are many bottled supplements available that you can add to your tank on a regular basis to maintain optimal levels. Another option is to create a constant drip system using a medical IV bag. The final option is to use a reactor, which simply put, is a small chamber in which Co2 is bubbled up through layers of calcium carbonate to maintain optimal calcium levels, you can also use kalkwasser to maintian ph. The third requirement is water circulation. Corals are filter feeders and depend on water current to bring them food. With this in mind you will more than likely have to supplement your corals with weekly feedings of phytoplankton and other suspensions intended for feeding corals. If I were you i would recommend starting out with some mushrooms and softies and working your way up from there.