Coral Lighting and acclimation
There are many different things you'll need before you even begin making a reef tank. Much of it is the basics for the tank anyways. You'll need a lot of flow, good lighting, good parameters (more for the different types of corals that you have) and certain alk, mag, and calc..
But i'm just talking lighting for now.
There are so many corals out there and select them is difficult they are pretty and can be beautiful as long as you know what you're doing. Lighing is important corals are symbiotic with the polyps that gather the PAR (Photosynthetically Active Radiation) and convert it to sugar/energy. Once the Polyps have gathered the energy they need it is then released to it's symbiotic partner the coral/anemone/clam.
These corals are very appealing to many and fairly simple to keep. They don't require too much lighting, but the higher you get the better they grow and the polps will become more full. These corals will use PC (Power Compact) lights and anything above that. They grow quickly and spread accross the tank quite nicely. These are the coral that new hobbiest will start with. They include zoanthids, green star polyps, devils hand leather, and kenya tree (just to name a few). Generally you want to keep anywhere between 2-3watts per gallon(wpg) to maintain these and again the more wattage you have the more they'll thrive in the reef.
They are a bit more difficult to keep and many of the time will have some kind of chemical that will affect other corals in the tank. Always research before you add any coral because they can slime and depending on the coral, it can kill them. LPS(Large Polyp Stoney) are a bit more advanced and have more requirements. This is also where the corals become excidingly tricky( in there are some that are more sensitive to different things or they require more lighting, again this is very general). They require more light then the Softies do and are a bit more dangerous when they die or RTN (Rapid Tissue Necrosis) becaue they have the big polyps they will cause more problems and should be moved quickly after they die. They are recommended for the more serious reefer at level moderate to expert(depending on breed) and require 4-6wpg to be healthy and thrive. Higher wattage is not going to hurt them either so 6+ will be ok just as for the Softies. VHO(Very High Output) T5 are require to keep these corals.
SPS (Small Polyp Stoney) are for the experts alone. They require the most lighting in the hobby along with other things to keep them alive. They are easy to break (depending on the coral type) and are very sensitive the changes in the water as well as lighting. MH (Metal Heylides), VHO and T5 or LED lights are required as long as they meet the wattage needs. They require 6-11wpg (again depending on the coral) and are very needy. On the plus side if you break them they that's a frag of the coral and it'll grow into a full grown coral.
With all corals acclimation is important when adding them to the tank. Unlike the fish they don't need the same type of acclimation. It is not required to do a drip acclimation or a normal water acclimation. Just get the temp right and put it into the Quarantine tank. Always try to treat for redbugs (a pest that'll kill much) or acro eating flatworms(a pest that'll kill your acroporas). Leave in quarintine for a couple days then move to the tank the same way. (I'll go into Quarantining at a later date)
Supergloo and accelerant are your friends with SPS and LPS and glue to where you want it. For Softies you use a rubberband or anything that'll hold the new coral down for at least 5days until it sticks to the rock.
Beware the Zoas. They have a polytoxin that is very harmful not just to the tank, but to you as the Hobbiest and so you need to take the required precautions. Wear gloves and goggles if you are handling them outside the water and just gloves if it's within the water. Wash your hands right after touching the corals to keep from getting the toxins on you or others.
When they are in the tank, you will need to get the coral use to the lights that you have. Many times we get the corals/clams from tanks at the LFS(Local Fish Store) and they have lights that are high off the tank about 15" so you can see the corals better. So when you add the coral to your tank that has the lights 4-8" from the surface they are getting more PAR then what they are use to and it is able to burn the coral and will cause it to RTN much of the time. What you'll need to do is put the lighing difuser on the tank in several layers like 4-6layers. Then once every 3days remove a layer adding more light so the corals will get use to the tank lights and not burn.
Another thing you do is lower the Photo-Period from (hypothetically)12hrs a day to 4hrs. they every 3days increase to 6hrs until you reach the photo-period you want for your tank.
Good luck and i pray this helps your get an idea of what you'll need to get started with corals. (Comming soon flow) Happy reefing all!
This is an interesting idea. What are the future plans with this? Maybe we could incorporate everyone's ideas, failures,and success, into these columns?
I've had success, but it started with failures when i joined the world of corals. I had to relearn all that i had know and go beyond. Corals are very specific when it comes to their lighting. I had read somewhere that you could go to homedepot and use lights from there with just a florecent fixture and it'd supply the tank with the nessesary PAR... not quite right. the lights were only NOP(normal output) and they only gave about 80watts for 2bulbs, not nearly enough for the stuff i wanted, even the GSP didn't survive. I was nieve and didn't want to do the research. Quick fix was my way and it was wrong all the way around. Always be sure to check what the requirements are for the new livestock that you plan to get BEFORE you get it and not just with lights, but with all parameters (flow, placement and tankmates).
Research is the key to keeping the hobby and your livestock alive.
Thanks for the great information in this thread! Of course I've either read/heard most of it at one time during my own research, but it helps to have it summarized like this. I think that beyond marine fish, corals are a somewhat difficult subject... Many marine hobbyists have never made a coral purchase, such as myself.
If I might add to the above. (even though it has nothing to do with the lighting portion of the topic)
Sundial snails are another pest you will want to keep an eye out for, especially when purchasing Zoanthids, Palythoas, Protopalythoas, and yellow polyps, as they eat these corals.
Palythoas, Protopalythoas also carry the same toxin as zoanthids. This toxin can be deadly if ingested. Wear gloves if you must handle them, and wash your hands thoroughly after.
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