Arizona Fishkeeping For Freshwater & Marine Aquarists

Coral Selection and Purchase

There have been a few corals I've had my eye on. Before I get anything I really like to know all about it. This pre-purchase research is hugely important as it relates to the overall health of your reef tank. Being armed with some knowledge of your own also helps you to know what questions to ask the guy at your local fish shop.

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If you seem to know what you're talking about they will be less likely to try and pull the wool over your eyes or to make up answers. Finding a LFS that you can trust is really important. One of the quickest ways for a LFS to gain my trust is when hear things like, "I don't know the answer to your questions, but let me go get so and so, he really knows more about it." I've even been there on days when the knowledgeable guy is not working and they will tell me to come back tomorrow when he's there and ask. It's refreshing that they don't try to sell it to me anyway.

Some things we consider when buying a coral are pretty common sense.
  • Size of coral. Will it out grow my tank?
  • Lighting. Are my lights bright enough?
  • Current. Do I have enough current?

That's generally what people try to find out. However, there's more information that goes with those three basis questions that don't always get answered.

  • Size of coral. Is this an aggressive coral that sends out sweeper tentacles at night? Does it have chemical defenses? If it dies, will it poison the tank? Some sponges especially produce toxins upon death that can destroy your tank pretty quick. If you have a 200 gallon tank, maybe a sponge death won't be such a big deal. However, if you have a 29 gallon tank it might all be gone by the time you get home from work.
  • Lighting. Do I have too much light? Often corals need lower light and should be placed under an overhand or deeper in the tank. Too much light can kill a coral just as well as not enough. We must also ask, will it get all of it's food from lighting alone? Often, even though the coral may be zooxanthellate, it still needs supplemental feedings of some type. In terms of time, cost and health of the animal, we need to know what and how often it eats.
  • Current. Same as lighting, there are some animals that don't do well in high current areas. It stresses them. We need to be aware of this.

In my quest for the perfect new animal I decided that two corals I was looking at (scroll coral, finger leather) got too big for my tank, one coral (galaxia) was too aggressive so I settled on green star polyps which I discovered are quite hardy and are considered a good beginner coral. The whole time I was looking the shop keeper would come by and see how I was doing. When we grabbed a book off the shelf to look up certain corals he commented on how that mean we were narrowing it down. Once I decided on the greed star I then had to choose which one of the specimens to get. I did the normal check of color, wounds, etc. I told the shop keeper what I wanted and he said most sincerely, "very good choice", and I really felt like it was. A good choice couples the emotional attraction we have to a coral with a logical approach to keeping it alive. Really if you think an animal is wonderful, don't kill it just because you want it. Choose wisely.

Information contributed by: Chad

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