Coral bleaching is a phenomenon that occurs when coral polyps, the tiny animals that make up a coral reef, expel the algae that live inside their tissues. This can happen for a variety of reasons, but the most common cause out in the natural reef is a rise in water temperature. When the water gets too warm, the coral polyps become stressed and kick out the algae. Without the algae, the coral turns pale or white, what we refer to as "bleaching."
In your home aquarium things are a bit different. We are tasked with more than just controlling the water temperature. We are responsible for supplying the corals with EVERYTHING they need to survive. In the ocean things naturally stay more stable as a new supply of water is flowing over the corals every day. In the home aquarium it is far harder to keep levels stable. Some corals are more forgiving of our mistakes than others and some corals have very strict demands.
If your corals are bleaching the first thing you should do is think back on if you've made any changes or have added anything to the water within the last few days. Sometimes it takes a couple days for a coral health issue to progress to an extent that it is apparently visible. Here are some common causes of coral bleaching that we see in the aquarium hobby...
Lighting - Most often corals bleach from the par of your lighting being too much for the coral to handle. If this occurs the coral will eject it's zooxanthella in an attempt to regulate it's bioactivity. For this reason many reefers start their corals down low and gradually expose them to higher par until they are happy in the final location chosen by the hobbyist. This process may need to be stretched out over the course of a few weeks. Nutrients (nitrates) also play a role in how much light a coral can handle. Typically corals can benefit from higher par only if there are nitrates present in the water. A coral that was doing just fine in high par can begin to bleach if your nitrate levels drop too low.
Temperature - If you are the unlucky person who has discovered your aquarium heater has become stuck in the "on" position and your water is hot then you know how this can be devastating to your home reef aquarium. Depending on where you live, hot summer days can be enough to raise your tank's temperature to critical levels. We recommend a tank temperature of 75-78F and we set ours at 76F. Bleaching may occur somewhere around 85F and gets worse the higher you go. If you discover your tank is too hot we recommend you don't remove the corals unless the water is cloudy. Let the tank temp come down slowly on it's own and add sealed bags of ice to help if needed. It is important not to do anything too stressful and to make any changes as slow as possible.
Changing Alkalinity levels too quickly is a leading cause of coral bleaching or death. We recommend testing every batch of newly mixed salt water for Alk levels before doing a water change. Also if you are dosing for Alkalinity try to raise or lower it as slow as possible. We shoot for less than 1dKH per week if making adjustments. Also it is very important to never dose a water chemistry product if you can't or didn't test levels. There is no need for guesswork with all of the great affordable testing equipment that is available to us hobbyists.
Alkalinity is a measure of the ability of the water to neutralize acids, and it is important for coral health because it helps to maintain a stable pH level in the water. Coral polyps, the tiny animals that make up a coral reef, need a specific range of pH to survive and grow. If the pH level in the water becomes too low or too high, the coral can become stressed, which can lead to bleaching or death.
Alkalinity plays a key role in regulating the pH level in the water. If the alkalinity is too low, the water will be more susceptible to changes in pH, which can harm the coral. On the other hand, if the alkalinity is too high, the water will become more alkaline, and the coral will also be stressed. It is important to maintain the appropriate level of alkalinity to ensure that the pH level stays within the optimal range of 7-12 dKH for the coral and to limit changes to less than 0.2 dKH per day.
Toxins and Contaminants
There are other stresses on coral that can lead to bleaching. The "quick cures" sold online that promise fast results to combating common issues faced by aquarists can cause problems. Many of these can have adverse effects on coral health and should be used with caution or avoided altogether. If you are thinking of using a product to change something in your tank be sure to always follow directions and think of how it may effect other parameters.
Toxins can also be added to your water from certain corals or pests. Nepthea coral is known to secrete a toxic compound into the water that can be harmful to other corals. Flatworms are also very toxic when they die. Sea cucumbers have also been known to release toxins if they were to die in your tank. Check for issues and if you find an animal that has died take care to remove as much of it as possible.
Talk to Other Reefers
There are a ton of great resources out there for finding and diagnosing problems with your coral health. Join your local reefing club or group online and chat with fellow reefers about your problem. You'll find that there are a lot of people willing to give you advice. It's a good idea to weigh the advice based on the persons professionalism and years of experience. Advice that is given by many seasoned reefers should be considered more reliable but may not always be the best option. Do your research and remember that nothing good happens quickly. Go slow and try not to make big changes and your reef will reward you with great colors and growth.
If we have a coral that is bleaching then what do we do? First we inspect for "critters" or any nearby corals that might be stinging it. Then we clean, dip and move the coral to a lower par lighting area. If it's just one of your corals that is bleaching then moving it to a lower lighting area typically solves the problem. It may take weeks or months to regain it's color and dosing live zooxanthella may help the coral recover. If more corals are bleaching in different parts of your tank (that were otherwise doing fine previously) then we go right to checking nitrates. If they are reading zero then you can raise them with sodium nitrate or by feeding more often. Your corals may be starving and a little nutrition can make them happy.
If you have any other ideas to be added to this list, please let us know in the comments!
Giving the gift of coral is an idea that is sure to bring a big smile to your loved one's face. It's an idea that you can totally pull off! Here are some tips to help your gifting of live coral be a success.
1) Do spend what you can afford but remember that these animals are often coming from all over the world to your home aquarium and it can absolutely be pricy. Look up the shipping costs too and consider that when choosing your budget.
2) Don't Ever. Ever ever ever ...put the corals in someone else's tank without their knowledge or absolute trust. Corals should always be cleaned and inspected before being added to your reef. Adding a bad hitchhiker could lead to ...let's say unhappiness, and placement of corals is more complicated as well. You might want to let the recipient of the gift coral handle these choices. Trust us on this one. They will probably insist on adding the corals themselves.
3) Do: If you ordered corals for someone as a gift we highly recommend opening the box immediately upon arrival and inspecting the corals to see that they have all arrived alive. Keep the corals in their bags and look for cloudiness of the water or other signs of problems. Refer to the business on what their "dead on arrival" policies are and know their policy before the package arrives.
4) Don't: Leave corals outdoors, on a heater or in direct sunlight. Corals are sensitive to temperature and will do best as close to 74-80 degrees as possible. If they get too hot (above 84F?) the could die. If they get too cold (below 60F?) they could die.
5) Do: Before you order look at their reef tank and compare what is available online with photos of what your gift recipient already has. Try to order different types and colors that they don't have a lot of. If you find it hard to choose you could consider a gift card!
Have other ideas to help with our list of Do's and Don'ts? Please comment below!
Short story written in part by ChatGPT A.I. and photo above created in part by Wonder A.I.
It was Christmas morning, and the man woke up with a feeling of excitement and anticipation. He had been hoping for a very special gift, and he couldn't wait to see what was waiting for him under the tree.
He rushed downstairs and tore open the wrapping paper, revealing a crisp white box with a big blue sticker on it that read "TheCoralFarm.com". He popped open the Styrofoam container to reveal a beautiful, pink and purple Lobo coral. It was his favorite type of coral, and he had been longing for one for years.
The man was overjoyed, and he quickly set about preparing a spot for the coral in his aquarium. He carefully placed it among the rocks and other corals, and watched as it began to puff up in agreement.
Over the next few days, the man watched with amazement as the coral grew and flourished. It was a sight to behold, and it brought him great joy and satisfaction.
As the weeks and months passed, the man cared for his coral with love and dedication. He regularly cleaned the aquarium, provided the right nutrients and lighting, and made sure that the water was always just right.
And as the coral continued to grow and thrive, the man realized that his Christmas gift was not just a beautiful piece of coral, but a source of endless wonder and delight. It was the perfect gift, and he was grateful for it every day.
We love this story!
Let's make it happen! We have some ideas that will help you successfully give the GIFT OF CORALS under the Christmas this year.
1) If you are local to a reef shop arrange to pick them up the day before Christmas. Keep them as close to 76F degrees as you can even if it means turning up the heat in the house a little bit. Most corals will be fine even down to the mid 60's but not over the low 80's. So keep them warm but don't put them next to the heater. Most corals will be fine in the bag for 2 days if you keep them warm.
2) Gift Cards are great! You are off the hook for picking out the corals and they get to pick that perfect coral of their dreams.
3) Buy now and ship later. You can print out photos of the corals you bought and wrap them up as stocking stuffers! Get that look of joy over and over again for each coral photo they discover. We can arrange shipping after all the holiday craziness.
Read More: The "Do's and Don'ts of Gifting Corals"
Saltwater reef aquariums are a popular and rewarding hobby that allows hobbyists to create their own little slice of the ocean in their own home. These aquariums are home to a diverse array of colorful and fascinating marine life, including fish, corals, and invertebrates.
Starting a saltwater reef aquarium can be a daunting task, but with the right knowledge and planning, it can be a rewarding and fulfilling experience. Here are some key things to consider when setting up a saltwater reef aquarium:
Overall, starting a saltwater reef aquarium can be a challenging but rewarding hobby. With the right setup and care, you can create a thriving and beautiful aquatic environment that will provide enjoyment for years to come.
For more information about equipment and additives visit: Reefkeeping Tips
Palytoxin is a highly toxic compound that is produced by certain species of zoanthus corals, including Palythoa grandis, Nuclear Death Paly, Purple Death Paly, Button Polyps and many other types of zoanthus corals. It is a polycyclic ether that is highly potent and can be harmful or even lethal to humans and other animals if ingested or inhaled. It is thought to serve as a defense mechanism for the coral, deterring potential predators from consuming it. Palytoxin can also be harmful to other marine animals, including fish and invertebrates.
Symptoms of palytoxin poisoning in humans can include fever, nausea, vomiting, muscle and/or abdominal pain, difficulty breathing, and heart problems. In severe cases, palytoxin poisoning can be life-threatening and may require immediate medical attention.
Safety precautions are recommended. It is important to handle zoanthus corals with care and avoid inhaling or ingesting any water that may contain palytoxin. It is also important to thoroughly wash your hands and working areas after handling these corals. Wearing gloves and eye protection is advised. Do not cut these corals on a wet saw as this can cause airborne droplets to form which may be inhaled or land on surfaces causing contamination.