How to Select the Right Coral for Your Aquarium

Coral Reef

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Introducing coral into an aquascape can be tricky. Not only do you have to select species that will be compatible with the rest of the ecosystem, but you also have to factor in size, shape, and color into your overall aquascape. How can you use coral to create a frilly, delicate living sculpture to enhance your overall aquascape? How can you use their vivid colors to enhance the beauty of your fish? Today, we’re going to dive into the world of coral to get a better idea of these bizarre, captivating creatures.

Stony Coral

Brain Coral

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Stony coral, also known as scleractinia, form hard skeletons as a means of protection and for structural stability. Stony coral can act as a subtle way to break up the flow of natural rock in your aquascape. The rocks that coral attach themselves to are rough and craggy. Stony coral have a similar shape, but they are immediately recognizable because of their slightly organic contours and their unique colors. Scleractinia can be an effective way to add color to an empty area in your aquascape without stealing the show with bizarre shapes. Think of them as a supporting art piece. They are often outshone by more dramatic coral, but they can liven up dull areas of your aquascape without making your aquarium appear overly busy.

Branching Coral

Crinoid Coral Sea

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Many species of coral grow in a branchlike, frilly pattern reminiscent of a tree. Species of branching coral can have a profound visual impact in your aquarium. It might be tempting to load your aquascape with many different species of branching coral, but be careful. Too many colonies can create a sort of visual overload. Instead, use branching coral as centerpieces or focal points for your aquarium. It would be similar to customizing the décor in a living space to match your favorite painting. Branching coral are beautiful enough on their own that they can dominate an aquascape, so pair them with fish and other species that complement their delicate beauty.

Frilly Coral

Cabbage Coral

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Some coral exists between stony and branching coral – simple enough that they are overshadowed by branching coral, but intricate enough that they are more prominent than stony coral. Cabbage coral, for example, has beautiful frills. It probably won’t be the first thing that catches viewers’ eyes, but it certainly won’t be the last, either. This type of coral is an excellent choice for the middle ground of your aquascape.

Saltwater Coral

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It’s hard to understate the importance of coral selection for a saltwater aquarium. In fact, it might even be safe to argue that it’s more important than your selection of fish, because coral forms a permanent attachment to the rock. Your fish will constantly move around, but once you introduce coral to your aquarium you’re pretty much stuck with it. True aquascape artists can arrange coral the same way that florists would arrange flowers to create a beautiful bouquet, with bright coral dominating the aquascape and supporting coral adding to the overall effect, rather than distracting from it. Be sure to spend time mulling over your coral placement. The right selection can perfectly tie together a saltwater aquascape.


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