I’m having success with soft corals, mostly.

12 Jan

CAM02499

My saltwater tank has been set up for 6 years. My two Clownfish and one Royal Gramma have lived in that tank for those 6 years. It is NOT a reef tank. No fancy lighting. I have always said this tank is exactly like a freshwater tank except that it has a skimmer running, as all saltwater tanks should. The tank is very green, with two kinds of saltwater plants that grow and need to be trimmed on occasion. (Caulerpa and Chaetomorpha)

Now the fun part. I never thought I could have any corals in this tank, but I stumbled across some Internet articles that talked about “soft corals” and how some of them can grow in LOW light. What? Really??? How come I never heard of this?

I read many articles on the subject and  came to the conclusion that if I could find certain species of soft corals I would try them in my tank.  I contacted the local Reef Society and bought some soft corals from two very knowledgeable and helpful reefers, or reef people, or whatever they like to be called.

Before adding the corals, I bought two new fluorescent bulbs at a home-improvement store. Those bulbs are Sylvania T-8’s , 4100K. Then I added a light fixture which holds one bulb and put in a Gro-Lux bulb, also by Sylvania I think. That light has a bluish cast to it and is used for growing plants of course. So there are 3 bulbs over my tank. This is still considered low light for a saltwater tank.

The two T-8s.

The two T-8s.

Let’s get to the coral. I’ll tell you about them one-by-one. I’m going to use only their common name as I have found them to be called on the Internet and by the people I bought them from. Some corals have about 6 names they are known by. I won’t get into that.

First, I bought a tiny group of six Yellow Polyps.

About 6 little Yellow Polyps. More brown than yellow.

About 6 little Yellow Polyps. More brown than yellow.

If they are happy they open up and start dividing into more polyps

If they are happy they open up and start dividing into more polyps

At last count I have 19 polyps! This has taken about 4 months.

At last count I have 19 polyps! From 6 to 19 in 4 months.

Here’s an easy coral to grow, the Kenya Tree. But my Kenya Tree was not happy right away. It sulked for over a week.

Looks like purple broccoli. Not happy.

Looks like purple broccoli. Not happy.

All opened up and ready to feed on whatever floats by.

All opened up and ready to feed on whatever floats by.

Growing!

Growing!

From left to right, the Finger Leather Coral, a Mushroom Coral, and a baby Kenya Tree. One day a branch of the Kenya Tree fell off. I re-planted it, and it douing well. Since then, I actually sliced off a branch of the tree and started a new one.

From left to right, the Finger Leather Coral, a Mushroom Coral, and a baby Kenya Tree. One day a branch of the Kenya Tree fell off. I re-planted it, and it doing well. Since then, I actually sliced off a branch of the original tree and started a new one.

I think that the reason some of these corals are growing well is that I have been feeding them live baby Brine Shrimp about 4 days per week. Many Internet sites say that they require no feeding, that they feed symbiotically from the algae that is in their bodies. I’m sure that’s true but in my low-light tank I want to help them all that I can.

Baby brine shrimp in a jar of saltwater.

Baby brine shrimp in a jar of saltwater.

I siphon the shrimps into a net and swish it into the aquarium.

I siphon the shrimp into a net and swish it into the aquarium.

Here’s the Finger Leather Coral.

The day i brought it home, wedged in a rock crevice, and very unhappy.

The day I brought it home, wedged in a rock crevice, and very unhappy.

He fell out of the crevice, and was still unhappy. They can pout for weeks.

He fell out of the crevice, and was still unhappy. They can pout for weeks.

Starting to improve.

Starting to improve.

Swelling up a bit. That’s good.

Big change huh? Opened up and feeding.

Big change huh? Opened up and feeding.

Here’s one that is struggling, the Devil’s Hand Coral.

When I got the Devil's Hand it looked like this for weeks!

When I got the Devil’s Hand it looked like this for weeks!

When it finally opened up, wow, so cool!

When it finally opened up, wow, so cool!

But I stirred up the tank one day, and the Devil’s Hand did not like that. It closed up again, and didn’t open. Weeks went by, it shriveled into a puny little nub. I thought it was dead. It drifted away and settled on the gravel. One day I noticed a little Devil’s Hand poking up.

C'mon little guy, hang in there!

C’mon little guy, hang in there!

It’s only the size of a pea, but maybe it will come back. This coral seems more sensitive to water quality than the others.

Another soft coral that should be doing well are the Mushroom Corals. But my mushrooms are not too happy. They are being overtaken by some ugly green algae that came on the rocks they were attached to. Maybe if I get that algae trimmed away they will perk up. Here are some photos of them.

On the right side of this picture, the green disc is a Mushroom Coral.

On the right side of this picture, the green disc is a Mushroom Coral.

Here's another species of mushroom, when he was happy.

Here’s another species of mushroom, when he was happy.

I’ve saved the best for last. Many experienced reef-keepers might consider this soft coral a pest because it grows so fast, but right now that’s what I want. This coral is called Wavy Hand Anthelia and, yes, it’s like a weed but it’s beautiful.

I've already spread pieces of Anthelia around my tank. I put this piece into a shell with some gravel in it.

I put this piece of Anthelia into a shell with some gravel in it.

Looks how much it's grown!

Looks how much it’s grown!

I cut the white elastic-like base of the Anthelia and started a few baby ones.

I cut the white elastic-like base of the Anthelia and started a few baby ones.

Wavy Anthelia and Kenya Tree coral.

Wavy Anthelia and Kenya Tree coral.

There are two final things I want to mention. One is just a reminder that these corals are animals, not plants, but its easy to forget that and treat them more like a plant. Like I say, I feed mine live Brine Shrimp.

The other thing is that these common corals are grown in captivity by other hobbyists. They grow easily and fast, and there is no reason to harvest these from the ocean. You can find them cheaply and you can soon be sharing these with other people like me who are new to coral-keeping.

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14 Responses to “I’m having success with soft corals, mostly.”

  1. becomingcliche January 13, 2014 at 7:54 am #

    Wow! Congratulations on your success! I’m almost tempted to try my hand at salt water. You make it look easy.

    • fishtanx2011 March 8, 2014 at 11:19 am #

      If I had to start over with a Salt tank I would look at a species-only tank of Bangai Cardinalfish. I believe they mouth-brood like many African Cichlids. My tank full of plants would make a perfect environment for the young fish to survive along the adults. But alas, I have Clownfish that may have many years of life left in them. Angry years, I’m afraid.
      By the way, I was at Petco recently and they did have an amazing assortment of Clownfish. A mixture of wild-looking varieties and also several color morphs. A 20 gallon salt tank with two Clownfish is still pretty cool!

  2. DCM January 13, 2014 at 4:30 pm #

    Lol, I love that most of the soft corals you mentioned in this post are ones that I’ve been trying to weed out my tank for years! Congrats on being able to keep all those toxic softies going & happy. Got any other creatures in there?

    • fishtanx2011 March 8, 2014 at 11:13 am #

      The Anthelia is spreading like mad. Yes it’s a weed, but I’m at the stage where I like it, and my Clownfish like it, too. Stay tuned for a future post where I am going mad trying to get rid of the stuff.

  3. emanresusisiht January 28, 2014 at 9:28 pm #

    I am very sorry to say but I think that the polyps you were sold are actually aiptasia which is considered a pest and a lot of people try to get rid of. Hopefully they were not expensive. But good job on the tank mate, really enjoyed reading it 🙂 makes me want to post about my saltwater now.

    • fishtanx2011 March 8, 2014 at 11:11 am #

      You had me worried there! I got the Yellow Polyps from an experienced reef keeper and, yes, they are Yellow Polyps! But just last week I DID find a single Aiptasia and it is much bigger than the polyps.The Aiptasia certainly came to me on a rock fragment that had some small Mushroom Coral. I removed the Aiptasia, of course.
      When you post about your Saltwater tank please let me know where to find it! Thanks!

  4. CarlosNYC March 8, 2014 at 10:56 am #

    I really enjoy you blog. You are a true hobbyist, and most of all, respect the animals you keep! Awesome. Good luck!

    • fishtanx2011 March 8, 2014 at 11:07 am #

      Probably the nicest comment I have ever received regarding the blog. Thank you so much!

  5. Hedwigia March 15, 2014 at 5:16 pm #

    What an interesting blog. I loved the comments about the sulky polyps. I hope the Devil’s Hand sorts itself out and recovers. 🙂

    • fishtanx2011 March 23, 2014 at 6:38 pm #

      Thank you! The little Devils Hand drifted out of sight into the jungle-like rear of my aquarium and I am hopeful that it is still surviving in there somewhere but I’m not sure.
      I’m really enjoying seeing my Clownfish sleep in the Anthelia. I’ll be posting some pictures about that soon. It took them many, many weeks before they started associating with the Anthelia and it’s fun to turn on the light in the morning and see the Clownfish “in bed”! Together, too! I wonder if they argue over who has the most covers…I mean polyps.

      • Hedwigia March 24, 2014 at 3:48 pm #

        “associating with the Anthelia” 🙂

      • fishtanx2011 June 14, 2014 at 2:57 pm #

        A strange phrase, yes?

  6. Kyle Montgomery May 2, 2014 at 1:16 am #

    Very nice for a low tech tank, I see hundreds of threads of people making their tanks higher and higher tech costing hundreds, thousands, and even tens of thousands of dollars, its neat to see something like this.

    • fishtanx2011 June 14, 2014 at 2:40 pm #

      Thank you!! I’ve recently had a bit of a disaster with that tank and I promise to post about it. It’s not all roses but at least I haven’t mortgaged the house for my fish tank.

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