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Crazy Cool Corals

by Shawn Chase

There are two types of people in the saltwater hobby, fish people and coral people.  Yes you can do both, and it would be difficult for most of us to choose what we like best. But, when the coral bug has bitten – and it can bite hard – there seems to be a definitive moment when a select few say, “I think I will do a corals only tank.”  What!?  Why in the world would somebody want to do only corals?  It’s just a bunch of plants and sticks!  It’s sooo boring!

I love to hear those words!  I actually get a bit of a shiver!  An innocent has spoken!!  I can’t wait to open up your world!

First and foremost, corals are animals.  Yes animals. Classified as cnidarians. With mouths. And stinging polyps, predatory skills and some can go into chemical warfare. They can sense danger and protect themselves. They reproduce, have symbiotic relationships with other crazy cool creatures, and did I mention colors that make a rainbow look ridiculous?  Sometimes they eat your pets…no, not Fido, but that cute little peppermint shrimp you put in your tank.  Yup, he was careless, stung, immobilized and eaten. Circle of life is not so boring after all.  Most of my corals have learned their big meal comes on Saturday nights, so on Friday evening; they have started to swell up, extend their feeding polyps and are just waiting to open their mouths for some delicious shrimp, scallops and bits of seafood yumminess.  Watching them eat is one of the most amazing things ever!

I’m sure the bug has started to bite and you are waiting in anticipation for the but…

There is no but.  You can do this too.  Corals are not as difficult as we have been led to believe.  As always, knowledge is success.  There are also different levels of corals: easy, a bit more easy and wow, it bit you hard difficult. The corals we are talking about need light.  This will be their primary source of life.  They have a symbiotic relationship with zooxanthalae, an algae.  Not just any kind of light will do, but that’s a pretty big topic.  Just remember this piece of equipment is vital, so do some research and put some money into it.

Water flow, lots of good clean water flowing all around in the way they like it.  Every coral is going to be a bit different in its needs.  Low, medium and high apply to their lighting and water flow needs.  Do you know what that means?  A tank filled with corals from top to bottom!

A lot of corals have a calcium skeleton.  So they have a higher need for calcium, alkalinity and magnesium along with a handful of other stuff that will start to bore you.  A quality salt, reverse osmosis filtered water and small frequent water changes, for the average person’s tank, is going to take care of those needs. So there is no reason to spend a ton of money on numerous additives for your tank.  Put your money into good equipment.  Put the time into learning and the next thing you know you will be calling yourself a reefer, showing all your friends the wild polyp extension on your scolymia when you fed a new food last night! It really is that easy.

Shawn Chase has been the sole proprietor of Mountains to Sea Aquariums in Asheville for 31/2 years.  She describes her business as a boutique marine animal store dedicated to doing the right thing for both animals and customers. Reach her at


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