MUST I feed my coral?

Discussion in 'General Discussions and Advice' started by Jaco Schoeman, 19 Jan 2011.

  1. Jaco Schoeman

    Jaco Schoeman MASA Contributor

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    This is a question that I have seen many times on a few forums and heard them asked by many newcomers at pet shops. Unfortunately these questions are often answered with misinformed or misunderstood opinions.

    Having a NPS dedicated system, I have to focus all my energy into providing the right food, at the right time, at the right flow to the right coral.

    This thread however is not in fact aimed at NPS coral, as the answer to the above thread question with NPS are a simple one: Feed them or lose them...

    So, that said, let us address this topic with a simple answer, and I will give my explanation below:

    Question: MUST I feed my coral?

    Answer: UNDOUBTEBLY!!! A fed coral is a healthy coral.



    Now many will jump on their horses and say that corals photosynthesises which gives them enough nutrition to live from?!?!?!?

    This is true yes. BUT only to an extent. Coral have zooxanthellae inside of them that photosynthesises and produce sugars, fatty acids, amino acids and glycerol. These are all perfect and can give coral 100% of their daily energy requirements, but coral need other building blocks too.

    These products (fatty acids, sugars etc) that is produced by the algae is quickly used for metabolismic puroposes; resparitory fuel and sectretion of mucus, and another part of these products are used for skeleton build.

    Now you might think that skeleton build means bigger coral, but what is a skeleton without bio mass (tissue).

    Coral can only build bio mass by taking in organic matter such as plankton. By taking in food, zooxanthellae are stimulated better and allows better buildup of pigments such as chlorophyll. This makes the coral a beter solar cell, as it can now convert more light into energy, much more effeciently.

    It is thus safe to say that coral can thus be kept under less light, as the coral will be able to produce more energy and nutrition, more effectively under less light.

    So how does feeding then help build coral skeleton and tissue?

    Firstly, feeding lead to more metabolic CO2 production. More CO2 production lead to more bicarbonate production which in return provide more building blocks for synthesizing the coral skeleton. Secondly, more nutrition provides more energy, which allows more calcium ions to be tansported to the growing coral skeleton.

    Feeding quickly leads to coral tissue production and protein concentration.


    So then...

    Although photosynthesis from light can provide a coral wiht most of it's required energy, it is merely just a source of "JUNK FOOD" and corals require more building blocks to better develop and grow.


    What does coral eat?

    Coral gets nutrition from the following main areas:

    -Photoshynthesis through zooxantheallea inside the coral body
    -Dissolved organic matter (DOM) like amino acids, fatty acids and urea.
    -Dissolved inorganic matter (DIM) through macro elements such as calcium, magnesium, trace elements etc.
    -Planktonic foods that range from
    **picoplankton i.e protozoa
    **nanoplankton i.e algae
    **microplankton i.e rotifiers
    **mesoplankton i.e brine nauplii

    [​IMG]

    How does corals feed on DOM's, DIM's and Plankton?

    Corals have developed several methods to do this, including physical capture by polyps, which is loaded with nemotocyst cell's that are fired upon detection of food. This then numbs the organism, which can then be consumed by the polyp's mouth and gastrovascular cavity. This is more the case with SPS and LPS, gorgonians etc.

    Soft coral like mushroom secrete a mucus which captures organisms and transport them to the mouth by means of flagella (hairlike appendages.)


    What factors impact the amount of particles taken up by coral?

    There are various aspects to consider like prey type and concentration, polyps type, size, polyp density, polyp structure, water flow and even reaction time from the polyp.

    This makes it difficult to say what the ABC's when it comes to feeding foods. One needs to take each coral into consideration, as some SPS are more aggressive and better prey capturers than other SPS coral.

    The most important factors IMO however, is current velocity, polyp size and particle size.


    Velocity: If flow is too fast, the polyp cannot react quickly enough. Too slow and the polyp will not be enticed to open up at all.

    Polyp size and make-up: Suncorals for example are true hunters, and their polyps have adapted to their feeding requirements. They are very capable hunters, compared to the likes of mushroom for example. The larger the polyp, the larger the prey it can consume. The smaller the polyp, the more challenging it is to feed it, as particle size plays a very important part.

    Particle size: As a ridiculous example: A 300mm Anemone would not really react to picoplanktonic foods, as it woud require stint. Yet a gorgonian cannot consume a whole stint fish, as it would rather require pico plankton.

    You will need to experimnet with your flow and coral placement, until you have found the right spot where the coral has it's preffered flow, and can consume as much food as possible, whilst having the required light in the same breath.


    What are good foods to feed coral?

    There are many foods available on the market, that comes in a variety of particle sizes. The best is to see what you have in you system;

    For soft coral, it has been found that they are mostly herbivores, thus a good Phyto plankton food will do well for them. I can suggest Tropic Marin's - Phyton, or Brightwell's PhytoGreen - S or PhytoGold S. Other filter feeders like clams and tube worms will also benefit from this food source.

    For stony coral tanks, it has been found they feed predominantly on zooplankton, so again Tropic Marin's - Zooton, or Brightwell's Zooplanktos S,M/L will suffice.

    I can also recommend the use of Cyclop Eeze in any system!!! This is the main ingredient in our NPS Systems, and delivers amazing results!!!


    What about live food?

    Personally I prefer live food in fact. The problem however with live food is that is can be a mission to breed, cultivate and harvest. Many reefers just don't have the time to do this. Another drawback is the availability of starup cultures... It is quite easy in South Africa to get brine shrimp, but other planktonic foods like phyto, rotifiers etc. are extremely hard to come by.

    That said, if you can go with live food, even just brine shrimp nauplii, you have a sure winner. I am currently sustaining a NPS tank where about 90% of my food is brine nauplii only!!!


    CONCLUSION:

    There is no known disadvantage of feeding coral. There are only very logic, very important positives to doing so. Even if you have good lighting, it will not hurt to feed your coral often, you might just hit that perfect spot you so hoped for in the aquarium...


    For a VERY indepth look into feeding, please have a look at this link...

    How corals feed
     
    Last edited: 19 Jan 2011
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  3. Boegie

    Boegie

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    Many thanks for the info Jaco. After reading the topics about coral feeding in the last two issues of the Coral Magazine, it is a topic that is very interesting.
     
  4. Lycan

    Lycan

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    Nice one Jaco :thumbup:
     
  5. Boegie

    Boegie

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    Great video to check out on how a coral feeds:

     
    Last edited by a moderator: 11 Apr 2016
  6. archiecrain

    archiecrain

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    Brilliant!! this got me realy thinking about the way some of my corals look....I never feed them and I have very little in the tank that would be able to feed them.
     
  7. Jaco Schoeman

    Jaco Schoeman Thread Starter MASA Contributor

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    Great video that... Here is one I took a while back of my Chili Coral being target fed with Cyclop-Eeze.



    NPS coral have very fast reaction times and apparantly one Sun Coral head can consume up to 2000 brineshrimp nauplii every hour... Dont know who sat and counted them, but that is what te experts recon... ;)
     
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  8. dallasg

    dallasg Moderator MASA Contributor

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    nice article, but the SPS and NeoZeo and Zeovit guys will argue there is no need to feed other than whats in the water, and fish poo
     
  9. mandarinman

    mandarinman

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    just be very careful not to feedlive brine shrimp if you have any aptasia in your tank. it makes em multiply exponentially. ps second question bacteria that are full of nutrition due to carbon dosing? do corals eatem too?
     
  10. Jaco Schoeman

    Jaco Schoeman Thread Starter MASA Contributor

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    I would not know to be honest. I have very little knowledge (none in fact) on NeoZeo and Zeovit, so if anyone can please enlighten us all on how that would work?

    As far as I understand those are bacteria "factories" right, so that together with fish pooh might give you good nutrition for coral??? Not sure?

    I still say that it cannot do any harm to feed the tank, as you also feed more than just the coral. You also feed all the macro organisms that in turn help clean the tank and also in return help feed the corals like pods etc.
     
  11. Jaco Schoeman

    Jaco Schoeman Thread Starter MASA Contributor

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    Yes, I have experienced this aiptasia / brineshrimp thing... It sucks...

    And on your second question; I think that the bacteria would be ingested yes, but by doing carbon dosing you have a healthier stock of bacteria, that will eat particulate organic matter (fish pooh) and this will also feed the coral - not so much the pooh, but as you said the bacteria, on the pooh.
     
  12. Jaco Schoeman

    Jaco Schoeman Thread Starter MASA Contributor

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    Okey Dallas, I have done my research on the NeoZeo, Zeovit, biopellets etc. :blush:

    I must thus agree with you that they produce MASSIVE ammounts of bacteria in many forms, all being consumed by coral. Even though I have no concrete experience with using these products for a SPS tank, in theory it should work just fine.

    That said, I still think it is important that ANY tank should be fed, maybe not in the volumes one would feed a NPS tank, but still. Only if you have massive fish population and use the likse of a zeo product, can you consider not feeding.

    The products you feed like phyto and snow etc. will feed the coral, inverts and also the bacteria.

    So there is no harm in feeding, and I still feel it is a must, however I do see your point and agree with you there... ;)
     
  13. Tremayn

    Tremayn

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    Great article! Really got me thinking! :) .. Thanks and keep it up!
     
  14. Reef Maniac

    Reef Maniac MASA Contributor

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    An EXCELLENT article, Jaco - and I totally agree with the above :thumbup:

    Hennie
     
  15. dallasg

    dallasg Moderator MASA Contributor

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    I agree 100%

    i feed marine snow, phytochrom, zoo etc, the whole brightwell range and all my corals benefit... every now and then i give the LPS smoem shredded shrimp and krill
     
  16. Jaco Schoeman

    Jaco Schoeman Thread Starter MASA Contributor

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    Thanks guys.

    Yes, I think we as reefkeepers / hobbyiests do not see the ocean life through the eyes of a PHD Degree Marine Bioligist. We sometimes think that becuase we cannot see something, it is not there...

    This is so not true. In fact, our main focus should be getting as much bacteria growth and micro organism growth as possible in our systems, rather than worrying about what is the best end cap to use on a T5 tube for example...

    I have found myself delving so deep into the "technological" aspects of the hobby, and almost missed the bare basics of what is really important. Luckily a NPS dedicated system with very demanding hungry mouths cured that very quickly.

    I would suggest the following to any noob to whom this all seems a bit daunting now and who does not really understand what we are talking about:

    1) Go for as much biological filtration as you can possibly fit i.e DSB, ATS, macro algae, refuge, LR etc. These all contribute to billions of food sources that you may not see, but your coral will sure as hell know is there...

    2) Go to a petshop, and get yourself some Reef Snow - this is like a cocktail of foods in different micron sizes. Start feeding the tank small amounts of it, untill you better understand the science behind it all, when you can then experiment with more food, different food and different particle sizes etc.

    3) Maintain good water quality by doing frequent water changes - remember that corals "eat" trace elements as well which is dissolved in salt water, so doing a frequent water change would refill your tank with those essential elements.

    4) Start studying your coral - especially at night. Get yourself a red bulb from builders, and switch off ALL lights in the house. Wait about an hour and then light up the red light. Then you will be absolutely blown away with what is going on inside your tank. You thought Night at the Meuseum was a cool movie, well you aint seen nothing yet. :whistling:

    If you are wondering why red - well, most fish and iverts cannot see red light, so they are undisturbed by you viewing them under red light, and you can watch them carefully.

    I really recommend doing the above, and instead of just watching your nice big angelfish swim around and around, learn your tank by studying it to the smallest of critters - it will be worth it I promise. ;)
     
  17. Jaco Schoeman

    Jaco Schoeman Thread Starter MASA Contributor

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    Just on the note of velocity, particle size, polyp build and reaction time;

    Here is a short video of my black suncoral taking Cyclop Eeze. Note the velocity would be waaaaaaay too strong for the likes of mushrooms for example, and even some gorgonians would not be able to capture prey at this velocity. But the suncoral is a master hunter. Also note the reaction time from when food hits the coral, to how quickly the tentacle grasps it, and then take it to the mouth.

    THIS is the reason I love my NPS tank so much; to see these corals feast!!!

    ENJOY!!!

     
    Last edited by a moderator: 11 Apr 2016
  18. Munky82

    Munky82

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    Hi Jaco

    I've seen different Cyclop Eeze on the shelves. Which one are you using for your suncorals (and other NPS for that matter) ?
     
  19. crispin

    crispin

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    very nicely written. many thanks jaco :)
     
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