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FAQs about Stony Coral Foods/Feeding/Nutrition, Amounts 

Related Articles: Coral Feeding, Food/Feeding/Nutrition, LPS Corals, True or Stony Corals, Order Scleractinia, Propagation for Marine Aquarium Use

Related FAQs: Coral Feeding 1, Coral Feeding 2, Coral Feeding 3, & FAQs on Stony Coral Feeding: Rationale, Types, Frequency, Techniques, Coral Foods DIY, Commercial Products... & Cnidarian Feeding, Growing Reef CoralsStony Coral IdentificationStony Coral Behavior,

See Also: Marine Foods/Feeding/Nutrition in the lower tray of Marine Maintenance:

Size of pieces, their make-up, frequency, time of day/night, ambient behavior... are all critical to getting the food to and through your Cnidarians.


Reef Tank Nutrient Balancing     11/11/14
​​Dear WWM Crew (Bob),
<Hey Wes>
First of all, with the advice you provided some time ago (http://www.wetwebmedia.com/movaqfaq5.htm, 9/1/14 post), I safely transferred over all my livestock and rocks to their new, roomier home (although now I see what a difference this makes, I now wish my new tank was 240 gallons instead of 240 litres). Although it is still early days (2 weeks), everything survived, is currently alive and my corals are beginning to calcify: my corals, critters and I would thus like to send you our collective gratitude for your help.
<Ah, welcome>
I wonder if I could trouble you for some more advice? My basic situation is that despite starting regular feeding, my reef-tank setup appears not to be accumulating measurable levels of nitrate and my phosphate has additionally remained low.
I guess the available advice (including on WWM) about this appears to be quite conflicting, but would I be right in thinking that even for more autotrophic corals, a low, measurable level of both would be advisable over undetectable levels?
<Yes; almost always so>
My question thus relates to how I should manage nutrients in my tank.
<Need to ask a question in return... is "all okay?". IF all organisms appear to be doing fine... I would not fret here>
A summary of my (hopefully relevant) tank conditions are as follows:
It is a 240l tank with 35kg live rock and 0.5in SSB + 80l refugium containing a 4in DSB (total water volume is approximately 285l-295l). LR is well established with populations of various microfauna, filter feeders and macroalgae (although the latter is not currently growing excessively). The system is 2 months old from the end of cycling right now, but half the rock is from my previous system and at least 9 months old. I think the tank is understocked (6 small captive-bred "SPS" colonies, 5 Lysmata shrimps, 10 trochus? snails and 3 Cerith? snails, no fish) although I have been feeding a home-made meaty ration for my corals/filter feeders every night for the last 10 days. I am running a Tunze 9006 skimmer (rated to 600l) full time but this appears not to skim all that much (no more than 200ml of dark skimmate per week).
<Again; fine>
There has always been a certain amount of detritus in the tank, particularly in the refugium, which has become a settling tank of sorts. I currently aim to change 5-10% of the water or thereabouts once every 2 weeks. Regular testing over the last 14 days has shown no ammonia/nitrite, nitrates consistently undetectable, and phosphates decreasing from 0.1mg/l to somewhere around 0.03mg/l (both relatively new Salifert test kits). I challenged the system once with about 0.25mg/l NO3 using potassium nitrate (apologies for lack of subscript),
<No worries>
but the level fell to undetectable within 6 hours and I dared not add more. The nitrate kit appears to be relatively accurate based on testing the diluted stock solution in RO water.
Otherwise, the main tank circulation is temporarily reduced to 8000l/hr from 16000l/hr as a snail broke my Vortech mp40 yesterday by going inside it while it was off and jamming the propeller when I started it up (ironically, said snail is completely fine. Grrrr!!!). Lighting is a custom LED build definitely sufficient for at least macroalgae if not corals. I dose using a three part system for Ca, Mg and alkalinity to advisable levels for a reef tank, although may also now add some Kalkwasser occasionally to counteract the high CO2 levels/relatively low pH (8.0-8.1 sometimes, rises on aeration with outside air) in my tank water.
So, broadly then, the question: What method(s) would you recommend to maintain a sufficient, yet healthy level of nitrate and phosphate for stony corals, and what levels would you aim for?
<Just what you're doing right now...>
From my reading, there are a number of different ways to accomplish this (and of course, most marine tanks have the opposite problem), so what is your opinion on the following strategies?
1) Increase feeding (gradually) to a level that generates detectable nitrate. If I do this, would I need to use GFO to remove phosphate if it starts to rise too high (say above 0.1mg/l) compared to the nitrate?
<Could do>
2) Decrease removal of the detritus from the LR and sand beds. Would this set a dangerous precedent in terms of building a nutrient reservoir that may later on cause the tank to crash?
<I wouldn't do this>
3) Put a small mechanical filter in to catch detritus and deliberately not clean this (although detritus is still removed as normal from the LR and sand bed).
<Nor this>
4) Reduce the amount of time the skimmer is running. Would increased levels of DOCs as a result of this be harmful to stony corals?
<Could try; not likely harmful at all>
5) Dose nitrate directly in the form of potassium nitrate.
<Unless there was a demonstrable reason to do this... I would not. Instead I'd rely on your feedings>
6) Increase the bioload with more livestock (I guess option 1 would do this by increasing LR microfauna, but I don't know if this is comparable to say, a small fish).
<Food in... excess energy... has got to go somewhere>
7) Reduce water changes or only change when nutrient levels rise. Would I theoretically be risking micronutrient depletion from the water over time?
<I'd stick w/ your current regimen>
8) A combination of some of the above (it's probably this, if anything, but hopefully you've already suggested your preferred methods in the individual feedbacks above).
<As stated above>
9) The opposite of all of the above: try to maintain water quality (aim for undetectable nitrate and phosphate), export as much as possible, keep a low bioload and feed minimally to a non-polluting level. In this case, it implies feeding provides sufficient levels of bio-nutrients for corals and microfauna and you don't want additional free inorganics in the water if this can be avoided, since this is the situation in the wild.
Any other suggestions?
<Just to enjoy your system, investigating the processes there in>
Also, I appreciate the anecdote in the last email you sent to my other address post-donation; it would be a dream come true if one of my relatives owned a successful marine aquatics business, but I suspect I'm not closely related to the owners of All Seas Marine, and we're of course separated by the Atlantic, which is inconvenient. That said, one can dream about it. Maybe if my career in medicine doesn't work out, I could go into professional coral-keeping and propagation. :)
<One never knows... as in soccer/futbol, best to keep ones passing lanes open>
Many thanks for your time,
<And you for your sharing. Bob Fenner>
Re: Reef Tank Nutrient Balancing
Dear Bob,
As before, your response speed is crazy. I guess you're at your computer, but still, I can't even get to my LFS and back in this time. I really appreciate it.
<<My question thus relates to how I should manage nutrients in my tank.>>
<Need to ask a question in return... is "all okay?". IF all organisms appear to be doing fine... I would not fret here>
As far as I can see, yes, everything that can move is actively out and about at night, and my corals are showing polyp extension/mesenterial filaments particularly on food addition.
>Ah, good<
<<So, broadly then, the question: What method(s) would you recommend to maintain a sufficient, yet healthy level of nitrate and phosphate for stony corals, and what levels would you aim for?>>
<Just what you're doing right now...>
<<Any other suggestions?>>
<Just to enjoy your system, investigating the processes there in>
LOL. A very polite way of saying I am worrying too much about my tank.
Advice taken.
Thanks for the helpful feedback.
<Cheers, BobF>

Coral Feeding, Good Aquarist  - 04/12/2007 Greetings Crew. <Hello.> I have a general question about coral feeding. <Okay.> I am really not having any issues, but I want to make sure it stays that way. My current line-up of LPS corals in a 210 Gal tank include; Euphyllia parancora, Euphyllia glabrescens, Caulastrea, Fungia, Goniopora, Lobophyllia, and Scolymia. (All corals are placed well apart, I am running Carbon and pulling off good skimmate each day). <Good.> I also have several SPS corals. I feed my fish 3X per day (small feedings) which consist of Spectrum Pellets <Good dtuff.> in morning and afternoon, Sweetwater Zooplankton in the morning, Evening meal is frozen mysis (sans the packing juice) and frozen Cyclop-eeze. <Sounds like a good diet.> I turn off the skimmer during this time to clean it and leave it off until a few hours after lights out. 2x per week I feed Liquid Life Coral Plankton and Bio-Plankton (whisked in a blender first) for my nocturnal critters.  My question is do you believe that it is possible for the corals to get enough food without being target fed? <With proper water flow, good amount/right type of food; yes. And a refugium wouldn't hurt either.> This is the only area where I am bad. I am fanatical about weekly water changes, Ca and Alk testing, skimming, etc. If you recommend target feeding than I will get in the habit of doing so, <It's not a bad idea to target feed, but with the method you have, the variety and care I don't think you need any changes.> if not, than I will leave well enough alone. BTW, as you are frequently told, THIS SITE ROCKS! <Thanks.> P.S. Even though I do not have a fuge, I seem to have a good supply of Copepods and Gammarus shrimp in the tank. I would think that this would be good also. <Yes.> Best Regards, <Dean, just for personal interest you may want to read these Eric Borneman articles on coral feeding; 7 part series: http://www.reefkeeping.com/issues/2002-07/eb/index.php http://www.reefkeeping.com/issues/2002-08/eb/index.php http://www.reefkeeping.com/issues/2002-10/eb/index.php http://www.reefkeeping.com/issues/2002-12/eb/index.php http://www.reefkeeping.com/issues/2003-01/eb/index.php http://www.reefkeeping.com/issues/2003-03/eb/index.php http://reefkeeping.com/issues/2003-04/eb/index.php  .> Dean <Adam J.>

To Feed Or Not To Feed (Fish and Coral Feeding) Hi Bob et all.. <Scott F. at the keyboard tonight!> I am very new to this game - well after 6 months into my first reef tank (100gal), I seem to be making some progress, with things starting to look good, even the hair algae are now reducing since I rearranged some of the live rock to give a better flow at the bottom of the tank. <Cool! It's neat how a seemingly simple adjustment can yield huge dividends...> Maybe you can help with a question regarding feeding of my fish. I have 4 green / blue Chromis, Yellow tang, Sailfin tang, algae blenny along with 2 cleaner shrimps, 8 hermit crabs and some snails. I have been feeding the fish with either frozen brine shrimp or a frozen 'formula' from blister packs, occasionally some marine flake food with a clip of romaine lettuce which only the Sailfin really eats. <I'd really avoid Romaine lettuce. It has very little nutritional value for marine fishes, can potentially leach nitrate into your water, and is simply not as healthy for your fish as green items of marine origin, such as microalgae, Nori, or my favorite macroalgae, Gracilaria, which Zebrasoma tangs just freak out over! Give it a try1> Reading through your q&a's, I understand that brine shrimp is not good? <It's not bad...It just doesn't have a lot of nutrition, unless enriched substantially. Kind of like eating Power Bars all the time. Yes- they supply some vitamins, protein, etc.- but they come up short as a staple diet.> and you recommend Mysis shrimp. <Much, much better nutritionally> Well, I bought some, but none of the fish will touch it. <Odd...but it does happen now and again when fish aren't used to a new food> Should I keep trying? <I certainly would!> I don't what to start accumulating uneaten food if I can help it. <Just feed small amounts and try to clean up what is not eaten> How about the sun coral that I have? It is the most gorgeous thing in the world when it opens to feed about an hour after I feed the fish. Should I give it anything extra than it gets in from the water, a friend suggested hand feeding with lobster eggs.. <It should receive some supplementary feeding- ideally- you could remove it into a separate dish, filled with tank water, and place food into the water in the dish. Let the coral feed for about a half an hour, and then return it to the tank. You could use the "packing juice" from your frozen foods to feed it...> FYI-I also have various xenia, a large leather toadstool and a Goniopora. Ron Patmore <The Goniopora may require supplemental feeding, too...I'd recommend that you purchase a copy of Anthony Calfo's must-have "Book of Coral Propagation" for more information on the care and feeding of these corals in the aquarium. I think that you'll love it! Good luck! Regards, Scott F.>

How to feed a bubble coral 3/22/04 I have a bubble coral (Plerogyra sp.) and have had it for about4 months.  it used to open up every day and here lately I have noticed that it doesn't open up as much anymore.  How and should I go about trying to feed the coral. <Your bubble and open brain will benefit from feedings of small (BB-marble size) pieces of meaty food.  Simply place the food onto the corals when their feeding tentacles are extended, which is usually at night.> I also have a brain coral that was opening up well and now he doesn't open up as much (expand or get fleshy).  what can I do.  my water quality is good sp 1.024, calcium 450, ammonia 0, nitrite 0, and nitrates 0.25.  my setup is a 15 gallon high tank with 72 watts of lighting (actinic bulb, and combo actinic with 10,000 daytime bulb, power compact). <My first recommendation would be to do a water change and/or run some carbon.  Both of the corals you mentioned can be quite sensitive to water quality, and there are a lot of things that affect water quality that we can't test for.  Best Regards.  Adam>

Feeding coral Thank you Anthony. Thanks for the help.  I am a little new at the zooplankton and hope that helps.   <it will help for certain.. it is THE natural food> I do have a few questions about feeding the zooplankton. How often, how much?  Or the usual question I guess.   <varies by specimen and bio-load in tank (available nutrients from fish, feeding, feces, etc... actual light quality, etc) and many actors. But, I'd say 3-5 times weekly minimum. A small feeding daily is ideal> I had been feeding my home made clam etc mash to one and all using a turkey baster, every 2 to 3 days.... <pretty good... but more often please. Again... small amounts are OK> Now, with the zooplankton,  I am trying different things.  The first of which has been a mixture of the zoo (a piece about the size of a small marble),   <Helene... I apologize, but I have forgotten in the flurry of e-mail if I referred you to this article before... But... on the WWM "latest article/FAQ page  We have a bunch of pertinent reef articles there including one on "Feeding reef invertebrates"... tells all. You really seem to have missed the fundamentals here (prey size and composition). The food particles you are feeding are too large (never more than 1/4")... and do pay attention to polyp size and behavior... it is very telling about their dietary needs.> with the phytoplankton, a little of the clam stuff (marble size again), some vitamins...OK?  or should it all be done separately.... Varied is more important than separated or mixed.> remember of course that I love all the little darlings but I do have a job! <understood... that's why I keep suggesting that you simply feed a natural zoo-substitute like whole prey gammarus, Pacifica plankton and/or Mysis. No blending, mixing, supplementing, etc> Also, should we take out the sponge in the overflow?   <I'm sorry dear... I don't recall what the sponge was for?> We have the skimmer going all the time and carbon once in a while.   <I'd strongly recommend using carbon in small amounts changed frequently 24/7. Off and on use can severely effect coral health by shocking them suddenly with increased water clarity (less yellowing agents) from fresh carbon after an absence> Someone said that the sponge will just catch all the zooplankton and ruin all our efforts.... <possible yes> (keep in mind 75 gal tank, with 6 line wrasse, Sailfin tang, blue damsel, and 3 Chromis, assorted corals, brain, pearl, mushrooms, a few others who's names I have to get more familiar with (so much to learn so little time), the usual clean up crew) Hard to see if the crew is cleaning up all the food when the partials are so fine. Just not sure about the amounts.  Perhaps step up a little individual feeding for the pearl coral?   <indeed... target feeding is always better when time allows> No Mariah Carey for the Pearl.......but maybe a little Lyle Lovett at feeding time? <Doh! What was Julia Roberts thinking?!?! If I had known her bar was set that low I would have flown out to LA in a Frankenstein costume and married a celebrity> And what about soft lighting?  Aside from the romance, do they prefer to eat in the dark?   <they actually do (mentioned in the article above)... zooplankton feeders naturally feed after the lights go out when plankton flares/comes out at night> As usual, each thought brings a new question.....The update for the coral book is a great help. Thanks for sending it along.....Take it easy....Helene <thank you for your eagerness to learn, my friend! Best regards, Anthony>

Feeding coral Hi Anthony, Oh no, my dear, I don't mean that the pieces of stuff that I feed are as big as a small marble....the little zooplankton is shaved off in a pile about that big..... <aha! I misunderstood... whew! I had visions of this coral being fed with a shoehorn... Ha!> when I put that in the cup of water from my tank they sort of melt into tiny little dots....and the mash of clam etc has nothing in it any bigger than 1/8 " I'd say...I took the 'not too big' warning to heart when I made it <excellent!> However I will indeed read the link that you sent to me and try my best to wade through all the ideas.  Thank you again for all your help...Helene <our pleasure... with kind regards, Anthony>

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