The Up-Side to Artificial Coral

How Do Artificial Coral Inserts Benefit You, Your Aquarium, and the Environment?


Image of an aquarium with artificial coral

Artificial coral is a low-maintenance way to make your aquarium look great!

When constructing an aquarium, there are few easier ways to immediately add dramatic splashes of color and a variety of structures than by adding coral. With their diverse hues and growth patterns, coral reefs provide both aesthetic appeal and interesting terrain for your livestock to interact with as they explore the nooks and crannies of your reef.

However, coral is a delicate and precious organism which can be costly and difficult to harvest and keep healthy. These challenges can intimidate those inexperienced with raising it.

As such, the demand for artificial coral inserts has increased. These man-made imitations are cast from real coral and look indistinguishable from the real thing once they’ve accumulated some algae growth.

Certainly, these fake coral reefs offer a compelling alternative option. However, you may still be wondering: how do synthetic coral inserts compare to the real thing? What are the benefits of artificial coral in my aquarium?

Here are some of the advantages that they have over their living counterparts!

They Are Easier to Maintain

Artificial coral isn’t a living creature you have to take care of. Therefore, you don’t need to worry about its survival needs clashing with the maintenance of your aquarium’s ecology.

When it comes to live coral, here’s everything you need to be monitoring:

  • Calcium levels
  • Magnesium levels
  • pH levels
  • KH (carbonate hardness) levels
  • Water cleanliness
  • Lighting conditions
  • Fish eating habits

Artificial coral doesn’t require feeding or stringent water quality control. All it needs is a little cleaning every now and then. You can do this by periodically removing algae with a soft brush.

Clearly, this is a much simpler maintenance regimen than the alternative!

You Get Instant Results

It’s exciting to start a saltwater reef aquarium. However, growing live corals is no simple task.

How fast your live corals grow depends on quite a few aspects — species, water temperature and salinity, food availability, and turbulence. Because of this, corals can grow extremely slow. Some only inches every year!

If you’re looking for a long-term undertaking that spans months or years, you might want to try homegrown coral. However, if you’re looking for something ready-made at the size you want, go for synthetic corals. You can simply rinse them and place them in your tank for immediate results!

A fish tank with various plants, colorful fish, and coral sits in between a cabinet.

The time you save with a fake coral reef can be used for aquarium designs.

There is More Aquarium Design Flexibility

Along with instant results and easier maintenance, your synthetic product isn’t anchored to one place. As a result, you have more freedom to experiment with your aquarium designs.

On top of that, synthetic coral allow you to maintain an aquarium with conditions and organisms that wouldn’t normally be able to coexist with real coral.

You can also place synthetic coral in freshwater or in water that wouldn’t be the right temperature for live coral. You can even pair it with fish that would normally eat the coral!

Basically, because it has no survival needs, fake coral won’t conflict or clash with other factors in your aquarium. Because of this, you can compose arrangements you normally wouldn’t be able to otherwise.

They are Cost Effective

The process of buying, feeding, and growing coral is not only draining of your time and energy. It also drains your finances.

Growing live coral requires a larger initial investment than artificial coral. Pluse, you also have to factor in the additional expenditures required to maintain the live coral. This includes:

  • Solutions to lower or raise the pH and mineral concentrations
  • Food
  • Lighting
  • Additional tank cleaning and maintenance

What about ordering already grown coral? If you go this route, you then must add in the expensive shipping costs. These costs cover all the special measures taken to maintain the coral’s water conditions while in transit. Furthermore, there is also a risk that the coral will be in less than optimal condition when it arrives.

Even dead coral is still more expensive because of the added expense of harvesting mature corals.

On the other hand, artificial coral is far cheaper to buy than real coral, whether live or skeletal, and has no maintenance costs.

An image showing two clownfish swimming through coral.

By using artificial coral, you can help keep coral reefs in their natural environments where they benefit all of us.

They are Eco-Friendly

In addition to all these practical benefits, artificial coral is also hands-down the most environmentally friendly choice for your aquarium.

Coral reefs serve a vital role, not just to marine wildlife, but to us. They support the delicate balance of forces in the ecosystems around them. Truly, it is difficult to overstate the importance and variety of roles that coral plays in our eco-system.

The significance of coral reefs includes:

  • Providing shelter and habitats for collections of sea-life
  • Recycling nutrients
  • Helping fix carbon and nitrogen levels in the water
  • Producing nitrogen and other nutrients essential to marine food chains

Coral reefs support the health and biodiversity of all marine life, while facilitating one of the most diverse ecosystems on the planet. Anything that threatens coral also threatens these species.

These ecosystems provide us with substantial resources including medicinal ingredients and food. The fishing industry depends on reefs providing fish a safe place to spawn and grow to adulthood. Not only that, coral reefs also protect coastlines from tropical storms and wave action.

The extraction and export of coral from coral reefs threatens to upset the balance and safety these invaluable organisms uphold. Therefore, choosing to go with artificial coral reefs means you are helping protect marine ecosystems and their way of life.

Do You Still Have Questions?

While artificial coral is very convenient, live coral still has unique benefits to offer your tank. So, if you’re still unsure what option is the right fit for you, then stop by Living Art Aquatics in Crystal Lake, IL! Our staff is always happy to discuss the different live and artificial corals at your disposal.

Editor’s Note: This blog was originally published on April 21, 2016 and was updated on November 14, 2019.

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