Artificial Coral in Your Aquarium
When constructing an aquarium, there are few easier ways to immediately add dramatic splashes of color and variety of structure than by adding coral. With their diverse hues and growth patterns, these 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, it is a delicate and precious organism which can be costly and difficult to harvest and keep healthy, and this can intimidate those inexperienced with raising it. As such, the market has seen significant growth in the popularity of artificial corals which simply attach to bases called inserts. Cast from real reefs, these man-made imitations look indistinguishable from the real thing once they’ve accumulated a bit of algae growth. They offer a compelling alternative option, but you may still be wondering: how do these synthetic products compare to the real thing? What are the benefits of artificial coral in my aquarium? For your consideration, here are some of the advantages that they have over their living counterparts.
Easier To Maintain
First and foremost, artificial coral isn’t another living creature you have to keep alive and whose survival needs further complicate the maintenance of your aquarium’s ecology. With live coral, you need to pay close attention to the calcium, magnesium, pH, and KH (carbonate hardness) levels of the water and ensure that these are suitable for the coral’s health. You also need cleaner water, better lighting, and fish that won’t eat it. Artificial doesn’t need to be fed, doesn’t need stringent water quality control, and requires only that you periodically clean algae off of the coral with a soft brush.
Instant Results—No Long Wait
Growing live corals is no simple task. Depending on the species, water temperature and salinity, food availability, and turbulence, corals can grow extremely slow, some only inches a year. Thus the inclusion of homegrown corals in an aquarium becomes a long-term undertaking spanning months or even years as the corals reach maturity and grow to the desired sizes. Synthetic, by contrast, are ready-made at the sizes you want, so you simply rinse them and place them in your tank for immediate results.
Aquarium Design Flexibility
One benefit of that immediacy is that it allows you more freedom to experiment with your aquarium designs. If you don’t like the arrangement of your reef, you can simply move the inserts around and switch out new artificial corals for a different effect. Your reef isn’t anchored in place so much the way it would be if you had to invest boundless time and effort to change or replace it. On top of that, since synthetic corals don’t require you to control those tank conditions mentioned earlier—specific Ca, Mg, pH, and KH levels, lighting, temperature, salinity, and compatible fish—you’re able to maintain an aquarium with conditions and organisms that wouldn’t normally be able to coexist with real coral. Unlike live coral, synthetic coral can be placed in freshwater or in water that that wouldn’t be the right temperature for the real thing, or paired with fish that normally would eat the coral or be otherwise incompatible. Because of its lack of survival needs, fake coral doesn’t conflict with other factors in your aquarium as much, allowing you to compose arrangements which wouldn’t be possible in nature. Thus the artificial coral brings to the table a greater versatility over live coral, allowing you to add décor to your aquarium without problems due to water current, fish aggressiveness, lighting, or any of the other restrictions that make building an aquarium with live coral such a delicate task to navigate.
This long process of buying, feeding, and growing live coral is draining not just on your time and energy but on your finances too. Growing live coral requires a larger initial investment, as well as perpetual additional expenditures to maintain all the factors necessary for coral growth—solutions to lower or raise the pH and mineral concentrations, food, lighting, additional tank cleaning and maintenance, etc. Ordering fully grown coral is even more of an undertaking, with expensive shipping costs necessary to cover all the special measures taken to maintain the coral’s water conditions and keep it alive in transit—and often coral that’s been harvested and shipped in such a way arrives in less than optimal condition. Even dead coral, the skeletal remains of which is sold as an alternative to maintaining a live reef, is still more expensive despite having no associated maintenance costs, due to the expense of harvesting mature corals. Artificial coral is far cheaper to buy than real coral, whether live or skeletal, and has no maintenance costs, so it’s certainly the most affordable option on the market.
In addition to all of these practical benefits that it lends to your individual project, artificial type is also hands-down the most environmentally friendly choice for your aquarium. Reefs are absolutely vital to not just marine wildlife, but to us—it’s difficult to overstate the importance and variety of the many roles that coral plays in supporting the delicate balance of forces in the ecosystems around it. Coral reefs not only provide shelter and habitats for vast collections of sea-life, they also recycle nutrients, help fix carbon and nitrogen levels in the water, and produce nitrogen and other nutrients that are essential to marine food chains. These functions are vital to the health and biodiversity of all marine life, facilitating possibly the most diverse ecosystems on the planet, and anything that threatens coral also threatens all of these species by extension. These ecosystems provide us with substantial resources including medicinal ingredients and food—the fishing industry in particular depends on reefs providing fish a safe place to spawn and grow to adulthood. Not only that, reefs also protect coastlines from tropical storms and wave action. The extraction and export of coral from reefs to keep up with market demand for both live and dead threatens to upset the balance and safety these invaluable organisms uphold. With this in mind, the artificial type is typically the most environmentally conscious of the choices available.
Of course, live coral, when raised with proper care, has its own host of positive qualities to consider. If you’re still unsure what option is the right fit for your aquarium and would like a consultation, the professionals at Living Art Aquatics, Inc. are always more than happy to discuss the different live and artificial corals at your disposal. If you are looking for an aquarium in Chicago or any of surrounding suburbs, call us today!