The information that we have provided in our Quick Stats for the different species of fish, plants, live rock, corals and invertebrates will provide a guide for the conditions that these organisms are subjected to in nature. Duplicating these conditions as closely as possible in the home aquarium is essential for providing an environment where these species will be able to grow and thrive.
Minimum Tank Size
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The smallest aquarium that we recommend for housing this species of fish or invertebrate; this takes into account its size at maturity, temperament, swimming habits, as well as food and water requirements. Many species in their juvenile state can be kept in a smaller aquarium, but we only recommend this as temporary holding or housing in a quarantine aquarium.
We have included a general guideline in our Quick Stats of the level of care that the different corals and invertebrates require. This is provided to give you a basis of the hardiness of the species, which you can then match to your level of experience.
Although not indestructible, the species in this category have proven to be not too demanding in the care that they require. Most of these corals and invertebrates do not have special feeding requirements and can tolerate less than perfect water conditions.
The corals and invertebrates in this category demand a bit more attention than those that are considered “Easy” to care for. Some of these corals may have special feeding, lighting, or water movement requirements and may require water conditions closer to those found in nature.
Species that fall into this category demand a higher level of both attention and water quality. Many of these corals and invertebrates have special feeding, water quality, movement and lighting requirements. They should only be added to a reef aquarium that is well established. Many reef aquariums do not become fully established for many months, and sometimes up to a year. These “Difficult” species should be among the last additions to your collection.
Organisms in the “Expert Only” category are very difficult to maintain in captivity in the long term. The requirements of many of these corals and invertebrates are specialized, and may need to be kept in a species-specific aquarium. These species are best kept by the most advanced hobbyists and research institutions. A well-established reef aquarium is a must for these species.
Temperament – Corals and Invertebrates
Most corals and invertebrates possess both defensive and offensive strategies that they use to protect their area within the reef, and to overtake new areas of the reef for future growth. These strategies include chemical warfare, deploying sweeper tentacles, and physical attacks. It is important to understand the capabilities of each individual when determining its suitability and ultimate placement within the aquarium.
Species within this category do not pose a real threat toward neighboring organisms, except for the possibility of over-growing them. “Peaceful” corals do not possess any stinging cells, and do not release chemicals to ward off their neighbors. However, under the right conditions, they can grow very rapidly and block light from neighboring corals and invertebrates. This situation is often very easy to rectify simply by trimming the coral back and allowing room for its neighbors.
Within this category of dominance are species that possess a potent sting or chemical toxin that will affect their neighbor. These species are still considered “Semi-Aggressive” since they will not reach out to great lengths to pose an offensive attack. When placing Semi-Aggressive species in your aquarium, be sure to take into account the fully expanded size of this animal and provide extra room for growth. Continue to monitor the reaction of neighboring species and be prepared to move one or the other if there proves to be incompatibilities.
Species within this category can cause considerable harm to neighboring organisms, and plenty of space should be provided for their placement. For example, some corals have sweeper tentacles that contain a very potent sting. In some cases, corals can stretch sweeper tentacles several inches in order to attack their neighbors. Other “Aggressive” species may not have long sweeper tentacles, or may not possess them at all, but can inflict similar degree of physical or chemical damage. Caution needs to be exercised, and provide plenty of room when incorporating these organisms into the aquarium.
Temperament – Fishes
Is a general guideline of the species demeanor in the average aquarium. It is important to understand that each fish can have its own personality, and may act differently when subjected to a different environment, or when housed with different species of fish. Stocking order can also will play a role in animal’s demeanor in the home aquarium. This is a guideline that when cross-referenced with our compatibility chart, will give you an idea of what behavior to expect with the species in question.
Species within this category do not pose a real threat toward other fishes, and are very passive and sometimes reclusive in nature.
Species within this category are normally active fishes, and may occasionally chase or show aggression towards one another or similar shaped tankmates. When placing Semi-Aggressive species in your aquarium, be sure to introduce them after the smaller, more passive fishes have been established.
Species within this category are normally territorial and bold fishes that should be housed with fishes that are of the same demeanor. Aggressive fish should be housed in a species only aquarium, and if adding them to displays with semi-aggressive tankmates, they are the last fish introduced into the display aquarium.
Designates whether a species will cause harm to any coral, clam, crustacean or other sessile invertebrate in a reef aquarium. Some species of fish may be prone to consuming or harassing corals or invertebrates such as shrimp, anemones or feather dusters, but are otherwise wonderful reef fish cohabitating well with soft and stony corals. Such species are classified as Reef Compatible “With Caution.” All reef aquariums are different in the organisms that they house, and a species that makes a wonderful centerpiece in one reef aquarium may cause havoc in another. Located in the species description is the information explaining the organisms that these fish may harm. Use this information to determine if the species in question is appropriate for your reef aquarium.
The following lighting recommendations will not only give you a guide as to what type of lighting is ideal for the species in question, but will also aid in the placement of the specimen in your aquarium. It is important to understand that the following watts/gallon recommendations are specific to the suggested lighting systems.
Different wattages of lighting systems will produce different light intensities. Because of this, a general watts/gallon recommendation is a poor guideline to use for a reef aquarium. For example; a 48″, 54W T-5 fluorescent bulb emits light approximately 4 times more intense than light from a 48″, 40W T-12 fluorescent bulb with nearly the same wattage. Another example is light intensity emitted from Metal Halide and HQI bulbs. Some organisms that originate in the shallow waters of the reef in nature require light intensity similar to that of the sun. These two bulb types reproduce the very high intensity light that can be neither duplicated by another system nor be financially feasible to be duplicated by another system.
The following recommendations are for aquariums that are 24″ deep or less. For taller aquariums, compensate by providing a higher amount of wattage per gallon using the chosen lighting system, or by using a more intense lighting system.
Species that fall into this category include non-photosynthetic species, species that originate in the deep parts of the reef or from turbid waters or ones that grow underneath overhangs and ledges.
Provide a lighting intensity of 1-2 watts per gallon. For most aquariums, except the very large systems, standard fluorescent lighting is ideal. Provide a 50/50 mixture of daylight and actinic lighting.
Moderate lighting levels duplicate the mid depths of the reef in nature, and represent the lighting requirements of a large number of the corals and invertebrates offered. Species that fall into this category are very flexible in regards to the lighting conditions. For example, they can be placed at the top of an aquarium with low-moderate lighting, or at the middle to bottom of aquariums with high lighting.
Provide a lighting intensity of 2-4 watts per gallon using Compact Fluorescent Lighting, VHO or T-5 Fluorescents. Illuminate the aquarium using a 50/50 mix of daylight and actinic lighting. For larger aquariums, consider using Metal Halides to cut down on bulb replacement costs.
Most of the corals and invertebrates in this category originate from the shallow, pristine waters of the coral reef. They demand intense lighting along with good water flow and low nutrient levels. Because of these requirements, the Care Level for most of these corals will be “Difficult” to maintain. However, given the right conditions, they can be the fastest growing, most colorful corals in the aquarium.
Provide a lighting intensity of 4-8 watts per gallon using a combination of Metal Halides or HQI’s, along with Compact Fluorescent Lighting, VHO or T-5 Fluorescents. The spectrum of the Metal Halides will depend greatly on personal preference, but should be between 6,500°K (reddish yellow) and 14,000°K (blue/white). Use actinic bulbs for the supplementary fluorescent light fixture in a ratio of 1/3 to1/2 of the total wattage of the system. These actinic fluorescent bulbs can then be set on a timer to simulate both dusk and dawn on the reef.
Please Note: The lighting systems recommended for light-loving corals and invertebrates that fall under the “High” light category, produce a large amount of heat. Cooling fansand possibly a water chiller is a necessity when using these lighting systems.
These recommendations for lighting systems and intensities are general due to the variances in aquarium set-ups. Situations that will affect the intensity of lighting systems include type of canopy on aquarium, distance of bulbs from the top of aquarium, water clarity and the type/brand of ballasts and bulbs used.
Keep in mind that the selection of species compatible to your aquarium is not always limited by your particular lighting system. For example, if your aquarium system provides high light conditions, a species that requires low lighting can still be incorporated into the aquarium by placing it near the bottom of the aquarium and out of direct light.
Use these guidelines when choosing the species for your aquarium and most importantly monitor the health of the corals and invertebrates. Light intensities change dramatically throughout the same aquarium, so moving the specimens to a different location in the aquarium may become necessary. It is important to allow the organism to adjust to the new location and lighting conditions prior to making judgment on its health.
Many corals and invertebrates require different degrees of water movement to expel waste, feed or protect territory. The recommendations that we have provided for the different species reflect the conditions that they are subjected to in nature, and the conditions that will maximize their health in a captive environment.
Species that require low water movement are often those that inflate their bodies to maximize both light exposure, and nutrient collection. These specimens should not be placed in a direct water flow. They should only receive gentle water movement that is indirect. The water return from the main filtration is normally sufficient for these low-flow loving corals, as long as the current is not directly aimed at the specimen.
This category of water flow encompasses the requirements of many corals and invertebrates that are offered in the industry. Water flow of this nature is used by many species to both rid wastes, as well as bring them the nutritional foods available in the water column. Another use for this flow, with virtually all of the corals and invertebrates, is to inhibit the settlement of debris, algae and cyanobacteria within the colony. Medium water movement within the aquarium is best achieved through the use of powerheads. Powerheads should not be directed toward the corals, but should be used to provide indirect currents. Indirect current can be achieved by simply directing the powerheads towards a side of the aquarium, or towards a solid object within the aquarium, such as a rock.
Organisms that require this type of water movement within the aquarium typically come from shallow, turbulent parts of the reef. These areas of the natural reef, usually experience strong but intermittent water flow marked by periods of strong and moderate to no water movement. Such extremes in alternating currents allow the coral or invertebrate to effectively expel wastes and to gather food essential to their well-being. This type of water flow should be provided in the aquarium by using powerheads controlled by a wavemaker, or with a surge device. It is important to monitor the health of the individual and its reaction to both direct and indirect water movement. Be sure to alter the flow or the position of the organisms as needed.
The ideal placement of the coral or invertebrate within the aquarium is the culmination of its lighting and water flow requirements, as well as their temperament. By placing the corals and invertebrates properly within the aquarium, you will create in time a beautiful harmonious display of a wide variety of species.
The bottom of the aquarium is the ideal place for many of the “Aggressive” corals and invertebrates that require “Moderate” Light and “Low” Water Flow. These are typically LPS hard corals, anemones and non-photosynthetic invertebrates. When designing your reef display, be sure to leave plenty of open sand at the bottom of the aquarium for future additions of these species.
The middle of the aquarium is ideal for specimens that enjoy “Moderate” Water Flow and are “Semi-Aggressive” or not overly aggressive. Mushroom and Polyp Corals as well as many of the soft corals do well in this area of the aquarium. Many of these species can be placed in close proximity, giving the aquarium a beautiful populated appearance.
The top of the aquarium should be reserved for corals and invertebrates that prefer “High” Light conditions as well as “High” Water Flow. SPS hard corals, and soft corals that require “High” Light conditions and “High” Water Flow are ideal candidates for this area of the aquarium. Alter the water return, as well as powerheads to accommodate for the placement of these organisms.
The lighting system on the aquarium will ultimately determine both the species suitable for the aquarium, as well as their placement within the aquarium. Species with “Moderate” Light requirements may be housed in a system with lighting that falls into the “Low” category, as long as these species are located at the top of the aquarium. The same holds true for incorporating low light loving species into a brightly lit aquarium. These species will simply need to be placed lower in the aquarium.
Monitor the health of all species in their new location and allow time before determining if a different position within the aquarium is necessary. Photosynthetic organisms alter the amount of zooxanthellae cells within their structures to compensate for different intensities of lighting. It is important not to move these organisms too frequently, as it will place undue stress upon them in the short term.
One of the easiest ways to reduce aquarium mortalities is to maintain ideal water conditions. Make sure your aquarium has all of the appropriate water parameters and environmental requirements for the particular species you are interested in keeping. While most aquarium species can adapt to or tolerate a broad range of water parameters, keep in mind that certain delicate species of fish, plants, corals and invertebrates have very specific water parameter requirements. Please review each individual species description for specific information.
The water temperature of your aquarium plays a vital role in the health of your fish. Fish are very sensitive to temperature changes and any sudden temperature change can wreak havoc on your fish. Invest in a reliable heater to maintain stable water temperature. For reef aquariums illuminated by metal halide light fixtures, the use of a chiller is recommended since many corals are sensitive to high water temperatures. Without the aid of an efficient aquarium chiller, decline in coral health or even coral loss may result.
dKH (degree of carbonate hardness also known alkalinity): Carbonate hardness is the measure of carbonate and bicarbonate concentration in your aquarium water. Alkalinity plays a vital role in stabilizing and buffering aquarium pH. This parameter is very important to monitor in coral reef systems since alkalinity and calcium have a unique relationship where the concentration of one affects the other. For example, if aquarium alkalinity is too high, then calcium levels tend to fall as calcium precipitates out of solution. Conversely, if the calcium level is too high (over 500 ppm), then there is a tendency for alkalinity to drop.
pH (potentia hydrogenii or the power of hydrogen): Measurement of relative alkalinity or acidity. A pH reading of 7.0 is considered neutral, with readings higher than 7.0 (up to 14) being alkaline and readings lower than 7.0, acidic.
Specific Gravity: Specific gravity or “sg” measures the relative salinity (amount of dissolved salts) in your aquarium water in comparison to pure water. Measuring specific gravity on a regular basis is crucial to maintain the ideal environment for your marine inhabitants.
The manner in which a specimen reproduces or the methods involved in multiplication is referred to as propagation. This can involve natural sexual or asexual reproduction as well as human intervention. Through human intervention, a single mature specimen can be cut or divided to produce multiple specimens.
The production of new plants through the division or separation of new growth from the rhizome of the main plant.
Adventitious Plants: Plants that reproduce asexually by developing new plants or plantlets which sprout from an area other than the main growth site of the mother plant.
Adventitious Shoot: A shoot or growth from the base of the mother plant that develops into a new plant.
Bulb: Underground food storage organ that develops new plant growth.
Cuttings: New plants developed through human intervention by means of cutting or severing plant material from the mother plant.
Division: Method of plant propagation by means of separating plant material from the main plant.
Formed Leaves Pressed into Substrate: Under ideal conditions, the underside of the Banana Plant leaves can develop roots. When the roots form, it can be pressed into the substrate to encourage plant development.
Off Shoots: New growth from the main plant that develops into a new plant.
Peduncle: A stalk that develops a new plantlet or a fruiting structure (flower).
Rhizome: Also known as rootstocks, rhizomes are thick horizontal stems where new plant growth develops (both roots and leaves).
Runner: A horizontal creeping stem that extends from the main plant which asexually develops new plants.
Seeds: An enclosed embryonic plant resulting from sexual reproduction.
Seeds and Cuttings: Propagation methods involving sexual and asexual reproduction.
Side Shoots: New growth from the main plant that develops into a new plant. Similar to Off Shoots but closer in proximity to the main plant.
Sided Shoots on Rhizome: The development of new plant growth from a rhizome.
Max. Size in Aquarium
Displays the maximum size the individual species will attain in the average home aquarium. This will vary depending on the size of the aquarium, the quantity and size of other tank mates, the diet that the fish is provided, water conditions and the amount of free-swimming room within the aquarium. We highly recommend using this maximum size when planning the inhabitants for your aquarium so you do not run into an overstocked aquarium in the future.
Color Form – Corals, Invertebrates, Plants and Live Rock
The color forms of the different corals and invertebrates will vary depending on many factors. These factors include where they were collected or grown, the depth at which they were collected, the specific species of plant, coral or invertebrate, and their general health. Furthermore, color form may also change after being placed into a new aquarium environment. This is also due to a number of factors including light intensity, light spectrum, type of aquarium lighting, general water quality and stability, amount of dissolved organics and the availability of natural food sources.
Color Form – Fishes
Represents the typical colors that the individual species will display at the size in which they are being offered. Some species will change color as they mature, where other species may have different coloration between males and females. Where applicable, this information is included in the individual species description.
These species have spines or stinging cells that may be toxic or harmful to people. Use extreme caution when handling these animals, and keep away from children or uninformed individuals.
Represents the types of food that the individual species is inclined to eat in their natural environment. However, many species will accept different foods in the home aquarium. For example, Tangs are herbivorous in nature feeding mostly on algae. However, they will readily accept meaty foods in the aquarium. For proper nutrition and health, it is very important to offer the individual species foods that they would normally feed upon in the wild.
– Species consumes meaty foods.
Herbivore – Species consumes algae or plant based foods.
Omnivore – Species consumes both algae and meaty foods.
Planktonivore – Species consumes Zooplankton in their natural habitat.
Filter Feeder – Species consumes fine particulates of both tiny Zooplankton and algae based Phytoplankton or marine snow.
Additional minerals or elemental nutrients are often needed to properly care for specimens kept in the home aquarium. Supplements replenish essential mineral and nutrient levels to ensure proper growth, physical strength, biological function, and coloration. Always use supplements according to the manufacturer’s recommendations and be careful not to overdose.
Corals and Invertebrates
Calcium is one of the most important elements for thriving reef aquariums. A steady supply of biologically available calcium is required to ensure healthy coral growth. The recommended calcium level in reef aquariums is between 350 and 450 parts per million (ppm) depending on stocking levels. It is important to test calcium and alkalinity levels on a regular basis, especially if the aquarium is stocked heavily with hard corals.
Magnesium: Magnesium plays an important role in maintaining the correct balance between calcium and alkalinity in seawater. It helps stabilize alkalinity and calcium levels by preventing excess precipitation of calcium and bicarbonate. Maintaining proper magnesium levels between 1,250 and 1,350 ppm.
Strontium: Strontium is an important component of aragonite, the mineral secreted by reef-building marine invertebrates including corals. Maintain strontium at the natural seawater concentration of approximately 8 ppm for proper growth of corals and other reef-building invertebrates.
Iodine: Iodine is required for healthy fishes, corals, crustaceans and macro-algae. Invertebrates with symbiotic zooxanthellae algae such as corals utilize iodine to detoxify excess oxygen produced under intense lighting conditions. Iodine is important for increased soft coral growth and carapace production in shrimp and crabs. For fish, iodine helps prevent health disorders such as goiter. Iodine is depleted by protein skimming and should be kept at 0.06 ppm.
Trace Elements: Trace Elements provide the necessary nutrients required for proper health and growth. In the closed aquarium environment, trace elements are depleted through natural biological activity. In a heavily-stocked reef aquarium, trace elements are often depleted at a much faster rate.
CO2 fertilization increases the amount of carbon dioxide available for your aquarium plants. Installing a CO2 (carbon dioxide) system is essential to maintain active plant growth. CO2 supplementation depends upon light intensity. In general, heavily planted aquariums with high output light fixtures will require a CO2 system to keep up with the greater plant demand for carbon dioxide.
High Quality Aquarium Fertilizer: Also known as a comprehensive plant supplement, high-quality aquarium fertilizers generally are a blend of macro-nutrients with essential trace elements, vitamins, and amino acids to stimulate healthy growth of aquarium plants
Iron: Iron is an important plant micronutrient that helps in the formation of chlorophyll. Iron should be used in planted aquariums where aquatic plants demonstrate signs of iron deficiency (such as short and slender stems or yellowing between veins). Marine aquariums or refugiums with macro-algae will also benefit from the proper addition of iron. Be sure to use the appropriate formulation for marine aquarium use.
Iron-Rich Fertilizer: In addition to the single nutrient liquid, many plant substrates contain iron to promote optimum plant nutrition and luxuriant growth.
Nitrogen: Nitrogen is one of the three essential nutrients required by plants in relatively large amounts (macronutrients). Nitrogen helps increase growth potential and improves leaf health of plants.
Potassium: Potassium is another of the three essential nutrients required by plants in relatively large amounts (macronutrient). Potassium helps develop healthy plant stems and roots.
Substrate Fertilizer: Some plants draw nutrients primarily through their roots while others draw nutrients through their leaves. Substrate fertilizers target heavy root feeder and are generally available as slow-release tablets buried within the substrate bed. Specialty substrates rich in plant nutrients such as laterite clay may also be regarded as a type of substrate fertilizer.
Trace Elements: Also known as micronutrients, trace elements are often depleted rapidly by various chemical processes and natural plant growth. Liquid trace elements contain a blend of important nutrient necessary for continued lush growth of freshwater plants.
Provides a link to our comprehensive compatibility chart that was developed by our aquatic experts. It is important to understand that this chart is a general guideline, and each aquarium is unique. It is always best to stock an aquarium with the smaller passive species first, and the larger more aggressive last. In addition, when incorporating fish of same genus or species, it is ideal to acclimate them to the aquarium simultaneously.
The location where the specimen was collected. Many species are harvested or grown in different areas of the world, and we provide the specific location in every individual species. Many times, there are price differences between the same species that are harvested from different regions. This is a reflection of the cost difference in diver’s wages, cost differences from overseas suppliers, as well as their transportation and importation fees. This does not mean that there are differences in form or coloration within the species, unless described within its description.
The scientific family in regards to the Taxonomy of the individual species. We provide the family, genus, and species when possible, on all aquatic life that we offer. Many species in the same genus and family, not only act in a very similar manner, but also share similar characteristics and requirements. This information is provided to aid in learning about the animal’s compatibility, captive requirements and different behaviors the animals may share.
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