Known as the ‘rainforests of the sea’, coral reefs are incredibly important in our oceans, as they provide sea life with a healthy habitat.
They also assist humans, as people all around the globe rely on catching fish that have been caught around coral reefs.
Aside from these points, they also serve as a barrier when it comes to storms, reducing the impact of any large, dangerous waves from the shore.
Although they look like underwater plants, corals are actually animals. When many corals are grouped together, they form a reef.
There are approximately 6 thousand species of corals all over the world – some enjoy warm shallow waters, while others prefer the cold, dark open-water seafloor.
This article will be looking in detail at plate corals and how to look after them.
What Are Plate Corals?
Plate corals all belong to the family Fungiidae. These are solitary corals that are flat and sometimes round in shape. There are around 13 different species that make up this family.
These are hardy corals that are often bright in color. Unlike other corals, they are only made up of one single polyp, and they don’t form colonies like others do.
They have one mouth in the center of their frame, and some can even grow to over a foot in size.
Their tentacles tend to be rather short, and they usually keep them hidden throughout the day. As mentioned earlier, these corals can be outstanding in appearance due to their coloration.
You can find some that are bright orange, pink, blue, and many other colors.
Where In The Sea Do They Live?
As adults, these corals don’t actually stay attached to anything – they have the ability to move to different locations!
When they are young, they will attach themselves to hard surfaces, such as rocks, but they’ll detach themselves once they grow.
Once they do this, they will likely move to sandy seabeds, solid bottoms, or even other corals.
As mentioned above, these corals have the ability to move around. If they aren’t happy with their location, they can crawl to another location.
They can do this by filling themselves up with water, causing them to blow up slightly. This expansion, along with the use of some muscles, allows them to move around – very slowly!
They have also been known to move themselves towards an area that receives more light, if this is lacking in their spot.
Some smaller plate corals can also flip themselves over if they ever get overturned by a wave – this is a remarkable ability.
How Do They Reproduce?
The way they reproduce is interesting to say the least. If a parent coral is in trouble or injured, it will shrink itself and produce smaller versions of itself, with their own tiny skeletons.
These little corals are known as anthocauli, and the process of the parent shrinking itself is called decalcification.
You may then see a plate coral with many little mini corals attached to it until they break off and grow.
Another way these corals reproduce is by releasing sperm and eggs out into the sea. These will then form polyp buds that will eventually grow into corals.
These little buds will normally be attached to the parent coral, before detaching and starting their own life. This is a form of asexual reproduction.
Caring For Plate Corals
If you decide to include some plate corals in your aquarium, you’re in luck, as they are relatively hardy and easy to care for.
They will need moderate to high intensity lighting, and a moderately low current passing around them.
You must ensure this current is not too strong, as this may cause them to retract in their skeletons for a long period of time, meaning they won’t be able to catch enough food.
A good current is also beneficial to the rest of the fish living in your aquarium, as it will enable them to swim more, providing them with exercise to keep them healthy.
Their water quality should be high, and you should mimic ocean conditions as much as possible in order for these corals to thrive.
Corals use certain minerals found in the ocean water to grow, these include magnesium, carbonate, and calcium, so ensuring that these minerals are present in their water is crucial.
When it comes to placing them in their aquarium, you can’t go wrong with finding a spot for them at the bottom of the tank. This could be covered with some sand, pebbles, or even bare.
You could also place them on any rocks you have in your tank, just make sure you don’t place them anywhere that is too high from the bottom of the tank.
This increases the chances of them falling from a height if they were to crawl around.
While you will normally find groups of plate corals together in the wild, they don’t generally like being in close proximity to other corals, and touching them.
This species of coral doesn’t have the appropriate tentacles in order to fight from a distance, so instead, if they feel threatened, they will produce a mucus that carries toxins in order to kill another coral.
Therefore, it is important to place them far enough apart if you want to have more than one plate coral in your aquarium.
With regard to feeding these corals, they will usually feed on zooplankton in the wild, and you can find some zooplankton products in shops.
If there are enough dissolved nutrients in their tank, they can feed off these. However, for some reassurance, you can also feed them other sources of food now and again.
You could feed them some brine shrimp or clam meat, just make sure it’s been chopped into very small pieces. You can insert these foods into the tank and the corals will open their mouths to slurp it in.
If you have other pet fish in the same tank, make sure they are fed before to avoid them stealing any of the coral food.
Signs Of A Plate Coral Dying
There are several signs you should be aware of in your coral, which could be warning signs of illness that could lead to death if not addressed. Below are a few signs you should be aware of.
Corals will normally extend their polyps, and they will move along with the flow of water. If a coral is stressed or ill, these polyps won’t extend. This could be due to lack of water flow, as mentioned above.
Some other reasons could be the other fish in the tank are nipping at the coral, mistaking it for food. Your coral could also be irritated by other bugs in the tank.
A solution to this would be to double-check the water conditions in the tank to make sure they are up to standard. You should also make sure that the other fish living in the same tank are reef-safe and won’t try to eat the corals.
As mentioned earlier in this article, plate corals are very vibrant, but you may begin to notice that their color starts to fade. This is called ‘bleaching’.
This could be because the lighting is too intense, high temperatures are in the tank, or certain levels in the tank are too high or low.
A way to prevent this is to ensure all tank levels and parameters are stable and at the desired level.
Another sign of illness could be that your coral begins to lose tissue and flesh. This is called tissue necrosis. This could be caused by bacteria in the tank, or drastic changes to the conditions in the tank.
One way to solve this problem is to make sure all aspects of the tank are within the desired range. You could also clip off the affected areas of the coral to stop the spread.
To conclude, plate corals are beautiful sea creatures that are hardy and can survive well in your aquarium, as long as you are following the appropriate care guide for them.
You should always look out for any change in behavior or appearance in your plate coral, as this could be a sign of illness. Catching these illnesses early is crucial to improving their health and helping them live longer.