Transform Your Saltwater Tank with Real Coral: Detailed Instructions

Transform Your Saltwater Tank with Real Coral: Detailed Instructions

Adding real coral to a saltwater tank involves several detailed steps to ensure the safety and stability of the tank environment. Here’s a comprehensive guide covering all the necessary details:

1. Selecting and Preparing the Coral

Choosing the Right Type:

  • Select coral pieces that are clean, free of organic matter, and do not contain any residual marine life. Coral skeletons, like those from Salt Flat Trading, are ideal as they are primarily composed of calcium carbonate, which is safe for your tank.

Cleaning the Coral:

  1. Initial Rinse: Rinse the coral pieces thoroughly under running water to remove any loose debris and dust.
  2. Soaking in Bleach Solution: Soak the coral in a solution of one part bleach to ten parts water for about 24 hours. This helps remove any organic residues and disinfect the coral​.
  3. Rinse Again: After soaking, rinse the coral thoroughly with fresh water to remove any bleach residue.
  4. Dechlorinating Soak: Soak the coral in water treated with a dechlorinator to neutralize any remaining bleach. Soak for at least 24 hours​.

2. Preparing the Tank

Optimal Water Parameters:

  • Salinity: Maintain a salinity level between 1.023 and 1.025 specific gravity.
  • pH: The ideal pH level should be between 8.1 and 8.4.
  • Temperature: Keep the water temperature stable between 75°F and 80°F (24°C - 27°C)​.

Placement Planning:

  1. Plan Location: Identify where you want to place the coral pieces in the tank. Avoid areas with strong water flow that could dislodge the coral.
  2. Secure the Coral: Use aquarium-safe epoxy or super glue gel to secure the coral pieces to rocks or the tank’s substrate. This prevents them from moving or falling over​.

3. Adding the Coral


  1. Careful Addition: Carefully place the coral pieces in the tank according to your planned arrangement.
  2. Securing: Use aquarium-safe materials to ensure the coral is stable and won’t shift.

4. Monitoring and Maintenance

Water Chemistry Monitoring:

  • Calcium Levels: Maintain calcium levels between 400-450 ppm (parts per million). Use a calcium test kit to monitor these levels regularly.
  • Alkalinity: Keep alkalinity between 8-12 dKH (degrees of carbonate hardness) to support coral health.
  • Magnesium Levels: Ensure magnesium levels are between 1250-1350 ppm​.

Regular Testing:

  1. Testing Kits: Use high-quality test kits to regularly check pH, calcium, alkalinity, and magnesium levels.
  2. Adjustments: Make adjustments as necessary using reef supplements to maintain optimal water parameters.


  1. Routine Checks: Periodically check the coral pieces for any signs of algae growth or detritus buildup. Clean them as needed to maintain their appearance and the health of your tank.
  2. Water Quality: Perform regular water changes and continue to monitor water quality to ensure a stable environment for your marine life​​.

Benefits and Considerations

Aesthetic Appeal:

  • Adding real coral pieces enhances the natural look of your tank and provides hiding places and structures for your marine life.

Water Chemistry Influence:

  • Be aware that even dead coral can influence water chemistry, particularly by adding calcium to the water. Regular monitoring and adjustments may be necessary to maintain stable conditions​​.

By following these detailed steps, you can safely and effectively add real coral to your saltwater tank, enhancing its beauty and providing a more natural habitat for your marine life.

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