Understanding Coral Feeding Habits: Plankton Consumption

Coral reefs are among the most biodiverse and productive ecosystems on Earth, supporting countless species of fish, invertebrates, and plants. Corals themselves are also fascinating creatures, capable of building massive structures over time by depositing calcium carbonate skeletons. However, corals are not passive organisms that just sit and wait for things to happen. They actively feed on various types of prey, including plankton, to obtain nutrients and energy for growth and survival. In this article, we will explore the question "Do corals really eat plankton?" and provide evidence-based insights into coral feeding habits.

live fish food coral lps sps phytoplankton

Overview of Coral Anatomy and Physiology

Before we delve into the specifics of coral feeding, let's first review some basic information about coral anatomy and physiology. Corals are members of the phylum Cnidaria, which also includes jellyfish and sea anemones. They have a simple body plan consisting of a sac-like gut surrounded by tentacles armed with stinging cells called nematocysts. Corals also have a mutualistic relationship with tiny photosynthetic algae called zooxanthellae, which live within their tissues and provide them with carbohydrates and oxygen through photosynthesis.

Types of Coral Feeding

Corals have several ways of obtaining food, depending on the availability and quality of prey in their environment. The most common methods of coral feeding are:

  • Passive suspension feeding: Corals extend their tentacles into the water column to capture small particles, such as plankton, that drift by. This mode of feeding is often used by soft corals and some stony corals that have long, slender tentacles.
  • Active prey capture: Corals use their nematocysts and tentacles to capture larger prey, such as small fish and crustaceans, that come into contact with them. This mode of feeding is more common in stony corals that have shorter, thicker tentacles.
  • Symbiotic feeding: Corals obtain some of their nutrients and energy from their zooxanthellae, which produce photosynthates that can be transported to the coral host. This mode of feeding is essential for coral growth and calcification, but it is limited by the amount of sunlight and nutrients available to the zooxanthellae.

Evidence of Coral Plankton Consumption

Now, let's get back to the main question of this article: Do corals really eat plankton? The answer is yes, but the extent and importance of plankton consumption vary among coral species, locations, and seasons. Several studies have demonstrated that corals can actively capture and ingest plankton, either by using their tentacles or by producing mucus nets that trap particles. For example, a study conducted in the Red Sea found that the coral species Acropora muricata and Stylophora pistillata consumed different types of plankton, such as copepods, diatoms, and dinoflagellates, in varying amounts depending on the time of day and the water depth. Another study conducted in the Great Barrier Reef showed that the coral species Acropora tenuis and Pocillopora damicornis consumed more plankton during the winter months, when the water temperature and nutrient levels were lower, than during the summer months.


Why We Recommend PhytoPaste

phytoplankton paste algae paste live fish food australia



AQUABYTES - PhytoPaste can be a convenient and cost-effective way of providing corals with a high-quality food source. Phytoplankton are tiny aquatic plants that form the base of the marine food chain and are consumed by many marine organisms, including corals. Phytoplankton are rich in essential nutrients, such as vitamins, minerals, and amino acids, that corals need to grow and maintain their health.

Traditionally, coral food has been provided in the form of live or frozen plankton, which can be expensive and difficult to store and transport. Live plankton requires a constant supply of clean, nutrient-rich water and specialized equipment, while frozen plankton must be kept at a constant low temperature to maintain its quality.

PhytoPaste offers several advantages over these traditional forms of coral food. It is easy to store and transport, as it comes in a concentrated, shelf-stable form that can be stored at room temperature. Also it provides a consistent and reliable source of nutrition for corals, as it contains a balanced blend of phytoplankton species that have been selected for their nutritional value and digestibility.

To use phytoplankton algae paste as coral food, simply mix a small amount of the paste with seawater to create a suspension that can be fed directly to the corals using a syringe or dropper. The amount and frequency of feeding will depend on the species and size of the corals, as well as the water quality and nutrient levels in the aquarium.


Implications of Coral Plankton Consumption

The consumption of plankton by corals has several implications for their ecology and conservation. First, it provides a source of nutrition that complements the energy obtained from zooxanthellae photosynthesis. This is particularly important for corals living in oligotrophic (nutrient-poor) waters, where other sources of food may be scarce. Second, it increases the competition between corals and other plankton

Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.