Leather corals are a term used for a number of corals of whom the bulk belongs to the genus Sarcophyton even if there are a number of other corals that are called leather corals. This article will when it says leather coral refer to species within the Sarcophyton genus.
Leather coral species is suitable to be kept in reef aquariums and can be kept with less lighting than some other coral types. Leather corals can be kept under high yield fluorescence light bulbs even other lamp types that create more light such as metal halides can be beneficial. You should never increase the amount of light these corals receive to fast and should be given a long acclimatization period with gradually increased lighting if you choose to use metal halides lamps with your leather corals. Most leather coral species change their colour depending on the amount of light provided. Leather corals have their primary nutrition source in the zooxanthellae algae it lives in symbiosis with and correct lighting is therefore very important. They also take a smaller amount of their nutrients from plankton.
Leather coral species in the Sarcophyton genus are usually hardy and are suitable as beginner corals for aquarist how want to keep their first reef aquarium tank. Beginners should only keep soft corals until they get more experienced with keeping corals since this can be reproduced in aquariums and are more resilient in the wild then hard corals. They are also more easily maintained then hard corals. Leather coral species grows fast and many species can grow quite large.
All leather corals will from tie to time retract their polyps and form a mucus layer over themselves which they later shed. The shed mucus layer should be removed to preserve the water quality. The polyps will extend again once this process is completed which is believed to have for purpose to prevent algae to grow on the coral. This process is not a sign of disease in your leather coral. Increasing the current around the coral at this time can help speed up this process. The filtration and water movement should otherwise be kept moderate.
Leather corals release a toxin in the water which has an damaging effect to less hardy hard corals. These toxins do not usually kill hard corals but does have a negative effect on the growth rate of effected corals. This effect can be lessened by the use of chemical filtration. You can keep leather corals with hard corals even without chemical filtration but you should be aware of the effects this have on your hard corals.
Propagating leather coral
Leather corals are easily propagated in aquariums by cuttings. If you want to propagate your leather coral you ill have to take some steps to increase the chance of success. Start by adding vitamin C to your aquarium. Start by adding enough vitamin c to reach a 2.5 ppm solution and the gradually add more vitamin C each day until you reach a 5 ppm a day. Then manipulated your water values so that the dKH level is 10-12 with out causing the pH level to drop.This levels should then be kept for a little over a week during which time you continue to add vitamin C to keep the levels constant.
You are when then ready to take your cuttings. Cut a cutting from your leather coral that is at least 8 cm/ 3 inches long and 2-3 cm/ 1 inch wide using a brand new razorblade. Use a new razorblade for each cutting if you take several. You should than attach the cuttings to a piece of rock that you cleaned carefully (or whatever you want it to grow on) and place it so that it is exposed to current. It is especially important to make sure that the cut area is exposed to currents to prevent infections. It is beneficial to rub some vitamin C on the cut areas of the leather corals. You should then increase the dosage of vitamin C to 10 ppm a day for 10 days. It is beneficial to add some coral growth enhancer to the water to help the cuttings thrive. Make sure you keep the water quality good during the first month after you took the cuttings.
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