Your Guide to Buying Coral for Your Aquarium

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Your Guide to Buying Coral for Your Aquarium

Corals are often a purchase made for the initial purpose of beautifying an aquarium, and are seen as complements to the fish within. But over time, there has also been a growing community of reef tank hobbyists who do it for more than aesthetics.

In addition to ornamental artificial corals, coral polyps can be bought live through eBay – often with next-day delivery to keep the coral safe, and with live arrival guaranteed.

Whether a beginner or not, there are various different types and species of corals that might appeal, and this guide will provide the preliminary knowledge necessary for the successful addition of corals to a tank community.

For the beginner without much marine aquarium experience, a fish-only tank is usually first advised before moving into the more complicated reef aquarium. A reef aquarium is an ecosystem, and should be safe for both the moving organisms, i.e. the fish, as well as the corals that live in it. Transitioning from a fish-only ecosystem to one including corals is not as simple as it sounds. It needs an in-depth knowledge of corals and how to keep them alive and thriving, along with the fish of the aquarium. But this guide will equip the reader with the knowledge needed to start out, as well as a thorough run-down of the materials needed in cultivating a reef aquarium, and how to purchase them on eBay.

Understanding Corals

Apart from the purely ornamental artificial corals – usually made of plastic - corals come as either natural corals, which allow easier suitability for almost all types of aquarium fishes; or live corals which require the owner’s better understanding of the aquarium’s ecosystem. Both of these are suitable only to salt-water aquariums.

Natural corals are easier to maintain as these usually last as long as the fish tank’s life. The main purpose of this type of coral is to simply bring a unique ornamental beauty to the fishes’ abode. Additionally, it can serve as natural hiding places for salt-water fish.

While live corals also add beauty to the underwater landscape of an aquarium, their presence affects the entire salt-water aquarium ecosystem as they become part of the food web of the organisms in the aquarium.

Opting for live corals entails a more complicated preparation as there are various coral types to understand and consider. Corals are only suitable for saltwater aquariums. All of the materials needed to set up and furnish the aquarium are sold on eBay to fulfil this.

Things to Consider When Buying Corals

Buying corals is always dependent on the tank that they will populate: its shape, water and filtration devices installed. Research is of the essence here as requirements vary. Before entering into a discussion of the details of coral and picking which ones to buy, it is crucial to know the underlying factors to maintain the good health of coral. Remember, coral are living organisms, not just decorations, and as such they need correct care and preparation.


Although corals are stationary, they are alive and it is crucial that they are placed properly. Wrong placement could even threaten the life of coral, so this is a matter of more than just aesthetics.
Adequate spaces need to be given around each coral head depending on its type, as different types of corals have varied growth spans. Research the specific type of coral under consideration – or refer to the table below – to plan a layout based on how the organisms are expected to develop throughout their lifespan.


Lighting a tank is essential in keeping coral alive. Apart from the initial cost of purchasing and installing the lights to consider, there will also be on-going costs of electricity. Lighting requirements will depend on the type of coral that is purchased. Options are available on eBay for this under the lighting category of aquarium supplies.

Water Setup

Setting up an aquarium does not only entail putting water, fish and coral in a tank, and expecting them to thrive. Corals need an environmental set-up that provides clean and filtered water, adequate food and light and, crucially, turbulent water conditions as they rely on this factor to bring them food and to wash off mucus and other waste products.


There are certain fish and invertebrates that affect the corals’ life and food supply, and can even cause the death of the coral if not anticipated. The angelfish family is an example of one fish species that is not coral-safe and their presence in a tank will result in the destruction of most types of corals.

Once these essentials have been taken into consideration, it is time to look at individual groups of corals to determine the ones that can sustain and complement the tank environment planned.

Types of Corals

Mushroom corals

These are very hard corals that are considered one of the best choices for beginner reef aquarium hobbyists. They do not require much extra care and can be maintained with just sand substrate, live rock, an airstone for water movement and oxygenation. They require only indirect light – ideally from fluorescent globes – and low water current.
These corals – like the Actinodiscus, Rhodactis and Discosoma species - are least likely to be picked upon by other invertebrates.

Soft corals

A good option for a starter in creating reef tanks, soft corals don't produce calcium carbonate and so have no skeleton. Their free-flowing structure is an attractive element in any tank environment, and they thrive in nutrient-rich waters. This makes them hardier than many stony corals in a tank environment and ideal for a beginner's aquarium.

Large-Polyp Stony (LPS) corals

The LPS corals are those with large fleshy polyps. The factor to watch out for is their aggressive survival ability which clears out other corals in their near vicinity by 'burning' them with long sweeper tentacles (these are a separate biological adaptation to their regular feeding tentacles). Natural barriers and ample space should be planned between them and other corals to minimise risk. They range in ease of keep.
Keep in mind that some of the LPS family corals, such as the open brain corals, are those that are easily attacked by various species of angelfish.

Small-Polyp Stony (SPS) corals

Still hard corals, this group are smaller and have structures that are covered in thin tissue, as well as skeletons that are both dense and heavy.  They can be visually stunning and come in a beautiful variety of colours, shapes and sizes. Depending on the individual species, however, some of these have extreme water requirements. Research into each kind should be undertaken before considering the purchase this type of coral.

Attaching Corals

To ensure that the corals bought will last and grow they will need to be correctly attached in the tank. There are varied consequences with mixing animals from different parts of the reef, and different types of corals should not be mixed right away. Luckily a huge array of corals as well as the equipment needed to correctly install them is available at the touch of a fingertip on eBay.

  • Before joining the newly-purchased corals to the aquarium’s ecosystem, it is important to know the necessary procedures to be followed. Aquarium acclimatisation is one of them. To help with this process, a quarantine test must be done, or the purchase and application of a coral dip. This helps in removing all aquarium pests that may affect the other organisms in the tank. This process should take a week or two. Figure out beforehand the required period that is needed for the chosen coral.
  • Researching is key; knowing the right measures to follow with the coral bought, and especially which invertebrates could be mixed with it. As this can be highly individual to the type of coral purchased, talking to experts or online communities of reef tank hobbyists will help.
  • Once the tank is prepared and the testing completed, the coral placement can begin. Using a coral frag glue can help in properly affixing the corals in the tank.
  • Afterwards, monitoring and maintenance should be done on a regular basis to ensure both the mobile organisms and the corals don’t conflict with each other. It should also be noted that there are diseases that can be acquired by corals, which need to be looked out for and investigated if the coral appears to be in less than excellent health.
  • Know the right means of feeding the corals, and what to feel them.
  • Successful growth of corals can build confidence, but it is prudent to always bear in mind the above points, especially when different species of corals will be added. Separate reef tanks are also a possibility, so as to keep more corals and marine life without causing conflict to the ecosystem.
  • There is a vast collection of corals in different species, sizes and levels of aesthetics, available on eBay. Likewise accessories and treatments to improve the quality of life of the corals can be bought. The price range varies greatly according to rarity, demand, and the conditions necessary for each coral species. Browsing through the selections available on eBay is a good way to assess the range and decide on the appropriate investment given the prospective tank owner's time, dedication and experience.

Tips for Buying Corals on eBay

Corals can be bought in eBay’s coral subsection. Here are some other tips on having a smooth-sailing purchase:

  • Browse the options carefully and have a shortlist of the items to be considered for purchase.
  • Read through the information stated in the post, and communicate with the seller before the actual purchase for the better understanding of the specifications and terms.
  • Avoid buying corals that are acquired directly from sea as the acclimatisation process will be more difficult and increases the chance of the coral dying before it adjusts.
  • Making sure that the buyer has experience and knowledge in packing the corals for shipping is also crucial. It should be packed in an insulated styrofoam box, and should be in transit overnight, or 2 days at most for hard corals.


Corals are a healthy and attractive addition to any saltwater tank, and can transform an average aquarium into a beautiful living artwork to complement your home. The most important thing to remember when setting up a tank reef is that although corals have the appearance of plants they are animals too, and require as much care and consideration as the other organisms you plan to populate your tank.

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