Even if you’re diligently feeding your corals, they may not be receiving maximum nutrition. In the wild, obtaining the nutrients they need can be catch as catch can. But reef tank corals have the unique opportunity to receive personalized care. One of the most effective ways corals achieve growth, and vivid coloration is through amino acids, which supply much-needed proteins. While some amino acids can be produced naturally, others have to be delivered from an outside source, namely commercial supplements. If you feel like your corals aren’t living up to their potential, an amino acid concentration could mean the difference between a good-looking coral and a spectacular one.
Living organisms require a wide range of amino acids to run on full cylinders. Of the 20-plus existing acids, some can be sufficiently synthesized within the body (known as “non-essential” acids), while others have to be synthesized through other means (known as “essential” acids). These acids are foundational to building proteins.
When it comes to corals, amino acids play a vital role in physical development. They toughen up your corals by strengthening their muscles, tissues, and skeletal systems. They help facilitate external feeding by granting tentacles greater range to reach out and snag food. They contribute to the health of the organic matrix, which is a system comprised of proteins and other compounds that act as bones would for other animals. Amino acids also intensify coloration.
Corals are generally self-reliant when it comes to getting these amino acids. They can generate certain non-essential acids themselves through biosynthesis. In this case, the zooxanthellae that shack up inside the corals impart amino acids through photosynthesis. (This is one reason why it’s important to have adequate aquarium lights).
Corals also derive nourishment from items floating in the water around them. This can be achieved pretty directly through diet, especially if they feed on protein-rich plankton. They are also resourceful enough to withdraw microscopic compounds from their environment with the help of transport proteins located in their tissue.
Although corals do their best to target and incorporate amino acids that are readily available, this does not mean they can find every useful acid through natural means. That’s why amino acid supplements have been created to address any lingering nutritional deficiencies.
However, the need to use supplements is a polarizing topic. While some maintain that regular feeding and corals’ innate ability to supply themselves with amino acids is sufficient, others have found using supplements has a demonstrable effect on overall health and appearance. Those willing to try supplements should expect to do some experimentation, as corals’ specific needs depend on species, and a noticeable difference may not be immediate. The good news is that these products are generally inexpensive and don’t require extensive use.
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