Coral Bleaching Causes & Remedies



The vibrant colors found in coral reefs around the globe have sparked the interest of hobbyists alike. From the Great Barrier Reef to the reefs of the Florida Keys, this is what every hobbyist strives to recreate in their home aquarium.  It is a difficult task to say the least and comes with many ups and downs. None-the-less, the serious saltwater aquarist can nearly perfect the process. In order to recreate this, aquarists must first understand what causes a coral to thrive and also what causes it to die. In a world of global warming, one of the greats threats to corals reefs today is coral bleaching. This can also happen in your home aquarium if you are not careful.

coral bleachingWhat Makes Coral Thrive?

Knowing how your coral thrives can help you identify and prevent potential problems such as coral bleaching. Most hobbyist select their corals for their vast array of exotic colors. What causes coral color and why are some more vibrant than others? The answer is simple. It is a symbiotic relationship between coral and algae (zooxanthellae) that live within them. In a nutshell, the coral provides shelter for the algae and the algae creates a sugar that feeds the coral in return.

What is Coral Bleaching?

The symbiotic relationship between coral and algae is fascinating to say the least. However, it is just as fragile. The slightest change in water parameters can cause the coral to expel zooxanthellae algae. This will result in a pale or white coral coloration, considered coral bleaching. While the coral may not die right away, it will ultimately starve if the problem persists.

Leading Cause of Coral Bleaching

Raising water temperature is a leading culprit to coral bleaching. When water becomes too warm, the coral will expel the algae. Because of this, global warming has caused serious threats for places like the Great Barrier Reef. As a good rule of thumb, keep your saltwater aquarium between 72 and 82 degrees Fahrenheit for optimum health.

Causes of Coral Bleaching:

  • High or low water temperatures
  • Over exposure to light (light shock)
  • Water pollutants
  • Changes in water chemistry

Healthy Coral Remedies

The key to healthy corals and happy aquarium is consistent, stable conditions that mimic nature. Monitor how long your lights stay on, water chemistries (salinity, alkalinity, calcium), and especially water temperature to prevent coral bleaching and other diseases. Read more about signs of coral disease.

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