Coral are actually living organisms that are made up of many individual animals called coral polyps. A coral frag is a piece of coral that has been separated into smaller pieces. Coral provides valuable and diverse ecosystems for marine life. In fact, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, coral are able to support, in various ways, more species per unit area than all of the other marine environments in a one to one comparison. Because of the extreme biodiversity coral reefs can provide in habitats they are often referred to as the “Rainforest of the Sea”. Coral and coral frags are an asset to marine life in many ways including providing fish and other animals a place to reproduce, find food and hide.
Coral are able to offer valuable feeding resources to a variety of marine herbivores, planktivores, and carnivorous fish. Many of the coral reef fish that live and eat in habitats supported by coral have adapted and evolved to make efficient use of the food resources coral offer. One example of this would include the parrotfish, an herbivore that has developed a beak-like mouth. Parrotfish have developed their specialized mouths to scrape micro-algae off of the coral. In contrast, surgeonfish eat macro-algae using small mouths with teeth. Jawfish, a benthic planktivore, hunts its tiny prey close to the safety of coral.
Coral reef fish are often brightly colored and visually stunning. These fish have evolved with unique coloring to help them camouflage their bodies on and in coral. Fish may use camouflage to hide for protection, to hide and wait to ambush prey or to do both of those things. The Australian Blue Striped Fangblenny can actually change its color to blend in and hide. The Oxymonacanthus longirostris or harlequin filefish lives in acropora coral and has polka-dot markings. Some other fish that rest on and in coral to hunt for prey include hawkfish and triggerfish.
Coral benefits marine life by playing an important role in reproduction for many kinds of fish as well as by acting as a nursery for young fish. Demersal spawning is a form of reproduction in which fish attach their eggs to coral. In most cases the female will lay the eggs and attach them to a piece of coral. Then the male will fertilize them.
Coral and coral reefs provide food and shelter to approximately twenty-five percent of marine species. That is astonishing considering the fact that they only represent one percent of the entire worlds ocean surface area. So while you could have an aquarium without coral, you would be missing an invaluable marine resource. In an aquarium coral can add both beauty and function. SaltCritters can help you add to the richness of your aquarium by shipping coral and coral frags right to your door.