Corals are both auto and heterotrophic. Under optimal conditions, photosynthesis by Symbiodinium transfers the majority of its fixed carbon to the coral host. It has been shown that up to 95% of the host’s carbon demand is met by glycerol and glucose, resulting from Sybiodinium photosynthesis.
However, corals also require an organic food source such as small plants and animals known as plankton.
Large tentacles and a visible mouth are indicative of corals that require macroscopic or larger prey. Artemia is a common small zooplankton food source for most corals. Corals grown in aquaria settings are usually fed once or twice per month depending on the size of the aquarium. If other coral reef habitat organisms are present in the system, their food source (zooplankton e.g. copepods, small fish, shrimp) can also contribute to organic matter needed by the coral.
Water filtration arriving from an external open source requires assessment of both the alkalinity and nutrient content to reduce the chance of macroalgal colonization or bacterial infection. Many aquaria facilities use a protein skimmer and calcium rack to maintain appropriate water conditions.
In an enclosed aquarium setting lighting is crucial for ideal coral growth. Larger tanks seen in aquarium exhibits may use several 1000W light sources; natural lighting upon availability is also appropriate.