If you’ve read through our Designer’s Aquarium Checklist you should know that there are two types of salt water aquariums: reef aquariums, which contain fish and a variety of live corals, and “fish only” aquariums, where there are a number of varieties of fish and artificial corals.
The main reason these two types exist is that some species of fish eat the live coral. If your aquarium houses one of these fish varieties, a fish only aquarium is the clear choice. In the fish only aquariums, tank decor can be as simple as a pile of rocks or as elaborate as having decor custom made to fit a specific tank, hide filtration systems, and incorporate certain colors and shapes of rubberized molded corals.
These artificial corals grown in popularity over the last 10 years, offering an eco-friendly alternative to removing coral skeletons from the reefs to be used as aquarium decor. Now, these molded corals exist in every shape and size imaginable and every color under the sun. The custom corals incorporate these molded corals onto a base, also called a “reef” insert.
These inserts are where the fun begins in custom corals. In one installation we had a large, four foot tall tank that was 4 feet long as well. This created a “display case” sort of feel so we made a coral to take up some of the height of the aquarium, making the tank look like a display for the coral itself. The coral was made with numerous holes and swim-throughs, allowing the fish to interact up and down the coral for a more realistic appearance.
But just looking realistic isn’t the only benefit of artificial corals. When making customs corals, you can get as creative as you’d like. Take, for example, the “football insert” we just made for a client. A Bears fan through and through, our client was looking to add a custom piece that reflected his affinity for the Monsters of the Midway. We incorporated a Bears logo in the middle, made two “uprights” of Yellow sponges, and used Orange, Navy, and white corals to mirror the Bears uniforms, as well as greens to indicated the field.
These corals are removable, easy to clean, and as realistic as we’re going to see without a plane ticket for a tropical vacation.