Octocorals vary widely in their feeding requirements, ranging from nonphotosynthetic species that demand an almost constant availability of fine particulate foods, to others who are able to meet virtually all their energy needs solely from the excess produced by their symbiotic zooxanthellae. Most soft corals may benefit from feeding, even if they don’t require it. The range and types of foods preferred by octocorals are equally varied. Presented below are three categories of commercially available feeds, including the many distinct offerings available from a wide range of manufacturers. If we overlooked your favorite, be sure to let us known in the comments below.
Many octocorals feed on phytoplankton, and some outright demand it for success. Many species of unicellular marine algae are readily available in easy-to-use preparations (whether live, frozen, or otherwise preserved shelf-stable versions that still benefit from refrigeration). Individual algae farmers grow different varieties; the collective diversity of phytoplankton feeds commercially available includes Chaetoceros, Micromonas, Nannochloropsis (Nanno), Pavlova, Phaeodactylum tricornutum, Rhodomonas lens (Rhodo), Synechococcus, Tetraselmis (Tet), Thalassiosria weissflogii (Thal), Tisochrysis lutea (T-Iso), and even the coral symbiont Symbiodinium (Zooxanthellae).
- AlgaeBarn – offers the OceanMagic four-species blend of live phytoplankton which should be kept refrigerated
- AlgaGen – maker of the Phycopure line of products, offering an extensive diversity of refrigerated live algae blends and the unique SeaPro frozen-to-live product.
- Aquaforest – AF Phtyo Mix is suggested to be a liquid blend of phytoplankton, zooplankton, and other ingredients, to be refrigerated after opening.
- Brightwell Aquatics – offers multiple shelf-stable phytoplankton blends under the PhytoGold
- Dr. G’s – Live Phytoplanton, a living blend of microalgae kept refrigerated
- Easy Reefs – has introduced Easy Booster Marine Phytoplankton, featuring a shelf-stable gel-based suspension of 4 microalgaes delivered in single-use packets.
- ESV Aquarium Products – produces shelf-stable Amino Enhanced Time Release Dried Marine Phytoplankton.
- Fritz Aquatics – producers of the live liquid four-species, multi-bottle, amino-acid enriched Phyto2.
- Kent Marine – makers of the shelf-stable, three-species Phytoplex.
- Reef Nutrition – well-known for their Phytofeast and Phytofeast Live liquid offerings (which are refrigerated), but also produces high volume concentrated frozen pastes sold under the Reed Mariculture brand which more often used in aquaculture applications (including growing rotifers, copepods, and larval marine fish applications). Sold under the Reed Mariculture brand, Shellfish Diet has high diatom levels and is reportedly good for challenging nonphotosynthetic soft corals such as Dendronepthea; it is also available in hobbyist scale form as SDaquarist.
- Seachem Laboratories – produces the shelf-stable blend called Reef Phytoplankton.
- Sustainable Aquatics – SA’s Reef Blend is a refrigerated mix of 3 live algae species; Plankton Bloom adds baby brine shrimp, rotifers, and two types of copepods, all co-packaged into one container; essentially an all-in-one living feed.
- Tropic Marin – Pro-Coral Phyton is a shelf stable powdered phytoplankton with additional ingredients.
- Two Little Fishies – PhytoPlan Advanced Plankton Diet is a shelf-stable spray-dried blend of phytoplankton.l
Secondary to phytoplankton, zooplankton is a viable or necessary dietary component for the successful maintenance and growth of some octocorals. For the corals that will accept them, rotifers and baby brine shrimp (Artemia nauplii) are two routinely cited offerings, and copepods (which generally offer a superior nutritional profile) may play a vital role for success with some certain soft coral varieties.
- Brightwell Aquatics – A concentrated liquid suspension of rotifers, rotifer eggs, and crustacean eggs for the basis of the ZOOPLANKTOS-S at 50-300 microns, and ZOOPLANKTOS-M consists of cladocerans in the 500-2000 micron range (primarily used for stony corals and micropredatory fishes)
- Fritz Aquatics – offering a liquid mix of rotifers and a half dozen copepod varieties, gut-loaded with phytoplankton, sold as AZOX Coral Food. Fritz’s Naups and Naups-D are preserved liquid concentrations consisting of two-species (and sizes) of S.E.L.C.O. Boost enriched Artemia ROTIPLEX is a preserved liquid concentration of rotifers and rotifer eggs which requires refrigeration after opening. It also features the ZOO2 line of live copepods.
- Ocean Nutrition – their Instant Baby Brine Shrimp is a unique shelf-stable suspension of Artermia nauplii; refrigerate after opening.
- PolypLabs – known for its Reef Roids dry product, which is said to be a blend of marine plankton with a particulate size in the 150-200 micron range.
- Reef Nutrition – offering the highly-concentrated zooplankton feeds Roti-Feast (rotifers) & Tigger-Feast (Tigriopus californicus copepods) as well as live starter cultures of both rotifers and copepopds.
- Two Little Fishies – a shelf-stable dried food, ZoPlan™ Advanced ZooPlankton Diet primarily consists of crustaceans, and may also be a good food for plankton feeding fishes.
Many soft corals are known to consume non-living materials as well, both absorbing nutrients directly from the water column, but also feeding on detritus and other floating organic particulates, often loosely lumped as “marine snow”. As a result, several manufacturers have created blended products designed to capitalize on this feeding behavior while offering convenient, easy-to-use products for the reef aquarist.
- Aquaforest – offers AF Power Food, marketed towards SPS and LPS feeding but may have applications with octocorals.
- Brightwell Aquatics – The shelf-stable liquid Reef Snow is reported to be “a ‘core substrate’ of carbonate-bound, non-conservative major, minor, and trace elements (all in aragonite ratios) with marine-derived proteins and fatty acids (all in coral tissue ratios).”
- Bulk Reef Supply – The BRS Reef Chili Coral Food is a broad range formulation with zooplankton, spray-dried phytoplankton, freeze-dried rotifers, copepods and daphnia, spirulina powder and more.
- Cobalt – manufactures of the formulated Coral Food Powder
- Coral Frenzy – recently reformulated Coral Frenzy Powder formula contains a range of marine-sourced proteins and zooplankton along with probiotic bacteria, with particles from 53-2300 microns.
- New Life Spectrum – Reef Cell is a neutrally buoyant microencapsulated food with particle sizes in the 10-80 micron range.
- NYOS – Instant Plankton is marketed as a phytoplankton replacement offering, with particle sizes in the 5-20 micron range.
- Ocean Nutrition – Nano Reef Coral Food is a micro-encapsulated formulated diet with added probiotic properties at 30-150 microns; Reef Pulse is a blend of zooplankton, phytoplankton and other ingredients in a 5-400 micron
- Reef Nutrition – Oyster-Feast (oyster eggs and ovarian tissue) and TDO Chroma BOOST size A (75 – 250 µm) have proven useful for the feeding of various Octocorals.
- Two Little Fishies – manufactures both MarineSnow Plankton Diet (a blended liquid feed) and NutriGorg, a powdered feed specifically formulated for all types of gorgonians.