Corals have definite preferences for seawater flow. Some, such as many hard corals, prefer high flow and others, including many soft corals, prefer a lower flow. The general guideline for seawater flow with a soft coral display is 10 times the net seawater gallonage per hour, and for SPS corals 20 times or more.
There are different types of flow and basically the one type that should not be striking corals is laminar, or flow moving in a straight line. The type of flow required is turbulent, another way of describing it is chaotic. This flow brings food to the corals and helps remove waste.
I run a soft coral aquarium, it has been running for just over eight years now. I prefer soft corals as though they aren’t quite so ‘reefy’ they move in the flow and have some lovely pastel colours. In the top area of the aquarium the current is quite strong but lower down it is considerably less.
The display includes ‘mushroom’ corals, I believe them to be Ricordea species (though I’m ready to be corrected!). They prefer a lower seawater flow so that they can expand fully. The photo above shows these, though they are the ones that have colonised an area that is in higher flow seawater. They measure around 3 inches diameter (circa 7.5cm) and are clearly being effected by the flow – their edges ripple and lift. Therefore the mushrooms have minimized the effect the flow has on them by keeping their size down.
The photo above shows one of the original mushrooms that has been placed in a low flow area. This time there isn’t a problem with seawater flow, the coral has expanded to a considerbly larger diameter, about 7 inches (circa 18cm). Though the coral edges and surface do move a little it is not particularly significant. The coral is also free to take up different postures, sometimes with an undulated surface and sometimes with an upturned edge. This wouldn’t be possible with stronger flow.
So to get the best display from a coral it needs to be in the area it prefers and has adapted to in its natural habitat. All that is needed is a little research on seawater flow and lighting needs.