Instant Reef artificial corals in action

by Owen James

Once upon a time, artificial coral looked ridiculous in marine aquariums. Ironically, this wasn’t so much because the fake coral was unrealistic as because it looked too good to be true.

However given some of the luminous reef tanks you see today, this is no longer the case. Great reef tanks are often labeled ‘fake’ on forums by readers who don’t believe their eyes, while unscrupulous Internet traders color up frags for sale with Photoshop.

Given all these accusations flying around, perhaps going officially fake isn’t such a silly idea. Is it time to look again at the place of artificial corals in fish only and/or with live rock tanks, and even in padding out reef tanks?

For instance, I just came across this sales video on YouTube showing artificial corals from Instant Reef:

These corals aren’t available as far as I know here in the UK, so the Instant Reef brand is new to me. Yet I’m surprised to find my response isn’t altogether unfavorable.

An experienced reefer will see lifeforms there that can’t yet be maintained in captivity, particularly the large sponges. But I’d imagine 50% of casual observers couldn’t tell the difference between this and the stunning Japanese coral garden aquariums doing the rounds.

The company sales spiel lists the following benefits:

  • Color-Fading Resistant and Anti-Algae coating to ensure Years of Lasting Beauty.
  • Non-Toxic Material
  • Porous / Rough surface for beneficial bacteria to grow on. Soon Instant Reef becomes Artificial Live Rocks.
  • Easy to Clean and Maintain.
  • Get the feel of the Ocean with a Coral Reef Aquarium at Fish Only Tank prices!

Some of those claims seem rather contradictory. (Live rocks without algae?) I’d also be interested to know how porous the fake corals really are. And at $349, the 27″-long ‘reef insert’ pictured above isn’t exactly cheap, though it’s clearly much less costly than the equivalent reef livestock.

Those qualms aside, personally I could imagine using these fake corals in a big fish-only display tank. It would beat racking metal halides over a ten-foot long aquarium. The company says it’s working on soft corals that move naturally, too, so the range looks like it’s evolving.

For other marine aquarists, anything fake in a tank will be the equivalent of those bubbling treasure chests they sell for goldfish. That’s my instinctive view, too, but fish-only tanks with lumps of tufa rock or even live rock can be boring affairs.

Perhaps it’s time to think again about faking it?

Got any views? Let us know in the comments below.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Lou 10.17.09 at 3:02 am

I had seen an ad in a trade magazine for instant reef. I’m thinking of getting back into salt water. I went to the website and saw the prices and thought “I’d rather buy live rock.” Some of the inserts run 800 dollars.

Frank 11.26.09 at 12:13 am

I think that the Instant Reef Corals look terrible, very fake and cartoonish! The artificial corals from Living Color are so much more realistic and I have even seen them used in Public Aquariums and Museums.

Take a look at their corals and aquariums….awesome!

manoj 06.22.10 at 4:36 am


I want to know which colors are suitable for artificial corals & reefs ,so that they are permanant in salt water, & not
remove after cleaning…


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