Coral Reef Food Chain Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Sarah Meers

Sarah has taught elementary education for 10 years and has a master's degree in Education Leadership.

In this lesson, you'll learn how energy is transferred from the sun, to plants, to animals in order to support the organisms that live in the coral reef. You'll see how primary producers, primary consumers, and secondary consumers depend on each other for survival.

What is a Food Chain?

Have you ever wondered how a shark gets the energy to be the most feared predator in the ocean? Would you believe that is starts with an organism so small you need a microscope to see it? The coral reef, an underwater ecosystem that is the home of 25% of the oceans plants and animals, supports a food chain that includes thousands of different creatures, including the shark!

A food chain is the path that allows living things to get the energy they need to survive. Food chains start with the sun, move through plants and end with animals. For this lesson, we're going to learn about four levels in a coral reef food chain: primary producers, primary consumers, secondary consumers, and decomposers. Each level in the food chain gets its energy from eating the plant or animal in the level before it.

Primary Producer

A primary producer makes its own energy from the sun. Coral reefs need to live close to the surface of the water in order to collect the light energy from the sun. These unique organisms create their own food by transferring the sun's energy into chemical energy, using photosynthesis. In this ecosystem, the primary producers are plankton and algae. Have you ever watched the show Spongebob Squarepants? Plankton would be a primary producer.

Algae uses the sun to create energy and grow on the coral.

Primary Consumer

An animal that has to consume, or eat, something else in order to get energy is called a consumer. They cannot make their own food to get energy.

The primary consumer is always a plant eater. They can be an herbivore, which is an animal that only eats plants, or an omnivore, which eats plants and animals to get energy. In the coral reef, you'll find many primary consumers. Two of the most common are sea cucumbers and parrot fish. Sea cucumbers eat the bacteria in the sand and digest clean sand to make sure the coral reef is healthy. Parrot fish eat the algae that grow on the reef. Other examples of primary consumers are the blue striped snapper, angelfish, sea sponges, and shrimp.

Spongebob would be a primary consumer. Although in the show he eats Crabby Patties, in real life, sponges eat organisms that float in the oceans currents, like plankton.

Angelfish feed on the producers found in the coral reef.

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