Beginner Corals: Zoanthids

There are some pretty spectacular corals to discover in this hobby! But it took me a few years before I really appreciated the variety and beauty of zoanthids. They come in almost every colour combination you could imagine and with crazy names like blow-pops, yellow brick roads, tootie fruitti, and it just gets crazier from there! While some of the more popular and sought after zoanthids have creative aliases, there are hundreds more available that are no less impressive under actinic lighting. Zoanthids that look dull or even plain boring in a store tank under daylight LED’s or bulbs could look spectacular under actinic lighting!

Beautiful purple zoas with green skirts (aka Blow Pops)

Pests & Coral Dips

Before you place your prized zoa’s in your tank, there’s a few things to consider. Firstly, whether or not you’re going to dip your new corals and in what. I would strongly suggest doing some serious research on which pest removing coral dip you want to use. Ultimately though, you’re trying to clean the coral of algae and remove predatory pests (and their eggs) that feed on the coral. For zoanthids, you’re looking for Sundial snails, predatory (usually larger) amphipods, Zoa Spiders, Nudibranchs and even some Asterina Stars have been blamed for munching on zoanthids. Careful inspection, a good coral dip and some careful work with a toothbrush, if needed, are good practices before placing your new zoas.

A small zoa frag can quickly cover it’s plug and become a bright mini colony.

Placement & Care

Most zoanthids prefer less intense lighting conditions and do well on rock walls or areas with indirect lighting. If they are noticeably ‘reaching’ for light, then they could be moved higher up in the tank. Starting them out on a magnetic frag rack and gradually moving them up can help determine the best position for optimal  growth rates. It can also give you a chance to watch for any pests and hitchhikers that may have survived the dipping process. But if you don’t have a frag rack, or the patience for that, placing them in the lower half of the tank is usually good enough.

While they don’t require much more attention, regular feedings will increase growth rates and sometimes colouration. Powdered plankton and zooplankton products in the 150-250 micron particle size range seems to work well as a food source. Blending a slurry of frozen mysis shrimp and other meaty food products is also used by many zoa keepers with good success. But keep in mind that this also adds to nitrate and phosphate levels, whereas prepared zooplankton foods may not have such an impact.

Bright pink zoanthids under actinic lighting quickly spreading off their frag plug.

Zoanthids are typically considered fast growing corals and can quickly cover over slower growing corals if given the chance. They can be particularly bothersome to SPS corals and should be given adequate space to grow out. A few well placed frag plugs can act as a good barrier to protect slower growing corals. They can then be replaced as needed, giving you some fresh frags to trade in the process!