If you are thinking about growing corals at home, Zoanthids can be a great alternative. In case you don’t know it, aquarists and hobbyist do grow corals besides fish. They believe that all kinds of marine life can be brought into the home décor and they will serve the purpose just as well as the fish. Some people may grow fish and also corals at the same time. So, if you are thinking about having a marine life at home and yet you aren’t too much interested in the fish, then corals can be a great option.
Zoanthids corals, or often referred to as the Zoas, are quite popular for reef tanks option. There are several good reasons why aquarists and hobbyist love this particular type of coral. They are beautiful, coming in brilliant, bold, fluorescent, and amazing colors that will definitely attract everyone’s attention. They are also easy to frag – for propagation. They are quite easy to maintain and grow. It would be a perfect option for beginner aquarists who are still trying to grasp the proper maintenance and care. They are soft corals type, but they are hardy – in terms that they are quite sturdy and tough for most reef tank environment. Because of their easy growth and care, they are just perfect for everyone – beginner or advanced aquarists.
Zoanthids Identification and Taxonomy
The term Zoas corals is quite wide because it mainly refers to the big group of coral (button) polyp animals colony. The term can be confusing for some people because the reef systems are diverse and various in types. In order to make it easier to understand, the classification can be divided into 2 major ways:
- The way the colony develops and grows
- The genus where the corals belong
One way to determine what species and genus a Zoas colony belong to is through the colony’s growth form. The growth form can be divided into 3 major forms:
- Mat or massive. The Zoas is a part of Palythoa genus. The signature style is the mesoglea or coenchyme – an extremely thick mat. Not only thick, but it is also substantial that is responsible for the matter or weight of the colony itself. Some species may incorporate small parts of sand, rock, and other matters. The idea is to make the mat more solid. It should be structurally tough or supportive.
- Connected. As the name suggests, the colony is connected to each other by a thin runner or mat – typically at the base. The connective tissue is what’s called stolon.
- Solo or individual. Individual stalk can grow on its own. Individual here means that those stalks aren’t connected to each other at the base.
As we are already familiar with the different ways of Zoanthids growth, there are 4 major Genera groups that are quite popular and familiar for aquarium hobby.
Most Zoas have the so-called photosynthetic zooxanthellae
which mean that they can tolerate moderate lighting, at least. Some species with brighter colors can even tolerate intense lighting (from new LED lights gen or metal halide) – provided that it has been acclimated correctly and properly. Most of them are able to catch prey quite actively. Periodical and regular feeding is advisable if you want them to grow fast. Also make sure that you cut the food in appropriate sizes. Be advised, though, that feeding may not be required, but it doesn’t hurt if you try feeding them – and see how your Zoas react to the feeding.
Some things that you can learn about Zoas and their feeding manner:
- Feeding the Zoas is basically a breeze – there is nothing complicated or dramatic about it.
- If you use small particle food (such as Reef Roids), try mixing a (small) scoop of it with a little water (from the tank water). The food is dry so when it is mixed with the water, it would be thick with paste-like form
- It’s better to turn the aquarium pump off. All of them
- Suck up the pasty food with a special tool. You can use a turkey baster, a pipette, Julian’s Thing, or Sea Squirt. Place the food particle on every polyp – just a bit of it. And put it gently. If you can place the food as close as you can to the polyp’s center, it’s even better!
- Remember not to overfeed! If you just start, use very small and light portion. As you are more familiar with their feeding pattern (and you are sure that they eat it), then you can increase the amount. But do it very slowly. You need to do it gradually – not instantly.
The food mixture would be heavier and thicker (when compared to the water)
so it should fall on the polyp gently – if you can place it right. Observe as the polyps fold inward (very slowly), open the mouth, and the food would move inside the mouth. Many aquarists and hobbyists say that this is the best (and also the fastest) way to grow the corals. After all, corals are basically animals. Animals LOVE to eat. Although they get energy from their symbiotic zooxanthellae (which is located inside the tissue), there is nothing wrong about feeding them. Regular feeding will make them grow strong – and healthy. What if the polyps won’t eat? Try changing the food type or even the size. Some species only respond and eat specific food items or prey.
What is the right placement for the Zoanthids coral? Make sure that your aquarium has low medium flow – medium high flow is still acceptable and okay. But overly high flow would be an issue. Polyps won’t be able to open if the flow is too much. Spotting and finding out whether your Zoas are happy is pretty easy. If they seem to open up and they can extend fully without stretching too much upright, then they are in their happy place.
A lot of aquarists would look at the coral’s color to determine the intensity of light they can tolerate – which also leads to the proper placement of the corals. The more fluorescent and intense the color is, the more intense lighting they are able to handle. If they are more darkly, drab, or dull colored they are, they need more shaded areas.
If you are still confused of the proper placement, know where the corals were placed before. If a fellow aquarist gave you the corals or you buy them from a store, find out how those corals were situated. You can try recreating the similar environment in your own aquarium.
Caring for Zoanthids Properly
As it was mentioned before, Zoas are quite tolerable and forgiving when it comes to lighting. You can basically place it anywhere, but it isn’t advisable to place it on the most shaded or the brightest section – it would be too extreme for the coral. Plus, they have various beautiful colors with names such as Whamming Watermelon, Orange Bam Bam, Fruit Loops, or Fire and Ice. Believe me, they are super gorgeous with unique most contrasting hues.
Standard water parameter would be ideal for the Zoas. You want to achieve tropical (water) temperature, which is around 78 degrees Fahrenheit. Also try normal ocean salinity that is around specific 1.025 gravity, a pH between 8 to 8.4, and normal hardness between 8 dKH and 12 dKH.
It’s pretty common if Zoas don’t open up after transportation. They need time to adjust themselves. However, if the polyps were open before but now they are closing, it’s possible that they suffer from water parameter issue. Check the pH and salinity first.
Buying the Zoas
Finding the Zoas are pretty easy. You can try the local fish store or the online stores. The price is quite affordable from $5 to $10. It’s for small frags, mind you. If you want to go with the high-end corals with sophisticated or fancy names, the price can go up to $100 – per polyp.
There are rare Zoas with specific genes and unique color variations. These rare Zoas, as you have expected, will cost you a fortune. Some of them are given names like Bloodshots, Tyree Space Monster, Tazer, or Bubble Buster.
You should know that several polyp species of Zoanthids make polytoxin or a certain toxic chemical. Handle each specimen with extreme attention and care. The palytoxin will be responsible for neurological damage – if it gets to your eyes, your mouth, your nose, or get inside a cut. It is a must that you wear protective gear whenever you handle the Zoas – goggles and gloves are a must!
Although not all of Zoas produce palytoxin, you don’t want to take chances. If you share a house with another family member or friends, be sure to educate them about this matter. It’s also a good idea to keep a reef journal and tell them where it is – consider it to be the coral ‘bible’. But if you live alone, you don’t have to go all of these troubles.
Problems with Zoas
There are some problems that happen to your Zoas coral which can lead to them being dying or melting. Here are some common problems related to Zoas
- Zoa Pox
This is a disease that can affect your Zoas quite significantly. The characteristic is that you see tiny pustules or growths on the affected areas. It’s unsure whether those pustules are the ones that irritate the polyps so the polyps won’t open up OR those pustules cause the Zoas to sick so they close up entirely. In short, if you see the pox (the pustules), then your coral is sick. Some aquarists suggest using Furan-2 which is antibiotics. They say that the pustules are likely because of bacterial infection so it needs to be taken care of by antibiotics.
- Disappearing Zoas
If you put your Zoas with other creatures – fish or nudibranch – then you need to have a closer observation. Some fish may develop a certain appetite for coral polyps. So, if you place your fish with the Zoas, observe whether your Zoas slowly disappear a piece by a piece. Fish like angelfish, rabbitfish, or butterflyfish may like the ‘taste’ of your Zoas. Sometimes, small invertebrates that seemingly harmless may also be responsible for the disappearance of the Zoas. If you want to be completely safe, especially if this is your first time growing Zoas, then you want to have the entire aquarium for your Zoas only – and not mixing it up with other creatures.
Zoanthids are basically easy and fun to care for. They are beautiful and they can spark up your interior décor quite nicely – without drama or complication. However, always wear protective gear whenever you handle them. Don’t forget to wash your hands before and after the handle. By doing so, not only you make sure that you protect yourself, but you also protect your beautiful and brightly colored Zoanthids.