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Easy Beginner Corals Part 1: Zoanthids

Updated: Jul 24, 2021


Just a bunch of zoanthid coral frags
Author's zoa collection

Zoanthids or zoas for short, are an order of corals that is full of facinating colors. Pronounced "zoe-uh", it is also sometimes pronounced "zoos" (plural for zoo) by some Singaporean old bird reefers. Although I am intrigued by zoas, I wasn't planning on keeping them at the start because of horror stories about the lethal palytoxins they produce. I got over the fear quickly after seeing some reefers handle them with bare hands. If they could do it without gloves, then maybe it's not so bad. But when I do handle them I put on a pair of gloves because you never know when things go sideways.


Freshly fragged Sakura Sunrise Zoas

I've never had much problems with zoas except for that one time, more on that another time. Mostly, the problem is with how quickly they grow. Some zoas grow faster than others, and there are a few that should be considered pests if not for their beautiful colors. If I don't trim them in time, they can behave like war corals and end up taking over the frag stand.


Coral frags on a frag stand (aka egg crate)
Frag stand covered by Sakura Sunrise Zoas

Zoas can tolerate a range of water conditions. I've kept them in high nutrient as well as low nutrient waters. Both times, they were fine. When I wasn't on top of my water parameters and kH fell from my usual 7.7 down to 5.7, they were fine. Zoas are great corals, except that they're so hardy that you can't use them to alert you when water paramaters are off. Leave that to tenuis corals.


Once, I had a strange experience with the Fairy Dust Zoa. I stuck a Fairy Dust frag to a mostly shaded part of my rock to see if that would limit its growth rate. The zoa was happy. The colors were nice and bright, and like normal, it still opened during the day. But after some time, it "moved".


Zaothid coral moving
Fairy Dust getting a move on

I didn't notice it at first. The zoa was extending its neck out more than usual. Understandably, because it was reaching for light. What I missed out was that the zoa was sticking the side of its neck higher up along the rock. Gradually, that part of rock where the zoa stuck its neck became its new base and for months, it kept on doing the same thing until it got to where it now is. In all, it didn't move very much. Maybe an inch or slightly more but it was good effort. If a coral can move, I can get off my lazy butt and do something productive with my life.


Zoanthid coral frags
Blue Agave

I like to keep zoas in medium flow because that's when I get good growth and decent polyp extension. I've kept them in low flow and had even better polyp extension but lesser growth. I have had very good growth keeping them in high flow but it can take some time getting them there. If put in high flow from the start, zoas don't respond well and stay closed. The ones that I have in high flow were kept in medium flow at first and they grew into the high flow areas.


Zoanthid coral frags
These frags need to be fragged. L-R: Sunflower, Fairy Dust, Supernova, Magician

To put it all together, zoas are great for beginners. They come in so many colors and can tahan a range of water conditions. Given bad lighting, they have the ability to move. Whether in low, medium or high flow, they can usually manage. Finally, and this is new, zoas are very affordable. I can buy many zoa frags for $20 and under. Some go for just $10. Although there are premium zoas that cost more than a hundred bucks per polyp, as a beginner, it's better to stick with the cheaper ones first before moving up later in the game.


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