Caring for Zoanthids A to Z


Hey Salt-Nation, Jeff Hesketh here, In this article I’m going to cover everything you need to know about zoanthid care. We’ll start off with how to add them to your aquarium, We’ll talk about the their requirements and we’ll finish up with propagation methods. If you’re new to Mad Hatter’s Reef and/or saltwater aquarium I recommend you kick things off with our Start Here page.

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Zoanthids are a great beginners coral but unlike many beginner corals they are often found in most advanced hobbyist’s aquariums as well. These corals grow very well in new aquariums and they come in a wide range of colors and lighting requirements are almost non-existent. I’ve maintain, grown and propagated zoanthids for years and I still enjoy having them in all my aquariums.

Over the years I have found that Zoanthids or the gate way coral for many new hobbyist. I remember vividly, searching for my next zoanthid colony to add to my aquarium. There seems to be thousands of different morphs of zoanthids available to hobbyist with endless Colors to boot.

I also have an article on the top 10 zoanthids on the market today so be sure to check that out.

A word of caution; Some zoanthids many contain the dangerously toxic substance known as Palytoxin. Palytoxin is one of the most toxic organic substances found in the world, even in small quantities. Great care should be taken when handling zoanthids because palytoxin can make you extremely sick or can even be fatal should it enters the blood stream.

Adding Zoanthids to your Saltwater Aquarium

Dipping Zoathids in a treatment or iodine solution before adding them to your aquarium is the best method for avoiding aquarium pests. I’m a strong believer in preventing problems before they even start and the best way to avoid saltwater aquarium pest is to dip your corals. Dipping zoanthids is a great substitute for those reef keepers that do not have a quarantine tank setup to temporarily house new corals for observation and treatment. Sadly, dipping corals is often over looked when acclimation new corals and often leads to huge problems down the road.

I recommend using a product called Coral RX when dipping Zoanthids.

Zoanthid acclamation step-by-step:

This process should be followed step-by-step in conjunction with dipping zoanthids in a treatment or iodine solution.

  • Turn off the aquarium lights.
  • Dim the lights in the room where the shipping box will be opened. Never open the box in bright light.
  • Float the sealed bag in the aquarium for 15 minutes. Do not open the bag at this time. Doing this will allow the water in the shipping bag to adjust to the temperature in the aquarium.
  • Remove the bag from the aquarium.
  • Carefully cut the bag open over the 5 gallon bucket and gently empty the the bag, the livestock and including the water, into the bucket.
  • Using the airline tubing clip one end in the aquarium and clipping the other to the inside of the bucket. This step should be repeated for each bucket if you are acclimating multiply species at one time. You’ll need separate airline tubing for each bucket used.
  • Begin a siphon by sucking on the end of the airline tubing, then place the airline into the bucket. When water begins flowing through the tubing, adjust the drip using the airline valve, to a rate of 2-4 drips per second.
  • When the water volume in the bucket doubles, remove half and begin the drip again until the volume doubles a second time. Total acclimation time should be about one to two hours.
  • The livestock can now be added to the aquarium.
  • Disgard the remaining acclimation water in the buckets and replace the removed display tank water with fresh pre-mixed saltwater.

Zoanthid Care Requirements

For the most part caring for Zoanthids is very easy to accomplish and they don’t need any special requirements outside of proper saltwater aquarium parameters and moderate lighting. Below you will find some requirements listed as a quick reference guide.

Care Level:  Easy

Aggressiveness: Low to moderate. Generally not prone to stinging their neighbors, although they can grow so quickly that they overtake slower growing corals. Many do put chemicals into the water that can irritate other corals, so diligence in water changes and carbon use may be especially beneficial in a mixed reef that includes them.

Lighting Requirements: Low to moderate, although many will do fine under stronger lighting if properly acclimated first.

Water Flow: Moderate. Excessive flow may prevent them from opening fully.

Tank Placement: Low to mid.

Water Quality: While every effort should always be made to provide good water quality for your tank inhabitants, these corals are generally quite forgiving.  This hardiness makes them idea for newer tanks still getting established.

Feeding:  Zoanthids grow much faster when we feed them. I use phytoplankton and rotifers in my Zoanthid propagation tanks to increase growth rates.

Zoanthid Coral Propagation

There are several methods of Zoanthid propagation and the approach I use often depends on what type of Zoanthids I’m growing, How fast it grows, how big the Zoanthid colony is, and how soon you plan on selling or trading the frag. Zoantharia are fairly forgiving and can take a lot more punishment then your average coral, making the very easy to propagate.

Fast recovery method:

I often use a wood chisels or screwdriver to remove a small amount of the live rock with a few polyps attached. This method is probably the best for an immediate recovery, I have witnessed zoanthids open back up within minutes. One of the draw backs of this method is you don’t have complete control over how much or where the live rock breaks, often making inconsistent frag sizes.

Set it and forget it method:

This method allows us to grow many Zoanthids plugs by using a plastic ring filled with Dixie cup frag plugs placed inside. The idea is to place a frag plug loaded with zoanthids in the middle of the plastic ring and allow the zoanthids to overgrow on to the other frag plugs. The plastic ring method can be harvested several times each year. The only drawback is the amount of time it takes for the coral to grow more and cover the neighboring frag plugs.

Zoanthids for Sale

I recommend all hobbyist to consider buying aquacultured zoathids and other corals. The aquaculture of marine life will not only protect the saltwater aquarium hobby but it will save the wild reefs from over collection.

In the end, aquaculture is a win win for everyone involved. By supporting aquacultured marine life we will be helping preserve the environment, and strengthening our communities with local jobs by investing our money closer to home.

My challenge to you, as you grow as a hobbyist is to simply inform yourself, educate others, buy aqua-cultured marine life when possible and by doing so will become a proactive representative for responsible reef keeping.

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