Zoanthid Coral (Zoas) Care: The Complete Guide

zoas

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So you want to keep zoas in your reef tank? 

And, now you need to know everything is out there about Zoanthids care. 

I can’t blame you.

The same moment I saw zoas for the first time, I fell in love with the idea of having a beautiful zoanthid garden in my tank. 

Many reefers are obsessed with Zoanthids. 

And why they wouldn’t be. They are incredibly beautiful, colorful and easy to care for. Everything that coral enthusiasts wish for. 

If you are interested in keeping zoas, then you are going to love this guide. 

Without further ado, let’s jump in. 

Zoanthids Identification

Fruit Loops, Orange bam bam, Red Hornets. Utter chaos, Fire and Ice. If you haven’t guessed already, those are the names of some of the popular types of Zoanthids. And there are many more. I don’t know where the names come from, but we can both agree that some of them are pretty awesome.

How can you distinguish Zoanthids from each other you might ask? Sometimes is very difficult to tell the difference. There are a lot of different types of zoanthids in the oceans, which makes them difficult to identify.

What are Zoanthids?

Did you know that Zoanthids are not corals, even though they are often referred to as? I was surprised when I first heard it too.

After all, everyone in the reefing communities calls them corals. But, they are categorized as sea colonial anemones. Interesting isn’t it?

However, because most of the people on the internet search them like that, I’ll refer to them as corals further in this article.

Zoanthids also known as zoas by hobbyists, inhabit a wide range of areas of water in the oceans. They are so widespread that you can find them in shallow waters, deep waters and other marine habitats.

Zoanthids Coral Care

Zoas are one of the coolest corals you can keep. They are relatively easy to take care of, they come in so many unusual colors and varieties, and they can grow fast.

And the best of all? They are fairly inexpensive. Well, most of them. There are rare specimens that only some of us can afford buying them. Not me, for sure. Not yet.

You’ve probably been told that zoas love dirtier water. I’ve heard and read that statement on so many occasions too. Is it true, though? Well, it’s true and false at the same time. Now you are probably thinking what kind of nonsense he is talking about. Hear me out for a second.

Even though zoas will live in dirtier water (nitrates and phosphates higher than usual) without a problem, they will not thrive in it. Maintaining stable water parameters will always be the best way to keep corals. Zoanthids or any other. Keep that in mind and your success will be inevitable.

What are the ideal water parameters for keeping Zoanthids? Glad you asked.

Keep the temperature approximately 78 degrees Fahrenheit. The salinity should be between 1.024 and 1.026 specific gravity. Hardiness between 8 to 12 dKH, and the pH between 8 and 8.4.

If you can keep the water conditions between those lines, I am confident that you will have healthy zoas in your reef tank.

When it comes to fragging zoas, you may encounter some difficulties. You might be thinking now, but isn’t fragging zoanthids easy?

Yes, it is. And Zoanthids grow fast. In no time you’ll have a full tank of them. But, it’s not everything great as it sounds it. Some types of zoas contain a deadly toxic substance, so you need to be careful handling them. More on that later in this article.

Zoanthids Lighting & Placement

Acclimate your Zoanthids before you introduce them in your reef tank. Try to mimic the conditions they have been before, whether you bought them in an aqua shop or from a fellow hobbyist. Some types of zoas like more light, some less. Experiment until you find the perfect position.

When it comes to water flow, moderation is the key. Too much flow can cause retraction of the polyps, too little and the zoas will receive fewer nutrients through the water.

How do you know if the water flow is appropriate? Examine the corals closely to see if there is a retraction of the polyps.

Zoanthids Feeding

All corals grow faster when fed. It’s the same case with Zoanthids. And zoas love to eat! But, the question is can you keep them healthy and good looking without additional feeding, knowing that the light is their first source of food. Probably, but I will not recommend it.

A good lighting system will not be sufficient for optimal growth. You are only half there. To see them in their full potential, additional feeding is required. Zoas will accept most of the food you’ll offer them, however, I heard that some variations might be picky.

Are Zoas Toxic?

I’ve seen a lot of buzz around this topic all over the internet. At least in the reefing communities. And that’s a good thing. It’s something that needs to be discussed over and over again. Awareness must be raised. 

Beginner reefers often make mistakes, however, this is not a mistake you want to make. And I’ll tell you why. 

Some types of Zoanthids can contain palytoxin.

If you are not familiar with that term, I can tell you that’s the most toxic substance known to humans. It can be lethal. It’s the last thing you want to introduce in your home aquarium and be exposed to. But, things are not that bad. It rarely happens, however, make sure that you handle these corals carefully. 

Isn’t it interesting how sometimes the most beautiful creatures can be the most dangerous as well? Nature at its finest. 

How can be sure that a coral is poisonous? 

The truth is you can’t be. Not every zoanthid has palytoxin within it. There are few types of Zoanthids known that for sure contain this powerful toxin, such as Palythoa species and Zoanthus species. But you can’t be sure even if you don’t have zoas in your tank. If you’ve bought a live rock when you’ve set up your tank, then you might have them without knowing. 

That’s why the wise thing is to always presume that all zoas have it, and take appropriate precautions when handling them. 

Rules to Follow to Keep You Safe from Coral Poisoning 

  • Try to minimize your contact with these corals. 
  • Always wear gloves and protective eyewear when handling with zoas
  • Work with your corals only underwater 
  • Avoid touching zoas if you have open wounds

Zoanthids for Sale

One of the reasons why zoas are so popular is that they are available in so many different varieties and colors. They come in different price ranges too. In fact, there are zoas for every budget. You can find small frag for a couple of dollars, or if you are into high-end corals there are also some pretty rare Zoanthids. It’s your choice after all. 

In the past years, the number of hobbyists that collect rare pieces of zoas has increased dramatically. It’s incredible how much can people spend on a single coral. But that’s a topic for a different discussion. 

Where can I buy zoas? 

These types of corals are so widespread that you can find them in almost every local fish store. In case you are not satisfied with the quality, there is always an option to buy them online. Worldwidecorals.com is a good place to start. 

How to pick a healthy Zoanthid

Even though zoas are pretty tolerant towards poor conditions, you’ll have better success if you pick a healthy zoanthid. How do you know if that’s a quality specimen? 

Check the colors first. If the individual polyps are colorful and not washed-out that’s probably a healthy zoa. Then observe carefully to see its tentacles. If they are out and not retracted, it’s a sign of a healthy zoanthid.

Final Thoughts 

Possessing a theoretical knowledge before you purchase zoas for your tank is going to save you a ton of grief. Combine that with the experience you’ll get down the road, and I can guarantee that you will be successful at keeping these magnificent animals. 

If you ask me, Zoas are one of the best corals for beginner reefers. And many other reefers agree with that. They can tolerate a wide range of conditions, they are colorful, and they can be found in many varieties. 

Now, I’d like to hear from you. What’s your favorite type of Zoanthids? Let me know in the comments. 

Featured image: doctorlynebula CC BY 2.0 

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