Ultimate Guide to Types of Zoanthids


Aquariums can house a number of incredible life forms. Choosing between critters depends on what you want out of your tank.

Many saltwater tank enthusiasts place zoanthids into their aquariums, as they bring the aquatic atmosphere to a whole new level. With so many types of zoanthids to choose from, where do you start?

Types of Zoanthids Explained 

Zoanthid refers to an order of cnidarians. These gorgeous, colorful creatures look like plants but fall into the animal kingdom.

The animal classification comes from the fact that plants make their own food, while these zoa’s cannot. These bizarre invertebrate animals are called polyps.

These creatures grow over rocky surfaces. As water passes over them, they capture bits of krill, brine shrimp, bloodworm, and other meaty foods.

They provide sanctuaries for a number of fish and other sea creatures and look stunning in live aquariums. Keep reading to learn more about the types of zoanthid corals!


These prized polyps remain incredibly popular in the fishkeeping hobby. You can care for them quite easily, plus they add lots of color to your tank. 

Around their oral opening, they display a distinct sphincter muscle, which you will not typically see on other forms of zoas. These guys grow in a mat of coenenchyme, or body tissues, and embed themselves into the tissues close to the mat.

Their coenenchyme does not contain sediment, making them more fragile than other zoanthids.

They display the most color out of the zoanthids. You will often find a deep contrast between their bright tentacles and oral disc, making them aesthetically pleasing in an aquarium.

One of the most popular types of Zoanthus includes button polyps. Many first-time coral buyers choose this type because they are the easiest coral to care for. 

They present with a flat oral disc on top of a short stalk. Their delicate tentacles come out from the outside of the disc. 

The button polyps come in a variety of colors. Despite the hue, actinic lighting will give them a glow in the dark appearance.


Palythoa polyps also grow out of coenenchyme from the substrate. Shorter tentacles surround their large, flat oral disc, but they lack the muscle seen on Zoanthus.

Their mouth is slit, rather than round. This animal grows in dome-shaped colonies.

They possess much thicker skin than Zoanthus. This is because they use sediment, such as sand and crushed shells when forming their coenenchyme.

This makes their skin feel rough to the touch. Though rough, they also feel quite slimy.

They come in a variety of shapes and colors. Though, their color palate is usually dull in color, and rarely neon.

This kind of zoanthid produces palytoxin. This dangerous fatty alcohol seeps into the water, creating a deadly environment for many other forms of sea life. 

If you carefully choose your organisms, you can still use Polythoa in your tank, as human poisoning is rare. But, make sure you use the proper safety equipment, like goggles and gloves, while cleaning your tank. 

Many aquarium lovers choose Palythoa Grandis for their tank. This large polyp looks cool and does not require the special lighting that other animals of this kind need.


Protopalythoa, also known as Protopalys, also embed their bodies into a mat of coenenchyme that they make out of the sediment.They often use stolons to connect themselves to the mat. You will notice this as they appear raised up on stalks, like flowers.

These guys do not tend to live in large colonies like the other zoanthids. Instead, this species tends to live alone.

They feel quite slimy in your hands. Though, the use of sediment in their coenenchyme also gives them the texture of sandpaper.

The Protopalys’ oral disk appears bigger than any of the other zoanthids’. They also grow the longest tentacles in the greatest abundance.

Their coenenchyme often appears brownish or another dull hue. But, their outer disc typically appears quite bright in color, making it beneficial to aquarium keepers to use fluorescing or actinic lighting.

Many fish lovers enjoy keeping the giant sun polyp. It is the biggest zoanthid. These guys need adequate lighting and good water flow.

Zoa Coral Care

As with any type of marine life, these unique creatures require good care. This starts with picking healthy zoa from the get-go.

Their coloring should not appear drab in comparison to other zoanthids of that type. Also, their tentacles should reach out, as retracted tentacles can indicate a health problem.

Putting too many in the tank will not create a healthy environment. You should pick a few Zoanthus or Palythoa, and only a single Protopaly.

They require strong water movement so that food particles constantly flow past them. You can create this current with the use of water pumps.

Watch their tentacles in the current. If they look retracted, then slow it down.

These creatures require moderate lighting. You want at least 4 to 5 watts of light per gallon of water in the tank. Taller aquariums require more light than wider aquariums, as the rays need to travel deeper.

Zoanthids do photosynthesize to a certain extent. They contain cells that turn the light into some food. 

But, you still need to feed them as well. Some people opt for special food sold by pet stores, while others choose to culture copepods on their own to feed their zoanthids.

Remember that these are very fragile creatures. You want to always handle them with care.

Always wear gloves, as they can be toxic. And only touch them, gently, when necessary, to avoid ripping their delicate coenenchyme.

Keep Zoanthids in Your Aquarium

Maintaining an aquarium gives you a close-up look into an alien world. These amazing creatures only enhance the experience.

You will find all types of zoanthids, and each provides a unique quality to your tank. Choose the right one that goes along with the rest of your aquarium’s ecosystem.

We want to help you create the aqua-system of your dreams. Shop for your favorite zoanthids on our website.

Zoanthid Care: A Guide for Your Home Aquarium

Zoanthid Care: A Guide for Your Home Aquarium

Are you looking to add unique tropical corals to your home aquarium? Check out this guide to learn more about zoanthid care.

Does your tank lack clusters of tangy blue and stripes of fuchsia? Is it missing a burst of orange from a polyp covered rock?

Zoanthids bring beautiful, subtle life to any tank with their otherworldly grow in vibrant and various colors. Whether you add reef staples like Fire and Ice, or indulge with a little Pineapple Express, the eye-catching effect on your tank will be undeniable.

This zoanthid care guide will tell you everything you need to know to start growing a psychedelic underwater shag carpet of your own. Continue reading Zoanthid Care: A Guide for Your Home Aquarium