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SPS and LPS Coral: Your Guide to Care and Feeding

Sworls of Montipora aequituberculata, a core coral, attract fish at Jarvis Island National Wildlife Refuge in the Pacific, about 1,300 miles southwest of Honolulu. (Jim E. Maragos/USFWS)

Corals are among the most diverse and beautiful species of animals on the planet.
LPS coral and SPS coral make for amazing pets but require certain knowledge and equipment.

Coral Biology 101

As with any animal, it is necessary to to appreciate and understand their biology in order to best care for them.

Polyps are individual organisms that make up colonies of corals and anemones. Different species of polyps coalesce to form coral reefs. Countless types of fish and other marine life depend on the coral reefs for shelter.

Their vibrant colors and dreamlike shapes have captured the fascination of many marine biologists and nature lovers throughout history. Ernst Haeckel’s illustrations brilliantly presents their dazzling geometry. They can make unique pets that will stand out in any room of the house.

Unfortunately, changes in the aquatic ecosystems have devastated many coral reefs across the oceans. Much of this is due to human activity.

What Kinds of Corals are there?

More than two thousand species of corals have been described. They have a diverse and complex family tree.
Most can be categorized as soft or hard corals, the latter use calcium carbonate to strengthen their skeleton.
For this article we will focus on hard corals. Two of most popular types of coral for home saltwater aquarium enthusiasts are large polyp stony (LPS) and small polyp stony (SPS) corals.
The type of coral you choose will have an impact on the maintenance it requires. Inform yourself so you can choose what best suits your needs.

Getting Started

You will need to make an investment of time and money to own and maintain healthy corals in your home aquarium.

What You Will Need:

  • Aquarium/tank – What size are you looking for? Do you want an acrylic or a glass tank?
  • Lighting supplies
  • Filtration system
  • Powerhead – a type of underwater pump that creates currents to mimic those of the ocean
  • Saltwater/sea salt mix
  • Live rock
  • Test kits – You will need to ensure that salinity, pH, toxin concentrations, and other parameters are within acceptable limits
  • Heater/thermometer
  • Aquarium tools – includes cleaning tools, containers, nets and other equipment

LPS vs SPS Coral

LPS Coral

  • Less expensive lighting equipment required
  • Less maintenance (relatively)
  • More likely to breed in captivity
  • More aggressive

LPS coral are generally easier to maintain than SPS. However, it is still a challenge and you can just forget about it like that sad, forgotten plant in the office lounge. But with the right knowledge and equipment you can enjoy the company of these fascinating creatures.

SPS Coral

  • greater lighting requirements
  • greater flow requirements
  • more sensitivity to toxins

Experts consider maintaining SPS coral a more difficult feat compared to LPS coral. If you succeed here you will surely gain the respect of your fellow saltwater aquarium enthusiasts.

Feeding: Direct vs Indirect vs Zooxanthellae Algae

Zooxanthellae Algae

Zooxanthellae algae are a type of plankton that live in symbiosis with coral, jellyfish, and other ocean creatures. They rely on photosynthesis for energy. The host coral provides the zooxanthellae will shelter, nutrients, and an elevated position receive extra sunlight. In return, the coral receives up to 90% of its energy and oxygen requirements from the products of photosynthesis.

Great results will happen when you routinely spot feed 2-3 times per week or broadcast feed 1-2 capfuls per 10 gallons. Whenever possible, it is best to spot feed corals and filter feeding inverts from a small syringe or baster.

Direct Feeding

Corals with larger tentacles and mouths can be feed directly with macroscopic prey. This includes shrimp, fish, squid, krill, phytoplankton, and others. This type of feeding is appropriate for many types of LPS coral.

It is good idea to buy coral food that comes in a variety of particle sizes. Different size polyps will prefer different sizes and types of seafood. It is best to have variety in both food type and particle size.

Indirect Feeding

This occurs when coral absorb dissolved nutrients from the water. This happens naturally when fish eat food and then excrete the nutrients that the coral can then use.

You can mimic this process in your own home. Clownfish, damselfish, firefish, and blue-green chromis are examples of fish that make good neighbors for coral. Be sure that you buy LPS fish food that will contain ingredients that coral can utilize, such as plankton and shrimp.

Lighting

Corals need light to survive. Remember, corals depend on the photosynthetic zooxanthellae that live in them for energy and oxygen. This is why corals are only found in shallow ocean water.

Generally speaking, hard corals require more light than soft corals. SPS corals have even lighting demands than LPS corals. SPS/LPS corals do best with very high output (VHO) fluorescent lighting. Alternatively, compliment non-VHO T5 fluorescent lighting with reflectors.

Keep in mind that using high-powered lights will probably generate a spike in your electric bill.

Flow requirements

Water currents help corals eat, get rid of waste products, reproduce, and carry out biochemical processes such as photosynthesis and respiration.

Too little current results in dead zones of stagnant water and the nutrients will not disperse evenly throughout the tank.

Signs of much current include the presence of sand piles from being pushed around. The flow may even be strong enough to kick up from the bottom of the tank.

Most LPS corals do best with a medium current. If the flow is at the right setting, the longer tentacles present on some corals, such as Euphyllias, will be extended and should gently sway with the current.

SPS corals require a stronger flow than LPS corals. This is because they need better water quality to thrive.

Toxins: Nitrates and Phosphates

Maintaining a healthy saltwater aquarium depends on keeping toxins at acceptable concentrations. Two of the most common offenders that can accumulate and devastate your corals are nitrates and phosphates.

They promote the growth of toxic algae blooms, a condition known as green water. Also, nitrates hurt the ability of SPS coral to produce their skeleton.

Bacteria living in your aquarium act as natural filtration system. They produce nitrates as by product after breaking down ammonia and nitrites, which are extremely harmful. Unfiltered tap water or certain sea salt mixes can be another source of unwanted nitrates.

Phosphates are produced naturally in your aquarium. Decaying plants, left over food, fish feces, dead fish, contaminated water, and commercial aquarium chemicals are all potential sources.

Final Thoughts

LPS coral and SPS coral make great pets for serious enthusiasts. They are fascinating to watch and will surely wow your guests.

But no one is going to be impressed by your bleached, dying coral. Not to mention, neglecting them is akin to animal cruelty.

So make sure you are prepared to take on this responsibility. Don’t go it alone. Count on us for all your saltwater aquarium and coral needs.

 

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What’s Makes a Bounce Mushroom Coral so Special?

They’ve bounced their way into the hearts of reef aquarium hobbyists and coral lovers all over the world. And who can blame the recipients and seekers of these beautiful additions?

After all, bounce mushroom corals have so much to offer everyone: divers, researchers, enthusiasts and more.

But what’s all the hype about? We’ll walk you through the underwater world of the bounce mushroom coral here so you understand exactly why you need one in your aquarium.

Bounce Mushroom Coral, Meet World

At first glance, any beginning collector might stop and wonder why someone would want such a strange coral.

Because bounce mushroom corals are strange.

But the truth of the matter is, most people won’t be able to appreciate these marine species until they know more about them.

The Mystery

The most important notion to understand about a bounce mushroom coral is that it’s a little mysterious.

We know they start out as Rhodactis coral, a furry mushroom coral found mostly in the Indo-Pacific. What we don’t know is exactly what prompts Rhodactis corals to enlarge the polyp tissue, creating the bouncy “bubbles” we adore.

Most researchers believe the enlargement is due to irregular lighting and water conditions not commonly found in nature. With advents in aquarium lighting, this theory is plausible.

Either way, the mysteriousness of the coral makes it all the more sought after.

Rarity

It’s no secret that limited editions garner consumer interest. Marketers use this method, which is called scarcity marketing, to sell items.

Not only does it draw attention and make that item even rarer but it also increases the desire for that item. OnePlus mobile phones, for instance, sold a million smartphones without a physical store.

Apply this concept to the marine world and you have immediate intrigue.

Such is the story of the bounce mushroom. These corals are very rare in the wild, adding to the speculation that aquarium settings induce the enlargement process.

In the ocean, the Rhodactis demonstrate little bubble formation. Divers must look for these corals with hopes they will flourish into bounce mushrooms.

So there isn’t someone behind the wheel only making a few hundred to sell at exorbitant prices; at the moment, mother nature doesn’t create enough for the demand.

Shrouded in mystery and naturally rare? Can you already understand the hype? But there’s more to the story than even these factors.

Value

Because bounce mushrooms are rare and because no one’s positive about their creation methods yet, it’s natural for the price of these corals to skyrocket.

In fact, to date, these corals are the “single most expensive coral polyps ever sold in the aquarium hobby.” One polyp of some variations runs for up to $10,000.

By far, the most sought-after type is the OG Bounce Mushroom, which produces vibrant orange “bubbles” overtop a purple and green base.

Ease of Care

Bounce mushroom corals are excellent for beginner or professional aquarists.

These creatures don’t require too much looking after.

Place your bounce mushroom towards the bottom of the tank. Set your PAR lights to 75 to 150.

Aside from this, there isn’t much else to worry about. Bounce mushrooms handle a variety of water parameters and don’t require feeding. Sticking with the basic maintenance is enough to keep them happy.

Furthermore, they play nicely with other aquarium residents. Owners don’t have to worry about one type competing with the other. Fish also don’t find these type of corals delectable, so death at the hands of our hungry friends isn’t a worry.

In fact, leaving mushroom corals alone is usually enough to let them thrive and, possibly, promote budding.

Propagation Abilities

If you’re considering propagating, bounce mushrooms are ideal. The easiest method to create more of these beauties is through fragging.

Take a scalpel and cut through the coral in one straight line to create two pieces. It’s suggested owners leave a small piece of the oral cavity in each frag, so try cutting through the mouth.

These critters can take the fragging process without much harm. They usually bounce back (pun intended) within days.

In addition to having outside help, these corals may reproduce without aid.

One method involves pedal laceration.

During pedal laceration, the coral moves away from the initial area. As it does so, it breaks off part of its pedal and leaves the segment behind. That segment becomes another coral.

The second method is fission. During this process, the coral splits into two or more colonies.

Variety of Types

Luckily for collectors and enthusiasts, the wide variety of types means there’s something for everyone.

Not every flavor of bounce shroom is faint-worthy expensive. In fact, many offer beautiful additions to the aquarium at affordable prices. 

One of the most dazzling types on the market is the Gonzo Golden Dragon Mushroom. It offers a pink and purple backdrop with golden polyps. The gold contrasts with the multi-colored bubbles, which can appear pink, purple or aqua.

This is yours for only $170.

Another viable option is the Sunkist Bounce Mushroom. It comes in a variety of vibrant colors.

Regardless of funds, there’s a bounce mushroom on the market to meet your budget.

Aesthetics

Of course, one of the main reasons people are drawn to these corals is their fun and beautiful nature.

The bubbles add an air of playfulness to your aquarium and create a dash of color. Because of this, bounce mushrooms offer fantastic centerpieces.

On top of the fun nature is the sheer volume of possibilities. Collectors can purchase corals of almost every color: orange, blue, yellow, green, pink and more.

The Neptune Bounce Mushroom even has sandy-colored bubbles set in a blue base.

The options in your tank are endless, and every enthusiast can find a bounce mushroom to fit into his or her aquarium.

Where Can I Meet My Coral?

There are several reasons hobbyists are flocking to the bounce mushroom coral. And those reasons have less to do with a new trend and more to do with the incredible characteristics that make up these species.

Are you ready to add one to your aquarium?

If so, browse our collection of mushroom coral and find the perfect addition for your underwater world.

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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.

What Are Zoanthids?

Zoanthids are immobile marine animals that eat like jelly fish. The tentacles around a zoanthids’ mouth contain explosive stinging cells that release toxins, allowing them to eat small crustaceans like copepods.

They reproduce sexually, or sometimes asexually under the right conditions, and thrive in higher light, higher flow environments.

Your pair of Scrambled Eggs polyps will multiply along a fleshy chain called a stolon, or runners. As new zoanthid polyps form, they stick with old ones and cover rocks, stable hard-ground, or even a snail’s shell.

New polyps could form anywhere from 1 to 5 times a month or more depending on the water conditions, level of stability, and amount of food you feed them.

Different Features of Zoanthids

With over 100 unique varieties of polyps to choose from, picking just one to start your collection seems impossible. The funny names could give you an idea of which color schemes to keep together, but the perfect arrangement depends on your eye.

Here are three of the most breathtaking zoanthid features to include in your tank:

Their Dramatic and Dynamic Colors

Reefers appreciate zoanthids for their brilliant pop of color. Varieties like Super Saiyan showcase the fantastic expression of these little alien coin-like sea critters. The stark contrast of the neon green tentacles surrounding ‘a warm afternoon orange’ colored mouth will catch your eye every time.

Their Mesmerizing Tentacle Tips

To recreate a lush alien planet, you won’t need Avatar’s $237 million budget. You’ll just need some blue zoanthids with neon green tips. Under that already mesmerizing blue LED moonlight, your fluorescent living carpet with glow like the mother-ship is returning home.

Their Unusual Colors

All the free polyp lovin’ under the sea has led to some fascinating zoanthids color combinations, but the most amazing feature about this species’ biodiversity is the presence of the color orange. The ethereal hum of Gatorade zoanthids’ orange color blue-lit underwater has lead many sailors to their ruin. Similarly, yellow zoanthids create a pleasantly radioactive and dusty glow.

The Essentials of Zoanthids Care

Newbie refers and experts alike adore Zoanthids because they’re easy to care for and relatively inexpensive. However, there are somethings you’ll need to learn to keep your tropical reef carpet happy.

What Do They Eat?

Zoanthids love to eat! Happy and well-feed zoanthids grow quickly so make sure to feed them regularly. Some things you can feed zoanthids include:

  • Specially engineered coral reef food
  • Brine shrimp, krill, plankton and copepods
  • Rotifers, lancefish and bloodworms
  • Sunlight (through photosynthesis)
  • Vitamin and amino acid supplements

Just mix any food you want to feed your zoanthids with a bit of tank water and squirt it over the polyps with a turkey baster. It’s crazy to see the tentacles grab particles from the water and bring them in to the mouth. It’s alive!

Here Comes The Sun

While zoanthids are simple to propagate and popular among beginners for their tolerance of a wide range of light intakes, they thrive best in high light environments. With more light, your polyps will grow bigger and faster, and have better, brighter colors.

Keep Things Stable

If you have one job with zoanthids, it’s to keep things stable. A drop in temperature overnight shrivels the tentacles and fades the color.

Keep the temperature consistent between transitioning seasons if you want these little dudes to survive. The ideal temperature seems to be around 78°F.

You’ll also want to run frequent tests to check the salinity, alkalinity, and the magnesium and calcium levels of your water. Change the water regularly to replace the easily depleted alkalinity, and the minerals consumed during coral growth. This will also remove excess nutrients to maintain the tank water’s stability.

Things To Watch Out For

Your new underwater space creatures wouldn’t be so gosh darn interesting without a little danger. These wiggling water aliens even have their own version of chicken pox.

Toxicity

Yes, unfortunately these beautiful creatures contain polytoxin, a powerful blood-slowing poison. Chances are you won’t die from handling a zoanthids, but don’t go rubbing a fresh cut on your hand against one or try to kill them with boiling water.

It’s best to wear gloves when handling zoanthids and goggles when cutting them to avoid actual poison squirting up into your eye.

Wash your hands with soap and water after handling.

Zoa Pox

Chicken noodle soup won’t solve this case of the pox.

Zoa pox is a disease that spreads deep inside the zoa stocks, leaving small white or yellow marks that appear most clearly when the coral is closed and in the dark.

Two reefers probably couldn’t agree on the main cause of the disease. Some say it’s a breech in feeding schedule, while others point to a rouge voltage. Most just blame it on a stressful change in temperature for the zoanthids.

To remedy your zoanthids’ case of the pox:

  • Turn off the lights in the tank for a while to allow the zoanthids to close up some before treatment (some may not even opened with the light due to the infection)
  • Add one pack of Furan-2 per two cups of tank water in a disposable container
  • Stir for several minutes or until medication is completely dissolved (this might take a while)
  • Add closed polyps to medicated solution
  • Soak zoanthids for no longer than 30-minutes
  • Lightly agitate the water to reincorporate settled medicine
  • Repeat once every 24 hours for three days
  • Rinse zoanthids with tank water in a second container to remove excess medicine and pox residue from coral before returning to tank
  • Wait 4-7 days to assess healing before repeating

Get Your Zoanthids Carpet Garden Started

Now that you know the basics of zoanthid care, it’s time to grow your mystic underwater collection. Start out with cheaper varieties to test your set up and maintenance abilities. Some variations cost a little as $5 per polyp.

Pick up your favorite zoanthids, soft corals and more from the Chaos Aquaculture Store here.

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The Chaos Aquaculture Difference

I get asked a lot how we do what we do, and what makes us different.   The answer to that isn’t any single reason, it’s the amalgamation of many different strengths from different people. 

Our one common bond is our love of coral and reef tanks.  Regardless of the amount of amazing corals that pass through our hands, we still stop short and marvel at them all.   Coral feeding still captivates us.   Seeing new growth is fuel to our fire.   

Reefing experiences aside, our professional backgrounds have helped propel Chaos forward and put us on the map.   With a combined 40 years experience founding, running, and growing various businesses, we were able to take all that we learned separately and apply it to the coral trade.    The most important aspect of business we’ve learned over the years has been customer service.   We pride ourselves on taking care of our clients and strive to be known as the best in the business in that regard.

We also started Chaos very differently than most other farms start.  The majority of coral vendors start as hobbyists in a small frag tank with a few corals that they’ve had luck with.    Others simply start with a little magnetic frag rack on their main display.    That’s pretty much the opposite of the way Chaos goes about things.    We started by renting a warehouse and putting 1,400 gallons of frag space in.    Then we loaded it with the best equipment the market had to offer.    Our entire farm runs on Ecotech Marine lights, pumps, and wave makers.    Vertex skimmers keep the water clean, and BRS reactors polish it.    RODI I handled with by a custom built AquaFX unit.    Chaos came strong out of the gate and we’re here to stay.     

As cliche as it sounds, at the end of the day it’s team work that makes the dream work.   That’s how we get it done at Chaos Aquaculture.     

-Mike Tavares

-President, Chaos Aquaculture LLC

-Reef Dork since ’94