Zoanthid Care & Info

Zoanthid care & info

When it comes to corals for home reef aquariums, there are few genera out there that come close to Zoanthus (plural: Zoanthids) in terms of collectability. There are so many colors and varieties of this species (lovingly referred to as ‘Zoa’s’) available, it’s hard to not devolve into a frenzy of trying to have them all.

Best of all? Zoanthid corals can be grown by beginners and the more basic morphs are very affordable. Keep reading for everything you need to know about Zoanthid care and growing this fascinating coral in your own reef tank.

Name (Common, Scientific) Zoanthus, Zoa, button coral, Zoo, colony polyp, button polyp, Zoanthus
Temperature ~78 °F
Salinity 1.023-1.025
pH 8.0-8.4
Difficulty level Easy
dkH 8-12

Zoanthid coral appearance

Their appearance is what has made these corals so immensely popular among aquarists. Zoanthids consist of a stem (stolon) with an often colorful polyp. They’re soft corals that grow in a colonial manner, meaning they can form spectacularly dense mats. A large mat of Zoa’s is quite a sight to see, with their almost fluorescent (often green) coloration and psychedelic circular patterns.

The genus Zoanthus contains a bunch of different species and even more color morphs. Just a few examples should be enough to explain why reef keepers love collecting Zoa’s:

  • Purple and peach (Zoanthus ‘Pineapple Express’)
  • Bright pink (Zoanthus ‘Pink Sakura’)
  • Green, yellow and blue (Zoanthus ‘Rasta’)
  • Dark red and dark purple (Zoanthus ‘Red People Eater’)
  • Orange and blue (Zoanthus ‘Punk Rocket’)

Need we go on? Prices for these different Zoa’s obviously vary, but even for less than $30 you should be able to get a few nice polyps to start your collection.

Zoanthid care

As mentioned in the introduction, Zoanthid care is pretty straightforward and these corals can be grown by beginners. They do well in standard reef parameters (see the table above) and only require low to moderate light and flow. As long as things are stable, your Zoas should be happy!

Zoanthids are not known for being particularly aggressive towards other corals. In fact, they can often be the victim of other species’ defensive sweeper corals. Combined with the fact that their colonizing nature does mean they can overgrow their neighbors, it’s a good idea to leave at least a little bit of space.

Feeding Zoanthids

Zoanthid corals have two ways of feeding, just like many other coral species. They host Zooxanthellate algae, which provide them with nutrients through their own ability to photosynthesize.

In addition to the nutrients provided by their symbiotic Zooxanthellae, Zoanthids can actually feed by hunting. Their tentacles catch and kill small creatures with ease.

The problem is that the small creatures in question are not present in sufficient numbers in our overly ‘clean’ home aquariums. As such, your Zoa’s will benefit from supplemental feedings of small frozen foods.

How to frag Zoanthids

Fragging (dividing) Zoanthid corals is technically a breeze, which is part of what has allowed them to become so popular in the aquarium hobby. Before attempting to frag yours, though, please refer to the paragraph below!

Once you’re all caught up on Zoanthids’ dark side, go ahead and whip out your protective equipment (goggles, sturdy gloves and preferably a face mask).

Make sure you have your plan ready to avoid mistakes! Lay out out the razors and coral cutters you’ll need, as well as rock, frag plugs and glue. For more details, check out this reef2reef post.


Before you even consider adding Zoanthid corals (or their cousins, Palythoas) to your aquarium, think for a second about the fact that they contain DEADLY neurotoxin: Palytoxin.

No, not all Zoa’s can kill you, nor will they attack you while you sleep. However, it’s incredibly important to know that this toxin is released as an aerosol. That means you should be wearing protective equipment while handling Zoas.

You should never let Zoas be exposed to heat (like from trying to kill them with boiling water or letting them come close to hot aquarium lights). Handling colonies should be done underwater only and if you’d like to try your hand at fragging, you should do so with the utmost caution as well as a solid plan of action.

Need help?

An aquarium full of colorful, healthy Zoanthid colonies is an absolute joy to see. Setting up and maintaining a reef is no small task, though. Especially if your corals contain neurotoxin!

Short on time or feel like you lack the specialist knowledge? Contact FantaSEA Aquariums with your fish tank ideas or struggles so we can help you out.