Palythoa Coral Care
Zoanthids and Palythoa are a large group of corals in the reef keeping hobby. They come in an incredible range of colors and patterns making them very popular with both beginner hobbyists and rare coral collectors tracking down the uncommon color morphs. In terms of care, both Zoanthids and Palythoa are fairly easy to keep. They tolerate a wide range of lighting intensities and water conditions. Once settled in, zoas multiply quickly. Please see below for more care tips for Zoas and Palys as well as checking out our Top 5 Tips for setting up a reef.
A Quick Word on Identification
There is no scientific consensus on Zoanthid and Palythoa phylogeny. In layman's terms, it is unclear where Zoanthids end and Palythoa begin. What was once 300 identified species has been whittled down to around 50-60 in the past several years depending on the criteria used to differentiate the different morphs. There are new classification insights as more genetic testing is being done, but for the purposes of this hobby-focused website, we've chosen to arbitrarily lump larger polyp individuals into Palythoa and smaller polyp specimens into Zoanthids.
A Word of Warning
Some Zoanthids and Palythoa contain a powerful neurotoxin called palytoxin in its flesh that can be extremely harmful if it comes in contact with your blood stream. By harmful we mean deadly. Take special care handling these polyps for this reason especially if you have open cuts on your hands.
Zoanthids and Palythoa are found in corals reefs around the world. These polyps are harvested mainly from the islands of the Indopacific including Fiji, Tonga, Solomon Islands, and the Great Barrier Reef. Zoanthids and Palythoa have an incredible array of colors and patterns that make them one of the most popular corals in the reef aquarium hobby.
Zoanthids and Palythoa are not as demanding as other corals when it comes to lighting. They can be kept under a wide variety of lighting types, and are tolerant of both low and high light conditions. It is always wise however to acclimate new arrivals in lower light areas because it is far more likely to be damaged from overexposure than starve from underexposure.Low Light
Low light translates to about 30-50 PAR
Medium Light is between 50-150 PAR
High Light is anything over 150 PAR
Lighting is a loaded topic, so for a more in-depth discussion of lighting, please see our Deep Dive article.
Moderate to high water movement is recommended. Zoas and Palys benefit from enough flow to keep detritus from settling on them.
While both Zoanthids and Palythoa polyps derive much of their energy from the products of their zooxanthellae, they do have the ability to capture prey. Palythoa seem to feed much more readily than their Zoanthid counterparts. Take a look at the Palythoa feeding video below.
Both Zoas and Palys for the most part have been propagated extensively in captivity and are an excellent candidate for aquaculture. It is reasonable to believe that a sustainable harvest can be achieved in time. Take a look at the propagation video below for tips on how to frag Palythoa and Zoanthids.
Proper acclimation is extremely important considering the stress imposed on the animals by the shipping process. Please take a moment to review our Acclimation Guide.
The images were taken with a Canon 5D mk II and 100mm macro lens under T5 Fluorescent lighting. Quite a lot goes into how we go about shooting the corals and anemones you see on Tidal Gardens. For an in-depth look at our methods, check out our comprehensive Reef Aquarium Photography FAQ.