Fighting Irish Favia
Favia & Favites Coral Care
When it comes to diversity, it is hard to think of a more visually diverse group of corals than Favia. These brain corals develop multiple growth forms and come in just about every color and pattern imaginable. The diversity however is a little bit deceptive. Have you ever got the feeling that the term Favia covered a lot of corals that looked somewhat different? You are not alone.
Favia brain corals were one of the largest categories of large polyp stony corals in the reef aquarium hobby. At one time there were nearly 100 species of Favia but now that number dwindled down to only two, Favia fragum, and Favia gravida, both of which are Caribbean species. That means that there are essentially zero Favia brains in the reef aquarium hobby because stony corals from the Caribbean are illegal to collect. So what happened to all these species of Favia? Coral taxonomists over the years reclassified them into other genera as more information was uncovered. Most of the corals that were once classified as Favia are now Dipsastraea, Goniastrea, Coelastrea, or Favites.
So why we we still use the term “Favia?” We feel it is more important to use the term that the community is searching for when they are looking for help with their coral. In a way, the term Favia in the reef aquarium has turned into a term of art describing a group of “closed brain corals” similar to “Chalice Corals,” the difference being one is actually a scientific genus and the other is a common name. Like chalice corals, this collective of closed brain corals is ripe for misidentification especially considering many of the images online were published with either correct-at-the-time labeling or were totally misidentified from the start. It makes checking what you have in your tanks difficult. Naming conventions aside, let’s get into the husbandry.
Favia are found in the islands of the Indo-Pacific including Fiji, Tonga, Solomon Islands, and the Great Barrier Reef.
We primarily keep Favia in low to medium light intensity here at Tidal Gardens which is around 50 to 100 PAR. We have kept them in higher lighting but they did not appear to appreciate it and were always at risk of bleaching out. If you have a colony of Favia and want to experiment with higher light, remember that it can be a risk, so be prepared to move it into a shadier region of the tank at the first signs of trouble. Remember that a coral can live for a long time in lighting conditions that are too dim, but they will not last long in lighting conditions that are too bright.Low Light
Low light translates to about 30-50 PAR
Medium Light is between 50-150 PAR
High Light is anything over 150 PAR
As for how the lighting spectrum affects their coloration, most Favia stay pretty consistent and are not likely to change color dramatically with changes in lighting spectrum. You may see a subtle change comparing a specimen grown primarily under daylight vs blues however it won’t completely swap out an entire color palate like some corals are capable of. Because there are so many corals under this collective Favia umbrella, some may be very fluorescent which is a joy to look at under full actinic light.
Lighting is a loaded topic, so for a more in-depth discussion of lighting, please see our Deep Dive article.
There are some that consider water flow more important to coral health than any other parameter. It may be true in some cases, but I think that it is less of a factor in Favia health compared to other corals. Favia are tolerant to a wide range of flow patterns and adjusting flow specifically for Favia may be fruitless. I like to try and provide a very middle-of-the-road low to medium flow. Too little flow and you run the risk of allowing detritus to settle on the colonies which creates dead spots. Too much flow and you run the risk of damaging the coral. You will know if you are overdoing it if the flow is slamming one side of the coral and it is drawn tight to the skeleton all the time.
For feeding purposes I like being able to shut off all the flow for about 20-30 min to allow the colony to react to the food and consume it. Even a small amount of flow during spot feeding sessions can waste a lot of food.
Like most coral, Favia rely to a large extent on the products of their zooxanthellae, however, in our experience, they also benefit from direct feeding. There are a variety of frozen fish foods available that make outstanding meals for Favia. We like to feed a mixture of meaty foods such as shrimp, fish, and squid with vitamin additives and highly unsaturated fatty acids (HUFA). The size of the food must be small enough that the polyp can fully ingest it. Favites typically have smaller mouths than Favia.
A Word of Warning
Favites are one of the corals that extends long sweeper tentacles. In fact, Favites may have more aggressive behavior than the larger Favias. Sweeper tentacles are often used as a means of defense against other encroaching coral colonies. Their white tips contain a concentration of nematcysts that can damage more delicate tank mates. Most of the time, this is not a major problem but to be safe, we recommend placing it in a location far from other corals initially.
Aquaculture prospects for Favia are going to vary on a Genus to Genus basis. This is one aspect where lumping them all into one category doesn’t quite work out so well. Some varieties like Favites grow incredibly fast. Other varieties like Coelastrea are one of the slowest. That is the major hurdle with long term aquaculture - the growth rate of these corals. They can be cut pretty easily and heal well from cutting across the board but some might not be the best candidates for long term commercial aquaculture.
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 5Ds R and 100mm macro lens. 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.