When it comes to different types of coral that can be added to a reef tank, there are a few main types, one of which is SPS or small polyp stony coral. These corals are colorful, but also delicate and are typically recommended for more advanced hobbyists though there are a few species that are more forgiving than others. Unlike the fleshy structures seen in LPS corals, SPS species tend to have a more skeletal appearance. Typically they consist of encrusting, branching, and plating species and are very sensitive to water parameters. Many types of SPS corals prefer moderate to high lighting, so having a good light is key to their success. Tanks containing SPS often have dosing elements associated with them to help make sure levels like calcium, magnesium, and alkalinity don’t fluctuate too much. This group of coral contains zooxanthallae, a photosynthetic algae which provide them with nutrients, but their diets can be supplemented with a variety of foods. Acropora (Acro’s) are one of the more popular SPS corals, but others like Hydnophora, Pavona, Montipora (Monti’s), Pocillopora, Stylophora, Cyphastrea, Psammocora Leptoseris, Seriatopora, and Porites that tend to be popular and commonly sought after genuses. As with most species of coral it is important to dip them before adding them to a reef tank. Additionally, the corals should be handled with care and slowly drip acclimated to the tank's water parameters before being directly placed in the tank itself.



Acropora (Acropora sp.)are one of the most popularSPS (Small Polyp Stony) corals in the hobby. Their bright and unique colors combined with the number of available species makes them sought after. Acros are native to the Pacific Ocean, Indian Ocean, Red Sea, and the Caribbean, but they are also available as aquacultured species. When it comes to tank placement, they prefer moderate to high lighting and high flow areas. They are very sensitive and susceptible to RTN (Rapid Tissue Necrosis) and other infections so maintaining good water quality is paramount to their success. Due to this sensitivity, it is important to test the reef tank regularly, dosing, and performing water changes as necessary. They will eat zooplankton, phytoplankton, fish waste, and commercial coral foods in addition to utilizing the nutrients they receive from symbiotic zooxanthellae they contain in their cells. Prior to adding them, make sure to dip them to prevent unwanted or unseen pests from entering the tank. Acclimation should be gradual allowing them to get used to the new lighting and water parameters.


Hydnophora (Hydnophora sp.)or Horn Coral are a type of branching SPS (Small Polyp Stony) coral that can be a difficult species to keep in a reef tank. They are also known as Velvet Horn Coral, Knob Coral, or Branch Coral and are native to the Red Sea and the Indo-Pacific. Their placement within a reef should be in an area where they will get both high lighting and high rates of flow. One important thing to note is that this SPS coral is aggressive and will kill nearby corals so make sure to give it plenty of room. It doesn’t need to be fed as it has zooxanthallae, but it will eat coral food as well as phytoplankton and zooplankton. Dipping these Horn Corals before adding them to a tank will reduce the introduction of pests. Prior to adding any coral to a tank, they should be acclimated to the new environment, lighting, and water parameters.


Montipora (Montipora sp.)are a group of small polyp stony (SPS) corals that come in an array of bright and contrasting colors, shapes and textures. Different varieties exhibit branching, encrusting, and plating growth and can have bumps, ridges or appear smooth with bright colored polyps. They are native tothe Indo-Pacific Oceans and are found around Solomon Islands as well as near Fiji. Place them in an area of the reef tank that gets moderate to high lighting and an area of moderate flow. Once established in the right spot with good water quality, they are fairly hardy and tend to grow well. Another thing to keep in mind when placing them is that they are peaceful corals and should be placed around other peaceful corals that are not inclined to sting. Monti’s have symbiotic zooxanthalle which provide a source of nutrients, but their diets can be supplemented with phytoplankton and zooplankton as well as coral food. As with any coral they should be dipped prior to being added to a tank and their acclimation should occur gradually as they are sensitive to differing water parameters.


Pavona (Pavona sp.)are a genus of small polyp stony Corals that are native to the Red Sea, and the Indian and Pacific Oceans. They are sometimes called Cactus Corals as they resemble Cactuses but they are also called Lettuce Coral, and Potato Chip Coral. One unique thing about this SPS coral is that it has polyps on both the top and bottom sides of its branches or arms. When placing them in the tank,make sure to situate them in an area with moderate to high light and flow. Additionally, they are known to be an aggressive coral, so give them space as they tend to grow quickly once established in a system. They are nourished by zooxanthallae, but they can be supplemented with phytoplankton, zooplankton, as well as by coral foods available on the market. Although they are a hardy coral, they still need to be dipped and slowly acclimated to any reef tank to maximize their chance of success.Text


Pocillopora (Pocillopora sp.)or Cauliflower coral as it is sometimes called, is a type of SPS (Small Polyp Stony) coral that is native to the Indo-Pacific, and is available as an aquacultured species. When it’s polyps are extended it has an almost soft fuzzy appearance. These corals, once settled in a reef tank, can be fast growers so make sure to select a location where they will have enough space to grow. When selecting a good spot, they prefer moderate to high light levels and moderate to high flow rates. They contain zooxanthallae that provide a food source but supplementing with phytoplankton, zooplankton, or formulated coral food is always a welcome option. Cauliflower coral needs to be slowly acclimated to a new tank’s lighting. Start them at low light in the tank and slowly move them up over the course of a few weeks. Don’t forget to drip them prior to adding to a new tank so as to eliminate the risk of introducing pests.


Stylophora (Stylophora sp.)are a type of SPS (Small Polyp Stony) coral that are occasionally known as Bird’s Nest, Cat’s Paw, or Club Finger coral. One thing that differentiates the Stylophora from other genuses is it’s finger-like branches that end in blunt tips. The thickness of the branches can vary in different flows, with higher flow resulting in thicker branches and lower flow resulting in thinner branches. This species can be aquacultured, but it is native to the Indo-Pacific. It prefers moderate to high levels of light and strong water flow and is a relatively hardy coral. It contains photosynthetic algae that provides its nutrients, but it will also eat phytoplankton, zooplankton, marine snow, as well as waste produced by fish and tank inhabitants. Commercially available coral foods are also an option. Prior to adding a Stylophora to a reef tank they should be dipped to prevent the introduction of unwanted pests. Corals may take several days to weeks to acclimate to tank lighting, so it is recommended to start them lower in the tank and gradually move them to their final predetermined position.


Cyphastrea (Cyphastrea sp.)is a genus of encrusting Small Polyp Stony corals that can add color and delicate flow to reef tanks with it’s small flower-like polyps. They are native to the Indo-Pacific, and Indian Ocean. While most species are encrusting and will grow over the top of hard surfaces, there are some types that are branching. They are a tolerant type of SPS and prefer low to moderate lighting and an area with moderate flow. Their zooxanthallae provide them with nutrients but they will also eat coral food, zooplankton, and phytoplankton. Before adding this SPS coral make sure to dip it and slowly acclimate it to the reef tank. It may take some time before it fully adjusts to the aquarium and fully opens up but once it does it grows quickly.


Seriatopora (Seriatopora sp.)can be called Finger Coral, and Needle Coral, but they are best known as Bird’s Nest coral. This small polyp stony (SPS) coral is native to the Indo-Pacific, but it is also available as an aquacultured species. An easy way to tell Seriatopora apart from other corals that are called Bird’s Nest is to look at their polyps. A Seriatopora’s polyps are aligned in rows from the base of the branch to its tip. When placing them in a reef tank they prefer high levels of light and moderate to high flow. These corals contain zooxanthallae which provide them with most of the nutrients they need to grow, however they will consume phytoplankton and zooplankton, and fish waste as well as formulated coral foods that are on the market. Bird’s Nest coral should be slowly acclimated to your tank’s lighting over the course of several days to weeks. Make sure to dip the corals prior to adding them into any marine aquarium to reduce the risk of pests. After dipping them, slowly drip acclimate them to the tank's water parameters.


Porites (Porites sp.)are one of the less common SPS (Small Polyp Stony) corals kept by reef tank enthusiasts. Also known as Finger Coral, Jeweled Finger Coral or Jewel Stone Coral this type of coral is associated with Christmas Tree worms and typically has an encrusting base with branching fingers. They are native to the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic Oceans. When placing them in a saltwater reef, they prefer moderate to high lighting, and higher levels of water flow. They have symbiotic zooxanthallae that will help to keep them sustained, but their diets can be supplemented with coral foods, phytoplankton, and zooplankton. Porites should be dipped prior to being added to a tank and slowly drip acclimated. Allow them time to adjust to a new tank and lighting.


Leptoseris (Leptoseris sp.) is one of the types of Small Polyp Stony coral that hobbyists refer to most frequently, by its scientific rather than by a common name. This SPS coral is an encrusting type which has a lettuce leaf looking texture. They are native to many waters around the world including the Atlantic Ocean, the Pacific Ocean, and Gulf of Mexico. They should be placed in an area of the tank where they will get moderate lighting and have low to moderate flow. They are a hardy species and grow quickly so make sure to give them enough space. When feeding them, use a coral food or phytoplankton, though they do contain symbiotic zooxanthallae that will help to provide nutrients for them. Always dip and slowly acclimate corals to a new tank, allowing them time to adjust to the new tank’s light, flow, and water quality parameters.


Psammocora (Psammocora sp.)corals are a type of Small Polyp Stony (SPS) coral that are native to the Red Sea and the Pacific but are also available as an aquacultured species. Sometimes referred to as Cat’s Paw, these coral are not all that common and have a unique fuzzy looking appearance from a distance. Often they are found as encrusting species, but there are also species that are branching. They can be a quick growing coral and prefer moderate to high levels of lighting and moderate to high rates of flow. If considering supplementing their diet, phytoplankton or a coral food could be used, but they are self-sustaining thanks to symbiotic zooxanthallae. This is a peaceful coral and should be kept with other similar types of corals as they aren’t able to defend themselves. Dipping corals will help to prevent unwanted pests from entering aquariums. It is important to slowly acclimate the corals to a tank. Sometimes this process can take up to several days for polyps to fully open up and get used to the new tank and lighting.

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