Stuff In My Tank – Zoanthids

There’s going to be a new feature around here called “Stuff In My Tank.”  These will describe the stuff found in my tanks, past or present.  Hopefully these might answer some questions about both Stuff and my Tanks.


Spartan Zoanthid, taken by Nanoreef user Fade2White12

Spartan Zoanthid, taken by user Fade2White12

Livestock Type – Coral.  Any photosynthetic sea mat from the order Zoantharia.

Common Name –  Zoos, or Zoanthids.  Most people talking about zoos include sea mats from the zoanthus and palythoa families, as their appearance and care is similar.

Care Level – Most zoos are very easy to keep, although some individual morphs are a little fickle and require an experienced hand to thrive.

Environmental Impact – Low.  Most of the colorful  zoos are aquacultured and are sold by hobbyists or dealers who cultivate them in their own tanks.

Should I Put This In My Tank? – Absolutely. Start small, with one or two inexpensive frags from the LFS.  See if you like them, then go from there.

What Do I Need To Know? – Zoos are advertised as the perfect “beginner’s coral” for a reason.  They tolerate a wide range of lighting and current, are more resistant to disease than other corals, and are rapid growers.  However, while resistant they are not immune and zoos can suddenly develop a host of diseases with neither cause nor warning, often turning black or melting away seemingly overnight.

Does It Play Well With Others? – Yes.  In a reef tank, zoos are non-allelopathic to other zoos.  Multiple colonies can grow in the same general location of the tank, mingling without burning.  Zoos are frequently kept in nanoreefs without forcing allelopathic conditions on other species of coral, and won’t compete against these other species unless physical contact is made.  I have never heard of a zoo (or paly, which are larger) eating anything larger than the wayward piece of leftover food, so they are unlikely to be a danger to livestock.

How Will This Species Piss Me Off? – Zoos are a little bit frustrating. They adapt to different lighting conditions and their coloring reflects this.    There are no guarantees that a colony won’t start out with one coloration at the store and then change into something completely different in your tank.  For example, I have two frags from one colony I cut in half, and put one in the 30g and the other in the 65g: the first frag is a sunny yellow with a gray skirt and the second is a pinkish-gray with a blue center. Some morphs are more colorfast than others, and you can avoid these problems by sticking to those that are unlikely to change.  Some hobbyists think it’s fun to move a frag around the tank to find the location that brings out its most desirable coloring.

What Can I Expect To Spend? -You can set your budget as low or as high as you want on these.  Some of the more common zoos can be had for a few bucks; some of the lineage lines, such as the Purple Hornet or the Purple People Eaters, go for hundreds of dollars.  Yup, hundreds.  Tack on shipping charges of $35 or more and you could be looking at a serious financial investment.

Where Can I Buy It? – Your LFS will almost certainly have some zoanthids, and you can save on the exorbitant shipping costs when you buy them in person, but your selection will be limited and the best frags will be scarfed up before you get there.   Ebay and Fraggle Reef are two online sources that offer a wide range of zoos, and I’ve heard very good things about the health and coloration of Fraggle Reef zoos.   Ebay is, as always, a drunken crapshoot but it’s the second-best location to locate and purchase lineage zoos.  The first is to get in good with people on reefing forums and wait until they thin out their personal colonies.

Any Health Hazards? – Mark my words, zoanthid poisoning will show up on an episode of House.  Zoos are reported to be extremely toxic, and some reefers won’t touch them without using gloves.  I’ve heard horror stories of severe poisoning if the mucus from a zoo gets in an open wound or if a reefer rubs an eye with it on their fingers.  Nothing like this has ever happened to me and I manhandle multiple colonies several times a week, but I am careful to scrub every part of the arm that went in the tank afterwards, just in case.

~ by KBSpangler on August 30, 2009.

One Response to “Stuff In My Tank – Zoanthids”

  1. Thanks for discussing about Frag Tanks. I appreciate your work and this blog post. Great work, keep this carry on. I would like to visit again and like to read some more interesting information.

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