What are Zoanthids

corals, General

Zoanthids, also known as buttons

Zoanthids are loved because they are relatively easy to grow and maintain. They are available in amazing, brilliant, fluorescent colors. They are strong and will grow well in most aquariums, making them a great beginner coral.

The three types of zoanthids, palythoa and protopalythoa

There are three common types of zoanthids that you will find at local fishmonger stores and online. These three species are zoanthids, palythoa and protopalythoa.

One of the main differences between these three separate species is the degree to which each of the individual polyps is attached to each other. The individual polyps of a palythoa are attached by a thick mat of tissue. This resembles the tissue of the green star polyp.

Protopalythoa are connected to each other by a thin layer of tissue that is reinforced with pieces of sand/sediment. Finally, the zoanthids have the thinnest attachment. This is usually not reinforced with sediment.


The majority of zoanthids have symbiotic photosynthetic zooxanthellae and are therefore best kept with at least moderate aquarium lighting. Some of the more brightly colored varieties will even tolerate intense exposure with metal halide or newer generation LED lights when properly acclimated.

Most species are capable of catching prey. For the fastest growth of these corals, it is recommended to feed them periodically with the right size food. Feeding is not necessary in most cases.

To feed the zoanthids, simply place food particles of the correct size as close to the center of the polyp as possible. The polyps fold inward, the mouth opens and the food is absorbed by the polyps. This is the best way to grow these corals faster.

They also get some of their energy from the zooxanthellae symbiotics that live in their tissue, but they like to be fed as well. You will be rewarded with strong growth if you feed them regularly. If the polyps don’t want to eat, try changing the size and type of food you offer.

Placement of zoanthids

Place zoanthids in an area with low-medium to high flow. Too much flow can make it difficult for the polyps to open on their own. You’ll know your zoanthids are happy when they open up and stretch out completely.

Look at the color of the coral as an indication of how much light the coral needs. The more intense and fluorescent the color is, the more likely the coral is kept in a lot of light. The duller, grayer or darker the color, the less the coral has had access to light. Keep in mind that too much light can be deadly. It is therefore advisable not to put them in very bright light right away.

The best-case scenario, in terms of zoanthids placement, is to know how and where the coral was last placed. If the coral is satisfied and had good growth, it is advisable to imitate this in your own aquarium.

Water parameters

Zoantids need the water parameters that are right for keeping just about all of your corals healthy. You aim for a tropical water temperature of about 25 degrees, a normal salinity (about 1.025), a normal hardness (8-12 dKH) and a pH value of around 8-8.4. It is important to keep the water parameters right to start with a high-quality salt mixture.

Zoanthids don’t open

Some of the more rare and sensitive zoanthids can take a few days to open after being transported to your home. So don’t worry if the zoanthids don’t open right away. However, if your zoanthids were open before and closed after this, it should be taken as a sign of poorer water parameters. The first things to check are salinity and pH.

Toxic Palytoxin

Different types of polyps produce a toxic chemical (palytoxin) so it is wise to handle these corals with care. Palytoxin can cause neurological damage if it gets into a cut, your eyes, your nose, or mouth. Always wear protective clothing when handling zoanthids such as gloves and goggles.

Top zoanthids species

One of the nicest aspects of zoanthids is that they come in so many different varieties. They have ridiculous sounding names that seem to fit perfectly if you look closely. Here is a list of names of popular and beautiful zoanthids:

  • Fruit Loops
  • Purple People Eater like
  • Orange bam bam
  • purple hornet zoos
  • Blueberry field like
  • Fire and ice
  • Whammin’ watermelon zoos
  • Sunny D’s
  • Rasta zoos
  • Red Hornets
  • My Clementines
  • Blue Hornet
  • Radioactive dragon eyes
  • utter chaos
  • Blue Agaves
  • Night Fury like
  • Captain America Zoos
  • Candy apple red zoanthus


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