Category Archives: Corals

Stylocoeniella coral: a unique SPS for any aquarium

Stylocoeniella is a colorful and captivating  SPS coral that can bring drama and beauty to most any aquarium.

This encrusting coral is often described as a cross between montipora and psammacora.

It’s a fairly hardy SPS coral that does best in low to medium lighting and medium to high flow.

Where it differs from montipora and psammacora is in its polyps. They are a bit longer and often extend 3-4 mm beyond the base. This allows the polyps to move around in the flow a little. It’s a bit like watching ripples move across the top of a pond.

It does best when place in the lower half of the tank.

And it comes in a dazzling array of colors. Some of the most common are green, red, and orange.

Now that it is beginning to catch the eye of collectors and coral breeders, more vibrant variations are available as well. Colors such as purple, pink, blue, and rainbow are now available.

Electric-blue stylocoeniella
Electric-blue stylocoeniella (center).

Designer variations are also starting to appear as well. Examples include Burning Bananas, Sunset, and Looney Tunes from Jason Fox.

Feeding is straightforward and no different than most other SPS. Most any SPS food will be accepted, such as Coral Frenzy and Reef Roids.

And their ability to grow in lower light makes them a great coral for adding life and color to shaded areas of rock work.

If you’re looking for an SPS coral that is unique yet easy to care for then look no further.

Stylocoeniella is colorful.

It adds a sense of drama and motion to your aquarium.

Unlike most beginner corals, it is still rare and different enough to be an eye-catcher and topic of conversation.

And it requires very little, if any, hand-holding or special care.

Put simply, it’s a rare, eye-catching gem than can be treasured and appreciated by novice and seasoned reef keepers alike.



The Right Alkalinity For Coral Growth

One of the number one challenges faced by new reef keepers is trying to determine how much alkalinity is best to keep their coral healthy and growing.

Soft corals such as zoanthids and leathers, and long polyp stony corals such as favia and lobophyllias can be pretty forgiving when it comes to alkalinity levels.

But acropora and most other short polyp stony corals are another story…

They require a very stable, consistent level of alkalinity – which brings about one of the BIG questions new reef keepers (like me) often ask…

What is the best alkalinity level for growing coral?

The most common and ‘correct’ answer is:  it depends on the lighting and nutrient levels in your tank.

For quite some time now I’ve struggled to figure out just what exactly that meant. Does it mean more light and zero nutrients? Less light and more nutrients?

It gave me no understanding of light, phosphates, and nitrates related to finding the best alkalinity level for keeping my coral healthy and growing.

Then I saw this information in a post on my local forum and I knew I had to share it.

Once I read it, everything finally started to make sense.

This information is courtesy of the members of the Washington Area Marine Aquarists Society.

1. Keeping your alkalinity STABLE is crucial

The most important part of keeping acropora and other SPS coral is ensuring your alkalinity remains consistent.

As long as your alkalinity remains stable at one set value somewhere between 6 and 11 dKH your coral will be fine.

If it bounces up and down a lot within that range though, the constant change will shock your coral and eventually weaken or kill it.

Now, let’s figure out what value in between 6 – 11 dkH would be a good starting point for determining the best alkalinity level for your tank.

2. There is a correlation between alkalinity, light, and nutrients.

Most corals – particularly acropora and SPS corals – contain photosynthetic algae, called zooxanthellae. It acts as a sunscreen and is what gives them their color.

Phosphates and nitrates – aka ‘nutrients’ – act as food for the zooxanthellae. To much food will mean too much zooxanthellae or  ‘sunscreen’. Not enough food will mean not enough zooanthellae or sunscreen.

So, if you have your alk in the 6 and 7 range, your nitrates and phosphates need to be low so you don’t stunt growth.

Less than 0.03 ppm phosphates and 5 ppm nitrates would be a good place to start. Then, if needed you can slowly lower them even more.

On the other hand,  if you keep your alk in the 11-12 range, you need to keep your nitrates and phosphates much higher so the zooxanthellae can keep up and protect the acro.

A lot of time you see acros with “Burnt tips”.  This occurs because the zooxanthellae algae can’t keep up with the coral growth.  Eventually if the zooxanthellae gets further and further away from the tips, they will die halting growth.

Here is an example of alkalinity at a level that is right on the edge of being too high in relation to nutrient levels:

nutrients almost too low for alkalinity
This person is skirting the line of trying to keep nutrients low while maximizing growth – causing pastel colors on the growth tips…

And this is what happens when it is too high – burnt tips.

alkalinity is too high
The flesh not only burnt away leaving the tips white, it left the underlying skeleton exposed to algae growth.
3. Zero in on the best alkalinity level for your tank

With that in mind you can now zero in on the best alkalinity and nutrient levels for your tank.

Let’s say your nutrient levels are high – for example, your phosphate is ~0.15 dKH and your nitrates are ~15 ppm.  If your alkalinity is below 9 dKH, you may want very slowly raise it until you see the kind of coral growth and coloration you like most.

OR, you can gradually lower your nutrient levels until they are more in balance with your current alkalinity level.

Likewise, if your nutrient levels are low – say your phosphate is below 0.03 ppm and your nitrates are less than 5 ppm, you can lower your alk… OR you can raise your nutrients.

Either way, the key is make the changes slowly. And, once you find the alkalinity level that gives you the coral growth and color you desire, make sure it remains as stable as possible.

In the end, every aquarium is unique and you will have to find the right level for your tank.

But this information is a great place to start.

5 Beautiful Beginner Corals

Few things add as much color, beauty, and intrigue to a saltwater aquarium than corals – but some are MUCH harder to care for than others.  These 5 beginner corals are fairly easy to care for. They can be incredibly vibrant and colorful. And are sure to capture anyone’s eye.

All in all, they can make for an enjoyable reef tank addition for beginners and experts alike.

5 Eye-Catching Beginner Corals for Most Any Reef Tank:

1.  Favites

Favites are a type of ‘brain coral’ that go by many names in the aquarium hobby – including moon coral and worm coral. Favites come in a dazzling array of colors from blues and reds to orange and neon green. While there are a few varieties than can be difficult to care for, most are quiet easy to keep. In fact, they are one of few aggressive coral species that is widely recommended for beginners.

Favite coral - a great beginners coral
Photo credit: Red and green brain (Favites sp.) under blues (license)

This Home Aquarium article gives a very quick, fantastic little write-up with details on their care and placement in your saltwater aquarium.


2. Blastomussa

Blastomussas – also known as Branched Cup or Pineapple coral – are easy to care for because they require low flow and VERY low light. This means that can easily be grown in a beginner’s reef tank set up without any expensive, high-output light fixtures. In fact, a beginner aquarist who puts one in his or her tank without doing a little research first is far more likely to expose them to TOO much light rather than light starve them.

They are extremely peaceful corals and can be found in some very of rich, amazing colors.

Photo credit: Superman Blastomussa (license)

There is a fantastic video of Blastomussa corals feeding on – I highly recommend you check it out.


3. Toadstool Coral (Sarcophyton)

One of my personal favorites, it also known as a mushroom leather coral. It can be quite hardy and varieties can be found in many colors ranging from dull brown, tan, and green to dazzling yellows and neon green.

Toadstool leather
Photo credit: Leather Coral (Sarcophyton sp.) via photopin (license)

If you think you’d like to give one a try, you check full details on their care, placement, and behavior in this article by


4.  Bird’s Nest Coral (Seriatopora Stellata)

Bird’s Nest coral is the perfect for the beginner aquarist looking to try his hand at SPS (short-polyp stony coral).  It is much hardier than the more mainstream yet demanding Acropora family of SPS corals. Seriatopora come in a variety of colors from pink to blue-green to a yellowish-rainbow with purple polyps.

Seriatopora 'birds nest' coral
Photo credit: Green Birdnest Coral via photopin (license) has an excellent article and video on Bird’s Nest corals.


5.  Zoanthids

And last but not least there are Zoanthids – quite possibly one of the most popular soft corals in the hobby today.

Photo credit: ZOAS, (license)

The mix and variety of colors they come in is almost endless. Many are even given ‘designer’ names and can run as much as $100 or more per polyp. No need to worry though, there are quite literally dozens upon dozens of unbelievable color combinations that can be had for just a few dollars – you can get a glimpse of the many colors and pricing of ‘zoas’ over at