Zoanthid Reef Aquarium Care & Lighting

By | January 3, 2013

Last Updated 11-4-17

Zoanthids are quite popular due to the wide variety, general easy to moderate care requirements, and the fact many are captive raised (fragged/aquacultured).


First let me provide some basics of these popular reef aquarium inhabitants.

  • What is a Zoanthid? This is the common term for all members of the Zoanthidae family, including Zoanthus, Palythoa, and Protopalythoa.
  • Zoanthids are Colonial, in other words, each coral is a colony of separate polyps living together.
  • While Zoanthids are photosynthetic, many of these colonial corals will tolerate low to medium light levels.
    Since these corals are not as light demanding as some reef aquarium specimens, Zoanthids area good choice to place between larger specimens
  • They prefer low to moderate water motion and do well within a temperature range of 76º to 84º F (24º to 29º C).
  • Since Zoanthids are photosynthetic, they survive with no feeding, but occasional feeding of the soupy “upper broth” of prepared or homemade reef diets.
  • Easily propagated by cutting (fragging) of individual polyps from the main colonies, pieces can be placed/glued on a gravel/sand bed or rocks/plugs with low water flow and will attach themselves via coenenchymes to pieces of gravel or rocks
  • Palythoa (aka palys), grow in a mat of coenenchyme with their polyps embedded, just like their cousins the Zoanthus. However, Palythoa use sediment to help reinforce their tissue. In closer inspection, you will see sand, crushed coral, etc. in their tissue.
    The coenenchyme is thicker for Palythoa than it is for Zoanthus, which is generally observable to touch and to sight.
  • Zoanthus have a distinct sphincter muscle around their oral opening forming a more round “mouth”, while Palythoa have a slit “mouth”



FijiBluetn2As noted earlier, lighting requirements are generally not high.
However this does not mean the good lighting and placement of Zoanthids is not important for thriving colonies.

Blue /actinic lighting is also important if only for viewing these beautiful reef inhabitants in all their glory. The TMC Fiji Blue is an excellent choice for this (see the picture/link to the left).

See this merchandise link: AAP/TMC Fiji Blue; Enhances the Fluorescence of Corals

An even newer light is the NUV Blue (Near UV Blue). This light provides less useful PUR than the Fiji Blue or similar quality NM LED lights, but has light energy in spectrums not before available in a single LED that can really bring out some colours.
This light should only be a part of your lighting scheme due to the very low near UV irradiation.
Here is a review of this LED: AAP/TMC AquaRay NUV 410nm LED Review

With modern technology, the best lighting choice for Zoanthids are T5, T2 (with T5 or LED blues), or high output LED Aquarium Lights.
Please reference:
Aquarium Lighting; T5 Information
& Aquarium Lighting; T2 Information

The LED would be your best choice for this specimen.
Among LEDs there are many decorative LED aquarium lights such as the “Ecoxotic Stunner” that are NOT reef capable and should not be considered other than for highlights with already good T5 or other lighting.

Among the higher end, most LED’s will work fine for Zoanthids. Although even here the use of the best emitter & driver technology will yield the best results for the least amount of energy consumed & carbon footprint.

Examples on each extreme of Zoanthid capable LED lights:
The Taotronics are on the low end of capable and consume more power. The high end would be the AquaRay LED Aquarium Lights with constantly updated and new AND patented CRee emitters. These use very little power for the light spectrum they provide.

Zooanthid-LED-LightProbably the best over all light period, LED or otherwise is the Ocean Blue NP Ultima.
This new as of 2013 LED Fixture has an excellent mixture of proprietary Cree and Osram Olson emitters to produce an overall 20k color temperature.
What has really impressed me most about this particular LED fixture is the Osram Olson NP Blue which is the first specific emitter designed for full spectrum reef aquarium lighting, rather than adapting current emitter bins to the lighting application at hand.

A similar newer yet light is the AAP AquaBeam Coral Colour Plus. This is similar to the Ocean Blue, except it also has Semi NUV and Cree Red emitters. A better LED for color, but a slightly lower PAR & PUR than the Ocean Blue or Reef 2000.

Merchandise Link: AAP Ocean Blue/ Coral Colour Plus NP 1500 Ultimas

Now for a little sales pitch (based on professional aquarium maintenance and design use); The American Aquarium AquaRays latest offering now include the latest generation of PROPRIETARY Cree XR-E, XP-E, XP-G, XT-E, XB-D, & ML-E, as well as the Reef Aquarium specific Osram Olsam NP Blue emitters.
This means any buyer of these LEDs will be getting the most bang for their buck without the wasted energy of Taotronics shotgun approach to lighting or the lower efficiency of the Kessil, AI, or EcoTech.
As per efficiency, no other LED beats these American Aquarium AquaRays, with an input energy in wattage measured in PAR mml output of as low as .08 watt per PAR mml compared to even other premium lights such as the Kessil & EcoTech as which measure about .30 watt per mml of PAR!

See: American Aquarium AquaRay AquaBeam, LEDs

Below is a composite picture of an aquarium with Zoas utilizing a VERY early LED aquarium lighting build. These are 2009, first generation AquaRay AquaBeam LED strips (versus now 4th generation as of 2016).


Placement in Aquarium;

Blue-Hornet-ZoasAs a generalization, using Blue Hornet Zoas as an example; about 6 inches from the sand bed, and about 16-20 inches from the LEDs with moderate water flow.

Other Zoas such as the “Blow Pop” Zoa (aka “Neon Eyes” & more) are reported to do better closer to their light source such as only 4 inches from the surface with relatively strong lighting.

From my research many, if not most, Zoanthids seem to grow better and exhibit longer stalks in deeper placements.
Too much light results in the metallic brightness or other colors fading away.
Some Zoas do quite well with mid level placement and some shade from an aquarium live rock reef.

The bottom line is any keeper of Zoas needs to experiment with placement, then observing color, stalk growth or stretching and over all health.

I will also point out that wearing gloves (such as surgical gloves) is best when handling any Zoanthid, but especially Palythoa as these can excrete a toxin that is quite poisonous if you have any open cut or sensitive area on your skin.


For the most in depth and up to date Aquarium Lighting article:
*Aquarium Lights, Lighting Information

An excellent read about optimal methods for aquarium reef chemistry maintenance such as calcium & alkalinity, not necessarily popular/fad/economy methods promoted in You Tube videos or by pop bulk reef retail suppliers:
*Reef Aquarium Chemistry Maintenance

*LED Light Review

*LED Aquarium Lights, Lighting Information

*Identifying Zoanthus, Palythoa, and Protopalythoa

An earlier article in this website:
*Purchase Aquarium LED Lighting; What to Know?

For a GREAT place to purchase Zoanthids:
*Zoanthid, Zoa’s, Zoos & more!

For the most knowledgeable place to purchase the best in LED Aquarium Lighting:
*AquaRay Aquarium LED Lights, Lighting


4 thoughts on “Zoanthid Reef Aquarium Care & Lighting

  1. Pingback: Aquarium Forums for Information such as LED Lighting, UV, Filters, more | My Aquarium Opinions

  2. Rusty

    The rest of the color spectrum is simply not used or
    even needed by the plant for photosynthesis. *Less wastage of heat: Even after hours of operation such lights are just warm to touch.

    They produce the two main wavelengths that plants need for their growth,
    which are the blue light and the red light.

  3. Pingback: Review of Ocean Revive & Evergrow LED Lights for Reef Aquariums | My Aquarium Opinions

  4. Pingback: Helpful Aquarium & Pond Keeping Acronyms, Abbreviations | Aquarium Article Digest

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