Sunny D Zoa Care: Placement, Growth & Lighting

The Sunny D zoanthid (zoa) is a staple coral for creating the ultimate zoanthid garden! They are one of the oldest zoa morphs available, so you have likely seen them on display at your local fish store (LFS) before, or in your friend’s coral reef tank.

There is no doubt, that Sunny D zoas are unmistakable, and they look stunning in any reef aquarium. They have a bright blue/green mouth surrounded by metallic orange and yellow rings with a purple skirt, which is sometimes also beautifully highlighted in gold. 

But, it is not only their mesmerizing appearance that makes them so popular. The Sunny D zoa also makes a great choice for newbie reefers because of their ease of care and less demanding water flow and lighting requirements.

Sunny D Zoa Care

Zoanthids are a diverse and striking group of corals, famous for their beautiful patterns and color morphs. Zoas like the Sunny D are easy to keep, making them excellent additions for both beginner aquarists and coral experts. 

However, zoanthids are often wrongly identified as palythoa (paly) corals because they look very similar, so always double-check with your LFS or wherever you are buying your Sunny D from, that you are buying a zoanthid and not a palythoa coral!

Sunny D Summary

  • Order: Zoantharia 
  • Common Names: Sunny D zoa
  • Care Level: Easy 
  • Temperament: Semi-aggressive (because of the toxins that many zoanthids release)
  • Lighting: Low to moderate (PAR 100-250)
  • Water Flow: Moderate
  • Placement: Lower region
  • Growth: Moderate to fast


Sunny D Zoa Water Conditions

  • Temperature: 75° – 80 °F
  • pH: 8.1 – 8.4
  • Salinity: 1.024 – 1.026 (1.025 is ideal)
  • Alkalinity: 8 – 9.5 dKH
  • Nitrates: <10 ppm
  • Phosphates: <0.10 ppm
  • Calcium: 420 – 440 ppm
  • Magnesium: 1260 – 1350

Sunny D Zoa Growth

Zoanthids grow at different rates depending on your aquarium setup. However, the Sunny D zoa is known to be one of the faster-growing zoanthid types. 

Many reef hobbyists that have successfully kept Sunny D zoas have found them to grow 3-5 polyps per month, similar to their close relatives, the Utter Chaos Zoa, which is also one of our favorites here at Reef Tank Advisor!

What we do know, is that the Sunny D zoa has exponential growth. What I mean by that is, if your Sunny D starts with 2 polyp heads, and it reproduces, you will see 4 polyp heads. If everything is stable inside your aquarium, this will continue, so you will soon see 8 heads, and then 16, and so on. 

Sunny D Zoa Placement Inside The Aquarium

The most popular display of zoanthids is to create a zoa garden. This involves you gluing zoas to multiple small rocks with reef-safe IC gel glue or putty, and placing them together on the substrate to form a garden. 

As many zoas like your Sunny D are known to grow fairly fast, it is best to mount your zoas on individual rocks to prevent them from overtaking your aquarium. For this reason, it is best to place your Sunny D zoa at the bottom of your aquarium, where it will receive direct flow and lighting. 

Sunny D zoas are semi-aggressive because they contain palytoxin, a neurotixin that can damage corals and other marine life. However, Sunny D zoas do not have a powerful sting, but always ensure there is enough space between them and other corals to prevent chemical warfare and overcrowding their neighbors.

If you don’t want your zoanthids to grow over your main rock structure inside the aquarium, you can create a zoa island by mounting different types of zoas on one large rock in the middle of the sand bed. 

Sunny D Zoa Lighting

Lighting plays an important role in your Sunny D zoa’s life; zoanthids rely on lighting to provide enough energy for the symbiotic algae (zooxanthellae) to perform photosynthesis. Photosynthesis from the zooxanthellae provides your Sunny D with the majority of its nutritional requirements.

So, for your Sunny D zoa to maintain its vibrant colors and stay healthy, it requires low to moderate lighting with a PAR between 100 and 250. Saying that, Sunny D zoas are pretty tolerant of a variety of lighting conditions, however, you should never place them in high light areas because this may cause their polyps to close or start melting.

What Lighting Fixture Do Sunny D Zoas Require?

Zoanthids are not demanding when it comes to lighting fixtures, as long as the proper PAR levels and color spectrum (14-20K) are met, your Sunny D will thrive under metal halides, LEDs, T5s, or even hybrid lighting fixtures.

Sunny D Zoa Water Flow Requirements

Hitting your Sunny D zoa’s water flow ‘sweet spot’, is extremely important for zoanthids as their polyps are very sensitive. 

The water flow should be powerful enough to keep detritus from settling on your Sunny Ds polyps, but not too powerful that your coral is being blasted, as this can cause tissue ruptures and their polyps to close. Therefore a moderate water flow is recommended with a non-linear flow pattern. 

Do Sunny D Zoanthids Need Feeding? 

As mentioned, your Sunny D zoa contains symbiotic algae called zooxanthellae, and while these algae provide your Sunny D with most of its nutritional requirements to survive, it will also benefit from supplemental feedings a couple of times per week.  

The best foods for zoanthids like your Sunny D include the following:

  • Reef-Roids: A mixture of yummy marine plankton for your Sunny D, offering the most natural and realistic type of zoa food. 
  • Oyster-Feast: Composed of oyster eggs and ovarian tissue, so your Sunny D will get its protein fix in no time! 
  • TDO Chroma Boost: Chroma Boost are nutritionally dense pellets that contain Haematociccus pluvialis, a green microalgae that is beneficial for your Sunny Ds body functions. It also comes in multiple sizes, so you can feed it to all your zoas. 

When feeding zoanthids, it is also recommended you add amino acids and vitamins to your Sunny D’s diet. 

How To Feed Your Sunny D Zoa

It is best to target feed zoanthids to minimize waste and allow your Sunny D to catch the food. Excessive waste from feeding can cause issues with your aquarium’s water chemistry, causing spikes in ammonia and phosphate which can make your Sunny D sick, or in worst cases, it can lead to coral death. 

To target feed your Sunny D zoa, take a syringe or turkey baster, and fill it with your food of choice – I recommend making a paste mixture with the food and some aquarium water. 

When feeding, gently release the food from the syringe directly above your Sunny D’s mouth. The mouth is easy to locate as it looks like a bullseye. 

Remember to turn off any pumps during feeding and wait at least five minutes before turning them back on. This will allow your Sunny D to absorb as much food as possible, minimizing waste.

Final Thoughts

The Sunny D zoa is a mesmerizing zoanthid coral, known for its fast growth rate, ease of care, and its epic green, orange, and yellow base surrounded by alluring purple tentacles. 

So, if you are looking for a super-cool zoanthid coral to add to your zoa garden, then the Sunny D is a perfect choice! With their ability to quickly reproduce, you will have a Sunny D invasion in no time!

  • Roy Lee

    I have an unhealthy obsession with reef keeping and maintaining successful tanks. If you haven't noticed from the website, I love everything related to saltwater tanks like coral, fish, and everything else in between.

    http://reeftankadvisor.com reeftankroy@gmail.com Lee Roy

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