Utter Chaos Zoa Care: Growth, Placement, & Lighting

No one is quite sure how the name “Utter Chaos” came about, but one wild guess would be Tera Lynn Childs’ quote “some people find beauty in chaos”. Once you see what these zoanthids look like you will see why! 

The Utter Chaos Zoanthid (Zoa) is one of the most colorful zoanthids to be introduced into the aquarium hobbyist world. They are pretty wonderful zoanthids as they have these fascinating yellow and green swirls that decorate their purple base, which is surrounded by vibrant orange polyps, creating an almost psychedelic look. 


  • Common Name: Utter Chaos Zoa
  • Family: Zoanthidae
  • Origin: Indo-Pacific
  • Care Level: Easy
  • Temperament: Semi-aggressive
  • Lighting: Low – Moderate (PAR 100 – 250)
  • Water Flow: Moderate
  • Placement: Lower – Middle Region

Utter Chaos Zoa Care

Despite their interesting name, Utter Chaos Zoas are easy to keep. Whether you are a beginner or experienced aquarium hobbyist, this brightly colored zoanthid coral will make a great addition to any reef aquarium.

Zoanthids can tolerate small changes in their environment, which is where the “they can live in dirty conditions” comes from. However, it is always recommended keeping their water conditions within the below ranges. 

Ideal Water Conditions

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

Some hobbyists have been successful in combating algae by raising magnesium levels between 1400 and 1600 ppm. However, if you decide to do this, it should be done gradually and your calcium and alkalinity must stay within the above ranges. 

Nitrates can also be a headache for many reef hobbyists. If you notice your nitrate levels rising above 10 ppm, perform a water change and test your water parameters again – API test kits are great for home testing! 

Raising phosphate levels is another common issue in reef aquariums. When levels do rise, it is important to replace your phosphate media inside your media reactor, this should be done every four weeks. 

To control the above issues, it is recommended to invest in a dosing pump. Dosing pumps are a hassle-free way to ensure your Utter Chaos has stable water conditions. 

Utter Chaos Zoa Growth

Although your Zoa’s growth rate will differ to other hobbyists because of your tank conditions and parameters, Utter Chaos Zoas are known to grow slower than other zoanthids like range Bam Bam Zoas or Radioactive Dragon Eyes, despite keeping water parameters stable. 

Utter Chaos Zoa Toxicity 

Utter Chaos Zoas are known to contain a harmful neurotoxin called palytoxin and high levels of vibrio bacteria (particularly in their mucus). 

This palytoxin and vibrio bacteria can be very harmful to humans. Once palytoxin gets into contact with your bloodstream, it can be deadly, so remember to always cover any open wounds with gloves and take extra care when handling your Utter Chaos Zoa. It is also recommended to wear goggles to protect your eyes. This also applies to vibrio bacteria as it can sometimes cause lethal skin infections. 

Utter Chaos Zoa Placement

Placement for your zoanthid is key. 

Utter Chaos Zoas are best secured to an exposed rock in the lower region of the aquarium, where they can receive direct water flow and enough lighting. To secure your coral, you can use reef-safe IC gel glue or putty such as Seachem Reef Glue. 

Once your Utter Chaos Zoa has acclimated to your aquarium and the water conditions are under control, you can expect some chaos, as they multiply quickly. Utter Chaos Zoas generally multiply via asexual reproduction, however, some can also sexually reproduce – check out our article on Zoa reproduction to learn more.  

So, if you don’t want your Utter Chaos to dominate your main rock structure, you can create an island in the sand bed for them to grow over. 

Remember that everyone’s tank is different, so it is recommended to place them lower down and gradually move them further up. They will tell you when they are not happy by not opening

Utter Chaos Zoa Water Flow

Water flow is important to maintain optimum health for corals. For your Utter Chaos, a moderate water flow will be sufficient enough to keep detritus from settling on them and allow enough nutrients to be circulated for optimum growth. 

Utter Chaos Zoa Lighting & PAR

Light intensity plays a large role in your Utter Chaos’ coloration. If the lighting and PAR are lower than your Zoa requires, the zooxanthellae (microscopic algae that live inside your coral’s tissues) will not be able to provide your coral with the nutrients they require for growth and coloration. As a result, the zooxanthellae cells increase, therefore, so does the pigment which has a brown color. So, in low light conditions, your Zoa will start turning brown

Your Utter Chaos will require low to moderate lighting, a PAR range between 100 and 250, and a color spectrum of 14-20K. These levels are important for your Zoa to maintain its mesmerizing colors and nutrition for growth. 

Lighting from T5’s Metal Halides, and LED’s all grow zoanthid corals successfully if the right PAR levels are met, however, most hobbyists are now swaying towards new generation LEDs with a blue spectrum to grow healthy corals. 

Utter Chaos Feeding

Although the zooxanthellae supply your Utter Chaos Zoa with the majority of their nutritional requirements, your Zoa will appreciate target feeding a couple of times a week. 

Feeding your zoanthids with meaty foods (i.e. Oyster-Feast & Roti-Feast) and organic matter is also essential for their health, and has even been known to make Zoas brighter. Even with the “top of the range” aquarium lighting, it would be beneficial for you to target feed them a few times a week.

Utter Chaos Zoa Common Pests 

  • Filamentous algae
  • Sundial snails
  • Asterina Starfish
  • Zoanthid Eating Nudibranchs

To prevent these types of pests from hitchhiking into your aquarium, dip your Utter Chaos Zoa and quarantine it before permanently placing it into the aquarium.

You also need to watch out for fish (like angelfish) and invertebrates inside your aquarium that could damage your coral’s polyps. Some fish love taking nips from coral tentacles – you should avoid these unfriendly neighbors. 


Utter Chaos Zoanthids are one of (if not) the most colorful corals to add to reef aquariums. 

Not only are they stunning corals, they are also easy to care for and can tolerate small water changes, making them perfect if you are a beginner or are a coral expert looking for a Zoa with a rare color morph to add to your collection. 

Make sure to check out our ultimate zoanthid care guide for more information!

  • 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.

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