Is your reef tank not as attractive as you want?
Possibly the coolest thing to do as a hobbyist is to fill your reef aquarium with Zoanthids (Zoas) to create a Zoa garden. A Zoanthid garden is also the perfect way to brighten up a reef tank, and get everyone talking about how awesome your aquarium is!
Not only are Zoanthids arguably one of the most colorful corals in the hobbyist world, but they also grow like wildflowers. So, whether you are just dipping your toes into the hobbyist world of reef keeping, or you are a coral expert, creating the perfect Zoanthid garden will make all your hobbyist friends jealous.
A Step-By-Step Guide To Creating An Awesome Zoa Garden!
Creating a Zoa garden is easy, often too easy, as Zoanthids are fast to dominate reef aquariums. So, make sure you plan ahead, and know where you want your Zoa garden to be, as they have no off button once they start replicating. So, where do you start in creating this masterpiece?
1. Grab Some Supplies
You will need the following items to create your perfect Zoanthid garden.
- Zoanthid Corals – the obvious one!
- Cutters or pliers to remove your Zoanthid from the frag plug, or to trim/cut the stick off the bottom of the plug.
- Reef-safe glue or IC gel to secure your Zoanthid to the rock.
- A piece of rock to attach your Zoanthid frags to – rubble rock is great for creating a Zoanthid garden.
- PPE – gloves and protective eye covering.
2. Prepare Your Zoanthid Corals For Placement
Wearing your PPE, remove your Zoanthid from its delivery bag. They usually have a fishing line attached to the bag, so carefully cut this and then place them into a container of aquarium water so they are not exposed to air.
Next, remove the zoanthid from the frag plug using your cutters or pliers. This is generally very easy to do, but if you are struggling, cut the stick off the frag plug and glue the base of the frag plug to the rock – your Zoanthids will grow over this, so do not worry if it looks slightly ugly right now.
3. Get Ready To Build Your Zoanthid Garden!
Taking a piece of your choice of rock (we recommended rubble rock), secure the bottom of your Zoanthid frag using glue (or IC gel) one by one. Once you have secured your Zoanthid frag to the rock, gently lower it back into the container of aquarium water to soak for approximately 30-seconds. This is to allow the glue to harden.
Next, you should take the time to dip your coral to remove any hitchhikers with a solution like CoralRX.
Finally, place your rock with your Zoanthid frag attached into the main aquarium. Allow 2-4 hours for your Zoanthids to recover from the process.
And there you have it, your Zoa garden should start blooming in no time!
Safety Tips When Creating A Zoanthid Garden
When working with Zoanthids and Palythoas (Palys), there is no doubt about it, you will require some safety gear. This is because many Zoas and Palys contain a nasty toxin called palytoxin, which can be extremely dangerous if it gets into your bloodstream.
So, let’s talk about safety gear!
- Gloves: To be used when handling your Zoanthids.
- Goggles/safety glasses: To protect your eyes from squirting polyps.
Remember to also wash your hands with antibacterial soap for at least 20-seconds after handling your Zoanthids, even if you have been wearing gloves – it is better to be safe than sorry!
Also, if you have any open cuts or wounds on your hands or arms, cover them with band-aids/bandages before covering them with gloves.
Tips For Making Your Zoanthid Garden Grow Faster
Almost all reef hobbyists want to know how fast do Zoanthids grow.
How fast your Zoanthid garden grows, generally depends on the particular Zoanthid you have, however, there are a few things you can do to encourage faster growth.
Zoanthids are one of the faster-growing coral species you can get your hands on, but keeping them happy and healthy is one of the best ways to encourage faster growth rates.
1. Feed Your Zoanthids Often
Even though the zooxanthellae inside your Zoa’s tissues provide them with the majority of their nutritional needs, Zoanthids love to eat, and a little food now and then will go a long way! Feeding your Zoanthids two to three times a week will promote healthy growth and development.
As your Zoanthids do not have long sweeper tentacles, a turkey baster, or pipette are both great tools to target feed your corals.
2. Keep Algae & Pests Under Control
Algae and pests are two of the biggest factors that affect Zoanthid growth.
When algae grows over your Zoanthid’s polyps, it can restrict their nutrient and light access. If algae outbreaks are not prevented, they can spread like wildfire, smothering all your corals inside your aquarium, quickly growing out of control. The excessive algae growth can also cause water parameter fluctuations, which can make your Zoanthids sick.
Pests such as Zoanthid Eating Spiders, Zoanthid Eating Nudibranchs, and Sundial Snails, are all common hitchhikers when keeping Zoanthids. We have a full guide on how to remove these unwanted visitors, that we recommend reading to help eliminate and prevent them.
3. Give Your Zoanthid Enough Light
Lighting is not only to showcase your beautiful Zoanthid garden, but it is also needed to keep their polyps healthy, so they can fully open and soak up some rays!
Getting your lighting on “PAR” (100-250) will promote optimal health for your Zoanthids because they use lighting as a source of food, thanks to the awesome microscopic algae called zooxanthellae. The good news is, most Zoanthids are pretty forgiving and tolerant of different lighting, but note that too much light will cause more harm than too little. While too little light may cause your Zoanthid to turn brown, too much light can lead to coral bleaching.
4. Keep On Top Of Water Changes
Frequent water changes are vital for overall tank stability. Changing your aquarium water at least once a week will help prevent algae and mineral buildups. A good “hack” is to keep a small amount of unchanged aquarium water to mix with the newly added water. This helps to prevent shock for your Zoanthids and any other corals you may have inside your aquarium.
Remember to test the water before and after water changes.
5. Check That Your Zoanthid’s Neighbors Are Not Harming Them
Zoanthids do not mind having neighbors, as long as they are not a nuisance – you wouldn’t want a neighbor that just invites themselves into your home whenever they feel like it or a neighbor that comes into your home and damages your property. Well, your Zoanthids feel the same.
Fish to avoid:
- Raccoon Butterflyfish
- Some Angelfish
- Sharp-nosed Pufferfish
These fish should be avoided, as they are known to snack on nearby Zoanthids if they get the chance!
Corals to avoid:
- Corallimorpharia Corals (Mushroom Corals) – are known to take over Zoanthid territories.
- Euphyllia Corals (Torch, Frogspawn, and Hammer Corals) – are aggressive towards neighboring corals.
6. Keep Everything Stable
Stability is needed. Without consistent water parameters, your garden will not flourish.
Despite them being hardy corals, unstable environments increase stress, which can slow your Zoa’s growth rate. Remember to frequently test the below water parameters to maintain tank stability.
Ideal Water Conditions:
- Temperature: 75° – 80 °F (77 °F is perfect)
- pH: 8.1 – 8.4
- Salinity: 1.024 – 1.026 (1.025 is perfect)
- Alkalinity: 8 – 9.5 dKH
- Nitrates: <10 ppm
- Phosphates: <0.10 ppm
- Calcium: 420 – 440 ppm
- Magnesium: 1260 – 1350 ppm
Frequently Asked Questions
Can You Create A Zoa Garden On A Budget?
Surprisingly, it doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg, as there are some small hacks to creating the ultimate Zoanthid garden in your reef tank!
- Hack #1: Purchase Zoanthid frag packs instead of buying separate Zoa frag colonies. This is a cheaper way to buy a variety of Zoas, and it is a great way to get your Zoanthid garden going.
- Hack #2: Ask your reefing buddies if they have any spare frags going – some may be giving them away for free, or at least a reduced price to your local fish store.
- Hack #3: Once some of your frags grow, why not create a frag tank so you can sell on extras and earn some money. You can also see if anyone wants to trade one of your Zoas for one of theirs!
How Many Polyps & How Big Should They Be To Start With?
Well, this all depends on what you want the end result to look like, and your budget.
The more polyps you get in a Zoa colony, the more expensive it will be because they will grow much faster. Do not worry if you are on a budget, that is not an issue at all – it just means it will take you a little longer to get that Zoanthid Garden end result.
In terms of frag plugs, if you can, buy one that has 5-10 Zoa polyps on it, this is a great start (even for people on a budget). With this many polyp heads, within 6 months you should expect to see some amazing results.
What Is The Best Placement?
With any coral, you need to consider the location, and the key to a perfect Zoa garden is separation.
You should avoid placing your Zoanthid near any Euphyllia species, as they are known to be aggressive and sting neighboring corals, particularly Torch Corals. A distance of 6-inches is recommended between different species of corals.
You should also allow at least 1-inch space around the frag plug before you stick another one down, as your Zoanthids will soon take over.
We also recommend not using too much glue to secure your Zoa frag plug to the rock. Often Zoanthids will change their color morph over time and with changes in parameters. If you need to change things up 6 months down the line, if they are not too secure, you have the option to rearrange your Zoanthid garden.
What Are The Best Color Morphs For Zoanthid Gardens?
It can be difficult to know where to start when arranging your Zoanthid garden.
The best advice is to take a look at the color wheel. You will want to place a Zoa coral next to one that is on the opposite side of the color wheel. This creates an aesthetically pleasing Zoa garden and more variation.
How Long Does It Take To Create A Zoa Garden?
This depends on the size of the frags (how many polyps it has), and the type of Zoanthid species. However, you should expect to see good growth after 6 months of placement.
Zoanthids are one of the best saltwater corals for beginner hobbyists, because of their vibrant colors and hardiness, making them a very popular addition to any reef tank.
Creating the perfect Zoanthid garden in your reef tank is not difficult. With a little bit of patience and money, in no time, everyone will be talking about how perfect your Zoanthid garden is!