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How to Care for LPS Coral

Large polyp stony (LPS) corals are the corals many aquarium hobbyists select when adding stony corals to their saltwater or reef tanks. All stony corals require more care than many fish and soft corals, and they need the correct saltwater aquarium setup to survive and thrive. However, with the proper care and the right selection of coral, even hobbyists with moderate skills can enjoy these colorful sea creatures.

What Are LPS Corals?

Large polyp stony corals are named for the large polyps they have inside their skeletons, which are made of calcium carbonate. These polyps usually extend at night or when the coral is feeding. Since these corals often fluoresce brightly in the right actinic lighting, they are beautiful additions to any aquarium. Common LPS corals for this hobby include these species:

  • Brain (Favites)
  • Bubble (Plerogyra)
  • Button (Scolymia)
  • Candy Cane (Caulastrea)
  • Elegance (Catalaphyllia)
  • Fox (Nemanzophyllia)
  • Frogspawn (Euphyllia)
  • Orange Tube Coral (Tubastrea)
  • Plate (Fungia)
  • Slipper (Polyphillia)
  • Torch (Euphlillia)

Water Quality

LPS corals are not as fussy about their water quality as their SPS, or small polyp stony coral cousins. They will accept water that is not perfectly pristine, but they do need to have proper levels of calcium, magnesium, and alkalinity. Many reef tank owners use Kalkwasser mix or an aquarium calcium reactor to help maintain the calcium and pH levels that LPS corals need for their skeletons. These corals also require a trace element supplement. Aquarists typically do small water changes every two weeks to help maintain clarity and pH levels.

Tank Placement

These sea creatures need room to grow. They also have tentacles up to six inches long that sting other coral. Avoid placing LPS corals too close to other corals. Some of these sea creatures prefer to rest on the substrate at the bottom of the tank. Other species prefer placement elsewhere. Decide where you want your coral to go, and then select the species that will thrive best in that area.

Speed of Water Flow

In the ocean, water flows over a coral, bringing it food and taking away waste products. Your reef tank needs to have the correct water flow to help your coral thrive. Make sure to check your coral's water movement requirements. Many need a moderate water flow, which you can simulate with a pump. Avoid too high of a water flow, since this can damage the delicate polyps.

Lighting and Feeding

Many of these coral need low to moderate light levels and too much light can actually harm them. The LED aquarium lights are particularly well suited for coral growth, since the spectrum can be customized to your particular coral's needs. Actinic light will bring out a coral's beautiful fluorescence.

Some corals have symbiotic algae that help them photosynthesize light. Other corals do not, and they need regular feeding. All coral appreciate some supplemental food, like phytoplankton, zooplankton or copepods, and even some Mysis shrimp.

If you need more information, the helpful aquarium experts at OCReef.com - OC Reef Aquatics are ready to help you. We have articles on a variety of aquarium topics so that you can learn more about caring for your reef tank. Feel free to call us at 949.429.8034 to speak to our friendly staff, or use the handy contact form to send your questions.

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