Zoanthids (affectionately referred to as zoas) are extremely beautiful, especially the rarer kinds, such as fruit loop zoas and blue hornet zoas. These creatures come in a wide variety of colors and are fairly easy to care for. They have been blossoming in popularity for a while now, but if you want to add them to your aquarium, it is important to understand exactly how to care for these creatures. Let’s take a deeper look at this creature, along with learning some basic zoanthid care tips, such as the reason zoanthids should be handled gently.
What Are Zoanthids?
Zoanthids are actually not a species of coral. They are cnidarians, much like sea anemones. In fact, due to their nature, they are referred to as colonial anemones. Zoas tend to contain their zooxanthellae within their bodies. The zooxanthellae are what produce the fantastic colors that the zoas emit. In terms of body structure, they have a similar body structure to sea anemones featuring an oral disc surrounded by tentacles and a cylindrical body. If the title colonial anemones did not give it away, zoas usually form large groups and cover huge surfaces. They also tend to emit a mucus-like substance with which to coat themselves.
Caring for zoanthids is relatively easy compared to coral and sea anemones. They require moderate to high lighting in order to take full advantage of the zooxanthellae’s photosynthesis. What is also recommended is to feed the zoas directly. Zooplankton and cyclopleeze are good diet choices. However, each zoanthid is different, so testing different kinds of food is highly recommended. The thing that makes these animals so easy to care for is their high tolerance for dirty water. While it is important to make sure that any tank is always clean, zoas will not be immediately harmed by dirty water. Something important to keep in mind when introducing zoas into a tank is that they multiply rapidly. In fact, zoanthids have been known to suffocate tank mates due to their sheer numbers. So, plan accordingly.
The (Hopefully) Bit
One of the most fascinating aspects of zoanthids is also one of the most deadly. There is a group of zoanthids known as Palythoas. These Palythoas secrete a poison through their mucus, known as palytoxin. Palytoxin is extremely dangerous, and it affects humans in a very adverse way. What this toxin does is mess with the cells of the heart, destroying their ion regulatory systems. This causes the cell to deteriorate and not be able to transport vital materials, such as oxygen. This leads to the poisoned person’s death by suffocation. There are no outwardly visible signs of palytoxin poisoning, so any treatment usually is administered too late. The toxin enters the system via open wounds, ingestion, and injection. If there is no open wound, the skin becomes very irritated. Because of the lack of treatment and severity of the possible injury, when handling them always wear protective gear, such as gloves and goggles, and use tongs to prevent contact with the skin.
Specific Examples of Zoanthids
Fruit loop zoanthids are extremely beautiful with vivid and bright colors. They are Japanese zoas have orange tentacles with a blue oral disc surrounded by green. While in nature, these animals are found in the lower part of the reef, and thus require low to medium lighting when you bring them home. You should also know that, apparently, most deep-sea zoanthids are temperamental, and it is normal for them to be closed off after shipping. They may remain this was after placement in the tank for up to two weeks.
Blue hornet zoanthids are also very beautiful. This species is from Africa. They are known for their distinctive blue color and their brilliant blue, green or yellow center. Medium lighting is preferred, and some individual feeding will help promote color and growth. They do receive most of their nutrition from their zooxanthellae, so lighting is important for this species.
Zoanthids Wrap Up
Zoanthids are amazing creatures, and very good for the beginning aquarist. Although referred to as such, they are not coral. They have similar structures to sea anemones. Zoanthids tend to be very easy to care for, not requiring much in the way of feeding. For the most growth and the best colors, individually feeding each zoa is recommended. Zoas can be dangerous to tank mates and to unsuspecting aquarists. They can also multiply rapidly, overtaking tank mates, and some species of zoa secrete a poison that is deadly to humans. Thus, it is important to always wear protective gear when handling. Two beautiful examples of zoanthids are the fruit loop zoas and the blue hornet zoas. Each zoanthid is different, so patience is the key with these animals. Happy reef-keeping!