The zoanthid is one of the most stunning yet simplistic coral-like animals in this hobby. It can come in any color combination that you can imagine–along with any price point. This is why this particular anthozoan deserves an article of its own. There are over 100 species of zoanthids alone and the identification process can be quite messy!
What’s in a name
Zoanthids are collected all over the world. As they started morphing in home aquariums, figuring out the exact specification has become complicated. At one point, all zoanthids were all wild caught and before morphing began, identification was a much simpler process. Now, each zoanthid morph has an industry name. Depending on who created the morph, sometimes it will have a brand name associated with it or just a morph name. Every type of coral is going to have a specific name for the different coloration’s, however, zoanthids take the prize when it comes to the name game.
There are hundreds of different zoanthid morphs that have their own special names in this hobby; sometimes, it can be a pain trying to identify which one you have in your aquarium. There are even websites made specifically to help identify zoanthids. There are certain ones that only have the slightest of differences, if any at all, and depending on who you got it from will depend on the name. Certain morphs have been named multiple times which can make it even harder on the people growing them out and trying to sell them. It isn’t uncommon to see online debates over determining the specific name of a certain zoanthid as people in one state may call it one thing, while people in a different state call it another. However, even with all of these crazy confusing names, there are some zoanthids that will always be recognized as one thing.
Whether it is a classic, or one of the high end zoas, there are a few names in this industry that most people will recognize. When it comes to classics, Rasta, Eagle Eye, Miami Vice, Mary Jane, Dragon Eyes, are all examples of classic zoanthids. These are the zoa’s that never seem to go out of style and have become quite affordable. Now for people who are collectors of zoas, there are a few prized names that will always spark interest in their eyes. The Grand Master Krak, Little Shop of Horrors, Hallucinations, Hyper Jubilee, etc. are all names of expensive zoanthids. These are the ones that every collector would love to have at some point.
Zoas are For beginners (usually!)
The high price comes with some risk with these, as some of them are known for “melting” after being placed in a different tank. Anytime you plan on purchasing one of these high end zoas you should ask the seller what their tank parameters are at for you to replicate it to the best of your ability. With the high price tag you will be paying, there is no room for error when adding them to your aquarium.
Zoanthids in general are usually one of the easiest corals to keep and are very forgiving. When I have customers come in to my shop that are beginners, I usually will recommend them to try out zoas or mushrooms as their first “coral” to see if their tank is ready. They come in any color combination imaginable and can usually thrive in a new aquarium. As they lack a skeleton, they do not require as much care in terms of calcium, alkalinity, etc.
So long as light is hitting them and they aren’t being blown away by the flow, most zoas can thrive in most locations in the tank. However, this is not the case for all types. For zoas such as Hallucinations, you should replicate the tank they came from. If the store had them in medium light with medium flow, you will want to place them in that. Hallucinations are notorious for melting in aquariums and it is always a devastating sight to see. They are not the most expensive zoas; still, they still usually cost $100-150 per polyp. I’ve had them melt on me before and it broke me a bit. Everyone’s goal when they purchase a coral is to watch it thrive and grow. No one wants to sit and watch their coral die and not be able to do anything about it!
As new morphs are introduced into this hobby (which is seemingly on a daily basis), the prices of zoas continue to shift. The older morphs tend to go down in price as they become more readily available to hobbyists, while the newer ones start with a high price tag. Some people prefer to wait for the price to go down in a couple years before buying. However, there are the hardcore collectors who try to get their hands on that new morph as soon as possible in order to be one of the first to keep and propagate it. There is dynamic market in zoanthids and if you plan on growing them out and selling them, be aware, you have tons of competition. Many, many hobbyists these days are growing corals out and selling them online or at shows so it is important to be ahead of the game. It is a constant battle trying to have the new hot zoa, let alone, trying to quickly grow it out to sell.
Whether you plan on just admiring zoas, or if you plan on growing it out and selling them, make sure you properly care for them. For example, always dip a new addition to your tank. Even if you completely trust the person you got your zoas from, you should dip any new addition to your tank (even the bestsellers with the most pristine tanks will tell you to dip the coral you purchase from them). You never know if a pest is hiding in your frag, and you can never be too safe!