What is an SPS Coral?
SPS (small polyp stony) corals are a group of coral species that mostly make up a coral reef. Characterized by tiny polyps with branches, they have a stony calcium carbonate skeleton.
SPS corals are the most challenging coral species to keep in an aquarium tank. They require stable water parameters, including lots of lighting, water flow, and even chemical parameters. A sudden unbalance in any of these can result in the death of one coral. And this will cause an increase in the ammonia composition in the water that can destroy all tanks.
Although SPS corals usually have the larger share in a reef tank, they require that no beginner jumps on them without proper mastery. But if you want to learn, this article is a great place to start!
Top 5 Beginner SPS Corals
If you are a beginner, I strongly advise you don’t jump too quickly on SPS corals just yet. Get some experience with other coral species before considering purchasing some SPS corals. That said, there are a few species that do not require intensive care.
Check out some of the top SPS corals lists for beginners:
- Montipora Digitatas
- Montipora Caps
- Green Bali Slimer
Providing Proper Care for SPS Corals
Just like other marine aquariums, SPS corals require some water conditions to thrive and be happy.
Lots of Light
SPS corals require fairly intense lighting conditions. From high-power reef LEDs to t5 lights, most of them will thrive on much light and dissolved chemicals. However, two factors you must consider before setting light intensity are the type of species of coral and aquarium depth.
Algae, on the other hand, can be a great problem. It can grow much faster than corals and can compete with them for nutrients. While algae are needed to keep an aquarium spotless, their major nutrients must be as low as possible. So, keep Nitrate and Phosphate in the range of 1-10ppm.
Like nearly all coral species, SPS Corals are photosynthetic animals. With the help of their zooxanthellae, they can convert light into food. However, this alone can result in slower growth.
Due to their tiny polyps, they can only feed on zooplankton, cyclops, marine snow, and other tiny organisms. The size of their polyps is what determines the size of food they can eat. Feeding SPS corals also improve their color and makes them brighten substantially.
Sometimes, they feed on organic matter from their tank mates such as fish and other invertebrates like shrimp.
Since SPS corals are the most demanding corals you can find, you would need to constantly provide stable water parameters. To achieve this, some hobbyists often depend on automated dosing equipment. Calcium reactors, sometimes with a Kalkwasser solution, which balances the calcium composition in the water are a prime example of an automated tool.
Likewise, you could maintain water stability by adding elements with your hand. However, the process can be very tedious. Keep in mind that if the water chemistry changes too often, unlike the ocean environment, it’ll stress your corals. And eventually, they might die.
That said, if you want to dose manually, then condition the following.
Water conditions for SPS Corals:
- pH: 8.1-8.4
- Temperature: 78-82℉
- Salinity: 1.023-1.026
- Nitrate: 1-10ppm
- Phosphate: <.03ppm
- Magnesium: 1200-1400ppm
- Calcium: 400-450ppm
- Strontium: 7-9ppm
- Iodine: .06ppm
- Boron: <10ppm
So, there you have it about SPS corals!