SPS Corals – Small Polyp Stony Corals

The polyps of the SPS corals are much smaller than those of the LPS corals. LPS corals have polyps that are large and soft. SPS corals will generally been seen as plated or branched corals. In general, they prefer very bright light and strong water flows.

Most of them are very fragile and will be propagated both manually and naturally by pieces being broken off from mother colonies.

Staghorn Coral in the wild

In the home aquarium, SPS corals are for the most part very challenging. Over the past 20 years, some new methods of care have been discovered that have allowed the more average aquarist to get involved with them. Today, is it very common to see many home aquariums with various species from hydnophora, acropora and other SPS corals doing well in these home tanks.

SPS generally inhibit areas of the reef with very turbulent water and require high levels of lighting which will come from metal halides or VHO fluorescent tubes, as well as strong water flows and turbulence. They also need very stable, non-fluctuating temperatures with fantastic water quality (low nutrients from organic material) in order to grow. Excellent levels of trace elements, strontium and calcium is needed for healthy SPS colonies.

The natural reef is a mystical world, built by corals, inhabited by thousands of corals, anemones, crustaceans and other fascinating creatures. Stony corals will produce calcium carbonate which ultimately becomes the building blocks for a coral reef.

The aquarium industry refers to stony corals as either SPS (small polyp stony corals) or LPS (large polyp stony corals). This is very obvious once you compare their polyps sizes against each other. This generally works well for hobbyists to identify different corals, but it doesn’t offer an exact description. There are some exceptions that don’t fit right into the categories, so are often confused. Scientifically, there is actually little objectivity with no real or obvious correlation with classification and polyp sizes.

Care for SPS corals

Coral reef building and maintaining in a home setting is a very fun, rewarding and exciting venture. Reef tanks were once labelled as being very hard to care for as keeping coral alive and healthy is demanding. But with research, experience and the technology available today this is becoming easier and a more reachable goal for the average hobbyist. A strong desire to learn how, the willingness to complete it and the right budget will allow for a successful upkeep of a home reef tank – not to mention plenty of time and patience.

Successful and dazzling home tanks can either be very simple setups with easy specimens, or a much more difficult and complex setup with demanding corals and bold fish. Stony corals will require more of dedicated effort to maintain which quickly puts them slightly more out of reach for a beginner or casual hobbyist.

If keeping hard corals, experience with general reef keeping is invaluable. Starting off with more basic less demanding species allows you to fully understand each aspect of the reef properly. This will allow you to slowly develop knowledge of basic components and their relevance to the system and inhabitants. Some of the best specimens to begin your adventure with are things like anemones, coral anemones and leather corals. Once you have had success in keeping these alive and healthy you can begin to progress up the levels of more complex animals.