Zoas & Palys: A Kaleidoscope of Color

Zoas & Palys: A Kaleidoscope of Color

Zoanthids and Palythoas are some of the most popular corals in the hobby. There is good reason for this. The rainbow of colors available and the myriad of patterns on all the different zoas and palys out there make them incredibly desirable. Their ability to be kept by newbies and experienced hobbyists alike are also part of the draw.

Photo by: joshporksandwich

zoas A.jpg

Let’s look at each and see the structural differences between the zoa and paly so you might be able to identify what you are looking at when you go to the LFS (Local Fish Store). The general structure of each are very similar and those similarities will outweigh the differences, which may make them difficult to tell apart at times. Both are made up of individual polyps that sprout baby polyps that will grow from the base of the parent polyp and then sprout their own babies in time. After a while, these group of polyps will create a colony. Both are usually sold by the polyp, which means that you would pay a certain amount of money for each individual polyp that is for sale in the group.

Photo by: orlandoreefer (green apple reds)

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Each polyp has a mouth and oral disk that surrounds the mouth and a skirt that surrounds the whole polyp. The disk and skirt sit atop a “stalk” which grows on top of the live rock or frag plug it has been placed on. They create a kind of mat when they start producing new polyps since they are all connected by a bit of flesh at the base of the stalks.

Photo by: marius swart (nuclear green palys)

zoas C.jpg

Differences between zoas and palys can be quite subtle. The stalks on palys tend to be longer or taller than zoas, but this isn’t always the case. The head of the polyps of palys tend to be larger than zoas as well, but again, this isn’t going to be a hard and fast rule. These are just general guidelines. No matter which type you have, there are many colors and patterns available, so many that they are often collected.

Photo by: joshporksandwich

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Collectors can often pay upwards of $100 per polyp for something particularly beautiful or rare. You’ll find that most of the polyps collected have names. If you look closer and pay attention, you’ll find that there are similar looking polyps with different names available from different vendors. You’ll also find that some polyps will even change their appearance due to different/new water, flow and lighting conditions from one tank to another. This is called “morphing” when a polyp changes its colors or even its pattern. This is just one of many reasons that two zoas that look so much alike might have different names. Other reasons might be that different vendors go the same (or similar) zoas in and named them something different, not really knowing that the other already had them too.

Photo by: joshporksandwhich

zoas E.jpg

Zoas and palys are generally easy to care for. You’ll find everybody has their own ideas on this, but they will do well when they have some nitrates and phosphate in the water to feed on. Flow can be anything from low to medium-high with alternating waves being ideal for most corals. It’s possible to feed zoas small size foods like oyster feast as well, (or other similarly sized coral foods) and most people will tell you that they grow faster when fed. It’s a bit of a misnomer that zoas and palys will grow fast and easily though. There are some out there that will indeed grow very quickly for you and even some that may become invasive. However, there are many zoas, especially, that can be difficult to grow or may just be slow growers which can lead to them costing more money per polyp in the end. There are experts out there that will purchase a zoa frag and have it melt on them despite doing everything “right”. It seems that each individual species/breed/name/whatever you want to call them, has their own specific needs and care requirements involved.

Photo by: pumarjr (fruitloops)

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I want to hear from the collectors of zoas and palys, the people that like them but aren’t willing to pay premiums for them, and the newbies who want to know what they have or how to take care of a certain type. Show me your favorite, your most coveted, your fastest and slowest growers. Label each picture so we all know what we are looking at and tell us how you keep them growing and looking beautiful!

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About author
Meredith Presley started keeping marine aquariums in 2007. She’s done everything wrong that can be done in the hobby (mostly but not all in that first year) and that has afforded her to learn a lot of hard lessons. Recently she’s been focused on marine disease diagnosis and treatment and hopes to focus on breeding soon as well. She also keeps a blog with basic info on saltwater keeping and her experiences with her own tank and livestock.

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