Which coral to keep???
Stony corals can be very particular about water quality, lighting and water movement, if you want to get into the challenging world of stony corals LPS corals are the logical first choice…
As I have said previously if you are new to coral keeping I really advise you to start with soft corals, then with success move to LPS stony corals, finally after you have mastered keeping these, move on to SPS corals which are the hardest to keep.
LPS corals have species that can be some of the easiest corals to successfully keep, but there are other LPS corals that are pretty demanding! Overall LPS corals are easier to keep than SPS corals, which all require absolutely pristine water quality, high lighting and high water movement because of their native habitats on the reef..
What exactly are LPS corals?
The stony corals come in two main varieties; the easier to keep large polyped stony corals (LPS) and small polyped stony corals (SPS), as you can probably guess the main difference between them is the size of the living polyps inside the calcium carbonate skeletons, LPS polyps are large and soft. SPS corals also have branching, plate-like or encrusting skeletons, whereas LPS corals come in many, many different forms. LPS corals are less fussy about their environment so are easier to keep.
The vital differences between LPS corals and SPS corals regarding their care and preferences…
Many LPS species are not even reef corals, instead hailing from thebottom of tropical lagoons of the world; many living on the sandy substrate, these species do rather well when placed on the substrate of your tank.
Lagoon environments typically have less pristine water quality than a reef environment (where SPS corals come from), so many LPS corals have a greater tolerance for sediment and nutrients in the water.
SPS corals come from just below the waters surface in high water movement reef zones whereas LPS corals come from deeper lagoon bottoms with less water movement so are less demanding for high light and prefer less turbulent water flow.
LPS corals really thrive with supplementary feeding, even though many have zooxanthellae, additional feeding really helps them do well. LPS corals have bigger polyps so many species can take bigger foods such as mysis shrimp and pieces of shellfish flesh. It can be a real joy feeding your LPS corals and watching them eat!
LPS corals are very popular because of their relative ease of upkeep (most LPS species) but also because of their usually extended large colourful polyps (mostly happens at night), which make them the most photographed corals in the world!
Large polyps also means that they are more easily damaged so care needs to be taken to keep them out of high water flow areas and away from physical damage as a hurt polyp often may not recover.
LPS corals are generally larger than SPS corals and also unlike SPS corals they are much harder to propagate (frag) in captivity so most specimens are wild caught. LPS corals tend to fully expand their polyps especially when they are doing well, this expansion is a lot more pronounced than with SPS corals. The extent of the expansion also depends on current, lighting and whether the coral is feeding or not.
LPS corals are multiplied in the homes system usually by budding (binary fusion) but they have also been known to spawn at home.
Beware stinging sweeper tentacles!
LPS corals have a highly developed stinging capacity similar to anemones so care must be taken not to place them to close to other species as they compete for space fiercely, this can easily result in a dead coral.
As well as a mighty sting LPS corals are equipped with sweeper tentacles; these unusually long tentacles are deployed and survey the area immediately around the coral looking for any competing coral or other organism which then gets attacked by the stinging sweeper tentacles until it moves far enough away or dies!
Different forms of LPS corals
LPS corals form huge skeletons and therefore are slower growing than SPS corals.
There are 3 main skeletal forms these corals grow into:
– Branching: this skeleton type resembles a traditional, typical branching coral like the multi-coloured Candy cane coral (Caulastrea furcata).
– Ridge: the skeleton forms in masses of ridges like the brain coral (Acanthastrea, Favia, Favites, Lobophyllia, Trachyphyllia and Platygyra species).
– Plate: well, like the LPS plate and disk coral (Heliofungia and Fungia sp.)!
In many cases the genus will dictate the skeletal form, but this is not a rule, for example the Hammer coral has branching and ridge forms.
In my opinion no saltwater aquarium set up is complete without some weird and wonderful LPS specimens.