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FAQs about SPS Coral Compatibility

Related Articles: SPS Corals, Acroporid Corals, Dyed Corals, 'Coral' Compatibility: On Reducing Captive Negative Interactions Cnidarians  by Bob Fenner, ppt. vers: Cnidarian Compatibility: On Reducing Negative Cnidarian Interaction Parts: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5,  by Bob Fenner

Related FAQs: SPS 1, SPS 2, SPS Identification, SPS Behavior, SPS Selection, SPS Systems, SPS Lighting, SPS Feeding, SPS Disease, SPS Reproduction, Acroporid Corals, Agariciid Corals, Astrocoeniid CoralsMerulinid Corals, Pectiniid Corals, Pocilloporid Corals, Siderastreid CoralsStony Coral Behavior, Coral System Set-Up, Coral System Lighting, Stony Coral Identification, Stony Coral Selection, Coral PlacementFoods/Feeding/Nutrition, Disease/Health, Propagation, Growing Reef CoralsStony Coral Behavior,

They don't "all just get along"... w/o careful prep., conditioning.

SPS Anthelia Question, hlth and comp resp.    3/29/15
Hello Bob et.al. I have been having some real weird issues with sps in terms of them burning (turning all white or brown). This all began in October when I moved the existing system into a 180, plenty of skimming, plenty of water movement. 6 months of scratching my head as too why with MG of 1500, CA at 450, I was still having issues getting ph to 8.3 (even with
Kalk, and alk issues).
<Don't fret over this.... do you have sufficient N, P, K?>
Boiled down to the salt I was using, I don't know if its because I have a ULN system,
<ULN: Ultra Low Nutrient for browsers>
but it was seemingly associated with using Red Sea Pro salt. I have bought multiple test kits and been through it all, I am now seeing color in sps and chalices I haven't seen in 6 months. One question though. I have anthelia which has gotten to the invasive stage,
<This could definitely be a factor as well>
it dominates 40% of LR surface.
<Yes; I'd trade out (with a shop) all but five, ten percent of this... for new rock. Isolate the remaining on its own bommies>
I know it can be toxic, but the only way I seem to be able to rid of it is to blow torch the rock which sends the rock into recycle.
<Careful here. Instead, as stated, trade it in for new rock>
Any suggestions on dealing with the anthelia? My understanding is that anthelia are minor to moderately toxic but only if irritate or try to kill them. I am just trying to determine how big of a threat their presence in my system is to sps, other than touching warfare.
Thanks, Tom
<The nutrient check (to make sure you have all three in proportion) and removal of the bulk of the Xeniid... along with enough light, circulation.... Bob Fenner>

Update on Algae and Coral (allelopathy)    10/18/11
Hi Bob and Crew,
I've been following the daily faqs pretty much daily for some time now and always appreciate the great updates and the contributions from all the crew.
I came across this article today regarding updated research in Fiji about the chemical warfare between various forms of algae and sps corals and thought I'd pass it on.
<Thank you>
I found the similarity between the processes described in the article occurring in our reefs and what happens when we have a cyanobacteria or algae situation in our tanks very informative. I also enjoyed the description of the Rabbitfish "quivering" in anticipation of eating the noxious algae.
<'It's certainly a novel finding,' says John Bruno, a marine ecologist at the University of North Carolina, "
Nah... not novel at all. Have written and read re this phenomenon for decades>
Thanks again for being that great resource for all of us.
<Thank you, Bob Fenner>

Chemical Reactions Between SPS and Soft Corals -- 08/13/08 Thanks for all of your exceptional help. <<Happy to share>> As I recall I have read about chemical reactions between SPS and soft coral neighbors. <<Mmm, yes 'is referred to as allelopathy'¦and more commonly known to/referred to among those keeping terrestrial plants. But the basics of the definition serve the same here'¦'the inhibition of growth by chemicals produced by another species'... Though I think this can be expanded for aquarists to include more than limiting growth but also causing the 'demise' of organisms 'and that such negative interactions can even be between individuals of the 'same species' in some cases>> I have a 330g tank with quite a few frags of SPS corals. I have made somewhat of an attempt to put SPS corals on one side of my tank and soft corals, polyps on the other. <<I want to note here that these organisms can detect substances in parts-per-million, even parts-per-billion ratios. If you have disparate organisms in the same tank, you can be sure they are aware of each other's presence (and doing battle); regardless of how far apart they are positioned. I'm not saying the physical separation isn't a good thing or isn't warranted as it may help reduce the 'level' of aggression 'I just want to make it clear that physical separation does not stop aggression, and that chemical fighting has no 'boundaries' within closed systems as all is reached and affected as the elements are moved/carried through the water column>> However, we do have a few areas of overlap in which polyps/soft corals come within 4-8" of a SPS coral. <<This physical separation is fine 'what needs to be considered is the overall 'volume' of disparate species. In other words, a large volume of chemically noxious polyps and soft corals will have a greater overall effect on a small volume of much less noxious Acropora species than if the volume/bio-mass were reversed>> These polyps/soft corals do not have full tentacle extension and have never looked great. My SPS corals all look fantastic and growing. <<Hmm'¦it is highly unlikely in my estimation that the polyps/soft corals are being malaffected by the SPS directly (generally the case is just the opposite). I think it likely that either the polyps and soft corals are too close to/malaffecting each other'¦or there is an environmental condition like water flow or lighting that is not to their liking>> Water param.s are excellent, <<This tells me nothing mate>> lighting is within 18-20" of 1600watts metal halides. <<Mmm, a lot of light... Do review your placement of your organisms re>> Could this be because of interactions between the corals or is the fact they are close to each other a coincidence? <<It's impossible to say without more than the very general organism descriptions of 'polyps and soft corals' along with more descriptive data about your system (water flow, water chemistry, et al) and the placement of these organisms from each other and within the tank in relation to the other environmental elements. My best guess here is that the malaffected organisms are too close/physically touching, or there are issues with water flow or lighting. From what you describe, I don't believe the SPS corals themselves to be a factor>> Best, Bryan <<Regards, EricR>>

SPS Fighting In Mixed Reef 11/01/06 Hello people! <Hello> Your site is wonderful and I consider it invaluable.  Thanks for all you do. <Thank you for the compliment> A while back I was given a few frags and was told they were called something along the lines of a Digita-type SPS coral.   <Easier to keep than most SPS> These were my first SPS.  It took a while to get my 55 gallon up to the level where I could sustain these and I figured if these frags did well I would start with some Acroporas.  I have a mixed system, though not too full.  I know I may be prone to some chemical warfare, though I keep good distance between corals and run carbon which I change out at least biweekly.  My question is the following:    Why would one frag on one side of the tank start bleaching and the other frag on the other side not?  I have tested salinity, PH, calcium, alkalinity, nitrates and phosphates.  I know my phosphates are on the high side, but my refugium is slowly taking care of that and I was told those levels will at worst hinder growth not cause bleaching.  All other parameters are good, and I use two 150-watt HQI halides.  Also, around the same time the frag started bleaching, my bubble coral started behaving strangely (stress-split maybe).  My xenias are wilting, yet simultaneously growing new stalks.  My clam looks good and other frags are doing pretty well, but I am afraid this is an indication of a problem I am not aware of.     Thanks in advance for any insight, JC <JC-Sounds like you could have some chemical warfare going on in the tank although the phosphates really don't help either.  If really high, not only can it stunt the growth of SPS, but also cause them to shut down.  I would keep an eye out for stray feeder tentacles touching other corals and soak up those phosphates with a remover. Cheers! -- Dr. J> Arothron and SPS - 5/2/2006 Hello All, <<Hello Craig.>> I am interesting in purchasing an all black Arothron nigropunctatus to place in a 200 gallon tank (after a vigorous 4 week quarantine period) with my other fishes. <<Sounds nice, and it's nice to hear QT!>> All my other fishes are reef safe, and my bioload will not be upset by this fish. <<OK<> Once he has been acclimated to his new diet (four daily mixed pellet feedings of Thera+A and Vita-Diet from two different auto feeders; 3 times weekly homemade frozen with Mysis, Cyclop-eeze, Natu-rose, Spirulina, Selcon, vita-chem, Nori, krill, plankton, squid and clams; live Mysis and copepods from refugium as well), I would give him at least 6 months to love his new diet. <<Do be sure not to over feed, and offer plenty of crunchy foods to wear down his dental plates.>> Then comes the idea that I have been playing around with--adding two or three different colored plating species of Montipora capricornis and a nice yellow specimen of Porites cylindrica (I do have the proper lighting and more than enough water movement).  I would appreciate any comments on chances of success, or modifications to improve on any chances of success.  I do not have to have these corals, but they are my favorite and it would be great to add them to my tank with all of my marvelous fishes. <<Corals and puffers together is always a gamble.  Some will chomp them to bits, others will never touch them.  The entire family is quite curious, and will sample/chomp on many things.  My best advice to you is to watch closely, and be prepared to choose one or the other, should a problem arise.  You may have better luck adding the Arothron after the corals, as to not highlight their addition/existence.  Also note that shrimps, bivalves, clams and such will more than likely fall prey to the puffer in no time.  All that said, ultimately it is up to the fish how tolerant/intolerant they are, and if you do decide to go this route, it's your job to be prepared to remove the puffer or the corals to other proper accommodations if need be.  Good luck my friend!>> Thank you for your comments.  I appreciate your time and knowledge. -Craig <<Glad to help. Lisa.>>

Chemical Warfare?  4/6/06 I mentioned in my last email that my SPS started showing signs of stress. Their tips started dying. I have a doubt about my anemone, do you think that it can secrete allelopathic substances that can affect the SPS? <I believe that it is entirely possible, which is why I discourage mixing corals and anemones in most systems.> I looked up the archives but I am not sure if this is right or wrong. <I think that the theory is right.> It has been in the tank for 6 months now and once in a while, I lose one or two of my SPS for the same reason, either dying tips or bleaching , but mainly the tips begin to die. <Could certainly be allelopathic competition, or some lapse in environmental conditions.> Do  you think it is the anemone? The water chemistry is great, calcium is above 400 and heavy skimming all the time with Euro-reef skimmer, water changes every 2 weeks !! I am confused and I need your help. Thank you. P.S. It is a red, long tentacle anemone. Regards, Ramy Ontario, Canada <Well, Ramy- in the absence of other possibilities (such as environmental lapses), the only theory that I have is that the anemone could be an issue, unless you're looking at some type of disease affecting the coral. My advice is to "specialize", and keep only the coral or the anemone...Hope this helps. Regards, Scott F.>

Sharks and Corals  7/19/06 Hello. <Hi there> I have a 300 gallon shark tank with 2 young banded bamboo shark in it that hatched at my home. <Neat>   I have a very large cave structure that is cemented together in the center of the tank that they sleep in and prowl around. <Good layout> The rest of the tank is open water. I was wondering since my rock work is so stable and I can't even topple it over if that I could keep some SPS corals on the top of the cave close to the surface to dress the tank up a bit. <Mmm, maybe...> I would choose corals that don't sting of course. <Not really much of an issue...> Would this be a problem?   <Likely will have problems with water quality for the SPS (need high biomineral, alkalinity content), perhaps easily knocked off the rock at night...> In the wild they live around the stuff so I figured it would be ok. Any input would be much appreciated. Thanks. Justin. <Worth trying. Bob Fenner>

Re: Less Problematic Large Angel In SPS Dominated Reefs   9/4/06 James at al., Thanks for your reply. Trying to obtain all the info I can get on this issue before I decide, I've been re-reading your "angel compatibility FAQ", and noticed one of your crew answers that, somehow, I missed before. When asked the top three large angels  he'd choose for a reef, on a "blind decision", Bob Fenner answered: "<Okay... Pomacanthus annularis, Genicanthus species of any kind you like, Chaetodontoplus mesoleucos... my choices. Bob Fenner>. The Genicanthus spp. is easy to understand, but I've been wondering why the P. annularis. Specially in number one. Is it because of a specific diet or behaviour that is distinct from the other Pomacanthus? <I don't believe that Bob recommended these fish as "safe" reef dwellers, just the ones he would choose "if" he had to make a choice.  The annularis will nip at base of sessile invertebrates including corals.  They are also known to pick/nip on Tridacnid clams.> I did not consider the P. Annularis before, because I had the impression it would be similar to the P. Imperator (which I prefer) as regards its "reef safeness", but this statement made me look at it with new eyes... And if the Annularis is less "Russian roulette" than the ones I've been considering, I may opt for it. <If you MUST have an angel, I would go with Bob's suggestions keeping in mind that none are totally safe.> Regards, <And to you.  James (Salty Dog)> João

Mushrooms Bleaching/SPS Polyps Closed I am having some trouble with mushrooms bleaching in my 135g tank. Here are the tank parameters, and other than some minor fluctuations the parameters have been consistent for at least the past year; Size: 135 gallon Biological Filtration: 4-5" live sand bed, approx. 120 pounds of live rock and I am running a protein skimmer in the sump. Mechanical Filtration: N/A Chemical Filtration: N/A Lighting: 2 - 7500K 175W Metal Halides, 2 - 10K 55W Power Compacts, 2 - Actinic 55W Power Compacts (None of the bulbs are older than 6-8 months) Water Movement: 3 - Maxi Jet 1200, 1 - Rio 1400 all on a wave maker. Quiet One return from the sump. Temp: 78-80f Specific Gravity: 1.024 Calcium: 400-450 pH: 8-8.2 (Depends upon when I test but this is the range) Ammonia: 0 Nitrite: 0 Nitrate: 0 dKH: 10 Makeup Water: Aged Tap (I have a copy of the water report and the water looks pretty good but I will shortly be purchasing an RO/DI unit) Fish: Yellow Tang, White Cap Clownfish, Skunk Clownfish, Lawnmower Blenny, Coral Beauty, Yellow Watchman Inverts: Usual mix of snails/hermits, pistol shrimp Corals: Acropora, Montipora, Pocillopora, torch, hammer, Fungia, brain, colt, finger leather, cabbage leather, Zoanthids, mushrooms I have encountered two problems in the past 2 months and I can't find a solution. All of the SPS corals show healthy growth, and no bleaching...but they do not appear to have the polyp extension they had a few months ago (especially the Montipora digitata). I have several different types of mushrooms throughout the tank, and recently they have begun indiscriminately bleaching. It is affecting them at different depths, different water flows, etc. One may bleach and die off but the ones surrounding it are fine. We moved the first week of July so I know some of the corals were stressed. But they have been open and healthy the first two months, and the SPS still show fine growth. Everything else in the tank is doing fine. What can I try next? Marc Daniels Elk Grove, CA <Hello Marc, the problem here is that SPS corals and mushrooms do not make good tank mates. The SPS require far more light that the mushrooms can handle for an extended period of time. What you are experiencing is photoinhibition. Photoinhibition is an individual specific occurrence, which will make it appear as if the mushrooms are bleaching at random. They usually tolerate it for 6-12 months before bleaching. Corallimorphs are collected typically 40-60 feet deep, some towards 79 where the light is a mere percent or two of that at the surface. I would try to get the mushrooms out of the sun and see if they do any better. Best Regards, Gage>

Re: Mushrooms Bleaching/SPS Polyps Closed Gage- Thanks for the info...I was concerned that it may have been the lighting, but they have been under the halides for quite a while and I had a hard time tying the two together. I'll move them into a different tank and see how they respond. I also found quite a bit of literature online regarding Photoinhibition in corals and have several hours reading ahead of me. Thanks again, Marc Daniels <Good stuff, any excuse to set up another tank is a good one in my mind. Glad we could help. Best of luck, Gage>

Mini-brittles and SPS coral I've had an Acro that seems to be slowly bleaching. It's been confusing because none of the others have this problem, and the tank parameters are perfect. <perfect for what?> So I wrote it off as "one of those things". <OK> Then this weekend, the LFS, which has a rather large selection of Acro frags and colonies, cleaned out one of their Acro tanks almost completely, apparently chucking a large amount of stock. When I asked what had happened, they said they had tons of mini brittles in the tank, and had seen them going after and eating polyps on the Acros. <what a load of crap. Ahhh...no. I assure you that no Ophiuroid starfish you and I will ever see eats healthy coral tissue> The infestation was so bad that they decided to chuck any pieces that had brittles hidden in them. <wow... amazing> And last night, I saw several mini brittles around the base of the withering Acro, and none on the other Acros (yet). <no worries... you found treasure :) > I've decided to dump them, but is there any "good" way to get them out? <they are beneficial... do send a picture and I'll confirm> I can't take them out by hand, since they hide rather well. I've heard that a harlequin will eat them, and I don't have any other starfish right now - <huh?!?! Please... don't dare put a harlequin shrimp in this tank unless you plan to farm starfish for an endless supple of echinoid tube-feet> I originally had some green brittles, <they are the only predatory Ophiuroid in the trade and even they do not eat coral tissue> but caught one arching and eating a fish a few months back and got them out a few weeks ago; haven't replaced them with red or brown ones yet. I suppose I could get the harlequin, let it work for a few weeks, then get it out. <and send it where? Such behavior/buying decisions hurt are hobby by creating a demand for inappropriate livestock. Few people, like yourself, are prepared to keep such shrimp properly for a full captive lifespan.> Any other ideas? Thanks for any help...Arthur <no worries bud... the starfish are non-predatory. The worst thing you have to fear is that the LFS simply had sick coral. The stars were scavenging the dying tissue and the lack of QT for the new coral has infected you tank. Else, all will likely be fine. Do QT all livestock (plants, algae, live rock, sand, corals, etc) in the future to prevent these problems. Regards, Anthony>

SPS Eye For The Soft Coral Guy... Hi gang, well after reading your new book along with many other nights on your site I set up a 30 gal 'fuge for my 120 reef ( the tank is over a year old), and at the same time I introduced a Korallin reactor as well, all of which occurred in the last 6 weeks or so. <Excellent steps! I'll bet you'll see some neat changes in your system as a result!> I never had any luck with adding all those chemicals to the tank and wanted to set up the tank so that it is a little more autonomous.  The 'fuge siphons off the top of the tank and then drains back into the sump with no pumps involved, and it contains a DSB with some thriving algae in there. By the way, it is bug city in there. <Excellent! Sounds like the key to diversity in your system...> The tank houses about 9 fish and only soft corals, so no real big calcium consumers there.  The Acropora that I did put in there is now peeling away after a few weeks.  All of my levels look good except for phosphates which I am in the middle of taking care of right now with a poly pad as well as phosphate sponge, nothing too high. <Bummer. The best advice would be to avoid mixing SPS with soft corals, due to allelopathic compounds released by the softies. According to Borneman, in his book "Aquarium Corals", certain soft corals are specifically "toxic" to Acropora species. It is possible, though not recommended, to maintain these types of corals in the same system, provided that you make liberal use of activated carbon, Poly Filter, and water changes...All this presumes that other parameters are acceptable for SPS corals, too, of course!> The real problem is my dKH, it is way way high, over 16.  I am using a Salifert test kit and it takes approximately 1.5 syringes for the color to change in the test vial.  It has been there for a while.  When I first noticed it I read about someone with the similar problem and they were instructed to back off on the Co2 in the reactor, so I followed that advice and did the same. <Good idea> By the way, Calcium is around 300. <I would think that it will rise a bit if the alkalinity drops somewhat...> Anyway, I took the reactor off line for about 10 days and did a few water changes in between and still no real results with getting that down to an acceptable level. <Give it time...Also- do verify your test results with a different test kit...Perhaps your reagents have expired, or- maybe your source water is unusually high in alkalinity...?> I have never had luck with hard corals and would really like to start growing some.  What could I do to get this back in line?  Water changes do not seem to be helping.   <Well, once again, I'd start by verifying test results, continuing water changes, and testing source water...> Also, I was thinking of making a surge device, is the Carlson your favorite? <It's a pretty cool thing to see...Not always practical (or quiet!) for everyone- but it really works! A friend of mine built one out of boredom (?!?) one weekend, and we checked it out on his outdoor propagation tank...WOW!> Thanks, Sean <My pleasure, Sean! Hang in there! Regards, Scott F>

Grape Caulerpa stunting SPS growth? 12/14/3 Having ruled out all other causes for my stunted SPS growth (it's not calcium, for example, the levels are high and Halimeda and coralline algae grow fine;  I also have high current and high light), I'm beginning to think it's the Caulerpa.  do you think that it's likely or probable that my Caulerpa is killing my SPS and other corals? <FWIW... inadequate water flow (not enough or not enough of the right kind) is surely one of the most common reasons for poor coral growth. With that said, and in address of your concern regarding the macroalgae, "grape" Caulerpa racemosa, is arguably the most noxious among an already exceptionally noxious group (The genus Caulerpa). It has been documented to kill fishes and urchins that consume it to excess... and it has also been shown to inhibit coral growth (albeit like many other macroalgae). Above all... it is not natural to keep or find with Acroporids. I sincerely believe that your tank will benefit by reducing excess amounts of this algae/genus (no need to completely rid). Heavier use of carbon and increased water changes will also be helpful here. Best regards, Anthony>

SPS and soft corals I am planning to upgrade my 55 gal reef to 155 gal. The 155 gal will be 72'x28'x18'. I already have good success with pc lighting, my soft corals are doing great, had them for 1 year. Will it be possible to have some SPS corals together with the soft corals ?  <Not a problem> A couple of questions here, I purchased 3 HQI Geisemann, 250 watts, 13000 k, 1 bulb per 2 feet. Will that be sufficient?  <Excellent choice of lighting>  Will that affect the growth of the soft corals?  <You will want to gradually introduce them to the more intense lighting by gradually increasing (daily) the photoperiod. Start with a hour and add 1/2 hour daily till you reach your desired photoperiod.>  Where shall I place the soft corals, probably towards the lower part of the tank ? <I believe they prefer the lower third of the tank.>   How will I acclimatize them to the new lights ?  <As above> My collection includes : mushrooms & 2 finger leathers (planning to get rid of if I will keep SPS )  <Why?> 2 Favia brains 1 plate coral 2 star polyps 1 sun polyp (I heard they release some toxins, is that right ? ) <Not to my knowledge, they do not like direct light though.> 1 clove coral 1 Huge colt coral 1 Xenia Please tell me your opinion about any incompatibilities between my collection and SPS. Thank you. Ramy Banoub <I don't see any compatibility problems, just use normal care allowing them not to touch each other. James (Salty Dog)>  

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