Zoanthids, also known as "brain corals," are a type of hardy and vibrant marine aquarium plant that is gaining popularity among hobbyists. They come in a variety of colors and shapes, making them an excellent addition to any aquarium. In this beginner’s guide, we will cover everything you need to know about growing zoanthids, from selecting the right species to maintaining optimal conditions for growth.

Choosing the Right Species:

There are over 300 species of zoanthids, each with its own unique characteristics and care requirements. Some popular choices include Elkhorn Zoanthids (Acropora cervicornis), Fiji Water Zoanthids (Acropora rugosa), and Blue Dendrozoa (Dendrocyonis tessellata). Before selecting a species, it’s important to consider the size and shape of your aquarium, as well as the lighting and water parameters that will be required for optimal growth.

Preparing Your Tank:

Once you have selected your preferred species, it’s time to prepare your tank for zoanthid growth. Start by removing any decorations or substrate that may obstruct the flow of water or create hiding spots for pests. Next, clean the tank thoroughly with a non-abrasive cleaner and rinse well with dechlorinated tap water or treated water from a pet store. Once the tank is clean and dry, add a layer of substrate, such as sand or crushed coral, to provide a stable base for your zoanthids to attach to.

Lighting and Water Parameters:

Zoanthids require bright, full-spectrum lighting to grow and thrive. If you don’t have access to natural sunlight, consider investing in an LED light system designed specifically for marine aquariums. In addition to lighting, zoanthids also require a stable water temperature (between 72-82°F) and appropriate salinity levels (1.025-1.045 parts per thousand). Regular water changes and testing for ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate levels will also help maintain healthy water parameters for your zoanthids.

Attaching Zoanthids to the Substrate:

Once you have prepared your tank and maintained optimal conditions, it’s time to attach your zoanthids to the substrate. This can be done by using a product called "zoanthid plugs," which are small, cylindrical pieces of coral that are specifically designed for attaching zoanthids. Simply place the plugs on the substrate and allow the zoanthids to grow onto them over time. Alternatively, you can also use live rock or driftwood as a substrate for your zoanthids, but be prepared for more maintenance and potential pest issues.

Maintaining Your Zoanthids:

Like any aquarium plant, zoanthids require regular care to maintain healthy growth and prevent disease. This includes trimming back overgrown tendrils with a sharp pair of scissors or clippers, as well as removing any dead or dying coral from the tank. Regular water changes and testing for pests and diseases will also help keep your zoanthids thriving. Additionally, consider adding beneficial bacteria to your tank to help maintain healthy water parameters and prevent harmful algae blooms.


Growing zoanthids in an aquarium can be a rewarding and enjoyable hobby for both experienced and beginner aquarists alike. With the right species selection, tank preparation, lighting and water maintenance, and regular care, you can enjoy vibrant, healthy zoanthids that will add beauty and life to your underwater world.