What are SPS corals?

There are two main classifications of Hard Corals. One is the Small Polyp Stony Corals or often referred to as SPS Coral. The other classification of Hard Corals are Large Polyp Stony Corals, also known as LPS Corals. SPS corals are often identified by their smaller polyp size and hard calcified internal skeleton. This identification method does not always hold true for all SPS corals, however. When people think of reefs found in the ocean, they often picture SPS coral. SPS coral are often referred to as the architects of the ocean because of their intricate growth patterns and structure.

Capricornis montipora - Leng Sy Cap sps coral Montipora

Acropora

Acros are one of the most well-known types of corals and are the envy of any tank.

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Pavona

Unique encrusting patterns that won’t dissapoint.

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Cyphastrea

Typically encrusting but can also be found with branching or plating growth patterns.

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Psammocora

A unique, faster-growing SPS coral with a velvety look.

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Montipora

Monti’s are great for trying out SPS corals.

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Stylophora

Small polyps that pop on an encrusting SPS coral.

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Leptoseris

A wrinkly and colorful encrusting coral.

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Many Others

See all the different types of SPS coral that SSC has.

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How To Care for Your SPS Coral

How much light do SPS corals need?
SPS corals can vary on how much light they require. Acropora requires a high amount of light and often needs to sit close to the top of your tank. Montipora or Birds Nest coral require slightly less light. We run a slightly modified A/B schedule with gen 4 Radions and supplement T-5 lighting for all of our SPS corals.

Flow Requirements
Acropora requires a high amount of flow. As stated before they often do best up high in your tank where they can receive a high amount of flow as well as light. Montipora and other SPS corals do better with slightly less flow.

How to place SPS coral
When placing SPS coral keep in mind the amount of flow and lighting that the coral will receive. You can always move the coral after a short period of time if it does not seem to be doing well. There is no perfect placement with any coral and each tank will be slightly different.

SPS coral dosing
Dosing can make growing SPS coral a lot easier. A dosing system automatically adds small amounts of chemicals into the water to help maintain and replenish your tank parameters. By dosing small amounts of Alkalinity, Calcium, and Magnesium you can make sure your tank has steady levels that are optimal for growing SPS corals.

How to increase SPS coral growth
The key to increasing SPS coral growth in your tank is to make sure your tank is consistent. Once you find a spot in your tank where your corals are happy, don’t move them. If you keep your parameters consistent and have adequate light and flow, your SPS corals will start to thrive.

UC Loony Bin sps coral, acropora

Things to Know Before You Buy SPS Coral

SPS corals are highly susceptible to changes in water parameters. If your tank has a sudden dip or spike in parameters you may lose most of your SPS corals. For this reason, SPS corals require significantly more maintenance and monitoring than LPS or Soft corals. Some useful instruments that you can add to your tank to help maintain consistent parameters are Calcium reactors, UV sterilizers, and Dosers. 

SPS corals are sensitive to high Nitrate and Phosphate levels in tanks as well. You should aim to have virtually no Nitrates and Phosphates in an SPS tank. Because SPS corals grow by consuming Calcium and Alkalinity, you will need to have a doser to compensate for the amount of Calcium and Alkalinity consumed by your growing corals. A doser releases a small amount of Calcium and Alkalinity into your tank in order to maintain optimal levels when set up correctly.

Other important factors that play a role in the success of growing SPS corals are the correct amount of lighting and flow. At Sunnyside Corals, we run a modified AB schedule with Gen 4 radions and supplement T-5 lighting on our SPS corals. Our SPS corals typically grow best under higher light. Be careful not to over-expose your SPS corals to light or they will start to bleach.

If you are willing to put in a little extra time, SPS corals can be very rewarding. With advancing technology, growing healthy SPS corals is becoming easier and easier. There are more instruments made each year that make automating your tank easier, which makes for less work for you.

When can I add SPS coral to my tank?

Knowing when to add your first SPS coral to your system can be tricky. There are a lot of factors that go into knowing when your tank is ready. Here are some of the key things to consider when thinking about adding SPS corals to your own tank.

Dry Rock
If you started your tank with dry rock you will most likely have to wait 12 to 14 months before you will be able to successfully keep SPS coral alive. This is because dry rock can leach phosphate into the water for a very long time. As mentioned previously, SPS corals are very sensitive to phosphate levels and often do not do well with elevated phosphate levels.

Live Rock
If you started your tank with live rock that process can be dramatically shorter. You may be able to start adding beginner SPS corals such as Montis or Birdsnest to your system within three to six months of starting your tank. However, be aware that just because your levels are where they should be, does not mean that your tank is actually ready for SPS corals. We recommend introducing LPS coral or Softy coral first before adding SPS coral to a new tank. 

Acropora are the most touchy SPS coral and in general, should not be added to a new system. We suggest waiting 6 months to a year before trying to add any Acros to your system. Frequent water changes can help to cycle and control the levels in your water. If you have access to saltwater from other tanks, you might consider doing water changes with that water to help speed up your tank.

SPS FAQs

When can I add SPS coral?

You may be able to start adding beginner SPS corals such as Montis or Birdsnest to your system within three to six months of starting your tank.

What is the easiest SPS coral to keep?

SPS corals can be hard to keep but, some of the easiest SPS corals to keep are Montipora, Stylophora, and Pocilopora. Check out our SPS Beginner packs to find a beginner-friendly SPS pack.

Are SPS corals hard to keep?

SPS generally are harder to keep than other types of corals. This is because SPS corals are highly susceptible to changes in water parameters. If your tank has a sudden dip or spike in parameters you may lose most of your SPS corals.

Difference between LPS and SPS corals

The main difference between LPS and SPS corals is the size of their polyps. Also, LPS corals are generally easier to keep than SPS corals.

Different types of SPS coral

The two most popular types of SPS corals are Montipora and Acropora.

Do you need to feed SPS corals?

SPS corals do not consume food easily as they have small polyps that make it so they cannot consume large chunks of food. We prefer to broad feed our corals by feeding our fish frozen food such as Misis shrimp and pellets.

Can SPS corals touch?

Most of the time, SPS corals can touch as long as they are the same species. For example, most Acropora can touch and often will stop growing in that direction once they start to touch.

SPS coral requirements

SPS corals require stable water parameters with low Nitrates and Phosphates. They also need substantial amounts of flow and lighting in order to obtain the best colors and growth.

Where to place SPS coral?

SPS coral require higher flow and lighting. The best place to put your SPS coral is near the top of your tank or somewhere they won’t be shaded.

How much light do SPS corals need?

SPS corals can vary on how much light they require. Acropora requires a high amount of light and often needs to sit close to the top of your tank. Montipora or Birds Nest coral require slightly less light. Check out the exact light schedule we use for our SPS Corals here.

Do SPS like high flow?

Acropora requires a high amount of flow. As stated before they often do best up high in your tank where they can receive a high amount of flow as well as light. Montipora and other SPS corals do better with slightly less flow.

Check out some of our SPS coral!