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For Beginners: Guide to LPS Corals

For Beginners: Guide to LPS Corals

LPS or Large Polyp Stony corals are a large family of corals that come in a wide variety of colors and styles. They are popular for their vibrant colors and ease of care. With such a large family of corals, it is crucial to know the difference between each type of coral before you buy. This article will explain how to identify LPS corals, what makes them attractive and unattractive for the home aquarium, and how to care for them properly. In addition, we have included a list of 10 of the most popular LPS corals, along with their primary care instructions and estimated costs.

Definition of an LPS Coral

All LPS corals have a calcium carbonate skeleton and large fleshy polyps or bodies.  LPS corals are popular due to their large selection and multitude of color options.

Pros And Cons of LPS Corals 

LPS corals make up a large family of corals, so the following list of common pros and cons does not apply to every LPS coral.

Pros of LPS Corals

  • Available in a wide variety of colors and shapes
  • Lower lighting requirements than SPS corals
  • More tolerate of varying water parameters
  • Easier to care for than SPS corals
  • Lighting, flow, and care requirements vary considerably among different LPS species, so it is possible to find an LPS coral for any place in the tank
  • Direct feeding helps promote growth and coloration

Cons of LPS Corals

  • Most LPS have sweeper tentacles that sting, so neighboring corals can be damaged if placed too close. Two of the most notorious stingers are galaxea and hydnophora.
  • Lighting, flow, and care requirements vary considerably among different LPS species, so it is vital to research each species before purchase
  • The flesh portion can be delicate, so healing from a fall or other damage may be difficult
  • Higher price point than soft corals; prices can vary significantly between species depending on color or rarity
  • Highly susceptible to infection by brown jelly, an infection that can spread rapidly and kill LPS corals

Buying Tips

When purchasing an LPS Coral, it is essential to research each coral as the lighting, flow, and care requirements can vary significantly from species to species.

Signs of a healthy coral include:

  • Polyps (i.e., the fleshy area) are fully inflated and move gently with the flow of water
  • Tentacles are open and fully extended
  • Coral tissue should completely cover the skeleton and should not be receding away at the edges
  • The mouth, if visible, should be closed unless recently feed
  • No visible damage

10 Popular LPS Corals

Below are the primary care requirements, general purchase price, and the pros and cons of some of our favorite LPS corals. Most quality retail establishments will carry at least some of the following corals.

Candy Cane Coral

Basic Care Instructions: Candy Cane Corals are very popular and are easily cared for, making them very popular among hobbyists. They prefer low to moderate flow and can adapt to a wide range of lighting from low to high intensity.  They have a bare calcium carbonite base and form branches as they grow. At the end of each branch, they have large fleshy polyps that contain symbolic zooxanthellae and small polyps that will capture and eat small pieces of food. 

Candy Cane Coral
Candy Cane Coral

Estimated cost: $40-$50 for a small frag

Pros of Candy Cane Coral:

  • Easy care requirements
  • Flexible lighting needs; can adjust to high or low lighting
  • Grows quickly under the right conditions
  • Safe to place near other peaceful corals, due to their short sweeper tentacles

Cons of Candy Cane Coral:

  • Cannot be placed in high flow areas as their thin flesh will tear when blown against their skeleton
  • Not a lot of color choices or variations; commonly available in greens or reds

Hammer Coral (Euphyllia Family)

Basic Care Instructions: Hammer corals have a bare skeleton base and flowing fleshy polyps and require a moderate amount of flow and a medium amount of light. These corals are relatively flexible when it comes to placement in the tank; however, generally, they do best near the bottom of the tank.

There are two types of hammer corals; a branching hammer and a wall hammer. A branching hammer multiplies and grows when a sizeable single head splits down the middle at the mouth. Each new head begins to grow in separate directions creating its own branch. A wall hammer usually consists of one large skeleton base and one large head of flowing polyps. Branching corals are much more common and are much simpler to frag.

Hammer Coral
Hammer Coral

Estimated cost: $40-$200 per head depending on color and rarity

Pros of Hammer Coral:

  • Available in a variety of different colors
  • Flowing, fleshy polyps add movement to the tank
  • Placement is flexible as long as lighting and water flow are not too strong
  • Known to host clownfish
  • Will co-exist with other corals in the Euphyllia family

Cons of Hammer Coral:

  • Aggressive to other corals; long sweeper tentacles can sting and damage neighboring corals
  • High flow can tear the polyps

Frogspawn Coral (Euphyllia Family)

Basic Care Instructions: Frogspawn Corals are very similar to the other corals in the Euphyllia family and have hard, bare calcium carbonite skeletons that branch as it grows new heads. Commonly found in green and purple. Also available in other colors; however, they are generally a little harder to find. Frogspawn requires moderate water flow and medium lighting and typically does best in the upper half of the tank.

Frogspawn Coral
Frogspawn Coral

Estimated cost: $40 – $300 per head depending on color and rarity

Pros of Frogspawn Coral:

  • Readily available
  • A vibrant appearance that flows beautifully in a reef tank
  • Will co-exist with other corals in the Euphyllia family

Cons of Frogspawn Coral:

  • Challenging to find the perfect placement in the tank
  • Aggressive to other corals and have 6-inch sweeper tentacles. Please corals outside the Euphyllia family at least 6-inches away
  • Prone to Brown Jelly infections

Acan Coral

Basic Care Instructions: Acan Corals are known as collectors corals and come in many color options. They have a similar look to Candy Cane Corals and grow out their skeletons across the surface to which they are attached or in a ball-like shape if placed in the sandbed. Acans do best with medium lighting and low to moderate water flow and placement in the bottom half of the tank.

Acan Coral
Acan Coral

Estimated cost: $30 – $300+ per head

Pros of Acan Coral:

  • Large selection of colors
  • Flexible care requirements as long as the flow is not too high
  • Safe to place near other corals as they have short sweeper tentacles

Cons of Acan Coral:

  • Sweeper tentacles can sting neighboring corals if placed too close

Favites

Basic Care Instructions: Favites grow as a calcium carbonate mat that encrusts over the surface of the reef rock. A colorful flesh covers the calcium carbonate mat. Typically there is one color around the mouth area, like red, and another color, like green, everywhere else. Favites require a moderate to a high amount of flow and a moderate amount of light. These corals are relatively flexible when it comes to placement in the tank; however, they typically do better in the lower half of the tank.

Favites
Favites

Estimated cost: $70- $300 for a small frag

Pros of Favites:

  • Vibrant color options
  • Not picky about placement

Cons of Favites:

  • Will encrust over other corals and on other coral skeletons
  • Long sweeper tentacles

Lobophyllia (Also known as Brain Corals)

Basic Care Instructions: The Lobophyllia has a calcium carbonate skeleton surrounded by one large, fleshy polyp. This polyp opens up to show feeder tentacles when hungry or when feeding. It prefers moderate water flow and a medium to a high amount of light and can be placed anywhere in the tank.

Lobophyllia
Lobophyllia

Estimated cost: $50- $300 depending on size and color

Pros of Lobophyllia:

  • Can place it anywhere in the tank
  • Not known to sting neighboring corals, so they are safe to place relatively close to other peaceful corals

Cons of Lobophyllia:

  • The flesh can be sensitive, so use caution when placing to avoid falls

Bubble Coral (Euphyllia Family)

Basic Care Instructions: Bubble Corals have a skeleton that is usually bare at the base and then encrusted with flesh towards the top. The flesh on the top of the skeleton inflates with water creating a bubble cluster, hence its name, Bubble Coral. These corals do best with medium lighting and low to moderate water flow.

Bubble Coral
Bubble Coral

Estimated cost: $75- $200 depending on size and color

Pros of Bubble Coral:

  • A unique look that you will not find on many reefs
  • Will co-exist with other corals in the Euphyllia family

Cons of Bubble Coral:

  • Only available in white, green, or yellow
  • Very aggressive to neighboring corals, so it needs plenty of room around it on all sides
  • The flesh is sensitive and can be damaged easily
  • Does not like high water flow; should be shielded from direct water flow

Trachyphyllia (Commonly referred to as Open Brain Corals)

Basic Care Instructions: Like the Lobophyllia, the Trachyphyllia has a calcium carbonate skeleton surrounded by one large, fleshy polyp. During feeding, the flesh completely encloses the carbonate skeleton giving it an almost jelly-like appearance. Best kept at the bottom of the tank in the sandbed, these corals prefer moderate water flow and medium lighting.

Trachyphyllia
Trachyphyllia

Estimated cost: $80- $600 depending on size and color

Pros of Trachyphyllia:

  • Easy care requirements
  • Available in a wide variety of colors
  • Commonly kept on the sandbed, unlike many others

Cons of Trachyphyllia:

  • Sweeper tentacles are long and will disturb neighboring corals
  • Dropping or impacting the coral can easily damage its fleshy exterior; these wounds can be fatal

Torch Coral (Euphyllia Family)

Basic Care Instructions: Torch Corals are favorites of many for the wide range of colors and the beautiful aesthetics they provide in a reef tank. Torch Corals have a calcium carbonite base and branch out to the individual coral heads that hold many single, extended polyps. They generally do best with medium lighting and moderate water flow. Best kept in the lower half of a tank.

Torch Coral
Torch Coral

Estimated cost: $50- $300+ per head 

Pros of Torch Coral:

  • Tentacles flow beautifully in the water
  • Available in a variety of different colors and styles
  • Will co-exist with other corals in the Euphyllia family

Cons of Torch Coral:

  • Aggressive to other corals; powerful sting will damage any neighboring corals that are not in the Euphyllia family.
  • If lifted out of the water or not handled gently, they can tear their flesh and are highly susceptible to necrosis

Duncan Coral

Basic Care Instructions: Duncan corals are large, fleshy polyps with a skeleton that forms inside the polyp stalk, almost making them look like a big zoanthid. The polyps grow out from a central stalk that will continue to grow in a ball formation unless fragged. Place Duncans in the lower half of the tank. They generally prefer low to medium lighting and low water flow.

Duncan Coral
Duncan Coral

Estimated cost: $35 and $50 per head

Pros of Duncan Coral:

  • Hardy coral
  • Easy to care for
  • Safer than other LPS corals as they do not have long sweeper tentacles

Cons of Duncan Coral:

  • Limited color options

Bonus LPS Coral (One of our personal favorites)

Scolymia

Basic Care Instructions: Scolymia or Scoly for short are large, fleshy polyps that are one of the most highly desired LPS corals due to their vibrant color patterns. Most species sold consist of a large single polyp. Scoly’s prefer medium lighting and moderate water flow and placement in the sandbed at the bottom of the tank.

Scolymia
Reef Legends Scoly Photo by Michael Vargas

Estimated cost: $200 – $1000+ depending on size and color

Pros of Scolymia:

  • Available in a wide variety of colors 
  • Vibrant color options
  • Easy to care for

Cons of Scolymia:

  • Expensive

Due to the wide range of species and care levels, LPS corals can be an excellent fit for both the beginner and the advanced hobbyists. Since many LPS corals have long tentacles that can sting, keeping sufficient space between the LPS and other corals is crucial. It is also essential to maintain critical parameters, like calcium, magnesium, and alkalinity, as these parameters are necessary for LPS corals to build their skeletons.

Have a question or recommendation for us? Feel free to drop us a line here. If you are in the need for saltwater aquarium supplies, Simplicity Aquatics offers a variety of products including protein skimmerspumpsdosing containers and filter media.

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