Vibrant SPS coral reef aquarium with diverse corals under bright light

What Is An SPS Coral: Your Guide To Hard Corals In Aquariums

Selecting the right SPS coral for your tank involves more than just beauty. It mandates understanding the dance of light, particularly as SPS corals require strong lighting, mastering water chemistry, nitrate levels, alkalinity, and perceiving the habitat needs of these unique creatures in your reef tank.

So, what is an SPS coral? Let’s delve into the art of creating a lush underwater domain right in your abode, mastering the custodianship of both hard and soft corals, unlocking a new depth of aquarium keeping.

Key Takeaways

Understanding the Basics of Corals for Beginner Aquarium Enthusiasts

What Is An SPS Coral featuring an SPS coral with colorful fish in clear, well-lit aquarium

For a reef keeper, understanding the differences among SPS, LPS, and Soft Corals is crucial for creating thriving marine environments, especially given how corals tend to have unique needs. SPS corals, or Small Polyp Stony corals, play a pivotal role in the marine ecosystem, forming the calcium carbonate skeletons that construct the backbone of vibrant underwater cities where soft and hard corals also live.

Understanding the basic characteristics of SPS corals enriches our appreciation for the complexity of coral reefs and empowers us to create more sustainable and healthy environments in our reef aquariums.

Selecting the Right SPS Coral for Your Aquarium

Diverse SPS corals in a vibrant, well-lit aquarium setup

Selecting the right SPS coral involves understanding what will thrive in your specific setup and contribute to a harmonious underwater community. Here’s a quick guide:

  • Research Popular Species for Beginners: Start with resilient species like Montipora and Seriatopora, these are good choices for reef beginners and are less sensitive to changes.
  • Assess Your Aquarium’s Compatibility: Ensure your reef tank’s parameters are suitable for the SPS corals you are harboring, such as acropora.
  • Spot Healthy Corals: Look for vibrant coloration and new growth.
  • Seek Expert Advice: Consult seasoned aquarists or trusted colony retailers working with SPS corals.

By focusing on healthy corals that match our aquarium’s environment and our level of expertise, ranging from the easier to care for LPS corals to the more challenging SPS corals, we set ourselves up for success.

Ideal Reef Tank Water Parameters for SPS Corals and Conditions for SPS Corals

Thriving SPS coral reef aquarium with clear water and strong water movement

Maintaining stable water parameters is imperative for the health and growth of SPS corals, as corals are known for their sensitivity towards fluctuations. These corals require consistency and precision, including salinity levels mimicking natural seawater, a stable pH between 8.1 and 8.4, temperatures between 75°F and 80°F, and strong, varied water flow.

Care Requirements of SPS Corals in a Home Aquarium

Vibrant SPS coral in home aquarium with colorful fish and optimal conditions

After covering the optimal water parameters for different species of LPS and SPS corals, including non-photosynthetic corals, let’s focus on the specific care requirements needed to effectively maintain these corals in a home aquarium.

Nurturing these vivid ecosystems offers us the freedom to create a slice of the ocean’s majesty right in our living spaces. But, corals are a great responsibility that requires our meticulous attention to detail to ensure they thrive.

Here’s a quick rundown of essential care aspects:

  • Intense and Spectrum-specific Lighting: Considering lps vs sps, both types of corals thrive under conditions of strong lighting and high water flow, which are crucial for their photosynthesis process and consequently, coral growth. The right balance between intensity and spectrum will mirror their natural habitat, encouraging vibrant health and colors.
  • Optimal Water Flow: Just as in their natural environments, SPS corals need a significant and varied water flow. This not only delivers necessary nutrients but also helps keep the corals clean, aids in their feeding process, and promotes growth – as corals generally grow when well-fed.
  • Rigorous Water Quality Management: Keeping water parameters within the ideal range isn’t simply about survival; it’s about creating an environment in which SPS corals, a type of coral, can truly flourish. Regular testing and adjustments ensure the water quality supports optimal health and growth.
  • Attentive Feeding Practices and Disease Management: Despite their sturdy appearance, SPS corals have specific feeding requirements that must be met for sustained health. As a reef keeper, being proactive about identifying and treating common diseases can prevent potential outbreaks that threaten all corals, including both soft and hard.

Comparing Care Difficulty: SPS versus LPS Corals 

Aquarium divided between slender SPS corals and bulkier, colorful LPS corals.

When comparing SPS and LPS corals, it’s clear that SPS varieties often pose a greater challenge to aquarists due to their specific care requirements. However, that doesn’t mean those passionate about the beauty of corals should shy away from them. For those looking to embrace the challenge, transitioning from LPS to SPS corals can be a rewarding journey.

AspectSPS CoralsLPS Corals
Care DifficultyGenerally higherComparatively lower
Water ParametersRequires more stable and specific conditionsMore forgiving
Lighting NeedsHigher intensity, typically demanded by certain types of coral, is required.Algae levels must be moderate to high, but less intense than what SPS corals require.
Flow RequirementsHigh, consistent water flowAcropora, a type of SPS coral, often thrives under moderate flow conditions within a reef tank.
Suitability for BeginnersChallenging but possible with certain typesStrong lighting, as required by SPS corals, is generally recommended in reef tanks.

SPS corals, renowned for their higher care difficulty, necessitate a deeper understanding of water chemistry, nitrate levels, alkalinity, and a more involved approach to maintaining ideal colony conditions in a reef tank. However, the satisfaction of seeing these vibrant SPS and LPS corals flourish on your sand bed or rock is unmatched.

For beginners eager to dip their toes into the world of SPS corals, starting with non-photosynthetic corals or easier-to-keep varieties can pave the way for a smoother transition. By focusing on stable water conditions, understanding that corals can be sensitive to abrupt changes, and adhering to the specific needs of SPS corals, even novices can experience the joy of cultivating these magnificent creatures.


We’ve navigated through the vibrant world of SPS corals, understanding their basics, selecting the right ones for our tanks, and mastering their care requirements.

We’ve also compared their care difficulty with LPS corals, highlighting the unique challenges and rewards they bring to our aquariums.

Armed with this knowledge, we’re better equipped to enhance our underwater havens, ensuring our SPS corals thrive.

Let’s embrace the journey of coral-keeping, transforming our aquariums into thriving marine ecosystems.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are SPS corals?

SPS stands for Small Polyp Stony corals, which are a type of hard coral that have small polyps and a hard skeleton.

What are the differences between LPS and SPS corals?

In terms of coral type, LPS stands for Large Polyp Stony corals and SPS stands for “large polyp stony” corals, depending on the species. The main differences lie in their polyp size, water flow requirements, and lighting conditions.

What are the lighting conditions required for SPS corals?

SPS corals require strong and consistent lighting conditions, often with high levels of light, to thrive in aquariums.

Do SPS corals require high water flow?

Yes, SPS corals, in general, demand high water flow within the reef tank to mimic their natural environment and stimulate healthy colony growth.

Are SPS corals suitable for beginners?

SPS corals are typically not recommended for beginners due to their specific care requirements and sensitivity to changes in water parameters.

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