Heres the scene. You’ve been keeping marines and running a reef tank for six months now and everything is going well. You’ve got high spec LED lighting, wave-making pumps and your KH, calcium, magnesium, nitrate and phosphate are all as they should be. You’ve got a mix of soft and LPS corals and they have their polyps extended and are visibly growing. Now its time for the next step. Now its time to try SPS corals…
SPS stands for Small Polyp Stony and they are some of the most beautiful but also some of the most delicate corals you will ever keep. Stony corals are what give natural reefs their unique shape, created by large tabling species, plating species and branching species. Staghorn and Elkhorn corals are SPS (Acropora to be precise,) and those swirling circular plates we all want are Montipora. Let’s look at some of the easiest species, and the ones that are recommended for your first foray into SPS:
You’ll be glad to know that those lovely, swirling Montipora plates are also recommended as being some of the most suitable as first SPS species. Montipora capricornis comes in many colours including red, orange, green and purple, and the best way to start is with a frag that has been produced from a colony in someone else’s tank.
Glue the frag to a rock halfway up the tank, in light and flow and with lots of space around it, and in two years it will become a large, 30cm diameter swirling plate coral. And if you want to propagate it yourself, simply break a piece off, glue that down and that will form another plate over time.
There are also encrusting Montipora species which cover rocks, and branching Monti which form twig like growths. All are straightforward to keep and branching Montipora digitata are much easier to keep than branching Acropora, which are much more difficult.
Seriatopora are known as birds nest corals and form balls of thin, spiky branches, hence the name. Although the branches are delicate and may snap, Seriatopora are one of the easiest to keep and grow, and many people do well with it just in mixed reefs, when other SPS corals fail. Pink birds nest is the most popular type but they can be green, have a purple base or be multicoloured.
Frags can be stuck to a plug with a ball of epoxy putty, the frag placed high up in the tank and it should soon start to grow and form new branches.
Purple pocillopora is similar to Seriatopora but less spiky and more furry. Its easy to keep and grow and it offers much sought -after purple coral colouration, without being too difficult to keep. Frags can branch and spread from one small piece to a large colony within two years and its appreciated by both hardcore SPS freaks and newbie SPS keepers alike. The purple colouration varies from frag to frag, but it can be tweaked and improved with specialist coral colour enhancers.