How to Care for LPS Corals
Learn How to Care for LPS Corals in Your Aquarium
Large polyp stony (LPS) corals are a fascinating group that contains a calcium skeleton with large fleshy polyps. They come in a variety of colors and shapes, and are more forgiving than other corals, making them perfect marine organisms for saltwater aquariums.
LPS corals originate from deep, slow-moving water, and are often exposed to turbid water. With any marine organism, we want to replicate their natural habitat the best we can when keeping them in captivity. Most LPS corals will thrive in low to moderate lighting and water movement, and additional feeding a couple of times a week with protein-rich foods.
Every species has its own requirements, but in general, LPS corals are very easy to grow and less demanding, making them suitable for both beginner and expert aquarium hobbyists.
If you have an LPS aquarium only, it will be much easier to maintain than mixing them with SPS (small polyp stony) corals.
We have put together a guide to help you care for your LPS corals at home so that they stay happy and healthy!
What Do LPS Corals Need to Survive?
All corals have basic needs to survive. We can separate these needs into 4 basic requirement categories:
Before introducing LPS corals into your aquarium you will need a stable reef environment. Despite them being relatively hardy corals, they will appreciate a healthy environment to live in.
You should carry out regular water testing, especially parameters such as ammonia and nitrite that can be extremely toxic to corals. Also, keep a close eye on calcium and alkalinity levels as LPS corals do require these trace elements to build their calcium carbonate skeletons.
Some hobbyists use protein skimmers, powerheads, and nutrient removers to control water quality. You can find more information on our SPS, LPS, & Soft Corals article.
22 – 26°C (72 - 78°F)
30 - 33 ppt
< 0.2 ppm
350 – 450 ppm
8 – 12 DKH
8.1 - 8.3
Lighting is crucial for a majority of corals in the hobby as they are mostly photosynthetic. LPS corals can work under a wide range of lighting conditions depending on the species, so you won’t be breaking the bank on purchasing intense lighting equipment.
You have many choices for lighting technologies. A decade ago, the best lighting option would be a metal halide or T5 light. In this day and age, as LED technology has matured, LED lighting is now the preferred choice over other types of lighting. Here at Piece of the Ocean, we use 100% LED lighting to grow all of our corals.
Most LPS corals require medium to low light, so place them accordingly to your tank set up. If you want to be cautious, always start them in low light settings. In our experience, too much light can kill corals; too little does not.
Generally, most LPS corals will be happy with a medium water flow, but ensure it is powerful enough that detritus does not settle on them. Always check the specific LPS coral you are buying as some have different water flow requirements.
Also, look out for areas with not enough water flow that can create dead zones. This is an area where stagnant water and nutrients are not dispersed correctly, which can cause health problems.
Corals contain zooxanthellae inside their cells that convert light energy into food, however, LPS corals have large polyps designed for catching food, so most LPS corals will need feeding.
You can feed LPS corals with shrimp, fish, squid, krill, phytoplankton, and protein-rich pellet food!
LPS corals with smaller mouths (chalices, gonioporas, and pavonas) will take in powdered or liquid food. Liquid food can be fed using a pipette for a targeted approach.
In addition to feeding, it is recommended that you supplement with calcium, strontium, and other trace elements to maintain good health.
NOTE: It is best to have a variety of foods as not all LPS corals will eat the same - some of them can be a little fussy!
Signs of an Unhappy LPS Coral
If something is not quite right inside the aquarium, LPS corals can display signs of poor health. Below are some common problems with corals, and what you can do to make them happy and healthy again!
This is most likely a water flow problem. When the flow is too high, corals will retract their polyps to protect them, especially corals that have delicate polyps like bubble corals.
The cause of this is poor lighting. Move the corals to higher exposure, or you may need to upgrade your lighting if an entire tank is affected.
This is from too much light. Move your corals as they may start bleaching.
CORAL FACT: Bleaching is when corals expel their zooxanthellae algae, causing pigment loss. This happens as corals respond to environmental stressors such as temperature (as in the case of the Great Barrier Reef) and parameter swings.
This could be from other corals taking a swipe with their sweeping tentacles. Always ensure there is enough space around LPS corals that are knowingly aggressive.
It could also be from fish inside the aquarium. Some fish such as angelfish and some blennies like to nip at corals, especially due to the fleshy nature of many LPS corals. However, some LPS corals have large enough polyps to eat fish too, such as scolymia and elegance corals.
NOTE: If you need to remove the coral from the aquarium, try not to remove them when the polyps are inflated. If you do this, the tissues can be damaged from scraping against its own skeleton or over-extending while out of water. You can first fan your hand over the coral to cause it to contract.
What LPS Corals Are Great to Start With?
It is a good idea to start off with some hardier species of LPS corals that are easier to care for, while still showcasing those magnificent colors in your aquarium!
Here are 5 great LPS corals, that are also suitable for beginners:
*More information on these corals can be found on our website blog.
Here at POTO we grow a large variety because we believe there is a coral out there for everyone! But remember to always research before you buy as not all LPS corals will have the same requirements. Also feel free to contact us about which type of LPS coral is suitable for your aquarium as we are always happy to help. Happy reefing!