Zoanthids are a great beginners coral. They are easy to propagate. These corals grow very well in new aquariums and they come in a wide range of colors. There are many varieties of Zoanthids. During our research at GARF we have brought many Zoanthids from the wild reef and each group has taken several months to acclimate to captivity.

During the first few months the wild colony does not grow very fast. After a period of about six months we notice that the individual Zoanthids start to reproduce and the colony starts to spread.


Many of the brightly colored Zoanthids that we have in our genetic bank at GARF came from the aquaculture facility in Koror, Palau. These beautiful Zoanthids were grown on cement disks in the ocean.
GEOTHERMAL AQUACULTURE RESEARCH FOUNDATIONThese Zoanthids were placed in a 120-gallon reef aquarium that has many actively growing colonies of Zoanthids already established in it. The newly imported Zoanthids did not grow at all for the first six months. Now that this colony has started to grow we have divided the cement disks.

At GARF we used a PVC pipe cutter to cut the rocks and shells that the colonies are growing on. We have cut each colony between the various colors of Zoanthids that are growing on them. Each of these fragments of rock with Zoanthids grown on them have been glued in the 120 gallon reef aquarium. We use super glue gel to attach the colonies to the live rock under water.


At GARF we use 440 filtered liquid glue to attach rocks to live rock under water. The easiest way to get the rocks to stay where we want them is to put a bit of glue on the live rock under water with one finger. The GARF reef glue is a thick liquid that is easy to apply by the drop. When you have decided where you want to place the piece of live rock you put two drops of GARF reef glue on your index finger. Reach into reef and rub the wet glue onto the live rock. Put two drops of reef glue on the part of the live rock that you want to attach. Now you can reach into the reef and place the two surfaces together. After you have made good contact between the two glue surfaces rub the rock you are attaching around in small circles for 30 seconds. You will feel a slight tug as a glue starts to harden. As the glue starts to harden move the rock your attaching in smaller circles for a few more seconds. The small rock will now be attached to the life rock under water.




Recent research at GARF supports early observations that Zoanthids are able to extract some minerals from the substrate they are growing on. We have noticed for several years that when we plant Zoanthids on fresh aragonite they grow much better than identical colonies that are growing on inert substrate. When we are growing Zoanthids for brood stock we divide the original colony into small chunks that contain approximately ten polyps. We glue each of these small groups on to a fresh piece of Aragocrete ™ that has been cured in fresh water for 30 days. We glue each of the small groups from one to 3 in. apart, depending on how fast the type of Zoanthid we are working with grows. We then place each of these pieces of Aragocrete ™ in the bottom of the new crop tanks.

We have learned that many Zoanthids do not need bright light. After a few months, the small groups of Zoanthids will have grown together. After the groups of Zoanthids have blended together and grown over much of the Aragocrete ™, it is time to harvest is Zoanthids.

This picture shows a great combination that we have found on several imported rocks. We first saw this combination in our reef tanks when yellow polyps moved into Zoanthid colonies. This happened twice in captivity so we were not surprised when we saw it in wild colonies. The yellow Parazoanthids are filter feeders and they do not shade the light loving Zoanthids below them.

Aragocrete ™ makes a very good substrate for these brood stock colonies because it is easy to remove pieces of the rock with a chisel.




One of the aquaculture products that sells very well are combinations Zoanthid rocks. For this project will need several 1 lb. Aragocrete ™ rocks. The very best Zoanthid rocks have a combination of colored Zoanthids growing on the same rock. We often used blue Zoanthids on the same rock with green Zoanthids. It is easy glue these small pieces of the Zoanthid to the Aragocrete ™ with the GARF reef glue.

The Zoanthids have many different growth forms as well as different colors. The smallest Zoanthids are connected to each other by a body material and each polyp is not an individual animal. The larger strains of Zoanthid have longer stocks, and each individual Zoanthid is separate.

When you combine Zoanthids it is important to notice the growth habit, because the taller ones tend to shade out the short ones. The different strains of Zoanthids seem to grow well together, and many times wild collected rocks have a combination of Protopallythoa and mixed Zoanthids.



There are several methods of harvesting Zoanthids from the Brood stock aquariums. The method that you will use will depend on what type of Zoanthid you are growing, how old the Zoanthid colony is, and how soon you plan on marketing the colony rock. The first method that we used to harvest Zoanthids consists of cutting part of the colony off of the rock, and this is most often used on very short Zoanthids. At GARF, we use 1 in. wide wood chisels to remove a small amounts of the underlying rock. This method allows us to glue the pieces of Zoanthid directly to the combination rock.

GEOTHERMAL AQUACULTURE RESEARCH FOUNDATION When we start the cut on the colony, we hold the colony rock against a hard surface such as a cutting board. We push the wood chisel under the edge of the Zoanthid and we rock the chisel back and forth slightly to create a grinding that removes a small part of the surface of the rock. The pieces that we remove from the colony are then placed in a small bowl of reef water. It is important to remember to not allow these bowls to get cold while you are working. Each colony that we cut Zoanthids from is then placed back in the grow out aquariums. The colors of Zoanthids are kept separate in the bowls of warm water. After we have removed the Zoanthids from several different colonies, we can then glue one piece from each bowl onto each combination rock.

The next type of Zoanthid that we are going to be working with is a long stem variety that is growing on established larger rocks in our Brood stock aquariums. As these colonies to the Zoanthids start to encroach on neighboring colonies we are able to remove individual Zoanthids with a 12-inch stainless steel tweezers. It is important to test the support of the live rocks, and often by pushing the tweezers toward the bottom of the aquarium while holding as Zoanthid stemmed tightly, we can apply pressure to the base without tipping or disturbing the colony rock. We have noticed that if we are very careful with the tweezers we can remove several Zoanthids and the underlying body at once. Many times the tweezers actually break the stock of the Zoanthid, and both the polyps and the base regrows within several weeks. We divide the collected Zoanthids into two separate bowls of reef water. The individual Zoanthids that have been damaged are placed in a gravel chamber. The Zoanthids that were removed with part of their base stock are taken to the glue up table.

3. We now practice a continual harvest of Protopallythoa by cutting the tops of the polyps off with a sharp pair of stainless steel scissors. We have colonies of many different colors of Protopallythoa that are managed with the continuous harvests. It is very interesting to note that some Protopallythoa grown much larger polyps from the top of a cut off stock. We have observed many times that the remaining stock heals within one week and then starts to grow a polyp. The polyps that were removed into the battles are placed in the gravel chambers. After about one week, the damage polyps attach to gravel, so we can remove the gravel and glue it to the combination rocks.


4. We have also experimented with sewing the individual polyps with a sharp needle and cotton thread. We used the needle to put the thread through the small part of the stock. After we have threaded four or five onto a piece of thread we then wrap the thread around the rock securing the Zoanthids in an upright position.

This method of continually harvesting the polyps allows the other polyps to feed the colony while the cut polyps regrow. After we have harvested one half of the polyps, we allow the colony to heal for one month. We have a colony of bright red Protopallythoa and several times a year we can harvest five nice polyps each day for several weeks.


Zoanthids have been of great interest to the researchers here in Boise because they are used in the treatment of several diseases. We have been researching ways to mass produce these animals in simple reef systems. This report will explain three of these methods. We will provide detailed instructions for growing Zoanthids and Protopalythoa. We will discuss the plug and Super Reef Glue method, the plastic rack method, and the plastic ring method.


This picture shows a return pipe with a large orange ball valve that is covered with several strains of very fast growing Zoanthids from the Pacific ocean.

You can see how much the zoanthids have grown in this 135 gallon tank by comparing the the first and third pictures with the one that we took in late 1996. During the past year we have harvested dozens of zoanthids and sps coral;s from this aquarium. The 135 gallon has 4 six foot VHO bulbs and 2 Gemini pumps. We use 2 Maxi-jet pumps to break up the water surface. This reef was set up in 1994 and it has no plenum. The next picture is the same reef before so many of the corals grew into colonies.


Three colonies of Zoanthids and Protopalythoa had started growing onto the pipe and valve in this picture. Over 1/2 of this pipe was covered with several types of Zoanthids.

I will take a picture that I can include next time I update the Zoanthid page. The colonies can now be cut into many starts. The tank has needed thinning often so we have many colored Zoanthid reef plugs for the students to sell.

The rock in the first picture with the Green Slimer and the Hydnopora sps corals has just been scraped clean of the Zoanthids that covered it. These Zoanthids rapidly grow right up to the sps corals. We have cleaned the rock at least four times already this year.

Last year we removed all but the smallest pieces of the sps corals for an experiment, and they grew back from just the tissue that was left on the rock. We remove the Zoanthids with a sharp wood chizel and we put each color into a seperate bowl of reef water. After we have several bowls of cuttings we attach one to six polyps from each bowl to the reef plugs. This way we have multi-colored Zoanthid plugs for sale.

You can often combine species on the same piece. These reef plugs have Zoanthids and Gorgonians on them. The gorgonians will grow up away from the plug and the Zoanthid will cover the plug.

Be sure you attach animals that can live together as they grow. Protopalythoa and Zoathids are two of the best species to group. We often find these two on the same rock in the ocean.


REEF PLUG PRODUCTION - often used on small aragonite rocks


1. several types of Zoanthid and Protopalythoa cuttings

2. clean dry reef plugs or reef safe rocks

3. tube of Super Reef Glue

4. bowls of reef water


The easy way to attach the cuttings to the plug is to have 6 or more polyps in each cutting. you can then put a drop of Super Reef Glue on the base of each cutting and then you can attach the cutting to the plug. We use 3 colors on each plug. Try to use large fast growing cuttings on the same plug because they will overgrow the smaller strains.

It is very important that you dip the glued cuttings into the reef water as soon as you can. The next cuttings will still attach to the wet plug. The glue will heat up as soon as it touches the wet cutting. When you dip the cutting in reef water the heat does not cause damage to the cutting.


These anemones require bright light and strong current. Place these cuttings at the top of the reef aquarium. We have had the best growth in tanks with at least 5 watts per gallon of VHO lighting. Most of our production tanks have 3- 4 foot 40 watt bulbs - Two Tritons and one blue Moon. These forty watt lights continue to produce many tanks full of high quality corals each semester.


This Green Mexican Protopalythoa is growing on a piece of Idaho Aragonite. The polyps on this type of Protopalythoa can be cut off above the base and the heads can be glued or sewed onto a base. The stalks will grow another head in a few weeks.

The colony will spread onto rocks that are placed next to this group of Protopalythoa. This is an easy way to get more brood stock. We now have 6 colors of this Protopalythoa that keep their colors under many conditions.

These corals do best when they are fed several times each week. The food that has produced the best growth is made up of blended fish and shrimp meat that has been mixed in SeaChem Reef Plus This red mixture has vitamins and iodide. We use four tablespoons of Reef Complete to one tabespoon food.

This a picture of some cuttings from the same colony a year later under only Actinic lighting.


These polyps grow best if they are fed each day. You can feed these colonies by blending up the food and squirting it on the polyps.


1. The best tanks for production of these rocks are shallow tanks with good water quality and high water flow.
We use 55 gallon tanks with three Maxi-Jet 1000 power heads. A Visi-jet skimmer is used in each tank.
This colony was grown with VHO lighting. Intense light and strong current are two of most important things needed to produce fast grownig Zoanthid colonies. The best colors we have been able to produce in these cuttings are seen in the tanks with several Triton and Blue Moon 40 watt lights.

Many of the larger Zoanthids can eat baby brine shrimp and other foods. These feedings will increase the growth rate of these animals.

2. The best lighting is florescent bulbs. We have had good production using 2- 40 watt 4' Triton and one 40 watt 4' Blue moon on our 55 gallon test tanks.


This method allows us to grow many Zoanthids by using a plug rack that has been overgrown with Zoanthids. This set of racks can be havested several times each year.


1. plastic plug racks that have been used for Zoanthid production - allow the extra Zoanthids to creep down off of the plugs before you harvest the cuttings. We often use Super Reef Glue to attach small cuttings of a new color to the plastic rack.

2. clean dry reef plugs


You can replace each Zoanthid plug you harvest with fresh dry plug and the Zoanthids on the rack will soon spread up onto the fresh plug. We often glue a colored cutting in the center of the plug so that after it is harvested there will more than one color on it. We have used other corals that do not fight with Zoanthids on the plugs to make COMBO plugs.

This plug rack is starting to get a good growth of Zoanthids on the plastic. The two BUMPS are finished reef plugs that have not been harvested. We will push them up from the bottom. As we remove the plugs we will give each of them a slight twist so they leave some of the Zoanthids behind.

The next batch of cuttings we put in this rack will be a new color. After we have harvested cuttings from these racks for a few semesters they end up with a collection of Zoanthids and Protopalythoa on them. After the rack is full we do not have to glue any cuttings to the plugs and this is a great time saver.

Algae control is one of the most important things to remember when you are using any of these methods that use racks and holders that stay in the system for several years. We use Cerith snails for hair algae control because it is the only snail we have found that eats problem hair algae such as Bryopsis. We put these racks - they hold 18 plugs - in with the Emerald crabs for a while if any algae develops.

Many of the racks we use are 48 inches long. We are starting to glue pieces of different soft corals to the racks so they will grow into PLUG INCUBATORS. When we remove a finished plug we add an empty one so it will be colonized.

We are using this method now to grow some of the fast growing Green Stars and encrusting Gorgonians. We are also growing many of our plugs in a 300 gallon tank with a plastic mesh that is 18 inches square. Each hole in the mesh holds a plug. This black plastic mesh holds about 100 plugs. We will have some pictures of this set up in future issues.

The next method that we will discuss this month is the one we use to grow pure strains of Zoanthids. We grow these plugs in 6 inch deep trays that have water pumped through them. This method is called the Plastic Ring Method.



This method was invented by one of our friends. John has been growing many types of corals in his geothermally heated coral farm. Many of the methods he uses have been great time savers. We have been using this ring method for more than a year. The culture tank is 6 feet long and 4 feet wide. The interesting thing about this tank is the fact that it is only 6 inches deep. The culture tank is above a 300 gallon round tank. The water is pumped up from the lower tank and it is returned through an overflow pipe. The upper tank has 8- 40 watt lights. A plastic mirror acts as a reflector for the lights. This set up is heated with a coil of geothermal pipe that is wrapped Around the lower tank.

This system has been kept in an unheated basement that does not have a door. Even when the outside temp. is below freezing the geothermal pipes keep the water at 80 degrees. The same pipes can be used to cool the water if needed by running cold water through the pipes. The pipes are insulated with a wrapping of insulation.

The first rings that we made were cut from a piece of 4 inch clear Plexiglass pipe. Each ring was cut so it was one inch long. These rings hold 7 plugs. We place one Zoanthid plug in the center with 6 empty plugs around it. As the Zoathids grow they move onto the empty plugs. When all of the plugs are full we break them apart. We have been using these new plugs to start new rings.

The first drawing shows how simple it is to make these plastic rings. We will soon be using this method to produce other species that grow by spreading. Xenia and some of the Briarian group of Gorgonians will be the first ones we try.


1. Make or purchase your aragocrete plugs

2. Place the plugs so they form a ring with one in the middle.

3. Secure the plugs with a rubber band so they stay together.

4. Try different sizes of plastic pipe or containers to find the one that will support the plugs.

5. Cut the plastic into rings just long enough to allow the tops of the plugs to rest above the plastic.

6. Replace the center plug with a Zoanthid plug .

7. Place the plastic plug ring under bright lighting in good water flow.

This is one of rings that we grew in Johns tank. This set of plugs is growing in the bottom half of a plastic cup. We fill the cup with live sand so the plugs will set in it. Less than 8 weeks ago plug number one had only about 12 Zoanthid polyps glued to it.

Note how the polyps are now spreading out onto the other plugs. This method saves time because we only have to make one cutting.

We have learned that all of the Zoanthids grow much faster when we feed them. We have been using green water and rotifers in our Zoanthid tanks and they are growing very fast. Zoanthids seem to do better in systems that we do not skim. They also grow faster in systems that have fish. All of the types of Protopalythoa that we are growing do much better if they are fed several times a week. You can see that this group is a more active feeder because the polyps fold in very fast when any food touches them. The use of the right mixture of Reef JanitorsTM in the grow-out systems allows us to feed the corals and still keep the unwanted algae from growing.


1. Top tank is made of plexi-glass so it can be drilled.

2. Water from lower tank is pumped up to back corner.

3. Power heads are used in the top tank to move the water past the Zoanthids.

4. Plug rings are placed so they are touching each other.

5. Lights are on for 14 hours and off for 10 hours.

This set of plugs is almost ready for harvest. one of the next things we will do is try palcing several rings around this finished ring to see if the first ring will plant 6 more rings with Zoanthids. When these sets of rings are placed together in the grow-out tank they we may be able to grow 100s of plugs with many types of Zoanthids on them by turning the rings a few times as they grow.


Please try some of these methods. If you find a new way to do the job please share it with us so we can share it.

This picture shows how the Zoanthid spreads from plug to plug. This species of Zoanthid comes from the Pacific and most of the types have small polyps. It is best if all of the Zoanthids on one plug are types that grow to the same size. If you add small Zoanthids to plugs with large Zoanthids the larger ones may overgrow and crowd the smaller ones.

One of the Protopalythoa group can often be added to the same plug that has any type of Zoanthid because they tend to grow slower and the few tall Protopalythoa look good with the small Zoanthids. Many of the collected colonies we have recieved have had this combination. We often see the two types growing on the same rocks in the ocean.

Many times we dicover things in our research that we did plan on. This plastic ring has many Zoanthids growing on it. These polyps were left on the plastic when we harvested the plugs. We have placed 7 new plugs in the ring and the Zoanthids are now growing up onto the plugs. We will replace the center plug with one that a different color Zoanthid growing on it.

If this works the way we think it will we will be able to produce two colored plugs. People are very pleased when they purchase a colony of Zoanthids and there is more than one type.

LOWER ROOM OF CORAL FARM - The original hatchery

John started this coral farm project three years ago in the basement of his home two houses east of the foundations office. We used a five foot wide LerioTM tree pot for the bottom pool. These round plastic tree pots are used for our Geothermal tropical fish research. The upper tank is a six foot long acrylic tank that is four feet wide. We have grown over one thousand pounds of tank raised live rock in this system during our research. Much of the brood stock that John is using in phase two of this project was grown in these original tanks.

The tank is wrapped with black pipe and the Geothermal water is circulated around the outside under a layer of insulation. John was able to keep both the lower and upper tanks warm and stable during the past two winters.

The fifty gallon plastic barrel on the right of this picture has been wrapped with the pipe and covered with clear plastic. The barrel will be insulated next. This barrel will be John's heated tank for making up new Instant Ocean.

The upper tank is made from white plastic and this has worked very well. Light reflects from the bottom and sides of the tank. This was our first wide shallow grow-out tank. The light rack that is now on the upper tank was used on this system for two years. We were able to grow out hundreds of corals with eight - 40 watt bulbs.

John is interested in producing large numbers of valuable Zoanthids so he can expand his production of live rocks. Colored SEA MAT ROCKS are very popular. Rocks with several bright colored Zoanthids can be sold to wholesalers in regular shipments. This type of product is one of the things that will make the next expansion of this project possible. Each stage of the coral farming adventure leads to the next step, and if you plan ahead you can build a company that allows you to enjoy the life style you would love to enjoy.

John was able to produce thousands of Zoanthids and Palythoa by starting small and waiting for nature to do her part. By getting started several years ago John has learned how to produce hundreds of Zoanthid plugs with out having to cut and glue any of his stock.

This is picture of the front of the tank. The Zoanthids have grown over the plastic rack. We can remove the plugs and replace them with new ones. In several weeks them new plugs are covered with Zoanthids.

You can see several holes where we removed the finished plugs. These plugs are now being used to start rings of other plugs in the tanks in the upper greenhouse. We use one planted plug in the center of several new plugs that are held in plastic rings.

The Chelmon in this picture is the oldest one we have in our research project. John now brings it Aiptasia rocks from the GARF lab. There are several pieces of Montipora on the racks that we have moved because they were being crowded out by the Zoanthids.

The Plastic tray on the right of this picture is able to hold over 100 plugs. Note how the Zoanthids have grown down onto the frame. The coral in the bottom of the picture is an encrusting Gorgonian from Florida. Any type of coral that spreads can be used in this type of propagation. If you keep the tank algae free the racks and frames can be used for years.

Coralline algae will cover the tank walls and the frames. The new plugs will grow coralline much faster when the tank walls are covered with coralline.


Algae control is one of the most important things to have if you are producing corals for sale. John has had many of the original Reef Janitors in the system for three years. The snails and hermit crabs do a great job on most of the algae, and the Emerald crabs keep the problem hair algae under control.

This is a close up of the Zoanthid potopalythoa mix that is growing on one of the plastic racks. You can just see the edge of some of the holes that do not have plugs. When John removes the covered plugs he will use them to start more rings of these corals.

Many species of soft corals can be grown together on the same rocks. We often receive this type of colony when we purchase new imported corals. Zoanthids and Protopalythoa can grow together for years.

Customers are very pleased when they receive an extra colored Zoanthid. We are grouping several other soft corals on the same reef plug, and we will report the best combinations.

During the next two semesters GARF is going to be collecting as many new brood stock corals as possible. Many of the established brood stock corals will be sold to new farmers such as John. It is hard to explain all of the reasons that captive raised corals grow so much better in closed systems. When we start propagation of a new product using corals that we purchase from aquarium grown stock we are able to save an entire year of acclimating the coral to captivity.

When we move corals from the GARF lab to John's they often resume rapid growth in less than one week. When we purchase wild stock we often wait over a year before we make the first cuttings.

This picture shows one of the first SPS corals we moved into this system. Note the polyp extension. Cuttings from this coral will be sold for years.

The plastic box with the grid is a nursery tray that is used to hold four inch square pots. We use these trays to hold reef plugs. This tray has many Zoanthids growing on the plastic. We are able to remove finished plugs and then insert new plugs in same holes. The new plugs soon become covered with Zoanthids.

As your farm grows it is important that you develop ways to save labor. The cost of each part of your propagation will take away from the profit. GARF will continue to visit coral farms so we can share new ideas with you as we all grow our own farms.

This is the tray before John removed some of the reef plugs. As these trays become coralline covered it becomes less and less likely that green algae will grow on them. John uses one and a half Janitors per gallon so the hair algae is not a problem. The Chelmon (Copperband) has kept all of the Aiptasia from growing so this tray produces clean stock for the new system.

Learning to control pests with natural methods is one of things you can do while you are starting your home coral farm in the aquariums you already keep. Several people have tried to expand their propagation systems too fast and the pest algae ruined the systems. Remember it is good to grow slow, the hobby will still be here. If you out grow your experience or management ability you will have problems. If you grow slow and learn about problems while they are small you will build a company that is both exciting to own and profitable.