Stylophora: Achieve that SPS Aesthetic with Less-Demanding Corals

Stylophora are a less-challenging SPS coral that still provides a similar aesthetic to more difficult species

Stylophora are a less-challenging SPS coral that still provides a similar aesthetic to more difficult species

Stylophora are branching small-polyp stony corals from the Family Pocilloporidae. Stylophora shares that family with Pocillopora and Seriatopora, and the three together are the only genera in the family. As a result of their close relationship to one another, all three of these genera share quite a lot in common.

What is immediately obvious is that their appearance is very similar. They are all bushy, branching corals, and even on close inspection, their polyps are nearly indistinguishable. So, this is one of the rare instances where observing the whole colony is more helpful than taking a close look.

Stylophora polyps marco photo

Stylophora vs. Pocillopora vs. Seriatopora

Of the three, Seriatopora, the bird’s nest corals, are right away the easiest to identify by their sharp points. Some, like the pink bird’s nest, have sharper points than, say, a bird of paradise, but nonetheless, they both have noticeably sharper points than either a Pocillopora or Stylophora.

Pocillopora, on the other hand, is more difficult to distinguish from Stylophora. Both Pocillopora and Stylophora are branching SPS and have round tips on each branch. They are roughly the same size, and their polyps are nearly identical on close inspection.

The best way I can describe the difference between these two corals is how smooth the coral looks overall. Stylophora has a very even appearance, while Pocillopora seems to look just a little more rough in texture. If you recall, their polyps are practically identical when viewed close up, so this is one of the times that taking a step back and observing the whole colony is helpful.

Stylophora SPS coral

Stylophora care tips

One of the major benefits of keeping Stylophora is the fact that they are less challenging than some of the other SPS corals while providing a very similar aesthetic. We keep Stylophora mainly in both medium light and medium water flow, something that other SPS corals would not do well in. Their color for the most part is consistent, so moderate changes in lighting do not impact their color the same as they would, say, a Montipora or Acropora, which could change drastically in color. Having said that, their overall growth and color might benefit from both stronger light and flow than they are receiving here.

With all SPS, you want to regularly test calcium, alkalinity, and magnesium because those three elements are the most important to fast-growing stony corals. Tiny amounts of nitrate and phosphate are acceptable, but high levels of either may stop their growth or cause a crash entirely, so it’s a good idea to keep an eye on those parameters as well.

We do not go out of our way to feed these corals, although they regularly get a spray of cloudy supernate from the frozen food blend we use. The smallest particles in the food are rotifers, which make the other corals in the tank go crazy, but it doesn’t appear that Stylophora eat them.

In summary, Stylophora make a great addition to either a mixed stony-coral reef or an SPS-dominated reef. They are less challenging than some of the other small-polyp stony corals while providing a very similar aesthetic.


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About Than Thein

Than Thein is the owner of Tidal Gardens and Advanced Reef Aquarium. Than's love for all things underwater began early on when dogs and cats were strictly off limits, but a fish tank? Sure! What started with a 10-gallon goldfish tank eventually turned into a 5,000-gallon greenhouse coral propagation system. In addition to coral aquaculture, Than's other hobbies include scuba diving and underwater photography and videography.

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