The Trouble with Coral Trade Names

A frag of Fruit Loops zoanthids

A frag of “Fruit Loops” zoanthids

The reefkeeping hobby today is full of colorful trade names for corals, and it appears that, for better or for worse, the trend is here to stay. Tidal Gardens has plenty of corals with goofy names, so we are the last folks in the world who should be judgmental about the practice.

As a seller, it is clear that named corals sell better than corals with a descriptive name such as “red and blue” coral. Higher prices and greater overall demand are incentive enough for sellers to continue naming corals. The other reason that coral naming continues is that it’s literally the number one most asked question we get. When customers ask, “What is that coral called?” they aren’t asking about the genus or species; they want to know “what it’s called.” Even if the vendor were to draw a line in the sand and say no more stupid names, the market is like the mafia. It will draw you right back in!

On one hand, trade names can be helpful in identifying a particular coral. Describing the appearance of zoanthids, for example, is practically a lost cause. Green center, orange skirt with some purple…sounds like about 20 different things it could be. How about Fruit Loops? A pretty distinct zoanthid comes to mind.

The problem, of course, is that certain corals have different commonly used names or, worse yet, different uncommonly used names. The worst-case scenario is every vendor calling a certain coral a different name in hopes of branding it as something unique to him or her. I encourage vendors not to do this for two reasons.

First, it is a confusing practice for everyone involved. Second, and more importantly, people do not know to search for your freshly minted unique snowflake of a coral. It is better to find out whether the coral has a name that’s already used out there and go with it. More customers are likely going to look for a “known” coral name than a name that literally nobody else on earth has ever called it.

A side benefit of going with an existing name is you spend less time and energy coming up with new names. It may sound like a minor issue, but, personally, my reservoir of colorful names is completely exhausted. My staff comes up with the majority of the names you see on Tidal Gardens because these days…I got nothing.

What are your thoughts on the naming of corals? Let us know in the comment section below.


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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.


  1. Matt Bowers (Muttley000) says

    I don’t mind the odd names, although I am not creative to come up with them! I do however wish vendors would keep the scientific names, when they are known, with the trade or common name. As alluded to above there is sometimes just not much found when searching for the newest common name.

  2. I like named stuff so I know what I’m getting and re sale value. However I have noticed some vendors using names that are already taken and adding confusion.. Just come up with a different name already.
    Too many rainbow this and thats and Strawberry shortcakes.
    I know what you mean about renaming. I noticed one of the ebay vendors renamed the walt disney acro to his own name recently. Plus some others.

  3. I only appreciate the Colorful names if it truly links back it’s origin back to the first mother colony with that “Color”. I also like the scientific names as well but they are more generalized.
    What I hate is that just because it has some fancy name vendors think they can justify charging more for them. I have 2 corals that look exactly the same after they grew out yet they had totally different names. That’s what truly makes me mad since why would I buy 2 of the same thing.

  4. It’s no goofier a notion than the common names of fish. I know what a Koran angel will grow up to be, but that may not be apparent from a description of “blue and white striped” for a juvenile. Same with corals. It’s about having a reasonable expectation of what you are getting. That’s why named corals are worth more and it’s annoying so many think all consumers are stupid enough to pay more just because it has a pretty name. It’s more than that.

    • I agree with what your saying Mike but a part of the problem as written in the article above is…
      One shop calling a Koran angel a Koran Angel and another shop calling an Emperor angel a Koran angel.
      Shops are trying to rename the same coral so the coral seems unique to their shop.

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