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How to Grow a Zoa Garden

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Last updated on November 17th, 2023


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What is a Zoa Garden?

A zoa garden, or zoanthid garden, is an area in your reef tank where you grow a variety of zoanthid coral. Think of it like planting a flower garden. You pick and choose which flowers go in each location to make sure that they look great when the flowers all bloom in a dense flower bed. It's the same concept with zoa gardens. Planning colonies of zoas to fill in a space and look like a bed of color!

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How to Plan a Zoa Garden

Planning your zoa garden can be done either very meticulously by picking and choosing each individual coral by size and color to perfectly plan the best combination of coral; or you can throw caution to the wind and plan where the coral goes as you buy them. Usually, zoa garden planning often starts with careful planning and then you come across another zoa that you "have to have" and your plan typically moves toward finding where it will fit!

However you plan, or don't plan, your zoa garden, it is almost guaranteed to look amazing! Personally, I start with a plan and very quickly find a new zoa I want to keep. Then I either find a place where it fits best for room to grow as well as color, or I start another zoa garden!

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Planning Zoa Garden by Color

When planning your zoa garden based on color (and pattern) you should consider some standard design concepts. If you are looking for coral to pop out, you need to place them near complimentary colors. This means the color on the opposite side of the color wheel. If you want 3 or 4 colors near each other, you can plan for triadic and rectangular harmonies for the best layout of color that is pleasing to your eye!

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For more about color planning, Scrap'n'frames does a really good job at talking through the different color planning theories.

You will also want to consider the patterns of the zoas. High detail coral such as the Utter Chaos will be lost near other high detail coral. If you place the Utter Chaos near a simple pattern zoa, such as an AOI, they will both pop out because of the drastic difference in pattern. This is another artistic theory of texture. Different textures will cause contrast and your eye will notice different details.

Planning Zoa Garden by Sizes

Zoas can't always be predictable by size. Some zoas tend to have bigger or smaller polyps based on flow and lighting. That being said, you can use the standard size of these polyps for a reference and try to keep like-sized zoas near each other. An example of this is that large polyp zoas like the Sunny-D are almost always large polyps with longer stalks. Rastas and Bam Bams, on the other hand, are almost always small polyps that are low and close to the rock.

Using this information, you can plan your zoa garden(s) by keeping low-growing zoas together so they aren't shaded out by the larger zoas. Keeping these types separated will give you some of the best chance at highly successful zoa gardens!

Amazing zoa garden

Best Zoa Garden Coral Placement

Zoas grow best on flat rocks where they can spread. This is especially true for smaller-polyp zoanthids. When placing zoa gardens you should aim to grow them on shelf-like rocks and overhangs where you do not plan to grow other coral. Though there are some coral, like acans, that can grow near zoas without a problem, euphyllia coral and most sps coral will fight with the zoanthids. It's best to keep these further apart to give both the highest chances of success!

Additionally, zoanthids don't require a lot of light to grow. This means that they can do well near the middle-to-bottom of the reef tank. In fact, you can typically kep a zoa garden rock in the sand bed to help fill in the empty space if you would like.

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Zoa Garden Coral Care

As mentioned above, zoas do not require a lot of light. In addition to this, they are not very picky about flow either. You will likely find that large polyp zoas don't mind very low flow, however the smaller polyp zoas tend to like a medium level of flow, similar to most LPS coral. This is due to both not being able to push waste and debris away from them, as well as having other food and nutrients brought to them.

Beyond that, there is nothing particular that you need to do for general zoa care. Though I do encourage researching Palytoxin and using caution when handling these coral as this toxin can be deadly. Usually there is little threat unless you are cutting or cleaning the coral (which you typically shouldn't be doing anyway). Running carbon can also help reduce the threat of this within the reef tank itself.

If you're looking for more details about zoanthid coral care, I recommend reading the Zoanthid Care Guide I wrote to have the best growth from your zoa garden!

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In terms of having a great deal of color in a small space, that is easy to care for, a zoa garden is one of the best places to start. You can plan out a beautiful zoa garden by considering color as well as size. Placing these coral on a flat rock with sufficient light with a medium flow will give you the highest rate of success! Within a few months to a year depending on the zoa, you will have an instagram ready zoa garden!

If you would like to start a color packed zoa garden, I would love to get you stated! Check out some of the amazing zoas available from Reef Stable and build your own zoanthid garden today!

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About the Author

Reef Stable Founder John Krenzer

John is a Software Engineer with a passion for saltwater aquariums, as well as the founder and president of Reef Stable. He started in the aquarium hobby as a child with a 20 gallon freshwater aquarium. His interest in aquarium life grew and in 2008, John set up his first saltwater aquarium.

Today, John maintains an over 300 gallon reef tank system, consisting of a 120g reef and a 210g reef. These large tanks are contained within the same system, sharing a sump as a means to reduce total maintenance and increase total water volume.

John writes articles for the blog as a means to learn about more reef aquarium topics. These articles act as a reference for the readers as well as himself. John updates these articles frequently to provide additional information or make corrections as new information becomes available.

If you would like to request an article, tank tour article, or to collaborate, let me know via the Contact Me Page!

About Reef Stable

Reef Stable was initially founded in 2019 as a reef tank parameter log to fill a need. Reef Stable quickly grew, becoming a location to solve all of your reef tank problems as well as a place to learn.

Reef Stable now provides a Reef Blog, Reef Aquarium Guides, Coral Care Guides, Identification and Solutions for Pests and Algae, and Reef Dosing Calculators, in addition to the original Reef Parameter Log.

Reef Stable continues to grow, striving to provide a single location for all your reef tank needs!

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