Updated: November 18, 2020 - By: - Categories: Reef aquarium

SPS corals are the most diverse and difficult to keep in a reef aquarium. They should only be kept in well-established aquariums by experienced hobbyists. This article comprises many types of SPS corals with quick care stats (including PAR) that you can choose for your reef tanks.

Popular Acropora corals for reef aquariums


Staghorn or Acropora corals are among the most important and abundant groups of reef builders (SPS corals). There are over 300 species of Acropora corals found throughout the world, many of them in the Indo-Pacific and three species in Hawaii. They are found in a wide variety of habitats from the surface to depths of 100 feet. Many small reef fish live near Acropora colonies and retreat into the thicket of branches if threatened.

Depending on the species and location, Acropora may grow as plates, slender or bushy with branches. Dramatic changes in colony form are also seen within a single species. Some Acropora corals may form rounded colonies in shallow water, but flattened plates in deeper water where greater surface area is needed to capture the diminished light. The most common growth form imported for the aquarium trade is bushy in appearance with short, compact branches.

Acropora corals grow quickly and individual colonies can exceed 3.5 feet across in the wild. In a well-maintained reef aquarium, finger-sized fragments can easily grow into basketball-sized colonies in 1 to 2 years.

With that many species are currently known, grow forms, and colors, identifying individual species can be a tricky task. Here is a shortlist of some of the most common species found in the aquarium trade:

Acropora abrolhosensis


Acropora abrotanoides


Acropora aculeus


Acropora aspera

Acropora austera


Acropora awi


Acropora carduus


Acropora derawanensis


Acropora echinata – Ice-Fire Echinata


Acropora gemmifera

Acropora horrida


Acropora kimbeensis


Acropora lokani


Acropora microclados – Strawberry Shortcake


Acropora millepora


Acropora multiacuta


Acropora Nana


Acropora ocellata


Acropora parilis

Acropora prostrata


Acropora rosaria


Acropora samoensis


Acropora spathulata


Acropora subglabra


Acropora tenuis


Acropora tortuosa – Cali Tort


Acropora Valida


Acropora vermiculata


Acropora yongei – Green Slimer


Montipora SPS corals

Montipora digitata


Montipora foliosa

Montipora samarensis

Montipora stellata – Tubs Stellata


Montipora undata


Other beautiful SPS corals for reef aquariums

Pocillopora damicornis


Seriatopora sp – Birdsnest coral


Stylophora sp


How to care for SPS corals?

SPS corals are some of the more difficult corals to maintain in the reef tank, but most will do well if certain conditions are provided.

Most require strong lighting which can be achieved with high powered LED reef lights and placing them near the top of the tank where the PAR can peak up to 400-500. Along with lighting, SPS corals prefer strong, intermittent water flow.

The water quality should be carefully monitored for Calcium and alkalinity, in addition to the normal parameters of a reef aquarium. In addition, nitrates and phosphates should be kept low to optimize coloration of the coral.

SPS corals generally do best in tanks that house primarily SPS and LPS corals. They do not do well with toxins that can be released by many soft corals, therefore the number of soft corals kept in SPS tanks should be kept fairly low.

SPS corals can subsist on adequate lighting, water motion and good water chemistry alone if they are housed in a tank with a fair number of well fed fish, but they can also benefit from occasional feedings of small zooplankton foods.

Reef-Roids coral food for faster growingReef-Roids coral food for faster growing

We recommend 2-3 weekly feedings consisting of a mix of oyster eggs and powdered reef foods such as Reef-Roids and Benereef as well as foods such as Seachem Zooplankton and phytoplankton.

How to propagate SPS corals?


SPS corals reproduce sexually or asexually. Sexual reproduction occurs via the release of eggs and sperm into the water. Asexual reproduction occurs via fragmentation, when a branch breaks off a colony, reattaches to the substrate and grows.

For SPS such as Acropora, it is as simple as breaking off a branch and attaching it to a piece of rock or frag plugs. For plating SPS such as Montipora, you should carefully handle to break off one of the plates by moving it up and down many times in order not to destroy the rockwork.

One of the best way to attach frags is to use Super Glue Gel or any cyanoacrylate based gel glue (make sure you buy a gel type glue).

Coral Frag Rack with magnet holdsCoral Frag Rack with magnet holds

Coral Frag Plugs 30 Pack Tiles for SPS LPSCoral Frag Plugs 30 Pack Tiles for SPS LPS

Place the frag on a frag rack or directly in a well-lit place on the rockwork where it receives the same lighting and water flow as the mother colony.

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