One key to keeping an eye catching SPS dominated reef is to plan ahead and think about what the reef might look like in a year or two when it matures. Do your homework and gather all the knowledge you can about the corals you are interested in adding. Every reef keeper starts with a blank canvas and has the opportunity to create their own masterpiece but certain best practices and tips on choosing and placing SPS can be followed to achieve success.

Plan Ahead

Understanding and anticipating growth rates and patterns is critical and I can’t tell you how many times I failed to take these factors into consideration. For instance, I love the color and pattern of the Acropora Yongei (“Green Bali Slimer”) but it grows fast, really fast, and can quickly overtake a significant amount of real estate.


Tips on Choosing and Placing SPS

Acropora Yongei (“Green Bali Slimer”) such as this one can grow quickly

The same is true with Birdsnest corals. They can grow like weeds and encroach on other corals, inhibiting their growth.  M. Capricornus or “Caps” are beautiful, scrolling corals but they are also aggressive and can easily cover other corals that lie beneath. Place these corals lower down and give them a wide berth if you want them in your tank.


Tips on Choosing and Placing SPS

M. Capricornis (“Caps”) can shade other corals and are betted suited in the lower part of a tank

Frags or Colonies?

Another consideration in planning the layout of a SPS tank is whether to start with frags or colonies. Some folks like the instant gratification gained by adding mature colonies while others prefer starting with small frags and seeing them grow into colonies. My preference is to be patient and start with frags since they can evolve and grow more organically with the reef, providing a more natural look. No matter which way you go, give new corals room whether they are fast growers or not. It might seem ok to place a couple of slow growing corals next to one another but the tight placement will limit flow and impact their health. You also want to avoid stressing out a newly placed coral by pruning or moving it.



It is also important to bone up on the lighting and circulation demands of the corals you are considering. For instance, a Purple Monster needs a lot of light and good flow and is happiest near the top of the tank. On the other hand, some corals such as the Acropora Lokani do well near the bottom where there is less flow and light.


Tips on Choosing and Placing SPS

Purple Monsters need a lot of light and should be placed topside

Other Considerations When Choosing and Placing SPS

The hardiness of a coral is another factor one should consider. More demanding corals such as an ORA Red Planet should only be added after less demanding corals such as Montiporas establish themselves in a new tank.


Finally, be careful with the fish you add and make sure they don’t have a reputation as coral nippers. Certain Angelfish are ok to have in a SPS dominated reef while others are definite no nos. It can be a major undertaking to remove a fish from a mature reef so do your homework on their habits and tendencies.


A reef is a growing and evolving ecosystem with many interdependent pieces so make sure you take this into consideration when building your masterpiece.


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If you are looking for additional insights and information, please explore my many other reef tank and SPS related articles as well as my book, A ReefBum’s Guide To Keeping an SPS Reef Tank: A Blueprint For Success. Additionally, you can see all of my reef tank videos online now as well as my Live HD Webcam. And if you are interested in purchasing affordable SPS frags that are pest-free and homegrown, you can visit my SPS Frag store.


Happy reef keeping!