Red Hornet Zoanthids

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The Red Hornets are a bright blend of orange-red and purple.  Like the other types of "hornet" zoas, they have a distinctive red ring.  Frags of the Red Hornet Zoas have between 3-4 polyps.


Zoanthus and Palythoa are a large group of corals in the reef keeping hobby. They come in an incredible range of colors and patterns making them very popular with both beginner hobbyists and rare coral collectors tracking down uncommon color morphs. In terms of care, both Zoanthus and Palythoa are fairly easy to keep. They tolerate a wide range of lighting intensities and water conditions. Once settled in, zoas multiply quickly. Please see below for more care tips for Zoas and Palys as well as checking out our Top 5 Tips for setting up a reef.


Zoanthus and Palythoa are found in corals reefs around the world. These polyps are harvested mainly from the islands of the Indopacific including Fiji, Tonga, Solomon Islands, and the Great Barrier Reef. Zoanthus and Palythoa have an incredible array of colors and patterns that make them one of the most popular corals in the reef aquarium hobby.


Zoanthus and Palythoa are not as demanding as other corals when it comes to lighting. They can be kept under a wide variety of lighting types, and are tolerant of both low and high light conditions. It is always wise however to acclimate new arrivals in lower light areas because it is far more likely to be damaged from overexposure than starve from underexposure.

Low Light

Low light translates to about 30-50 PAR

Medium Light

Medium Light is between 50-150 PAR

High Light

High Light is anything over 150 PAR

Lighting is a loaded topic, so for a more in-depth discussion of lighting, please see our Deep Dive article.


Zoanthus by their very shape invite detritus accumulation and a zoa colony that is dirty is very different than one that is kept clean. The buildup of detritus can slow a colony’s growth or even cause it to die back.

Strong water flow helps keep detritus buildup to a minimum as well as flushing away waste that the colony generates.

When designing flow patterns for this coral I like to provide strong consistent flow with short bursts of very strong flow. If you do jot have controllable pumps to achieve this it can be done manually with a turkey baster. Once a day you can squirt water at the colony to dislodge any buildup. I use just enough force to close the polyps up.

If you decide to go this route only do this with established colonies that are well attached. If you have a freshly glued frag of zoas they might get blown away.


While both Zoanthus and Palythoa polyps derive much of their energy from the products of their zooxanthellae, they do have the ability to capture prey. Palythoa seem to feed much more readily than their Zoanthus counterparts.


We try to feed a blend of small frozen foods such as the fines from mysis shrimp, cyclops plankton, and frozen rotifers. We have also tried feeding a variety of powdered dry plankton. Your mileage may vary depending on the species of zoa you have and also how you are doing the feeding. As I mentioned they are not nearly as good a feeder as palythoa so they might not be able to grab chunks of food out of the water. I try to turn the pumps off and then give them a good dusting of food and let them sit for about 10 min before restarting the pumps. Take a look at the feeding video below.


Both Zoas and Palys for the most part have been propagated extensively in captivity and are an excellent candidate for aquaculture. It is reasonable to believe that a sustainable harvest can be achieved in time. Take a look at the propagation video below for tips on how to frag Palythoa and Zoanthus.


Zoanthus are a genus of corals within the order Zoantharia, an order it shares with Palythoa and Parazoanthus. You may have also heard zoanthus referred to as zoanthids which is correct, but if you want to be a stickler for details, the term zoanthids refers to all the corals in the order while zoanthus is specific to the genus.

There is quite a lot of active research on Zoanthid taxonomy and the cutting edge is DNA classification. It is not nearly as straight forward as it may seem. There is a LOT of genetic consistency so it is a chore to find small segments of DNA that are actually different enough to base a scientific classification on. Over 90% of the coral’s genome is identical so a lot of current research is delving into that. Genetic research is further complicated by the effect the environment has on the expression of the genetic code. The genes themselves don’t change but the how the organism reads the genetic code in response to the environment does so you could see two very different traits in corals originate from an identical genetic sequence. I expect quite a lot of reclassification to occur in this space.

What was once 300 identified species has been whittled down to around 50-60 in the past several years depending on the criteria used to differentiate the different morphs. There are new classification insights as more genetic testing is being done, but for the purposes of this hobby-focused website, we've chosen to arbitrarily lump larger polyp individuals into Palythoa and smaller polyp specimens into Zoanthus.

As a practical matter, there is some degree of fogginess you will encounter in this industry whether something is called a Zoanthus or a Palythoa because there is a wide range of physical variation within the genus. On the far ends of the spectrum the two are easy to differentiate but once you get into large polyp Zoanthus variants and smaller polyp Palythoa variants, the naming convention breaks down at the hobbyist level.


There is a need to address the potential toxicity of these corals. Some can contain a compound called palytoxin that is a very dangerous poison. Palytoxin is associated more with Palythoa than Zoanthus, but it is possible for zoas to have it. I don’t know if those zoas produce it themselves or acquire it from neighboring Palythoa. In the wild, palytoxin shows up in organisms that don’t actively produce it such as sponges, mussels, and starfish but live in close proximity to palythoa. It can even be found in other species up the food chain such as crabs and fish through biomagnification. I’ll touch on this again when we discuss pests, because as lethal as palytoxin is, there is no shortage of organisms that are more than happy to consume them with no ill effects.

The scientific community has been aware of palytoxin since the 1960’s but it has been used as a means of biological warfare by Polynesian cultures for much longer. There is a legend of a sacred seaweed that grew in a special pool that when applied to a warrior’s spear would bring sure death to his enemies. In 1961 researchers tracked down the fabled pool in Maui and found colonies of Palythoa toxica.

It wasn’t until the 1990’s that the mechanism of action was identified. Palytoxin binds to the sodium potassium pump on the membrane of cells. If you don’t remember what this is from high school biology, the sodium potassium pump is REALLY important to ion movement in and out of the cell and affects all sorts of biological processes so any interruption of that royally screws things up. It is why the symptoms of palytoxin poisoning are seemingly all-inclusive. Initially there was some skepticism regarding this mechanism of action but it was confirmed in 1995 in a pretty clever study. They exposed yeast cells to palytoxin because yeast cells don’t have a sodium potassium pump. Those yeast cells were unaffected but when given to yeast cells that researchers genetically modified to encode a sheep’s sodium potassium pump, all the cells died.

In practice you are not likely to get palytoxin poisoning just by having zoas or palythoa in your home aquarium. It resides in the flesh of the coral so it becomes an issue when the colony is damaged. People have gotten sick from scrubbing palythoa off of rocks or propagating a colony with a band saw that would send the particles airborne and then inhaled. People have also gotten sick by boiling rocks with colonies on it because that too sends the compounds airborne and unlike many other proteins, palytoxin does not lose its toxicity when heated.


Proper acclimation is extremely important considering the stress imposed on the animals by the shipping process. Please take a moment to review our Acclimation Guide.

At Tidal Gardens we put extra time, effort, and care into our packing methods. Your order will be carefully and securely hand packed into labeled specimen cups or bags for easy acclimation and identification. Each order comes with an instructional pamphlet outlining steps you should take upon receiving your corals.

 Once you have placed your order here are a few things to consider:

 We will contact you via email regarding your shipment date. Please be sure to check your spam or junk folder if you haven't heard from us.

 Depending on your location, UPS Next Day Air delivery times can range from 10:30AM - 4:30PM.

 Now is the perfect time to make room for your new additions, do a water change if required, and visit our YouTube channel for detailed information on the specimens you've selected.

 We require at least a one business day notice to reschedule existing shipments. Last minute, or requests received after hours, cannot be guaranteed!

 Frequently Asked Questions:

 How much is shipping?

 Shipping is a flat rate of $29.99 for UPS Next Day Air service. If your order total comes to $250 or more you will receive weekday shipping free of charge (excluding orders going to Alaska or Puerto Rico).

 Orders shipping to Alaska require a small additional fee (shipping module found here). This fee is waived on orders over $350.

 Saturday delivery is available to most locations for an extra fee.

 Can I track my order?

 All orders are shipped UPS Next Day Air and can be tracked through UPS. You will receive tracking information via email once your order has shipped.

 Where does my order ship from?

 Your corals will be shipped from our aquaculture facility located in Copley, Ohio. We ship year round and will include any necessary hot or cold packs.

 Please note, due to Hawaii state law we are unable to ship ANY corals into the state of Hawaii.

  Shipping Module Links  

 What Corals are Provided with the Guarantee?

 Unless otherwise stated in the item description, any coral purchased from Tidal Gardens includes the full 7 day guarantee. Specialty items or corals considered to be "expert only" may not qualify for the guarantee and will clearly state this in the item description.

 What if I have a DOA or a coral doesn't survive the first 7 days?

 Take a clear picture of the coral. We require a photo of the coral to ensure replacement and refund accuracy. Please make sure to take a clear photo under daylight (not actinic).

 Send us your picture and order information. Please send any photos and claims to [email protected]. A representative will get back with you typically within one working day.

 Receive your replacement or refund. We will either replace your coral with a future order, issue you a gift card, or issue you a refund back to your original payment method. We address all DOA claims on a case by case basis and are generally willing to use whichever method works best for you.

Tidal Gardens offers a 7 day guarantee. As much as we may try to improve our shipping procedures, some corals do not survive the shipping process. Shipping is possibly the most stressful event a coral can experience and certain corals are more sensitive than others.


 Returns are not possible. Please DO NOT send back any corals unless specifically requested to do so by Tidal Gardens.

 What camera do we use to shoot the corals?

There are a number of different cameras we shoot with but primarily we shoot with two Canon cameras. For still images we just upgraded to a Canon 5DSR. The 5DSR is great for our coral photography due to its image sensor having a larger megapixel range. This allows the camera to capture a more detailed image and retain more color information.

When selecting cameras with interchangeable lenses, it is a better idea to focus on the lenses that fit the type of photography you intend to do and then to buy a body that you can afford. Most camera bodies are capable of professional quality photos. If in the future a newer body comes along with features one simply MUST have, the lens collection will still work with the new body.

For video, we shoot with Canon cinema cameras. We started with a Canon C100 and later upgraded to a Canon C200 which allowed for high frame rate 4k capture.

A cinema camera is very nice because ergonomically it is a joy to work with.

Although DSLR’s and phones can take good video, they are a pain to use because they were not designed from the ground up to shoot video. They happen to have the option, but that’s about it. A cinema camera has the layout of the controls in a way that makes sense to a video shooter and professional connections which are otherwise tricky to adapt to DSLR’s or phones.

The Canon C200 is a much more capable camera. Below is a video talking about it as well as some of the other equipment we use here:

 What lens to you shoot coral with?

About 95% of the shots were taken with a Canon 100mm Macro. Canon makes two 100mm macro lenses, an f/2.8 Macro, and an f/2.8L IS Macro. The f/2.8L IS Macro is more expensive because it is a part of Canon’s “L” series of professional lenses that boast better build quality and better optics. In this case however either of these lenses would be great for stills and would produce nearly indistinguishable results. Macro lenses by their very design tend to be some of the sharpest lenses available. We use the f/2.8L IS version because that “IS” stands for “image stabilization” which is extremely helpful in shooting video.

The remaining 5% of the shots of coral are taken with an ultra closeup lens called an MP-E 65mm also made by Canon. This is a specialty lens that is essentially a 5x microscope. It is very tricky to use, but is able to take shots that no other lens is capable of taking. To see this lens in action, take a look at the video below:

 When I try to shoot my tank I get bad results. Do you have any tips?

Photography is a loaded subject, but the first thing to familiarize yourself with is proper exposure, which includes your shutter speed, aperture, and ISO levels. Once you get a grasp of that, it will be easier to go back and see what the problems were in past photos. The majority of poor results are usually exposure related. The video below has a deeper discussion of exposure as well as some additional tips when it comes to getting photos and videos of your corals.

 Do you shoot under LED's?

At Tidal Gardens we get asked all the time if we shoot our pictures under LED. I can guess the reason people ask. LED lit tanks, especially those dominated with blue and royal blue LED’s, have a distinct ultra fluorescent appearance that is, shall we say, less natural in appearance. The colorful highlights are greatly exaggerated and the thinking most customers would have is the coral won’t look like that in their tanks.

We used to be completely against using LEDs in our photography and videography, mainly because LED lights, especially blue LEDs, don't produce very well rounded results and are more difficult to edit around. This is because LEDs have a smaller light color spectrum than that of something like a T5 which has a larger spectrum. However, we've recently found ways around this by adjusting the color temperature within the camera to get around that blue light dilemma.

 How can I take good photos with my phone?

So here at Tidal gardens we don't photograph corals with phone cameras very often. However most people don't have the luxury or the need to have professional photography and videography equipment, so we decided to find ways to help out in that regard. We made a video going into detail how to get the best reef pictures possible using your phone and put it down below for you to watch. Don't get me wrong, these tips are useful, but the photos you take with your phone won't always compare to a DSLR camera.

 Do you post-process your images?

Yes. Absolutely.

For those unfamiliar with post processing, it refers to the manipulation of the coral image by software to change color and exposure levels. Post processing is often the subject of heated online debate. The problem lies in the potential to abuse post processing to enhance colors beyond what anyone would see under any conditions. This is essentially deceptive trade practices, that eventually leave buyers with a sour taste in their mouths and in turn consider ANY type of post processing undesirable.

This perception is unfortunate because post processing is a necessary tool for a professional photographer. That may be an understatement, because post processing is half of digital photography.

There is no such thing as an “unprocessed” image. A digital camera is very much an analog light gathering device that tries its best to turn the light it collects into 1’s and 0’s and packs it into a file. It is not possible to view this file directly. It is not a visible image, it is just data. What pops up as a preview is one of an infinite number of conversions of this data into a visible image. In essence, the camera is doing the processing for you. The moment you can see an image it has, by definition, been processed. The question is whether the camera can do a better job of processing an image than a professional software program can.

In the case of reef aquarium photography, you will almost always get a better result with a software editor than what comes out of a camera. Camera sensors are designed to shoot what we commonly see outside in nice warm, bright light. Our tanks are dim and use a fringe part of the color spectrum that modern camera sensors are not well-tuned to see. The processor in the camera will do it’s best to convert that information into an image file you can see, but it can always be improved substantially in post.

For post processing we mainly use Adobe Lightroom. It's easy to use and has produced the cleanest results.

 Can I use your photos or videos in my project?

In the past we have licensed material to others for some type of compensation. Our photos and videos have been used in industry publications such as CORAL Magazine, Reef2Rainforest, Saltwater Smarts as well as nature shows and displays created by the BBC, Discovery Channel, and the Smithsonian.