7 SPS Corals That Love High Water Flow

7 SPS Corals That Love High Water Flow

If you have been in the saltwater hobby for a while, you know that SPS corals are more demanding than others. They are less forgiving when it comes to water parameters, nutrient levels, temperature, and lighting.

If you are planning a tank build around having SPS corals and high water flow, this article will show you 7 SPS corals that love high water flow.

It’s a known fact that SPS corals require more water movement and higher flow rates versus LPS or soft corals. Certain LPS corals like Frogspawn and Hammer corals prefer a much lower flow rate and if they are subject to high flow, they simply won’t thrive and will end up being unhealthy and perhaps even dying.

Having a strong current in your tank can present some issues as well. So you really need to plan ahead of time and ensure you have a mature enough tank to support SPS corals and the more complex environment they require.

What is the normal flow rate for SPS corals?

Most hobbyists will say that a low to medium flow rate for soft corals and LPS corals is around the 10-20X tank turnover range. For example, if you have a 50-gallon aquarium with LPS corals you should aim to have a flow rate of 500-1000GPH. So you should look to purchase a wavemaker that is capable of producing that much flow.

It’s also recommended that you use a controllable speed wavemaker versus a constant speed one. This way you can adjust the water flow according to your coral’s needs.

SPS corals will require even more flow. The average flow rate for SPS is around the 20-30X tank turnover rate. Some even higher. So that same 50-gallon aquarium will now require a wavemaker capable of producing 1000-1500 GPH.

In much larger aquariums, you will need to use multiple wavemakers positioned at various locations to properly move the water around your tank at the proper flow while avoiding dead spots.

This video helps define Low, Medium, and High flow rates.

How important is water flow in a reef tank?

Water flow is one of the most important aspects of keeping a reef tank healthy. Water movement promotes gas exchange and increases oxygen levels. It decreases the carbon dioxide and helps maintain the PH level of your tank. Proper water flow is also crucial to the biological function within corals.

Can I have too much flow in a reef tank?

Yes, having too much flow in a reef tank can cause problems. Not only can it be a struggle for fish and invertebrates to move around, but your corals can suffer if the water movement is too high.

Proper water movement is crucial for the overall health of your reef tank. Too much water movement can have negative effects and cause corals to not open, grow around the areas of high flow, and even die. Other problems can include sand and other substrates to blow around the tank covering corals and other livestock, which can cause equipment like protein skimmers to be not as effective, and cause stress in your fish.

Will SPS corals grow faster with a much higher flow rate?

It’s important to note that more water flow does not equal more coral growth. Not all corals are the same and you really need to find the best flow rate for the corals you are keeping. Having a really high flow rate above what would be considered normal for SPS will not make them grow any faster. Here is the proof.

SPS corals for high flow reef tanks

1. Acropora

Acropora coral

Acropora is probably the most difficult SPS coral to keep. There are over 149 species of Acropora and they are very sensitive to water quality and any changes to parameters must be kept to a minimum. They love water stability. Many hobbyists keep Acropora due to the challenge they present. Not only do they require high lighting, but they love lots of water flow.

2. Montipora

Montipora coral

Montipora is very common to see in SPS reef tanks. They are available in different growth forms such as plating, encrusting, and branching. Montipora can come in a variety of colors and sizes and are quite stunning as larger colonies. They also love high lighting and water flow.

3. Pocillopora

Pocillopora (Pocilloporidae) short polyps stony coral

Pocillopora SPS corals are probably my favorite on the list. They are not as sensitive or difficult to keep as Acropora or Montipora making a great choice for beginners into the SPS coral world. They don’t love very strong water flow but I would put them in the moderate to high range.

4. Stylopora

Pocilopora colorful SPS coral in saltwater aquarium

The Stylopora SPS coral is not as common to see as some of the other types. They are sometimes referred to as the cat’s paw coral and resemble the Pocillopora coral. If you have high light and high flow tank, you should give the Stylopora a try.

5. Pavona

Pavona Coral SPS - Pavona decussatus

The Pavona SPS coral is another type that is easier to keep if you are a beginner with SPS. They are more forgiving to changes to water parameters but these changes must be very small and done over time as with most corals. Like the Pocillopora, they don’t need very high flow but to appreciate moderate to high flow rates.

6. Leptoseris

Explanate lettuce coral (Leptoseris explanata Yabe & Sugiyama) in the Red Sea, Egypt.

The Leptoseris SPS coral is also known as a wrinkle coral. This coral is now becoming more available in the hobby and not as rare as it used to be. A few years ago this coral would be very expensive but not so much today. The Leptoseris coral has stunning colors, especially under actinic lighting. It is a faster-growing SPS compared to some others and will appreciate a higher flow rate.

7. Seriatopora (Birds nest)

Pink Birdsnest Coral (Seriatopora hystrix)

The Birds nest SPS coral is another one of the faster-growing corals that are branch-like in form. They are known for their bright colors and entangled branches that can form into amazing colonies. A huge issue with Birds nest corals is they are very fragile and can break easily. Any broken pieces are easily turned into frags and can regrow. They don’t like high lighting unlike many SPS corals but do seem to like high water flow.

For the most part, all SPS corals prefer high water flow aquariums. There are a few exceptions but any of the above-mentioned 7 SPS corals that love high water flow are a great choice. Remember that water flow is just one of the important factors in keeping SPS corals healthy. There are many other things to consider and keeping SPS corals is generally not for beginners if you have never kept corals in the past. It’s important to do your research and plan ahead to have the best chance of success with SPS.