Putting coral in a saltwater tank is a big first step for a budding saltwater aquarist, but it can be hard to choose from the hundreds of different species out there, and knowing how to maintain good water conditions, environment, and feeding routing for them can be difficult.
Enter the button polyp, a simple beginner coral that’s great for first time reef keepers.
A button polyp is a type of beginner coral that grow in tight colonies and require moderate to high alkalinity levels, calcium, and high salinity.
They prefer moderate to high levels of water flow, and can grow quickly, establishing dominance in a tank quickly.
There’s a lot to learn when to comes to either growing or getting rid of button polyps, especially for someone new to the saltwater aquarium scene.
The rest of this article will walk through what a button polyp is, how to care for it, and how to prevent it from taking over your aquarium.
What Are Button Polyps?
Button polyps are a species of zoanthids and are commonly referred to as Sea Mats or Moon Polyps. They are typically brown in color but may appear green under certain lighting. While not true corals, they are related and function similarly.
These polyps attach to live rock or coral rubble and form colonies, which can grow out under the right conditions. Only requiring moderate water flow and lighting, they are hardy and self-sustaining.
As a semi-aggressive species, they grow rapidly and can outcompete their neighbors and reproduce readily in good aquarium conditions. They can sting and are toxic to humans, so exercise extreme caution when handling them or cleaning in your tank.
Always wear both gloves and eye protection, since exposure to their toxins can cause permanent blindness, muscle spasms, and can be fatal in rare cases.
They will actively encroach and wage war on other species of zoanthid or corals by stinging them, so make sure you provide enough space so that they don’t come into contact with other species.
If you want to preserve the health of your button polyps, then you’ll need to make sure that your calcium is between 380-430 ppm to allow them to grow.
They are suited for temperatures of 72 degrees Fahrenheit to 82 degrees Fahrenheit. Your salinity levels should be no lower than 1.023 and no higher than 1.025.
For best results, you should introduce brown button polyps to a mature tank near the middle or top where they can receive the most light. Be sure you have adequate light reaching them and that the waterflow is strong enough.
Be on the lookout for the growth of film algae that can smother them. Box snails will eat brown button polyps, and large crustaceans and fish like angelfish will eat them.
Do You Need to Feed Button Polyps?
In the wild, brown button polyps have a symbiotic relationship with certain species of algae called zooxanthellae; however, since these conditions are limited in an enclosed environment, the amount of food that your polyps will get is dependent on your water conditions as well as the amount of bacteria and other microorganisms in the water.
Polyps do benefit from weekly feedings of micro-plankton or brine shrimp, which can be individually administered to members of the colony, and regular feeding is good for their long-term health.
What Do Button Polyps Eat?
Button polyps have a symbiotic relationship with zooxanthellae, which produces their food for them. For the most part, they are self-sustained by this relationship, but they will also consume micro-bacteria and other microorganisms that get caught in their tentacles.
For a good healthy polyp colony, you should administer weekly feedings to each member of the colony. There’s no point just dumping the food in the tank since your other fish will get it first and there’s no guarantee than any of it will reach your button polyps.
Brine shrimp and micro-plankton are good options to directly feed your polyps on a weekly basis.
Is Button Polyp Bad for Your Aquarium?
Button polyps are a good addition to an aquarium, especially for beginners since they are so hardy. They contribute to the positive ecosystem of the tank and aren’t harmful in and of themselves; however, you do want to be careful what tankmates you choose.
Remember, they do sting and will attack neighboring colonies if they encroach on their territory. Be sure to establish an isolated place to install your button polyps so that you don’t have to worry about any coral warfare going on.
How Do You Get Rid of Button Polyps?
To get rid of button polyps, first make sure that you are using proper protective gloves (preferably arm length ones) and eye protection. The palytoxin these guys carry is no joke. There are several routes you can take for removing button polyps.
Prying them off with a knife or pulling up the mat with tweezers is the easiest route to take, but you can also use scissors to cut them down and smother the remaining tissue with epoxy.
Make sure you have carbon in your filtration and perform a water change shortly after your excavation. Kalk paste can also be used in saltwater aquariums to kill off button polyps.
Button polyps are interesting creatures with a lot of fascinating survival mechanics. They are pretty hardy and make for an interesting sight in a saltwater aquarium.
A true beginners’ coral, they aren’t actually corals at all; instead, they are a species of zoanthid that survives on a symbiotic relationship with a certain species of algae. They proliferate quickly and are adept at surviving in a saltwater tank environment.
If you’re looking to cut back on your polyps, then you can simply cut them back or pry them off with a knife or tweezers, but you should be sure to wear protective eye wear and arm-length gloves while doing this.
Brown button polyps are fascinating creatures, and, with the right care, they make a great addition to a tank.