Stylophora are branching small polyp stony corals from the Family Pocilloporidae. Stylophora shares that family with Pocillopora and Seriatopora and the three together are the only genera in the family. As a result of their close relativity to one another, all three of these genera share quite a lot in common.
What is immediately obvious is that their appearance is very similar. They are all bushy branching corals and even on close inspection their polyps appear near indistinguishable. It is one of the rare instances where observing the whole colony is more helpful than taking a close look.
Stylophora vs Pocillopora vs Seriatopora
Of the three, Seriatopora or Birdsnest Corals are right away are the easiest to identify by their sharp points. Some like a Pink Birdsnest have sharper points than, say, a Bird Of Paradise, but even still, they both have noticeably sharper points than either a Pocillopora or Stylophora.
Pocillopora on the other hand is more difficult to distinguish from Stylophora. Both Pocillopora and Stylophora are branching SPS and have round tips on each branch. They are roughly the same size and their polyps are nearly identical on close inspection.
The best way I can describe the difference in these two corals is how smooth the coral overall looks. Stylophora has a very even appearance while Pocillopora seems to look just a little more rough in texture. If you recall close up their polyps are all practically identical so this is one of the times that taking a step back and observing the whole colony is helpful.
Stylophora Care Tips
One of the major benefits of keeping Stylophora is the fact that they are less challenging than some of the other SPS corals while providing a very similar aesthetic. We keep Stylophora mainly in both medium light and medium water flow, something that other SPS corals would not do well in. Their color for the most part is consistent so moderate changes in lighting do would not impact their color the same as say a Montipora or Acropora which could change drastically in color. Having said that, their overall growth and color might benefit from both stronger light and flow than they are receiving here.
With all SPS, you will want to regularly test calcium, alkalinity, and magnesium because those are the three elements that are most important to fast growing stony corals. A tiny bit of nitrate and phosphate are acceptable but high levels of either may stop their growth or cause a crash entirely so it’s a good idea to keep an eye on those parameters as well.
As for feeding, we do not go out of our way to feed these corals although they regularly get a spray of cloudy supernate from the frozen food blend we use. The smallest particles in the food are rotifers which make the other corals in the tank go crazy, but it doesn’t appear that Stylophora eat.
In summary, Stylophora make a great addition to either a mixed stony coral reef or an SPS dominated reef. They are less challenging than some of the other small polyp stony corals while providing a very similar aesthetic.