LPS Corals vs. SPS Corals

What's the Difference?

LPS (Large Polyp Stony) corals and SPS (Small Polyp Stony) corals are two main categories of corals found in reef aquariums. LPS corals have larger polyps and tend to have a slower growth rate compared to SPS corals, which have smaller polyps and faster growth rates. LPS corals are generally considered to be more beginner-friendly as they are more forgiving in terms of water quality and lighting requirements. They also come in a wide variety of shapes and colors, making them popular among hobbyists. On the other hand, SPS corals require more stable water conditions, intense lighting, and precise water parameters to thrive. They are known for their intricate branching structures and vibrant colors, but they can be more challenging to maintain. Overall, both LPS and SPS corals offer unique beauty and diversity to reef aquariums, catering to different levels of experience and preferences of hobbyists.


AttributeLPS CoralsSPS Corals
Common NameLarge Polyp Stony CoralsSmall Polyp Stony Corals
Skeletal StructureLarge calcified skeleton with fewer individual polypsSmall calcified skeleton with numerous individual polyps
Growth RateSlower growth rateFaster growth rate
Polyp SizePolyps are larger in sizePolyps are smaller in size
ColorationWide range of colorsOften vibrant and intense colors
Light RequirementsCan tolerate lower light levelsRequire higher light levels
Water FlowPrefer moderate water flowRequire strong water flow
FeedingPrimarily rely on photosynthesisRequire regular feeding of small particles
Difficulty LevelGenerally considered easier to care forOften more challenging to maintain

Further Detail


When it comes to coral reefs, there are two main types of corals that dominate the underwater landscape - LPS (Large Polyp Stony) corals and SPS (Small Polyp Stony) corals. While both types belong to the same phylum, Cnidaria, and share similarities in their basic structure, they also have distinct attributes that set them apart. In this article, we will explore the characteristics of LPS corals and SPS corals, highlighting their differences and unique features.

LPS Corals

LPS corals are known for their large polyps, which are the individual coral animals that make up the colony. These corals typically have fewer polyps compared to SPS corals, but each polyp is significantly larger in size. The larger polyps of LPS corals often have fleshy tissue, giving them a more substantial appearance. This characteristic makes LPS corals more visible and easier to observe in an aquarium or natural reef setting.

One of the defining features of LPS corals is their ability to produce calcium carbonate skeletons, which provide them with a sturdy structure. This allows LPS corals to form intricate and often colorful colonies, creating a visually appealing display. Additionally, LPS corals are generally considered to be less demanding in terms of lighting and water flow requirements compared to SPS corals, making them suitable for a wider range of aquarium setups.

Another notable attribute of LPS corals is their ability to extend long sweeper tentacles during the night. These tentacles are armed with stinging cells called nematocysts, which they use to defend their territory and capture prey. The sweeper tentacles of LPS corals can reach impressive lengths, sometimes extending several inches beyond the coral's base. This unique behavior adds to the allure of LPS corals and makes them fascinating to observe.

Popular examples of LPS corals include species such as Torch corals, Hammer corals, Bubble corals, and Brain corals. These corals are often sought after by reef enthusiasts due to their vibrant colors, interesting shapes, and relatively easier care requirements.

SPS Corals

SPS corals, on the other hand, are characterized by their small polyps and intricate skeletal structures. While their polyps are smaller in size compared to LPS corals, SPS corals compensate for this by having a higher number of polyps per colony. This results in a more delicate and intricate appearance, with colonies often forming intricate branching or plating structures.

Unlike LPS corals, SPS corals have a higher demand for intense lighting and strong water flow. These conditions are necessary to support their rapid growth and maintain their vibrant colors. SPS corals are often found in shallow reef environments where they can receive ample sunlight. In aquariums, providing the right lighting spectrum and flow patterns is crucial for the health and growth of SPS corals.

One of the fascinating aspects of SPS corals is their ability to build extensive reef structures. These corals secrete calcium carbonate to form their skeletons, which can create intricate and complex formations over time. Some SPS corals even have the ability to encrust and grow over other surfaces, further contributing to the diversity and beauty of coral reefs.

Popular examples of SPS corals include Acropora, Montipora, Pocillopora, and Stylophora. These corals are highly sought after by experienced reef keepers due to their stunning growth patterns, vibrant colors, and the challenge they present in terms of maintaining optimal conditions for their growth and survival.

Differences and Unique Features

While both LPS and SPS corals are captivating in their own right, there are several key differences and unique features that set them apart:

  • LPS corals have larger polyps, while SPS corals have smaller polyps.
  • LPS corals generally have fewer polyps per colony compared to SPS corals.
  • LPS corals are often more visible and easier to observe due to their larger size and fleshy tissue.
  • SPS corals form intricate branching or plating structures, while LPS corals have a more substantial appearance.
  • LPS corals are generally less demanding in terms of lighting and water flow requirements compared to SPS corals.
  • SPS corals require intense lighting and strong water flow to support their rapid growth and vibrant colors.
  • LPS corals extend long sweeper tentacles at night, armed with stinging cells, while SPS corals do not exhibit this behavior.
  • SPS corals have a higher capacity to build extensive reef structures and encrust over other surfaces.


In conclusion, LPS corals and SPS corals may belong to the same phylum, but they possess distinct attributes that make them unique. LPS corals with their larger polyps, fleshy tissue, and ability to extend sweeper tentacles offer a captivating and visually appealing display. On the other hand, SPS corals with their smaller polyps, intricate skeletal structures, and demanding care requirements provide a challenge for experienced reef keepers and reward them with stunning growth patterns and vibrant colors.

Whether you choose to keep LPS corals or SPS corals in your aquarium, both types offer a glimpse into the mesmerizing world of coral reefs and contribute to the beauty and biodiversity of our oceans.

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