The Favia Coral is a hardy and inexpensive aquarium coral that is suitable for beginners and attractive enough and tolerant enough to warrant space in an advanced reef keeper’s tank, too. They are part of the well-known “Brain Coral’ family. Let’s dive a bit deeper into the ins and outs of having a happy Favia coral.
Table of contents
If you have a specific question, you can use the Table of Contents navigation below to jump right to it or read the rest of the article, which is intentionally written in a helpful, progressive way.
- Scientific Name: Favia sp. (most of what I see generally covers the genus and not specific species), belong to the Faviidae family
- Common Names: Brain coral, Moon Coral, Pineapple Coral, Closed Brain Coral
- Aggression Level: Aggressive
- Care Level: Easy and suitable for beginners
- Flow: Relatively low to moderate
- Lighting: Relatively low to moderate
- Feeding: Recommended, for maximum health and growth
Favia and Favites are two closely related genera of LPS corals. Telling them apart is a challenging task. They both have similar appearances, feeding habits, and care requirements. Both Favia and Favites corals are massive (grow as a mound vs. encrusting or some other growth form) large polyp stony corals and larger colonies are round or dome-shaped. The main difference between the two genera is that corallites of Favites share a common skeletal wall, whereas the corallites of Favia have two distinct walls. Sometimes, it may actually require a detailed analysis of their coral skeleton, to be certain.
The good news, however, is that precisely knowing the difference or getting it right all the time doesn’t matter materially, because the husbandry and aquarium care needs of each are substantially similar. So no need to worry if you see them incorrectly labeled at your local fish store and be kind if a fellow hobbyist confuses the two online. Caring for them is about the same.
To see a few more examples showcasing some of the differences between these two similar genera of corals, check out this video:
Favia, like most reef invertebrates, can be naturally or originally found in warm, tropical reef waters around the world. This species is common in the Indo-Pacific ocean regions. Some locations where divers regularly see Favia Coral are Australia, Japan, and parts of Africa. Luckily, this species of coral hasn’t been greatly over-harvested and is still growing well in the ocean.
Caring for the Favia coral in a saltwater aquarium is a task that can be reasonably accommodated for beginner and advanced aquarium owners alike. They are generally hardy when provided their preferred aquarium conditions. Let’s dive a bit deeper into how to be successful with Favia coral care.
Like most other aquarium corals, Favia corals need reef tank quality water parameters to be healthy and to grow in your tank.
- Alkalinity: kept stable, not fluctuating, but in between 8-12 dkh
- Ammonia, Nitrites, Nitrates, Phosphates: 0 parts per million, or as close as possible
- Calcium: 400+ parts per million
- pH: kept stable, but between 8.1-8.4
- Specific gravity: 1.025
- Temperature: kept stable, but between 73-84 Fahrenheit, 22.8 – 28.8 Celcius
These reef tank parameters are relatively easy to create, as long as you start out with a high-quality salt mix.
If you are having trouble creating and maintaining stable conditions as specified above and in the linked articles, it would be best to wait to add a Favia or any other coral species until that water chemistry and stability have been created.
The best placement for a favia coral is in a location that gets moderate water flow and moderate-intensity lighting. Too much flow may damage the polyps. Too much lighting will cause bleaching.
Favia corals are photosynthetic, which means that they host symbiotic organisms, called zooxanthellae inside of their polyp tissues. Those zooxanthellae harness energy from the lights above the tank and use it (and carbon dioxide) to create sugar to feed themselves and the host coral. The sugar from photosynthesis is one of the primary sources of energy for the Favia coral. As such, ensuring the proper amount of light is a vital consideration to consider when planning your Favia Coral placement.
The good news though is that adequate lighting (sufficient to support the photosynthesis and majority of the nutritional needs) is on the lower side of moderate, by reef tank standards. As such, you can likely keep them successfully in the lower or fringe zones and keep the prime, more intense locations for more light-hungry species.
With that said, if you aren’t planning on filling the tank with some very light-hungry corals, they would likely benefit from more vs. less light. You just want to use caution and gradually acclimate them to more aggressive and intense lighting by either starting them in a darker location or dimming the lights and acclimating by gradually returning to your preferred intensity over a few weeks.
Favia corals are large polyp stony corals and have similar water flow requirements as many of the other popular species in this category. They require low to moderate flow, which is to say, just enough of a turbulent or gyre flow that provides water circulation, without so much flow that you risk damaging the large, fleshy polyps. Too little flow and your coral may be slowly suffocating. Too much flow and you will suppress polyp extension and eating, or worse yet, tear the polyps and provide an opportunity for an infection. Just the right amount of flow and your coral will thank you and show off its best polyp extension.
Another very important consideration of Favia coral placement is to ensure you leave sufficient room around the coral to prevent aggression between neighbors. Favia corals are infamously aggressive. They can form surprisingly long sweeper tentacles, which are specialized tentacles designed to sting, maim or even kill neighboring corals.
They may also literally try to dissolve or digest their rivals by releasing mesenterial filaments (bundles of digestive chemicals). They are generally not friendly neighbors.
I generally say the same thing for almost every coral, with respect to feeding--so if you’ve read this before, please be patient. Because we worry about placement to ensure adequate lighting for photosynthesis, it can sometimes be confusing or feel contradictory to think of corals as animals, which is what they are. Remember, they don’t have the ability to photosynthesize on their own, they have symbiotic organisms inside them that feed them. But animals need to eat. And while you could potentially ‘get away without’ feeding you Favia corals, as long as they got the right quality of light, it’s not necessarily the best or right recommended approach.
Each corallite has feeding tentacles and a mouth…both apparatuses are designed…you guessed it…for feeding…for eating…for taking meaty foods, putting them in their mouths and digesting them. If you want to provide the best care for your Favia corals and want to see the fastest growth and best colors, I strongly recommend you feed them.
Consider feeding them at night, when their feeding polyps are extended, by turning off the pumps and directing the food into the polyps/mouths with a Sea Squirt or Julian’s Thing. They will accept small meaty morsels, like pieces of brine shrimp or mysis shrimp (if your fish leave them alone), and also would likely accept prepared foods, like Reef Roids or small pellets. Leave the pumps off for 30-minutes to an hour and set a timer to remind yourself to turn them back on, or use a smart plug to program it, so you don’t forget.
Compatibility and aggression
Favia corals can be kept in a community tank, with reef-safe starfish, shrimp, other invertebrates, and saltwater aquarium fish, as long as they are given sufficient space to grow, beyond the reach of their own or rival sweeper tentacles. Sweeper tentacles are long, thin, and have a tendency to be longer than you think, so be sure to give them a wide berth in your tank.
Favia corals generally start out as a small frag that has from one to a few corallites on it, but given enough time and the right aquarium conditions, they will grow up to be a large, mound-shaped stony coral.
Like other corals, the Favia can reproduce both sexually and asexually, but sexual reproduction is extremely rare in the home reef aquarium. Asexual reproduction, through fragging, is much more common. Because each Favia coral colony is stony and mound-shaped, it can be a bit intimidating to think about fragging them, because the process involves cutting into them with a tile saw or Dremel-style rotary tool.
Sick, dying, or diseased Faviids may first show stress through receding polyp tissue. Rather than being thick, colorful, and inflated, stressed, or dying Favia coral tissue will recede, showing some of the aforementioned skeletal walls that define their genus.
Troubleshooting a stressed or unhappy coral is always a stressful event for the aquarium owner as well (although the outcome not quite as serious for us). It tends to be a bit of a guessing game to find the stressful stimulus and remove, replace, or adjust it to suit the coral.
The large, fleshy polyps of LPS corals, including the Favia species, are also prone to jelly infections if the tissue becomes damaged. Surgery (fragging) may be called for, as a drastic last resort to save otherwise healthy polyps not touching the jelly from becoming infected.
Favia is a popular species of coral that can easily be found in shops around the world. They are easy to take care of, so any store that offers reef fish will likely have some specimens for sale. Their relative abundance and ease of care also align nicely with the fact that they are generally reasonably priced, as well.
If you enjoyed this Favia coral care guide, I recommend you check out one of these other great corals guides next:
Or if you’re done looking for corals, check out these definitive guides:
Some of the still photographs on this article are impressive, but nothing beats seeing a live video. To see them more vividly and continue to learn about their care, I recommend you check out the following video:
Beautiful, hardy, and relatively inexpensive, the Favia coral is hard to beat. Just give them the right conditions, feed them a couple of times each week and you will be rewarded with an attractive, long-lived tankmate. Just be sure to give them enough room to grow and stay out of skirmishes with their neighbors.
Do you have one in your tank already? Please leave a comment below and share your experiences caring for them.
Borneman, Eric H. Aquarium Corals. Microcosm Ltd; 1st Printing Edition (March 1, 2001)
Ulrich III, Albert B. How to Frag Corals: Step-by-step guide to coral propagation and filling your frag tank with thriving polyps.www.SaltwaterAquariumBlog.com (January 20, 2015).
Ulrich III, Albert B. The New Saltwater Aquarium Guide.www.SaltwaterAquariumBlog.com (April 8, 2014)