Reef tanks are different from other aquariums. For one thing, there is the fact that you cannot just put any fish in them. You have to be particularly careful with what type of marine life you introduce into your reef tank as they can get eaten by the corals or vice versa.
But aside from this, a reef tank is also something special because of its inhabitants – corals! If you love getting lost under the seas and oceans while watching Planet Earth II or Blue Planet II, then a coral-filled reef aquarium will make every day feel like that! It’s eye candy to behold if done right and it can be the most rewarding aquarium experience out there.
If you’re new to reef tank ownership, it can be tough to know which corals are the best for your tank. There are so many different types of coral available on the market, and each one has its own set of requirements, so it is important to do your research before buying one. Make sure you select a species that will thrive in your aquarium’s water conditions. In this article, we will discuss some of the best corals for beginner reef tank owners. We’ll cover a variety of different types of coral, and provide you with tips on how to care for them.
Star polyps (Pachyclavularia spp.)
Aptly named, star polyps are beautiful sea creatures that look like stars with tentacles. This species of coral is visually attractive and virtually indestructible but not so expensive and common in certain stores.. They can be grown in your tank by attaching them to a rock or the substrate at its base. If you have enough space to put it, then it’s going to be one of the most colorful and exotic additions that you can have in your aquarium! It’s definitely an eye-catcher so place them somewhere where they will stand out!
The star polyp is a relatively hardy coral species. You just need average lighting and water movement as well as feed them once every week or two (they have powerful stinging cells on their tentacles that they use to catch prey). The coral should be clear of any detritus to prevent slime and algae from gaining a foothold in it.
Sea Mat and Button Polyps (Palythoa and Protopalythoa)
Sea mats (Palythoa) and button polyps (Protopalythoa) are two of the easiest corals to keep in a reef tank. They require low light levels and moderate water movement. Sea mats can grow to be quite large, up to 12 inches across, while button polyps stay small, typically only reaching about an inch in size.
Both sea mats and button polyps are carnivores, feeding on zooplankton and other small prey items. They will also consume algae growing on their surfaces. Hobbyists should provide them with a diet of frozen foodstuffs such as brine shrimp or mysis shrimp.
Sea mat and button polyps are both hardy corals that are tolerant of a wide range of water conditions. They are ideal for beginning reef keepers or those who are looking for an easy-to-care-for coral.
Finger Leather Corals and Colt Corals (Cladiella)
Finger Leather Corals (Sarcophyton glaucum) and Colt Corals (Cladiella sp.) are two of the most common corals found in reef tanks. They are both hardy, easy to care for, and do well in a wide range of lighting conditions. Finger Leather Corals have long, finger-like polyps that extend outwards from the base of the coral. These polyps are usually brown or green in color, but they can also be white with a pinkish hue. The long tentacles often form an umbrella shape that resembles a mushroom cap when fully extended, this is why finger leather corals are sometimes referred to as “mushroom” corals. These corals have a hard skeleton that is made up of calcium carbonate and other minerals, which are bonded together by proteins. The polyps themselves do not contain any bone or cartilage, they consist only of soft tissue. There are many different types of finger leather corals with varying colors and patterns, so it is important to do your research before purchasing one to make sure you are getting the right species.
Colt corals, also known as “cladiella” corals, are a type of soft coral that gets its name from the small, tubular colonies that it forms. These colonies can be green, brown, or even white in color. Colt corals are a great choice for beginner tanks because they are hardy and relatively easy to care for. They do well in a wide range of lighting conditions and can tolerate moderate levels of stress. Like finger leather corals, colt corals have a skeleton that is made up of calcium carbonate and other minerals. Their polyps are soft, flexible tubes that grow outwards from the base of the coral.
Leather Corals (Sarcophyton spp.)
Another great beginner coral is the leather coral (Sarcophyton spp.). These corals are hardy and easy to care for, and they come in a variety of colors. Leather corals grow best when placed in an area of the tank with moderate water flow.
These corals are filter feeders, so they will need to be fed regularly with either phytoplankton or brine shrimp. They also appreciate being fed a turkey baster several times per week to make sure they are getting enough food.
Leather corals should never be placed near other coral species, as they can sting and kill them. The same is true if you have anemones in your tan, leather corals will not do well with anemones nearby because of their stinging tentacles. You should also avoid placing leather corals anywhere that has heavy current or flow from powerheads, these types of currents will stress out the coral and cause it to die off prematurely. Leathers prefer moderate water movement but need some protection from strong currents such as those generated by wavemakers or return pumps on larger systems where there may be multiple head outlets located close together.
Mushroom Corals (Actinodiscus)
Mushroom Corals (Actinodiscus) are one of the easiest types of coral for beginner reef keepers to care for. They are hardy and easy to maintain, and they come in a variety of colors including green, red, pink, and orange! These corals need moderate light levels and plenty of water movement. They should be placed near the top of the aquarium where they will get plenty of light. These corals can also be grown in low-light conditions, but their color will not be as bright.
Mushroom corals require medium levels of both calcium and magnesium. A good quality marine salt mix should provide enough magnesium for these corals. If additional supplementation is needed, a magnesium supplement can be added to the water. They feed on small organisms in the aquarium, such as phytoplankton and zooplankton. They also require supplemental feeding with small pieces of meaty foods like brine shrimp or mysis shrimp. Mushroom corals should be fed at least once per week, but they will benefit from more frequent feedings if possible.
Bubble coral (Plerogyra Sinuosa)
Plerogyra sinuosa, commonly known as bubble coral, is a species of colonial stony coral in the family Euphyllidae. Bubble corals are named for their appearance of bubbles on the polyps’ tentacles during daylight hours and they are one of the very few soft corals that can be grown successfully under metal halide lighting.
Bubble coral (Plerogyra sinuosa) is often confused with Grape Coral (Elegance Coral). However, it has different characteristics than grape coral such as:
- Its body is made up of small bubbles which cover its surface.
- It grows much smaller than Elegance Corals.
- Its colors change from green to brown during the day time
- It is not aggressive towards other corals.
Bubble coral (Plerogyra sinuosa) can be kept in a reef tank under moderate lighting and strong water movement.
Toadstool Mushroom Coral (Sarcophyton)
Toadstool mushroom coral (Sarcophyton) is a common sight in many reef tanks. This hardy coral can adapt to a wide range of conditions and grow rapidly, making it a good choice for beginners. It has a large polyp size and comes in a variety of colors, making it an attractive addition to any tank.
Toadstool mushroom coral requires moderate lighting and water flow and should be placed near the top of the tank. It will feed on meaty foods such as brine shrimp or mysis shrimp, but can also survive on planktonic algae. As with all corals, beware of predators that may eat your toadstool mushroom coral! Be sure to provide plenty of hiding places for your fish and invertebrates.
There are several things to consider when adding a toadstool mushroom coral to your reef tank. First, make sure that the tank is large enough to accommodate this fast-growing coral. It should be placed near the top of the tank so that it can receive adequate light and water flow. The toadstool mushroom coral requires moderate lighting (PAR 250-400) and moderate water flow (20-30x). The toadstool mushroom coral is a hardy, easy-to-care-for coral that can adapt to a wide range of conditions. It grows rapidly, making it a good choice for beginners, and comes in a variety of colors, making it an attractive addition to any tank.
Moon, Pineapple, and Brain Corals (Favia and Favites)
The moon coral (Favia) is a beautiful, large polyp stony coral that can grow to be quite large. It has broad, thin sheets of tissue with numerous small tentacles on the surface. Pineapple coral (Favites) on the other hand has thick, fleshy plates with few tentacles on the surface. Brain coral (Favites) is a small to medium-sized polyp stony coral that typically has a bushy appearance with numerous tentacles.
These corals are some of the easiest for a beginner to keep and propagate. Moon, pineapple, and brain corals (Favia and Favites) grow slowly but can reach quite large sizes given enough time and space. They prefer medium to high light levels and moderate to high water flow. These corals are also tolerant of a wide range of water conditions, making them a good choice for beginners.
Propagation is easy with these corals. Simply cut off a small piece of the coral using a sharp knife or scissors and attach it to live rock or another substrate using superglue or epoxy. Be sure to provide plenty of room for these corals to grow as they will quickly fill up an aquarium if given the opportunity.
Moon, pineapple, and brain corals are a great addition to any reef tank and can be found for sale at most coral dealers. Be sure to ask your dealer about the care requirements of these corals before making a purchase.
Zoanthids, Zoanthus Button Polyps (Zoanthus)
Zoanthus Button Polyps are a popular genus of soft corals, which are also commonly referred to as Zoanthids or Zoas. These beautiful polyps can be found living on the seafloor or attached to rocks or coral colonies. They grow slowly but steadily over time so they do not become an invasive species like other types of zoa’s that grow quickly but die off after just a few years leaving behind dead branches which will eventually turn into food for algae! Some people call them button brain coral because their appearance resembles that of an actual human brain when viewed from above looking down at it sideways, this is due to the way each individual zoas polyp is lined up in a radial pattern.
Zoanthus is a great coral for tanks as they are easy to care for and propagate. They do well under moderate light levels and can be kept in either saltwater or freshwater aquariums. Like most other corals, they need adequate amounts of calcium, magnesium and alkalinity present in the water to grow and thrive, so make sure to test your tank water parameters regularly if you are keeping zoanthids! In terms of feeding, zoanthids will feed on micro-organisms that exist within the aquarium but they also benefit from being fed occasional supplemental pellets or foods specifically designed for marine invertebrates.
If you’re looking for an attractive coral that is relatively easy to care for but may not be ideal if you have small children or pets because they can sting when touched, then this might just be the perfect choice for your reef tank!
Closed and Dented Brain Corals (Symphyllia)
The Closed and Dented Brain Coral (Symphyllia) is one of the easiest LPS corals to keep in the home aquarium. They require moderate light levels and water flow. In fact, they do quite well in lower light levels and can be kept under T-12 fluorescent lights. Closed brain corals will also tolerate a wide range of water parameters, making them a great choice for the beginner reef keeper.
This coral can grow up to 12 inches in diameter and has a lifespan of 20 years or more. The Closed and Dented Brain Coral (Symphyllia) will eat meaty foods such as brine shrimp, mysis shrimp, and pellets designed for marine fish. It will also consume algae growing on the rockwork in the aquarium.
When selecting a closed or dented brain coral, make sure that the tentacles are fully extended. The coral should also be free of blemishes and other signs of damage. Avoid corals with damaged polyps, as they will not recover properly. Once you have selected your coral, it is important to acclimate it to your tank’s water parameters. This can be done by placing the coral in a quarantine tank for a few days before adding it to your aquarium. This will help prevent any diseases from entering your main tank.
Honeycomb, Star, Wreath, and Moon Corals (Goniastrea)
This is a group of hard corals that have been placed in the genus Goniastrea. This name is derived from the Greek gonio, which means corner or angle, and astraea, which refers to star. As you might imagine with these two names combined they refer to the shape of the corallites on each coral head. These tend to be very close together, giving them their shape and texture. The walls between each one are often described as being ‘honeycombed’ because it resembles what a honeycomb looks like under magnification.
Goniastreas can come in many different shapes and sizes depending on where they are originally found but usually grow up into large colonies with distinct valleys branching out from the center. The colors of these corals can vary too but are usually some variation of brown, green, or cream. They do not tend to be very colorful as compared to other hard corals in the reef tank but they make up for it with their intricate shape and texture.
Honeycomb corals are often confused with Favites which also have distinctive lobes or bumps on their surface but are not as prominent in Goniastrea. Both genera are from the same family called Faviidae. These corals can grow into massive colonies when given optimum conditions in your reef tank, which include moderate to high lighting and water motion, together with regular feedings of phytoplankton. They prefer moderate to low flow areas where they will thrive well without any problems at all. The wreath coral was previously known as Lobophyllia but with the latest classification, they are now under Goniastrea.
In general, these corals look like massive brain corals or Favites and can reach up to 18 inches in diameter for large colonies. These corals have a calcareous skeleton composed of calcium carbonate (CaCO₃) that’s why you need to maintain alkalinity and calcium levels at optimum if you want them to thrive well in your reef tank. They also exhibit symbiosis with algae called zooxanthellae which help these corals get additional nutrients from light via the photosynthesis process. The wreath coral is often confused with scolymia since both species produce similar bubble-like patterns on their surface when viewed under magnification. However, Scolymia has smaller polyps and a more ridged surface texture than Goniastrea.
Star corals are the most delicate of all the corals in this genus and they require very gentle water movement and low to moderate lighting levels to thrive. They often have thin branches with small polyps that retract when disturbed. These corals should not be placed in high flow areas or near intense lighting fixtures as they will quickly die. Moon coral is another delicate species that requires similar care as star coral but can tolerate slightly higher light levels and water motion conditions. It usually has a massive form with thick, smooth branches covered in large polyps.
So if you’re looking for a beautiful, hardy coral to add to your reef tank, Goniastrea is a great option. Just make sure you provide them with the right conditions and they will thrive for years to come.
Fox, Jasmine, and Ridge Corals (Nemenzophyllia)
The corals of the genus Nemenzophyllia are similar to those of Euphyllia in that they have a fleshy, leathery body with large polyps. They differ from their cousins by having fewer tentacles around the mouth and long sweeper tentacles that can sting neighboring corals if placed too close together.
All species within this group require moderate to high light. The feeding requirements for these corals vary between species; some will do well without being fed while others need regular feeding at night when they extend their mouthparts to feed on zooplankton floating by in the current. All prefer strong water movement and may lose coloration or die if conditions are not proper overtime.
The Ridge Coral has a thick, fleshy body with blunt tentacles and ridges running along its length. It can be found in an array of colors including green, brown, orange, purple, or red but usually is a mixture of all these shades when kept in the aquarium. This species requires moderate to high light and strong water movement within the tank along with regular feedings at night to thrive long term. If placed too close to neighboring corals it will extend its sweeper tentacles, which can inflict damage on them if not moved soon enough after placement into reef systems where this coral is already established.
Fox Corals have large polyps that are spread over their leather-like bodies making them look more like soft corals than other hard corals. They come in a variety of colors but usually have some green and brown mixed in with their polyps. This species requires moderate to high light and strong water movement within the tank along with regular feedings at night to thrive long term. If placed too close to neighboring corals, it will extend its sweeper tentacles, which can inflict damage on them if not moved soon enough after placement into reef systems where this coral is already established.
The Jasmine Coral has a thin, cylindrical body with numerous small, elongated tentacles that are green or yellow in coloration. It requires low to moderate light levels as well as medium water flow within the aquarium for optimal growth and health. Feeding requirements for this species are minimal and will usually do well without supplemental feeding. Jasmine Corals can be easily damaged if placed too close to other corals in the tank, so take care when positioning this coral in your reef aquarium.
Lobed Brain Coral (Lobophyllia)
This is a large polyp stony (LPS) coral with thick fleshy lobes. It gets its common name from the brain-like appearance of its corallites. The genus has many species, which vary in color, size, and shape. The LPS coral grows to about 12 inches across, although specimens as small as three inches are available for sale to hobbyists both online and at local fish stores. There’s also a variety called “Blasto” that reaches around six inches in diameter but can cost upwards of $300 because it’s rarer than other varieties of this particular genus. One thing they all have in common is the tendency to sting nearby corals with their sweeper tentacles, so give them plenty of space.
Lobophyllia grows best under medium to high light levels and moderates to strong currents. It can be kept in either a reef or fish-only tank, but should not be placed near SPS corals because of the stinging tentacles. Its diet consists mostly of zooplankton which it filters from the water column, but it will also eat small pieces of meaty food such as brine shrimp and mysis shrimp. Lobophyllia is easy to care for and makes a great addition to any saltwater aquarium.
This coral is generally easy to care for and will thrive in most tanks if given adequate space, proper lighting and water flow conditions. With its interesting shape and color, lobed brain coral is a great addition to any reef tank.
Reef tanks provide an interesting and unique environment for both fish and coral enthusiasts alike. When setting up your tank it is important to consider the needs of both the corals and the fish you plan on housing. Each coral has its own needs and requirements that must be met in order for them to thrive. By providing an appropriate habitat with all the necessary elements, you can help create a healthy thriving ecosystem that will be enjoyed for years to come!
I am the founder of J. Louis, a digital marketing agency focused on providing innovative solutions and strategies built on a foundation of creative design and technology. A family man who loves travel and reef tanks, I’ve been coined as a jack of all trades, master of a few of them, most specifically website and sales funnel design, monetization and growth strategies, and viral marketing. I began pursuing my passions for business by cutting my neighbor’s lawns when I was just 8 years old and never looked back. Over the past 20 years, I have amassed significant experience providing consulting, design and development services for Fortune 500 companies, government, retail, private individuals, and A-list celebrities.