Top 10 Beginner’s Corals for Your First Reef Aquarium
So you took the bold step of starting an all-out reef aquarium– not just a fish-only saltwater tank, but a reef aquarium with fishes, live rocks, and corals. Sounds fun, right?
However, many newbie and even experienced aquarists tend to get overwhelmed and become hesitant in adding marine corals into their tank. The primary reason is that in the past, the needs of these creatures were not fully understood and keeping them alive in an aquarium is almost impossible.
Now that more research and products are available at your disposal, many corals are even considered easy to maintain. In this article, we’ll share the top 10 corals for first-time reefers and average hobbyists.
Preparing Your Aquarium
Before you get too excited, you have to ensure all parameters are stable and you’ve let your aquarium cycle with live rock for one to one-and-a-half months. Next, add in a clean-up crew and let them do their thing for another couple of weeks.
Once you’ve done all these steps and your aquarium is properly cycled, your tank is ready for its first inhabitants.
The Best Corals for Beginners
For novice aquarists, fast-growing corals that are easy to maintain are recommended. Don’t know which ones fit into this category?
With the help of Pieces of the Ocean, we’ve put together a list of cheap, easy-to-find corals that we recommend for new reef aquarium owners.
1. Mushroom Corals
Perhaps the easiest to grow in a reef aquarium are mushroom corals. They’re soft corals that come in various colors and grow on rocks. They grow fast especially under optimal conditions, which are basically low light and little water movement.
Although safe with fish, motile invertebrates, and crustaceans, don’t place it with sessile invertebrates or next to other soft and stony corals.
2. Leather Corals
Leather corals are suitable for beginners because of their adaptability to moderate light and current conditions. They don’t have a calcified skeleton, but can sting other corals to keep them at bay– so keep a space between your corals.
Unlike mushroom corals, they like moderately turbulent water flow. They’re perfect as a centerpiece, but sometimes their tentacles may retract as they clean themselves.
When this happens, don’t worry because the film will soon be removed with proper water flow and the tentacles will reemerge.
3. Star, Green Star, and Daisy Polyps
Star Polyps, Green Star Polyps, and Daisy Polyps are starter corals that are cheap and easy to maintain. Their appearance may vary slightly according to the strain, but they’re all beautiful and colorful.
They can live under high- or low-level lighting and different water currents. Although they’re hardy, one thing to note is that they react negatively to iodine and aluminum oxide which are both found in some filter sponges.
Zoanthids look like small, colorful flowers that appear in tight clusters and grow rapidly. Even though green and brown shades are the most common, they can also come in shades of red, pink, yellow, orange, blue, lavender, and gray.
They grow best under intense light, but they can also tolerate low light conditions. Also, they prefer moderate to strong current.
Be careful though, as some species have a neurotoxin called palytoxin– so always wear gloves when handling Zoanthids.
5. Finger Leather Corals and Colt Corals
As the name suggests, Finger Leather Corals resemble stubby fingers. They have a pale-colored stalk from which the finger-like projections stem upward. Finger Leather corals are recommended for beginners because they can adapt to most light and water current conditions.
However, they grow best under moderate light and current, as they’re naturally found mid-water in oceans.
One of the fastest growing soft coral is Xenia, with the most popular being the pulsing type. What’s great about this coral is that it doesn’t only sway along with the current, but also rhythmically opens and closes its tentacles.
However, because it spreads quite rapidly, it’s recommended to isolate it so you can easily prune it back.
7. Toadstool Mushroom Coral
Toadstool Mushroom Coral got its name, as it looks much like toadstool mushrooms. This type of coral grows fast and is recommended for newbie aquarists because it can easily adapt to a range of lighting conditions and low to moderate water current levels. However, take note that they can produce toxins that may adversely affect sea anemones and stony corals.
Euphyillia is the scientific name for large polyp stony corals such as Frog Spawn, Hammer, and Torch corals. They are characterized by huge, colorful polyps that have fluorescent tips.
What makes them suitable for novices is that they can be placed anywhere in the aquarium and can adapt to various lighting and current conditions. Because they don’t grow too fast, they don’t have to be isolated or pruned back frequently.
They look good when fully extended and they sway along with the water current.
9. Closed and Dented Brain Corals
Closed Brain Coral, Pacific Cactus Coral, Brain Coral, Meat Coral, or Dented Brain Corals grow well in captivity as they’re tolerant of a wide range of light and current conditions. However, they prefer intense but indirect light and low to moderate water current.
What’s interesting about this type is that they’re reactive to food in the water and may extend their tentacles when they detect food nearby. Also, it’s important to note that they’re sensitive to some soft corals such as Xenia.
10. Bubble Corals
Bubble Corals have big, colorful polyps similar to Euphyllia. This is one of the top picks of beginners because of its unique appearance that resembles a bunch of small bubbles swaying with the current.
They grow pretty fast, but not as fast as other corals such as mushroom and leather corals. Their colors vary, but most are white, neon green, or light pink.
Patience is the Key
Maintaining a reef aquarium is an enjoyable hobby. There’s little more relaxing and rewarding than watching your corals bring life, color, and movement to your tank.
However, before you get to experience the good, remember that you have to go through the sometimes lengthy process of achieving a successful reef aquarium. If your tank looks like a barren garden today, just be patient as it will eventually turn into your own little underwater paradise.