Excellent Beginner Corals for a Reef Aquarium

 Most people when newly starting in the saltwater side of fish keeping often originally find themselves attracted to the beauty and variety of a well stocked reef tank. There are few sights more appealing than the combination of colors that corals and the fish living harmoniously within the symbiotic environment. Unfortunately though, many beginner saltwater aquarists are a bit leery about starting a Reef Tank. In the old days, with the requirements to keep corals not very well understood, keeping corals healthy in an aquarium, used to be almost impossible to keep for any length of time. Over time , the knowledge, products and available information are now in place, so that many corals can now be successfully kept in small home reef aquariums, fairly easily. Some corals are now considered "easy for beginners" (how far we have come), while many other corals are still deemed difficult for the average Reef Tank hobbyist. 

For the beginner reef aquarium, there are a number of Soft Corals, that require less light and less than perfect water quality standards, than their Hard Coral (SPS & LPS) cousins. These soft corals are the better candidates for converting a fish only, or fish only with live rock aquarium tank to a reef tank with corals. Click on the link below for a list of some of the Soft Corals which are considered to be more forgiving and easier to grow successfully.

Mushroom Corals, genus Actinodiscus
Common Names: Mushrooms, Mushroom Coral, Mushroom Anemones and Disc Anemones. 
Mushroom corals are also called Mushroom Anemones and Disc Anemones. The mushroom coral does not respond well to bright light or heavy currents. They prefer low lighting (flourescent or power compacts) and slow currents to medium currents. Mushroom corals need to be placed with room between them and other corals.   

 Red Actinodiscus sp

Blue Actinodiscus sp.

Some good beginner choices for mushrooms

Actinodiscus sp (Red Mushroom, Spotted mushroom, Blue Mushroom and many more colour and shape variants.)

Rhodactis inchoata (Bulls eye Mushroom, green fluorescent mushroom, purple mushroom, many colour variants.) 



Green and Blue
Rhodactis Inchoata


Tonga Purple Bullseye
Rhodactis Inchoata

Colt Coral, genus Cladiella sp.

Great looking and very easy to maintain. The colt coral makes an excellent coral for the beginning reef keeper. They are extremely tolerant of light and water movement conditions, thriving in low to bright light and low to high water movement. Culturing by the experienced hobbyist requires snipping off a piece of its tentacle and attaching the cutting to a solid structure such as live rock. 


Cladieela sp. Colt coral

Star Polyps or Daisey Polyps, genus Clavularia

The Star Polyp Corals are also referred to as Starburst, Mat, or Daisy Polyps. They are found in white, green, or brown with a white dot in the center of each polyp. They are colonial animals with several individual polyps attached to a piece of live rock.Star polyps are extremely hardy and recommended for the beginner. The polyps arise from a mat which will easily grow over rocks and glass. Tolerant of any light level and tolerant of a range of water currents. A great starter coral. You may propogate polyps by cutting a piece of the mat and attaching it to a rock. 


Bright metallic green star polyp

Green star polyp with white dot centers

Zoanthid Polyps, genus Zoanthus

Zoanthid polyps can range from colorful disks to fields of feathery tentacles. They have a wide range of colors, from green, red, blue to yellow, as well as, stripes and polka-dots. Tolerant of lower light but prefers brighter lighting, prefers moderate to strong water current, they reproduce quickly. Zoanthids form clusters of small polyps and encrusting mats commonly referred to as sea mat or colonial anemones. The polyps are connected by a creeping tissue called coenenchyme. Tolerant of any light level and tolerant of a range of water currents. A great starter coral. You may propogate polyps by cutting a piece of the mat and attaching it to a rock. 


Neon Eyed Zoanthid polyps

Green cat eye Zoanthid polyps

Button Polyps, genus Palythoa, genus Protopalythoa, genis Zoanthus

Button polyps are colonies of small anemone looking polyps similar to Zoanthids. Fine tentacles radiate out from the edge of the disc. These polyps may be connected at the base due to the way they spread by budding, but the polyps do not share a common base like Zoanthidsdo. They have a wide range of colors, from green, red, blue to yellow, as well as, stripes and polka-dots. Button Polyps are extremely hardy and an excellent beginner coral. Prefering low to medium water current, button polyps will tolerate low light levels, but tend to develop brighter colors under higher intensity lighting. 


Giant Green Button Polyps

Giant Cinnamon Polyps
The Flower Leather Coral, genus Sinularia dura
Flower Leathers are possibly the hardiest leather coral of all. Flower leathers are also called Cabbage Leathers or Carnation Leathers. Does best under medium to high lighting but can adapt to a wide variety of conditions. Also very tolerant of water flow, doing best under medium to strong water movement but will adapt to a wide variety of water conditions. They grow quickly and can quickly establish themselves in the tank. The intensity of the coloration is affected by the amount of lighting the coral receives. Easily propagated by cutting a petal off using a sharp knife or scissors. This piece can be 'planted' in a gravel bed in low water flow and they will attach to gravel particles within a couple of weeks. They can then be super glued to a suitable substrate such as a reef plug. 

Flower Leather, Sinularia dura

Less Demanding Hard Corals for you to try
The following hard corals require less light and/or lower water quality therefore they are easier to keep for the beginner reef aquarist. 
Montipora, Common Species: M. capricornus, M. crassituberculata, M. danai, M. digitata, M. foliosa, M. patula, M. spongodes, M. spumosa, M. stellata, M. tuberculosa, M. verrucosa, and others. Montipora is considered to be a good beginners coral. It is adaptable to many light and current levels and is an excellent coral for a beginner to learn about propogation.   

Orange Montipora Capicornus

Purple Montipora Digitata
Pagoda Coral, Pagoda Coral , Turbinaria peltata
An excellent starter hard coral, it prefers low to medium light. Halides will harm Turbinaria if not in a shaded area. Very resistant to most coral diseases, it prefers a medium to strong random water current. Easily kept, as long as maintained off the sandy bottom and swept/blown clean of detritus and mucus. 

Green Pagoda Coral