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Saltwater Coral for Beginners: 7 Easy-to-Care-For Species

Coral reefs have become known as the rainforests of the sea. They may cover less than one percent of our oceans, yet they are home to nearly twenty-five percent of all known marine species.

There are hundreds of different types of corals. They come in a dazzling array of shapes and colors.

When you’re starting out with a reef aquarium, you’ll need to know what the most appropriate coral is for your tank. Here’s our guide to saltwater coral for beginners that will help you on your way.

Types of Saltwater Coral for Beginners

The variety of coral which builds reefs is known a hard coral. This is because it extracts calcium carbonate from seawater. It uses this to make a hard, durable exoskeleton to protect its soft, sac-like body.

Corals that don’t build reefs are known as soft corals. These corals are flexible organisms. They often look like plants or trees. Corals have a mutually beneficial relationship with algae. Algae live on coral and give them their color.

Algae live inside the coral polyp’s body where they photosynthesize to produce energy for themselves and the polyps. The coral polyps provide a home and carbon dioxide for the algae.

Not all corals are easy to look after. Once you’ve set up an appropriate environment for your new-found friends, you could try adding one of the following ‘easy to care for’ corals to start your collection.

1. Leather Corals

These are sometimes mushroom-shaped and can provide a striking centerpiece in your reef tank. The base of these corals is often light brown in color, but the tentacles can take on a bright green hue.

It can happen that the tentacles will retract for long periods of time. The base may then become coated with a waxy substance. This is quite normal. These corals adapt well to all types of light and conditions.

Leather corals can also come in yellow, red, and orange colors, depending on the variety.

2. Button Polyps

These corals are also known as Zoanthids or Zoas. They prefer strong to moderate currents. They have a high reproductive rate. They are hardy and resilient.

They come in an amazing array of colors. The small polyps grow from an encrusting mat. This will quickly cover rockwork in most tanks and without any additional feeding.

Many aquarists do not feed their zoanthids. In fact, some zoanthids don’t seem to elicit a feeding response. Most seem to thrive by gathering whatever nutriment they can from the water and from their symbiotic algae.

3. Star Polyps

Star Polyps tend to adapt to the shape of their environment. This could mean they’ll grow along a wall in your aquarium or take the shape of a rock. They enjoy a nutrient-rich habitat and like a moderate amount of flow.

They can grow in both high and lower light levels. They come in lots of colors. These include purple and light neon green. Often these corals resemble a field of grass, with tentacles swaying in the water flow.

This type of coral is almost indestructible. Some people even refer to it as a coral weed. It is also inexpensive and widely available. It typically consists of a cluster of star-shaped polyps that emerge from a rubbery purple mat.

Because they multiply quickly, star polyps are a good choice if you want to see fast and noticeable results in your tank.

4. Waving Hand Corals

These include Anthelia and Xenia. They are adaptable corals which respond well to starter conditions and different currents. You need to be careful when placing Xenia on your live rock.

This is because they can grow really fast and take over your aquarium. The best place to put them is in the sand on their base. Waving Hand Corals generally do well in tanks with slightly elevated nutrient levels.

Xeniids, as they are known, are renowned for their pulsating action. The polyps contract and expand rhythmically. It can be fascinating to watch though not all colonies and varieties will pulse.

5.  Mushroom Corals

These include Bullseye Mushrooms, Mushroom Anemones, and Bounce Mushroom Corals. Some mushroom corals prefer a lot of light but others do not. It’s usually best to start them out lower in the tank and watch how they react after a few days.

If they fail to open fully, bring them upwards in the water column. These kinds of corals are safe for fish and crustaceans.

Some come in bright and luminous green colors. They’re very tolerant of most water conditions. Most like limited water movement. Although they’re capable of feeding, in captivity many simply get by on the nutrients which surround them.

6. Bubble Corals

These are one of the most popular corals for beginners. They’re also one of the hardiest of the stony corals. They need a relatively small amount of care and prefer weaker, direct water currents.

When handling them, make sure you avoid brushing them against hard surfaces. This will ensure you don’t tear the delicate polyps. At night, the bubbly polyps retract while longer, narrow tentacles expand.

Because they tolerate subdued lighting, you can place bubble corals in lower or shadier parts of the tank. They’re a very good choice when you’re starting out with a reef tank.

7. The Open Brain Coral

This coral consists of one single, large, fleshy polyp on a small skeleton. It is quite happy to rest over the substrate on the very bottom of the tank. It’s tolerant of lower light levels.

Aside from its resilience, people like it because of its bright color. It usually takes on a deep red color, This can be very impressive under blue lighting. It will accept an occasional bite of food such as a single large krill.

A Good Start!

With these seven types of saltwater coral for beginners, you should quickly have a colorful and vibrant tank. Getting used to your aquarium can sometimes require a little bit of trial and error.

Continue reading our blog for more useful articles. Find out here about how to care for and feed your new-found pets.


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Saltwater Fish Aquarium Setup: 101

A Complete Guide to Setting up a Complex Saltwater Aquarium

Forget the goldfish you got at the fair, click here for a complete guide to setting up a complex saltwater aquarium. It’s not as difficult as you might think.

Keyword(s): saltwater aquarium

Saltwater tanks were around long before Dory helped find little lost Nemo. They’re still enormously popular today. In fact, a 2014 survey by the American Pet Products Association estimated that around 1 million households had a saltwater aquarium.

Starting a saltwater tank – and the subsequent upkeep – used to be quite intense. Today, advanced tools and equipment make it easier than ever. How can you do it? Here is your guide to saltwater tank setup.

Saltwater Aquariums vs. Freshwater Aquariums

The fish in saltwater aquariums come from the ocean. However, our oceans contain many environments, with different combinations of salt, minerals, temperatures, oxygen levels, and depths.

As a result, a saltwater aquarium setup must “recreate the conditions of the environment where the inhabitants have originated”.

All of the equipment needed for a saltwater tank is designed to simulate the original environment.

Choosing Saltwater Fish

Aside from the equipment, you’ll need to determine what kind of saltwater fish to buy. This can actually be a challenge. The reason many choose saltwater aquariums has to do with the great variety and colors of fish.

Here are some things to keep in mind when choosing fish for your saltwater aquarium.

  • Size of the tank
  • Gallons of water needed
  • Nature of the fish (Are they aggressive? Do they need hiding places?)
  • Type of food needed
  • The original environment of the fish

Here are 7 popular saltwater fish options to consider.

Clownfish – We have to start with Nemo. Clownfish are among the most popular saltwater fish. Aside from the recognizable coloring and pattern, they are easy to maintain and feed. This makes them ideal for beginners.

Blue Tangs – You also want a “Dory” for your aquarium. Tangs come in a variety of colors, including blue and yellow. Tangs are also hardy and resilient.

Damselfish – Keep in mind that larger fish require more water. More water means you’ll need a bigger tank. Damselfish only need 30 gallons of water.

Dottyback – This fish will also be fine in 30 gallons of water. Be sure to have plenty of hiding spaces, as they can be aggressive with other fish.

Coral Beauties – These fish are a good choice if you have a larger tank (70 gallons).

Butterfly Fish – You can find many varieties of Butterfly Fish. Each requires a different diet so be sure you find out what they can eat.

Watchman Goby – Gobies are popular for beginners as they can eat almost anything you’d find in a regular pet store. They are not aggressive and will get along with other fish, which is not the case for all varieties.

You might also choose to add invertebrates to your tank, along with fish.


Aquarium Setup Checklist

Here’s a list of everything you’ll need for a saltwater aquarium.

  • Tank
  • Lighting
  • Skimmers, filters & filtration system
  • Powerheads
  • Live corals, rocks & substrates
  • Sea salt mix/Saltwater mix & hydrometer
  • Heater & thermometer
  • Air pump & air stones
  • Test kits, additives & supplements
  • Maintenance tools & supplies

Once you have everything on the list, it’s time to start the setup.

Setting Up Your Saltwater Aquarium

Setting up a saltwater aquarium takes some work, but the results will be worth it. Let’s go through the steps needed to set up your tank.

1. Choose a Location

Keep the tank away from direct sun as heat can affect the water temperature. Changing water temperature is bad for saltwater fish. They get stressed and can even die. Extreme cold is bad, too.

So, be sure to place the tank away from windows, doors, heating vents, and air conditioners. You’ll also want to make sure you have enough electrical outlets in order to plug in everything. Saltwater tanks usually need at least four outlets.

2. Weight Restrictions

If you live in a multi-floor building or an older house, make sure the floor can support a fish tank. A 55-gallon tank weighs around 460 pounds when it’s filled. Upper floor apartments or condos may have weight limitations so check with the management.

3. Setup Time

  1. Clean the inside of the tank. Even a brand new tank can contain dust or other contaminants.
  2. Set up the tank and make sure it’s level. The water should be an even distance from the top on all sides. If the tank is unbalanced it could fall over.
  3. Keep enough space between the tank and the wall so you have room to fit the filter and other equipment.
  4. Fill the tank one-third of the way and then stop to check for leaks. If there is water beading along the bottom edge or running down the sides, you could have a problem.
  5. Set up the filter and protein skimmer, but don’t plug them in yet.
  6. Rinse all of the décor and other substrates before placing them in the tank. This is where you can add live corals to add drama and beauty, as well as hiding places for the fish. Even sand should be rinsed in premixed saltwater.
  7. Fill the tank the rest of the way and then add your water conditioner or additive. Add commercial marine salt until you get the right hydrometer gravity reading. For “fish only” aquariums, the reading should be 1.020 – 1.025. For aquariums that have fish and invertebrates, the level should be 1.023 – 1.025.
  8. Place the heater and thermometer in the tank, but don’t plug them in yet. The thermometer should be on the opposite end from the heater to get the best reading. Top off the water in the tank and then wait 20 minutes. Now you can plug in the heater and protein skimmer. You want the water temp to reach between 72º – 78º.
  9. Wait 24–48 hours for the water and temperature to stabilize before adding your fish.

Enjoy Your Saltwater Fish Aquarium

Now you are ready to enjoy your saltwater aquarium. Don’t forget to add live corals to the tank. Chaos Aquaculture has a wide variety to choose from, including LPS (large polyp), SPS (small polyp), softies, and mushrooms.

You might also choose one of our beginner Frag Packs containing a variety of different corals. Place your order today to get started.