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.