Whether you are a seasoned coral keeper or just getting started with a reef tank, there are countless coral types to consider keeping in your aquarium. Although all are suited for beginners, the following corals are great additions to any reef tank. Difficulty depends on what environment is best for the coral, the easy ones having a wide range of suitable environmental conditions, and if they are sensitive to having close neighbors or need to be kept separately.
Coral Types Ranked by Difficulty (Easiest to Hardest)
- Mushroom Corals (Actinodiscus spp.)
- Button Polyps (Zoanthus spp.)
- Waving Hand Corals (Anthelia spp. & Xenia spp.)
- Pineapple Corals (Capnella spp.)
- Finger Leather Corals / Colt Coral (Sinularia spp.)
- Green Star Polyps (Briareum spp.)
- Toadstool Mushroom Coral (Sarcophyton spp.)
- Bubble Coral (Physogyra spp.)
- Closed Brain Coral (Symphyllia spp.)
- Jasmine Polyps (Knopia spp.)
- Lobed Brain Coral (Lobophyllia spp.)
- Fox Corals (Nemenzophyllia spp.)
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Mushroom corals are one of the easiest beginner corals. They come in a variety of colors and grow very quickly. They can easily overtake more docile corals, so be sure you have enough space for them to spread out.
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Button Polyps (Zoanthus spp.)
These small polyps, commonly called colony polyps, are frequently sold as a cluster on a rock or plug. Another easy keeper that grows readily and comes in many colors, some of these species are luminescent and glow under blue LEDs. Some can sting their close-by neighbors, so be sure to give them lots of room.
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Green Star Polyps (Briareum spp.)
Green Star or Starburst Polyps grow in small bunches with elongated tentacles. This group is termed "indestructible" by many online forums, so once you add it to your tank, it will be hard to remove, but easily thrives.
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Waving Hand (Anthelia spp. & Xenia spp.)
With Anthelia called Thin Waving Hand Coral and Xenia called Thick Waving Hand Coral, these two genera are very similar in environmental requirements and temperament. Xenia tends to have thicker tendrils than Anthelia, but both come in a small variety of colors and give your tank lots of movement from their waving.Continue to 5 of 12 below.
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Pineapple Coral (Capnella spp.)
Although they don't quite resemble a pineapple, more a tiny, thick tree, Pineapple Corals are readily grown in captivity and give your décor some height. These soft corals are easy for beginners and do well in a variety of tank conditions.
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Finger Leather Corals, or Colt Coral (Sinularia spp.)
There are many types of colt corals available to reef keepers. These soft corals typically have a light tan body with brown polyps. They have protrusions that resemble fingers, giving them their other name of finger leather corals. These fingers can be very delicate, so be sure they have room to move.
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Toadstool Mushroom Coral (Sarcophyton spp.)
There are many colors and varieties of Toadstool Mushroom Corals. This coral forms a base plate and a thick stalk with many small polyps extending upward. Some species may produce toxins that are irritating to any close neighbors, so be sure to give them some space.
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Bubble Coral (Physogrya spp.)
Bubble coral, also known as grape coral or octobubble, is characterized by its large, round, bubble-shaped polyps. These polyps can be tan, purple or green and may look slightly different throughout the day. This coral does not like heavy water movement and is aggressive towards other nearby corals.Continue to 9 of 12 below.
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Closed Brain Coral (Symphyllia spp.)
A close relative of the well known brain coral, the closed brain coral does not typically form a large sphere in captivity, but rather grows in patches. These hardy corals come in a variety of colors and sizes and prefer moderate water flow and lighting. Without the right resources, their growth will be limited.
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Fox Corals (Nemenzophyllia spp.)
The fox coral is easy to maintain and has a very peaceful temperament. Also known as a ridge coral, these corals have large pale polyps that expand beyond their body during the day to capture food. They do tend to be delicate, so be sure to put them in a proper place so their expansion does not dislodge them or get in the way of more aggressive corals.
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Jasmine Polyps (Knopia spp.)
Also known as clove polyps, eight tentacle polyps or encrusting polyps, jasmine polyps can be brown to pink or green and have eight armed tentacles. Resembling the jasmine flower, it is an energetic and enchanting coral to easily add to your aquarium, but tends to be fussy regarding water flow and light requirements, and their delicate tentacles can be easily damaged.
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Lobed Brain Coral (Lobophyllia spp.)
Very similar to the closed brain coral, the lobed brain coral typically has more individual polyps, but are just as easy going and come in a wide array of colors. They are easily cultured and frags are easy to add to any aquarium, but they have specific water flow and lighting requirements.
No matter which coral you decide to add to your marine aquarium, do your research before purchase to ensure you are buying the correct species for your aquarium and current collection of inhabitants. Remember, corals have specific water quality requirements, including the need for many trace minerals, and they are affected by light levels and water flow. Be sure to feed them properly; they are living animals and require food. It is always best to start with one of the easier species listed above before seriously investing in corals.