Top Easy Soft Corals for Your Reef Tank

Easy Soft Corals for Any Reef Keeper and Ideal Starter Corals for Beginners

Here's a list of beautiful, live soft corals that are some of the easiest to take care in reef aquariums. These top pick easy soft coral species are a good choice for any reef keeper but are ideal for beginners to start with. They are hardy varieties that typically adapt well to aquarium life, and don't require intense light. In fact, almost all of these corals do best in low to moderate lighting and water movement or similar reef tank conditions. Since most of these corals derive a substantial portion of their nutrition through absorption of nutrients from the water, they actually thrive in less than perfect water conditions.

  • 01 of 08

    Cladiella Corals

    Cauliflower coral (Pocillopora meandrina)
    Dr. Dwayne Meadows, NOAA/NMFS/OPR/Wikimedia Commons

    Common names include: Finger Leather, Cauliflower, and Colt Coral.

    These are hardy corals that adapt well to aquarium life. These corals thrive in moderate lighting and water movement conditions. Because they grow so well, they reproduce so well that they may overgrow other sessile (stationary) reef animals in the aquarium.

  • 02 of 08

    Discosoma (Actinodiscus) Corals

    Spotted Mushroom Coral. Shawn Richey

    Common names include: Mushroom Corals, Mushroom and Disc Anemones.

    Most varieties require little light and may, in fact, do poorly under bright lights.

    These corals obtain much of their energy from active feeding, including trapping and consuming small fish. In an aquarium, they will also consume uneaten food and detritus that is deposited on them by water currents or sand sifting fish.

  • 03 of 08

    Pachyclavularia Corals

    Star Polyps
    Star Polyps. R. Tebben

    Common names include: Star Polyps, Green Star Polyps, and Daisy Polyps.

    These corals are tolerant of both low level and bright lighting, reproducing and spreading quite rapidly in an aquarium.

    Pachyclavularia are sensitive to iodine additions (in the form of Lugol's solution) and aluminum oxide (found in many phosphate removing sponges).

  • 04 of 08

    Palythoa Corals

    Button Polyps
    Button Polyps. Cynthia Adams

    Common names include: Sea Mat and Button Polyps.

    These corals are light tolerant but will grow quite rapidly under bright lighting. Palythoa do well in areas of rapid water movement.

    Care should be taken in their placement in an aquarium, as they will overgrow most other corals.

    Caution: Care should be taken when handling these corals as they produce a potent toxin called palytoxin. It is recommended that gloves be worn when handling them, especially if there is a break in the skin.

    Continue to 5 of 8 below.
  • 05 of 08

    Protopalythoa Corals

    Button Polyps
    Button Polyps. Joe Martin

    Common names for this coral include: Sea Mat and​ Button Polyps.

    These corals are tolerant of many lighting conditions but prefer bright light, which may produce fluorescent highlight.

    Some of these corals are active feeders, feeding on large food items, rapidly engulfing and consuming them.

    Caution: Care should be taken when handling these corals as they produce a potent toxin called palytoxin. It is recommended that gloves be worn when handling them, especially if there is a break in the skin.

  • 06 of 08

    Sarcophyton Corals

    Toadstool
    Toadstool Mushroom Leather Coral. Phyllis Daniels

    Common names include: Toadstool, Toadstool Mushroom, Leather, Mushroom Leather and Trough Coral.

    These hardy corals prefer low to moderate current, which helps to keep its surface free of parasites and other predators. They adapt well to many lighting levels and feed by taking nutrients directly into their cells from the sea water. These corals do well in a reef tank with "less than perfect" water conditions and may well suffer in water which has had a majority of the D.O.C.'s removed via skimming.

  • 07 of 08

    Zoanthus Corals

    Zoanthids
    Zoanthids. Jonathan Dillman

    Common names include: Zoanthid, Sea Mat, and Button Polyps.

    These colonies greatly prefer bright light as they depend on their zooxanthellae for nutrition, but also feed on bacteria, algae, and dissolved organic compounds (D.O.C.'s).

    Caution: Care should be taken when handling these corals as they produce a potent toxin called palytoxin. It is recommended that gloves be worn when handling them, especially if there is a break in the skin.

  • 08 of 08

    Alcyonium

    Finger Leather Coral
    Finger Leather Coral. Chris Young

    Common names include: Finger and Finger Leather Coral, and, confusingly, Colt Coral.

    These are hardy corals that do well in aquariums but should be provided bright lighting and good water movement conditions. These corals contain zooxanthellate but need to be fed. Consumption of zooplankton is reported to be rare and might require phytoplankton for best growth. May overgrow other sessile animals.