There is no denying that when it comes to the aquarium hobby, few things rival the beauty of a reef tank. Some people will have saltwater aquariums for years, but never take the leap into keeping corals. While there are many corals that are very sensitive and difficult to take care of, there are also some corals that are very hardy and would be great for someone looking to test the “salt” waters with reef keeping. Below is a list of excellent beginner corals that are easy to care for and also very hardy.
Zooanthids – Zooanthids are usually a staple in any reef tank. They are small, easy to care for polyps that grow in low to high light and low to high water flow. The zooanthids in the far left picture actually survived a tank overheating because of a faulty heater, and then living in essentially primordial soup for a short while after, so they can pretty much live through anything. They will spread across rocks in your aquarium filling in spaces between other corals.
Mushrooms – These corals are excellent beginner corals due to their care requirements. They require low to moderate lighting and no extra feeding. Mushrooms come in a wide variety of colors, are very cheap and will spread very quickly. The picture of the purple mushrooms to the left all grew out of one mushroom in my tank. Mushrooms are so hardy, that you can cut them in half and they will grow into two separate mushrooms.
Kenya Tree – This is quite possibly one of the easiest and hardiest corals I’ve ever had. I actually didn’t even buy the coral, it came in as a hitchhiker on a rock with zooanthids I purchased. It can be in low to high lighting. The only problem I have with this coral is that it reproduces in the tank on its own when it gets large enough. It will literally drop pieces of itself, which then attach to other rocks and grow. If you are good about removing them before they attach or if you want them growing in different places in your tank it’s not a problem. If you frag it regularly, which is basically just cutting it with a pair of scissors, it’s less likely to drop pieces randomly.
Xenia – Xenia coral are a very easy coral to care for and will grow very quickly under the right conditions. I’ve noticed they do best in moderate lighting with moderate flow, but they can do fine in a wide range of conditions. One really cool thing about this coral is the way the individual polyps pulse, it’s pretty mesmerizing. They will also spread pretty rapidly under the right conditions, but it’s a more contained spread than the kenya tree and you can usually tell where it will spread to next.
Green Star Polyp – Green star polyp coral is a great beginner coral because it does great in low to high lighting, and moderate water flow. At night or when it closes up, you will see the purple mat that makes up the base of this coral. It will spread relatively quickly as well and doesn’t require any supplemental feeding.
Duncan – This coral is a very easy coral to keep as long as you have moderate lighting and flow. This is an LPS coral as opposed to the above corals which are all soft corals. This means Duncan corals have a hard skeleton. While this is a very easy coral to grow, because it has a skeleton, it does require a little extra care in making sure calcium levels are maintained, usually not a problem if your tank isn’t heavily packed with corals. It will accept meaty foods or anything you feed your fish and is pretty cool to watch when it grabs food with its tentacles and eats it. When you buy this coral, it often times will be one or two polyps and over time it will grow into many more.
Candy Cane (Caulastrea) – This coral is also a LPS coral with similar care requirements as the duncan. It technically doesn’t require supplemental feeding, but it can benefit from spot feeding and will have tentacle out during the night to catch food floating by, but it will also get used to feeding time during the day and have its tentacles out then as well. There are a couple of varieties, but the bright green variety is my personal favorite. It’s so green it almost looks fake.
Adding any of these corals to your saltwater tank can be a great way to start your hand at reef keeping. As hardy as these corals are, you will need the proper lighting to keep them alive and thriving. Let me know your thoughts on these corals, are there any I missed? Leave a comment below.