For a majority of first-time aquarists, simply realizing that the dream of caring for and successfully growing corals is not as impossible as perhaps they first thought. Your first coral garden doesn’t have to cost a fortune or be difficult to care for. In this guide we will show you the corals that are easy to care for, colorful, fast growing, and are hardy or tolerant of common new aquarist mistakes.
Zoanthids and Payl’s
Zoanthids (Zoanthus sp.) and Payl’s (Palythoa sp.) are small polyps that come in a variety of bright colors, that appear in tight clusters of individual polyps, with their structure almost resembling an arrangement of small flowers. The polyps share a mat of tissue that connects them together. Zoanthids are a fast growing coral that can tolerate a wide range of light and water quality. Due to how quick these soft corals can grow, we recommend placing each color zoanthid on islands within the sandy bottom of your aquarium so that you can control the growth and keep the variety of colours.
Mushroom corals come in a variety of species including Rhodactus sp. and Actinodiscus sp. Mushrooms are distinct from all other corals by their oval disc shape. They have an umbrella shaped flat or circular disc surrounding the opening or mouth. On their discs, they have tentacles that look more like little bumps. Mushrooms are probably the easiest coral to care for. They are a great beginner coral as they are not demanding in terms of the conditions needed for them to survive, although they do best in low flow. In addition to being inexpensive and their variety of beautiful colors, it’s hard not to find room in your aquarium for a mushroom coral.
Ricordea (Ricordea sp.) are very colorful and really add a much-needed pop to most aquatic tanks! Color variations include green, orange, yellow, blue, and purple plus often a contrasting color in the middle of the polyp. Due to the striking color morphs available, it makes Ricordea one of the most sought after corals available. This coral requires moderate attention and is not quite as prolific as other species within this list. To keep Ricordea happy and healthy, you will need to maintain proper magnesium and iodine levels, as well as change the water 10% bi-monthly. If kept happy, they will grow and reproduce slowly but steadily. This petite soft coral is not aggressive, so makes a good tank mate if you already have an established coral colony.
Green Star Polyps
Green star polyps (Pachyclavularia sp.) grow in sheets that look similar to grass. When the little polyps have settled, they will open to reveal a brilliant neon green colored polyp that will move with the current. This soft growing coral is exceptionally prolific and fast-growing. Therefore, placement is very important to ensure that it does not begin to encrust your tank equipment. To do this, we recommend that you isolate green star polyps into areas where you keep them under control to prevent them from overtaking everything else.
Leather corals (Sarcophyton sp.) is a very unique and popular gem. It has a silky, single stalk with a flared, smooth top that can be folded or funnel-shaped. They can adjust their shape by expanding or deflating their body, so they make an exciting addition to your aquarium. This type of soft coral comes in a rich assortment of colors and shapes, whilst remaining hardy to a variety of aquarium conditions. As they do have a calcified skeleton structure like hard corals, they can tolerate swings in the alkalinity, calcium and magnesium levels. Interestingly, some leather corals will also host a clownfish if a suitable anemone is not present.
Finally, Xenia is perhaps the fastest-growing of soft corals. Xenia resemble a mushroom shape, with small flower-like structures at the top of each stalk. Xenia, like leather coral, is unique in the fact that it adds variety to your tank by offering movement. Xenia takes that to the next level by not only swaying in the current but by also having a mesmerizing ability to rhythmically open and close its tentacles or “pulse”. Xenia is so prolific that placement is very important. We recommend that you isolate the colony into islands where it can easily be controlled.