Saltwater aquariums are one of the most unique, beautiful, and engaging objects you can have in your home. The bright colors of the fish, the corals, the plants – they’re so captivating and entrancing. Aquariums have been shown to help reduce stress, improve your mood, and so much more. Plus, they’re just so fun!

But if you’ve not kept an aquarium before, it can be a little tricky knowing what kind of corals you should stock in your brand-new saltwater aquarium or reef tank. The best reef aquarium corals and best saltwater corals for beginners are hardier varieties that can handle (to a degree) slight swings in your water parameters. Corals that are happy in smaller tanks and that are relatively inexpensive are also more suited towards beginners. We also recommend starting out with reef-safe corals to keep things simple.

To make your task of choosing the coolest saltwater corals that anyone should be able to care for easier, we’ve compiled this list of saltwater aquarium corals for beginners along with their basic info and stats for your convenience.


Other namesZoas
DietThey gain energy from the light but supplemental feeding of Phytoplankton or Reefroids will help them grow quickly.
Additional Care InformationFast-growing, keep live rock separated with sand to prevent one variety taking over.

Zoanthids (Zoanthus sp.) are tiny polyps that come in a number of bright colors and occur in close clusters of individual polyps, the form of which almost matches the arrangement of small flowers. Polyps share a mat of tissue that ties them together. Zoanthids are a fast-growing coral that can tolerate a wide variety of light and water temperature. Because of the speed at which these soft corals can grow, we suggest that each color of zoanthid be put in the sandy bottom of your aquarium so that you can monitor the growth and preserve the diversity of colors.

Our favorite species:


DietThey gain energy from the light but will also capture food from the water. They will eat anything they can capture.
Additional Care InformationSemi-aggressive so will need adequate space between themselves and other corals.

Mushroom corals are found in a variety of species, including Rhodactus sp. and Actinodiscus sp., too. Mushrooms are distinguished from all other corals by their oval disk shape. They have a flat or round disk-shaped umbrella around the opening or the mouth. They have tentacles on their disks that look almost like tiny bumps. Mushrooms are definitely one of the easiest corals to take care of. They are a perfect beginner coral because they are not challenging in terms of the conditions they need to thrive, even though they do well in low flow. Besides being affordable and their range of gorgeous colors, it’s hard not to make space in your tank for a coral mushroom.

Our top picks include:


DietThey gain energy from the light but will benefit from supplemental feeding of zooplankton or macro algae.
Additional Care InformationThis will reproduce easily when it’s kept happy.

Ricordea (Ricordea sp.) are really vibrant and really give a much-needed pop to most saltwater tanks! Color variants include green, brown, yellow, blue, and purple, with a contrasting color in the center of the polyp. Due to the striking color morphs available, Ricordea is one of the most sought-after corals available. This coral demands mild care and is not as abundant as the other species on this series. To keep Ricordea satisfied and safe, you will need to ensure a proper amount of magnesium and iodine, as well as a 10% bi-monthly change of temperature. 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. 

Leather Coral

DietThey gain energy from the light but will benefit from supplemental feeding of Phytoplankton or baby brine shrimp.
Additional Care InformationCan grow to 10” and overshadow any coral placed underneath, so consider its location. Some species of Leather Corals are infamous for the toxins they produce, so be aware of this when choosing your species.

Leather coral (Sarcophyton sp.) is a very rare and common gem. It has a silky, single stem with a flared, flat top that can be folded or funnel-shaped. They will change their form by expanding or deflating their body, creating an interesting addition to your aquarium. This kind of soft coral comes in a rich array of colors and shapes, while being immune to a range of aquarium conditions. Since they have a calcified skeleton system like rough corals, they may withstand alkaline, calcium and magnesium swings. Interestingly, if a sufficient anemone is not present, certain leather corals may also host a clownfish.


DietThey gain energy from the light but will benefit from weekly supplemental feeding of Phytoplankton.
Additional Care InformationIn lower flow areas they will ‘pulse’, which is beautiful to watch.

Finally, Xenia is probably the fastest growing of soft corals. Xenia looks like a mushroom shape, with tiny flower-like structures at the top of each stalk. Xenia, like leather coral, is unusual in that it brings variety to your tank by providing movement. Xenia brings this to the next stage not only by swaying the current, but also by possessing a mesmerizing tendency to rhythmically open and close its tentacles or “pulse.” Xenia is so prolific that their positioning is very critical. We propose that you isolate the colony into islands where it can be easily monitored.

When Are You Ready For Corals?

This hobby is all about maintaining the water, not the animals. If you can keep the water parameters stable, you can keep any coral species if the conditions are right. Good flow and effective lighting are important when you first get into corals, it’s a matter of purchasing better equipment once rather than having to buy junk several times.

In the first few months as an aquarist, just get your routine down and continue keeping your water parameters consistent. You’re going to go through the algae blooms, and that’s all part of the normal progression of the coral tank.

Corals are no tougher to keep than your fish, just take your time and don’t try to overfill your tank. Leave the top half of your rock available for when you want to upgrade to more difficult corals as you and your tank mature.

When you first get your corals, we recommend you place them on a moveable piece of live rock within the sand for a few days to encourage them to acclimate to your flow and lights. Corals that turn brown or white are exposed to too much light too quickly and need to be put further in the shade.

Have fun, take your time and go and buy some of the coral frags listed above and see how you get on!