Good Starter Corals
There are a lot of different options when starting up a marine tank – ‘what skimmer should I buy?’, ‘do I need a calcium reactor?’, ‘how much live rock should I buy?’ the list goes on! All the choices that you make with equipment will affect the livestock in your care, but choosing the correct livestock for your care is just as important.
When beginning to stock your tank with corals you need to make sure that the conditions you will be placing them in will be suitable. For example, a frag of Acropora would not be best placed in a low energy environment (low flow and low light). A more suitable coral for this type of environment would be a member of the soft corals.
The lower lighting and flow requirements of soft corals make them less demanding, and will also keep cost down! For soft corals the calcium uptake is lower than hard corals (SPS), so this is another thing that we do not have to worry about as much.
Sinularia, Lobophytum, and Sarcophyton (Leather corals)
Leather corals are very popular due to their low demands towards water quality and other factors which make them easier to care for. They will thrive in less than optimal conditions where most hard corals would not survive.
There are a number of different leather corals available; most are very hardy in nature.
Good choices for the beginner would be Sinularia (finger leathers), Lobophytum (cabbage corals), and Sarcophyton (toadstools).
Picture by Ollski
Picture by Paul Burton
Picture by Jonock
The one to keep away from is Dendronepthia. This species requires a lot more care because it is Non-photosynthetic, so does not use the suns energy; it gathers particulate food from the water column of which there is generally not enough of in our tanks. Unfortunately people are attracted to these because of their bright colours.
Rhodactis, Ricordia, Discosoma, and Amplexidiscus (Mushroom anemones)
There are four groups of mushrooms available; Rhodactis, Ricordia, Discosoma, and Amplexidiscus.
All of them will thrive in much the same conditions as the leather corals mentioned above – low to medium water flow and lighting levels. They are capable of spreading at a surprising rate in favourable conditions and can smother neighbouring corals if not regularly kept in check.
Picture by Maestro
Ricordia - these often develop very vivid colours and are prized by some aquarists.
Picture by Ollie100
Amplexidiscus - This variety can grow very large and has been known to consume slow moving fish
Picture by Mode
Picture by Unklematt
Zoanthus sp. (Button Polyps)
These are also commonly called ‘Zoos’ (from the latin name Zoanthus). They do well when fed and actively take food from the water column. They will also spread at an alarming rate and can grow over some corals, ultimately killing them.
Zoanthus sp. (Button polyps) can come in a variety of different colours, from browns to bright oranges and pinks. Some of these bright colour morphs are highly valued. Note that zoanthus sp. are considered toxic and can causes allergic reactions for some people, so wash your hands after handling them!
Picture by Hermie
Picture by Snowsurfer
Picture by Shultz
There are many other soft corals that usually do well in newly established aquariums, for example, Xenia sp. (Xenia) and Pachyclavularia sp. (Star polyps) are often fast spreaders that can transform a stark tank very quickly. However, they are invasive (as are Zoanthus sp.) and so may not be a good addition if you have plans to change the system towards SPS later on.
Here are some examples of a few that would be suitable for newbie’s:
Pachyclavularia sp. (Star Polyps)
Picture by Dantheman_151
Xenia sp. (Xenia)
Picture by Claude