Types of Corals for Saltwater Aquariums

There is always something that draws people to the water—maybe its charm, the mystery, or simply because of the peacefulness that it openly radiates. As we normally see on tv or in the books, seas and oceans are huge bodies of water that are full of amazing living creatures. There are over a million of living species in the ocean and scientists continue to discover more and more of them in this lifetime. Marine life is colourful and abundant—it’s like a whole new different world out there. A lot of marine enthusiasts take their love for the ocean into their homes and decide to set up their own saltwater aquariums as a hobby or as part of their interior design. People would normally think that keeping a saltwater aquarium is very hard to maintain but presently, it’s not as hard as how it used to be. Like most hobbies, it may require a lot of things to start and may involve some considerations. 

The most exciting part is choosing the marine life for your aquarium. Aside from the fishes, it is fundamental to add corals to your saltwater tank. When you decide to set up your own aquarium at home, choosing the right coral is also very important. There are several types of coral that you may not know about and you need to research about the different types of corals for a good start.

Corals can be classified mainly into two main types: hard or soft. 

Soft corals as the name suggests, are soft-bodied marine animals with no solid protective skeleton which make them more flexible. Coming from the Alcyonacea order, this type of coral is fleshy and has eight feathery tentacles with spiny sclerites that are used to dissuade predators. This type of coral is usually bright-coloured and jelly-like, and has a swaying figure that resembles plants. Soft corals can expand and retract. These corals come in several different colors and shapes. They are good for reef tanks as they are adaptable to low-light conditions. Popular soft corals among aquarium hobbyists include Zoanthids, which is also referred to as the soft coral superstar, and Palythoa which is a colonial type coral like the Zoanthids.   

Common types of soft coral

  • Gorgonian (Sea Fans)
  • Carnation coral
  • Toadstool coral
  • Bubble coral
  • Tree coral
  • Sea Pens

Hard corals, also called Scleractinia or Stony corals, are rock-like marine animals that build hard skeletons made of calcium carbonate for themselves. This type of coral is also referred to as the “reef-building coral” because they grow in colonies and create and maintain the hard layer in coral reefs. While soft corals have eight tentacles, hard corals, on the other hand, only have six. Hard corals are known to have a symbiotic relationship with the algae called zooxanthellae, which provides them with food, and in return use the corals as shelters.  

  • Common types of hard coral
  • Brain coral
  • Daisy coral
  • Bubble coral
  • Staghorn coral
  • Finger coral
  • Horn coral

Best Beginner Corals

  • Zoanthids

Also called Zoas, these corals are pretty popular as they come in a wide variety of colors. They are hardy soft corals and can thrive easily with minimal care. This vibrant type of coral is definitely a great addition to any saltwater aquarium!

  • Palythoas

Palys are very similar to Zoas and they also come in different colors and color combinations. This is an excellent beginner coral because it is one of the easy-to-keep types of coral and they can grow relatively fast.

  • Sinularia Leathers

This soft finger coral or flexible leather coral is a very common soft coral. They are a semi-aggressive type that are also good for beginners as they are easy to maintain and can adjust well even in new reef tanks. 

  • Green Star Polyps

This type of coral is a great choice for beginners because they are not expensive, hardy, beautiful, and fast-growing!

  • Toadstools

Toadstool or the mushroom coral is another type of soft coral that is perfect for beginner saltwater tanks. They are easy to care for and can tolerate low light. 

  • Pulsing Xenia

The Pulsing Xenia is one of the most popular types of corals for reef tanks. It is well-loved for the fascinating rhythmic pulsing movements of the coral polyps that looks like a hand opening and closing. This type of coral is also hardy and not very demanding which makes it a good choice for new aquarium owners. 

  • Euphyllia

Euphyllia is the scientific name for the bright and colorful corals like Frog Spawn, Torches, and Hammer. This type of coral is adaptable and can grow a bit faster than other corals. They can be a bit more expensive than other corals but it is a good hardy coral type for beginners. 

coral and rocks for custom aquarium

There are a lot of different types of corals available for creating a healthy and beautiful reef tank at home. It is very important to do your research thoroughly about the different corals before setting up your saltwater aquarium so that you can choose the right corals for your tank. It is also vital to know how to properly care for the type of coral that you get. Some corals may be toxic to humans when mishandled so it is also best to ask experts everything you need to know before bringing the corals home to your aquarium.