For Beginners: Great Starter Soft Corals

Great Starter Soft Corals

Soft corals are some of the easiest corals to keep in a reef aquarium. Many of them have minimal requirements when it comes to both flow and lighting. Though easy to maintain, these starter soft corals do not lack diversity in color, growth pattern, and movement. Keeping strictly softies in your tank is one of the most affordable and colorful ways to keep a reef aquarium. The following selections are great options for beginner hobbyists starting their first reef tank.

Mushroom Corals

Starter Soft Corals: Ricordea Mushroom
Ricordea Mushroom

Mushrooms are relatively simple to keep. However, they must have the proper environment to succeed. Placing these corals in the middle to lower levels of the tank will give them a place to grow and multiply without being subjected to intense light. Mushrooms are filter feeders and generally do not require supplemental feeding as they typically get what they need from the water column. Mushrooms do not require additional calcium or alkalinity dosing as they do not contain a rigid calcium skeletal structure.

Starter Soft Corals: Rhodactis Mushroom
Rhodactis Mushroom
  • Temperament: Semi-Aggressive, may release chemicals that cause other species to starve, shrink, and die. It can also overgrow nearby corals, so make sure to give them plenty of space.
  • Temperature : 77-79 degrees
  • Salinity: 1.025 – 1.027
  • Nitrates: 1-5 ppm 
  • Phosphates: 0.01-0.05 ppm
  • Recommended Lighting: Low to moderate; supplemental actinic lighting will bring any mushrooms color to life
  • Recommended Flow: Low to moderate
  • Recommended Tank Placement: Low to mid areas
  • Direct Feeding: Not required
  • Available Colors: Available in a wide variety of colors
  • Estimated Cost: Depending on the species and color, they can range from $10 – $1,000+ per specimen
Pros of Mushroom CoralsCons of Mushroom Corals
Come in a wide variety of shapes and colors Can populate exponentially and take over your system if they are not maintained
Fast-growing and can be spot-fed to supercharge growthThey can be challenging to move or remove from your tank
Shrooms are generally very hardy and can stand up to some water quality fluctuations common in beginner aquariumsShrooms will try to grow over and shade out other corals
With their rapid growth, it can be enjoyable to trade some of your mushrooms for other corals
Pros and cons of Mushroom corals

Zoanthid Corals

Starter Soft Corals: Yellow & Red Zoanthids
Yellow & Red Zoanthids

Zoanthids are a starter soft coral addition to any reef tank. Place these corals on a porous rock such as Marco Rocks Reef Saver for easier fragging in the future. They do not require supplemental feeding though they may benefit from it. Make sure the lighting and flow on your aquarium are not too intense to where the polyps will not fully open and extend themselves. Be highly cautious of palytoxin when handling or fragging these corals. Always wear protective gloves and goggles, and wash your hands thoroughly before and after any contact with them.

Starter Soft Corals: Blue & Red Zoanthids
Blue & Red Zoanthids
  • Temperament: Peaceful though they can overgrow neighboring coral which can cause that coral to die.
  • Temperature: 77-79 degrees
  • Salinity: 1.025-1.026
  • Nitrates: 1-10 ppm
  • Phosphates: 0.01-0.10 ppm
  • Recommended Lighting: Moderate
  • Recommended Flow: Low to moderate
  • Recommended Tank Placement: Can grow nearly anywhere in an aquarium. Avoid areas with either high flow and high-intensity light. Place on a flat surface for better growth rates.
  • Direct Feeding: Not required
  • Available Colors: Available in a wide variety of colors
  • Estimated Cost: $10- $100 per polyp
Pros of Zoanthid CoralsCons of Zoanthid Corals
Available in a large variety of color morphsZoanthids can be dangerous to frag so, be sure to take the proper precautions
Mix and match different types to create a rainbow garden of ZoanthidsEach variety grows at a slightly different rate, and they can potentially shade one another out
Most Zoa’s tend to grow fastZoas will benefit from broadcast feeding once a week; however, this will eventually compromise your water quality
Additional frags can be created and traded for other varieties
Pros and cons of Zoanthid corals

Kenya Tree Corals

Pink Kenya Tree
Pink Kenya Tree

Kenya Trees are one of the best starter soft corals to keep. When placing this coral, make sure they are in an area with moderate flow and plenty of space to grow. Kenya Tree corals multiply by dropping branches that attach themselves where they land and re-grow. If you want to prevent them from taking over the tank, remove any fallen branches before they attach themselves to your rock and start to grow. They can easily overgrow an aquarium if left unchecked.

Green Kenya Tree Coral
Green Kenya Tree
  • Temperament: Aggressive; grows quickly and will sting corals that get too close
  • Temperature: 75-80 degrees
  • Salinity: 1.025-1.026
  • Nitrates: 1-10 ppm
  • Phosphates: 0.01-0.10 ppm
  • Recommended Lighting: Moderate
  • Recommended Flow: Moderate to high
  • Recommended Tank Placement: Low to mid areas
  • Direct Feeding: Not required
  • Available Colors: Gold, green, and pink
  • Estimated Cost: $25 for a large frag
Pros of Kenya Tree CoralsCons of Kenya Tree Corals
Straightforward to grow and maintainGrowth is so explosive that they can easily take over a tank
Adds unique movement patterns to an aquariumOnce introduced to an aquarium, it may be difficult to remove them
Tolerant of small changes in water quality and lighting
Most varieties are fast-growing
Pros and Cons of Kenya Tree Corals

Choosing Starter Soft Corals for Your Tank

We hope this guide has opened your eyes to just some of the soft corals to consider for any new hobbyist’s reef aquarium. While you can’t go wrong by choosing any of the above, it’s important to keep in mind the pros and cons of each. This will help you determine the best coral for your needs.

If you have any questions about how to proceed with your reef aquarium, or if you are on the hunt for some other starter soft corals, feel free to contact our reefing experts here at Simplicity Aquatics. Check back again for future additions to our “For Beginner’s” series!

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