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for beginners: great starter sps corals

For Beginners: Great Starter SPS Corals

SPS or Small Polyp Stony corals are both challenging and rewarding to keep within a reef tank. Most SPS corals are best suited for the more experienced hobbyists; however, there are some starter SPS corals that make a good choice for beginners. Generally speaking, SPS corals prefer to be placed in areas with high light and moderate to intense amounts of flow. Here is our selection of the most beginner-friendly SPS corals for your reef tank.

Montipora Capricornis (Monti Cap)

Starter SPS Corals: Green Montipora Cap
Green Montipora Cap

Montipora Capricornis is one of the best starter SPS corals. They generally do best when attached to the edge of a rock and allowed plenty of space to grow. As they grow and plate out, Monti Caps can shade corals below them, so make sure not to place any light-demanding corals beneath. Montipora are sensitive to excess nutrients, and performing consistent tank maintenance is crucial to their success.

Starter SPS Corals: Purple Montipora Cap
Purple Montipora Cap
  • Temperament: Peaceful and will even graft with similar species
  • Temperature: 75-80 degrees
  • Salinity: 1.024-1.026ppm
  • Nitrates: 1-10 ppm
  • Phosphates: 0.01-0.04 ppm
  • Calcium: 400-420 ppm
  • Alkalinity: 8-10 dkh 
  • Magnesium: 1260-1350 ppm
  • Recommended Lighting: Moderate to high
  • Recommended Flow: Moderate to high
  • Recommended Tank Placement: Middle to top areas
  • Direct Feeding: Recommend, but not required
  • Available Colors: Green, purple, red, and orange
  • Estimated Cost: $20-$100 a frag
Pros of Keeping Montipora CapricornisCons of Keeping Montipora Capricornis
One of the easier to keep SPS varietiesDosing of calcium and alkalinity is essential
Available in an excellent selection of colorsModerate to high lighting and flow requirements
Can combine different types of Montipora to create a unique lookProne to Montipora eating Nudibranch’s
Fast growth compared to other SPS corals
Pros and cons of keeping Montipora Capricornis

Bird’s Nest Corals

Starter SPS Corals: Green Birdsnest Coral
Green Birdsnest Coral

Birds Nest is a hardy branching species that does very well in medium light and medium flow and plenty of room for growth. Like most other stony corals, Birds Nest will benefit from dosing both calcium and alkalinity. Occasional spot feedings may also help increase their growth rate. Birds Nest tops our suggestions when it comes to some of the best starter SPS corals.

Purple Polyp Birdsnest Coral
Purple Polyp Birdsnest Coral
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Temperature: 77-80 degrees
  • Salinity: 1.025-1.026
  • Nitrates: 1-5 ppm
  • Phosphates: 0.01-0.04 ppm
  • Calcium: 400-450 ppm
  • Alkalinity: 8-11 dkh
  • Magnesium: 1260-1350 ppm
  • Recommended Lighting: Moderate to High
  • Recommended Flow: Moderate to High
  • Recommended Tank Placement: Middle to top areas
  • Direct Feeding: Recommend, but not required
  • Available Colors: Pink, green, and brown
  • Estimated Cost: $25-$100 for a sizeable frag
Pros of Keeping Birds Nest CoralsCons of Keeping Birds Nest Corals
Significantly more hardy than most other SPSRequires moderate to high lighting and flow
Fast-growing compared to most SPS coralsFragile skeletal structures
As the coral grows, the top branches will shade lower branches causing them to lose color
Pros and cons of keeping Birds Nest corals

Bali Green Slimer Acropora

Bali Green Slimer Acropora
Bali Green Slimer Acropora

The Bali Green Slimer is considered by many to be the easiest Acropora to keep. As it says in its name, this coral creates a thick slime coat when stressed or disturbed. Lots of flow is essential as that will help blow any of this slimy mucus away. Place this coral towards the top of the tank in an area with high amounts of light and flow. Be sure to give this coral plenty of space as it will put on some serious growth under the proper conditions.

  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Temperature: 75-80 degrees
  • Salinity: 1.024-1.026
  • Nitrates: 1-5 ppm
  • Phosphates: 0.01-0.04 ppm
  • Calcium: 420-440 ppm
  • Alk: 8-9 dkh
  • Magnesium: 1260-1350 ppm
  • Recommended Lighting: Moderate to high
  • Recommended Flow: Moderate to high
  • Recommended Tank Placement: Middle to top areas
  • Direct Feeding: Recommend, but not required
  • Available Colors: Green, Pink, Purple, & Brown
  • Estimated Cost: $35-$50 for a 1″ frag
Bali Green Slimer Acropora
Bali Green Slimer Acropora
Pros of Keeping Bali Green Slimer AcroporaCons of Keeping Bali Green Slimer Acropora
Its vibrant green color pops under actinic lightConsumes large amounts of alkalinity and calcium
Easiest to keep out of the Acropora familySensitive to excess nutrients
Produce a slime-coat to protect themselves when experiencing stressNeed plenty of light and flow to thrive
Inexpensive compared to most other varieties of Acropora
Pros and cons of keeping Bali Green Slimer Acropora

Final Thoughts on Starter SPS Corals

We hope this guide has opened your eyes to just a tiny portion of the SPS corals that make an excellent choice for beginner reef aquariums. Check back again for future additions to our “For Beginner’s” series.

If you have any questions about how to proceed with your reef aquarium, or if you are on the hunt for an SPS recommendation, feel free to contact our reefing experts here at Simplicity Aquatics.

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