Popular Corals for Reef Tanks

Popular Corals for Reef Tanks

With all of the stunning varieties and unique demands of each species, selecting the proper corals for a reef aquarium can be challenging. We continue our “For Beginners” series by evaluating some of the most popular reef tank corals. The term “most popular” is subjective, and by no means are these the only popular corals available. Our list features species commonly found in hobbyist tanks that are readily available for purchase and a good fit for inexperienced hobbyists.

Soft Corals

Of all the corals kept within reef aquariums, Soft Corals are certainly the most common. Beyond just being easy to maintain, soft corals provide some of the brightest colors and eye-catching movement in the hobby. We have selected three of the most popular soft corals you will find in a reefers tank, along with the best ways to keep them happy, colorful, and healthy.

Green Star Polyp

Basic Care Instructions: Green Star Polyps are incredibly hardy and tolerant of a wide range of different water conditions. The primary consideration for keeping this coral is providing it with the proper space to grow as GSP will encrust over the rock and grow rapidly. It is essential to keep a close eye on the coral and frag it if it gets too close to other corals. Most beginner hobbyists should not have any issue keeping Green Star Polyp.

Popular Corals: Green Star Polyp
Green Star Polyp
  • Temperament: GSP does not sting other corals, but it can grow over them, so be sure to provide plenty of space for it to grow.
  • Estimated Cost: $15-$35 depending on the variety and size of the frag.
  • Temperature: 78-82 Degrees
  • Salinity: 1.024-1.026 (specific gravity)
  • Nitrates: 1-5ppm
  • Phosphates: .01-.05ppm
  • Recommended Lighting: Low to medium
  • Recommended Flow: Medium
Pros of Green Star PolypCons of Green Star Polyp
Vibrant color that pops under fluorescent blue light Will grow over other corals
Capable of explosive growth Can be difficult to frag and remove from an aquarium
Inexpensive and tolerant of imperfect water quality They will take time to attach to your rockwork and will blow over easily if placed in high flow areas.
Will not sting other corals
Pros and cons of Green Star Polyp

Pulsing Xenia

Basic Care Instructions: Pulsing Xenia is a peaceful and eye-catching coral that performs best in low to medium light and flow areas. Like other soft corals, they are not exceedingly sensitive to fluctuation in water quality; however, keeping a consistent temperature is essential. Xenia grows fast, so give it plenty of space to grow.

Temperament: Peaceful but fast-growing

Popular Corals: Pulsing Xenia
Pulsing Xenia

Estimated Cost: $5-$30 depending on the size of the frag.

Temperature: 72-78 Degrees

Salinity: 1.023-1.025 (specific gravity)

Nitrates: 1-5ppm

Phosphates: .01-.05ppm

Recommended Lighting: Low to medium

Recommended Flow: Low to medium

Pros of Pulsing XeniaCons of Pulsing Xenia
Has a unique pulsing motion that other corals do not duplicate Can be lacking in the color department
Grows very quickly Nearly impossible to thoroughly remove from a tank once introduced
Inexpensive and very easy to frag These corals can sometimes stop pulsing completely
Pros and cons of Pulsing Xenia

Ricordea Mushrooms

Basic Care Instructions: There are two main types of Ricordea Mushrooms, Yuma and Florida. Despite their differences, their care requirements are nearly identical. Place Ricordea on the sandbed with low to medium light and low flow. Feed these mushrooms once a week to encourage growth and self-propagation.

Popular Corals: Ricordea Mushroom
Ricordea Mushroom

Temperament: Semi-Aggresive

Estimated Cost: $20-$200+ depending on the color variation.

Temperature: 72-78 Degrees

Salinity: 1.023-1.025 (specific gravity)

Nitrates: 1-5ppm

Phosphates: .01-.05ppm

Recommended Lighting: Low to medium

Recommended Flow: Low

Pros of Ricordea MushroomsCons of Ricordea Mushrooms
Offered in a large variety of color variations Doesn’t grow as fast as other mushroom varieties
Not as sensitive to calcium and alkalinity levels since they do not have a rigid skeletal structure Ricordea will attempt to sting other nearby corals
Can be kept close to other types of RicordeaYuma are more sensitive to water quality than the Florida variety
Pros and cons of Ricordea Mushrooms

LPS Corals

LPS or large polyp stony corals are the backbone of a mixed reef aquarium, and their diverse coloration and movement make them popular corals among hobbyists. These corals take on many different forms within an aquarium and reefers are bound to find an LPS species perfect for their system. The following three varieties are some of the most popular LPS corals in the hobby today.

Hammer Corals

Basic Care Instructions: Hammer corals are beloved by reefers due to their unmatched color, movement, and growth patterns. We suggest placing hammers in the rockwork where they receive medium amounts of both light and flow. Be sure to keep your calcium and alkalinity levels elevated to aid in the growth of their skeletons. Spot feeding Hammer Corals will improve growth and overall health.

Temperament: Aggressive

Popular Corals: Hammer Coral
Hammer coral

Estimated Cost: $40-$500+ depending on the number of heads and the color variation.

Temperature: 72-78 Degrees

Salinity: 1.023-1.025 (specific gravity)

Nitrates: 5-10ppm

Phosphates: .03-.09ppm

Recommended Lighting: Medium

Recommended Flow: Medium

Pros of Hammer CoralsCons of Hammer Corals
Available in a variety of beautiful colors Can be difficult to frag
Can be kept close to one another Slow-growing
Respond well to frequent feedings Sensitive to changes in water chemistry
Most hammers look spectacular when grown into a colony Can be expensive
Pros and cons of Hammer corals

Chalice Coral

Basic Care Instructions: Chalice corals are an excellent alternative to most other LPS corals. Generally speaking, they are also significantly less fussy than a lot of Euphyllia varieties. Place Chalice corals towards the bottom of the display, either on the sandbed or rockwork. These corals prefer to be in areas with low amounts of light and soft to medium flow levels. The most crucial consideration for Chalice corals is to keep pristine water chemistry with minimal nitrates and phosphates.

Temperament: Agressive

Chalice Coral
Chalice coral

Estimated Cost: $30-$500+ depending on the wide-ranging amounts of colorful specimens.

Temperature: 72-78 Degrees

Salinity: 1.023-1.025 (specific gravity)

Nitrates: 1-5ppm

Phosphates: .01-.05ppm

Recommended Lighting: Low to medium

Recommended Flow: Medium

Pros of Chalice CoralsCons of Chalice Corals
Stunning fluorescent colorsNeeds to be slowly adjusted to stronger light
Does not require high amounts of light Has sweeper tentacles that can sting other corals
Sensitive to swings in water chemistry
Pros and cons of Chalice corals

Candy Cane Coral

Basic Care Instructions: Candy Cane’s or Trumpet corals are some of the easiest to keep LPS varieties. They can either live in the sandbed or rockwork. It is vital to make sure they get medium light and low to medium flow. While these corals have sweeper tentacles, they are very short, which means they can live close to other coral specimens.

Temperament: Peaceful

Candy Cane Coral
Candy Cane coral

Estimated Cost: $30-$100

Temperature: 72-78 Degrees

Salinity: 1.023-1.025 (specific gravity)

Nitrates: 1-5ppm

Phosphates: .01-.05ppm

Recommended Lighting: Medium

Recommended Flow: Low to medium

Pros of candy cane coralsCons of candy cane corals
One of the hardiest LPS varieties Can sting other corals if placed too close to them
Offered in many colors Large colonies will absorb a lot of calcium
Looks great in a reef tank as a frag or a colony The skeletal structure is fragile and can break easily
Most frags are aquacultured and ready for aquarium life
Pros and cons of Candy Cane corals

SPS Corals

While Acropora may receive most of the hype in the SPS category, they aren’t usually the most commonly found SPS coral in beginners reef aquariums as they are challenging to keep. The following selection of SPS corals offers a diversity of colors, growth forms, and care requirements.

Montipora Digitata

Basic Care Instructions: Montipora Digitata is a unique variety of Monti that grows vertically rather than just horizontally like most other Montipora species. Digitata prefers medium levels of both light and flow and will do very well when positioned on the rockwork. Montipora will generally consume large amounts of calcium. Digitata is more forgiving to small swings in water chemistry than most other SPS corals.

Temperament: Peaceful

Montipora Digitata
Montipora Digitata

Estimated Cost: $20-$75 depending on the size and type of frag.

Temperature: 72-80 Degrees

Salinity: 1.023-1.025 (specific gravity)

Nitrates: 1-5ppm

Phosphates: .01-.05ppm

Recommended Lighting: Medium

Recommended Flow: Medium

Pros of Montipora DigitataCons of Montipora Digitata
Unique growth patternConsumes a lot of calcium
Easier to keep than AcroporaThe branches are prone to breaking
Less sensitive to water quality than other Montipora species Lacks color diversity compared to Acropora
Pros and cons of Montipora Digitata

Stylophora

Basic Care Instructions: Stylophora or Cat’s Paw is a commonly found SPS variety similar to Bird’s Nest. The main difference between Stylophora and Bird’s Nest is that the Stylos have rounded tips. Stylophora prefers moderate to high amounts of light and flow and does best when placed on the rockwork towards the top of the aquarium. Stylophora benefits from weekly feedings.

Temperament: Peaceful

Stylophora Coral
Stylophora coral

Estimated Cost: $20-$100+ depending on size and color.

Temperature: 72-78 Degrees

Salinity: 1.023-1.025 (specific gravity)

Nitrates: 1-5ppm

Phosphates: .01-.05ppm

Recommended Lighting: Medium to High

Recommended Flow: High

Pros of StylophoraCons of Stylophora
Inexpensive and easily accessibleLacks color diversity
Fast-growing and easy to fragShaded branches will bleach
Less likely to break compared to Bird’s Nest and most AcroporaConsumes calcium and alkalinity at a high rate
Tolerates imperfect water quality much better than other SPS
Pros and cons of Stylophora

Walt Disney Acropora

Basic Care Instructions: Like most Acropora, the Walt Disney variety is known for its brilliant coloration and high-light requirements. Additionally, this coral should be in an area that receives moderate to high amounts of flow. Coloration will vary depending on the light and water parameters provided. Preventing significant fluctuations in salinity, temperature, and nutrients is essential.

Temperament: Peaceful

Popular Corals: Walt Disney Acropora
Walt Disney Acropora

Estimated Cost: $100+ depending on the size of the frag.

Temperature: 76-80 Degrees

Salinity: 1.024-1.026 (specific gravity)

Nitrates: 5-10 ppm

Phosphates: .01-.05 ppm

Recommended Lighting: High

Recommended Flow: High

Pros of Walt Disney AcroporaCons of Walt Disney Acropora
Comes in many color varietiesDifficult to keep in newly established aquariums
One of the less sensitive Acropora varieties Require high amounts of light between 300-500 PAR
Grows well when provided with the proper conditions Quickly changes color depending on the lighting
Pros and cons of Walt Disney Acropora

Assessing the Most Popular Corals for Reef Tanks

While the corals mentioned above are some of the most popular varieties within the hobby, they are not for everyone. There is a wide-ranging world of corals, and you are bound to find some that suit your goals.

If you have any additional questions about keeping a particular coral or you’re having a hard time finding something that works for your needs, please don’t hesitate to contact our support team. For reefkeeping products designed for keeping your coral happy and healthy, check out our website at SimplicityAquatics.com.

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