TYPES OF CORAL FOR REEF TANKS

Types of Coral for Reef Tanks
Stocking a reef tank can be a challenge because there are so many different types of coral to choose from. Before you start your reef tank, familiarize yourself with the different types of coral.
When it comes to setting up a reef tank, the types of coral you choose to stock your tank will have a direct impact on your success. If you are new to the saltwater aquarium hobby, you may want to start off small with a few hardy species of coral and work your way up to the more “advanced” species. Unless you do a little research beforehand, however, you may not know what types of corals are considered “beginner” species. This article will provide you with a general overview of the different types of corals used in reef tanks so you can be sure to stock your tank properly.
 
Hard VS Soft Corals

Corals can be divided into two main categories: hard corals and soft corals. Hard corals are made of rigid calcium carbonate, or limestone, and they often resemble rocks. These corals develop an internal skeleton that grows as the coral matures and stays in place after the coral dies. With each new generation of polyps, hard corals grow larger and larger. Hard corals do not move and they also have a very slow growth rate – they also do not tend to be as colorful as soft corals. Hard corals derive much of their color from the various types of algae that grow on their surface.

Soft corals are also composed of rigid calcium carbonate like hard corals, but it is combined with protein so that it is less rigid. This type of coral does not have an exoskeleton so it is capable of movement – soft corals often appear to be swaying in a breeze because they are affected by the flow of water in the tank. Many species of soft coral are tolerant of varying water conditions and they are easier to care for than many species of hard coral.

Types of Hard Coral

Corals grow in compact colonies made up of individual “polyps” – spineless animals that are typically only a few millimeters wide and a few centimeters long. Hard corals, also called stony corals, often exhibit a branching or plated structure and they are generally more difficult to keep than soft corals. There are two types of hard coral – large polyp stony (LPS) and small polyp stony (SPS). LPS corals have smaller skeletons with voluminous tissues growing on the top – these corals may use water inflation to help keep their shape. SPS corals have dense, heavy skeletons made up myriad tiny polyps which form a sort of ‘skin’. This type of coral is adapted to strong water flow but requires a great deal of sunlight to thrive. Hard corals are known by the scientific name “scleractinians” and there are a number of different species.

 

Some of the most popular species of hard coral for the reef tank are brain coral, daisy coral, bubble coral, staghorn coral, finger coral and horn coral. Brain corals are fairly easy to care for in the home aquarium but they are a semi-aggressive species that is prone to stinging other types of coral. Daisy corals is also sometimes called pipe organ coral and its polyps have a decidedly star- or flower-like appearance when they are open – for this reason they are easily confused with star polyps. Daisy coral requires a moderate degree of care with moderate to high lighting but they are a peaceful species of coral.

Bubble coral is easy to identify because its polyps form inflated, bubble-like sacks. This type of coral is easy to care for but it is a very aggressive species – it is also important to note that the fleshy polyps are very fragile, they can easily be punctured. Bubble coral comes in a variety of colors and it only requires low to moderate water flow and moderate lighting. Staghorn coral produces a variety of different shapes and structures but their skeletons tend to be very porous and lightweight. This type of color is fairly difficult to care for because they require very stable tank conditions and high lighting. Finger coral is named for the finger-like shape of its stalks. This type of coral is peaceful but you should still give it plenty of space in the aquarium – you also need to make sure it has high lighting.

Types of Soft Coral

This group of corals belongs to the order Alcyonacea which includes several suborders and families. Unlike hard corals, soft corals have fleshy skeletons that may exhibit various types of movement. The bodies of soft coral are made up of spiny sclerites which provide structure for the coral while also creating a spiky texture that deters predators. These corals are more flexible in terms of placement in the reef tank as well – they can adapt to low-light conditions as long as they receive adequate nutrition. Soft corals come in a wide range of shapes and colors and they are also capable of expanding and retracting.


Some of the most popular types of soft coral for the reef tank are blue corals, pipe corals, green star polyps and tree corals. Tree corals have thin stalks compared to other corals and they do not have any polyps on the stalk – they produce thin branches and branchlets that form polyps. Star polys come in three different colors – white, brown, and green – and they are named for the star-like arrangement of their polyps. These corals are a good choice for beginners because they are fairly easy to maintain compared to other corals, just be sure they get enough lighting and they have high water flow. Blue corals produce plate-like or form columns and their skeletons are made of aragonite. This type of coral can develop small feathery polyps that have an olive green or whitish gray color but the interior turns blue due to its ability to extract iron from the water.

The types of corals you choose to stock your reef tank may depend on the size of your tank as well as your experience in the saltwater aquarium hobby. If you are new to the hobby you may want to consider starting out with a few small soft corals because they are more forgiving of changes in water conditions. For nano reefs, however, small species of hard coral are often recommended because they have a slow growth rate and will not outgrow the limited space of a nano tank.

Before you stock your reef tank, take the time to research a few different species of coral to make sure you select the type that is right for you. Different species of coral have different requirements in terms of tank lighting and water movement, so match your corals to the conditions in your tank for the best results. You can also design your tank to cater to your corals if you are starting a new tank. 

comments powered by Disqus
Set-up Guide for a Reef Tank
Set-up Guide for a Reef Tank
If you have ever considered starting a reef tank, read this setup guide to make sure you start your reef tank off right.
Feeding Corals - Keeping Your Saltwater Invertebrates Healthy
Feeding Corals - Keeping Your Saltwater Invertebrates Healthy
If you want to keep your saltwater or reef tank healthy, you need to learn the basics of feeding corals.

Most Recent Forum Discussions

  • setting up tank - By vostric, (0 replies)

    I have a 20G tank, with a nice open space in the middle of my Eco-Complete substrate, I have my heater and filtration in, I ...

  • Brown algae on plants - By billy_corycat, (1 replies)

    What can I do about brown algae on my plants? What causes this? And will it kill my plants?

  • Black friday sales? - By billy_corycat, (0 replies)

    Is there anything aquarium related that usually goes on sale for Black Friday? I'm wondering if there's anything I could save money on - this ...

MOST RECENT ARTICLES

Sea Urchins in the Saltwater Tank
SEA URCHINS IN THE SALTWATER TANK
If you are looking for a unique invertebrate to add to your saltwater tank, consider the sea urchin.
The Top 5 Tetras for Breeding in the Home Aquarium
THE TOP 5 TETRAS FOR BREEDING IN THE HOME AQUARIUM
Breeding aquarium fish can be tricky, but with the right tank setup and preparation it can be done.
Aquarium Decorations
AQUARIUM DECORATIONS
Types of decorations.

SALTWATER AQUARIUM ARTICLES

REEF TANKS

Cultivating a saltwater reef tank can be a rewarding experience but it can also be a challenge. The articles in this section will provide you with the information you need to set up your reef tank and to make sure that it thrives.

Reef Aquariums
Reef Aquariums
An overview of the reef aquarium along with a short history.
What is a Nano Reef?
What is a Nano Reef?
Whether you are looking for a new challenge as a saltwater aquarium enthusiast or you are trying your hand at a reef tank for the first time, a nano reef is a great way to go.
Set-up Guide for a Reef Tank
Set-up Guide for a Reef Tank
If you have ever considered starting a reef tank, read this setup guide to make sure you start your reef tank off right.
Types of Coral for Reef Tanks
Types of Coral for Reef Tanks
Stocking a reef tank can be a challenge because there are so many different types of coral to choose from.
Feeding Corals - Keeping Your Saltwater Invertebrates Healthy
Feeding Corals - Keeping Your Saltwater Invertebrates Healthy
If you want to keep your saltwater or reef tank healthy, you need to learn the basics of feeding corals.
Common Myths and Problems Regarding Nano Reef Tanks
Common Myths and Problems Regarding Nano Reef Tanks
Cultivating a nano reef tank can be an exciting challenge.
Bristle Worms in the Marine Tank
Bristle Worms in the Marine Tank
Dealing with pests is an inescapable part of cultivating a marine tank.
Recommended Species for Nano Tanks
Recommended Species for Nano Tanks
Cultivating a nano tank can be an exciting challenge but unless you choose the right fish for your tank, you may be in trouble.
How to Care for Marine Blue Sponges
How to Care for Marine Blue Sponges
The blue sponge makes a great addition to the marine tank.
Beginner Coral Species: Low-Light Corals
Beginner Coral Species: Low-Light Corals
Keeping corals in a saltwater aquarium can be challenging but these low-light species are perfect for beginners.
Reef Aquariums: Is Bigger Really Better?
Reef Aquariums: Is Bigger Really Better?
Cultivating a reef tank is an exciting but challenging task - learn more about choosing the right size for your reef tank.
The Top 5 Most Colorful Corals for a Saltwater Tank
The Top 5 Most Colorful Corals for a Saltwater Tank
With more than 2,000 different species of coral out there, how do you choose the right option for your tank?
Tips for Using Rockwork in Saltwater and Reef Aquariums
Tips for Using Rockwork in Saltwater and Reef Aquariums
Building a beautiful saltwater tank landscape out of rock is a challenge but with some helpful tips you can make it work.
Read more articles (13) Aquarium Setup (11)
Saltwater Aquariums
Saltwater Aquariums
A brief introduction to saltwater aquariums.
Setting Up A Saltwater Tank System
Setting Up A Saltwater Tank System
What to Consider before Starting.
Getting The Tank Ready
Getting The Tank Ready
Creating an ecosystem.
Saltwater versus Freshwater Aquariums
Saltwater versus Freshwater Aquariums
Learn the arguments for choosing to set-up either a freshwater or saltwater aquarium.
How to Start a Brackish Tank
How to Start a Brackish Tank
If you are looking for a new challenge as an aquarium hobbyist, try cultivating a brackish tank.
Preparing Saltwater for your Marine Tank
Preparing Saltwater for your Marine Tank
Setting up and maintaining a marine tank can be a challenging experience and preparing your saltwater correctly is one of the most important tasks.
Handy Aquarium Accessories and Devices
Handy Aquarium Accessories and Devices
There are many accessories and handy devices which can make your life as an aquarium hobbyist easier.
Types of Saltwater Tanks: Fish-Only, FOWLR and Reef Tanks
Types of Saltwater Tanks: Fish-Only, FOWLR and Reef Tanks
There are several different types of saltwater aquariums to choose from and each has its benefits and drawbacks.
Stocking a Brackish Aquarium
Stocking a Brackish Aquarium
A brackish aquarium is an exciting challenge for the aquarium hobbyist.
Tips for Keeping Nocturnal Fish in the Marine Aquarium
Tips for Keeping Nocturnal Fish in the Marine Aquarium
When the sun sets and the moon rises, the reef doesn't go silent - a whole new group of inhabitants comes out to play.
What Are the Biggest Saltwater Aquarium Mistakes and How Do You Fix Them?
What Are the Biggest Saltwater Aquarium Mistakes and How Do You Fix Them?
Cultivating a saltwater aquarium is a hobby full of exciting challenges, but sometimes those challenges can get the better of you.
Aquarium Maintenance (18)
Saltwater and Reef Tank Cycling
Saltwater and Reef Tank Cycling
Tips on cycling your fishtank.
Why is Water Flow So Important in a Reef Tank?
Why is Water Flow So Important in a Reef Tank?
Cultivating a thriving reef tank can be a challenge with all of the requirements you must meet.
Maintaining Your Saltwater Tank
Maintaining Your Saltwater Tank
Tips for maintaining a saltwater fish tank.
What You Need to Know About pH in Marine Aquariums
What You Need to Know About pH in Marine Aquariums
Maintaining proper water quality in your tank is essential but many aquarium hobbyists overlook one important aspect - pH.
Getting Rid of Aiptasia in Your Reef Aquarium
Getting Rid of Aiptasia in Your Reef Aquarium
Learn about aiptasia in the reef aquarium and how to get rid of it.
How to Remove a Mantis Shrimp From a Saltwater Aquarium
How to Remove a Mantis Shrimp From a Saltwater Aquarium
In this article you will receive an overview of what mantis shrimp are, how they can impact your saltwater aquarium, and how to remove them properly.
What NOT to do with a Saltwater Tank
What NOT to do with a Saltwater Tank
Learn what "not" to do when starting out with your saltwater fish or reef tank.
How to Modify PH in a Saltwater Tank
How to Modify PH in a Saltwater Tank
The pH level in your saltwater tank is incredibly important for the health and vitality of your tank.
The Benefits of Algae in Saltwater Tanks
The Benefits of Algae in Saltwater Tanks
Many aquarium hobbyists assume that algae in the aquarium can only be bad.
The Dangers of High Ammonia, Nitrite and Nitrate
The Dangers of High Ammonia, Nitrite and Nitrate
Water quality is extremely important in maintaining a saltwater tank.
Dealing with Hard Water in the Saltwater Tank
Dealing with Hard Water in the Saltwater Tank
When it comes to maintaining a healthy saltwater tank, water quality is extremely important.
Kalkwasser for the Marine Tank
Kalkwasser for the Marine Tank
Maintaining proper calcium levels is an important part of keeping your marine tank healthy.
Salinity Requirements in a Saltwater Aquarium
Salinity Requirements in a Saltwater Aquarium
The key to maintaining a healthy saltwater aquarium is to strike the right balance in the salinity of your tank water.
How to Deal with Marine Fungus in the Saltwater Aquarium
How to Deal with Marine Fungus in the Saltwater Aquarium
Fungal spores are present in all aquariums but, if you are not careful, they can become a problem in the saltwater tank.
Why Do Fish Disappear from the Saltwater Tank?
Why Do Fish Disappear from the Saltwater Tank?
There is nothing as heart-breaking as losing a fish but it can be even more devastating when the fish simply disappears.
Maintenance Schedule for Reef Tanks
Maintenance Schedule for Reef Tanks
Maintaining a reef tank can be a challenge but as long as you keep up with your routine maintenance tasks, you should have no problem.
Choosing the Correct Temperature for a Marine Aquarium
Choosing the Correct Temperature for a Marine Aquarium
One of the most important things you must to do ensure the health of your marine tank is to achieve and maintain the ideal temperature.
How to Solve Common Saltwater Tank Problems
How to Solve Common Saltwater Tank Problems
Cultivating a thriving saltwater tank can be a challenge but it is also incredibly rewarding.
Aquarium Lighting (3)
Tips for Lighting a Reef Tank
Tips for Lighting a Reef Tank
When it comes to maintaining a thriving reef tank the type of lighting system you choose is incredibly important.
UV Sterilizers for Reef Aquariums
UV Sterilizers for Reef Aquariums
A UV sterilizer is a valuable piece of equipment to add to your reef tank or fish-only saltwater aquarium.
Heating and Filtration (8)
Saltwater Aquarium Filtration
Saltwater Aquarium Filtration
The type of filtration system you choose for your saltwater aquarium is incredibly important.
What is Protein Skimming?
What is Protein Skimming?
Learn about protein skimming, why it's important, and which aquarists should use it.
How to Keep Your Saltwater Aquarium from Overheating
How to Keep Your Saltwater Aquarium from Overheating
Learn how to keep your saltwater aquarium from overheating.
What is an Aquarium Sump?
What is an Aquarium Sump?
If you are new to the aquarium hobby you may not be familiar with the term "sump".
Common Problems with Heating in Saltwater Tanks
Common Problems with Heating in Saltwater Tanks
Maintaining a stable water temperature in your saltwater tank is important for the health and well-being of your fish.
Foam Build-up on Saltwater Tank Surface
Foam Build-up on Saltwater Tank Surface
Foam build-up is a common problem in the saltwater tank.
Reverse Osmosis for the Saltwater Tank
Reverse Osmosis for the Saltwater Tank
If you want to keep a healthy and thriving saltwater tank, you need to start with high-quality water.
Wavemakers for Saltwater Tanks
Wavemakers for Saltwater Tanks
If you want to keep your saltwater tank healthy, you need to consider the ideal level of water flow.
Nutrition and Feeding (6)
Tips for Feeding Saltwater Aquarium Fish
Tips for Feeding Saltwater Aquarium Fish
What you feed your fish will determine whether or not their reach their full potential.
Nutritional Needs of Saltwater Aquarium Fish
Nutritional Needs of Saltwater Aquarium Fish
In order to keep your saltwater aquarium fish healthy you need to understand and meet their basic nutritional needs.
Live Foods for Marine Fish
Live Foods for Marine Fish
Feeding your fish a proper diet is the key to keeping them healthy.
How to Raise Brine Shrimp
How to Raise Brine Shrimp
Brine shrimp are an excellent source of protein for aquarium fish and they are very easy to raise at home.
Tips for Getting Fussy Fish to Eat
Tips for Getting Fussy Fish to Eat
Feeding saltwater aquarium fish can be tricky, especially when your fish refuse to eat.
Top Commercial Foods for Saltwater Fish
Top Commercial Foods for Saltwater Fish
What you feed your saltwater aquarium fish will play a major role in determining their health and vitality.
Saltwater Fish Diseases (5)
How to Prevent Saltwater Fish Diseases
How to Prevent Saltwater Fish Diseases
There is nothing quite so heartbreaking as losing one of your fish to disease.
How to Deal with Marine Ich in the Saltwater Aquarium
How to Deal with Marine Ich in the Saltwater Aquarium
Marine Ich is a common disease affecting saltwater aquarium fish and, unless you know how to deal with it, it can spread quickly throughout your tank.
Good Medications to Keep on Hand
Good Medications to Keep on Hand
In the event that your fish become ill it is important that you take action to begin a treatment regimen as soon as possible.
Common Saltwater Aquarium Fish Diseases
Common Saltwater Aquarium Fish Diseases
No matter how hard you try, you cannot completely protect your fish from falling ill.
How to Treat Saltwater Aquarium Parasites with Freshwater
How to Treat Saltwater Aquarium Parasites with Freshwater
Parasites can quickly become a major problem in the saltwater aquarium if you do not address the issue immediately.
Aquarium Decorations (3)
How to Cure Your Live Rock Before Placing it in Your Aquarium
How to Cure Your Live Rock Before Placing it in Your Aquarium
Learn how to properly cure live rock before placing it in your tank.
Creating Your Own Live Rock for Saltwater Tanks
Creating Your Own Live Rock for Saltwater Tanks
Live rock is the foundation for any thriving saltwater tank and it is the base for saltwater aquarium decor.
Stocking the Tank (27)
Saltwater Fish Article Database
Saltwater Fish Article Database
Articles on dozens of saltwater fish and appropriate care.
Selecting and Caring for Saltwater Angelfish
Selecting and Caring for Saltwater Angelfish
Saltwater angelfish are some of the most colorful saltwater fish available.
What Are Good Saltwater Fish For Beginners
What Are Good Saltwater Fish For Beginners
What makes a saltwater fish a good candidate for beginners?
Sea Cucumbers for Reef Tanks
Sea Cucumbers for Reef Tanks
Sea cucumbers are found throughout the ocean but they are a popular addition to saltwater reef tanks.
Stocking Salt Water Reef Tanks
Stocking Salt Water Reef Tanks
Learn how to select the right quantity and combination of fish for your saltwater aquarium.
Keeping Lionfish in the Home Aquarium
Keeping Lionfish in the Home Aquarium
The lionfish is a beautiful but deadly fish that makes a unique addition to the saltwater aquarium.
Establishing up a Clean-up Crew in Your Saltwater Aquarium
Establishing up a Clean-up Crew in Your Saltwater Aquarium
Learn how to properly select and establish a clean-up crew in a saltwater or reef aquarium.
Guide for Keeping Anemones in a Reef Tank
Guide for Keeping Anemones in a Reef Tank
Keeping anemones in a reef tank can be a challenge if you are not fully prepared.
Saltwater Species That Should Not be Kept by Beginners (and Sometimes not Even by the Experienced)
Saltwater Species That Should Not be Kept by Beginners (and Sometimes not Even by the Experienced)
Learn about saltwater animals that beginners (and sometimes experts) should avoid keeping.
Hermit Crabs in Saltwater Tanks
Hermit Crabs in Saltwater Tanks
Hermit crabs do more than just add decoration to the saltwater tank -- they can also help to keep your tank clean.
Commonly Available Reef-Safe Fish & Invertebrates
Commonly Available Reef-Safe Fish & Invertebrates
Learn about commonly available reef-safe fish and invertebrates that are good candidates for your reef aquarium.
Top Recommendations for Tank-Raised Saltwater Fish
Top Recommendations for Tank-Raised Saltwater Fish
When purchasing saltwater aquarium fish, you need to think about whether the fish are tank-raised or captive-bred.
The Benefits of Purchasing Saltwater Fish Online
The Benefits of Purchasing Saltwater Fish Online
If you are thinking about buying some new fish for your saltwater tank, think about purchasing them online!
Keeping Moray Eels in the Marine Tank
Keeping Moray Eels in the Marine Tank
Moray eels can be a challenge to keep in the home aquarium but they are well worth it.
Tips for Caring for Tangs Properly
Tips for Caring for Tangs Properly
Tangs are a group of fish that make excellent additions to the saltwater tank.
Marine Shrimp for the Saltwater or Reef Tank
Marine Shrimp for the Saltwater or Reef Tank
Marine shrimp can be a useful addition to the saltwater tank - just be sure to pick the right species.
Sea Urchins in the Saltwater Tank
Sea Urchins in the Saltwater Tank
If you are looking for a unique invertebrate to add to your saltwater tank, consider the sea urchin.
Why Are Tangs Some of the Best Fish for Reef Tanks?
Why Are Tangs Some of the Best Fish for Reef Tanks?
Tangs are not just some of the most brightly colored species of tropical saltwater fish - they are also great additions to the reef tank.
Understanding the Coloration of Saltwater Fish
Understanding the Coloration of Saltwater Fish
Have you ever been dazzled by the bright colors and bold patterns of a school of saltwater fish?
What's That? The Top 10 Strangest Looking Saltwater Fish
What's That? The Top 10 Strangest Looking Saltwater Fish
There are some odd=looking animals out there but these ten saltwater fish are among the strangest.
The Benefits of Snails in the Saltwater Tank
The Benefits of Snails in the Saltwater Tank
While snails are often viewed as a nuisance in the freshwater tank, they can serve a valuable purpose in the saltwater aquarium.
Choosing the Right Butterflyfish for Your Reef Tank
Choosing the Right Butterflyfish for Your Reef Tank
Cultivating a reef tank is a unique challenge, not only because caring for corals is tricky but because it can be difficult to find reef-safe fish.
The Secret to Keeping Seahorses
The Secret to Keeping Seahorses
If you are looking for a unique inhabitant to add to your saltwater tank, consider the seahorse.
Caring for Saltwater Gobies
Caring for Saltwater Gobies
The Goby family is one of the largest families of marine fishes, having over 2,000 unique species.
Clownfish in the Reef Aquarium
Clownfish in the Reef Aquarium
Clownfish are one of the most recognizable types of saltwater aquarium fish.
Tank-Raised Fish for Saltwater Aquariums
Tank-Raised Fish for Saltwater Aquariums
Stocking the saltwater aquarium can be an exciting challenge, especially when you have so many options to choose from.
Keeping and Breeding Mandarinfish
Keeping and Breeding Mandarinfish
Mandarinfish are a small, colorful species of saltwater aquarium fish.

READ AQUARIUM ARTICLES