Best Hardy & Easy Beginner Corals – Mushrooms, Polyps, & Leathers

Fish aren’t the stars in a reef aquarium. The coral landscape is the main attraction. Some corals can be very difficult to care for but we’ll list out the best hardy and easy beginner corals to get you going. I prefer the beginner corals. I appreciate not having to worry over them as much. Others prefer the challenge of the more difficult corals. If you’re just starting out go slow. You’ll want to get a good feel for what it takes to care for various corals. Also, no reef will likely only house difficult corals. Variety is part of what makes a reef tank so inviting. Add more challenging ones later to increase diversity. 

Hardy & Easy Corals Overview

Feeding Beginner Corals

Photosynthetic

  • They contain symbiotic algae called zooxanthellae that live within them

Water Column Scavenging

  • They will feed off of uneaten food given to your fish and other micro-organisms floating in your aquarium

These corals also require various trace elements. This is likely not going to be a major concern if you are performing regular water changes and using a quality reef salt as it will contain all the trace elements necessary.

Lighting requirements will vary somewhat from coral to coral however most will not require especially powerful lighting. To manage caring for various corals with various lighting requirements you can simply place those with higher needs toward the top and the others further down.

Also, generally you’ll want to maintain spacing between different species of coral. Corals have evolved to attempt to “claim” their turf by stinging or otherwise attempting to harm other corals they brush up against.

3 Categories of Beginner Corals

Mushrooms

Polyps

Leathers

Care Level

Easy

Easy

Easy

Aggressiveness

Low

Low to Semi-Aggressive

Low

Lighting Requirements

Low to Moderate

Moderate to Strong

Moderate to Strong

Water Flow

Moderate

Moderate

Moderate to Strong

Tank Placement

Bottom to Middle

Middle to Top

All

Easy & Hardy Mushroom Beginner Corals

First, let’s cover mushrooms. As you might expect, these corals have a mushroom-like appearance. They come in many variations of colors and textures. I’m personally partial to the green hairy mushrooms. When stray food lands on a mushroom they close up to digest it. This can be entertaining for spot feeding.

Some Actinodiscus Mushroom Variations

Spotted

Spotted Mushroom Coral

Green

Blue

Blue Mushroom Coral

Striped

Some Rhodactis Mushroom Variations

Purple/Blue

Purple/Blue Rhodactis

Hairy

Green

Red

Red Rhodactis

Easy & Hardy Polyp Beginner Corals

Next up are Polyps. There are many types of these vibrant corals The most popular is by far zoanthids. Zoanthid polyps are visually stunning additions to any reef aquarium. They come in a wide variety of vibrant colors and grow in large colonies.

Some Zoanthid Polyp Variations

Darth Maul

Darth Maul Zoa

Scrambled Egg

Purple People Eater

Kazzam

Kazzam Zoa

There are several other types of polyps which are listed below. A few noteworthy ones are Xenia, Protopalythoa, and Clavularia.

  • Xenia is quite attractive despite the lack of color variety. Their polyps are on long stalks and pulse by opening and closing gently as they sway in the current.
  • Protopalythoa bare a resemblance to Zoanthids although they tend to be a little less vibrant and have longer tentacles along their edges.
  • Clavularia are star-like polyps with a few color variations with brightly colored centers.

Other Polyp Variations

Clavularia

Knopia

Knopia

Pulsing Xenia

Pulsing Xenia

Protopalythoa

Easy & Hardy Leather Beginner Corals

Last but not least, leathers. These are larger corals coming in various shapes. Some are large mushroom-like while others have a more tree-like appearance. Leathers tend to be rather majestic and a great contrast to the smaller mushroom and polyp corals.

Some Leather Variations

Devil’s Hand

Colt

Kenya Tree

Kenya Tree

Toadstool

In Conclusion

Start with a couple of these easier to care for corals. As you become for confident, add more. Slowly build up some diversity. Before you know it you’ll have a stunning reef to admire. Good luck!

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