9 Beautiful Beginner Corals For Reef Tanks

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Looking to make a show stopping easy to keep coral reef tank? I’ve been in your shoes before starting out having no clue what corals to get, yet wanting the prettiest corals to find. Good looking corals do not have to be difficult to keep. There are plenty of beginner corals that not only are good looking, but make reef keeping easy to do.

But what are these corals? Don’t worry, I have you covered. I have over 20 years of experience as a reefkeeper and have been involved in various client builds. My clients usually want easy to keep (or they just pay up for monthly maintenance ?). Either way, this post will focus on the easiest and more unique corals for your reef tank.

So let’s get started shall we?

The Criteria – How I Selected These Corals

Every coral on this list I’m going over here was hand picked by me. I used the following criteria to select them:

  • Variety
  • Ease of Care
  • Invasiveness
  • Type

Variety

I like colorful colors, and I feel you do too if you are reading this. Variety is everything with a coral reef tank. Hitting all the bright colors in a reef tank makes your tank the envy of your house guests. I put these corals on this list if they had multiple types and colors available. Green is the most plentiful color of corals – and no one wants a green only coral tank.

Ease of Case

I prefer corals that are easy to care for. The corals that melt as soon an my Alkalinity swings and are super sensitive to nutrient swings I have not selected. These corals for the most part fall under “bullet-proof” status in our hobby

Invasiveness

It would be very easy (and lazy) for me to just make a list and write down corals like Xenia, Green Star Polyps, and other easy to care soft corals. These are easy to grow, but they are also very invasive. They can take over a tank if you let them. You came here for easy to care and pretty – so that’s what I’m delivering.

Type

We have three types of corals in our hobby – Soft, LPS, and SPS corals. I have categorized each on this list because I know not everyone want to hear an aquarist tell them to only get soft corals. There are easy to care for corals in every category. Yes, the hard corals will require dosing, but overall these hard corals are forgiving and approachable for beginners

Easy Corals For Beginners – A Quick Comparison

I’m going to break down this list by category – Soft corals, LPS, and SPS. I’ll go over each one in detail

In a hurry? The best beginner coral are Zoas. Shop WYSIYSG or check out eBay Auctions for rare varieties

PictureNameFeaturesLink
Best Soft Coral
Zoanthids
Zoanthids
  • Soft Coral
  • All Placements
Click For Best PriceBuy On eBay
Best LPS Coral
Frogspawn
Frogspawn
  • LPS
  • Bottom to Middle Placement
Click For Best Price
Best SPS Coral
Birdnest Coral
Birdnest Coral
  • SPS
  • Middle to Top placement
Buy On eBay
Mushroom Coral Mushroom Coral
  • Soft Coral
  • All Placements
Click For Best PriceBuy On eBay
Toadstool Leather Coral Toadstool Leather Coral
  • Soft Coral
  • Middle to Top Placement
Click For Best Price
Hammer Coral Hammer Coral
  • LPS
  • Bottom to Middle Placement
Click For Best Price
Blasto Coral Blasto Coral
  • Bottom to Middle
Click For Best Price
Pocillopora Pocillopora
  • SPS Coral
  • Top to Mid Placement
Buy On eBay
Monti Cap Coral Monti Cap Coral
  • SPS Coral
  • Top to Mid Placement
Buy On eBay

The 9 Best Beginner Corals For Reef Tanks

Let’s go over each coral and see why beginners do so well with them!

1. Zoanthids (AKA Zoas)

The Zoa is the most amazing coral in our hobby. The basic zoa is cheap, easy to frag, grows fast, and is easy to care for. They are available in any color imaginable. Blues, reds, yellows, orange, purples it’s all there. They are also for all budgets. Some are so cheap and plentiful you can get them from reefing buddies.

Others can sell for hundreds of dollars for a few polyps! Did I mention they are easy to care for? They can thrive with the most basic reef led and will do fine in mixed reefs or growing with high intensity SPS dominated tanks.

I feel that every reef tank should have one of these wonderful corals. They offer so much variety and they can be dropped anywhere to accent other corals. Zoas are the best corals for beginners.

Key Zoanthids Coral Stats:

  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Lighting: Low
  • Water Flow: Low to Moderate
  • Placement: Anywhere

2. Frogspawn Coral

Best LPS Coral
Frogspawn

Editor's Choice

A readily available, hardy, and beautiful LPS coral. Great for beginners and forgiving

Shop WYSIWYG Click For Best Price

The frogspawn is my favorite LPS Coral. It is easy to care for and has a great color combination. There are also exotic varieties like octospawn and orange available if you will willing to pay more. They are forgiving with parameters and do not grow fast to the point where you can keep them without dosing much.

The only downfall with them is that they are aggressive. They will sting corals near them with their sweeper tentacles. However, there is a trick with this. Frogspawns and hammer corals will not sting each other and will live together. It would be best to place corals that you do not want to overgrow like Zoas near them so they can keep them in check. As long as you can work with their aggressive nature, they make amazing showpieces in a reef tank. When it comes to LPS coral for beginners, the Frogspawn takes the crown.

Key Frogspawn Coral Stats:

  • Temperament: Aggressive
  • Lighting: Medium
  • Water Flow: Low to Moderate
  • Placement: Middle

3. Birdsnest Coral

Best SPS Coral
Birdsnest Coral

A Great First Time SPS Coral

The birdnest offers an introduction to SPS keeping. Forgiving and hardy for an SPS, it will offer you the experience you need to get confident on more difficult corals

Buy On eBay

SPS corals are intimating for anyone starting a coral reef tank. Most of the stories of tank crashes and failures usually come from Acropora corals. There are several varieties of SPS corals that fall under forgiviing. The birdnest coral is the toughest SPS coral you will find in the category. With facilities like ORA producing tank raised corals, they are getting more and more adaptive to home aquaria then ever before

While they will require dosing to keep reef parameters up, they offer a good introduction to SPS reefing. They come in several colors from greens, pinks, purples, and red. They are a great stepping stone for moving up to the Montipora and Acroporas of the world as you have success with these. They can handle “dirty” water parameters better than all other SPS corals.

Key Birdnest Coral Stats:

  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Lighting: High
  • Water Flow: Medium to Strong
  • Placement: Middle to Top

4. Mushroom Coral

Mushroom Corals

Mushroom corals have exploded in variety over the last few years. Multiple colors available and lots of exotic varieties. Affordable and easy to care for!

Click For Best Price Buy On eBay

The mushroom coral sometimes will get a bad rap for reefers. This is because Disco mushrooms are so popular for newbies and their invasive nature to reproduce everywhere. These days though, the Mushroom coral has really come into their own, rivaling the Zoa with its variety of colors.

The main unique mushrooms these days are the Florida Ricordia mushrooms and exotic mushrooms like Jawbreaker Discos and Bounce Mushrooms. The later two are very expensive, but the Ricordia offers a lot of variety and color. They are my favorite mushrooms because they have great colors and are affordable. They also do not reproduce like crazy.

Give mushroom corals a shot, you won’t be disappointed with their colors and ease of care!

Key Mushroom Coral Stats:

  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Lighting: Low
  • Water Flow: Low to Moderate
  • Placement: Anywhere

5. Toadstool Leather Coral

Toadstool Leather Coral

This leather coral offers a showpiece sized coral that is easy to care for. Requires no dosing and thrives in a variety of conditions

Click For Best Price Buy Japanese Toadstool

The Toadstool Leather Coral used to be the most prominent coral in the early days of reefing. If you had one of those you were the envy of your reef community. Growing over the size of a dinner plate, these leather corals will become the centerpiece of your reef tank and they are very easy to care for.

Because they get so large, they also save you a lot of money in the long run since you would need less corals with the space they take.

Leather corals like the toadstool have taken a backseat over the years with the popularity of designer SPS corals and LPS varieties like Euphyllias. However, they still offer an amazing showpiece coral at a reasonable price and they are easy to care for. They require no dosing whatsoever and are very forgiveness with parameters.

Key Toadstool Leather Coral Stats:

  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Lighting: Low to Moderate
  • Water Flow: Moderate to High
  • Placement: Middle to Top

6. Hammer Coral (Branching Type Only)

Anemone Look-Alike
Hammer Coral

A great anemone lookalike coral. Easy to care for. Look for branching types vs wall type

Click For Best Price Buy On EBay

I mentioned the hammer coral as being able live peaceful with frogspawn corals. The hammer coral makes this list for being amazing to look at and being moderately easy to care for. However, you need to have caution when purchasing one.

This is because hammer corals are sold in either wall or branching varieties. The wall varieties will usually offer more exotic colors, but are harder to care for. With walls if the colony gets diseases or starts dying, the entire coral will go up in smoke. However, with branching types, you can simply cut off the diseased or dying area and the rest of the colony will keep going.

Like frogspawn corals, these are aggressive corals that will sting others nearby with their sweeper tentacles. As long as you pair them with the right corals you should be fine. They also do not grow fast so you can work your way into dosing as they grow.

Key Hammer Coral Stats:

  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Lighting: Low to Moderate
  • Water Flow: Low to Moderate
  • Placement: Bottom to Middle

7. Blasto Coral

Blasto Coral

An affordable and easy to care for LPS coral. They are a great way to get reds in your reef tank

Click For Best Price Buy On EBay

The Blasto Coral lands on this list because of their prominent red colors and ease of care. They also come in oranges now if you are looking at Aussie variety. They are one of the most peaceful LPS corals you can purchase and do not grow fast. Because they do not grow fast, you can ease into reef parameter maintenance. If you are looking for an easy to care for red or orange color, this is a great addition!

Key Blasto Coral Stats:

  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Lighting: Low to Moderate
  • Water Flow: Low to Moderate
  • Placement: Bottom to Middle

8. Pocillopora Coral

The Pocillopora Coral is a easier to keep SPS coral that offers a fuzzy like look when they are fully expanded. They come in greens, pinks, and purples. Their skelton structure provides a more uniform look over the birdnest which can have sharp branches while the Pocillopora has smooth and thicker branches.

This is another SPS coral that you use to get your feet wet before attempting harder ones like Acropora. They are also peaceful, won’t bother other corals, and have lower light level requirements than other SPS corals. They are a moderate grower. You will need to get on a dosing schedule to keep one long-term.

Key Pocillopora Coral Stats:

  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Lighting: Moderate to High
  • Water Flow: Moderate to High
  • Placement: Middle to Top

9. Montipora Cap Coral

Montipora Cap Coral

The Monti Cap coral is a good stepping stone to serious SPS reefkeeping. Becomes large and grows very fast

Buy On eBay

The Monti Cap Coral is the hardest to keep coral on this list. Even with that statement, many experienced SPS keepers say thing coral is un-killable to them. The key thing with selection is to not go for the design Monti Caps. The basic ones like the greens and reds (like the one in the picture) are often hardy and forgiving.

Plating Montipora make up the majority of reef building corals in the ocean1 . It makes sense giving how large they can grow even in a the confines of an aquarium!

And that size and fast growing rate is what makes easier varieties more difficult is their rate of growth. Their fast growing rate will exhaust calcium quickly, thus bringing down your alkalinity level. If you are not on a proper dosing schedule, this can quickly mean disaster for a first timer.

They get very large, which will save you money in the run and cutting them up as they get bigger offers the opportunity to community build and get credits from your local fish store. If you are thinking of getting serious about SPS keeping and fragging, this is a good jumping point.

Key Pocillopora Coral Stats:

  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Lighting: Moderate to High
  • Water Flow: Moderate to High
  • Placement: Middle to Top

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Here are some common questions I’ve gotten from readers. If I get additional e-mails and comments I find relevant, I will add to this list

What Is The Hardiest Coral?

The hardiest coral is going to be a coral that is tank raised and not a designer coral. Saying that, zoas and mushroom corals I would consider the hardiest corals in the hobby. They are happy in lower light environments and they are tolerant of parameter swings and high nutrients. They are as bullet proof as you can get with coral species!

When Can I Start Adding Corals?

You can start adding corals as soon as your aquarium completes the nitrogen cycle and the initial algae blooms pass. You do not need to add fish first to the aquarium. Many reefers these days jump straight into corals as soon as they cycle the tank. I would encourage you to do the same if you are shopping for easy to keep corals.

Are Corals Easy To Keep?

Yes, most corals are easy to keep. It’s about selecting the correct ones that do not require intense light, are tolerate of nutrient levels, and are forgiveness with parameter swings. All the corals I listed on this blog post are forgiving for first timers. All corals regardless of have husbandry requirements and water changes should be done regularly if nutrients get high.

What Are The Hardest Corals To Keep?

The hardest corals to keep in saltwater reef tanks would be Acropora corals and Non Photosynthetic Corals (NPS) like Tube Corals. Acropora demand stable parameters, high flow, and intense light. NPS corals require consistent manual feeding to keep thriving

How Long Do Corals Take To Grow?

Some corals like SPS corals go very fast in a stable reef tank. Others like Euphillya corals grow at a slower pace. The fastest growing corals would be soft corals like green star polyps and Xenia – both of which were left off this list because they can be invasive due to their growth rate.

Where Should I Put Corals In My Tank?

We define placement for corals in three categories – low, mid, and top. Where you should place your coral will be according to the placement recommendation. Some corals like Zoas can be placed anywhere in the aquarium, while others like SPS will prefer the top or middle. These are based off the corals water flow and light intensity requirements

Note – you can always design an reef tank where the top of the aquarium has medium light intensity and medium water flow to suit a mostly LPS or lower light reef tank.

What Are Your Favorite Corals For Beginners?

Have any stories of your bulletproof corals that survived a tank crash? Share your stories below and get involved in the discussion, Leave a comment and let’s get a discussion going! Thanks for reading and see you next time!

by Mark

Mark is the founder of Aquarium Store Depot. He started in the aquarium hobby at the age of 11 and along the way worked at local fish stores. He has kept freshwater tanks, ponds, and reef tanks for over 25 years. His site was created to share his knowledge and unique teaching style on a larger scale. He has worked on making aquarium and pond keeping approachable. Mark has been featured in two books about aquarium keeping - both best sellers on Amazon. Each year, he continues to help his readers and clients with knowledge, professional builds, and troubleshooting.

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