15 Best Corals to Grow in a Reef Tank
Disclosure: I may earn a commission when you purchase through my affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. – read more
Keeping corals in a reef tank can be a fun experience. Even though it might take some time for you to properly maintain the corals and grow them to their full potential, the results can be quite rewarding.
The appeal and the popularity of the corals are very high, and it is easy to see why; some of them are really interesting and beautiful to look at, with some interesting colorations and growth patterns that can impress anyone.
When you think of a coral, you probably imagine the vivid colors of an ocean or of the Great Barrier Reef and the variety of different fish species that can be found in such environments.
There is no wonder that so many people are fascinated by coral reefs and want to recreate it in their own reef tank.
One of the most important and possibly one of the first decisions you would have to make is probably to decide what kinds of corals you will have in your reef tank.
When deciding for the right corals for your reef tank, you have to consider some things; firstly, you need to consider the size of the coral when it fully grows.
Then, you also need to consider how the coral looks and whether it would fit the fish in your tank. There are more types of corals to choose from.
Types of Corals
There are two types of different corals to choose from: the soft corals and the hard corals. What is the difference between the two and how to maintain each type of corals?
Hard corals are quite different from soft corals in the fact that they have hard, stony skeletons made of calcium. They are also called stony corals. Hard corals require special care within your aquarium; they can be quite demanding.
Hard corals need a strong lighting environment – 5 watts of light per gallon and also some supplemental minerals. Although they can be quite demanding and hard to keep, they also look really beautiful and unique.
Soft corals have a different structure than hard corals; they do not have stony skeletons based on calcium, but rather they have bodies made of soft tissues called the spiracles. Although they can be demanding to care for, they are less demanding than the hard corals.
Soft corals also need plenty of light (5 watts of light per gallon), and also mineral supplementation, but significantly less than the hard corals. One thing you do need to consider is that soft corals can reproduce quite fast and spread across the hard surfaces of the tank.
Best Corals for Reef Tanks
Now that you know what the various types of corals are, let us take a look at 15 best corals to grow in a reef tank.
1. Galaxea Coral
The galaxea coral is a stony coral that comes from the family of the Euphyllidae. These corals can be found in the Pacific and the Indian Ocean. Often, they are found in waters that are at most 65 feet deep. The galaxea coral is also called the crystal, galaxy, starburst or tooth coral.
This coral is a very beautiful specimen. It is very popular with reef tank owners due to its appearance. It has quite a delicate skeleton with polyps that glow – they look like crystals.
Also, the movement of the crystals is mesmerizing, as they move around with the current, which makes a nice effect.
While they can be quite delicate, you need to provide them with proper care; make sure it gets enough light and low or moderate water movement and also enough space.
2. Grube’s Gorgonian
Grube’s Gorgonian (or the Pinnigorgia flava) is a soft coral that can be found in many home reef corals. It is very popular due to its unique look – it is an octocoral with thin branches, and it can be found in many different colors.
The colors range from tan to pink, and the polyps also have similar colors.
This type of coral is actually quite new; it was first collected in 1990 and has grown in popularity since. It was then introduced into Europe and all across the world.
These corals are not as delicate as some others, but still, provide them with the right conditions – moderate water flow, moderate lighting and it can be placed on all levels.
3. Zoanthids Coral
Zoanthids are corals that belong to stony corals. They are stunning-looking corals that are sure to blow anyone’s mind.
Some of the colors and the shapes that these corals can create are really incredible, and there is no surprise why these corals are one of the most popular corals out there.
The most interesting feature about the zoanthids is the fact that they can be actually placed anywhere in the tank; but they do have their preferences.
For instance, they prefer to be placed in areas where the lighting is medium to strong, and where there is indirect high-water flow. Other than that, these corals will grow quite quickly and are some of the best-looking corals you can get.
4. Fuzzy Lobo Coral
The Fuzzy Lobo is a great coral for beginners and for more advanced users of reef tanks as well. It has an incredible texture to offer, and it can adapt to various living conditions. Fuzzy Lobo Coral is certainly not as demanding as some other types of corals and it still looks great.
It has a smooth, glossy look to it. This can be placed in any position – from low to high, and in various lighting conditions. It can handle low light conditions as well as stronger lighting. You can see why this coral is so loved – it is very adaptable and definitely not as demanding as many other corals out there are. The flow needs to be moderate or high in order to best suit this coral.
5. Green Polyp Leather Coral
The Green Polyp Leather, also known as the Sarcopython coral is a coral that can fit many different reef tank settings. It is very appropriate for beginners and just about everybody that owns a reef tank.
It should be attached to a rock and placed in an aquarium with a predominantly sandy bottom.
You should take note that these corals do require ample space to live to their fullest; they are certainly quite peaceful corals and will happily live in a variety of different settings.
In general, they prefer moderate to a high level of lighting, medium water flow, and slightly basic water parameters. Provide them with some iodine and strontium supplements and they will be healthy and live for longer.
6. Elephant Ear Mushroom Coral
The elephant ear mushroom is often mistaken for the edible morel mushrooms, which is why they are often consumed unknowingly.
These corals come from Vietnam and Fiji and have gained plenty of popularity worldwide. They have mainly a large, wavy surface and a leathery texture.
In terms of behavior, these corals are semi-aggressive; however, they are completely peaceful if they are provided with enough space to live.
They are quite easy to care for: they feed on bacteria but provide them with iodine supplements from time to time to keep them completely healthy.
The lighting should be low to moderate for these corals. The same goes for the water flow in your tank.
7. Metallic Green Galaxea Coral
The metallic green galaxea is a very beautiful coral. It is a stony coral that has green tentacles with milk-white points. It belongs to the family of galaxea corals.
While they can be quite aggressive towards other corals, they are quite easy to care for and maintain.
To prevent them from becoming aggressive, you need to provide them with enough space in order for them to not attack other creatures with their tentacles.
These corals strive in various different conditions; in general, they like to live in moderate to high lighting levels and in medium water flow.
8. Forest Fire Montipora Digitata Coral
The forest fire montiporas digitate belong to the SPS family of corals. This means that they are well-suited to living in tanks with other SPS corals, but they can also adapt to mixed reef tanks really well.
You can find them in a variety of different shapes and sizes; mostly, they come with light-green bodies with red or orange polyps.
These corals can be quite sensitive to water parameters and conditions in the tank. Make sure that the water flow is high, and that the lighting is relatively high.
Other than that, make sure that you do not place them with aggressive corals in the tank, as they will get intimidated as they have no real defense mechanism.
9. Purple Montipora Capricornis Coral
Often referred to as the Vase Coral, the purple montipora capricornis is an SPS coral that can be found in a variety of different shapes and sizes.
They are mostly round-shaped corals and can be found in other forms as well, but mostly they are found in purple color.
The purple montipora capricornis is a very peaceful coral. They will strive if they are placed next to more peaceful corals. If you provide them with proper living conditions, you can expect to see very quick growth of these corals.
Place them on a rock and make sure that the lighting and the water flow are moderate, and you will have some very nice-looking corals.
10. Birdsnest Coral
The birdsnest is quite a delicate SPS coral with tiny branches and neon polyps.
Although you can find this coral in some other color variations too, this seems to be the primary color pattern of these beautiful corals.
While they can be quite delicate about some matters, the lighting conditions are not one of them. They can strive in various lighting conditions – from low to high lighting. It is best to keep them in moderate lighting conditions.
What you do need to care about is the water flow – it should be kept intermittent in order to bring the best colors out of the corals.
11. Purple Stylophora
The vivid colors of the purple stylophora are sure to stun anyone. These colors will be displayed in the best possible conditions.
For the purple stylophora corals, it is best to have quite a strong lighting in order to bring the most out of these corals.
In the wild, these corals are found in waters with very strong water currents, which is why it is best to keep the water flow as strong as possible.
It is better to start growing these corals in frags rather than with large colonies.
All in all, these corals are very beautiful corals and you can expect a lot if you provide them with optimal living conditions – strong water current and strong lighting would work best.
12. Red Goniopora
The red goniopora is top-tier coral with bright-red coloration and white tips. It is a fast-growing coral that also looks great.
If you provide them with perfect conditions, these corals will award you with stunning bright colors and very fast growth.
To begin with, you should aim to have moderate lighting in your reef tank to allow the corals to settle and accommodate to your tank.
After a while, it might be a better idea to turn up the lighting to bring the best colors out of these corals.
As for the water flow, it should be moderate to strong, which seems to represent their natural habitat in the best way.
Some users have reported very short life spans of these corals; they can be quite sensitive, and they might be a bit too much for a beginner. Make sure you make enough research before you get them.
13. Hyacinth Birdsnest
The hyacinth birdsnest is a branching coral that can be found in different color varieties.
It can be found in pink, tan, green and also some other colors. The best way to keep these corals is in moderate to strong water flow and with moderate lighting in the reef tank.
In general, these corals are quite peaceful, but you should keep aggressive corals away from this type of coral, as they might get intimidated easily.
Compared to other types of the genus, the hyacinth birdsnest requires relatively lower levels of lighting, but still a moderate to a high level of lighting to see the best color variations of the coral.
14. Raspberry Coral
The raspberry coral is a coral that looks very similar to raspberries; which is also why they are called so. These beautiful purple creatures need to be maintained properly in order to see the best colors and keep them as healthy as possible.
The water flow for these corals should be kept at a moderate level, and they also require quite a high level of lighting in order to bring the best out of these corals.
15. Ant Insignis Coral
The ant insignis is not a subspecies of ants, but it is rather a coral that comes from the Ant atoll, which is near the Caroline Islands.
It can be found to about 10 feet in depth. These corals feature very rich growth and some very interesting patterns. It comes mostly in green, pink and purple colors with some bright spots.
In your reef tank, you should seek to place them in the middle of the tank or near the top of it. To acclimatize the corals to your tank in the first few weeks, it might be a good idea to keep the lighting at moderate and then increase it after a couple of weeks so that it is at a high level. Another thing to keep in mind is that these corals prefer a moderate to strong water flow.
These corals are quite small, so you can place more of them together in the tank. In general, these corals are quite easy to care for, and most importantly, they are very beautiful. The colors that these corals can have are absolutely mesmerizing, so try to keep the conditions at optimal levels at all times in order to reap the full benefits.
There are many corals to choose from to have in a reef tank. Sometimes, it can be quite hard to choose the right corals for your tank due to the wide array of choices that you can make. To pick the most compatible corals together, you can look at this list and choose the right corals.
The most important factors when choosing the right corals for your reef tank are the amount of care the corals need, what lighting levels they require and in what water flow they prefer to be. Most of the corals are quite adaptable, but there are some that you need to take special care of.
Hopefully, you are now able to choose the right coral for your tank. Good luck with your corals and may they grow and live long.