There are few things in this world more beautiful than a well-garnished saltwater aquarium with an array of fish and corals. But not all corals are made equally, and some require more care and maintenance than others. Unlike fish where you just sprinkle in some food, you can’t do this to feed your corals. Rather, corals require a delicate balance of light and nutrients in order to survive. But what corals are best for beginners? The answer to this, of course, depends on which kind of lighting you are using in your tank. Today we will focus on some of the best low light corals for beginners.
Two of the best types of corals for beginners are soft corals and LPS corals. Of course, not all soft and LPS corals are suitable for low lights, but we will talk more about this later. For now, let’s just learn a little more about soft and LPS corals:
What are soft corals?
Soft corals are actually a type of animal, though many of them share a closer resemblance with plants. They are usually very flexible, and some may take on a leathery appearance. Because soft corals are a type of colonial organism, they form around colonies of polyps. You can tell the difference between soft and hard corals by the number of tentacles that the polyps have. Polyps of soft corals have 8 tentacles, while polyps of hard corals only have 6. Soft coral polyps also tend to take on a feathery appearance, while hard corals do not.
What are LPS Corals?
LPS corals, or Large Polyp Stony corals, are larger corals with fleshy polyps. These corals have a calcium-based structure and do often require more care in terms of water change cycles. Having said that, some LPS corals are easier to maintain than others. Here are some low light LPS corals that are labeled as “easy” for beginners:
What are some Low Light Soft Corals for Beginners?
- Mushroom coral
More scientifically referred to as Discosoma Corals, most mushroom corals require very little light. In fact, most corals of this variety don’t react well to bright lights at all. These corals often lie flat on live rock colonies, are easy to care for, and are considered ideal for beginners. Mushroom coral comes in a variety of different colors and grows to approximately 2 inches in length. They thrive when placed towards the sides and on the bottom of reef tanks. Read our mushroom coral care guide here.
Zoanthids, more commonly referred to as zoas, are a small soft coral that range in color from yellow, to pink, to red, to blue, to many variations in between. These corals tend to grow in sheets across live rocks and are some of the easiest corals to grow and care for. In terms of lighting, this type of coral can be very forgiving. Zoanthids thrive in all different types of lighting but are known for doing particularly well in low lighting situations.
- Kenya Tree
Kenya tree coral is a type of soft coral that can thrive in a variety of living conditions, making it the ideal choice for beginners. Kenya tree coral isn’t quite as colorful as some other varieties, and typically comes in shades of brown, pink, or occasionally, green. This type of coral grows quickly and has no problem fragging on its own. While these corals can survive in many different conditions, they do best in low to moderate lighting.
The Pulsing Xenia is a unique type of soft coral named after its ability to open and close its polyps in a pulsing motion. As the coral grows, it groups into colonies and spreads across the rock. This breed has a peaceful temperament and requires low to moderate light, but caution should be used when buying Xenia as they can become invasive in a tank. They are okay for beginners, but be sure to take the proper precautions to prevent it from spreading out of control.
What are some Low Light LPS Corals for beginners?
- Duncan Coral
Image credit: Adam Wimsatt Flickr.com
The Duncan coral is a peaceful type of coral that requires low to moderate lighting conditions. This coral looks much like an anemone and is considered to be a tough coral that is good for beginners. This type of coral provides a great deal of movement and will bring your aquarium to life. They also tend to grow quite quickly and are considered a great choice for beginner fraggers.
- Blasto Coral
Blasto Coral is an excellent way to add some color to your aquarium. Blasto Corals come in a variety of different colors, and again, do best in low lighting. This type of coral tends to be considered “low risk” for beginners and is also on the cheaper side to buy.
- Hammer Corals
Image credit: David Davies Flickr.com
Hammer Corals derive their name from their hammer-shaped tentacles. Like Blasto Coral, Hammer Coral is a great way to add some color to your aquarium. Hammer corals can come in a variety of different shades of each green, brown, tan, and yellow.
There are actually two different types of Hammer corals: wall corals and branching corals. Branching Hammers tend to grow both out to the sides as well as upwards, whereas Wall Hammers will only grow outwards (not upwards).
These corals thrive in low light environments and tend to be low maintenance for beginner level aquarists. Having said that, Hammer corals are known to sting other types of corals, so they should not be placed too close to others.
- Sun Corals
When you see a sun coral, there’s little guessing where they get their name. Their name comes from their spherical appearance along with their bright orange color. With that being said, sun corals can come in other varieties of black and white as well. This is considered a good starter coral because it does well in a variety of environments, including low lighting conditions.
Having said all that, sun corals do require a little more maintenance than other coral types, mostly in the way of feedings. Sun Corals can only be fed when their tentacles are expanded, which usually occurs during the night. This can make them difficult to maintain for owners who have an early morning wake up schedule.
Of course, the success for which you can grow and maintain your coral within your aquarium will depend on the amount of work you are willing to put in. The above are all beginner corals and are relatively easy to care for, but each type of coral has its own unique needs. Always be sure to read the needs of each coral type that you buy to ensure that your aquarium fits the conditions needed for survival, and to ensure that it is compatible with other species within your aquarium. Here are some other tips to help you when growing coral:
Don’t over-skim your water – Skimming your water and keeping it clean is extremely important, but when you are growing coral it’s also important that you don’t strip the water of essential nutrients. Read the instructions on your skimmer for proper use. Test your water levels and keep an eye on phosphate levels while skimming. Keep a strict maintenance schedule – Stay steady with your water changes. Any drastic changes could cause stress to your corals.
Remember- Fish and Coral have different needs. Just because you have had success with fish, doesn’t mean that you will have success with corals. These are two very different things with different needs. Corals, for example, are often more demanding in terms of water chemistry. Always be sure to check what the needs of your coral are before adding it to your tank – make sure the two coincide first.
Check your ammonia and nitrate levels regularly. When you have coral, these two things are essential to survival. Even short, mild spikes of concentrations can cause mortality for your coral reef. Be sure that you know what levels your coral needs, and check the levels regularly.
Corals can be a lot more finicky than fish. If you are new to growing coral, you should start out with corals that take on beginner status. Beginner corals tend to be more sturdy and more forgiving when errors occur in their environment. Once you have mastered these, then you can move on to more difficult corals.
Thanks for reading!
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