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Best Beginners Corals

Updated: Jan 6

What makes a good coral for a beginner starting out with corals for the first time?

It can be daunting adding your first coral to your new aquarium. Here I’ve selected what I consider to be the best starter corals, based on 3 main criteria.

1. They all grow reasonably fast so you’ll have a vibrant display without having to wait forever to see results.

2. Care requirements are reasonably straightforward and they’ll all tolerate less than perfect water conditions and swings in water stability.

3. They will all add interest to your display in the form of colour, movement and growth habit/shape.


With it’s classic mushroom/toadstool shape this soft coral that is a beginners staple and has a place in every aquarium. There are several colour variants available, and clown fish will often choose to host in the tentacles as well.

They can grow quite large so are best placed to the rear of your display.

Kenya Tree

These soft corals really do grow in the shape of a tree and sway majestically in the water current. They love higher nutrient levels often found in beginners aquariums. The growth rate is generally fast and they may need pruning, simply done with a pair of sharp clean scissors.**

I've found the green ones tend to be shorter than the pink variety.

Zoa/Zoanthids and Paly’s

These are small polyps rainging from a few millimeters across to over an inch across with an enormous colour range they tolerate a wide range of conditions. They can grow on any surface in the aquarium giving an attractive display very quickly. Some people like to keep each variety on a separate rock but they can look great growing together as well although larger polyps will crowd out smaller ones so it’s worth planning their placement carefully and keeping similar sized varieties together. *

Green Star Polyps

GSP grows quickly and will encrust almost any surface in your aquarium. The polyps sway in the current and it really is an intense bright green! It's simple to cut back if it spreads to far with scissors or carefully with a blade. ** This is what can often be seen growing on the base of a bare bottom tank or carpeting the back wall like a flourescent green grass lawn.


The Gorg’s supplied by CCC are photosynthetic so they are easy to care for with no special feeding requirements unlike some of the crazy coloured deep water varieties that require specialist feeding and care. CCC's Gorgs get all the nutrition they need from the aquarium lights and dissolved nutrients in the water.***

They grow in a tree/bush shape that sways gracefully in the water current. They are especially popular with seahorse keepers as the robust branches make a good anchor for the prehensile tail of the seahorse to grip onto.

Growing taller they are better suited to the back of the aquarium unless you want to prune it back regularly to keep it short. This is very simple with a pair of scissors. **

Clove Polyps

Looking like little fireworks there are several colour variants of Clove Polyps. They are reasonably fast growing spreading out across almost any substrate using their little runners.

They can overgrow smaller corals such as small zoas so some people keep them confined to their own rock, but they can look very effective growing under and through larger corals, such as Leathers Toadstools and Large polyp Zoas.

Pulsing Xenia

This is possibly the coral that attracts the greatest number of potential coral keepers. The polyps sway and pulse rhythmically in the water and at the same time each polyp pulses creating a mesmerising effect.

It grows very quickly and is extremely tolerant of less than perfect water, in fact the higher the nutrients the faster it is likely to grow and spread around your aquarium. In low nutrient tanks it can be impossible to keep this coral or it grows very slowly. This can be a good or a bad thing depending on your overall aim with your aquarium.

If you want a keep smaller polyps suck as Zoanthids the Xenia could overgrow and smother them. If however you intend to keep larger soft corals such as Leathers, Toadstools and Kenya Trees these will stand proud above the Xenia creating an overall pleasing effect.

CCC's hardy soft corals are available here


Have you got any corals you consider great for starting a reef aquarium?

Let me know in the comments below.

Thanks Mark


*I should mention palytoxin in relation to palys/zoas here.

There are some varieties that contain this nasty chemical that has hospitalised some aquarists. Theres no doubt there is potential to poison yourself, but I do believe sensible precautions when working in you aquarium should negate this. If you have open cuts/sores on your hands where gloves, wash your hands before and after working on your tank, and don't youch your eye or stick your fingers up your nosse while fiddling with your marine inhabitants. It really is that simple.

** Please be careful using a blade or scissors in your aquarium. Blood in the water really isn't what you want to be adding. I'm pretty sure your clownfish won't smell blood and savage you, they'll do this regardless anyway!

*** There are a large number of highly coloured Gorgonians. CCC does not supply these or encourage their collection from the wild as the chance of captive success is very unlikely due to their specialised planktonic diet. Where they are successfully kept it is always with experienced aquarists catering to their specific needs.

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Rasda zoas where my 1st

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Classic Zoa's I love them, rally bright!


GSP was my first coral, super easy to care for :)

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I love the way it spreads and can look like a flouescent meadow blowing in hte wind!


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Another classsic reliable and colourful zoa!


Zoas were my fist coral

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What ones?


Ultra Chaos Zoa’s were my first coral

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A great zoa! Amazing how they change colour depending on your lighting.

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