Top LPS and soft corals that make a tank POP! Adding simple beginner corals

Living, growing corals are what elevate a saltwater aquarium to the next level and really define what a reef tank is all about. The challenge with corals for a first timer is knowing when a tank is ready, identifying corals that don't take a lot of skill to maintain and finding a reliable source for corals that won’t break the bank.


Is Your Tank Ready?

There are two ways to identify if a tank is ready for coral. The presence of Coralline Algae is an easy indicator. When you see it spreading around the rock and glass it means the tank is capable of supporting a calcifying organism and a great sign the tank is ready for corals. This is particularly valuable if you are starting with expensive corals or sensitive species.


Coralline Algae and Zoanthid Frag


Outside of that, use a test coral. Throw a low cost coral frag or two into the tank and see how they survive. This is a very common approach and if it doesn’t go well, give the tank some more time and reach out to your peers. Tap into the extremely powerful #askBRStv community on Facebook or consider joining Reef2Reef, the #1 online forum for all things reef tank related.


When your tank IS ready for coral, be sure to reference Episode #6 in which we listed out the best beginner corals. Eric at Route 66 Marine was kind enough to send us some awesome examples of these corals for our tanks.


The Best Beginner Corals

  • Zoanthids
  • Nepthea or Sinularia Leathers
  • Toadstools
  • Xenia
  • Green Star Polyps
  • Bubble Corals
  • Euphyllia
  • Caulastrea or Candy Cane Corals
  • Mushrooms
  • Duncans

Most of these corals have found a home in one of our two tanks. Corals really round out your reef tank look right away but the real magic starts to unfold when they settle in and start to grow. This is when your tank starts to take on an impressive appearance all of its own.


40 Gallon BRS tanks with new corals


When you do get your first corals, most good fish stores will show you how to temperature acclimate them by floating the bag and maybe even consider a drip acclimation for a much longer and drawn out introduction.


Dipping Your New Corals

Acclimation is straightforward but many new reefers miss or neglect the dipping process which is used to prevent harmful pests and parasites from entering your tank via the coral frags or colonies.


Ryan dipping a coral frag


There are four types of coral dips, one of which we recommend you perform right away. The others are not mandatory for these corals but are good to know about when you decide to start fragging your own corals or decide to keep more expensive corals.


Coral dips can be grouped based on what they are designed to treat.


  • Coral Parasites
  • Mild Bacterial Infections
  • Aggressive Bacterial and Fungal Infections
  • Rogue Algae

Nudibranch


Removing Coral Parasites

For first timers, you really only need to consider Coral Parasites. Two Little Fishies Coral Revive or Brightwell Aquatics Koral MD Pro are excellent products. These dips often smell like pine oil or similar and are totally safe for corals. They will either outright kill parasites or dramatically irritate them so they detach from the frag and fall off.


Just follow the directions and dip the coral for 5-10 minutes and you can watch all the pests fall off the frag. This kind of dip is the most important in eliminating pests and helping you to have a pleasurable experience your first time around. After dipping, rinse in tank water and place the corals in your tank.


Irritated zoanthid polyps that are closed


Treating Bacterial Infections

A bit further down the line you might start to spot the signs of bacterial infection on your Frogspawn or Zoanthids. Brightwell’s Frag Recover is an excellent mild dip that can safely be used with most corals.


For a more aggressive approach, Tropic Marin Pro-Coral Cure, Lugol’s Iodine Dip or Brightwell Aquatics MediCoral are great choices. These are dips that pros will use after positively identifying a bacterial issue. When done right, a quick dip in the right solution can turn around closed up polyps that won’t open in just 24 hours.


Coral frag in peroxide dip


Cleaning Algae from Coral Frags

The last dip to learn is an algae dip using hydrogen peroxide. It is largely safe and in a matter of minutes removes rogue algae from most frag plugs or even the coral itself.


The only downside to this is we have not established a clear and proven list of corals that can safely handle a peroxide dip. In this realm, guidance from those who have experience is going to go a long way.


For now, understand a hydrogen peroxide exists and that it works well. If you find yourself constantly running across frags covered in algae, further research and experimentation could prove worthy.


Coral holding and grow out vats


Where To Buy Corals

When first starting out, the best choice is a local fish store. The team at Route 66 Marine who provided us with these corals and supply some of the best stores in the United States with corals.


In any major city there is usually at least one store that does a great job of sourcing quality corals so take an afternoon and tour all of the fish stores in your area to find the best one. Take that time to introduce yourself to the employees or store owner and begin a friendly relationship.


World Wide Corals online coral sales


Outside of that you can often save a few bucks ordering online but it just isn’t as cool of an experience. For standard affordable corals, Live Aquaria is a long time favorite. World Wide Corals is a bit more of a boutique experience and offers some of the higher end coral stock in the US.


The most economical route for buying coral is going to be your local reef club. You will meet and make friends in the hobby who are always willing to sell or trade corals for a reasonable price. Hobbyists are doing this for the love of it and trading corals is often the best way to find something you love for a great price.


Brightly colored Goniopora corals at Reefapalooza Orlando


By far, the number one best place to obtain new corals is tradeshows, frag swaps or coral conferences. These meet ups will hold 10-20 thousand different corals under one roof from a variety of vendors all of which are fighting for your dollars. You can find everything from 5 dollar frags all the way up to $1,000 ultra rare limited edition corals.


Smaller frag swaps are generally associated with a local reef club and you can find something within reasonable travel distance in nearly every major city throughout the US.


Scolymia


Big shows such as Reefapalooza take place in California, New York, Florida and Illinois once every year. These shows are certainly something special and offer an experience you won’t find at any other coral show.


Coral vendors, workshops, equipment manufactures, guest speakers and even Ryan and Randy from BRStv are all in attendance for a long weekend of reef keeping fun and education. Well worth the expense if you find yourself enjoying this hobby.


What’s Next?

Our tanks here are finally starting to look like real reef tanks. After adding corals, one of the things you are going to quickly learn is many corals uptake calcium and alkalinity from the water to grow. The next stage is learning how to supplement the tank with these major elements for the corals to grow!


5 Minute Saltwater Aquarium Guide Episode #19


Looking for a different topic or have questions? You can binge the entire 5 Minute Saltwater Aquarium Guide playlist right here on our website. We also invite you to join the #askBRStv Facebook Group which is a free resource for you to ask questions, get advice, interact with other hobbyists and get your daily reef aquarium fix.


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