Types of Reef Tank Corals: A Guide for the Home Aquarist

Corals are the primary builders of reef ecosystems, and they come in a wide range of shapes, sizes, and colors. In reef tanks, there are numerous types of corals available, each with its unique requirements and characteristics. Here are some common types of corals found in reef tanks:

1. Soft Corals

Soft corals, also known as Alcyonacea, have flexible structures and lack a hard skeleton. They often have fleshy polyps and can sway with water movement. Examples of soft corals include:

– Leather Coral (Sarcophyton spp.)
– Mushroom Coral (Ricordea spp.)
– Kenya Tree Coral (Capnella spp.)
– Colt Coral (Cladiella spp.)

2. LPS Corals

LPS (Large Polyp Stony) corals have larger polyps and develop a hard, calcareous skeleton. They are known for their vibrant colors and distinctive shapes. Examples of LPS corals include:

– Torch Coral (Euphyllia spp.)
– Hammer Coral (Euphyllia spp.)
– Bubble Coral (Plerogyra spp.)
– Brain Coral (Platygyra spp.)

3. SPS Corals

SPS (Small Polyp Stony) corals are characterized by small polyps and intricate skeletal structures. They require strong lighting and stable water parameters. Examples of SPS corals include:

– Acropora Coral (Acropora spp.)
– Montipora Coral (Montipora spp.)
– Bird’s Nest Coral (Seriatopora spp.)
– Stylophora Coral (Stylophora spp.)

4. Zoanthids and Palythoa

Zoanthids and Palythoa are colonial corals that form clusters or mats. They have colorful, flower-like polyps and are popular for their striking patterns. Examples of Zoanthids and Palythoa include:

– Button Polyp Coral (Zoanthus spp.)
– Eagle Eye Zoanthid (Palythoa spp.)
– Armor of God Zoanthid (Protopalythoa spp.)

5. Mushroom Corals

Mushroom corals, also known as Discosoma or Ricordea, are soft corals that resemble mushrooms. They come in a variety of colors and can grow on rocks or other surfaces. Examples of Mushroom corals include:

– Ricordea Mushroom (Ricordea spp.)
– Discosoma Mushroom (Discosoma spp.)
– Rhodactis Mushroom (Rhodactis spp.)

These are just a few examples of the many types of corals that can be found in reef tanks. It’s important to research and understand the specific care requirements of each coral species before adding them to a reef tank. Maintaining stable water parameters, providing appropriate lighting, and regular monitoring are essential for the health and success of coral colonies in a reef tank.