Starting a reef aquarium can be a daunting process, from learning how to make saltwater, to which parameters to keep your eye on, to the stocking and interaction of your fish and corals. But there are corals that can make the learning process a little less stressful due to their ease of care that will help set you up for success with other harder-to-keep corals down the road. Corals are a living thing, so like with plants and animals everyone will have different success and experience with all corals. These are corals that I have found tolerate mistakes and mishaps better than others.
1. Xenia Coral
One of the best and readily available beginner corals in the hobby are Xenia. They come in a few different varieties of colour and “motion,” the most common being Pulsing Xenia. Xenia are a hardy soft coral that grow extremely fast and can tolerate less-than-ideal water conditions. If considering this coral for your tank, it is highly recommended to isolate the coral to its own “island” where it can be easily pruned and controlled. Due to its growth rate, many advanced hobbyists tend to look at Xenia as more of a weed, while others can never get enough of it!
2. Green Star Polyp
GSP is another amazing coral to add to a tank due to its motion, colour, and tolerance to grow just about anywhere. GSP grows in large mats, giving an almost grassy effect. These mats are also very easy to frag should they start growing in areas you don’t want them to or if you want to start new colonies. I recommend giving GSP its own island or trying to grow it off the back wall of the tank; with its growth rate it can become a nuisance growing on anything it can from tank walls to power cords and other equipment. It can also quickly crowd out other corals if not managed properly.
Euphyllia are a large polyp stony coral (LPS) genus, including corals like frog spawn, torches, and hammer corals. These are a adaptable corals when it comes to both light and flow, so they do well in most places in a tank. Being an LPS, they have a slower growth rate so you won’t need to prune them often or worry about isolating them. The one thing to keep in mind with Euphyllia is the risk that some can be aggressive towards other corals with their sweeper tentacles.
By far, one of the easiest corals a beginner hobbyist can keep are mushroom corals. There are a lot of different species of mushroom coral (Rhodactis, Ricordea, etc). They all have slightly varying preferences but are still one of the easiest corals to keep. They tend to be easy to frag and will happily help fill in just about any empty space you may have in your tank.
My personal favourite coral are Zooanthids. Zoas are available in a huge variety of colours. They grow readily and tolerate dirty tank water well. While they can be a little more finicky when being introduced to a tank than other corals on this list, once they are established they thrive. Most people will make zoa islands out of different types of zoas as the colonies will merge into each other, creating awesome patches of colour while not allowing them to encroach on the territory of other coral species or growing over all the rock in your tank.
At the end of the day, any coral you want can potentially be put in your tank if you can provide the right parameters. The above-mentioned corals are easy corals that can take dirtier water and parameter swings, and can tolerate any other mistakes made better than most (and the growth on most allows the colony a better chance to bounce back should anything happen). If you are dipping your toes into the hobby, these are great options to look into starting with, especially if you have a smaller tank where it may be harder to keep nitrates low or lessen parameter swings.