Articles here contain general information on aquarium corals and their care.
Acroporidae corals are not only the most popular SPS (small-polyped stony) corals for the marine hobbyist, but they are also the largest contributor to building the coral reefs worldwide. Although all stony corals (and even some soft corals) are hermatypic, Acroporidae corals account for a third of the reef builders. Acroporidae are commonly called staghorn corals, since these are more common in the aquarium trade, but they also include velvet corals, star corals, and briar corals. Acroporidae corals are in the order Scleractinia (stony corals) and the subclass Hexacorallia (or also known as Zoantharia). Being in the Hexacorallia subclass means that the polyps have tentacles in multiples of six.
Dendrophylliidae corals are some of the most popular and widely recognized LPS (large-polyped stony) corals for the marine hobbyist. Although all stony corals (and even some soft corals) are hermatypic, Dendrophylliidae corals are actually considered to occupy a range of corals which may be reef-building or not, and may be photosynthetic (containing zooxanthellae) or not. Dendrophylliidae corals are commonly called whisker corals, sun corals, orange sun corals, black sun corals, cup corals, orange cup corals, yellow cup corals, pagoda corals, turban corals, scroll corals, and vase corals, depending on their coloration and morphology.
Euphyllidae corals are some of the most beautiful LPS (large-polyped stony) corals for the marine hobbyist. Although all stony corals (and even some soft corals) are hermatypic, Euphyllidae corals are actually considered to occupy a range of corals which may be hermatypic, ahermatypic, symbiotic, and aposymbiotic. Euphyllid corals are commonly called hammer corals, elegance corals, anchor corals, frog spawn corals, torch corals, pom-pom corals, wonder corals, fox corals, bubble corals, or grape corals, depending on their species and specific morphology.
Favia Corals are a common coral in a lot of reef aquariums and in nature. Some of the species most often found are Favia rosaria, Favia matthaii, Favia lizardensis, Favia stelligera, and many others. The common names for Favia corals include, moon coral, green moon coral, pineapple coral, brain coral, closed brain coral, and star coral.
Faviidae corals are typically called faviids. These LPS (large polyped stony) corals are rather popular for aquarium hobbyists and have the second largest number of species per family (compare to Acroporidae). All faviids contain zooxanthellae and are considered to be reef building (hermatypic). Some common names for faviids include brain coral, pineapple coral, candy or candy cane coral, and moon coral.
Millepora sp. aren’t really like the other corals at all. They are Cnidarians, cousins of anemones and jellyfish, also stingers. The pain can last from a couple of days to a couple of weeks if you accidentally touch a fire coral. If that wasn’t bad enough, fire corals typically have a sharp skeleton which can scrape unwary divers. Some home remedies for the sting of a fire coral are using meat tenderizer (I like it mixed with petroleum jelly to make a paste) or ammonia (Urine is almost always available!).
Fungiidae, or Fungiid, corals are some of the most motile and beautiful LPS (large-polyped stony) corals for the marine hobbyist. Although all stony corals (and even some soft corals) are hermatypic, Fungiidae corals are typically considered to be non-reef building. Fungiids are solitary corals. They consist of only one polyp, which is frequently mobile both in nature and in captivity. They resemble a disc or dome covered with tentacles. Disc corals are symbiotic, meaning they contain zooxanthellae and gain a portion of their energy from photosynthesis. Fungiid corals are commonly called disc corals, disk corals, mushroom or stony mushroom corals (compare to the leather mushroom corals and the corallimorph mushroom corals), plate anemone corals, helmet corals, slipper corals, tongue corals, plate corals, fungus corals, dome corals, Neptune’s cap corals, long tentacle plate corals, and mole corals.
General Coral Care for the Beginner Setting-up a reef aquarium is exciting and costly. There are many different species of coral with different care needs so it is best to have some basic knowledge about corals before you make your first purchase. It is even more costly to buy a coral that you can’t keep and dies. It is also important to realize that corals are live animals and require proper care just like your fish.
In a new reef aquarium it is best to go with soft corals and hardy LPS corals. SPS corals are not advisable in a new reef aquarium. Some LPS corals will have tentacles that sting other nearby coral. Bubble coral is one such coral that will need its space to keep it from harming anything close. On the opposite spectrum of the Bubble coral in this LPS group would be the Candy cane coral. A Candy Cane coral does have tentacles but they are usually very short and pose no risk to other corals due to their short length.
Some soft corals can sting, some will have chemical defenses, and others will have very little ability to defend themselves at all. Regardless of the defensive ability of a coral, space should be given so they can grow without interference. Just like a plants in vegetable garden, corals in a reef garden need space too.
Zoanthids are popular corals for marine aquarists. Not only are they common in importation, but are now frequently seen in the aquaculture industry. Hobbyists like zoanthids because they make hardy beginner corals, but they are attractive enough to appeal to the more sophisticated reef keeper as well. But what are you buying? How can you tell the difference between the big three: Zoanthus, Palythoa, and Protopalythoa?
Leather corals are particularly hardy and are ideal for a beginner aquarist. There are some precautions to be taken, however. Be careful not to have fire corals near any soft coral in your aquarium, as the fire coral, Millepora sp., will encrust over the living tissue of the soft coral. Also, some soft corals are highly toxic and hobbyists should beware of including stony and soft corals in the same aquarium.
Maze brain coral care and information (Platygra sp.) The Maze Brain coral has a moderate to easy care level but is not as hardy as other brain corals in the Favites and Goniastrea genus. They are more likely to bleach and have tissue loss but once conditions become favorable the tissue can recover the skeleton very quickly. Proper current to the Platygyra coral seems to be more important than proper lighting.
Corallimorpharia corals are typically called mushroom corals. Some hobbyists also call them disc anemones, false corals, elephant ear corals, umbrella corals, and mushroom false corals. These are not to be confused with the stony mushroom corals of Fungiidae or the mushroom leather corals of Sarcophyton spp. They are commonly called “false corals” because they are similar to the stony corals of Scleractinia and belong in the same subclass (Hexacorallia), but they lack the calcareous skeleton.
Mussidae, or Mussid, corals are popular LPS (large-polyped stony) corals with aquarists. Most Mussidae corals are colonial, however one genus, two genus, Cynarina and Scolymia, forms solitary polyps. Mussid corals are symbiotic, meaning they contain zooxanthellae and gain a portion of their energy from photosynthesis. Mussidae corals are commonly called pineapple coral, brain coral, button coral, blastos (for Blastomussa spp.), acans (for Acanthastrea spp.), lobos (for Lobophyllia spp.), cat’s eye coral, doughnut coral, tooth coral, meat coral, open brain coral, lobed brain coral, flat brain coral, flower coral, modern coral, disk coral, mushroom coral, cactus coral, Pacific cactus coral, closed brain coral, and dented brain coral.
Pocilloporidae corals are one of the most popular SPS (small-polyped stony) corals for the marine hobbyist, and are also a large contributor to reef building. Due to their generally hardy nature, they are recommended for beginners in SPS (small polyp stony) corals. Although all stony corals (and even some soft corals) are hermatypic, Pocilloporidae corals account the second largest of the reef builders (second only to the family Acroporidae). Pocilloporidae are commonly called bird’s nest coral, since these are more common in the aquarium trade, but they also include finger coral, needle coral, bush coral, cauliflower coral, and cat’s paw coral. Pocilloporidae corals are in the order Scleractinia (stony corals) and the subclass Hexacorallia (or also known as Zoantharia). Being in the Hexacorallia subclass means that the polyps have tentacles in multiples of six.
Poritidae corals were once considered to be difficult corals to keep, but advances in the aquarium hobby in the last decade have made these great specimens for reef aquarists. The aquacultured varieties have especially made keeping Poritdae corals much easier due to their more forgiving nature than wild collected specimens. Corals in the Poritidae family are not easily classified for hobbyists. Hobbyists commonly classify the stony coral as either large- or small-polyped stony corals (LPS or SPS). However, members of Poritidae occupy both of those classifications. Although all stony corals (and even some soft corals) are hermatypic, Poritidae corals are the third largest contributor to coral reefs. Poritidae corals are commonly called flower-pot corals, since these are more common in the aquarium trade, but they also include daisy coral, ball coral, finger coral, jeweled coral, boulder coral, Christmas tree worm rock, plating jeweled coral, mustard coral, blue crust coral, thin finger coral, and thick finger coral.
Pulse corals are found in the Subclass Octocorallia, Order Alcyonacea, Suborder Alcyoniina, and Family Xeniidae.The corals found in Xeniidaeare called pulse corals. Like all octocorals, pulse corals have eight tentacles and eight mesentaries on their polyps. They lack the skeletons of the stony corals, but some pulse corals may have sclerites, small calcite pieces set throughout their bodies. They all contain zooxanthellae, meaning they are symbiotic, and are non-reef building (non-hermatpic). Pulse corals, Xeniidae, are set apart from the other octocorals by their ability to pulse their polyps rhythmically. Typicaly, Xeniidae have a stalk and branches. Anthelia spp. however, do not branch and rarely pulse. Instead, their polyps grow from an encrusting mat. All genera, however, possess “feathery” polyps. They can be white, yellow, green, blue, and brown.
Top 10 beginner corals Xenia – Common names are pulsing coral and pom pom coral. This is one of my favorite corals due to it pulsing motion, variety of colors, and structures. It is fast growing coral that prefers bright light. Plerogyra sinuosa also know as Bubble coral, Pearl coral, and Grape coral. This is one tuff LPS coral that can tolerate a variety of lighting and water conditions. It has a strong sting and should not be placed too close to other corals. It can also develop sweeper tentacles if place in strong current which will require more space to be provide around it.
Aquacultured corals are grown in closed systems and not collected from the ocean. The corals are live corals fragmented or grown out from a larger coral or mother colony. If these corals are not already attached, they are then glued to live rock rubble or special plugs made for coral frags or aquaculturing.
Why are Aquacultured Corals the Better Choice?
Aquacultured corals are considered hardier because they are raised in captive conditions much like those in your home reef system. The coral therefore does not have to be acclimated to the captive conditions in the same way coral collected out of the ocean does.
Common names for Xenia coral are Pulse Coral and Pom Pom coral. It is a fascinating soft coral because of the pulsing polyps and the speed of growth Xenia corals are know. Pulsing is the opening and closing of the polyps which can only close and not retract. This pulsing action adds motion to the aquarium, especially when they are in large groups which will look like a field of pulsating flowers. There are many species of Xenia corals that aquarist can easily propagate with colors such as white, pink, brown and cream. Xenia corals also range in size from a couple inches to around ten inches tall with large branches.
Zoanthid corals are found in the Subclass Hexacorallia (sometimes referred to as Zoantharia), Order Zanthidea, Suborder Brachycnemina, and Family Zoanthidae. Although the term Zoanthid can be used to describe all of the colonial anemones and button polyps, we are only going to discuss Zoanthidae at this time