You have cycled your new aquarium, added a cleanup crew of snails and hermits, and perhaps a fish or two, and everything is stable. Now, it’s time for you to start adding some coral frags - but what should you get?
Many beginner corals can grow so quickly that they'll become a nuisance in the future, so I will highlight some lovely, hardier corals to start with that are most likely to thrive without taking over your tank.
More to start with:
Common starter corals are often Green Star Polyps, Xenia, and Mushrooms. While all are popular they can grow like wildfire inside your aquarium, and obtain out of hand within a few months. You will often hear stories about reef keepers looking to get rid of these kinds of corals because they have taken over their own aquariums.
Zoanthids & Palythoas:
Usually known as Zoas and Palys, fundamental essentials ultimate starter coral. Frags can be obtained easily, and common frags is often found for $15 or less (although rare varieties exist, and can be quite expensive).
These coral types grow in a number of colors and patterns, making them a great accessory for a saltwater reef. The majority are water parameter tolerant, and prefer medium lighting and flow. Simply because they grow well, you can watch your colony grow with time, but they generally won’t dominate your tank.
Most reefers with have multiple varieties of Zoas and Palys in their aquariums.
Ricordia is really a mushroom number of coral, and is available in a wide variety of color - from subdued to neon - including multi/rainbow coloring. While regular mushrooms can eventually get out of hand, ricordias are slower growing, and are usually much more attractive.
Two varieties of ricordia exist, the Florida Ricordia and also the Yuma Ricordia. The Florida variety is more common and may usually be found for under $20 - and reproduces by splitting after producing multiple mouths on one polyp. By contrast, Yuma Ricordias are less common and usually a bit more expensive than the Florida variety, and reproduce by postponing babies next to the parent.
Both types of ricordia prefer lower light and flow, and a nice ricordia garden is really a sight to behold in a reef aquarium.
Oftentimes, reef keepers are looking to get into SPS coral (Small Polyp Stony coral) - also known as “stick” corals.
Once you are sure your parameters are stable and will remain so, a good starter SPS is really a Birdsnest. Birdsnests are a quicker growing SPS, and frags are simple enough to come by for less than $20. They'll prefer bright lighting and heavy flow, so you’ll want to place them full of your tank, near your lights.
If you go with SPS corals, you’ll need to maintain weekly water changes, as they will consume calcium out of your water to grow their stony body. Water changes will replenish the vital calcium levels inside your tank, as well as other trace elements that coral can consume.
Starting a reef aquarium could be fun - but making the right choices in the beginning can make a huge difference both in your success, and in the long-term health and vitality of the reef.