Best Beginner Corals: Mushrooms, Polyps, Leathers

If you are just starting out in the aquarist game, or even considering becoming a hobbyist and reef aquarium owner there are several considerations that must go through your mind before you even think about which colorful fish you would like to purchase.

Tank sizes, filtration devices, lighting, types of corals, water temperatures and the environment should all be thought about first, and then you can choose which majestic little critters you would like to add.

When you are starting out as a beginner to the hobby these things can seem overwhelming, but with the right help and guidance the process can be made fairly easy.

However, one thing that is not so easy is choosing the right coral landscape you would like to encompass your aquarium.

The misconception with coral is that it is purely there for display and nothing else - this could not be further from the truth. In fact, certain corals can require more attention than fish, and can cause beginners some big unexpected headaches.

Requirements and General Information

It may come across as an intimidating prospect when choosing a Coral to care for and look after as a beginner aquarist, however, there is nothing to worry about with the right advice. The Corals mentioned on this list are not only incredibly beginner friendly, but they require minimal maintenance and come with an abundance of benefits for your tank!
Mushroom coral

Corals not only look awesome in fish tanks, and more specifically reef tanks, but they also can bring much benefit to your fish community, providing food and other nutrients. They can also feed on bad bacteria residing in your tank.

Some corals can certainly be hard to care for, but the ones we are mentioning on our list are the easiest to care for, especially for beginners and novices to the hobby. It can be stressful having many fish to look after and worry about, all requiring specific foods and other things, therefore having a coral that you do not have to worry too much about certainly alleviates stress and gives you back more time.

The corals on this list are perfect for newly established reef aquariums, requiring minimal care but still looking amazing. Looking after these corals will certainly prepare you for more challenging ones in the future, when you have a little more experience and perhaps a larger tank.

What Do Corals Eat?

Most of the Corals you purchase, especially the ones mentioned on this list all contain symbolic algae, which goes by the name of zooxanthellae, which lives within them. They will also feed off uneaten foods that you have provided for your fish, which is great as that excess food will pile up and eventually make your tank dirty which can result in your fish contracting diseases! They also feed on micro-organisms and some unfriendly bacteria that is in your tank.

The Corals in this list will also require a variety of trace elements, which is no concern for you as if you perform regular changes to the water in your tank (which is highly recommended) and using quality reef salt to do so then your tank and more specifically the water will contain all of the required trace elements for the Coral to thrive.

Lighting Requirements for Coral

Lighting will change from Coral to Coral, much the same as with fish, however, most Corals (especially these Corals) will not need particularly powerful lighting. We recommend that the best way of dealing with different Corals requiring different lighting is to simply place your Corals on different levels of the tank depending on how much or how little light they need. Moving them closer or further away from light.

Can Corals Be Kept Together?

Another recommendation is to keep the different Coral species separate from one another; this is because some Corals have evolved to the point where they will attempt to claim their territory by harming other Corals via brushing up against them, stinging, and other methods of harm.

Different Types of Corals

So, there are 3 categories of Corals for beginners: Mushrooms, Polyps, and Leathers. We will start the list off with Mushroom corals.

Mushroom Corals

The best place to start would be the Mushroom corals. From the name you may have guessed that they have somewhat of a mushroom appearance, they also come in an abundance of incredible patterns, textures, and colors – a popular one for beginners is the Green Hairy Mushroom, which rather amusingly does not sound too appealing!

Green hairy coral

When excess foods land on mushrooms they will close up and digest them, almost like a slow and underwater Venus Fly Trap, which is incredibly awesome to watch and helps keep your tank clean at the same time.

Here are the top Actinodiscus Mushroom Corals:

  • Spotted
  • Green
  • Blue
  • Striped

Rhodactis Mushroom Corals:

  • Purple/Blue
  • Hairy
  • Green
  • Red

Polyp Corals

Next on the list are Polyps, our personal favorite species of Coral. Not only are these bright, colorful, vibrant, and alien looking, but they are incredibly easy to care for, requiring minimal maintenance making for the perfect beginner Coral.

Polyp coral

There are also many types of these Corals which is awesome, there is so much to choose from. The most popular types are the Zoanthids and Green Star Polyp (GSP Coral). Zoanthid Polyps are beautiful additions to any reef aquarium, coming in a plethora of incredible colors, and can grow in large colonies. Oh, and you cannot ignore the fact that they have some of the best names in the hobby!

Zoanthid Corals:

  • Darth Maul
  • Scrambled Egg
  • Purple People Eater
  • Kazzam
  • Blastomussa (Pinapple Coral)

Xenia, Protopalythoa, and Clavularia Corals:

  • Xenia do not share the same amazing coloration as some of the others from this coral family, however, they are still beautiful!
  • Protopalythoa are more similar to the Zoanthids, but they have longer tentacles and have less coloration.
  • Clavularia are somewhat star-shaped, possessing much less coloration than the Zonthids, but they do have a bright center.

Other Polyp Variations:

Leather Corals

The last type of Coral to enter our list are the Leathers. The Leathers are larger corals that come in many shapes and sizes, with some looking more like large Mushroom Corals, and others taking up more of a tree appearance.

Leather coral

Leathers are some of the most stunning and majestical Corals, they look awesome in a tank with the other two Corals mentioned previously.

Leather Corals:

  • Devil’s Hand
  • Colt
  • Kenya Tree
  • Toadstool


In conclusion, adding corals to your tropical aquarium is certainly a good idea, especially if you enjoy bright and beautiful colors and patterns within your tank. Additionally, something many people do is underestimate the importance of coral care.

Corals are considered to be the oceans plants, which is true, they require nutrients from a balanced diet and constant maintenance. It isn't just fish that need attention, corals do to! If you are interested in learning about the hardiest and best saltwater fish for beginners, as well as these corals then check out our page dedicated to this.

Another great beginner coral is the beautiful candy cane coral - make sure to check out our candy cane coral guide for more information. The corals that are mentioned on this list are the best and most hardy for those either starting out in the hobby, or moving over to a saltwater tank after gaining valuable experience with freshwater fish. Either way, they should be less trouble than some of the other popular corals, but still need some TLC.