Corals 101

Corals 101

Whether you’re new to reef-keeping, considering starting your own reef tank, or just finished cycling your tank, you'll end up wondering, “What corals should I get? It is easy to get a bit too excited stocking your first tank with beautiful and exotic corals. The issue is that some of these corals need specific conditions, which can be incredibly difficult and or impossible to achieve when starting out. Although it is very possible for beginners to achieve great success with more difficult corals, the likely hood of them surviving goes down drastically. Unfortunately getting in over your head at the start can lead to losses in money, motivation, and can ultimately cause people to leave the hobby before they really even start. The corals listed below are some of our favorites when it comes to hardy corals that are also easy on the eyes, making them ideal corals for beginners.

Zoanthids, Palythoa, and Protopalys are all extremely hardy coral. You’ll often find multiple polyps attached to a piece of reef rock, often coated with coralline algae. It’s a great way to add corals and seed your tank with purple and pink coralline algae.

Like mushroom coral, Zoanthid morphs are often sold with highly descriptive names like “Grandmaster Krakatoa” and “Cinnamon Apple”. These are often some of the most desirable and beautiful species, depending on ones opinion. Although, there are also plenty of zoanthids sold in the hobby with no name, that hold just as much beauty.

Zoanthids come in a full array of color combinations including orange, green, red, yellow and blue.

Give this coral medium to high light and they’ll spread across the rock, creating a carpet of vibrant color. Zoanthus enjoy medium water currents and will filter-feed on baby brine shrimp and micro pellets.

Many people have fallen in love with "nano reefs" which zoanthids are great for, there are countless beautiful pictures online of peoples Nuvo 10 gallon nano reefs, stocked to the brim with softies.


Mushroom corals are a great choice for a beginner reef tank as they require low to moderate lighting. These soft corals are available in several colors such as metallic green, green-striped, blue-spotted, red and metallic blue. Keep in mind there are many varieties or “morphs” in the world of mushroom corals. These generic names are created to describe the look of the morph but aren’t governed by any scientific rules.

Actinodiscus mushroom corals should be placed low or mid-height inside the tank. If the water flow is too strong they won’t fully expand, so keep them in a calm area of the tank.  You can feed each polyp with microplankton coral food OR you can also add food to the water flow. And, over time mushroom corals will reproduce and spread out on the rock. Mushroom corals are also extremely easy to propagate, all you have to do is cut a specimen symmetrically in half, and boom, you have two mushrooms. Many fragging kits are bundled and sold to make fragging easier for you.

These mushrooms thrive in lower light and slow flow rates. They make great corals for nano tanks or at the bottom of larger reef aquariums. 

Pulsing Xenia

Pulsating Xenia, also known as Waving Hand Coral, is also hardy. The branched stems sway gracefully while their tentacled polyps pulse in the water. The movement creates an almost alien landscape in a tank. I personally think it’s very relaxing just to gaze at them for a period of time. They really give your tank a certain quality of “liveness.” Although Xenia is known to be an extremely hardy species, it is still recommended that you solely use water produced by a Reverse Osmosis unit. These units help to remove contaminants commonly found in tap water that would otherwise harm a coral reef.

Xenia contain symbiotic algae but are capable of filter-feeding. They thrive under moderate lighting and medium water flow. Xenia will reproduce and spread throughout the tank. If you happen to own one, you already know they grow like weeds in a healthy aquarium. In fact, you probably have reefing friends that may offer you a branch or two.

Some aquarists surround their colonies with loose rubble pieces. When the colonies spread to the rubble piece, they’ll pull the piece away, and they trade them in at their local fish shop or reefing club. There are many ways to enjoy reefing, with the emphases on "enjoy"!  Happy reefing.

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Triton US features a world-class Triton Tank From Mexico

Triton US features a world-class Triton Tank From Mexico

"Hello fellow reefers and hobbyists, we will highlight some home Triton tanks from around the world in the coming weeks.

To kick off this series, we are excited to introduce to you Juan Gabriel's tank in Mexico. His 170 gallon tank has been consistently looking great for years, the SPS growth is phenomenal. Triton Method with no water changes for months now. Large algae bed and skimmer handling the nutrient export, Organics kept in check through Triton NDOC testing. Core 7 Base Elements dosed daily. Pics taken by Juan. Assistance by Raul Labastida. Lighting- Radion G5. Skimmer- Dalua Great White 10."

Full post found at



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Hooray for Joe! We are proud to see you speak at Reefapalooza Chicago in Octorber

Hooray for Joe! We are proud to see you speak at Reefapalooza Chicago in Octorber

Ever wondered why some people can have a super enjoyable reefing experience, while others huff and puff, and labor through it all?  The process makes all the difference!

Joe is going to expound his knowledge in this area, and give step by step instructions on how to start and maintain an "ultra low maintenance" reef tank.

This one is not to be missed.  If you cannot personally attend Reefapalooza Chicago, don't worry. will be recording the entire thing and will share it on Youtube.


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Waterbox Aquarium 20 cube battle build out

The Great Waterbox 20 Cube Battle

Be sure to watch Friday May 10th! When special UC corals especially curated for each champion will go into the tanks!  Tune in at 9am Pacific Time, or 12 noon Eastern Time, on FB live and YouTube!
20 g Cube Battle WaterBox AquariumsRichard vs. Jessica vs. Dean!
Who will build the most awesome tank?
Live on Facebook Live & YouTube, Fridays @ 12PM EST unitl 6/28/19




Until Next Episode...

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Joe's thoughts on Dry Rock vs Live Rocks


Recently there was a thread on Reef2reef where reefers were debating the merits of each type of rock and more specifically the issue of Dinos.

Joe chimed in and here's his reponse:

"Love all of this people! 
Joe here-

Having done this for 30 years now, I would like to share my quick opinion on the subject of dead vs live rock. 

It is kind of a no-brainer that from a naturalist or purist point of view, the best biological substrate for a reef tank would be the actual rock found on a coral reef. It contains many strains of healthy bacteria that have been proven to be absolutely beneficial to the biological stability of a delicate marine system. Not having these bacteria will increase the chance of nuisance algae and pests from taking hold, especially in the chaotic and unbalanced nature of a new tank. The reality of reefing today means experimenting and trying different substrates since live rock is almost impossible to find, and also quite damaging from an environmental perspective. (This is a whole different topic) After-all, the rock itself, whether live or dead really is inert so as long as the material is not toxic or causing other detrimental issues, we are really limiting our conversation to the effects of biological seeding via live rock vs biological seeding vs alternative methods. 

When all the pros and cons are weighed I think there is a growing argument to choose a live rock alternative such as Marco Rocks. Closer attention will have to be paid to the biological balance of the system and it has always been Marco Rocks stance to go slow, seed with bottled bacteria or with bacteria inoculation from an older, established system, etc. I personally think people start up a tank and lack the patience that it needs to slowly mature. With my own tanks, I use dry Marco rock and leave the lights off for the first month or two. I run all filtration but do not add fish. I feed the tank sparingly and seed it with a few pieces of rock from an older tank. Snails or urchins can be used to keep the minimal algae growth in check. They also kick the detritus up and into the water column where it can travel to the filtration. Not keeping fish in the tank allows the copepod and micro-fauna to absolutely explode. After one month it will look like a copepod tank. They will become the apex animal in the tank! Utilize extra strong flow during this stage and just let the tank become stable. Up the feedings as the algae becomes more and more encrusting and calcified in nature. (Harder to remove from the glass is a great test) 

The rock will become coated with a biological film that will inhibit the growth of unwanted algae/dino. Should you see a dino outbreak, UV sterilization has been seen to be quite effective. (For many common strains). 

At the end of the day it is a personal choice of what substrate to use but if done right, many of the problems mentioned above can be avoided in part or entirely while also feeling great about not having wild rock ripped from the ocean to start your tank."
If you would like to follow this thread, go to this link:
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