How to Identify the Three Basic Types of Coral

Trying to identify all of the different types of corals available for your reef aquarium is such a daunting task that it can make your head spin. Every year, new coral species are discovered in the wild. The sheer number of different corals is astounding and can be overwhelming when trying to decide what types of corals to stock your reef tank with. To help you better understand what types of corals are available, it is essential to narrow the field down based on common factors; Stony Corals (corals with rigid, stony skeletons), and Soft Corals (corals without skeletons). The Stony Corals are further divided into 2 groups, LPS (Large Polyp Stony) Corals, and SPS (Small Polyp Stony) Corals. Read on and we'll help you learn How to Identify the Basic Types of Corals.

Soft Corals:
Soft CoralThese corals do not have a stony skeleton. They typically require lower light levels than their stony counterparts, and do well with light to moderate water flow. Soft corals tend to be more tolerant of 'less than optimal' water conditions, making them easier to care for, and a good choice for beginners. There are some amazing color varieties available in the soft coral world. Soft corals include Zoanthids (Zoas), Discosomas (Mushrooms, Yumas, Rhodactus, Bounce Shrooms), Ricordeas, Colt Corals, Leather Corals, Sarcophytons, Xenias, Briarium (Green Star Polyps), Clove Polyps, and more.

LPS Corals:
LPS CoralLarge Polyp Stony corals have a stony skeleton, and large polyps. They typically require moderate to bright lighting conditions, and light to moderate water flow. LPS corals require better water quality conditions than Soft Corals, but are not as demanding as SPS corals. This makes them a good entry coral into the world of stony corals. LPS corals include Acanthastrea (Acans), Favites (Favias, Pineapple Corals, War Corals), Euphyllia, Fungia (Plate, Disc, Tongue Corals), Blastomussa (Blastos, Candy Canes), Dendrophyllia, Tubastrea (Sun Corals) and more.

SPS Corals:
SPS coralSmall Polyp Stony corals also have a stony skeleton, however their polyps tend to be small and they have a thin layer of flesh or skin that cover the skeletal base structure. SPS corals can be branching, or plating, and can grow in different patterns forming unique coral structures. SPS corals require bright light, high water flow, and excellent water conditions. SPS corals are considered to be among the most difficult to keep in captivity, so they are recommended for experienced reef keepers only. SPS corals include Montipora (Montis), Acropora (Acros), Pocillopora, Stylophora, Seriatopora and more.