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Today I'm going to tell all you beginners out there what to avoid when buying coral. Here are the three types you should TOTALLY avoid when just starting out in the hobby!
Potentially invasive corals include Greenstar polyps, Xenia, Anthelia, Yellow polyps, and the brown/green Generic Palys corals. I wanted to start with this list of corals because they can be both good and bad corals for beginners to buy. These corals are extremely hardy, very fast-growing, and usually very cheap. Which is why they can be great corals for beginners setting up their first saltwater tank. However, usually these corals are so hardy, so fast-growing, and so cheap that before you know it, your tank will be covered in them! And you're never really going to be able to get back the real estate of the rocks that you initially put these corals on. They're also going to take out and grow over your more prized corals that you placed them next to. Now, some people hate corals like Greenstar polyps and Xenia, but personally I love them. In fact, I like all of the corals that I mentioned as potentially invasive corals. They're beautifully colored, they add sweet movement to the tank, and they'll usually get beginners to fall in love with the hobby and get really addicted. However, you need to isolate these and put them on their own rock or in the sand bed as some kind of island so that they can’t spread. I'm putting them on this list only because so many people say you should totally avoid these kinds of corals altogether. However, I encourage you to get corals like this. Just make sure that you're ready to control them and you keep an eye on them!
This coral has a terrible reputation in the aquarium industry, and it's because it usually doesn't live past a year, even under the care of experts. It's extremely beautiful and very tempting to buy, which is why it's a very common rookie's mistake to buy one and have it die within a week. Some people have recently had better success propagating them, but this is only with certain species and colors that are usually aquacultured. They’re still a moderately difficult coral to care for and require intensive research and feeding. This is why if you're new to the saltwater aquarium hobby, I highly suggest you resist the urge to take on the challenge that many call the flowerpot coral.
These include Sea Fans, Gorgonians, Chili corals, and sun corals. Since these corals cannot create energy from the lights in your aquarium, they must be fed three times a day. With all of this feeding, a really good filtration system needs to be in place to keep your water parameters in check. These kinds of corals require special attention and tedious work, so if you're a beginner in the aquarium hobby, I would totally avoid these kinds of corals.
Here are a couple extra tips to remember when buying coral. There are four types of coral: soft coral, LPS coral, SPS coral, and NPS coral. Most people will agree that they rank in this order from easiest to hardest to care for.
NPS Coral (hardest)
Soft Coral (easiest)
I highly suggest that beginners start with some easy and basic soft corals and work their way up. There are some good LPS corals for beginners, but I highly advise against beginners jumping right into SPS corals like Acropora corals because they require very special and pristine water parameters.
Remember to research any coral before you buy it! It only takes two minutes to pull out your smartphone and double-check your aquarium store’s advice!