Are you just getting started on your first saltwater aquarium and looking to dive into your first corals? If so, soft corals are an excellent group of corals that are easy to care for and are pleasing to the eye.
Soft corals are in the order Alcyonacea which differ from the stony corals in the order Scleractinia. Obviously, soft corals are soft; however, you may look at an Acanthophyllia and assume that is a soft coral as well.
Unlike other corals, most soft corals do not build the reef or produce an internal skeleton; although, scientists have realized they contribute to reef building more than what was previously thought. Instead soft corals have small needle support structures called sclerites.
Soft corals are flexible and bend with the current giving them a flowing appearance that reefers love. Some even pulse such as Xenia and if you have ever SCUBA dived in places like Fiji, you have seen the stunning fields of Dendronephthya.
Most Soft corals prefer moderate light in aquariums. They can be placed at the bottom of your tank if you have powerful lights or if you have dimmer lights they can even be placed at the top of your tank.
They are much more tolerant of chemistry swings in your water parameters than stony corals which is why they are considered beginner corals. Soft corals also enjoy a bit of food so if your tank is somewhat on the dirty side that’s ok.
Moderate to low flow is best for these types of corals. A moderate current provides circulation for food to be swept across the corals but it is not too strong that it prevents the corals from opening.
Like other corals, soft corals need a salinity of 1.025 or 35 ppt and a temperature of 72- 76 degrees Fahrenheit (22- 24 degrees Celsius). Keep in mind that these are the requirements for photosynthetic soft corals and non-photosynthetic soft corals like Dendronepthya are much more difficult than almost any other coral.
Soft corals actually seem to benefit from slightly higher nutrient levels, like those found in reef tanks that are just starting up. So with the right conditions, soft corals will grow exceedingly fast and before you know it your tank will be littered with them. So be careful and do not let one get out of hand as it can grow on top of other corals and sometimes certain species of soft corals can be considered pests.
Anyone can take care of soft corals and they are the first step to starting your reefing adventures. Soft corals do not require much maintenance, they are fast growers, and they come in numerous assortments of textures and colors.