Soft corals are one of the most popular and readily available corals in the hobby. As their name implies, they are soft, lacking a major stony external skeleton. Contrary to common misconception, soft corals are not false corals. Instead, they are true corals.
Typically, Soft corals require lower light and moderate to low water flow. The best soft corals you should are
- Green star polyps
- Kenya tree
What is the difference between soft coral and hard (stony) coral?
Hard corals, like LPS and SPS, have calcium-based external skeletons. In most cases, hard corals are found in a single-polyps colony living together. And one of these polyps consists of a sea-anemone-like organism that produces thе саlсіum-bаѕеd structure of the colony’s ѕkеlеtоn.
Soft corals’ primary difference from hard corals is their very large, soft, fleshy polyps. They contain calcium carbonate skeleton structures within their tissue called sclerites.
Also, soft corals have eight blurry tentacles for feeding and sometimes, protecting their territory.
Soft Coral Types
Among others, these are the most popular soft coral types available:
- Clove polyps
- Green star polyps
- Finger leather
- Colt coral
- Devil’s hand
- Toadstool coral or Mushroom leather
- Cabbage leather
- Kenya tree coral
- the prized non-photosynthetic Carnation coral
- Cauliflower coral
- Waving hand coral
- Pulsing Xenia
Mushrooms are one of the most common examples of soft corals. There are several types, which include Rhodactis, Ricordea, and Discosoma.
While many years ago, these corals are classified as ‘boring’ by many hobbyists. Hardy and come in different colors, most of them have become a top choice for beginners.
Mushrooms, especially the Discosoma, grow very quickly and can dominate other corals in the tank. Other than this, these types of soft corals are easy-going.
Zoanthids (or Zoas) are colonial polyps. Like mushrooms, they require easy care and are available in several color combinations. Although they can tolerate a wide range of lights, they are most colorful under strong lighting conditions. You can easily keep them with the Ricordeas as they demand matching parameters.
A strong warning with handling zoas, however, is that their play-toxin can be very dangerous. So, always wear gloves and goggles when cutting or fragging them. In fact, it’s best to avoid them if you have any cuts on your hands.
Proper Care for Soft Corals
It can be difficult to provide general care instructions for soft corals because they are too many of them. However, a larger percentage of them will demand minimal care, but less than hard corals do.
Most species of soft corals are classified as beginner’s corals. This fact is true because they are hardy and can tolerate some fluctuations in water parameters. That said, they require moderate levels of light (5 watts per gallon) and water flow.
Common examples include cabbage leather, toadstool, colt corals, Capella, and finger leathers.
Also, keep in mind that some species, including star polyps and button polyps, may reproduce quickly, and almost dominate your tank.
Soft corals are animals, and so like to eat. While some of them have weaker polyps or stinging nematocysts, that doesn’t mean they don’t need food. In fact, corals like Cabbage leather can capture prey for food.
Like every animal, these corals require constant feeding to thrive better. The best approach to feeding any coral is to provide food particle that is proportional to the size of the coral. However, be sure to research the coral you want to buy and everything about its feeding habit.
Fragging Soft Corals
Fragging soft corals can be easy and quick. You can simply use a razor blade or a sharp set of scissors.
It involves you cutting off a fragment of the coral and attaching it to a live rock. Sometimes, soft corals like green star polyps will readily attach to any adjacent rock in its reach. If that happens, you then need to separate the newly fragged coral from the parent.
While that is easy, you might have a challenge with attaching frags to live rock. This is practical because soft corals are slippery and not able to glue into place.
However, you can find the following method helpful: a plastic container & mesh, rubber band, or toothpick method.