Soft Coral, Pulsing Xenia Coral Xenia sp.
Pulsing Xenia Coral

  The true Soft Corals are beautiful corals, where each polyp has side branches that give it a feathery look!

     The hobbyist idea of “soft corals” refers to the true Soft Corals. The true soft corals consist of many beautiful species that occur in all the colors of the rainbow and come in all sorts of attractive shapes. Soft Corals are quite dynamic in the reef aquarium. Besides being very attractive and colorful, they can change form and create a lively motion. They will expand and deflate their bodies as well as extend and retract their tentacles.

   To the hobbyist soft corals are those that lack a hard skeleton, like the hard corals or stony corals. The true soft corals also don’t have a tough skin like the Leather Corals. This is basically what we are listing in this section. There are many well known favorites that make great soft corals for beginners. Leather Corals, another group of soft corals, also make great beginner corals.

   Besides the well-known varieties, there are hundreds of different types of soft corals. These include Gorgonians and other unique Octocorals like the Blue Coral, Organ Pipe Coral, Green Star Polyps, and the Sea Pens. Each of these beautiful corals will have care requirements that are just as diverse as the animals they are; consequently not all soft corals are easy keepers. It is very important to learn about the species you are keeping for a successful reef aquarium.

For information about soft corals see:
Soft Coral Facts and Information – Types of Soft Corals

Family: Alcyoniidae

Family: Clavulariidae
Click for more info on Palm Tree Polyps
Clavularia Sp.

Family: Nephtheidae
Click for more info on Carnation Coral
Dendronephthya Sp.
Click for more info on Kenya Tree Coral
Capnella Sp.
Click for more info on Tree Coral
Lemnalia Sp.

Family: Xeniidae
Click for more info on Pulse Coral
Xenia Sp.
Click for more info on Waving Hand Coral
Anthelia Sp.

What is a Soft Coral

    Soft Coral Facts

   They are called “soft” because they do not consist of rigid calcium carbonate skeletons like the hard corals or stony corals do. Soft corals are mostly composed of living tissue. This can be confusing since many ‘soft corals’ are not actually soft. A couple exceptions include such corals as the Blue Coral Heliopora coerulea and the Pipe Organ coral Tubipora musica, both of which produce hard skeletons.

   Like the stony corals, soft corals are Cnidarians meaning stinging celled animals. They are also members of the Subclass Octocorallia, known as the Octocorals. These are corals with eight-branched tentacles in their polyp structure. Another characteristic of true soft corals are the side branches of the polyp tentacle, called ‘pinnules‘, which give the polyps a feathery look. Although pinnules are a sure sign of a soft coral, not all soft corals have them..

Soft Corals for Beginners

   Types of Soft Coral

   The soft corals include many easy to care for favorites. Some soft corals for beginners include varieties like:

   Leather Corals are also great beginner soft corals, varieties like:

Soft Coral Care

   Soft corals are favored by reef aquarists and quite a few make great beginner corals. Many readily available species are easy to keep with great success. Provide adequate lighting and a medium to strong current. A protein skimmer and frequent water changes are also very helpful.

  Many species live in symbiosis with the marine algae, zooxanthellae. Those that contain zooxanthellae need a lot of light. On the other hand many of them, like the carnation corals, grow on the underside of reef ledges or shaded areas and don’t require light.

   Feeding Soft Corals

   Soft corals that contain zooxanthellae also derive the majority of their nutrition from it. Most will eagerly accept small foods like brine shrimp and plankton as well. They usually must be fed to survive in the aquarium.

  To set up a reef aquarium see:
Reef Tanks – Mini-Reef Aquarium Basics

Featured Image Credit: scubaluna, Shutterstock