This type of coral is called SPS

The 6 Types of coral

There are 6 types of coral. Corals are amazing creatures. They are able to reproduce both asexually and sexually. Many species get a sizeable amount of their nourishment from the sugars produced via photosynthesis by a tiny organism called a zooxanthella, and there is tremendous diversity across all the different species. In the aquarium hobby, we tend to classify each of them into one of 6 types of coral:

1. Small polyp stony

Small polyp stony corals (SPS), as their name implies, have a hard skeleton composed of calcium carbonate, with delicate small polyps that poke out at various points along the structure. This group contains some of the most challenging to care for species, as well as a few that are suitable for beginners. A few of the most popular types of SPS coral types are:

  1. Birdsnest corals
  2. Montipora
  3. Acropora

2. Large polyp stony

LPS coral type

Large polyp stony corals (LPS) get their name from the fact that they have both a stony, calcium carbonate-based skeleton and large, fleshy polyps. A few popular LPS coral types are:

  1. Torch
  2. Hammer
  3. Elegance
  4. Acans
  5. Favia
  6. Sun coral
  7. Scoly

3. Gorgonians

Gorgonian coral

The gorgonians are a unique coral type that has a leathery skeleton that is neither hard nor soft, with many hungry polyps that extend out to capture plankton-sized prey. This group includes the sea fans you may be picturing from coral reef documentaries.

4. Soft corals

Soft coral with large polyps

Soft corals are an extremely popular type of corals in the aquarium hobby because many of the species are suitable for reef tank owners of all skill levels. Unlike the three coral groups listed above, these amazing creatures don’t have a protective skeleton, hence the nickname soft corals. There are small bony structures embedded in the soft tissue called sclerites.

A few of the most popular types of coral considered to be soft corals are:

  1. Toadstools
  2. Cabbage
  3. Green star polyps
  4. Pulsing xenia
  5. Kenya tree

5. Zoanthids

Types of coral: ZoanthidZoanthid corals are beloved by many aquarium owners because of the dizzying array of psychedelic colors that are available. Each of the various color morphs has a specific and sometimes funny common name bestowed on them, like Bam bam, Eagle eyes, and Whammin watermelon. Caution should be exercised if you plan to keep these corals in your tank because the palythoa variety protects itself with a chemical that is toxic to us.

Learn more about that and caring for zoanthid corals here.

6. Mushrooms


mushroom coral on substrate

Last, but not least, the #6 types of coral is a group called the Mushroom corals. What is fascinating about this type of coral is that they range from some of the least desired species, like Bounce mushrooms, to some of the most desired and expensive. They also have representatives that are extremely easy to care for and require little in terms of lighting and water flow, as well as some pickier species that are challenging to care for, like the Ricordea species.

They are easy to propagate through fragging, and the inexpensive varieties are a great first coral to frag. 

6 Types of coral – final thoughts

As you can see, each of the 6 types of coral has representative species that are excellent options for the reef tank aquarium. If you want to learn more about setting up your own reef tank or saltwater fish tank, I encourage you to join the newsletter. I’ll send tips, tricks, and advice to your inbox, so you don’t have to scour the internet to find the best information, and I’ll even give you a free e-book written to help you avoid some of the most common mistakes we all make.

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