Some of us are stick fans (SPS), some softies, some LPS and some of us like a mix of all of it, but when should you add these animals to your aquariums.

Firstly, I’m going to assume you have fully cycled your tank. By this I mean the nitrogen cycle is complete (although I said I never would, I have written about it in several posts now and example would be when to add your first fish).

As long as all is well with your cycle, you could technically start adding corals, though it may not be advisable to do so. Though your tank may be cycled, in young tanks in particular they are likely to experience swings in certain parameters and trace elements, like calcium, magnesium, phosphate, alkalinity & pH. It will take time for the tank to settle and find the numbers that it is happy running at.

Before purchasing any corals, I would recommend that you buy test kits for at least Calcium, Phosphate, Alkalinity & pH on top of your standard ammonia, nitrite & nitrate test kits. I personally use RedSea for the all of them except Phosphate, for that I use Salifert. You can find the RedSea Test Kits on Amazon here and the Salifert Phosphate Test on Amazon here

Green Zoas
Green Zoas

If this is your first tank, I would recommend getting some soft corals to start with, and maybe a couple of the easier LPS corals. These would include things like Zoanthids, Kenya Trees, Leathers, some Mushrooms, Green Star Polyps (GSP), Xenia, maybe a Blasto or Acan. Care should be taken to research each coral before deciding if your tank is suitable for it and if you have the knowledge & experience to be able to care for them. Please remember that corals are a living animal!

One thing you should also consider is the growth rate of some of these corals, GSP, Xenia, mushrooms & Kenya Trees all have a reputation of growing like weeds and taking over a tank if it is not properly maintained.

So, answer the question already!

When should you add corals to your tank?

  • Softies, 2-3 weeks after cycle has complete.
  • LPS, 3 months minimum for the easier to keep ones, 6 months for the harder to keep ones.
  • SPS, 6 months minimum, but you would probably be better waiting for 12 months or more.
  • Anemones should not be added to a tank for at least 12 months

As with everything in this hobby, patience is a virtue. The longer you can wait, the better for your tank. It is also not advisable to add lots of livestock at once, this include corals, as you biological filtration needs to catch up & with corals you need to ensure they have enough calcium & slight traces of phosphate & nitrate. Each coral will absorb some of these elements, and you may need to dose for calcium, alkalinity, pH etc at a later date if you find your corals are consuming more than your tank has available.

If like me, you dream of a mixed reef with all types of corals, you will start with a few softies, maybe some Zoa’s, then move up to LPS and gradually build up to SPS, ensuring you can care for the easy ones before moving on to the traditionally hard to keep corals.

Mix Reef
Image credit to Abood from Reef2Reef Forum

Every coral has different care requirements, some like to be fed, some are photosynthetic, some like high flow, others need low flow, some like high light, others prefer a more shaded part of the tank. When placing your corals, you need to ensure all of it’s requirements are met in order for it to thrive. This is why researching each coral is so important before buying it, you need to ensure your tank can meet it’s needs.