Top 10 Best Corals For a 30 Gallon Reef Tank

Reef tanks that are thirty gallons and under are typically referred to as Nano reef tanks. These small reef aquariums can house complex ecosystems and coral specimens. However, you want to be aware of some of the risks and requirements associated with smaller reef tanks.

Really, there is a big appeal to getting a thirty-gallon Nano reef tank. You save more space in your home and spend less money on your tank. Still, it will take hard work and skill to pull off a tank that is thirty gallons. This is because waste can accumulate much faster in a small tank and change the conditions of the water.

In addition, you want to put the right coral breeds into your smaller tank space! Only certain types of corals will do well in Nano reef tanks. In general, though, you want to go with soft coral and polyp type corals. I’ll talk more about these coral types throughout the post, though.

My top list of corals will introduce you to the best corals for 30-gallon reef tanks. These corals are easier to manage and will be able to thrive in a 30-gallon tank space!

1. Zoanthids Polyps

The first coral for 30-gallon reef tanks that I will be introducing is the Zoanthid. Zoanthids are one of the easiest corals to maintain in a smaller tank environment. So, I have decided to talk about them here first.

Zoanthids Corals are a type of polyps coral. So, they are extremely compact and can be found in many different types of colors and variations. You can grow these corals on almost any surface, but placing them on rocks will yield better growth results.

The Zoanthid also has minimum care requirements which make it perfect for a smaller tank. These are hardy corals that will be able to handle a little change in your tank environment. And, they only need low levels of light and water flow to survive.

However, before you get this coral, you want to keep something important in mind. Zoanthid corals have a type of poison in them called palytoxin. The chances of you getting poisoned are slim.

But, you want to stay safe when you handle this particular coral. I suggest putting on gloves and protective eyewear. In addition, keep the water away from your mouth. You don’t want to accidentally poison yourself this way!

This can seem a little off-putting, but Zoanthids are still a great choice for your 30 gallon reef tank. So long as you take the right precautions and keep your tank healthy and clean!

2. Sea Mat And Button Polyps

Sea Mat Corals, also known as Button Polyps, are a manageable breed of coral that grows in a colony. The polyps of this coral come in a brown or tan color. However, under certain lighting conditions, they can appear as a neon green hue!

Sea Mat Corals are made up of many individual polyps that grow on the same live rock or surface. These are great coral to cultivate in a small thirty-gallon tank, but you want to keep this polyp coral separated from other corals.

Sea Mat does have a tendency to get a little aggressive with other corals that are nearby. Their polyps have small stingers that can disturb or even hurt other coral growths. So, you want to keep this in mind if you plan on putting multiple coral breeds in your small tank.

Try to situate the Sea Mat away from other corals, and make sure to frag your coral every once in a while. The Sea Mat grows pretty rapidly and needs to be kept in check. In addition, this coral type likes medium levels of light and high water flow.

You also want to dose your tank water with trace elements and extra nutrition. This way the Sea Mat grows healthy and full. Iodine levels are especially important to the Sea Mat, as well!

Finally, handle this coral with extreme care. Like the Zoanthid, Sea Mats can release palytoxin. So, you want to wear gloves when handling them!

3. Mushroom Corals

Mushroom corals, like the Zoanthid coral, come in a ton of different shapes and colors. So, you will find many unique growth patterns and colors with this species. In addition, Mushroom corals are another ideal pick for beginners or people that need a hardy coral.

You don’t need the best conditions to grow this coral in. So, if you are new to corals or have trouble keeping your tank in the best possible condition Mushrooms can be better for your Nano tank. Though, you should keep nitrate levels down and water parameters stable as best you can.

Finally, if you have a mushroom coral, make sure it has plenty of space to grow. You might want to keep this coral in its own tank. It’s not that mushroom coral is aggressive, but they should not be placed too close to other corals. Otherwise, they might grow into the space of other coral species.

Overall, though, this is one of the best corals for your 30 gallon tank. They require low levels of light and water flow.

Mushroom Corals are also unique and highly versatile in terms of aesthetics. And, they are perfect for any type of reef keeper! So, definitely check out some of the Mushroom Coral options available to you online and in stores.

4. Green Star Polyps

Green Star Polyps are a soft coral type that is another good option for a 30-gallon Nano reef tank. These green corals have thin extending polyps that come in a bright green color. Their bodies are a deep purple that contrasts nicely against the polyps too.

Best of all, this is an extremely hardy coral. Again, smaller reef tanks have more fluctuations in water conditions. So, you want a coral that will be able to handle an environment that isn’t completely stable.

In short, Green Star Polyps will be able to withstand a range of conditions in your water, at least in comparison to other corals. They are not the best-looking corals on this list, but they will do well in a 30 gallon reef tank!

Green Star corals can grow on any area on your tank, and they are not picky about the surfaces they adhere to. This is because they have an encrusting growth pattern.

In addition, this is a fast-growing specimen that requires very little light. You won’t have to worry about overheating your water with intense light since Green Star can do quite well in low levels of light. And you can keep the water flow to low or medium levels.

Just make sure that you trim this coral often. This way it does not overtake your tank space and stays in balance with the rest of your aquarium. Overall, though, this is one of the best corals for 30 gallon tanks. And, even a beginner could have a reef tank with the Green Star!  

5. Closed and Dented Brain Corals

Closed Brain Coral, also known as the Dented Brain Coral, is another eye-catching find for a thirty-gallon reef tank! This particular coral is one of the best coral types to put in an enclosed tank space. They do well in a range of lighting and water conditions. They can also tolerate differing water flow.

However, I would suggest giving the Closed Brain Coral higher levels of light with low flow. This will result in the best possible coral growth. Giving this coral meaty foods like zooplankton, algae, and other food sources will also improve their health and look. Since this is an LPS coral the tentacles and polyps of this coral will react well to additional food sources!

Closed Brain Coral comes in a range of colors and varieties, as well. So, look into different variations of this coral. I would suggest the Pineapple Brain Coral. It has a nice coloring of yellow and tan, and it does well under blue spectrum light.

6. Hammer Coral

The Hammer Coral is another LPS type coral. And, you can get this breed in two different variations. There is a branching version of this coral and a walling version of the Hammer Coral. Personally, I would suggest getting a branching Hammer Coral. The branching version of this coral is much easier to maintain in a small thirty-gallon tank.

There are also many color options with the Hammer Coral. So, look at what is available to you locally or online. You can get this coral with a yellow, green, or brown base. As an LPS coral, the Hammer has many large and long tentacles, as well. They are usually bright yellow or green.

Hammer Corals are not the easiest corals to maintain, in comparison to other corals on this list. But, they do well in 30 gallons tanks. And, as long as you keep up with tank maintenance and keep the water clean and at the right parameters, you should have no issues with this particular specimen!

Also, remember that LPS corals do take up more magnesium and calcium. So, you want to feed them extra food, as well. Meaty foods that your coral can consume through their polyps are ideal. Stuff like brine shrimp or small plankton can work well with this breed! You will also want to provide adequate water flow to this flowing hard coral!

7. Candy Cane Coral

Candy Cane Coral can also be placed in a 30 gallon reef tank with ease. This is an LPS coral that is popular and easy to maintain in a smaller tank environment. There are a few different color variations of this breed. But, typically, you can find the Candy Cane Coral with small stripes, this is what gives them their name.

From blue, brown, yellow, or green, the looks of this coral are varied. Personally, I like Candy Cane Corals with tinges of blue, but this is just my preference. The important thing to note about this breed is its hardiness. Again,  hardiness is important in a smaller reef tank.

Since small tanks are not as stable as large tanks, you need corals that can withstand small fluctuations in the condition and parameters of your water. Candy Cane Coral meets this requirement and is usually pretty easy to maintain.

You do want to give this coral medium to high levels of light, though. And, Candy Cane Corals like to have medium to strong water flow present in their tank. So, you don’t just want to place these corals in any old location.

Candy Canes should be near the bottom or at the center of your tank space. And, I would also suggest giving them extra food. Candy Cane’s are pretty slow-growing too, so they will need extra nutrition in the water. Try feeding them meaty foods or pre-prepared coral foods!

8. Duncan Coral

Duncan Coral is an LPS coral that is highly popular for new coral owners or people with Nano coral tanks that are thirty gallons and under. These corals originate from Australia and sport vibrant purple and green hues.

This particular coral species has thick tube-like stone structures that house their polyps. And, the polyps of the Duncan are what display most of the color. They are also full of long stringy tentacles. However, this breed gets along with most other corals and fish and will not act aggressively.

Duncan Corals are on the delicate side, though, so you want to be careful with water flow. Low water currents will suit this species the best. And low or moderate lighting is most appropriate for this breed too. Overall, this is a very manageable and good looking coral! 

9. Cabbage Leather Coral

Cabbage Leather Coral is a soft coral that goes by a few different names. It is sometimes called the Flower Leather Coral, Flat leather Coral, and the Carpet Coral. As you might imagine, this is a fairly flat coral type that has some more ruffled cabbage-like growths. It comes in brown and even pink, and it also has a disk-like base.

Cabbage Leather Corals fill up your tank space nicely and grow quite robust. But, I would recommend spacing them out in your coral tank. They don’t do so well around other corals and might even release toxins around hard corals. So I would only suggest keeping this breed around soft corals from a distance.

Still, this soft coral is very easy to manage and maintain in a smaller tank space. Especially if you are only planning on keeping a single breed. Cabbage Leather likes medium levels of light and medium to strong water flow. And, you want to keep the water quality of your tank in optimal conditions for your coral.    

10. Tree Corals

The final coral I will be talking about is the lush Tree Coral. Tree Corals are a type of soft coral that is undemanding. Thus, it is perfect for a thirty-gallon reef tank. Tree corals don’t sport the most diverse colors. But they can be found in both tan and pink shades.

Still, even with the minimal color choices, this coral looks magnificent in a Nano reef tank. The bushy branches of this specimen create a tree-like look that draws the eye. So, the Tree Coral makes a great centerpiece for any tank.

However, like the Cabbage Leather, be careful about putting this coral in with other breeds. Tree Coral can produce toxins when they are placed too close to other coral growths. You should be fine having multiple corals, but only as long as they are given adequate space.

Tree Corals get most of their nutrients from photosynthesis too. But, if you want them to look brighter and healthier, it doesn’t hurt to feed them extra food. Stuff like small brine-shrimp and pre-prepared coral foods are recommended. However whether or not you want to add additional food is up to you.

Just make sure that your coral has access to a strong water flow, and that it has plenty of light to produce food. In particular, Tree Corals like moderate to high levels of light. So, they should be placed somewhere in the central region of your tank for the best growth and health outcomes!

Final Thoughts and Advice

More people are getting into the hobby of keeping saltwater aquariums and reef tanks. And, smaller tanks tend to attract beginners who want to jump into the world of reef tanks.

But, contrary to popular belief, smaller reef tanks are not easier to maintain. In fact, you will have to put in extra work to keep this concentrated coral space clean and healthy. The corals in this list can thrive in your Nano reef tank, but make sure that you have the best equipment and supplies for your corals.

This way they are able to survive in this miniature 30 gallon tank environment. I would also suggest doing frequent water changes and water checks to keep your tank in top condition!

Bart Sprenkels

I have been keeping multiple aquariums since I was 18 years old. Just like many of you, I started with two goldfish but quickly learned they were not suitable for aquariums. Later, I switched to a tropical community tank and I also have two pet musk-turtles in a bigger aquarium. You can read more about me here.

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