Whether you have insufficient light for your reef tank, or if you just need corals for shaded areas, there are a lot of choices including LPS and soft corals. Every reef tank has areas that are dimly lit that have low PAR. You may have a Leather mushroom coral that has gotten large and shaded everything under it. When you have areas like this, it is important to find corals that can grow and thrive in places like this.
You may have your tank almost complete, except for some areas that are not getting a lot of light. Corals that need high PAR will not do well there, so it is best to place low light corals there.
You also may have budget reef lights. While some offer high PAR levels, others may not. If your lighting limits what you can place in your reef tank, you can still get plenty of corals that will make your tank awesome.
Something to remember is that a lot of corals that are considered low to moderate for lighting will do well in a tank with low par, but they will thrive and grow faster in medium lighting. There is a difference between keeping a coral alive and having it grow rapidly. Most of the corals in our list fall into the lower light category. These should grow just fine in that environment.
8 Best Low Light Corals
There are many corals that do well in low to moderate light. We have listed some soft corals and LPS corals that do well in lower light. There are a lot more that are in the low-moderate light range that we did not include with the exception of Zoanthids. Zoas are a little different because there are so many varieties, and some like lower par values.
Here is our list of corals that can grow in low light.
1. Mushroom Corals
The best low light corals are mushrooms. This includes Discoma Mushrooms and Rhodactis. Discoma are the more beginner friendly, and can thrive in lower light vs. the Rhodactis. The Rhodactis mushroom will thrive in a low par tank, but the Discoma will grow rapidly even if the PAR value is low around 50.
These corals will grow in almost any light setting, and you do not need to special reef lights to get them to grow. Of course, LED and reef lights will provide better coloration and growth.
Mushroom Actinodiscus (Discoma)
There are Ricordia mushroom corals, but they do not thrive as well in low light.
These are great to fill out shaded areas of your tank that do not get a lot of light. They come in a lot of colors and are inexpensive. They are semi-aggressive and will cover an area quickly. This may or may not be something that is desirable for your tank. This soft coral is one of the first purchases for people starting a reef tank. The are inexpensive, easy to grow, hardy, and multiply rapidly. This will even do this in shady parts of your reef tank.
2 .Pulsing Xenia
Xenia is another soft coral that can thrive in a low light area of a reef tank. These are fast growing coral, and as long as your water parameters are acceptable, then they will grow rapidly. Even in lower light they can still grow fast. Some people consider them to be a weed of the reef tank because of this. The way to avoid this is to place a frag of Xenia on an island. This way it will not spread to other areas of your tank.
It is a beautiful color that has a lot of movement. Sometimes their polyps will pulse which is mesmerizing to watch.
Cepitularia is another fast growing low light coral. You can place these low in your tank, and they will do great. I have one in the bottom of my tank in the corner, and it is growing at a fast rate. These corals have branching stalks that will grow and sprout new ones.
Mine is currently getting 50-70 PAR and is the fastest growing coral in my tank.
4. Duncan Coral
The Duncan Coral is great for placement in lower areas of your marine aquarium. They prefer low flow, and they do not like harsh lighting. This is a good coral to place down on your sand bed. It can sprout multiple heads, and it looks great on the sand. It can grow well with a lower PAR value.
If you have an area at the bottom of your tank with low PAR values, then a Duncan coral is a great choice.
5. Green Star Polyps
Similar to Xenia, Green Star Polyps (GSP) are known to be a weed for some reef keepers. If left uncontrolled, GSP can cover large sections of your live rock and glass. Some people even use this coral to cover the bottom of their tank. It is also used to cover the back glass. People do this because it looks like bright green grass flowing underwater.
Due to its weed-like growth, it does not need strong reef lights. Almost anything will work, and this soft coral will grow. Similar to the Xenia, you can place it on island so that it does not grow everywhere in your reef tank.
6. Sun Coral (Tubastraea)
Sun corals basically do not need light as their primary source of nutrition is not photosynthesis. However, they do need to get their nutrition from somewhere, and that is food. You will need to feed Tubastraea. One of the best ways to do this is to have a population of copepods, and you will need to feed them regularly with foods like shrimp.
These LPS corals will need to be placed in darker areas of your tank, and they do not need direct reef lights on them.
They are difficult to keep because you must feed them regularly, and some reef keepers can have a hard time getting them to open up to accept food.
7. Kenya Tree Coral
The Kenya Tree Coral (capnella) is a popular beginner coral that does not need a lot of light. Even in these conditions, it will grow rapidly. A lot of people do not like this coral because it can drop little frags of itself. This means little baby Kenya Trees will pop up all over your tank. You will need to monitor them and constantly keep them under control. If not, you will have a tank full of them.
It really doesn’t matter where you place them in your tank, they will grow and grow quickly.
Zoanthids are more in the low to moderate range due to the abundance of varieties available. Some do well in low light and others seem to do best in moderate PAR ranges. If Zoas do not get enough light, then their color will be lackluster. They will also not grow as well or at all.
There are a lot of different varieties and colors. Picking some that are less colorful tend to do better in shady areas. From my experience, zoas that are bright and colorful like higher light.
I can keep Zoas in my tank on the sand bed or in the middle of my reefscape. They grow will in all areas, however, they grow faster and have better coloration in the middle of my aquarium.