There are a good number of the so-called leather corals that are acceptable in a beginner’s aquarium and some are of sufficient interest, colour and/or impact to be present in experienced aquarist’s systems as well. Many (or most?) are hardy and are not over demanding of light and seawater flow conditions.
My current soft coral reef has been running for well over six years now and there are corals that have been present from the start. One type is the toadstool coral (Sarcophyton sp.) which has and is spreading with new babies popping up quite regularly and the major corals needing regular cutting.
Another coral is the cabbage, sometimes called the flat leather or flexible leather coral, though obtaining the desired coral by using one of these common names is very hit and miss. The proper name is Sinularia dura.
The coral is made up of flexible ‘leaves’, and when these leaves are expanded they display attractive markings and deeply serrated edges. The form of the ‘leaves’ depends on the seawater flow, I had to cut the original colony in my reef and the ones in a strong flow are generally flat and undulating as described, but the ones in a low flow are more fluted and upright.
The coral is very forgiving as far as light intensity and seawater flow are concerned. The lights do not have to be powerful metal halide bulbs; they could be fluorescent T5’s. Seawater flow can be moderate to fairly strong; if the flow is very weak the expansion of the coral is much reduced. The coral is therefore a reasonable candidate for placing lower down on the reef with moderate flow.
If the coral is happy the aquarist can expect the colony to increase in size though this is not always rapid. A group of expanded and overlapping ‘leaves’ is really attractive and also different from branched or domed corals.
Attractive as they are there is one more immensely important attribute as far as beginners are concerned – they are very hardy. I think (without substantiating facts but going on my own experiences) that Sinularia dura must be one of the hardiest corals available. The often made mistakes of a beginner affecting seawater quality should not of course occur, but they should be tolerated.