While there are thousands of different types of coral found throughout the world, they can be categorized into three different types of coral reefs. The three different types of coral reefs include fringing reefs, barrier reefs and atolls. There are several different distinctions between the different coral reefs that help to differentiate them from one another. Fringing reefs are coral reefs that grow in shallow waters and border the coast closely or are separated from it by a narrow stretch of water. Even within the fringing reef, there are different zones in which different organisms live.
These different zones allow different species to live and to survive. More common coral reefs are the barrier reef. These reefs are separated from land by a lagoon. In general, the different types of coral grow parallel to the coast and are large and continuous. Like fringing reefs, barrier reefs have different zones in which different organisms live. Some of the zones in a barrier reef actually see more natural conditions as a threat, and so are designed and will adapt better to change. Typically, you see more types of coral in fish stores coming from a barrier reef.
The third type of coral reef is an atoll. Atolls are annular reefs that develop at or near the surface of the sea when islands that are surrounded by reefs subside. Atolls separate a central lagoon and are circular or sub-circular. There are two types of atolls: deep sea atolls that rise from deep sea and those found on the continental shelf. These coral reefs are not exactly the most durable, but they are just as exotic and have their own means of survival. The different types of coral found throughout the world that you can generally categorize into these general types of coral reefs.