Mushroom coral is an attractive and hardy type of coral. With a short stalk and a crown-like cap, it resembles the fungus mushroom, hence the name. Also known as mushroom anemone or corallimorph, it thrives well in a regular reef aquarium setup.
Mushroom Coral is available in shades of red, brown, purple, blue, and green. Exotic multicolored patterns are observed on these corals in the form of stripes and spots. Well-established mushroom corals measure about 6 inches in diameter.
These corals are collected from deep seas and oceans for aesthetic purposes. According to your preference, you can select vibrant-colored species that complement the aquarium. For maintaining these corals in a healthy condition, all you need is live rocks, a sand substrate, and regular water movements.
Mushroom coral is basically a type of soft coral that does not have an exoskeleton. The common type is scientifically represented as Discosoma and Actinodiscus.
According to taxonomical classification, this coral belongs to the class Anthozoa and subclass Hexacorallia (or Zoantharia). The order of this soft coral is Corallimorpharia, while family is Fungiidae. They usually develop as dense clusters in the growing substrate.
In normal state, you will find these corals like the regular ones, having a smooth or fuzzy texture on the surface. It does not secrete calcium carbonate like other stony species.
The tiny calcareous spicules make these corals appear like mushrooms. However, when it extends its tentacles for feeding, the coral looks like a beautiful flower. Under very high light intensity, it tends to remain inactive and does not open completely.
Although this coral is harvested from wild habitats, it is easy to propagate it in controlled conditions. It propagates extensively on its own, provided you maintain the proper growth conditions. Within a few weeks or months, you will find the growing substrate covered with these corals.
You can also separate the coral into pieces and maintain them over a gravel substrate. Though it is photosynthetic in nature, feeding it with small zooplankton and iodine supplements will promote its luxuriant growth.
Coral can tolerate high percentage of nitrates, phosphates, and other organic nutrients in water. However, it is advisable to maintain the water chemistry properly. In reef tanks with correct levels of organic nutrients, the color of mushroom coral is bright and lively. Under prolonged stress, it shrivels and shrinks.
One of the interesting things about these corals is their mode of reproduction. According to the prevailing conditions, mushroom coral can change its sex. This ability is extremely rare in the animal kingdom.
At the time of reproduction, sperms and eggs are released at the same time in the water medium, after which they fertilize to form larvae. The larvae then settle down in the substrate or a rock, developing into young corals.
The most popular mushroom corals are the red and purple ones. Species having extensive tentacles require optimal space and care. Hence, according to your fish tank size, condition, and existing inhabitants, select the coral species carefully. Maintain the basic requirements of these soft corals and they will surely look beautiful.