Living primarily in shallow waters, the Mushroom Coral Actinodiscus punctata is a beautiful disc anemone that is the delight of snorkelers!
The Mushroom Coral Actinodiscus punctata is not readily available, and a rather rare find for the aquarist. The surface of their oral disc is smooth, but with very colorful large bumps. They come in green, reddish brown, blue and red depending on their origin. The little pimples can be a combination of these colors. Some very beautiful specimens come from Indonesia. If you can acquire one of these Disc Anemones, it can be an extremely beautiful addition to your tank.
Like most Actinodiscus mushrooms, the Mushroom Coral Actinodiscus punctata typically reaches only 2-3" (5-8 cm). In nature they primarily feed off suspended micro particles from the water column. Although they do not have the long feeding tentacles to capture prey like those found in sea anemones and stony coral, their pimples serve them well by holding several types of stinging cells.
The A. punctata is a great coral for beginners to advanced aquarists. They will be happy in low to moderate lighting, but avoid metal halide lighting as it can be fatal. There is no need to feed them in captivity as they will take what nutrients they need from the water. Due to their small size, they are a great addition to any nano tank or any larger sized tank as well.
The Mushroom Coral Actinodiscus punctata propagates easily in captivity, though after splitting the clone mushroom doesn't necessarily always resemble the "mother" mushroom, thus giving the aquarist a variety of shades and colors. They are semi-aggressive. If they are near another coral they will cause them to loose tissue, recess, and possibly die. Acroporas will not grow in aquariums with large mushroom populations. A. punctata have very few predators if any.
Species: Actinodiscus punctata
Mushroom Coral Information: The Mushroom Coral Actinodiscus punctata was discovered by Ruppell and Leuckart in 1828. Some general names for these are Mushroom Coral, Mushroom Anemone, Disk Anemone, Mushroom Rock Actinodiscus, Coral-like Anemone, False Anemone, Jewel Anemone, Shroom, and Mushroom.
As far as current taxonomy, the A. punctata is listed under Actinodiscus and not Discosoma, according to the 2007 taxonomy list. The taxonomical identification of mushroom corals has a history of limited and dated information which is often of dubious value and sometimes incorrect. Mushrooms corals have no fossil records and studying the physical aspects has proved to be not very reliable for identification. Modern methods using DNA and RNA testing to deduce the sequence of genes, though more reliable, is not readily available.
Where Mushroom Corals Are Found: The Actinodiscus punctata are found in the Red Sea and from East Africa to Indonesia.
Mushroom Coral Habitat: These Mushroom Corals prefer sea grass beds, shallow lagoons and tide pools. They like to grow on dead corals, rubble, and between coral heads. They feed off micro particulate matter in the water column. A. punctata propagates easily in captivity, which can contribute to preserving the wild populations. Even after splitting, the clone mushroom doesn't necessarily always resemble the "mother" mushroom, thus giving the aquarist a variety of shades and colors. They have very few predators if any.
The Actinodiscus punctata is not on the IUCN Red List for endangered species
What do Mushroom Corals look like: These Coral Mushrooms Actinodiscus punctata are basically a coral without a skeleton and their internal structures are the same as stony corals. The top of their body or the upper surface is called the oral disc. The surface of the oral disc is smooth, but with very colorful large bumps. The stalk area, which is very small, is called the column and it is located just above the pedal disc, which is where they attach to surfaces.
The A. punctata come in green, reddish brown, blue and red depending on their origin, and they have little pimples that can be a combination of these colors. Although they do not have the long feeding tentacles to capture prey, their pimples serve them well by holding several types of stinging cells. They can actually warp the surface of their oral disc to change the water flow over them to direct particulate and flocculent material toward their mucous center for absorption. At times they will make a trumpet shape. This is thought to be formed when they are needing nourishment, or if the light level is low, or is of low quality due to age.
Mushroom Coral Life Cycles: The Mushroom Coral can grow to can grow to 2-3" (5-8 cm), but their life span is unknown.
Mushroom Coral Care: The Mushroom Coral is easy to care for and does not like or need high levels of light. They should be kept in shaded areas in tanks with high output lamps. If they are not shaded, they turn all brown and fail to thrive. Some will just float around the tank until they find a nice shaded area or have an unpleasant encounter with a pump. They also cannot handle high or high to moderate water flow. But they can handle higher levels of nitrate than SPS and LPS corals.
Mushroom Coral Feeding: The Mushroom Coral is a carnivore. In the wild, these corallimorphs are well equipped with nutritional alternatives for their well-being. They derive nutrition from their symbiotic algae, zooxanthellae, that dwells within their tissues and they eat suspended micro particles out of the water column. They can actually warp their surfaces to change the water flow over them to direct particulate and flocculent material toward their mucous center for absorption.
In captivity you can feed your A. punctata newly hatched artemia once in a great while. But really, it is the nutrient level in your tank that they will thrive in, and not direct feedings.
Water changes of 10% bi-monthly or 20% a month are typical. Provide a reef environment with proper magnesium levels. Some claim proper iodine levels are beneficial also. Due to their toxins, active carbon is a good idea with larger colonies of mushrooms. Do not over skim since the A. punctata need nutrients to survive on and will not do well in a pristine environment.
A typical live rock/reef environment is what is needed for your Mushroom Coral. Provide rubble or dead coral and live rock for them to have something with which to attach their pedal disc. They do not do well with strong water movement, so direct the power heads and intake nozzles away from them. As they can float around when looking for a place to settle, it's a good rule of thumb to have all of your pumps covered. Most good quality pumps have guards on them.
- Minimum Tank Size / Length: Nano tank of 1 gallon or more
- Marine Lighting: Low, direct metal halide lighting can be fatal
- Temperature: 72° - 83° F (22° - 28° C)
- Salinity / Specific Gravity: 1.023 to 1.025
- Water Movement: Low / weak
- Water Region: Bottom of the aquarium
The Mushroom Coral is semi-aggressive if they are near another coral. They will cause other corals to loose tissue, recess possibly die. Acroporas will not grow in aquariums with large mushroom populations. Make sure to leave 6 - 8 " between your mushrooms and other corals. Watch the growth rate since the A. punctata will overgrow and kill any nearby corals.
Mushroom Anemones will tolerate their own species and usually other Mushrooms. In the wild many species of Mushroom Corals occur together in large groups. In captivity A. punctata will get along with their own species, but may not tolerate mushroom species outside their colony. Even in one genus, if the color is different or a different species, the weaker mushroom will detach and find another location. Strong water movement will cause them to detach as well.
No sexual difference in appearance is known.
- Mushroom Coral Reproduction:
Corallimorphs reproduce in 4 different ways. The first three ways, asexual budding, laceration, and division/fission, are successful in the aquarium as most hobbyists soon discover. Budding is where individuals are formed from particles divided off from the pedal disc. Similar to budding, laceration happens when they move slowly over the surface and leave behind small pieces that will eventually form into mushrooms. Division or fission is where an individual divides down the center and forms two animals.
Sexual reproduction is where eggs and sperm are released into the water column. They unite and form free-swimming larvae which are initially plankonic, and them settle and adhere to the substrate. Sexual reproduction has not been well documented, and has not been observed in captivity. Presumably modern filtration methods are inhospitable to free swimming larvae.
- Mushroom Coral Propagation:
Mushroom corals can be easily propagated in captivity by cutting individual polyps into several pieces. Placed the pieces on a gravel substrate with low water flow. They will attach themselves to pieces of gravel. Later they can then be super glued to a suitable substrate such as a reef plug. It has been stated that the warmer end of their temperature spectrum encourages reproduction.
For details on how to propagate your mushroom corals see Mushroom Corals: Mushroom Coral Propagation
The A. punctata are disease resistant, and only affected by improper husbandry. Problems for the most Corallimorphs are pretty minimal unless your lighting, water movement, feeding and water quality are improper for these animals. A sign of this is if your coral mushroom detaches to look for "better conditions" to settle in. They have very few predators if any.
Mushroom Corals for Sale: The Mushroom Coral A. punctata are not always easy to find online but you may be able to get some from reef clubs, coral frag groups, or by special order from your local pet store.
- Animal-World References: Marine and Reef
- Eric Borneman, Aquarium Corals : Selection, Husbandry, and Natural History , TFH Publications, 2001
- Anthony Calfo, Book of Coral Propagation, Volume 1 Edition 2: Reef Gardening for Aquarists, Reading Trees; 2 edition, 2007
- Ronald L. Shimek, Guide to Marine Invertebrates: 500+ Essential-to-Know Aquarium Species, Microcosm, 2005
- Bob Goemans, Mushroom Coral, Discosoma punctata, Animal Library, Saltwatercorner.com