The Common Toadstool Coral Sarcophyton glaucum is one of the well-known and readily available soft corals. Like other leather corals in the Sarcophyton genus, it resembles a mushroom or toadstool. Consequently the S. glaucum has many names similar to other leathers such as Toadstool Leather Coral, Mushroom Leather Coral, Cup Leather Coral, Toadstool, Umbrella Coral, and Mushroom Coral. When ordering this or any other leather coral, its best to make sure you use the scientific name.
The Sarcophyton sp. have a thick smooth, single stalk with a flared, smooth mushroom-shaped top that can be folded or funnel-shaped. Depending on the species, younger colonies are mushroom-shaped and mature colonies are more lobed and folded like a toadstool. Some keep the toadstool look their entire life. The flesh is firm and soft, yet can be easily torn. The “top” is called a capitulum and within that area are found long autozooid polyps for feeding and many also have siphonozooid polyps for water movement. The polyps can retract all the way, giving them a smooth look.
The S. glaucum tends to be rather plain in color. Its flesh is a yellow/tan and the polyps, which are rather long when extended, are typically tipped in green. Higher lighting levels, 10K or higher, can bring out the green. Its capitulum is also less convoluted (folding) than on some of the others in this genus, like that of the Elephant Ear Toadstool S. trocheliophorum. The Sarcophyton leather corals can grow quite large, with mature males reaching 4″ (11 cm) across and 24″ (61 cm) across or more for females.
The Common Toadstool Coral is one of the hardiest of corals. It is easy to keep and propagate, making it a great coral for the beginner. They like a moderate water flow, medium to high lighting, and for nutrition they use the symbiotic algae, zooxanthellae, that lives within their tissue, as well as extracting nutrients from the water. They do grow large and are aggressive if allowed to touch other corals, so they need plenty of space.
The Sarcophyton sp. tend to produce a lot of toxic compounds compared to other leathers. The Common toadstool leather is one of the better understood leathers. According to the Department of Chemistry and Bioscience, and several other notable Bioscience institutions around the world, there are properties in the cells of this coral found to slow leukemia. With the production of toxins however, care must be taken when handling. They are also toxic toward other corals due to their release of terpenes (poisons used to ward off encroaching corals). They have been known to harm some stony coral species of Acropora like the Staghorn Acropora A. formosa, some species of Porites like P andrewsii, as well as the death of Catalaphyllia, Euphyllia, and Plerogyra species.
To learn about other types of soft corals, see:
Soft Coral Facts
The Common Toadstool Coral grows to 4″ if it is a male and 24″ if it is female! There is no way of knowing the sex, so an aquarist may find themselves either fragging or giving away their giant female Toadstool Coral! In some instances, such as adding a small Common Toadstool Coral to a tank that has larger and more mature softies, the growth may be stunted. While their toxins that they emit into the water is detrimental to stony corals, they can be stung by corals that come in contact with them. If your tank is 30″ deep and at least 24″ front to back, give it a go!
Species: Sarcophyton glaucum
Distribution / Background
Leather Coral Information: The Sarcophyton genus was described by Lesson in 1834. They belong to the family Alcyoniidae, which are referred to as octocorals. There are over 35 species of Sarcophyton. Some of their common names are Toadstool Leather, Leather Coral, Mushroom Leather, Sarcophyton Coral, Mushroom Leather, and Trough Coral.
The Common Toadstool Coral S. glaucum was described by Quoy and Gaimard in 1833. This leather has many names similar to other leathers such as Toadstool Leather Coral, Mushroom Leather Coral, Cup Leather Coral, Toadstool, Umbrella Coral, and Mushroom Coral. They have been propagated in captivity, but since they tend to be rather bland in color, many times these corals are dyed. Dyed corals tend to not do as well and are dyed because the areas some come from have been bleached due to pollution and weather patterns.
According to the Department of Chemistry and Bioscience, and several other notable Bioscience institutions around the world, there are properties in the cells of this coral to slow leukemia. They removed 4 novel biscembranes (parts of a cell) and found that 2 of them “had a weak, yet present activity against the rapid increase of human promyelocytic leukemia cells (HL-60).” In layman’s terms, they may have found a way to slow leukemia down.
Where Sarcophyton Corals Are Found: The S. glaucum are one of the most wide spread of the genus. They are found in the Red Sea, Indo-Pacific, and around South Africa.
Sarcophyton Coral Habitat: The S. glaucum are found on reef flats, fore reefs, reef slopes and lagoons with hard and soft coral species. On reef slopes they frequently grow in groups.
The Sarcophyton glaucum is not listed on the IUCN Red List for Endangered Species.
What do Sarcophyton Corals look like: The Common Toadstool Coral S. glaucum, like others in this genus, resembles a mushroom or toadstool, with their capitulum (top) having autozooid and siphonozooid polyps that are rather long when extended and are typically tipped in green. Higher lighting levels can bring out the green, with 10K or higher. When the polyps are completely retracted, the surface has a very smooth look to it.
|Elephant Ear Coral
Toadstool Leather CoralS. trocheliophorum
In varying amounts, depending on the species, Sarcophyton leathers will warp their upper surface and direct the water flow by forming ridges that direct the water to feathery pinnules on their tentacles. These feathery pinnules are designed to sieve the water for nutrients.
The capitulum of the Common Toadstool Coral S. glaucum is less convoluted (folding) than others in this genus. The flesh is yellow/tan with a tapering spindle like appearance at the surface of the trunk and are double-tapered inside the trunk. The flesh is firm and soft, yet easily torn, so care should be taken when handling the S. glaucum. The Sarcophyton leather corals can grow from 4 x 4 x 4″ for males to 24 x 24 x 24″ or more for females.
Difficulty of Care
Leather Coral Care: The Common Toadstool Coral S. glaucum is very easy to keep and propagate, making them a great coral for the beginner. They like a moderate water flow, medium to high lighting, and for nutrition they use the symbiotic algae, zooxanthellae, that lives within their tissue, as well as extracting nutrients from the water. They do grow large and are aggressive if allowed to touch other corals, so be sure to leave enough room between species.
Foods / Feeding
Leather Coral Feeding: The Sarcophyton leathers have reduced digestive systems. They do not use mucus nets, nor are their tentacles designed to catch prey. To make up for this, they will warp their upper surface and direct water flow by forming ridges that lead to feathery pinnules on their tentacles. These feathery pinnules are designed to sieve the water for nutrients. They can also absorb dissolved organic matter, and have a symbiotic relationship with a marine algae known as zooxanthellae, where they also receive some of their nutrients.
Because these corals are photosynthetic, they receiving nutrients from the marine algae, zooxanthellae, that lives within their tissue so really do not need to be fed in mature systems. For maximum growth, more intense lighting is needed since this type of coral thrives on light, which supports its zooxanthellae.
Though it is often stated that the Common Toadstool Corals do better in tanks that have regular feedings, it is not because they benefit from direct feeding. Their digestive anatomy has not developed to capture larger foods (even “sand” sized). But with feedings of other corals, extra nutrients are inevitably added to the water and in turn do benefit this coral. The feathery pinnules at the top of their tentacles will sieve nutrients out of the water. These nutrients are especially important if the light is not on the higher end.
Stable tank conditions are needed to keep the Sarcophyton genus. A water change that is a standard for any reef system, not to exceed 30% is needed. In general, a typical water change of 20% a month or 10% biweekly, depending on the bio load, is sufficient. Some have found success by doing a 5% water change once a week, keeping water quality high and reducing the need for most additives. Soft corals do need to have proper chemical levels for good growth.
Iodine is used up quickly in captive environments, and does need to be added to the top off water or to the tank regularly. Make sure you have a test to make sure your levels are sufficient. Frequent water changes are preferred over adding supplements other than those listed here.
Suggested levels for Sarcophyton species are:
- Calcium: 385 – 450 ppm (Seachem makes a calcium additive that states 385 as sufficient. Anything over 400 tends to wear on pumps and other moving parts.)
- Alkalinity: 3.2 – 4.8 MEQ/L (8 to 12 dKh – 10 is recommended)
- Phosphates: 0, zero.
- Magnesium: 1200 – 1350 ppm. (Magnesium makes calcium available, so if your calcium is low, check your magnesium levels before adding any more calcium.)
- Strontium: 8 – 10. Strontium levels are suggested to keep the coral happy, and a kit for testing proper levels is suggested.
|Quick Reference Chart
A typical live rock/reef environment is what is needed for your Common Toadstool Coral, along with some fish for organic matter production and plenty of room to grow.
Provide proper lighting and water movement. They need a moderate water flow and they also like moderate to high lighting. Make sure the water flow does not shoot a straight hard stream directly at the coral, only random water current. The Sarcophyton genus is aggressive toward other sensitive corals, like stony corals, so be sure to provide plenty of room between these and all other species.
- Minimum Tank Size / Length:50 gallon (190 L) or larger
- Marine Lighting: All, though moderate to high is suggested.
- Temperature: 68Â° – 84Â° F (22Â° – 29Â° C)
- Salinity / Specific Gravity: 1.023 – 1.025
- Water Movement: Moderate, with a random flow is suggested.
- Water Region: All areas of the aquarium.
Compatibility and Social Behaviors
The Common Toadstool Coral is aggressive. The S. glaucum is toxic toward other corals due to their release of terpenes (poisons to ward off encroaching corals). They have been known to harm some stony coral species of Acropora like the Staghorn Acropora A. formosa, some species of Porites like P andrewsii, as well as the death of Catalaphyllia, Euphyllia, and Plerogyra species.
This species can generally be housed with fishes, shrimp, and hermit crabs. Be careful if a clownfish decides to use a S. glaucum as a surrogate anemone. The irritation of the clown can prevent the coral from expanding. In this case removal of the clown, or screening off the coral from the fish may be needed.
In the wild there are various copepods (tiny, shrimp-like crustaceans) found on this species. There are also several species of flatworms (planaria), nudibranchs, and other parasites that tend to feed on its tissue. If these pests are present, they can usually be removed with a simple 5 minute freshwater dip.
Sex – Sexual differences
Males of the Common Toadstool Coral S. glaucum tend to be smaller than females, but mature quicker. Males will reach 4 x 4 x 4″ (11 x 11 x 11 cm) and sexual maturity in 6 to 7 years. The females will reach 24 x 24 x 24″ (61 x 61 x 61 cm) and sexual maturity at 10 years.
Breeding and Reproduction
In the wild, the Sarcophyton genus will reproduce naturally by spawning as well as by budding and fragmenting. They will drop off clones of themselves by self fission. A sign of reproduction is a hole that may appear in the middle of the capitulum, and as it reaches the edge, a small piece falls off.
As can be seen in the photo this coral is reproducing by “budding” in which a small coral grows from the base and starts its own coral. The “bud” can be severed from the parent coral at this point and glued to its own rock.
The S. glaucum only spawns once a year. It takes egg production 22-23 months to form, thus females have 2 sets of oocytes. The male’s sperm takes 10-12 months to form. Their annual spawning (around July in the Red Sea area) occurs in one night with the external fertilization producing larvae. The larvae is mobile within 36 hours. The larvae will swim for 14 days, thus resulting in this coral being one of the most wide spread leathers in the Sarcophyton genus.
The Common Toadstool Coral is very easy to propagate, for just a small piece or for a large frag, but with a few variations in procedure. Using either procedure, the coral will more than likely deflate, but with good water flow it will recover. Corals can emit a nasty and at times noxious odor, so be sure there is good ventilation. Clean up any mucous when finished to prevent any possible health problems.
To frag a small piece:
- Make sure your leather is healthy.
- You may use a pair of very sharp scissors or a scalpel.
- Simply cut a small forked frag (1-2″ frag size) away from the mother colony while still in the tank.
- Loosely rubber band the frag between branches and affix to a small piece of rubble that has a natural indent or a plug.
For larger fragging:
- The leather coral should have all polyps retracted before proceeding.
- Remove the coral from the tank, and quickly perform the fragmentation from a mother colony with a clean razor, scalpel, or knife. (scissors can damage tissue from larger fragging cuts.)
- Provide a bath of clean, temperature and salinity adjusted, water (same as main tank) with a little iodine before returning to the tank. This bath will help clear out the mucous that the leather will produce from this procedure.
- The frag can be glued, tied, sewn to a rock or plug, or just set on rubble where the current will not take them away, but will help them heal.
- Return the leather to the same spot it was in before fragging and discard bath water.This placement will depend on the size and shape of the frag. At the very minimum place it at least close to where the mother colony is located, perhaps using the mother colony to block a water flow that is too quick for the frag.
The Sarcophyton genus is generally very hardy and adaptable, but can contract disease. Coral diseases are commonly caused by stress, shock (like pouring freshwater into the tank and it coming in contact with the leather), and incompatible tank mates including specific fish, or pests such as a Rapa rapa Snail which will eat them from the inside out.
If the coral goes limp for a prolonged period of time, lasting over a week, there may be underlying conditions such as poor water quality, a predatorial snail, or a nearby coral starting chemical warfare, competing for room. Look for rotting tissue and holes that will show up under the capitulum. If the coral sheds for a prolonged period of time, aim a powerhead or return flow at the leather to clear off the mucus.
Some diseases and treatments include:
- Flatworms, Brown Jelly Infections, cyanobacteria
Treat with a freshwater dip of 1 to 3 minutes in chlorine free freshwater of the same temperature and pH as the main display.
- Cyanobacteria, Brown Jelly Infections
These can also be treated with Neomycin sulphite, Kanamycin and other broad-spectrum antibiotics. The pill can be pulverised into a fine powder, mixed with sea water to make a paste, and then applied to the wound or affected site of the coral with a simple artists brush.
- Necrosis, Black Band Disease
To prevent necrosis, and fight black band disease, according to one author the corals can be treated with Tetracycline at 10 mg per quart/liter.
- Lugol’s Solution (as a preventative/cure)
Use a Lugol’s dip at 5-10 drops of 5% Lugol’s solution per quart/liter of newly mixed sea water that has been mixing for 10-20 minutes. Start with a 10 minute dip and observe the reaction of the coral. A daily dip can be done until the coral is cured.
One procedure that can save a coral’s life if nothing else is working is amputation of the affected area. This must be done in a separate container consisting of some of the tank’s water. Cut slightly into healthy tissue surrounding the diseased flesh then reattach the coral to the substrate with the open wound cemented on part of the reef structure.
- “Liquid Band Aid”
For wounds that are on the side or top, some have used “liquid band aid” or super glue to seal the wound.
Soft Corals for Sale: The Common Toadstool Coral S. glaucum is very easy to find pet shops and on line. Online they can run about $50.00 USD and up, depending on size and/or color.
- Animal-World References: Marine and Reef
- Anthony Calfo, Book of Coral Propagation, Volume 1 Edition 2: Reef Gardening for Aquarists, Reading Trees; 2nd edition, 2007
- Harry Erhardt and Horst Moosleitner, Marine Atlas Volume 2, Invertebrates (Baensch Marine Atlas), Mergus Verlag GmbH, Revised edition, 2005
- Vincent B. Hargreaves, The Complete Book of the Marine Aquarium, Thunder Bay Press, 2002
- Eric Borneman, Aquarium Corals: Selection, Husbandry, and Natural History , TFH Publications, 2001
- Biscembranes from the Soft Coral Sarcophyton glaucum, ACS Publications, American Chemical Society and American Society of Pharmacognosy, Copyright 2006
- Bob Goemans, Toadstool/Umbrella/Mushroom Coral, Animal Library, Saltwatercorner.com