The Corallimorph mushroom corals are halfway between anemones and stony corals!
Corallimorphs or Mushroom Anemones are similar to sea anemones because they have no calcerous skeleton, but anatomically they more strongly resemble stony corals. Mushroom Corals also lack the long feeding tentacles of the both sea anemones and stony corals. These soft bodied animals have a flattened oral disc with a smooth, bumpy, or fuzzy appearance.
The beautiful coral anemones are very popular inhabitants for both the reef tank and the saltwater aquarium. Due to symbiotic zooxanthellae in their tissues, Mushroom Corals can have striking colors and patterning. They come in a wide range of colors including green, blue, purple, red, gray, or brown. They can be a solid color or have stripes radiating out from the center, and sometimes they can be spotted or mottled.
Corallimorphs are among the easiest corals to keep. These colorful aquarium inhabitants are enjoyed by both experienced and novice reef keepers. They make great beginner corals, so are often the first addition to a new reef aquarium. They are not only attractive, but they are hardy and durable.
The ability to tolerate changing environmental conditions makes Mushroom Corals well suited to captivity. They will reproduce quickly in well cared for systems, and are relatively inexpensive. When kept in a maintained environment with adequate lighting, their colors will brighten and turn your aquarium into an elegant showcase. They will reproduce quickly in well cared for systems, and are relatively inexpensive.
For information about setting up a reef tank see:Reef Tanks – Mini-Reef Aquarium Basics
Mushroom Coral Care
Mushroom Anemones can be kept in most reef tank type set-ups or in hardy fish and invertebrate type marine aquariums. They can even be maintained in aquariums with just sand substrate, live rock, and an airstone for water movement and oxygenation. This is because they will tolerate high levels of organic compounds. But they will do even better, and their colors will brighten, in an aquarium with low levels of organic compounds.
Most prefer indirect light or shade so the VHO fluorescent or metal halide lighting is not required. Like most sea anemones, they use live rock or some other solid material to adhere to and they like low water movement.
Mushroom Coral Feeding
Corallimorphs that contain zooxanthellae, specimens from brightly lit shallow waters, need little feeding. Others will feed on dissolved and particulate matter and some feed on zooplankton. Larger specimens are known to trap and digest fish.
Some Mushroom Anemones have been known to go for months without dedicated feeding. But some corallimorphs will require regular feeding with chopped shrimp, mysis, worms, pulverized fish food, mussel, and fish roe; or plankton substitutes such as brine shrimp and Daphnia. It is important not to overfeed them.
Types of Mushrooms
At present there are only about 56 known species of Mushroom Corals. Each Mushroom Coral species has its own unique appearance and behavior. Even though they are all very hardy, it’s helpful and enjoyable to learn about each type of mushroom you plan to keep.
Some of the most popular, and commonly available, are species from these genera:
Pictures of Mushrooms Corals
The mushroom corals known as the Elephant Ear Mushrooms are very curious animals. They are like the Venus Flytrap plant in animal form. Looking like an anemone, they attract small fish, especially small anemone fish but other fish as well, to take refuge in their oral disk. The disk doesn’t sting them like most anemones would but it slowly closes on the fish until it cannot escape. Then the mouth opens and consumes the fish. It is suspected that the anemone secretes a drug which tranquilizes the fish and keeps it from trying to escape.
In the Amplexidiscus genus, the True Elephant Ear or Giant Cup MushroomAmplexidiscus fenestrafer is probably one of the most unusual corals available. They are the largest of the coral mushroom species.
It is usually cream colored or light grey, sometimes they have a greenish cast to them. The body can reach up to 18″ (45 cm) in diameter but is usually 8 – 10 ” (20 – 25 cm). There is a tenacle free area just inside the edge of the disc. Fluorescent light is preferred if it is indirect or for short periods. Low currents are preferred. The elephant ear can be fed shrimp or fish.
Close cousins ot the Giant Cup Mushroom, also known as Elephant Ear Mushrooms, are found in the Rhodactis genus.
The Elephant Ear MushroomRhodactis mussoides does not get quite as large as the Giant Cup, reaching up to 15″ (40 cm) in diameter, though it is usually about 10″ (25 cm).
Some other familiar, yet smaller corallimorphs that are called Elephant Ear Mushrooms are:
- Green Hairy Mushroom Rhodactis indosinensis which can grow to 4 – 8″ (10 – 20 cm)
- Purple Hairy Mushroom Rhodactis rhodostoma which only grows to 5″ (13 cm)
- Bullseye Mushroom or Tonga Blue Mushroom Rhodactis inchoata which is very small, reaching only 1.5 – 3″ (4 – 8 cm)
Knobby False Coral
Florida False Coral
The False Corals from the Ricordea genus are some of the most sought after mushrooms due to their brilliance and variety of colors available! They fetch a Hefty price if the color is intense. Yet once they multiply, you can recover some of this cost if that is your aim.
After you purchase one, make sure your tank has the same lighting as the Ricordea you saw pictured. If not, your new mushroom may display a different shade than you thought you were getting. Water movement also plays a part in color and propagation.
Some favorite mushroom corals are found In the Discosoma and Actinodiscus genera.
These species come in many different colors like blue, red, green, brown, purple and often have stripes, spots, and mottled color variations.
These corals prefer indirect light from fluorescents and low currents. They will often propagate until they completely cover the substrate upon which they grow.
For pictures of other types of mushrooms, be sure to visit each type found in the table above!
See Mushroom Coral Information for more details of the Corallimorph Orders.
Featured Image Credit: IanRedding, Shutterstock