mushroom coral




Order: Corallimorpharia ( Mushroom coral )
Family: Actinodiscidae
Actinodiscus ( disk anemones - false coral )

Corallimorphs also known as the Mushroom corals are easy to keep in captivity. As a matter of fact they often thrive in marine aquariums that are too nutrient rich to support any other types of corals,therefore they make a very good beginners coral that can be kept in very simple aquariums.

Mushroom corals beautiful colors and ease of maintenance make them one of the first corals that most people purchase.

Producing a beautiful crop of colored Mushroom corals takes patience more than the ability to maintain the most expensive reef systems. Corallimorphs are able to withstand high nitrate levels, but they do expand and reproduce more when the pH is kept at 8.2 or higher .

Corallimorphs come in many forms and colors

and this makes them one of the most collectible reef animals. There are many body forms and surface textures in the family. Some of the most beautiful and valuable Mushroom corals are the metallic blue and brilliant red smooth Mushroom corals in the genus Discosoma. The corallimorphs in the genus Discosoma also come in bright green, brown, orange, and many shades of purple. The surface of these Mushroom corals can be smooth or bumpy. The colors can be solid, striped, or spotted. The Mushroom corals that we have found to be very popular in the market are the large body, smooth shiny blue Mushroom corals.

mushroom coral reef ricordia

reef aquarium

Because the Mushroom corals come in so many different colors many people start a collection.

Mushroom corals that have been raised in captivity are much more valuable than the same type of Mushroom from the ocean because it can often take over a year for imported Mushroom corals to start to grow. When you purchase mushroom rocks from the wild they often stay static for months.

We are certain that during this period of time the Zooxanthellae inside of the Mushroom corals are morphing into types that can better utilize the lighting in our closed systems. It seems funny but we often say that wild mushroom rocks will not start to grow until you have forgotten about them. After the rocks have been in captivity for several semesters they often start to grow and reproduce rapidly. Mushroom corals that we receive in our trades or ones that we move from other reef tanks often do not go through this period of change for as long of time. Captive Mushroom corals can start growing in a few weeks.

mushroom reef soft coral

Another group of Mushroom corals that we are working with here at GARF are in the genus Rhodactis. This genus includes the Hairy Mushroom anemones.These Mushroom corals have tentacles on the surface of the oral disk and they are often branched. We have been researching several strains larger Rhodactis because clown fish except them as a substitute host.

We have learned that the hairy Mushroom anemones are able to be grown in brighter light conditions than the smooth metallic Mushroom corals. The hairy Mushroom corals can also be grown in parts of the reef aquarium that have stronger water movement. We have discovered that you can often tell how much to feed a Mushroom by noticing how long the tentacles are. The smooth Mushroom corals of the genus Discosoma do not rely on catching as much food as the Hairy Mushroom corals in the genus Rhodactis.


The third group of Mushroom corals that we are working with here at GARF are in the genus Ricordia. Ricordia is one of the most popular corallimorphs in the hobby because of their beautiful colors and their tentacles that terminate in round balls, called clavate tips . Ricordia often have several different colors on one mushroom.

The most beautiful Ricordia in GARF's collection have orange polyps, and a blue margin with a bright green upraised mouth. Collection of Ricordia Mushroom corals in the United States was made illegal in the early 1990's but it is often possible to buy single polyps that are collected on shells. Fortunately there are some Ricordia yuma that have been imported from the Pacific Ocean.

Both Types of Ricordia can be kept in brighter light than the Mushroom corals from the group Discosoma. We have found that they do best when we place them under VHO lighting in parts of the reef aquarium that receive a moderate amount of light. You do not want to place these types of corallimorphs too close to the surface if you have Halide lighting.

ricordia mushroom reef

Corallimorphs can be kept with many types of soft coral in the brood stock aquarium. They often grow in among the Zoanthids and Protopalthoa colonies without causing harm to either species. Mushroom corals do seem to do better in older tanks, and they often need less light than many corals. You can use the bottoms of your systems to produce Mushroom corals.

aquarium Mushroom corals

Making a Mushroom colony is a good use for some of the older tall show style aquariums. At GARF one of the most beautiful brood stock aquariums is in the laboratory in a 40 gallon reef tank that we made in 1986. This tank was made during the time when the first articles by George Smitt were published about wet and dry filtration.

We now have two of these tanks that we have kept active all of these years and both of them have filters that are twice as big as the show part of the aquarium. The tank in the lab has 1 - 24 in. power compact light. The other tank has one 100 W Halide light that is over 1 ft. from the water surface. Both of these systems have many species of Discosoma and a few Rhodactis. The tanks were both set up in about 1989.

Corallimorphs can also be grown in mixed brood stock tanks if they are not allowed to overtake and smother the other corals. Almost all of the types of Mushroom corals are able to live together and the smooth Discosoma seemed to thrive in colonies of many different kinds. If you are able to purchase or trade for any captive raised Mushroom corals they will make a very good additions to your brood stock.

Many of the visiting coral farmers at GARF have laughed when I have told them that they should sell their IBM stock to buy blue metallic Mushroom corals. Strong colonies of metallic blue and purple Mushroom corals can produce hundreds of clones each year. We've talked with many coral wholesalers during the last two years who have told us that bright colored blue and purple Mushroom corals are very hard to find.


If you are able to meet people who have older reef tanks they may have so many Mushroom corals that the Mushroom corals have become a pest. If the Mushroom corals are growing on large live rocks there is a very easy way to remove part of them. You will need a large pair of surgical forceps and the plastic bowl for reef water. The types of forceps that we use have notches so the blades can be locked closed.

When the Mushroom corals are not disturbed in the reef tank they fill with water and stand slightly away from the rock on the stalk. After you fill the bowl with reef water you can reach in with a forceps and pinch one of a larger Mushroom corals very close to the rock. After closing and locking the forceps it is very simple to turn the forceps and pull the mushroom away from the rock. You just attemp to roll the Mushroom up like a sardine can lid and it will come loose:)

Do not be overly concerned that the Mushroom tears or breaks because any pieces left on the rocks will develop into full Mushroom corals, and you're going to cut the tops up like a pizza as soon as you get back to your coral farm. :)

If the live rocks that the Mushroom are growing on are small enough to remove from the tank easily, then you can use scissors to remove the Mushroom corals that you want to thin out of the colony. If you're not trying to thin an overgrown colony it is best to cut the stalk as close to the cap as possible. By leaving this larger stalk on the original rock a new head will grow on the Mushroom much sooner than it will on a shorter piece of the stalk. Some of the blue Mushroom corals in our lab are able to replace the cap to the same size it was before cutting in just 16 weeks.

There are many different ways to propagate Mushroom corals and we have been working for the last four years to find a way that works almost every time and is both easy and quick. The method that we use now requires patience during the initial part of the process. We now trim the caps of the Mushroom corals into triangle shaped pieces and allow them to attach to gravel in one of our cutting trays.

These cutting trays are 4 in. deep with water from one of our large reefs circulating through them before it returns to the sump. The largest of these cuttings trays has six-40 W lights and polished aluminum reflectors.

When our inturn from England, Stuart Gould, was in Boise we did an experiment on Mushroom cutting. Stuart and I cut up some blue Discosoma Mushroom corals and placed them in the cutting trays. We tried to cut each mushroom cap into six individual triangle shaped pieces. After three days we climbed up on the buckets and looked into the cutting tray from the top. We saw that many of the Mushroom pieces had turned into small round Mushroom corals.

Corallimorphs mushroom corals

Because they had healed and attached to the gravel so fast I was certain that I must have left Mushroom corals in the tray from a previous cutting. I had Stuart remove every Mushroom from the cutting tray and we started the experimental over. This next experiment had the same exact results. The Mushroom corals that we remove the top barely six months ago are now completely healed and they are ready to cut again.

Once the Mushroom cuttings have attached to small pieces of gravel it is very easy to use the GARF reef gel to attach them to larger rocks. We have been able to purchase some captive raised Mushroom corals from the Solomon Islands. These Mushroom corals were sent on thin six inch disks of cement that had been formed on a sandy beach.

Small holes were dug in the sand and pieces of rubble rock were put in the holes. A mixture of sand and cement was then added to form a small pancake of concrete. There is a small colony of about six 1/2 inch wide red Mushroom corals on each disk . The same product can be grown in the land based Aquaculture project saving the high freight charges that made up over one half of the landed price. The wild Mushroom corals will take months to adapt to captivity - they do not know they were farmed.

Corallimorphs propagation

Allowing Mushroom fragments to attach to gravel before they are super glued onto the live rock is one of the easiest ways to propagate Mushroom corals, but there are several other ways that we have been experimenting with that show great promise. One of the most interesting ways that we have been able to make live rocks with Mushroom corals is by sewing them on with cotton thread. First we pick a live rock that is approximately the size of a small apple with one flat side so it will set in the reef aquarium. After it is decided which side will be up, we prepare the Mushroom cuttings. Depending on how the Mushroom corals are attached we either remove the live rocks they are on or we remove the Mushroom corals from the rocks that stay in the reef aquarium.

After we have collected several colors of mushroom caps we cut them into triangle shaped pieces. These pieces are then put into a small bowl of reef water so we can string them on the piece of cotton thread like small beads using a small sewing needle. When we have threaded 4 to 5 small pieces of Mushroom onto our thread we then wrap the thread around the live rocks so that the Mushroom corals are on the top.

It usually takes about 10 days for the Mushroom fragments to attach to the live rocks. Luckily this is just about the time that it takes for the cotton thread to disintegrate. It is important that the Mushroom corals are not placed in a tank with a wave maker because the constant back and forth motion will cause them to to be cut by the thread. This is a very interesting way to make combination Mushroom rocks because you can control both the color and the placement of the small Mushroom pieces very easily .

Mushroom Rock Production

Mushroom anemones can be cut and grafted onto base rock. When a colony of mushroom anemones is thriving in a tank, starts can be removed with a pair of sharp scissors.

Several methods are often used to attach the cuttings to base rock.

The easiest way to start new mushroom rocks is to cut the top off of a healthy anemone and attach it to a fresh base rock. This is done by holding the mushroom up with the heads hanging down. Hold the mushroom rock above a bowl of reef water and cut several pieces off. The cuttings will fall into the bowl.


Corallimorphs reef aquariumbefore - after Corallimorphs Mushroom corals ricordia"

This type of mesh netting is sold in fabric stores in wedding dress section

When you use bridal veil netting to hold the Mushroom corals onto the live rocks it is very important that the new cuttings be placed in a strong water current. The netting tends to stop the water movement around the Mushroom cuttings and if this happens bacteria can form under the netting and destroy the cuttings. When we use bridal veil netting to attach Mushroom cuttings to reef plugs we place a maxi jet 1000 power head so that the water current moves down the plastic rack and washes over the top of the reef plugs. We have found out that you should always use the largest bridal veil netting that will hold the fragments on to the reef plugs because the netting with very fine holes will not allow water circulation.

The method that we use to attach Mushroom corals is with a 1/16 inch mesh net. Several cuttings are placed on the base rock and the group is held in place with a 2" x 4" square of mesh.

Rubber bands or super glue can be used to hold the cutting until the anemone attaches.


Mushroom corals of several colors can be attached to different parts of the same rock. These rocks are then placed in a tank with bright lights and medium current.

One of the most interesting ways that we have seen to produce mushroom rocks uses small Aragonite rocks with 1/2 inch holes drilled into them 1/2 inch deep. We use a small Carbide drill bit. These rocks can be formed out of Aragocrete and the hole can be put into them while the AragocreteTM mix is still wet. The Mushroom heads are removed using either of the two methods that we talk about here. This method works very well with the smooth Discosoma type Mushroom corals because the many different colors can be mixed together. The heads are cut up into small fragments with each mushroom cap being cut into 6 pieces.

The Aragocrete rocks with holes are place so that the holes are facing up and a power heads is positioned so a slight current moves across the top of the AragocreteTM rocks. All of the Mushroom fragments are mixed together in the plastic bowl of reef water and baster is used to remove four or five fragments at a time. These fragments are then gently squirted into holes so that they settle to the bottom of the hole and do not wash off of the rock. After a few weeks the Mushroom fragments have attached inside of the hole and they soon start to creep out a hole and across the Aragocrete rock.

Mushroom rock production in closed systems





Learn to start an inexpensive mushroom aquarium

1. The best tanks for production of mushroom rocks are deep tanks with good water quality and medium water flow. We use two Maxi - Jet 1200 power heads in each tank.

2. The best lighting has been 40 watt florescent bulbs. We have had good production using three 40 watt 4' foot bulbs - WE ARE USING THREE BULB 40 WATT LIGHT BALLASTS

3. We use SeaChem Reef Plus at twice the regular dose for good growth and fast attachment.








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