Mushroom corals are a multi colored and beautiful group of soft coral species which are fantastic beginner corals and bring a beautiful range of colors to your aquarium. Personally, the key attraction to this coral is the extreme hardiness which helps it survive through some of the “newbie” mistakes beginners may find they are making when starting with saltwater coral keeping. I recall a story related to me from a worker at a reef farm that someone had once dropped a bagged mushroom coral under a table and didn’t realize it. A month later they found the coral very shriveled and angry but still alive. The coral ended up surviving the ordeal (very low light, zero flow, and the same bagged water for that long period of time), now that’s a hardy coral!
Common Names: Mushroom Coral or Disc Anemone (rarely)
Skill Level: Beginner
Light Level: Can thrive in low light to high light.
Water Flow: Moderate
Water Conditions: 74-78° F, dKH 8-10, pH 8.1-8.4, sg 1.024-1.027
Some of the more common types of mushroom coral you will see at frag swaps or your local fish store (LFS) are red mushrooms, green striped mushrooms, green hairy mushrooms, and different color variations of purple mushrooms. There are many different species and Genus of mushroom corals available in the hobby for sale, and for the most part they, all have the same care requirements. This is why I have condensed this very broad list of corals into one article.
The average size of a fully grown mushroom coral is typically between one and two inches. The shape of this coral is roughly the same shape as an anemone. Its base is a circular stalk growing up into a flat disc with a mouth in the center.
Mushroom corals are a photosynthetic coral and do not need to be directly fed. The coral produces its food from the lights on your tank. Typically if you read my other coral articles I always recommend that you make sure you feed your corals whether it’s through direct feeding or putting oyster eggs into your water column. On the flip side though, with mushrooms I feel confident saying that if your water parameters are in check, these corals are going to grow and thrive no matter if you specifically feed them or not.
Before placing your first mushroom coral into your tank, it’s important to decide if you actually want mushrooms in your tank or not. While the mushroom coral is technically a peaceful coral, it can grow and spread very quickly. This means later on down the road you will notice your other corals are competing with mushrooms for space. I have personally seen in my previous tanks mushroom stalks attaching to other corals and therefore indirectly damaging the coral it was attached to. With many other fast growing corals you can put them on a live rock “island” to keep them from spreading onto other live rocks. That does not work with mushroom corals. They can detach from the live rock they are on and float around your tank until they find a suitable place. I have even found mushroom corals attached to my skimmer in my sump growing happily (the light supply they were living off of was a T5 over a nearby refugium).
If you decide you do want mushroom corals then within a few months of placing your first mushroom coral into your tank it’s likely you will find that your original mushroom has spawned several more smaller mushroom corals. These will most likely be growing together in a small clump but it’s possible you will find small mushroom coral buds growing on other live rocks in your tank.
I would recommend that you place your mushroom corals at the bottom of your tank and in low flow if possible. If you’re placing it in a high light or high flow area, watch it for a few days. If it’s unhappy it will have a shriveled look to its disc, a happy mushroom coral is a fully extended flat disc. If the coral stays unhappy, try moving to a lower lighted area with less flow if possible. Once your coral shows the full extended disc it will most likely thrive in that spot.
Propagation of this coral is extremely easy. You can pluck this coral off of the live rock it is growing on and snip it into several pieces with a pair of scissors. I’m not sure if it’s completely necessary to try to get a piece of the mouth for each cut but I always try to do so when I cut them. You can take all of these pieces and put them into a container of rubble rock with low flow. Over the course of a few days the pieces will attach and begin growing into fully formed mushroom corals. Something to be mindful of when propagating this coral is that when you cut it or squeeze it, water will shoot out of the mouth almost like a squirt gun. Make sure to wear gloves and eye protection when working with this coral.