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Whether you call them Mushroom Anemones, Coral Anemones, False Corals, even just Mushrooms, Corallimorpharians are standard favorites of reef aquarium hobbyists worldwide; and for good reason. They’re beautiful color and shape wise, interesting behaviorally, generally hardy, easily propagated and readily available for a reasonable price (most). They do have some noxious properties that can be of consequence; and we’ll have much to state concerning this issue.
Mushrooms, Order Corallimorpharia are members of the Phylum Cnidaria;
the stinging-celled animals; and considered by hobby aquarists as
“corals”; though scientists only commonly label the soft corals (Order
Alcyonacea) and stony corals (Order Scleractinia) strictly as such. Some
of the group’s higher taxonomy is:
Corallimorphs appear similar to Anemones; being short-bodied
cylindrical, with bumps and/or tentacles arranged in radiating rows on
their wide oral (facing up) disc surfaces. They are narrow-columned and
lack true tentacles of the namesake Actinarians (true anemones).
Species Variety: For most Corallimorphs, description to genus is best.
Corallimorpharia Not Usually Sold in the Trade:
Metarhodactis, with one species (M. boninensis, Carlgren, 1943); with its papilliform tentacles covering the oral disc appears similar to Actinodiscus… but due to possessing a type of mastigophore, and gaining larger size; the genus is definitive. Sold in Europe at times (de Jong site); the “Elephant Ear Mushroom” gets too large for home hobbyists; as does:
Occurrence in the Wild:
Most all Mushroom Anemones are tropical and live in shallow water of a few to tens of meters depths; attached to hard substrates. Some are solitary, although the majority are colonial; at times exclusively covering large expanses of rocky reefs. Polyps are generally small; one to two inches across; though Amplexidiscus can span more than a foot.
Mushroom species are not challenged in the wild as far as I’ve seen first-hand and in pertinent references; but are rarely abundant. More singular species, like Ricordeas are only found here and there; and colonial ones like Actinodiscus are really only common in a few places. This being stated, folks who collect them in the wild are careful to always only take a part of what they find; realizing that in time, under the particular conditions where they were found, these animals will reproduce, and repopulate the area.
Captive Care Guidelines:
Mushroom Anemones are popular for aquarium use worldwide; in part due to their hardiness and equally, their beauty. They are easy to take care of given a few simple considerations.
Acquisition: Corallimorphs can be purchased on-line, from stockists, and traded amongst hobbyists as friends of clubs or “frag fests”; gatherings of reef aquarists.
Introduction: Is best done using an intermediate isolation zone for a week or two; to assure the health of the new specimen. Most all Mushrooms are sold attached to rock, and this should be placed WITHOUT the shipping water in the main-display tank.
Placement: This is a very important issue; to avoid physical and chemical mal-interaction (allelopathy), make sure and put your Mushrooms on bommies, rock arrangements of their own. Though some do and learn to get along with other life, it is best to keep your Shrooms stranded on rocks of their own; not allowing them to migrate over to other sedentary livestock.
Lighting: Corallimorphs are photosynthetic, contain endosymbiotic Zooxanthellae, and hence require “reef” like illumination to do well. They do celebratedly “get by” on lower illumination than stony corals and true anemones, with PAR/PUR readings in the few to several tens. Metallic appearing colonies do better with PAR nearer 100.
These are spectacular organisms, particularly the “metallic” species, under actinic/blue lighting. Very nice to have some lamps to mix in when guests are over, and/or transitioning to night/lights off time.
Flow: In the wild, Corallimorpharians are almost always found in low-current settings. In captivity they like the same, but will tolerate non-linear water movement up to the point where it turns their edges up.
Feeding: As stated, ‘Shrooms are photosynthetic organisms; deriving part of their useful energy from conversion of carbon dioxide into sugar via light. They also feed themselves directly, both through absorption through their tissue wall, as well as feeding on particulates and small life; gathering them in mucus threads that get passed to their circular mouths.
Towards the chemical needs ends you are urged to not make Nitrate (NO3) or soluble Phosphate (HPO4) absolutely zero; and to stock your system with some other organisms (fishes) that by their feeding will small foodstuffs. Certainly, the best mechanism for providing nutrition to your system all the way around is to have a tied in “living sump”, i.e., a refugium with a Deep Sand Bed; a space where various micro-and macro-organisms can populate and contribute to this function.
Compatibility: As noted in the genera/species review, there are some Corallimorphs capable of capturing and consuming small fishes. What is more concerning is this group’s capacity for chemical allelopathy. Along with some Zoanthids, soft and stony corals; Mushrooms, if and when “upset” can release toxic chemicals and slime that can trigger breakdown of other life present. How to avoid such overt situations is simple: Maintain an optimized, stable environment; and isolate probable contenders on their own real estate.
Though they should not be placed adjacent to other Cnidarian groups, some Mushrooms (especially of the genus Actinodiscus) get along with other Corallimorphs of the same genus.
Propagation: Mushrooms are amongst the easiest of Cnidarians to propagate. With the exception of Ricordeas, most Mushrooms are quick growers, readily split (fission) or leave a piece behind (pedal laceration) when they move. The Order does reproduce asexually in the wild as well as sexually.
As with fragging Zoanthids, you are cautioned to be extra careful when handling; especially cutting Corallimorpharians. Their slime contains some noxious chemicals so by all means DO wear long-sleeve shirt, gloves and eye protection. Larger pieces, cuts through the mouth are best, result in higher rates of survival and faster recovery. Cuttings can be acrylate secured to hard substrate, placed directly on same in calm settings. DO take care to do all handling, cutting OUTSIDE your main/display, and allow the cuttings to convalesce in an isolated system. TAKE CARE to discard any water that has been used in the fragging process; and of course, clean your cutting tools thoroughly and allow to air dry.
The vast majority of disease issues with these animals are environmental in nature. Like all Cnidarian life in captivity, they require high and stable pH, adequate alkalinity, sufficient biomineral content…
Mushroom Anemones have a great deal going for them; requiring little
specialized care, being appealing in appearance and available in many
colors, patterns and textures, and being aquarium-hardy. Their one
downside, and it can be important, is their penchant for over-population
and allelopathy. Confine yours to designated rock formations, and do
your best to not offend them physically, chemically or biologically;
especially if you’re trying your hand at asexual fragmenting them to
make more. Much better to provide propitious conditions and be patient;
even slow-growing varieties like Ricordeas will split and make more of
them in time.