Ask the WWM Crew
|Please visit our Sponsors|
The Long-Tentacle Plate Coral
Heliofungia actiniformis Wells,
This most beautiful of Fungiid corals is
easily lost by aquarists for similar reasons as the Elegance Coral,
Catalaphyllia (Fenner 2000 ); as do other Scleractinians that occupy
muddy to mucky inshore settings of extreme sedimentation fare poorly in
hobbyist systems that over-emphasize a lack of nutrient concentration.
Should you ever find yourself on Jeopardy with Alex Trebek, faced with a question about non-attached, indeed ambulatory stony corals, do remember the Fungiidae; the various mushroom corals. Our subject, Heliofungia actiniformis does one better than slowly scooting across the substrate. By means of inflating its soft tissue with water, allowing it to rise off soft sediment.
Like Elegance Coral, this Mushroom leaves its tentacles out day and night; like Catalaphyllia, Heliofungia have stinging cnidocysts for both gathering food, securing space and warding off predation along with stinging sweeper tentacles. And both species are notable for living directly on soft/mucky substrates (not on rock) where they derive nutrient and photosynthesize.
Family Fungiidae, was established by Dana in 1848. The Mushroom Corals could be poster children for LPS (Large Polyped Stony Corals) if they weren't so odd in many ways. These are solitary, non-reef building (ahermatypic) zooxanthellate animals that unique amongst the true or stony corals are ambulatory... yes, they're capable of movement. All but three genera remain free, unattached from the substrate as adults, including Heliofungia.
Structurally, the Fungiids are unified as being solitary, circular to oblong in shape with septo-costae radiating from their upper surface center to over the edge, continuing as less-tall costae from flattened underneath sides.
. The species was initially named scientifically as Fungia
actiniformis by the French team of Quoy and Gaimard in 1833. It was
placed in its own genus by Wells in 1966.
Heliofungia distribution spans eastern Indian Ocean, western Pacific; including north and eastern shores of Australia, southern Japan and island groups of the western tropical Pacific. This plate coral is found in shallow reef flat and slope areas from a meter to some 82 feet. Huge ones grow to about eight inches across and three inches high at the middle.
Aquarium Care Note:
Though these mobile Scleractinians don't sting each other, other sessile invertebrates must be placed, arranged out of harm's way, including climbing harm's way. Most other corals will suffer given contact with a Fungiid skeleton, polyp or its mucus, or vice versa. It’s best to allow a minimum six inch gap twixt your Fungiids and other Cnidarian livestock.
Concerning tankmates, large crabs, hermits, lobsters can be trouble; as are eels, triggers, large puffers and big wrasses; by being clumsy as well as errant sampling. Butterflyfishes may nip your Plate Corals and Clownfish have been known to adopt Heliofungia as an ersatz symbiont.
Examine prospective purchases carefully for discontinuous tissue coverage; either discolored flesh, or with their septal skeleton showing through where the tissue is torn. Healthy Heliofungia are open, displaying tentacles continuously and should be colored consistently when in good health. Damaged specimens rarely recover.
Take care in moving the Plate Corals. They tear easily. Wafting your hand gently near an expanded one before moving will cause it to retreat into its chitinous/calcareous skeleton. Touch it gently on the bottom/underside and slip it into a water filled bag underwater.
As a general rule all Fungiids with the exception of Heliofungia actiniformis (which IMO should be removed from this family... taxonomically) are pretty sturdy aquarium species... given initial good health, suitable, established homes... Heliofungia/Long tentacle plate corals rarely fare well for any length of time... due to not being placed on soft/fine sand substrates, and too "clean" settings mostly. Am hopeful my purpose is obvious here; to give hobbyists fair warning as to this species needs; not to discourage its keeping outright.
Most Fungiids are found in shallow water (under ten meters in depth) on various types of substrates; rocky, sandy, to silty. Ones with a high relief (dome-shaped), and spines/septa of low relief utilize these aspects of their morphology, expansion of their polyp-bodies, and/or muco-ciliary action. The more flat-profile, un-toothed septa species that are more often offered to the hobby don't have as much latitude at throwing off sediment and should be placed accordingly on softer, low-detritus bottoms out of the way of direct current.
Heliofungia are found in "less than ideal"
reef conditions; on muddy, muck substrates with all that you can imagine
go with the setting: high dissolved nutrient concentration, bright but
often diffuse light, little to no water circulation at times. To state
categorically the species practical environmental conditions:
2) Heliofungia inhabits settings of little circulation; not with linear blasts of water streaming over them. IF you have high turnover in your reef, situate your plate corals in areas of least water movement.
3) Lighting of full-spectrum, low to medium intensity is preferred. Less than 100 PAR/PUR suits this species fine.
4) Again, the emphasis on available organic nutrients; no need to fuss with "high" nitrate, moderate phosphate. This arrangement may well call for not mixing more nutrient-deprived SPS.
5) Away from other stinging-celled life
other than Fungiids.
Heliofungia are often lost by aquarists unaware or unwilling to provide their simple needs; a non-sterile environment with a soft substrate; with sufficient dissolved organics to support them nutritionally. The vast majority of lost specimens are due to their placement in unsuitable circumstances. This mushroom coral is actually very tough given suitable conditions, known to have survived unchanged through the Ice Ages.
Bos, A.R. (2012).Fishes (Gobiidae and Labridae) associated with the mushroom coral Heliofungia actiniformis (Scleractinia: Fungiidae) in the Philippines. Coral Reefs. 31 (1): 133. doi:10.1007/s00338-011-0834-3. http://dpc.uba.uva.nl/cgi/t/text/get-pdf?c=ctz%3Bidno%3D8002a02 A molecularly based phylogeny reconstruction of mushroom corals (Scleractinia: Fungiidae) with taxonomic consequences and evolutionary implications for life history traits
Borneman, Eric H. 2001. Aquarium Corals; Selection, Husbandry and Natural History. Microcosm-TFH NJ, USA. 464 pp.
Fatherree, James. 2006. Plate Corals. TFH 11/06.
Fenner, Bob. 2000. Catalaphyllia- What’s wrong with your Elegance coral, Family Caryophyllidae? FAMA 3/2000.
Fossa, Svein A. & Alf Jacob Nilsen. 1998 (1st ed.). The Modern Coral Reef Aquarium, v.2 (Cnidarians). Bergit Schmettkamp Verlag, Bornheim, Germany. 479pp.
Hoover, John. 1998. Hawai'i's Sea Creatures. A Guide to Hawai'i's Marine Invertebrates. Mutual Publishing, Honolulu HI. 366pp.
Humann, Paul. 1993. Reef Coral Identification; Florida, Caribbean, Bahamas. New World Publications, Inc. Jacksonville, FL. 239pp.
Vargas, Tony. 1997. Feature Coral: Fungia. FAMA 10/97.
Veron, J.E.N. 1986. Corals of Australia and the Indo-Pacific. U. of HI press, Honolulu. 644 pp.
Veron, J.E.N. 2000. Corals of the World. Australian Institute of Marine Science. Queensland, Australia. three volumes.