If you are a beginner reef tank owner, then mushroom corals are a great choice for you. One option is the hairy mushroom coral. This is a type of Rhodactis mushroom that is easy to grow and sustain in a home aquarium. They are called “hairy” because they have tiny tentacles all over them that look like hairs.
Some beginners may mistake these for anemones because of these tentacles. There are some precautions to take before adding one of these to your tank. It is important to understand all aspects of this coral first. This type of mushroom coral is a great addition to any reef tank.
- Scientific Name: Rhodactis spp
- Order: Corallimorpharia
- Family: Discosomatidae
- Care Level: Easy
- Temperament: Semi-Aggressive
- Size: 3-4 inches in diameter
- Price: Low to Moderate
- Growth Rate: Fast
Facts About Hairy Mushroom Corals
- Hairy Mushroom Corals are a species of mushroom coral, scientifically known as Rhodactis spp.
- They are named for the hair-like projections that cover their surface, which are actually tiny tentacles used for feeding.
- Hairy Mushroom Corals are found in shallow waters in the Indo-Pacific region, including the Red Sea, Australia, and Southeast Asia.
- They are typically found in sheltered areas with low to moderate water flow, such as lagoons or reef flats.
- Hairy Mushroom Corals come in a range of colors, including green, brown, orange, and purple.
- They are relatively hardy and easy to care for, making them a popular choice for reef aquariums.
- Hairy Mushroom Corals require moderate to high lighting and can benefit from supplemental feeding with phytoplankton or other small food particles.
- They can be propagated in the aquarium through fragmentation or division.
Hairy mushrooms corals are fairly easy to keep in your reef tank. They are hardy and can still grow well with mild fluctuations in parameters.
The most significant parameters to keep an eye on are Salinity, Nitrates, and phosphates. Some mushrooms that I have did not do well with swings in nitrate and phosphate levels. They seem to be fine in dirtier water with higher nitrates (>10 ppm), just be careful with quick swings. Some of mine to seem to be more sensitive to rapid changes in phosphates. They did not do well in one of my tanks when I had to dose with liquid phosphate.
They do not have a calcium carbonate skeleton, so calcium levels are not as important for these corals. Of course, you still want to maintain the correct range for the health of your other corals and your tank.
Here are the water parameters in your reef tank that hairy mushrooms need:
- Temperature: 75-80°F (24-27°C)
- Salinity: 1.023-1.025 specific gravity
- pH: 8.1-8.4
- Alkalinity: 8-12 dKH (142-214 ppm)
- Calcium: 400-450 ppm
- Magnesium: 1250-1350 ppm
- Nitrate: <5 ppm
- Phosphate: <0.03 ppm
These corals should be placed lower in your reef tank, and you need to give them room to grow. The lower portion of your aquarium usually has the best levels for lighting and flow. If you place them too high on your rocks, they will likely get too much light and die.
These corals will also grow and spread out. This means that they can crowd out any other corals that are near. Keep that in mind when you are looking for a location. You do not want your low cost mushroom colony overgrowing and killing one of your other corals.
To recap, find a location on the bottom level of your live or even close to your sand bed. Make sure that they have plenty of area to grow and cover.
Hairy mushroom corals like low light which means a PAR value of 50-150. The lighting requirements is what makes these great for beginners. You do not need large and expensive reef lights to grow these. These soft corals will adapt to a higher level of light over time. This is why these are great for new tank owners. They are not fickle and adapt well.
Hairy mushroom corals also move. So, if they are not happy with the current lighting conditions, they will move to a more appropriate area of your tank. This movement is very slow, so it will take them time to move to another area on your rock.
Water Flow Requirements
These mushroom corals do well in low flow areas of your tank. Because of their disk shape and thin membrane, high water flow will blow them up which makes them unhappy. If they become too unhappy, they will detach from the substrate. High water flow will blast them all over your tank.
You can also place them in a medium flow area of your aquarium, and they should do just fine as well.
Do You Need To Feed Hairy Mushroom Corals?
It is not necessary to feed hairy mushroom corals because they get all of their energy from your lighting. Photosynthesis is really all that they need. You can feed them 2 to 3 times per week if you are looking for more rapid growth though. These mushroom corals will eat small Mysis shrimp, pellet food, or powdered food like Reef Roids or Coral Feast.
Hairy Mushroom corals are semi-aggressive, and they can overgrow other reef inhabitants. If they get big enough, they will try to eat any sick fish that happens to rest on top of them. This is not a problem for most fish as they can swim away. The way these mushrooms close up is fairly slow, so most healthy fish will not allow that to happen. I have seen reports and videos of clownfish getting eaten and killed by hairy mushrooms. This is not the norm. My hairy mushrooms have not bothered anything in my tank.
Hairy mushroom corals are compatible with most species that can go in a reef tank. You really won’t find an issue with them as long as you mind there placement.
It is fine to place different mushroom corals close to each other though.
When propagating any coral, make sure to use safety procedures like wearing protective eye wear and gloves. You don’t want any pieces to fly up and hit you in the eyes.
Some notes-the mushroom may slime up and and may have a foul smell when you cut it.
Hairy mushroom corals are easy to propagate. Here are the steps:
- Cut the head off of one of the mushrooms in a colony. Use a sharp razor to do this.
- Slice it up into several small pieces
- Put it in a small bowl with large substrate like reef gravel in it
- Place it in a low flow area of your tank
- After a short time, the mushrooms will attach the substrate
- Super glue the substrate to a frag plug or where ever you would like to place it in your tank
What Colors Do Hairy Mushrooms Come In?
These soft corals come in several different colors including green, tan, brown, lavender and purple. They also will have green tentacles all over their body. This looks like hairs, and is the reason for the name.
Here is a video of a green hairy mushroom coral in a reef tank:
Featured Image Source: RevolverOcelot, CC BY-SA 3.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/, via Wikimedia Commons