Have you woken up to your mushroom coral missing? If so, do not worry, it hasn’t jumped out of the aquarium overnight. It most likely has gone for a walk while you were sleeping and has just moved to a more suitable location!
Mushroom or corallimorphs are a popular soft coral, from the family Fungiidae. They are typically solitary marine animals capable of benthic locomotion both in the wild and in aquariums.
Can Mushroom Corals Move?
Unlike other corals, mushroom corals can move, and it is pretty mind-blowing when they do.
Imagine sitting in your backyard on a hot summer’s day. To avoid direct sunlight, you may need to move around, and that is exactly what your mushroom coral is doing inside your reef aquarium.
Mushroom corals will move around your aquarium to find areas with more favorable conditions. For example, if the lighting and water flow conditions are not quite right, they will soon move elsewhere.
If your mushroom takes off on a little adventure to find a different spot, you shouldn’t move it back to its original position, as your mushroom will move again, and it will become a constant battle between your ideal placement for your mushroom and the mushroom’s most comfortable spot. Let’s just say, mushroom corals are fairly good at seeking their sweet spot inside aquariums!
How Do Mushroom Corals Move?
Coral movement usually happens during the night, so do not panic if you have come home and your mushroom has relocated, they are very unpredictable corals. Mushroom corals are not like the mushrooms we are used to on land. These epic corals can move forward and backward, side to side, pretty much in any direction they wish!
Most of the time, your mushroom coral is likely to detach from its base and float around in the water flow, waiting to attach to the rock or substrate when they find a suitable location. Mushroom corals can also crawl, although this is a slower process for your coral to move around the aquarium. Their ability to move is possible by inflating and deflating their tissues.
When mushroom corals are on the move, it can be a challenging time for your coral! While most small mushroom corals can turn the right way up when they accidentally overturn, bigger mushroom corals find it more difficult, and if they are left overturned they can die.
Placing your mushroom coral the correct way up should be your only involvement when they are on the move, otherwise, do not disturb them unless they start to shrivel up and die in the process. Mushroom corals will shrivel up if they are experiencing extreme stress. If your mushroom coral starts to shrivel up and die, remove it from the aquarium.
Do Some Mushroom Corals Move Faster Than Others?
Other than the size of your mushroom coral affecting how fast it can move, the type of mushroom coral you have, can also determine its speed.
Mushroom corals that have a smooth under-surface and granular costae* can move faster than ones with echinose costae as they have some resistance to mobility because of the anchorage on the bottom.
*Costae (plural of costa) are the vertical plates outside the corallite wall that resemble ridges underneath the coral. They are found on all Fungiidae corals, like your mushroom coral.
What Happens When Mushroom Corals Move?
When your mushroom coral moves, it will leave small bits behind, a similar concept to when a snail leaves a slime trail. These tiny bits of mushroom coral will then grow into another mushroom coral. This process is called “mushroom pedal laceration”, and it is a natural mushroom coral reproduction process – basically, your mushroom coral clones itself whenever it moves.
If you do not want any more mushroom corals, you can remove the parts that are left behind with a scalpel or use a turkey baster to blast the remaining foot off the rock or substrate.
Can You Control Where Mushroom Corals Move?
If your mushroom coral jumps off its original spot in the aquarium, you should not interfere, letting them float free or crawl across the aquascape is the best approach, and it will also prevent any unnecessary stress for your coral.
However, you can put a small breeder enclosure inside your aquarium with a couple of pieces of rock to encourage them to attach to one area if you want your mushroom coral to stay in one area.
Problems When Mushroom Corals Move
Even though mushroom corals do not have long sweeper tentacles, they can still be pretty aggressive. This is why it is not a good idea to mix mushroom corals with corals from a different genus.
While you may think everyone is playing happy families because you have spent a lot of time selecting the ‘perfect placement’ to prevent chemical warfare inside your aquarium, your mushroom coral might have other plans, moving wherever it wishes, ready to attack neighboring corals when it gets the chance.
How Often Will Your Mushroom Coral Move?
Although it completely depends on your mushroom coral, it is estimated that mushroom corals can move around 5-10 m every 6 months.
Smaller mushroom corals can move much faster than larger ones because larger mushroom coral movement is usually determined by wave action rather than inflating and deflating their tissues.
Mushroom corals can move around aquariums, although it is a very slow process. If you notice your mushroom “creep” across a rock, they are just trying to find a more comfortable location. It is important, should your mushroom coral decide to relocate, to leave it be, unless it has overturned, and it is struggling to turn the right way up.
So, if you wake up and cannot find your mushroom coral, take a good look around the aquarium, as it will be in there somewhere. The process is pretty mind-blowing, and you can also look forward to some baby mushrooms appearing soon from the trail they often leave behind!