Hairy Mushroom Coral Care: Placement, PAR, & Growth

Mushroom corals are one of the most recognizable of the Hawaiian stony corals. Unlike most hard corals that consist of tiny polyps, mushrooms like the hairy mushroom are a single giant polyp; the hairy mushroom is a coral without a skeleton, but its internal structures are the same as any other stony coral you may have. 

The hairy mushroom (sometimes called the green hairy mushroom or elephant ear mushroom coral) is a staple for reef tanks. Not only do they look mesmerizing, but the hairy mushroom coral is also very easy to care for, easy to find in your local fish store (LFS) or online, and relatively inexpensive!

This popular stony coral gets its name from the short, split-ended tentacles that cover its surface, resembling hair, giving it a fuzzy appearance. The hairy mushroom comes in a variety of colors; they are found in pink, brown, green, and red/brown with contrasting colored tentacles, adding some striking patterns to your reef aquarium!

Hairy Mushroom Coral Care

Hairy mushroom corals are very easy to care for in reef aquariums, making them a perfect choice for the beginner hobbyist or a stony coral collector.

Hairy Mushroom Summary

  • Scientific/Latin Name: Rhodactis indosinensis
  • Family: Discosomatidae
  • Common Names: Hairy Mushroom, Green Hairy Mushroom, Elephant Ear Mushroom
  • Care Level: Easy
  • Temperament: Semi-aggressive
  • Lighting: Low to moderate (PAR 80-250)
  • Water Flow: Low to moderate
  • Placement: Middle to the bottom region
  • Growth: Moderate

Hairy Mushroom Water Parameters

While your hairy mushroom coral can tolerate less than ideal aquarium conditions, their optimum water chemistry parameters are as followed. Keeping these stable is the key to successful coral husbandry!

  • Temperature: 75° – 80 °F
  • pH: 8.1 – 8.4
  • Salinity: 1.024 – 1.026 (1.025 is ideal)
  • Alkalinity: 8 – 9.5 dKH
  • Nitrates: <10 ppm
  • Phosphates: <0.10 ppm
  • Calcium: 420 – 440 ppm
  • Magnesium: 1260 – 1350

In addition to keeping the above water parameters stable, your hairy mushroom coral will also benefit from iodine. Iodine supplementation has been linked to healthy mushroom growth. Most salt mixes from your LFS will also provide enough iodine when you perform water changes. 

When performing water changes, keep a close eye on the alkalinity (Alk), calcium (Ca), and magnesium (Mg) levels. We recommend dosing your aquarium two to four times per week with Ca, Alk, and Mg either manually or with a dosing pump, but trust me, dosing pups will make your life much easier!

It is also important to mention nitrate and phosphate levels, as these are the two most likely to cause you and your hairy mushroom coral a headache, should they get out of control. Your aquarium’s nitrate levels should always be below 10 ppm, and the phosphate below 0.10 ppm. If your nitrate and phosphate levels rise above this, perform a water change and replace your phosphate media. Media reactors are the most efficient way to control the phosphate media and phosphate levels inside your aquarium.

Hairy Mushroom Placement 

Like many stony corals, the hairy mushroom coral is somewhat aggressive, harming sessile invertebrates such as clams. The hairy mushroom is also known to overgrow other corals, therefore placement is key for this particular stony coral. 

The ‘ideal’ placement for your hairy mushroom is on a live rock or reef environment with some rubble or dead coral surrounding the area, so that it can easily attach its pedal disc. To mount your hairy mushroom to the substrate, you can use reef-safe IC gel glue or putty. 

In terms of location, it is best to place your hairy mushroom in the bottom half of your aquarium where it can reproduce and grow over the rock structure. 

However, if you do not want your hairy mushroom to dominate your main rock structure, you can create a ‘mushroom island’ by mounting different mushroom corals on one larger rock and placing it in the middle of your sand bed. This is one of our favorite displays for mushroom corals at Reef Tank Advisor!

Hair Mushroom Growth 

When conditions are right, the hairy mushrooms are known to grow fast like weeds. 

As your hairy mushroom coral grows, it will undergo reproduction via fission or laceration, often over-populating. When your hairy mushroom coral is ready to reproduce, a small portion of its base/mouth will separate from the parent polyp to grow into a new fully-sized mushroom polyp within a few months. 

Once your hairy mushroom coral starts growing it can get very large, therefore it is recommended to leave at least 6 inches between your hairy mushroom and other corals. If your mushroom coral starts to overgrow the rock, it will kill neighboring corals, so you may want to consider moving them before they grow out of control.

Hairy Mushroom Lighting & PAR

Hairy mushrooms are known to adjust to any lighting by changing their location inside reef tanks. Yes, you read that correctly… Mushroom corals can move around the aquarium, and when they do, it is pretty mind-blowing!

But, back to lighting… Your hairy mushroom coral doesn’t require as much light as stony corals like Acropora, however, hitting your mushroom’s sweet spot will help your hairy mushroom grow faster and enhance its coloration. 

Hairy mushrooms require low to moderate lighting, with a PAR range between 80 and 250. All lighting fixtures (T5’s, metal halides, or LEDs) will grow your hairy mushroom very well as long as the correct PAR levels are provided. For coloration, a 14-20K color spectrum is best. 

Hairy Mushroom Water Flow 

As far as water movement goes, low to moderate flow is recommended, but hairy mushrooms tend to do better with a more gentle flow. Hairy mushrooms will not tolerate strong and direct water movement, so ensure your power head and any intake nozzles are directed away from them. 

As mentioned, mushroom corals can move, so if your hairy mushroom decides to float around the aquarium looking for a new place to settle, it is best to have all your water pumps covered. Usually, most good-quality water pumps have guards already on them, but always check before adding any mushroom corals to your aquarium. 

Hairy Mushroom Coral Feeding Requirements

Your hairy mushroom will get most of its nutrition from the symbiotic algae that live inside their tissues, called zooxanthellae, via your lighting. However, in addition to the zooxanthellae, you can also feed your hairy mushroom to promote faster growth and improve its overall health. It seems the more you feed mushroom corals, the faster they multiply!

Hairy mushrooms are carnivores that usually eat small pellets or powdered food that are protein-rich, such as Oyster-Feast, Coral Frenzy, and TDO Chroma Boost. You can also feed your hairy mushroom small pieces of fish and crustacean meat. 

To minimize waste, directly feed your hairy mushroom by lightly waving the food above its mouth, but be careful not to press the food onto your mushroom, as this can damage its polyps. 

Summary 

Hairy mushroom corals are very hardy corals, making them perfect for beginners. Their fuzzy look and variety of colors make them an interesting hard coral to add to any reef aquarium. 

Hairy mushrooms thrive with low to moderate lighting and water flow, but if they feel like moving to a better location, then they will. So, do not worry if you wake up one day and your hairy mushroom has gone on a little adventure!

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  • Roy Lee

    I have an unhealthy obsession with reef keeping and maintaining successful tanks. If you haven't noticed from the website, I love everything related to saltwater tanks like coral, fish, and everything else in between.

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