How Do Mushroom Corals Reproduce?

Mushroom corals, also known as Corallimorphs, make a great choice for beginner coral, as they are easy to care for. Their tolerance to small fluctuations comes from their hardiness, which is why they attract many hobbyists in the reef-keeping world. 

In addition to their ease of care, mushroom corals are relatively fast growers, and they can also be easily fragged, or they can reproduce completely on their own.

Mushroom Coral Reproduction

The sex life of a coral is complicated. Some corals can reproduce asexually, some sexually, and some can do both.

Mushroom corals reproduce both sexually and asexually, although asexual reproduction is more common in reef tanks. 

Mushroom corals can reproduce in four natural ways:

  • Sexually
  • Budding
  • Pedal Laceration
  • Fission

Mushroom Coral Reproduction – Sexual

When mushroom corals reproduce sexually, it is a mesmerizing event. You may have read about the annual ‘coral mass spawning’ event that happens in the wild, where corals synchronize the release of gametes (eggs and sperm) over a few days after a full moon. Well, your mushroom corals also take part in this natural phenomenon, however, in aquariums, this is a sporadic event and no regularity has been documented, even though warmer water does seem to trigger sexual reproduction in corals. 

If your mushroom coral releases gametes into the aquarium water, the eggs and sperm will join and fertilize to form larvae. The larvae will float around your aquarium until it settles, attaching to a rock or substrate, and eventually, turning into another mushroom coral. 

In your aquarium, the conditions are very different from the wild, therefore, it can be more difficult for your mushroom coral to reproduce sexually. If you have any fish, the eggs and larvae produced will become a natural food source for them, and if your fish don’t get to them first, your filtration system is likely to suck them up.

So, if your mushroom coral reproduces sexually, if possible, reduce the powerhead.

Mushroom Coral Reproduction – Budding

If your mushroom coral decides to reproduce via budding, it will extend a small part of its foot or stalk, away from its coral base. 

The tissue that is extended will then attach to a rock or substrate, detaching from its base, leaving a small piece of its foot or stalk to grow into a fully formed, genetically identical, mushroom coral.

Mushroom Coral Reproduction – Pedal Laceration

Mushroom corals have a tendency to move to other places in aquariums to find more desirable living conditions. When they do this, they leave a small piece of tissue behind. 

These small pieces of tissue are part of your mushroom coral’s foot, which is where the term “pedal” comes in. The tiny pieces left behind by your mushroom coral will eventually grow into another mushroom coral, the process is practically coral cloning.

Mushroom Coral Reproduction – Fission

Fission is when your mushroom coral splits itself into two (known as bifurcates) down the center. If you notice your mushroom coral displaying a second mouth, then get ready, shortly it will be a little deformed, and then it will split. 

When your mushroom coral splits down the center, it’s pretty much cell division, but it’s like watching it in slow motion! Once your mushroom has split into two halves, each individual coral will space out, becoming separate fully functioning mushroom corals, but they will still be genetically identical.

Mushroom Coral Fragging

Fragmentation, fragging, or propagation, involves actively exploiting a coral’s natural ability (but don’t worry, your mushroom coral doesn’t mind) to produce clones using a scalpel. It is basically asexual reproduction, but with a little help from you.

Many hobbyists will frequently frag their corals to improve their aquascape and create mushroom coral gardens faster.

How To Frag A Mushroom Coral: A Step-By-Step Guide!

Fragging your mushroom coral is a simple process, and because they are frequently fragged in captivity, we now know the most successful ways to give your mushroom coral a helping hand to reproduce!

  1. Firstly, select the mushroom coral you wish to frag and remove it from the aquarium. As mushroom corals are similar to urchins, they can squirt liquid, therefore grab some safety glasses or goggles for protection. 
  2. Taking your scalpel, razor blade, or sharp knife, cut your mushroom coral in half, straight down the middle, directly through its mouth. Note that mushroom corals are known to emit an odor. This is a natural toxin they emit in response to being removed, but it is nothing you should worry about. 
  3. The next stage is slightly challenging – encouraging your mushroom coral to attach to a rock/some rubble and heal. The easiest way is to place your cut mushroom fragments inside a container with some aquarium water and rubble. 
  4. Leave them in the container for a few days to attach. 
  5. Once they are attached, place them back inside the aquarium. You can place some netting over them to prevent any fish from taking nips out of them. 
  6. With your mushroom corals attached, you can now move them to wherever you desire, but remember that they may move if the conditions are not to their liking. 

Summary

Mushroom corals reproduce in four natural ways: sexually, budding, pedal laceration, and fission. You can also lend your mushroom coral a helping hand by easily fragging it, where you can increase your mushroom coral population inside your aquarium, or sell your newly established frags. 

The reproduction process in your aquarium will continue throughout your mushroom coral’s life, so you can expect to have a spectacular coral display in no time! Read our ultimate guide for more information on mushroom coral care.

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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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