Mushroom corals, also known as Corallimorphs, are one of the most diverse groups of corals in the aquarium hobbyist world. Their ease of care and less forgiving requirements attracts both beginners and coral experts to collect them.
Just like in the wild, corals require lighting to survive. Lighting drives the photosynthesis process, where corals gain around 85% of their energy and nutritional needs from the symbiotic algae that live within their tissues, called zooxanthellae. Your mushroom coral also requires sufficient lighting to drive this process.
Mushroom Coral & Their Lighting Requirements
Mushroom corals do not require as much light as stony corals like Acropora, however, getting the lighting conditions right from the start will help your mushroom coral grow faster and enhance its coloration.
Mushroom corals are naturally found in low light conditions, originating from Australia, Tonga, Indonesia, the Caribbean, and the coastal areas of Florida.
While mushroom corals are very forgiving when it comes to water chemistry in reef aquariums, your mushroom coral will not tolerate being exposed to intense lighting and high water flow. Intense lighting can cause coral bleaching, which you want to avoid, as some corals do not recover. Therefore, low to moderate lighting will keep your mushroom happy and thriving!
In terms of PAR (Photosynthetic Available Radiation), 50-150 is recommended, however, some mushroom corals are more successful up to 200 PAR. As lighting is a key requirement for coral health, always check the lighting requirements for the specific mushroom coral you have, and if you are still unsure, ask your local fish store (LFS) or the place you bought it from.
What Happens When Mushroom Corals Do Not Get Enough Lighting?
If your lighting is too low, your mushroom coral will start losing its beautiful coloration. As it tries to reach closer to the lighting fixture, you may also notice your mushroom coral slightly changing its shape (usually resembling a funnel). If it does this, you will need to move your coral to an area with more lighting.
When mushroom corals become uncomfortable with the lighting, they have a tendency to move. If your mushroom coral moves, do not worry, as this is a natural behavior for these types of corals, particularly as some mushroom corals prefer to grow in shaded areas. When mushroom corals move, they are seeking more favorable conditions, let’s just say, they like to feel nice and comfortable at home!
How To Know If Your Lighting Is Right?
A good sign of a happy mushroom coral is its appearance. When the lighting conditions are right, your mushroom coral will be fully open, laying flat on its rock, substrate, or wherever it has decided to sit. But, if the lighting is not to their liking, your mushroom coral will retract, sometimes bleaching their edges as they start to expel the zooxanthellae from their tissues.
Which Lighting Fixture Is Best For Mushroom Corals?
Selecting which lighting fixture for corals can be fairly controversial, as every reefer has a different tank set-up, with different coral specimens. However, mushroom corals do best under T5HO lighting fixtures.
It is recommended to provide your mushroom coral with 3-5 watts per gallon, so a T5HO lighting fixture that is 54 watts and provides 5,000 lumens is perfect for them.
How Many Hours Of Lighting Do Mushroom Corals Need?
Mushroom corals grow well with 8-10 hours of lighting per day, and should never exceed 12 hours, as this may to your mushroom corals turning white.
Providing your mushroom coral with 8-10 hours of lighting a day allows oxygen levels to rise inside your mushroom coral, and for photosynthesis to happen. They require time during the night when the lights are off to reduce their oxygen levels before you switch the lighting fixture back on.
The only exception to the 8-10 hour recommendation, is if you have LED lighting that has a moon-lighting setting. These are specialized lights that can usually be left on 24/7, however, if you notice your mushroom coral is unhappy, switch them off during the night.
Best Placement For Mushroom Lighting
Because of their low lighting conditions, you should place your mushroom coral near the bottom of the tank, where they will receive indirect lighting and shade. As already mentioned, they will soon move if they are not happy.
Mushroom corals are perfect corals to collect because they are easy to care for and are not demanding when it comes to lighting and water flow requirements.
These popular corals thrive in low light conditions (PAR 50-150) on an 8-10 hour schedule under T5HO lights. However, you should always check what lighting conditions your particular mushroom coral frag was grown under to prevent issues such as coral bleaching.
If you are ever worried about the placement or the lighting conditions inside your reef aquarium, do not worry, as mushroom corals will soon tell you they are not happy, they are quite the expert when selecting the perfect placement!
If you’re still wondering how to care for mushroom corals, check out our mushroom coral care guide!