The mushroom leather coral is one of the Sarcophyton corals and referred to interchangeably as the toadstool leather coral, a soft coral that can be found in Indonesia and Tongas shallow waters among reef flats and lagoons in the Indo-Pacific.
Common names for this coral are the Green Toadstool Coral, Umbrella Coral, Elephant Ear Leather Coral, and Toadstool Coral. Like the toadstool leather coral, the mushroom leather coral spans a wide range of brown colors, although most are cream and dark tan. It can be extremely difficult to differentiate these corals, as they all share very similar attributes.
The mushroom leather coral rise up from its rooted roofs on wide photosynthetic columns upon which its oversized mushroom shaped tops rest. When the mushroom leather coral is younger, the top will be flat and winding, but will develop a wavier shape as it ages until it eventually folds deeply in old age. Delicate white and gold polyps are plentiful across its surface, extending 1 cm above the mushroom leather corals surface. Mushroom leather coral grows in colonies of corals which can grow up to 39 inches in diameter.
Because its base is photosynthetic, the mushroom leather coral requires access to a medium amount of lighting, whether natural or synthetic. The mushroom leather corals polyps are responsible for trapping organisms in the oceans currents and stripping them of a specialized algae called zooxanthellae, which the coral then hosts in exchange for precious energy and nutrients. An interesting capability of the mushroom leather coral is that I can actually detach and reattach itself from the base and move slowly across the ocean floor or reef to a new location.
The mushroom leather coral makes an easy choice for beginner artificial aquariums because of their low maintenance and resilient nature. The mushroom leather coral requires less lighting than most hard corals and their large size makes them a natural centerpiece in an aquarium. Because the mushroom leather coral is asexual, it can easily be propagated and cultured in synthetic/artificial environments through a process called fragging. Fragging mimics the fragmentation that is performed in nature, but is done artificially. In fragging, the cap of the mushroom leather coral is cut off from the base to create two separate corals (or sometimes cut into smaller fragments resulting in many corals). For the same reason, mushroom leather coral will need to be maintained in larger aquarium tanks. This does not harm the mushroom leather coral, as the cap will begin to regrow naturally within two weeks. The smaller section(s) can be placed on a nearby sand or gravel bed and will begin to form new coral in a few weeks time. Several inches should be left free around the fragged pieces of the mushroom leather coral, as it will need more room as new colonies grow.
The mushroom leather coral reproduces asexually through the processes of budding and fragmentation which are both based on the coral cloning itself into a separate adult form through one way or another. Budding takes place when the mushroom leather coral moves its base to another position manually, leaving behind a segment of its stalk that reproduces and grows into an adult form. Fragmentation is the same concept, but a piece of the coral is broken off due to natural causes, and again grows into a separate adult form.