Credit: Blane Perun

Red Mushroom Coral

The Actinodiscus mushroom (scientific name for red mushroom corals) is a native to the shallow salt waters of the Central Pacific, Eastern Asia, and South Asia oceans. Like the blue mushroom coral, the red mushroom coral was previously grouped within the Discosoma genus, but is now considered part of the Actinodiscidae family, and will also be found under Mushroom Anemones or Disc Anemones in scientific journals and biology classifications.

The specimens of red mushroom coral can be anywhere from light pink or lavender to a brilliant metallic red or burning orange, but red mushroom coral patterns and color forms just as varied as the other type of mushroom corals. The red mushroom coral grows outward from pieces of sea rock and are usually found growing within colonies, although each polyp is distinguishable and separate from another. Red mushroom corals have one single polyp, unlike other soft corals that have as many as eight. Supplemental food is taken in through the red mushroom corals mouth which is a slit in the center of its upper body, and waste is churned out through this location of the red mushroom coral.

To gather nutrients, the red mushroom coral is a host to a microscopic unicelled organism known as zooxanthellae, which works for the coral by providing energy through photosynthesis. It is because of this process that the red mushroom coral are found exclusively in shallow water, as they need to capture the sunlight to initiate this process. There is another crucial element to the symbiotic relationship between the red mushroom coral and zooxanthellae- the limestone that allows the red mushroom coral to attach to rocks and other corals in the colony.

The presence of zooxanthellae increases the amount of calcium carbonate available from which this entire limestone is created, therefore helping the red mushroom coral colonies grow and reproduce. In return, the algae get a safe place to live (within the red mushroom coral) and more access to the light it needs to generate its own energy from photosynthesis.

If being placed in an artificial environment, aqua culturists will find that this type of coral is quite easily propagated. It will take a few days of acclimation before the red mushroom coral will open fully in a reef tank, while the red mushroom coral becomes adjusted to its new surroundings. The red mushroom coral are more content with low to medium water pressure as well as lighting in a tank. The red mushroom coral (along with the blue mushroom coral) need significantly more access to light than other mushroom corals.

Other invertebrates and corals (especially hard corals) should be kept a safe distance from the red mushroom coral because of its ability to release toxins that could be fatal to other creatures. The red mushroom coral is considered aggressive because of these toxins that are used to poison other neighboring corals due to feeling threatened or expanding territory. Water conditions should be consistently monitored, with a temperature of mid 70F, sg 1.023-025, and a pH of 8.1-4.

Blane Perun

Diver - Photographer - Traveler

Whale in Ocean