Mushroom Corals, or Corallimorphs are great beginner corals because they are some of the easiest species to care for. I recommend mushroom corals for hobbyists at any level.
The corallimorphs get their name because the individual polyps are large and fleshy. In lower light environments, the polyps seem to stretch upward in the water column, creating a mushroom-like appearance. In normal-to-higher light environments, the polyps lie flat along the substrate and take on a discoid shape.
Mushroom corals are generally found in lower light, nutrient rich environments, which makes them somewhat ideal inhabitants in a mixed species tank including fish and coral. Most mushroom corals have symbiotic photosynthetic zooxanthellae and require low to moderate light, are not picky about flow and can be kept in less than pristine conditions. They will reproduce in your tank asexually, creating frags of themselves through budding or splitting. Budding is a process where a small portion of the foot extends, then detaches, forming a new polyp (colonies can be seen ‘creeping’ forward in this fashion). Splitting is a process where the corallimorph actually forms a second mouth and bifurcates down the center, essentially cutting itself in half—while each half re-grows to full size.
Saltwater Aquarium Blog Tip: If you plan to keep these corals with smaller fish, avoid large mushroom species like the ‘Elephant Ear’ or ‘giant cup mushroom’, which will snack on unsuspecting smaller fish who get too close.
Advanced Aquarist Note: Not all Mushroom species are for beginners. If you consider yourself an intermediate or advanced aquarist and want to add a more challenging mushroom to your tank, consider adding a mushroom from the Genus Ricordea. The two most popular species in the aquarium hobby are Ricordea florida and Ricordea yuma. These species require more pristine conditions and generally have a higher light requirement.
Learn more about some of the other popular types of corals: