The Toadstool Coral

There are about 30+ toadstool coral types. Other common names could be leather coral or mushroom coral. They are all misleading though toadstool is, to me, the most descriptive of the common names. The proper name is Sarcophyton sp.

As far as the aquarist is concerned, they are very hardy in terms of corals. Many aquarists have been introduced to captive reef keeping with these corals and have gained confidence and experience with them. Some have moved on to more difficult corals but there are those who keep them as a matter of course.

The colours, which are more muted than those of some other corals, are usually off-white, cream or brown, though less common types are yellow/lemon.

The following link shows quite a few toadstools:

In the aquarium they require proper reef lighting as they contain zooxanthellae, but having said this they do not require high powered lighting – fluorescent T5’s should be adequate. They also require at least moderately strong seawater flow as they need to rid themselves of mucus, though this current should not be over strong. In fact, from time to time a toadstool could be seen to be shedding ‘skin’ which could worry beginner aquarists, this however is nothing to worry about and quite normal. Sometimes the coral will shrink during the process and appear unhealthy, but once the process is over the coral expands and looks as good as or better than before. If a coral appears to be partly rotting or is discoloured, this can be checked by gently pressing the flesh which will crumble and break away. In this situation all is not lost as there will be parts of the coral that are solid and healthy, so all that is needed is a sharp craft knife or razor blade to cut out the bad part(s), being sure to cut on the side of the good flesh. All things being equal, that is environmental conditions are good, the coral should easily recover.

Having written of ‘cutting’, it should be mentioned that Sarcophyton sp. are very easy to propagate. One of the easiest ways is to cut the head off, ensuring that the head has some stalk. The cut head is attached to a rock or placed in a crevice and it will re-attach and grow again. The stalk that has been left will develop a new head complete with polyps. Now there are two! There are ways of obtaining more than one additional coral by multi-cutting.

If toadstools are happy in the aquarium they should spread, babies appearing on adjacent reef rock. It is also possible for them to grow large with a diameter up to perhaps 24″ over a period of some years. As previously mentioned the coral is easy to cut so if they do become too large it isn’t a problem.

If the aquarist keeps clownfish and not a suitable anemone it could be that the clownfish adopt the toadstool. If this occurs the clownfish could upset the toadstool which could close. In bad cases the toadstool might eventually die.

Sarcophyton sp. though not stunningly coloured have a visual impact and enhance a reef. They are easy to care for and should survive a few of the common mistakes that beginners make, usually to do with seawater quality. They do of course have their limits, and seawater quality should always be at its best.

  1. Great information thanks this will help a lot of coral lovers

  2. Hello Yarwra. Glad it was useful.

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