The Ricordea, or flower mushroom corals, are popular choices among saltwater aquarium enthusiasts due to their ease of keeping and those amazing colorations. Once you’ve set your eyes on these corallimorphs (don’t worry, we’ll get around to defining that word in a minute), you’ll jump headfirst into wanting to have one (or three) around in your tank.
Table of Contents: Ricordea
The distinct appearance of Ricordea usually draws in hobbyists. And the fact they’re not difficult to keep healthy and thriving in your tank? That’s a bonus factor. The links below will demonstrate that for you. (Or you can read through this entire article and get hooked on this unique coral – as if you weren’t already).
- Quick Facts
- Ricordea Overview
- Keeping Ricordea in Aquariums
- Feeding Ricordea
- Fragging and Propagation
- For More Information
- Common Names: Ricordea mushroom, Flower mushroom
- Scientific Names: Ricordea florida and Ricordea yuma
- Care Level: Beginner-Advanced
- Aggression Level: Semi-aggressive; Don’t let it touch or crowd neighboring corals
- Light Requirements: Medium-high
- Flow Requirements: Low-medium
- Water Quality: Standard reef tank water parameters
- Special Notes: R. yuma is more challenging to maintain than R. florida
Ricordea belong to a particular group known as corallimorphs. You can find members of the group throughout the ocean – mostly due to their habit of taking over reefs in a sweeping “carpet.” The temperature of the water determines the overall shape the corallimorph will take. In the temperature zone, you’ll see long, dramatic columns. But in the tropical regions? That oral disc perches on a shorter base, with equally squat tentacles.
From a taxonomic standpoint? Corallimorphs such as Ricordea share the closest association with stony coral. They simply lack that stony skeleton for support. As such, they work to convert hard coral reefs over to soft coral environments. Without a strict need for calcium structures to maintain their base, they outcompete their SPS and LPS cousins. Ricordea make up the only genus in the Ricordeidae family of corallimorphs.
Ricordea corals have a small, round body with short club or berry-shaped tentacles. The basal portion of the coral contains a flat disk that functions as a foot supporting the oral disk. As with other corals, you’ll find the mouth in the center (sometimes more than one if the Ricordea is in the process of splitting). And within the single genus for this mushroom coral look-alike? You’ll find two species: Ricordea florida and Ricordea yuma.
R. florida inhabits the tropical western Atlantic and Caribbean waters. R. yuma stretches throughout the tropical Pacific. (Note: tropical ranges to go with those short bases and stunt tentacles)
If you don’t see the two species next to one another, it’s easy to get them confused. (Obviously, when you’re diving or snorkeling in their ranges, that isn’t a problem. The confusion crops up in the fish store) Luckily, you can look for three areas to tell the two apart:
- The oral disk
- Tentacle patterns
- Color variety
To start, you need to look at the arrangement of the tentacles around the oral disk. R. florida keeps the oral disc separate from the clusters of tentacles. In comparison, R.a yuma clusters tentacles tight to the mouth. As you move out from that center reference point, focus on the individual tentacles. The color pattern on R. florida allows distributes in distinctive rings. When it comes to the R. yuma counterpart? Color spreads out at random. It creates a more dynamic display. Finally, the colors available can supply a hint. These corals come in astounding palettes (why else would hobbyists love them so much?). However, those tropical Pacific waters mean the R. yuma gets the lion’s share of pigments and shading.
In nature, you’ll find these corallimorphs on rock structures in areas of shallow and medium-depth reefs. They enjoy the abundant sunlight available – and that goes for both species. They share the territories with their stony coral and soft coral relatives. Perched in the “standard” ocean current, the tentacles receive the best water flow to feed and absorb nutrients. You won’t spot them on the drop-offs where things pick up speed – not without a calcium skeleton to protect them. They prefer to stay in the middle of things.
Most corallimorphs spread out in colonies, but you can occasionally come across a random individual. Given their propagation techniques (don’t worry – we’re going to get to that), it doesn’t take long for them to stretch out and claim the territory for their own. And if you’re planning to keep one in your saltwater aquarium? That’s something to keep in mind.
Keeping Ricordea in Aquarium
Ricordea corals rank in popularity for beginners and experienced aquarists due to their minimal care needs and wide tolerance for lighting conditions. (Generally speaking, anyway. There are always exceptions) You don’t need to fret over specific needs, rush to purchase special equipment, or spend every waking moment with test kits to keep these corallimorphs from withering away.
To maintain their health and ensure you keep that vibrant coloration, these corals need moderately bright lighting. Anything above 50 PAR should do the trick. Remember, they aren’t deepwater species; they frequent shallow waters in the wild. You want to mimic a natural environment as closely as possible.
You may also need to experiment with the type of lights you’re working with. I found some challenges keeping my mushroom corals happy using metal halides. If you’re working with metal halides for your other corals, experiment to find the proper depth.
Ricordea require low-moderate water flow. You want things as modest as possible. High flow strains the tentacles, and they won’t extend as a preservation technique. (Or, worse, you may end up with colorful corallimorphs blowing all over your aquarium) These corals lack a stony skeleton, making them more delicate. You want to err on the moderate side and monitor the extension of those bubble tentacles. (You can always increase the dial incrementally) If the worst happens and you notice your coral ending up detached, move it to a lower current area in your tank. As long as there’s a suitable anchor point nearby, your coral will reattach itself.
You can’t neglect thinking about room to grow and multiply – without the risk of bumping into neighboring corals. Corallimorphs share a likeness and family with stony corals, but they lack sweeper tentacles. It doesn’t mean they CAN’T defend themselves – they can. You’ll find stinging tentacles around the oral disk that work nicely as an aggressive deterrent. However, you don’t want to encourage coral warfare throughout your aquarium.
Give your mushroom corals space to grow – without fighting for the room to do so. And have some consideration for your stony and soft corals at the same time. With no need to pull extra calcium from the water, those bubble tentacles have an advantage over your LPS and SPS corals. Without sufficient space? You may see your Ricordea take over everything.
Ricordea corals are considered photosynthetic because of the symbiotic zooxanthellae living within their body tissues. The single-celled zooxanthellae are responsible for the photosynthetic operations, but they gladly share their sugar (glucose) in exchange for their home. This is thought to provide the mushroom coral with the majority of its nutrition. (Not a bad deal, eh? Seems like an arrangement Homer Simpson would be proud of)
Even though they derive their nutrition from photosynthesis via the symbiotic relationship with zooxanthellae, it’s important to note that the Ricordea ARE animals. And animals like to eat. These corals are capable of capturing Artemia (brine shrimp), Mysis shrimp, and other zooplankton. That’s why they enjoy that moderate water flow: It brings these tiny particles within the range of their waiting tentacles. Then they’re able to supplement the diet – not to mention ingest additional nutrients that provide the colors everyone finds so intriguing.
For maximum growth, it is best to feed your Ricordea regularly. Although you may find it a bit challenging to keep the food away from aggressively eating fish. You can, of course, target-feed your mushroom corals the same way you would your other corals. You’ll need to consider the size of your offers: about HALF the size of the average Mysis shrimp will do.
Fragging and Propagation
The standard mushroom coral undergoes pedal laceration as a form of asexual reproduction. As the coral migrates, tiny pieces of the foot drop away and grow into new colonies. You won’t see that with this particular corallimorph, though they have their own version of asexual replication. For these corals, you get longitudinal fission. Beginning at the oral disc, the coral forms two mouths. The entire organism then splits straight down the middle, separating. And if you glance into your tank and glimpse two openings in that oral disk? This is what your coral’s preparing to do. In no time, you’ll have two polyps.
Of course, you may not want to wait for that process to occur. Luckily, Ricordea corals, like the mushroom corals they resemble, are also fairly easy to frag or propagate. And you can follow the same process you would for mushroom corals. If you’re looking to frag your colony, simply cut the animal cleanly with a razor blade and separate it into pieces. The larger the piece, the larger the newly fragged colony will start. The hardest part about fragging Ricordea is getting the pieces to attach where you want them.
You CANNOT glue Ricordea frags to get them to stay in place on a frag plug the way you can other corals. If it’s important for you to control how they attach, you can potentially use a toothpick. However, my preferred and recommended method is to take a small plastic container (the kind you save for leftovers), fill the bottom with a layer of live rock rubble, shells, or frag plugs, and place your fragments of Ricordea inside. Cover the container with a breathable mesh (use a pore size as large as you can but SMALLER than your frag pieces). The Ricordea frags will attach and settle on their own over a period of about 7-10 days. At that point, carefully remove the mesh. (Be careful! Unattached frags may float out, so go slowly). You should see most of the coral fragments attached to the substrate in the container.
If you’re interested in learning more about fragging corals, consider ordering a copy of the book: How to Frag Corals.
For More Information
People love Ricordea corals. Maybe it’s the vibrant corals those bubble tentacles come in. Or maybe it’s the way put people in mind of other corals (whether it’s mushroom corals or even another species). It could even be the fact they’re easy to handle – by anyone. Whatever the reason, you probably want to find some more information on the topic.
So why not watch this YouTube video to go deeper into caring for the Ricordea:
And if corals are your thing? I personally recommend you check out these popular articles next:
Ricordea corals are a tale of two similar species but respond differently to life in a home aquarium. Ricordea florida are attractive and hardy, adding color, variety, and beauty to almost any saltwater aquarium. You’ll find them widely available for a reasonable price (about $25/polyp, most times). And they tend to do well in captivity if provided the right environment in which to thrive.
Ricordea yuma, by comparison, are rarer, more expensive, and harder to keep. Unfortunately, not much is known or shared about how to vary your husbandry to improve your success if you decide this is your species-to-be.
Both species come in a wide array of gorgeous colors, sure to brighten up your tank if you give them a try.
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