It was one of these mornings when the sea is like glass. A few days before, a collector mentioned to me about a reef, which was covered by ‘thin mushroom anemones’ aka Discosoma sp. No need to talk further, I was hooked and had to see this reef for myself.
Discosoma are really at their peak of popularity, and they never been too hard to find. Many of the usual collection area have already dried up, therefore bringing the price on a constant up. It’s now very difficult to find good classic colors such as blue or red mushrooms rocks. Plus the insane trend brought by ecclectus, bounces… shroom that can reach ungodly prices.
After all these years diving, I encountered many times few Discosoma sp here and there but never in large quantity. There is no information available on what kind of environment they actually live, which is quite amazing considering they are one of the most popular aquarium invertebrate and they’ve been around since the very beginning.
So the next morning, here we go, to reach this out reef island in remote eastern Indonesia, condition were perfect, volcanoes were looming everywhere in the distance and sea conditions were perfect.
It took just over an hour to reach this location from the village and the collector landed us perfectly in the sweet spot without any approximation. The location just off an island was just 20-25 feet down (7-8m). This particular reef is exposed to nasty summer swells, and has been bombed for live fish few years back. So the top of the reef is pretty much destroyed, but from 30-35 ft, it’s pretty well covered.
Going down I was thinking, ‘Oh God another trashed, bare bottom reef’ and I had to get a foot from the reef to actually realize that Corallimorphs filled every single crack and crevice. In my former scarce encounters with this group, I always noticed that they always live in between rocks, or corals, but never on top, never exposed. I suppose that some fish would prey on them too easily, or that waves and current would take them away.
Over 200 m of reef, Discosoma of many different colors, mainly brown and green but some few blue and reds, dominated the full surface of this reef. What was even more interesting is that along this reef we could find the full family scattered around.
There was also numerous small Ricordea yuma patches, at least 2 different forms of hairy Rhodactis, including a couple bouncing, some Elephant ear Rhodactis mussoides and toward the end of the reef, in the deeper and more vertical area, some large patches of Rhodactis inchoata of different colors… a shroom even, a corallimorpharian nirvana.
What really excites me is that actually Discosoma anemones thrive in aquarium, protected from predator, they grow all over in the open area. But in the wild, this defenseless animal needs to burry itself in crevices, cracks and holes and barely stick out of the reef (kind of like Aiptasia in the aquarium).
They colonize actually the parts of large fingered Porites sp or Acropora sp, that is narrow enough and there is not enough light and flow to keep the coral alive and so it’s actually dead. But creates the perfect little habitat for the mushroom anemone to survive. This particular reef is also heavily fished for consumption and aquarium fish.
‘The misfortune of some makes the fortune of others’ and in this case the constant collection of aquarium fish and especially butterfly fish coupled with damaged coral habitat are probably the reasons these shrooms thrive in this particular reef.