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is a genus of very small-polyped corals with
deeply embedded corallites, which contains 70-80
species found throughout the Red Sea and tropical
Indo-Pacific. While this is indeed a wide distribution
area with a very large number of species, perhaps
surpassed only by Acropora sp. and Porites
sp., even more interesting is the diversity
of reef areas in which Montipora is found.
Members of the same species are often found
both in shallow water and at great depths, in
excess of 100 feet. They are found in areas
of low water movement and in areas of high turbidity.
They are equally common in high nutrient lagoons
and in low nutrient reef slopes. This diversity
would likely suggest that Montipora is
quite tolerant of differing water conditions
and should therefore prove hardy in our own
closed systems. In fact, this is what has been
I once wrote that "Montipora, to
the inexperienced, may not be considered the
most 'flashy' of corals. Although it appears
in many colors, including brown, purple, and
green, the shades are quite subdued. Any coloration
may disappear in the aquarium, depending on
the type of lighting used. I have yet to see
a shocking color morph of Montipora offered
for sale that would be appealing to someone
who is not mesmerized by subtleties of the different
species." In recent years, thankfully,
the proliferation and popularity of Montipora
have resulted in the availability of the many
striking species that are found in the wild.
Some of the most beautiful and common variants
seen here are those with polyps that contrast
in color with the rest of the colony.
Unfortunately, Montipora are exceedingly
difficult, in most cases, to tell apart, especially
in small living colonies. Many species may,
at first glance, strongly resemble members of
the genus Porites. Colors and shapes
are also often similar between these two genera.
However, Montipora generally have smaller
corallites which do not appear "jewel-like"
as in Porites. The skeletal teeth project
inward in Montipora and outward in
Porites, accounting for the difference in
appearance. The polyps are unusual in that they
seem very "busy," often opening and
closing alone or in groups over the course of
a day. Although many species comprise the genus,
Montipora are found in an unsettling
array of colonial formations. To one unfamiliar
with Scleractinian skeletal anatomy, the presentation
of so many shapes is bewildering. Montipora
form branching (digitate), encrusting, plate-like
(laminar), massive, convoluted (foliaceous),
and even pillar-like (columnar) formations.
They can be found in almost all of the common
colonial formations that exist in the wild.
To further complicate the array, Montipora
display to an even greater degree a characteristic
common to many corals. That is, they change
their colonial form depending on water conditions,
lighting and depth. In shallow waters, Montipora
may be branching. Left to grow in deeper waters,
however, the same coral may begin to adopt a
laminar or massive shape. Heavy wave action
causes branched species to become more compact.
Differing light may result in coloration changes.
Multiple growth patterns are common in the same
colony, with vertical projections eventually
arising from an encrusting or laminar base over
Aquarium care is somewhat complex. Most species
available for sale will require high light intensities
for maximum growth and success. Some evidence
suggests that the higher intensity metal halides
(with the concomitant production of small amounts
of UV-A light) may be required to maintain coloration,
or enhance coloration of otherwise drab colonies.
I have, however, kept (and currently keep) several
species of Montipora in a ten-gallon
tank lit by an undercounter 15" fluorescent
lamp purchased from Wal-Mart. This indicates
the wide phototolerance of many Montipora
It should be assumed that, barring information
to the contrary, Montipora should be
gradually acclimated to strong lighting since
they can bleach easily, the notable exception
being the very shallow-water and temperature
tolerant Montipora digitata. Because
Montipora are very non-aggressive corals,
it is highly improbable that any specimen will
sting or endanger nearby corals or invertebrates.
However, it is very easily stung or encroached
upon by other corals, so care must be taken
in this regard. Montipora do compete
successfully, however, in the rapid growth rates
that, in tanks at least, can exceed the growth
rates of Acropora. Common parasites or
predators of Montipora include the aeolid
Montipora nudibranch, the gastropod Magilopsis,
and the flatworm Prosthiostomum. The
nudibranch, in particular, is now widespread
largely from the procedure of fragment trading,
so quarantine of all Montipora is highly
Text by Eric
Photos by Reef Central members.
A special thanks goes out to Dave Bayne (Nanook)
for his assistance on this project.
Reefkeeping Magazine Reef Central, LLC-Copyright © 2005