Claire Corlett

Fish Food, Fish Tanks, and More
Montipora Coral Care Tips

Montipora Coral Care Tips


What’s up everyone, welcome back to another
Tidal Gardens coral spotlight. This video is all about Montipora. The common name for Montipora is velvet coral
but I can count on zero fingers how many times I’ve heard anyone use that name to reference
this coral. Montipora are arguably the second most popular
small polyp stony coral behind Acropora. This is for good reason. Montipora possess both diverse color variations
as well as a multitude of growth forms. With just a little bit of searching, a reef
hobbyist can find plating, encrusting, or branching varieties of Montipora in just about
any texture or color. Montipora also tend to be easier to care for
than Acropora making them more appealing to beginner hobbyists looking to try SPS for
the first time. Montipora are a super popular coral and this
is a big topic, so let’s dive in! Montipora are a genus of small polyp stony
corals found in reefs throughout the world. They are one of the primary reef building
corals and are responsible for a large percentage of a reef’s calcium carbonate structure. Most of the specimens found in the hobby today
originate from the Pacific, mainly Indonesia and Australia. The care requirements for Montipora vary to
some degree because of their diversity. Some species are hardy and fast growing to
the point that they can overgrow an aquarium such as the ubiquitous orange plating capricornus. Other variants are slower growing and more
sensitive to tank conditions like the palawanensis. Sometimes the sensitivity of a particular
Montipora doesn’t have anything to do with growth rate or survivability, but they may
take on sub-optimal coloration which undermines a major reason why an aquarist selected a
particular piece to begin with. Now that you have some background information
on Montipora, let’s talk about their care requirements. The care tips we will go over in this video
are intended to provide a baseline that will give hobbyists the best chance for success. They may be overkill for the hardier species
of Montipora while the more delicate specimens may require additional TLC to keep them healthy. It is easy to jump right into talking about
care requirements like lighting, flow, and water chemistry but first and foremost, Montipora
like consistent parameters. The challenge with maintaining consistency
is those parameters are a moving target. When you provide Montipora with favorable
conditions, they grow and in many cases grow quickly which changes those conditions. A fast growing SPS reef is a constantly shifting
dynamic that the hobbyist has to adjust for. For example, lighting can change as bulbs
and fixtures age but the light a coral receives also changes as the colony grows. The intensity increases for parts of the colony
that extend upwards towards the light while simultaneously shading all the parts below
it. Water Flow changes as pumps get gummed up
over time however even if you are on top of maintaining all of your pumps, the Montipora
colonies can grow densely packed branches and plates that dramatically cut down the
flow in the tank. Lastly, chemistry changes as the uptake of
major and minor elements accelerates as colonies grow. This is not a linear process. Once a colony takes off in growth, the consumption
of major and minor elements is exponential. In extremely packed SPS tanks, it is common
for the hobbyist to have to incorporate several methods of calcium and alkalinity addition
because the growth of their coral outpaced the ability of any single supplementation
method to keep up. I cannot stress enough the importance of long
term stability so if you are successfully growing a lot of SPS make sure to pay even
closer attention because future success may be a very different methodology than what
got you to this point. Having said all that, let’s cover each one
of these parameters in depth starting with Lighting. Montipora are photosynthetic and are one of
the most light demanding corals in the hobby. Like many corals, Montipora have a special
symbiotic relationship with dinoflagellates called zooxanthellae that live inside its
tissue. The dinoflagellates carry out the actual photosynthesis. The coral animal derives nutrients off of
the byproducts of the dinoflagellates’ photosynthetic process. Zooxanthellae is usually brown in color and
the coral tightly regulates the population living in its flesh depending on its nutritional
needs. Hobbyists looking to find that “just right”
color play with both lighting intensity and spectrum over their tank. As a starting point we recommend initially
providing light intensity around 125-150 PAR and slowly increasing that over time. In our systems Montipora have fared best when
given light intensity around 200-300 PAR however there are plenty of successful systems with
lighting intensities even higher than that. Having said that, I don’t recommend blasting
newly added Montipora with a ton of light. More damage is caused by overexposure to light
intensity than not providing enough light so take a couple of weeks to allow the coral
to adjust to lighting conditions in your tank. As for lighting technology, LED fixtures dominate
the product landscape. Most new aquariums these days use LED lights
for their energy efficiency, low heat emissions, lack of bulb replacement costs and controllability. Having said that, there is no consensus within
the reef aquarium community as to what lighting technology is best for growth and coloration
of Montipora. There are some old school reef keepers that
swear by metal halide lights and T5 fluorescent bulbs. Each type of light has its positives and negatives. T5 and metal halide for example are amazing
performers with a proven track record of successfully growing coral for decades. The downside to them is that they are not
particularly energy efficient, kick out a lot of heat, require potentially expensive
bulb replacements, and have limited controllability. LED lights on the other hand improve on T5
and metal halide lights in all those above categories but have drawbacks of its own. When LEDs first entered the market there were
questions of their viability growing corals and achieving comparable coloration compared
to metal halide and fluorescent. Many early adopters ended up switching back
to their original lighting systems because they got suboptimal results with LED. At the time the lighting spectrum of LED’s
were not very robust and to this day still struggle for niche applications such as photography. LED’s are the worst lights ever made for
photography. Perhaps more important than spectrum is that
many of the fixtures struggled to adequately diffuse the light emitting from the LEDs themselves. Early models of LED fixtures produced a highly
directional spotlight pattern. What would happen is the tops of the colony
would receive light and grow but a harsh shadow would be cast on the portions of the colony
that did not get spotlighted. That harsh shadow was basically ZERO light
and that dark part of the colony would struggle and eventually die off. Today, LED technology has come a long way
in terms of both lighting spectrum and diffusion making it a very attractive choice given its
other advantages. Lighting spectrum was solved to some degree
by the introduction of different colored LEDs. Diffusion was handled by a change in the optics
around each LED as well as optional diffuser plates to further scatter the light before
it hits the water. If you are the type of aquarist that likes
the best of all worlds, hybrid lighting systems exist that combine LED and either T5 or metal
halide. There might even be some systems out there
that is a combination of all three technologies. Let’s move on to water flow. Montipora appreciate strong flow, preferably
with some randomness to it. There is such a thing as too much flow though. If you have a powerhead blowing right at the
coral from short range, it may kill off some of the tissue at that point of contact. Another problem you might run into with vey
strong flow is if you have a plating colony of Montipora. The shape of the colony can act like a parachute
and lift off of the rocks if it gets hit by too much flow. Another thing to pay attention to with regard
to flow is maintaining consistency of that flow as time goes on. There are two things over time that dramatically
affect the performance of water flow systems. The first is the growth of the colony itself. Successfully growing Montipora comes with
the downside of the coral cutting down the flow significantly. As colonies get larger and larger, it is important
as hobbyists to pay close attention to changing flow demands and consider adding more flow
or pruning the colony to allow more space for water to flow through. Secondly, other organisms such as algae, sponges,
and other sessile invertebrates love to grow in and around the aquarium’s pumps and plumbing. For this reason I recommend taking apart pumps
and powerheads regularly for servicing. It does not take very much growth or blockages
to greatly limit water flow output. Even if you are not able to provide super
strong flow in your tank, one thing you will want to pay attention to is detritus settling
on either encrusting or plating colonies of Montipora. The shape of these corals as they grow create
low areas that act as detritus traps. If there is not enough flow to blow these
areas clean, the detritus that accumulates will kill off that portion of the colony. If that is a problem you are running into
in your aquarium, either add more flow or manually clean off that accumulation with
a turkey baster. Moving on from water flow, let’s talk about
Chemistry. Montipora require both clean water and consistent
high levels of major ions to maintain their growth rate. They are not quite as temperamental as Acropora
however suboptimal water chemistry can lead to undesirable changes in color or cause the
polyps of the coral to retract for extended periods of time. There are three major chemical parameters
that are needed by Montipora to build its stony skeleton. These parameters are Calcium, Alkalinity,
and Magnesium. Starting first with Calcium… Calcium is one of the major ions in saltwater. In the ocean, its level hovers around 425
parts per million (ppm). As a coral grows calcium is taken in and forms
its calcium carbonate skeleton. Alkalinity on the other hand is not a particular
ion per se, but you can think of it as the buffering capacity of the water. What the heck is buffering capacity? Buffering capacity in layman’s terms is
chemical stability. How resistant is this chemical mix to change. Technically it is the amount of acid required
to lower the pH of saltwater to the point bicarbonate turns into carbonic acid. If you have more alkalinity, it can soak up
more acid while keeping things steady. Less alkalinity and you have less buffering
capacity making the tank more susceptible to chemical changes. In practice alkalinity tends to be the parameter
that fluctuates the most of the three and is the one that needs the most babysitting. In the wild, the alkalinity of the water is
around 8-9 dkh though some aquarists like to overload this parameter a little and keep
their tanks around 10 or 11 dkh. There is some belief that having elevated
calcium and alkalinity in the water contributes to faster stony coral growth but that topic
perhaps deserves a video of its own. One quick note about adjusting calcium and
alkalinity is that it can be a little tricky because of how they interact. Addition of a calcium supplements often comes
with a corresponding fall in alkalinity levels. This see saw effect between calcium and alkalinity
stems from how the two ions interact with one another. The two ions combine to form calcium carbonate
and fall out of solution. If you are experiencing this in your systems,
the possible culprit may be the third chemical parameter… Magnesium. It may seem counterintuitive that the solution
to calcium and alkalinity imbalances is to elevate magnesium, but the three ions interact
regularly. Magnesium is very similar chemically to calcium. It can bind up carbonate ions thus increasing
the overall bioavailability of alkalinity compounds in the water. If you are tweaking calcium and alkalinity
and getting strange results, you may want to make sure it is not your magnesium level
that is low. In the ocean, Magnesium sits at about 1350
ppm. Having said all that, I would again stress
that stability is the ultimate goal. When you are looking to raise any of these
chemical parameters, it is best to work very slowly and let the change happen over the
course of months not days. By achieving success in growing a fast growing
coral like Montipora makes stability a little more difficult to achieve. Successful SPS filled tanks experience rapid
growth, and larger colonies soak up calcium, alkalinity, magnesium and trace elements at
a much faster rate. At first just regular water changes may be
sufficient to keep up with the chemistry demands of the corals, but as the biomass increases,
you may have to work in supplementation such as kalkwasser, calcium reactors, or two part
dosing… or even a combination of the three. Next topic… Feeding. Montipora and SPS corals in general do not
seem like the type of coral that would require feeding. They do not put on dramatic feeding displays
like some large polyp stony corals and even under close macro photography they don’t
seem to appreciate targeted feeding. In fact, target feeding often elicits the
opposite response, where the coral closes up on contact and wants nothing to do with
it. It is clear that Montipora get the majority
of their nutrition from lighting, but their requirements extend beyond that. Sometimes a Montipora colony will just look
rather drab in appearance and it is hard to pinpoint why. The water chemistry is good, it’s getting
plenty of light, there are no visible pests or other harassment, and the flow is great
at that point in the tank. In this situation, the coral may be hungry. But wait… didn’t we just say feeding was
a no go? Despite not being the most aggressive feeders
in the world, there are three great sources of food that work well for broadcast feeing. These three are amino acids, small zooplankton,
and simply having fish present. Starting with amino acids, they are simple
organic compounds that play a major role in building proteins as well as other biological
functions at the cellular level. Corals regularly take in available amino acids
from the water column so it is fairly easy to provide them with adequate quantities by
simply providing a broadcasted daily dose from any number of commercially available
reef supplement manufacturers. Small zooplankton include organisms such as
rotifers and cyclops plankton. They come frozen and are basically a small
granular oily paste that creates an orange cloud when introduced into the tank. The presence of rotifers in the water is immediately
apparent to the corals because many of them will open up and initiate their feeding behavior. It is less obvious in Montipora, but I’ve
noticed greater polyp extension when we’ve added a mix of frozen rotifers and powdered
plankton foods. Last point on nutrition, having fish in and
around Montipora colonies have a positive effect. Perhaps their presence as a nitrogen source
in close proximity is a good thing as small quantities of both nitrogen and phosphorus
are needed by corals and is not something they get through photosynthesis. One last note about feeding that I’ll add
is that although coral nutrition is important, don’t go crazy with it and overfeed the
aquarium. Most of the nutrition a Montipora needs will
come from the lighting and they will be absorbing other nutrients from the water. If you are going to experiment with some of
the broadcast foods mentioned above, start really slowly with it and don’t expect explosive
changes overnight in terms of the corals’ growth or color. The only thing that will be an overnight change
is a giant algae bloom from overfeeding. As for propagation and future aquaculture,
Montipora are a very interesting candidate. They are one of the easiest corals to break
apart and reattach to new substrate. What makes them interesting however is that
they are one of the corals that people are experimenting with in the way of grafting. Montipora are able to be grafted like plants
where the pigmentation transfers between two dissimilar looking individuals. What you end up with is this ice cream swirl
of color in its body. This sort of thing is what I would like to
try myself down the line and I will be curious to see what the reef keeping community comes
up with as well. Ok, now it’s time to cover some of the ugly
parts of keeping Montipora… pests. I would go as far as saying that there is
a Montipora pest that is one of the worst in the whole hobby that being Montipora eating
nudibranchs. There are plenty of nudibranchs that can plague
a home aquarium such as zoanthid eating nudibranchs that take on the coloration of the zoos they
munch on. The Montipora eating variety though are Snow
White and are absolutely terrible to deal with. The main challenge in eliminating them is
that they are highly resistant to dipping. They require pretty heavy concentrations of
whatever commercially available dip you like to use, but on top of that even if the nudibranchs
die, the eggs are often completely unaffected. Also, there is no guarantee that these nudibranchs
are always on the coral you are dipping. Plenty of times they are just in the tank
roaming around and escape any efforts to dip a particular coral they are eating. There are not a lot of really horrible pests
in this hobby. Most of them are actually pretty easy to take
care of despite the horror stories one might hear. These guys however are the real deal. I’ve gone as far as completely swearing
off any new Montipora from the ocean because they almost always come in with them. Still even after years of not having any in
my system occasionally out of nowhere they can pop up. At that point all you can do is keep dipping
and hopefully knock them down without killing the corals you are dipping. If you guys have any tips and tricks on dealing
with Monti eating nudibranchs, share your experiences in the comments below! Ok, that about does it for Montipora. Hopefully this video is helpful for those
looking to try them for the first time. If you would like more information or perhaps
purchase Montipora for your home aquarium, I invite you to visit us at tidalgardens.com
and see what we have in stock. Montipora is one of the corals we have a ton
of different varieties of. That does it for this video, so until next
time, happy reefing.

43 comments on “Montipora Coral Care Tips

  1. I might have missed it but I think placement is super important. A beginner is likely to plop one down at the top of their reef, a big mistake ime. Nearly on the substrate is best to let them grow out without shading out huge portions of a reef.

  2. Great video as always. Pictures are always the best in Than’s videos. Great info. My personal experience is that montipora and many chalices like elevated Magnesium. I have found faster growth at 1390-1400.

  3. It's crazy you were able to get this out with everything else that's going on. Also, those chemical test shots were magic! Great work Than.

  4. Love the longer, more in-depth, Genera vids u have been doing lately. As per usual the camera work is …WOW!! Thanks

  5. Is it just me ? But I could listen to him all day long !!! I even find myself watching live coral sales even tho I’m in the UK 😂😂😂

  6. My favorite is Montipora Confusa. It grows plates with digi-like branches.

    The rainbow Monti is also pretty sweet! Mine took-off slow, and then started spreading and displaying all sorts of colorful undertones.

    Montis have been tough for me. I went on a two week vacation and had an ATO issue. My salinity dropped to 1.020. My friend corrected it by dumping a bunch of salt into my tank. My plating monti was bleached. I thought it had died. When I was about to toss it weeks later; I noticed color coming back. It probably took 4-5 months to color up; but it came back.

  7. Ha awesome! Did you just make the video I’ve been looking for for the past two days. Just added my first monticap!
    🤘🏾

  8. Great video Than. I got rid of a rather large plague of month eating nudies with simple reefdip and a toothbrush. It took probably 6 dips, a bit of time and a lot of observation, but never came back. That was 2 years ago 'touches wood'

  9. Another great video. As someone who is relatively new to keeping a marine tank you sharing your knowledge is invaluable. Thanks again from Sydney Australia

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