Purple Montipora digitata is hands down, one of the most beautiful and colorful small polyp stony corals available for aquariums, bar none. There, we’ve said it, professed our love for a coral that no matter how many times you’ve seen it, a bright and colorful specimen will outshine just about any other coral in a brightly lit tank.
Once a common staple in most reefers’ tank, it has been replaced by slow growing, overpriced and somewhat more exotic corals that are harder to grow, slower to grow, and often only look really great as a small frag with bright growing edges, in macro mode, with lots and lots of actinic blue lighting. Sure, Montipora digitata may not be a hard or even challenging coral to grow, but like a board game with complex rules that make mastery an asymptotic affair, growing a perfect, solid purple colony of Montipora digitata is a similar challenge.
Sure, there are other colors of branching Montipora digitata, many of them with brilliantly colored polyps and or growing tips, but save for the bright orange to peach to pink variety of this species, none will ever hold a place dearer to our hearts than that magenta colored fingers of a coral that is almost impossible to kill. What’s great about purple Digi, is that it is both a beginner coral and a connoisseur’s coral.
It’s hard to say where purple digitata first came from, as it does occur over a wide geographical range but if you are truly perceptive, you’ll notice slight variations in specimens from region to region. This tribute to purple Montipora digitata was partly inspired in part by Paletta’s recent Coral Fragging article, and we wouldn’t be surprised if many of the old salts reading this cut their teeth in coral fragging stony corals with this easy and fast growing stony coral.
The other part of the inspiration for giving Montipora digitata some proper credit is also due to encountering this coral in very shallow water in the Central Province of the Solomon Islands. We came across a beautiful stand of M. digitata growing in just a few feet of water from the same island that the original Purple Monster Acro was originally collected. While on the hunt for the origin of this mythical SPS coral strain, the sheer brilliance of shallow water purple digitata was not lost on us and we had to collect some of this coral out of respect.
There’s tons of purple digitata available in the marine aquarium hobby – some of it has been out of the ocean for decades, and some of it has been recently imported as wild pieces or maricultured colonies. But having a known strain of a very common coral from a very rare location gives our new samples of purple digitata the kind of heirloom heritage that we will always appreciate while growing out this coral.
Most people reading this have probably grown purple Montipora digitata before, you might have some growing in your tank now, and you probably have a reefing friend who would gladly give you some. But whether you grow chalice corals, are a hardcore Acro frag collector or really prefer to specialize in zoanthids, there’s a place for this coral in your tank and you owe it to yourself to nurture a nice magenta bouquet of the coral that encouraged a whole generation of early reef keepers with their first successes in growing stony corals.