When it was first introduced in the early 2000s, the Elkhorn Montipora quickly became one of the fastest growing strains of aquarium corals. This coral grows so fast that within a few years it was no longer welcome in a typical, healthy crowded reef tank and became relegated to a beginner SPS coral.
Before the elkhorn montipora came along, another Monti, M. digitata was considered one of the best beginner stony coral but unlike its finger branching cousin, the Elkhorn is, shall we say, ‘chromatically’ challenged. Digis come in a wide range of colors including green, peach/orange, pink/purple, with many strains exhibiting colorful polyps and/or colorful tips.
Meanwhile the Elkhorn Monti has been stuck in a very earth tone color that is usually brownish grey, at most maybe an olive brown in the best of condition. We’ve always wondered if the reef aquarium hobby would ever discover a new strain of elkhorn montipora that would approach a greener green, as it turns out all we had to do is go collect it ourselves.
The story begins last summer a few weeks before ReefStock Australia when we went on our first Great Barrier Reef diving and coral collecting expedition with Ultra Coral Australia. It’s very easy to be completely overwhelmed by the density and diversity of corals on the GBR and we had our radar fine tuned for super exotics like orange chalices, pink Nephthea, odd leather corals, cat’s paw Pocillopora, and any Acros that would really grab our attention.
On one of many typical dives on a typical reef slope, we caught sight of a nondescript Montipora with no real shape or growth form, but a promising glimmer of neon green. We decided to nab this diamond in the rough, expecting it to develop into more of a semi-encrusting generic Monti but nothing could have prepared me for what it became: a fast-growing, super green Montipora stellata.
It’s been over half a year since the genetic sample of this coral made it to the Reef Builders Studio and it’s been very fun to watch it grow into familiar growth forms. One colony in high light has thin, upright branches while the lower light colony has more outward growing branches that tend towards plating at the tips.
Pretty much everything about this new green Montipora is exactly like the elkhorn Montipora from the fast growth, to the growth forms, all that’s left to do is make some frags and start spreading it around. Although this might one of the newest color strains of elkhorn Montipora, we’re pretty sure there’s many more color forms waiting to be discovered just like Spy’s Red Montipora hirsuta.