Grafted SPS coral strains, that is ones with an ‘infection’ of fluorescent proteins, are a very popular natural phenomenon that coral farmers work hard to develop in aquarium colonies. This bizarre occurrence is widespread and can be found in a range of coral groups, but is most often seen in Acropora, Cyphastrea, but there are by far more accounts of GFP infection or grafting in Montipora, especially the plating varieties.
Montipora digitata was once one of the most common of all SPS corals in aquariums, but its fast growing tendencies can make them hard to manage sometimes. Interestingly the occurrence of foreign fluorescent proteins appearing in branching Montipora has been very rare, practically nonexistent, until now. Thankfully our fam at Worldwide Corals has been developing what could be the first ‘viable’ strain of grafted digitata that started from a small frag they began growing less than a year ago.
Before we dive into the strain at hand, we want to touch upon the viability of corals with infections of foreign proteins – it’s pretty common to see a green speck here, a red splash there, but not in all cases are both colors sustained in the growing margins of the tissue. It takes time, patience, strategic stimulation of different growing areas and a lot of luck to get a grafted Montipora strain really going, and WWC has some experience since they were the first to grow the red & green grafted Montipora capricornis in the aquarium hobby.
Circling back to the new strain in focus, from the picture we thought for sure that the grafted digitata was a green variety that had been infected with red fluorescent protein. However after discussing with their coral culture experts we later learned that this novel coral strain is actually the opposite; a red/orange branch digi infected with green protein.
If you’ve never seen or worse, never grown out a grafted coral of your own, there’s several varieties available in the aquarium hobby today and these are truly fun and interesting varieties of coral, like two strains in one. We’ve played with the GFP infected plating Montipora before but now that Worldwide Corals is working on a grafted digitata strain already planted across three different show tanks, we can’t wait to see what that Xmas red and green fingers Montipora digitata will look like!