Thin branching Montipora are among some of the fastest growing small polyp stony corals in the world and many varieties and species have become quite prolific in the reef aquarium world. Recent years have seen a greater interest in the closely related Anacropora which have been discovered in a wide range of colors and morphs and these can grow every bit as fast as their thin branching Montipora relatives.
If you have but not the other, it can be quite challenging to really see where Montipora ends and Anacropora begins because you’d be hard pressed to really spot the minute differences between these different genera. This confusion is further exacerbated in the red strains of TNT Anacropora and the Manilla Spy Montipora but we are fortunate that our LFS AquaticArt in Highlands Ranch, Colorado has an exquisite culture of both SPS species growing side by side where we can really see the macro and micro differences .
Side by side the first thing we notice is that the Anacropora is more red in color while the Spy Monti is more of an orangey red but the biggest difference is in the growth form, branch shape and texture. Overall the TNT Anacropora is more spiny in appearance with irregularly shaped branches that taper to a sharp tip, but the ‘skin’ in between the polyps is quite smooth. By contrast the Spy Monti has a much more textured surface with branches that are pointed outwards but terminate in a much blunter tip than the TNT Anacropora.
Both of these thin branching Anacropora and Montipora are quite tolerant of surprisingly low light levels, they both require higher nutrients (~ 20ppm NO3) to get the deep saturated colors and while the Anacropora is stronger than it looks, the Montipora is one of the most delicate stony corals we’ve ever grown with branches sometimes simply falling away when pulled out of the water – it’s frustratingly brittle!
Without too many examples to compare with we’re not confident about identifying Anacropora to the species level but it’s come to our attention that the Spy Monti which was once known as Montipora hirsuta but this name is now synonymous with an older name, Montipora carinata. Together with the red polyped bubblegum or forest fire Montipora samarensis, the red Spy Monti and Anacropora are some very fast growing and hardy species of red branching SPS corals which are becoming more commonly available in the reef aquarium hobby and an excellent choice for all but the brightest of reef aquariums.