Ask the WWM Crew
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Genus Montipora, often called "velvet" corals for their smooth appearance, are encrusting, plating and thick finger-like forms. For the family they are particularly hardy and fast growing for aquarists, warranting their great popularity. This genus' members especially need to be gradually adapted from lower to higher light conditions (placed lower-est in the system for the first few weeks) to avoid bleaching (loss of zooxanthellae). The eighty or so species of Montiporas are amazingly polymorphic and therefore difficult to identify by sight. They're often mistaken for Porites species and vice versa, but can be discerned when the polyps are retracted. The latter have numerous polyp skeleton internal structures whereas Montipora polyps are almost empty. (Images # Montiporas in the Red Sea and Hawai'i displaying inter-polyp 'hills' (papillae, tuberculae) typical of many members of the genus)(Images # .M. venosa, an exception to the 'possession of papillae and tuberculae rule' for the genus)
Anacropora are best described as arborescent (tree-branch like) Montipora without axial corallites (the fast growing polyp tips of Acropora). These are slow-growing, low color denizens of muddier, near shore environments of little interest to the aquarium trade. Six known species.
1) By sight: Examine the prospective buy carefully for uniform coverage of its skeleton by living tissue. Live acroporid polyps are a mere few millimeters deep and easily damaged in collection and shipping. There should be no tissue recession from the skeleton, or signs of bleaching (Image # . A captive-produced Acropora showing early signs of bleaching)
Like corals in general and Small Polyp Stonies in particular, Acroporids require high, consistent water quality. Way before your fishes these stinging celled animals will herald declining bio-water quality. Look for signs such as non-opening polyps, the beginnings of filamentous algae... Some specifics of what these corals demand to do well:
This is a semi-controversial area. Many aquarists and commercial culturists abstain from offering purposeful foods, having their Acroporids rely solely on apparent photosynthesis... and nutrients that come from other biological activity in the system. In our culture facility (WWM) we offer a nutrient "bath" to our hermatypic SPS' on a daily basis. We observe faster, thicker growth, with more color and hardiness from this practice. Our "food/feeding" consists of a pureed squirt of a blend of unicellular algae, zooplankters, suspended particles (animal based flake foods), and dissolved organics.
Regarding the use/misuse of "supplements". Notwithstanding my jealousy of associates in pet industries vast wealth from such sales, I/we don't use "additives". Water changes, feedings and the use of carbon dioxide calcium reactors grant us 400-500ppm of calcium plus high alkalinity & other factors necessary for biomineralization. If you feel you must "supplement" to get sufficient strontium, calcium, iodine, iron, boron... into your livestock, please be careful... know what you're doing, utilize test kits, and as your best saving grace, utilize regular water changes as a dilution solution.
Other General Health Notes:
Acroporids and other SPS species make up the spectacular seasonal mass spawners we've all read about and seen on "nature" shows on television. However this is only the beginning of their reproductive and regenerative repertoire. Most folks capitalize on the groups "divide and conquer" strategy of fragmentation to make new colonies. Small pieces of healthy Acroporids can be broken off and attached to real or faux substrate and under propitious circumstances give rise to genetically identical "frags".
A Note Re Conservation:
It's not lost on me that in Dante's Inferno, the lowest ring of Hell was reserved for the worst sinners: hypocrites. After many years of working in the ornamental aquatics trade, as well as writing for the hobby and business interests of the field as well as the scuba-sport 'zines, is it right to actually endorse the use of these organisms? In my opinion, a qualified yes. Granted the stony corals that are collected must be of appropriately gathered (not all from every environment), carefully handled and placed in favorable settings. But beyond these stipulations, that the consumer, you and I as aquarists, do our best to act out of understanding and do our best to appreciate, and in the case of easily culturable forms, spread our knowledge and pieces of our specimens to other hobbyists.
I entreat you, don't get involved with stony corals nonchalantly. Reef keeping is an expensive, time-consuming passion. If you're new to the reef scene, do start with non-mineralizing stinging celled animals that have faster replacement rates, graduating to LPS and SPS corals with mastery of your aquaristic skills. And do your best to purchase cultured specimens and in turn provide them to others yourself. Captive produced corals not only conserve wild stocks, they are better choices: pre-adapted to aquarium conditions, relatively free of parasitic, infectious and collateral pest organisms.
The family Acroporidae comprises many species; some stellar and a few aquarium disappointments. As with all SPS they require consistent, metabolite-free water and intensely lit, well-circulated conditions. Given their capacity for asexual culture, diversity, abundance and beauty, this group will remain a prominent part of advanced reef aquarists dreams and aquaculture efforts.
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