Montipora Plate Coral will grow quite large, and give you ample opportunity to frag as well!

   The Montipora Plate Coral Montipora capricornus is also known as the Whorl Bowl Coral. This is a very attractive small polyp stony (SPS) coral, and a favorite of reef aquarists. In its natural colors it can be purple, blue, brown or green and some have a contrasting edge color under stronger lighting. Captive grown colors include purple, intense green with purple edges, light green, red and orange.

  The M. capricornus is an encrusting growth form that can be flat when small/young, then turning to a whorled cup shape as the size increases. It works great for filling the area in your tank that does not have a heavy water flow. With its coloring and a swirling, cupped, plate growth, it quickly becomes a prized center piece coral.

   The Montipora Plate Coral makes a great starter SPS coral for new reefers. Like some of the other Montipora’s, the M. capricornus doesn’t need excessive lighting. They’re easy to moderate to care for and less likely to bleach or get the diseases that the Acropora corals tend to get. Unlike the finicky Aroproras, once established they are quite hardy and fast growing. The Montipora Plate Coral is the perfect specimen for a captive reef environment.

   This Montipora has been bred in captivity. The Montipora Plate Coral has a big following due to its unique growth pattern and being very easy to frag.

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Cnidaria
  • Class: Anthozoa
  • Order: Scleractinia
  • Family: Acroporidae
  • Genus: Montipora
  • Species: capricornis

Scientific name

   Family: Acroporidae
   Species: Montipora capricornus (Often found misspelled as capricornis)

Distribution / Background

   Montipora Coral Information: The Montipora Plate Coral or Whorl Bowl Coral Montipora capricornus was described by Veron in 1985. They are a turbinate coral, which is described as a vase like growth with cone-shaped whorls. This coral is one of the common species of Montipora. It is sometimes confused with M. foliosa and M. tuberculosa. Some common names they are known for are Plate Coral, Bowl Coral, Cup Coral, Vase Coral, Cap Coral, Leaf Plate Coral, Cabbage Coral, Lettuce Coral, and Cup Montipora.

   Where Montipora Corals Are Found: The Montipora Spp. are found in the Australo-Indo-Pacific region as well as the Red Sea and Indian Ocean. M. capricornus is found in the Great Barrier Reef in Australia and in the Houtman Abrolhos Islands.

   Montipora Coral Habitat: M. capricornus are commonly found in lagoon type habitats with shallow water. Seagrasses may be found growing among the corals. They are rare in other habitats. Montipora, as a species, are found from deep water (greater than 10 meters / 33 feet) to the reef crest and from clear oceanic reefs to turbid (not clear because of stirred-up sediment, etc.) lagoons. Even though their range is large, Montipora are more likely to be found in quiet water at mid-depths.


   The Montipora capricornus is not on the IUCN Red List for Endangered Species.


   What do Montipora Corals look like: The Montipora Spp. corals have very porous and lightweight skeletons. They are a plating species of small polyp stony (SPS) corals.

Green Whorl Bowl Coral - Montipora capricornusWhorl Bowl Coral Photo © Animal-World:
Courtesy Carrie Mc Birney

   Montipora capricornus is a turbinate coral which is described as a vaselike growth with cone-shaped whorls. Its encrusting growth form can be flat when small/young, then turning to a whorled cup shape as the size increases. A mature colony will have a spiraling vase shape.

   The colors of the Montipora Plate Coral can be purple, blue, brown or green and some have a contrasting edge color under stronger lighting. The newest growth, at the edges of the coral, are often lighter or a contrasting color. Captive grown colors include purple, intense green with purple edges, light green, red and orange.

   Seeing a lighter color at the edges indicates that the coral is growing. Unlike corals whose polyps expand or contract only at certain times of the day, M. capricornus polyps can be open or closed at any time of the day. They also can open singly or in groups.

Difficulty of Care

   Montipora Coral Care: The M. capricornus is easy to moderate to care for, accepting a wide range of lighting. They must be placed so they have room to grow because, under the right lighting, they are a fast-growing species. Unlike Acropora, which are in the same family, Montipora corals do not stress as easily and are more resistant to bleaching and disease. Some credit this resistance to their deep-set polyps.They are easy to propagate as well. Wild caught specimens do not do as well in captivity as aquacultured ones.

Foods / Feeding

   Montipora Coral Feeding: In the wild, Montipora corals have developed several feeding strategies. Through a symbiotic relationship with a marine algae, known as zooxanthellae, they receive the majority of their nutrients. They also capture planktonic organisms and microscopic food particles from the water column and can absorb dissolved organic matter.

   In captivity, they do well in well-feed reef tanks, accepting very fine particulate foods. Zooplankton and tiny plankton can be fed once a week. Copepods, Artemia, and nauplii are too large for them to ingest. Most online vendors recommend adding filter feeder food. New forms of prey are also being developed, such as invert larvae and new strains of rotifers.

Aquarium Care

   Pristine tank conditions are needed to keep all Montipora spp. corals. Doing water changes of 10% every 2 weeks is needed, although it is suggested that doing 5% water changes once a week will bring about amazing results. Keep the nitrate levels low. Maintaining calcium and alkalinity levels are important.

   Suggested levels for Montipora species are:

  • Calcium:  400 to 450 ppm (closer to 450). If the Monti does not have enough calcium, it will not grow.
  • Alkalinity:  3.2 TO 4.5 MEQ/L (8 to 10 dKh – 10 is recommended)
  • Phosphates:  0, zero. Phosphates are the worst of all and all corals hate them.
  • Magnesium:  1350-1500. Magnesium makes calcium available, so if your calcium is low, check your magnesium levels before adding any more calcium.
  • Strontium:  10

Aquarium Parameters

   A well-feed live rock/reef environment is what is needed for your Montipora Plate Coral, along with some fish for organic matter production. These corals are usually hardy and fast-growing, however a mature tank is recommended.

Quick Reference Chart
Lighting:Prefers Low Lighting LevelsPrefers Medium Lighting LevelsPrefers High Lighting Levels
Water Flow:Prefers Low Water Flow LevelsPrefers Medium Water Flow LevelsPrefers High Water Flow Levels
Temperament:Peaceful TemperamentSemi-Aggressive TemperamentAggressive Temperament

   M. capricornus is capable of transforming color from dull brown to green, pink, purple, and blue under artificial lighting. If you wish to maintain your Montipora’s coloring or encourage it to “brighten up”, keep it under strong lighting. Most research recommended power compacts, VHOs, or metal halides. With metal halides, place your Monti in the middle to bottom part of your tank. With any other lights, place them in the middle to top part of your tank.

   Position your Montipora Plate Coral, then be prepared to move it to find its best position in your tank, based on your lighting system and water movement. Its color and growth form will depend on your lighting and water flow. Your Monti will show whether it is happy or not by the coloring. Make sure that no other corals or even algae can come in contact with your Montipora. Monti’s are mild mannered and will end up loosing any chemical warfare.

  • Minimum Tank Size / Length: 10 gallons (38 L) or larger
  • Marine Lighting: All, high lighting levels are best as these corals have zooxanthellae
  • Temperature: 74° – 83° F (23° – 28° C)
  • Salinity / Specific Gravity: 1.023 – 1.025
  • Water Movement: Moderate to high. Research indicates that water flow has a great impact on the M. capricornus growth form.
  • Water Region: Middle to bottom of the aquarium

Compatibility and Social Behaviors

   Montipora are not aggressive corals, nor do they posses strong defenses. Because of this, they must be placed away from any aggressive or defensive coral. Although not as touchy as Acroporas, the Montipora genus should still do best kept in a small polyp stony (SPS) tank. It will tolerate a mixed coral tank better than Acros, but plenty of room should be around your Montipora, even distancing it from another Montipora species. Oddly, colors can at times determine hierarchy in a tank. For instance, a brown Montipora digitata will usually loose to attacks by their colored up sisters and brothers.

   The Montipora genus are peaceful, but watch out for crabs. Many experienced aquarists do not believe in any crab should be kept in a closed system. Crabs are opportunistic predators, with the exception some of the symbiotic crabs like commensal crabs, and gall crabs.

Sex – Sexual differences

   No sexual difference in appearance is known.

Breeding and Reproduction

   The Montipora Sp. are male and female and can reproduce both sexually and asexually. In the wild they reproduce sexually by releasing eggs and sperm at the same time, resulting in a fertilized egg which then forms into a free-swimming planula larva. Eventually the planula larvae settles onto the substrate, becoming plankters. This then forms a tiny polyp which begins to excrete calcium carbonate and develops into a coral. Planula larvae are extremely vulnerable to predation, and very few survive. Montiporas reproduce asexually as well. In the wild Montiporas spread from breakage due to storms and fragmentation.

   Propagation is rather simple for Montipora corals. First you need to choose a healthy coral that is not showing any signs of distress. Then, simply cut a branch at least 2″ long and glue the frag to a plug or rock. You can use the 2-part epoxy or underwater putties. A little tip, don’t glue frags upright since they will grow faster on their sides.The slime that the coral will exude should not come in contact with any other corals and gloves are suggested. Give the frag ample water flow.

Potential Problems

   The Montipora spp. are generally disease resistant, but can still get the same illnesses that any other small polyp stony (SPS) coral can get under poor conditions. An ailment on some Montipora’s are tumor like growths, but these tumors are not harmful, just ugly.

   In the wild, brittle stars and other detritovores are sometimes found in the base of the coral. Check your specimen carefully for unsafe hitchhikers, especially corals taken from the wild. One problem hitchhiker that the M. capricornus has is a Nudibranch of the Aeolid genus. This nudibranch will eat the coral from the bottom up. The Montipora can be cured with a freshwater bath at the same PH and temperature as the main tank for 30-45 seconds. This will destroy all these little buggers, but not the eggs, so you need to repeat the bath in 10 days to kill any newly hatched. You can see them at night, although checking the base for any tissue destruction should help too.

   Caution is recommended if you plan to add Limpet snails to your tank as they have been known to eat Montipora corals (as well as Acropora). Magilopsis (a gastropod) and Prosthiostomum (a flatworm) are common Montipora pests.

   In general, if your M. capricornus has any kind of tissue recession, just cut off the healthy part. Just make sure you cut into some of the healthy part also, to be sure there is no disease encroaching on the healthy tissue. Also, keep out the cyanobacteria and algae with good water movement, and your Monti will stay happy.


   Montipora Corals for Sale: The Montipora Plate Coral or Whorl Bowl Coral M. capricornus is very easy to find at pet shops and on line. Online they can run about $34.00 USD or more depending on size and color. The more vibrant colored corals command the highest prices. Aquacultured specimens and frags are available.