Known for their vibrant colors that lend an exotic air to any aquarium, it’s no wonder why it would be alarming for your Montipora to suddenly turn white.
If you notice your montipora losing its color and turning white, it could be a number of issues, including a lack of nutrients, sensitivity to lighting, or a myriad of aquatic pests.
The rest of this article will tell you all you need to know about what to do when your montipora turns white.
Why is my Montipora turning white?
Montiporas – like other corals – respond to stress by expelling their symbiotic algae and turning white. In ideal conditions, corals have a symbiotic relationship with microscopic organisms called zooxanthellae. This algae makes its home inside the coral’s living tissue and provides the coral with food and nutrients.
However, when stressed by water pollution, overexposure to light, or other stressors, this algae leaves the coral for more ideal conditions. Bleached coral is coral whose microscopic algae have fled, leaving it vulnerable to further damage.
While conditions inside the reef tank are easier to control than the coral’s natural ocean habitat, many of the same stressors can still apply.
If you notice your montipora losing its color and developing white patches, the culprit could be one of the following:
- Too much/too intense light (either natural or artificial)
- Water pollution/contamination
- Pests, fungus, or infection
Here we will break down each of these culprits, how to identify them, and how to fix each problem.
Too much/too intense light
Light needs differ between aquatic organisms. In the wild, extremely low tides can expose montiporas and other corals to bright sunlight.
In reef tanks, lighting parameters must be closesly monitored. One of the first signs that there is too much or too intense lighting in your tank is stunted polyp growth. White patches soon follow.
Lighting can affect certain color monitoporas than others. Red montipora varieties seem more sensitive to blue LED lights, while all varieties – according to reef forums such as reef2reef.com, ultimatereef.net, and reefcentral.com – don’t fare well under white light levels that exceed 10%.
Too much light is toxic to corals and can kill them as little as a few days. Make sure to keep your lighting dim, and test how well your montipora fares under different light colors.
Water pollution or contamination
While pollution commonly affects coral in their ocean environment, contamination in a reef tank poses the same damage. If your montipora isn’t suffering from too much light, the next thing to check are the water parameters. Most important are the alkalinity and salinity levels.
If the salinity in your tank is off, you might be noticing problems with some of the other organisms in your tank as well as your montipora.
You want to aim for a salinity target of 35 ppt. While one or two points higher or lower than 35 ppt won’t usually cause much difference, the risks to all organisms in your reef tank increase with each point away from the target.
Salinity levels are relatively easy to fix, and usually involve adding or redusing saltwater from your aquarium. To reduce salinity, remove some saltwater from your tank and replace with RO/DI water.
To increase salinity levels, add saltwater to the tank by allowing some water to evaporate and add saltwater instead of freshwater to top it off.
Alkalinity levels can be tested with at-home test kits to test your reef tank’s water parameters. If your alkalinity levels are off, many saltwater reef stores sell solutions you can add to the tank. Make sure to follow the instructions on the label of whatever solution you choose.
Water quality can also degrade over time, even with ideal water parameters. If you suspect poor water quality, check your phosphate levels. High phosphate levels are generally a sign of water pollution. To fix this, simply replace the water in your tank.
Pests, fungus, or infection
When you add new coral to your reef tank, there is always a risk of hidden pests and parasites hitching a ride into your aquarium. While you can usually avoid pests and parasites by isolating each new addition for a few days to a few weeks before adding it to your existing reef tank, many tank owners don’t, and end up with unwanted company in their tanks.
Many pests and parasites prey on montipora coral, including but not limited to aiptasia, nudibranchs, and red bugs.
For parasites, there are coral dips that are sold at local reef stores with which you can treat your montipora. For pests, the way to get rid of them is dependent on their type.
For example, the best way to get rid of aiptasia – a type of common invasive anemone – is to add the pest’s natural predators to the tank, like peppermint shrimp, filefish, and Berghia nudibranchs. Red bugs, on the other hand, are eradicated using certain liquid medications.
For fungus or infection, there are medications with which you can treat your montipora. With severe infections, you sometimes have to remove the infected part of the coral altogether so it doesn’t spread to the rest of the montipora.
Can Bleached Montipora Recover?
If there is still some flesh remaining on the montipora and it isn’t entirely white, your coral will recover. Montiporas can replenish themselves rapidly under the right conditions.
Is my Montipora Dead when Turning White?
Your montipora isn’t dead as long as there is still some flesh on it. If your montipora is completely bleached with no flesh on it, then it is dead and cannot recover.
Can I prevent Montipora from turning White?
To prevent your montipora from turning white, you need to take preventative measures regarding lighting, water parameters, water quality, and pests.
When adding a new coral, check your lighting and make sure it isn’t too bright or intense. You’ll have to keep a close eye on your montipora when experimenting with lighting, as too much or too intense light can quickly kill your coral.
Test your water levels often to maintain proper salinity and alkalinity levels. In doing this, you’ll be able to take care of any changes before they get severe enough to cause harm to your montipora. In testing your phosphate levels, you’ll know when to change out your water.
Most pests can be avoided by properly isolating each new addition for the recommended period of time (can range between days or weeks, depending on the organism) before you add them to your tank.