As reef aquariums gain popularity, the amount of knowledge regarding the husbandry of corals steadily increases, developing better and more successful techniques. However, understanding and replicating conditions that induce coral spawning is still an elusive aspect of coral care. It is still uncommon for corals to spawn in the home reef aquarium. Luckily, corals employ more than one reproductive strategy to propagate. Though sexual reproduction is yet uncommon, asexual reproduction is extremely common in a well-maintained reef aquarium.
By taking advantage of this unique characteristic, with patience, dedicated reef hobbyists are able to essentially fill an aquarium with just a few parent corals. Coral propagation is a cost effective way to have more corals, but more importantly, it helps alleviate the demand placed on corals harvested from the ocean.
In the ocean, the detachment of the newly formed coral buds is often caused by strong water currents, physical trauma, or biological triggers. The exact length of time varies from species to species, but the bud, or offshoot, eventually detaches from the parent coral and settles in a new location.
A clean cut is made to sever the bud from the parent coral utilizing a sharp pair of tissue scissors or bone cutters. It is crucial to incorporate a single motion rather than multiple snipping motions to ensure a clean cut for faster healing. Be sure to make the cut at the base of the coral bud where it attaches to the parent coral. If the distinction between parent and bud is not clear and you do not feel comfortable, wait until the bud matures and the distinction is clear. The severed bud can then be attached to a small piece of live rock. Use monofilament or nylon fishing line to gently, yet tightly, secure the coral to the live rock. Position the coral in an appropriate location with regard to lighting and water movement.
Provide and maintain ideal water conditions to ensure healthy growth. In due time, the new coral will mature and fill out nicely. As long as the corals are provided for, this process can be repeated indefinitely – resulting in a well-stocked reef aquarium from just a few parent corals.