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Tubastrea farming at the Steinhart Aquarium

By Matt Wandell - Posted May 24, 2012 11:00 AM
A 200 gallon exhibit at the California Academy of Sciences Steinhart Aquarium has proven to be quite effective at producing captive grown Tubastrea colonies via asexual budding of parent colonies. Although captive reproduction of Tubastrea has been documented since at least 1993 when Joe Yaiullo wrote about it, we hope these images inspire some folks to try their hand at a simple method for captively propagating these corals en masse for the aquarium hobby.
Tubastrea farming at the Steinhart Aquarium

Photo by Rich Ross

Photo by Tim Wong, Steinhart Aquarium
Photo by Tim Wong, Steinhart Aquarium
Tubastrea or orange cup coral reproduces asexually by producing planula larvae, and these larvae settle relatively quickly compared to most other corals.  Because of this, a small percentage will avoid being sucked up by filters and pumps and settle successfully in captivity.  Aquarists with healthy, well fed colonies of orange cup coral can expect to start seeing very small polyps on aquarium rockwork, walls, or plumbing within a few months to a year.  The tiny planulae will also settle on the sandbed, which makes a very convenient location for collecting the juvenile polyps for propagation.

A rock wall of approximately 8 square feet in area is  covered in Tubastrea colonies in this exhibit.  Settled juvenile polyps appear on the sand at a frequency of approximately 1-2 per day.  Although this number may seem fairly low, no effort is currently made to maximize settlement or collect the planulae as they are released from the parent colonies.  Simple steps could be taken to maximize the collection of larvae--determining the timing of larvae release and turning off the pumps during this time to allow better settlement, caging adult colonies in breeder baskets, and building fine mesh traps to prevent the planulae from being sucked into the filtration system, for instance.

The corals are fed throughout the day with a mix of live enriched Artemia nauplii (in Reed Mariculture’s Shellfish Diet and Nannochloropsis) and Cyclop-eeze. These are mixed with saltwater and added to the tank every few minutes over an 8 hour period with a peristaltic pump. The benefit of this feeding strategy (vs. target feeding once or twice per day with larger foods) is that it is a lot less work than feeding several hundred polyps, and also assures food getting to the smallest polyps in the tank.

Photo by Matt Wandell
Photo by Matt Wandell

Photo by Matt Wandell
Photo by Matt Wandell

Photo by Matt Wandell
Photo by Matt Wandell

Author: Matt Wandell
Location: San Francisco

Matt is an Aquatic Biologist at the Steinhart Aquarium, California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco where he helps tend to the 200,000 gallon Philippine Coral Reef exhibit, and has been an avid reefkeeping hobbyist since 1999.

Website: www.calacademy.org.

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