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Effective Techniques for the Feeding and Ex Situ Culture of a Brooding Scleractinian Coral, Pocillopora acuta

Published: June 23rd, 2023



1Department of Planning and Research, National Museum of Marine Biology & Aquarium, 2Department of Marine Biotechnology and Resources, National Sun Yat-sen University

Climate change is impacting coral reef ecosystems globally. Corals sourced from ex situ aquaculture systems can help support restoration and research efforts. Herein, feeding and coral culture techniques that can be used to promote the long-term maintenance of brooding scleractinian corals ex situ are outlined.

Climate change is affecting the survival, growth, and recruitment of corals globally, with large-scale shifts in abundance and community composition expected in reef ecosystems over the next several decades. Recognition of this reef degradation has prompted a range of novel research- and restoration-based active interventions. Ex situ aquaculture can play a supporting role through the establishment of robust coral culture protocols (e.g., to improve health and reproduction in long-term experiments) and through the provision of a consistent broodstock supply (e.g., for use in restoration projects). Here, simple techniques for the feeding and ex situ culture of brooding scleractinian corals are outlined using the common and well-studied coral, Pocillopora acuta, as an example. To demonstrate this approach, coral colonies were exposed to different temperatures (24 °C vs. 28 °C) and feeding treatments (fed vs. unfed) and the reproductive output and timing, as well as the feasibility of feeding Artemia nauplii to corals at both temperatures, was compared. Reproductive output showed high variation across colonies, with differing trends observed between the temperature treatments; at 24 °C, fed colonies produced more larvae than unfed colonies, but the opposite was found in colonies cultured at 28 °C. All colonies reproduced before the full moon, and differences in reproductive timing were only found between unfed colonies in the 28 °C treatment and fed colonies in the 24 °C treatment (mean lunar day of reproduction ± standard deviation: 6.5 ± 2.5 and 11.1 ± 2.6, respectively). The coral colonies fed efficiently on Artemia nauplii at both treatment temperatures. These proposed feeding and culture techniques focus on the reduction of coral stress and the promotion of reproductive longevity in a cost-effective and customizable manner, with versatile applicability in both flow-through and recirculating aquaculture systems.

Many coral reef ecosystems globally are being lost and degraded as a result of high-temperature stress driven by climate change1,2. Coral bleaching (i.e., the breakdown of the coral-algal symbiosis3) was considered relatively rare in the past4 but is now occurring more frequently5, with annual bleaching expected to occur in many regions by mid to late century6,7. This shortening of the interim period between bleaching events can limit the capacity for reef resilience

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1. Hanging coral colonies in ex situ aquaculture tanks

  1. Position a notched bar (length x width x height: 75 cm x 1 cm x 3 cm), hereafter referred to as a "hanging bar", across the culture tank in preparation for hanging the coral colonies.
    NOTE: The hanging bar used in this experiment was custom-made, but a simple PVC pipe with protruding screws (i.e., to act as the notches) would be sufficient as long as it can be positioned in a stable manner across the top of th.......

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The described protocols allowed for (1) the comparison of the reproductive output and timing of individual coral colonies among distinct feeding and temperature treatments and (2) an assessment of the feasibility of Artemia nauplii feeding at different temperatures. Herein, a brief overview of the findings is given, but caution should be exercised with regard to the broad interpretation of the reported effects of temperature and feeding on coral reproduction due to the short-term nature of this experiment (i.e.,.......

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This preliminary assessment of the effect of temperature and feeding on coral reproduction revealed differences in reproductive output and timing among colonies cultured under distinct treatment conditions. Further, it was found that feeding Artemia nauplii to coral colonies appeared to be effective at relatively cool (24°C) as well as warm temperatures (28 °C). These combined findings highlight the applicability of these straightforward techniques for the feeding and culture of reproducing scleractini.......

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This research was funded by the Ministry of Science and Technology (Taiwan), grant numbers MOST 111-2611-M-291-005 and MOST 111-2811-M-291-001.


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Name Company Catalog Number Comments
Artemia cysts  Supreme plus NA Food source 
Chiller Resun CL650 To cool down water temperature if needed
Conductivity portable meter WTW Cond 3110 To measure salinity
Enrichment diets Omega NA Used in Artemia cultivation
Fishing line Super Nylon monofilament To hang the coral colonies
Flow motors Maxspect GP03 To create water flow
Heater 350 W ISTA NA Heaters used in tanks
HOBO pendant temperature logger Onset Computer UA-002-08 To record water temperature
LED lights Mean Well FTS: HLG-185H-36B NA
Light portable meter LI-COR LI-250A Device used with light sensor to measure light intensity in PAR
Light sensor LI-COR LI-193SA NA
Plankton net 100 µm mesh size Omega NA To collect larvae and artemia 
Primary pump 6000 L/H Mr. Aqua BP6000 To draw water from tanks into chiller
Propeller-type current meter KENEK GR20 Device used with propeller-type detector to measure flow rate
Propeller-type detector KENEK GR3T-2-20N NA
Stereo microscope Zeiss Stemi 2000-C  To count the number of artemia 
Temperature controller 1000 W Rep Park O-RP-SDP-1 To set and maintain water temperature

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