Supplemental notes to Reef Ball coral transplant training manual, Lecturer: Todd Barber, Note taker: Matt Palmtag, Reef ball training exercise, St. Maarten, Nov. 26-Dec. 3, 2002. (Unrevised)


When collecting imperiled coral fragments


            Find a fragment


When you find a piece of coral (i.e.: Acropora) in the sand, attach that piece of coral to the plug on the side that was down in the sand.


Do not bother trying to transplant fleshy or solitary corals, they do not survive well.


Do not try to transplant or propagate diseased corals, they do not survive well.


Wave hand around coral to with-drawl polyps, killing one polyp can cause a bacterial infection which can kill imperiled coral.


Use the right tool for the particular species of coral you are working with.


Todd highly recommends working with one species of coral at a time


Try to use fragments that are at least 3 inches in length or diameter


Always note where you harvest a coral and consider it when you place it on the reef ball


When you put corals under water in ziplocks put some air in there, with you regulator, 1/3 air, 2/3 water


On the boat: corals must be in a flow-through system in the shade, in extreme heat use a cooler for the flow through tank, and add ice


Planting coral into plug


Make indentation with cup in sand, or place cups in pre-made holes in plywood


Medicine cups used to make indentations in sand for cement plugs are: 30-ml plastic cups purchased from Eckert.


Recipe for coral plug cement: 30mls cement, 12 mls water, 6 drops of avaflow, stir, 3 min. till dry


Cement used for making coral plugs: Hydraulic cement, leak stopper, gray color, Sakrete brand, for instant repairs to cracks in concrete, supposed to come with avaflow. Cement used for plugs should have at least 20% microsilica.


For larger corals (i.e.: large brain corals) make a larger plug that attaches to the regular plug, this can be made using a drinking cup


Microsilica, force 10,000 D densified microsilica.


Plug cement: Better to have too little water in mixture that too much


Pour cement into mold, cement made correctly for coral plugs should only take 3 minutes to set.


When cement “flashes” (turns smooth) add coral


Take coral out of baby pool, pool is under shade and equipped with flow through seawater


While out of water keep coral shaded with hand and mist with fresh seawater or cover with seawater soaked newspaper


Coral can stay out of water 3 min while cement dries


When cement is ready place coral back in baby pool


Planting coral using only putty


Putty has thirty minutes working time


Putty: Aquamend, underwater repair epoxy putty, polymeric systems, inc.

Cut coral


Mix putty


Stick coral in putty, be sure bottom polyps are in putty


Add putty to hole


Planting a plug on a reef ball


Pre-roll putty into a thick noodle-like piece, wrap around side of plug, insert into plug hole and press putty into and around plug.


Never move a coral from deep to shallow, they sun burn, you can go from shallow to deep though


You can check light conditions with a luxometer.


Place corals on reef balls close to holes to increase water flow and health.


In north hemisphere put photosynthetic coral high on the reefball and facing the south


When a coral dies use a small chisel to pop plug out


Misc. notes on particular species or groups of coral


Plant Acropora parallel with the base plug, not perpendicular, this with increase the strength of the corals grip on the plug.


For large Acropora, use heavy duty limb cutters, cut must me quick and crisp.


Acropora: put the same clones together so they will grow together, if they are not clones they will fight


Lettuce coral should be placed on the side of the reef ball for best results, not the top.


Plate coral form teardrops that can be snipped off.


Plate, pillar, brain, lettuce, leaf, and sheet corals form tear drops.


Lettuce coral: snip an edge with wire cutters, and place the fragment, growing tip up, into the plug. Also be sure that the plane of the coral facing up naturally, remains facing upward after transplanting.


To fix an imperiled brain coral to a plug, screw a #10 stainless steel screw into the base with a drill driver, and attach the screw to the cement plug.


Maze and rose corals: you need to find and imperiled fragment, because it has to be split in the lab on the mouth line.


Gorgonians: after peeling back the flesh at the base, be sure to insert the base of the flesh into the cement along with the woody stem.


Gorgonians, after healthy growth you can clip ends to facilitate more growth.


With long filamentous soft corals, never use a finger, use a branch.


Sea fans: for survival use at least 4 square inches of the fan, and make sure the area used is below a fork, in other words: part of the main vein


Soft corals such as pastel soft coral, must be placed in a recirculating grow out tank to enable the coral to encrust the base and develop the strength it needs.


To harvest encrusting gorgonians, cactus, and moon corals place plug or piece of limestone near the mother coral, come back several weeks or months later, and cut the piece of coral that attached to the plug off the mother coral with a wire cutters or scissors.


Finger corals are vulnerable to failure, but can be transplanted and propagated successfully.


Ivory coral: transplanting and propagation techniques are the same used for Acropora.


Tube and orange cup coral: use needle nose pliers to break a single tube off, attach polyp to plug with super glue, not cement.


Super glue: Jurassic Park glue, used to put fossils together, internet search keyword – Jurassic gel.



To transplant star coral you must find an imperiled colony to use.


Knobby star coral can be transplanted using the same technique used for Acropora.