In 2004 I learned how to transplant homeless coral fragments found on the seafloor onto life-supporting, artificial reefs. The photo above was taken in Bali. As you see these are quite large pieces of coral collected with many biologists and ocean lovers, like Tessa Divina pictured, focused on methods for reviving biodiversity in areas that had been devastated by dynamite and cyanide fishing, climate change, pollution, and disease.
I'm going to describe how to easily attach much smaller fragments onto human-made reefs without harming them. This is useful for ocean and tank experiments. In another Instructable I will share more about the coral cultivation method I'm exploring, known as mineral accretion, electrolytic (or electrified) reefs, and recognized as offshoots of Biorock and Seacrete. A totally fascinating amalgamation of chemistry, biology, ecology, art, electronics, and interdisciplinary innovation.
Step 1: Collecting
- Learn to dive. Hopefully you are SCUBA certified, but if not, I only got certified once I was compelled to make habitat for corals, so maybe now it's your time.
TOOLS and SUPPLIES
- Plastic container to put your coral frags into as you carefully scope the seafloor. This can be almost anything recycled, from laundry baskets to cut-off water bottles. Depending on your diving level, make it easy for yourself to hold onto - think about if you need a handle or cord to grab so it doesn't float away. If there is current, all the more reason to have a handle, not necessarily as fancy as the photo above I found on pinterest but this kind of container works well.
- Bring Small clear/white zip ties along with you (1 for each coral - gauge the size to the corals you will be collecting). Stashing them in your wetsuit cuff is great easy access out of the way place.
- Pair of small cross cutters, snippers to trim the tails. At the end if you trim all at once, easy to keep together and take bits back to shore with you so they don't float away and add more pollution.
- You are looking for small lonely corals peeking from the sand that move EASILY when gently nudged with one finger. If they seem fixed at all, let them lie because they might be cementing onto a rock or onto a piece of dead, buried coral you can't see. Also, you want pieces that are still ALIVE, at least partially, which means they are not completely white. Dry white means bleached and dead. Sometimes a fragment has some part white yet still some color. This is a great opportunity to transplant it and see how the life support works to revive it.
Step 2: Transplanting
Now that you have a pail of corals, you can pull out your zip ties and begin to populate your reef making sure not to squeeze or smash them in the process. Many of them are already suffering from lack of nourishment and disease, so we can hope they will find the calcifying substrate a suitable place to take hold and begin to colonize. Sometimes the corals can be placed snugly into a space in the structure and no need to attach with a zip tie.
These are images from one of our first days adding fragments to Zoe, a Living Sea Sculpture.
Step 3: Attaching Step by Step
Now that you've seen the overview scenario in the ocean, here I will show you with some coral skeletons so it's more clear visually what we're doing.
- You thread the zip tie around the artificial reef form. Here using steel EMM (expanded metal mesh).
- Pull to secure.
- Snip with your snips.
Done. Now take photos so you can document how your polyps grow over time.