Pocillopora Corals: Hardy, Adaptable Reef Architects

Pocillopora corals are productive reef builders in the wild

Pocillopora corals are productive reef builders in the wild

You may not be aware, but Pocillopora, despite being among the less popular stony corals in the reef aquarium hobby, are second only to Acropora in reef-building productivity in the wild. Their skeletons make up a huge portion of the reef’s structure in the ocean. Pocillopora are also among the most adaptable SPS corals in that they tolerate a wide range of both light and flow.

At Tidal Gardens, we grow them under medium light and medium flow, but they do develop better coloration under stronger light. If you want to experiment with stronger light, be sure to acclimate the coral slowly to the light because it is possible to burn them if done too hastily.

The other aspect that makes Pocillopora highly effective reef-building corals is their growth rate. They are among the fastest-growing stony corals and have a trick up their sleeve if things go downhill—they can reproduce asexually by means of “polyp bailout,” where each polyp can detach from its skeleton and drift to a new location to colonize. While this technique is not unique to Pocillopora, these corals do it far more effectively than others.

A closeup of Pocillopora coral polyps

A closeup of Pocillopora coral polyps

Usually polyp bailout is employed as a last-ditch effort in response to something going wrong. Other stony corals such as elegances and bubble corals bail out, but most of the time those corals do not survive. Pocillopora, on the other hand, can spread all over the tank and wind up recolonizing in unexpected crevices.

Pocillopora coralAs for feeding, Pocillopora do not appear to need it as much as other corals. These corals are photosynthetic and get most of their nutrition from light; however, it is possible to feed them provided the food is fine enough for their small polyps to consume. When attempting to feed, start with the cloudy supernate you get from thawing frozen food or possibly one of the powdered zooplankton foods. Remember, though, to not overdo these fine foods because the risk of exceeding the tank’s filtration capacity is far worse than not feeding at all.

Lastly, these corals tend to be very hardy, but if you happen to see mysterious die off occur, consider giving it a dip in a pest-control solution. There are some crustaceans that eat Pocillopora, so it is important to keep a watchful eye on the base of the coral for any signs of recession. The bugs look like big, white fleas and will jump off quickly when dipped.

What’s your experience with Pocillopora? Let us know in the comment section below.


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About Than Thein

Than Thein is the owner of Tidal Gardens and Advanced Reef Aquarium. Than's love for all things underwater began early on when dogs and cats were strictly off limits, but a fish tank? Sure! What started with a 10-gallon goldfish tank eventually turned into a 5,000-gallon greenhouse coral propagation system. In addition to coral aquaculture, Than's other hobbies include scuba diving and underwater photography and videography.


  1. Andria Roberts says

    Are all strains of pocillopora hardy? I have several different types and they grow pretty well. I’m looking at trying the Ankeli types that are more on the chunky side. I’ve been told that they’re nearly impossible to keep due to calcium requirements. Any experience or advice?

  2. Pest coral in my opinion. I had one in my 120g and it spread everywhere. It even began growing on the back wall of the tank.

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