Improved coral cultivation will facilitate the reduction of wild harvesting, reef restoration, preservation of biodiversity, and the use of corals as model experimental organisms. In this study, we examine species-specific responses in growth and survival of corals from the effects of light, water motion and artificial (i.e. non-living aquarium trade) food supplements. Three species representing distinct, diverse and abundant coral genera were chosen (Montipora capitata(Mc), Porites compressa (Pc) and Pocillopora damicornis (Pd)) for three experiments to examine: (1) the interaction of water flow and light on growth and survival of Mc and Pc; (2) the effects of artificial foods on Mc, Pc and Pd; and (3) the effects of increasing dosage of artificial foods in an open system on Mc and Pc. Pc thrived at the highest light levels with low flow, while Mc exhibited bleaching and reduced growth in the same conditions and grew best in shaded treatments. High constant flow (~11 cm s-1) resulted in slightly less overall growth than low constant flow (~4 cm s-1). Some artificial foods resulted in a significant increase in growth in Mc and Pd, but not in Pc. These combined results suggest that Mc may be more heterotrophic than Pc. This study illustrates that each species has unique requirements for optimal growth conditions that can be determined by relatively simple and low cost experiments, but that ideal conditions for one species might not be generalized to others.