We designed settlement tiles for coral culture with the aims: (1) to attract and (2) to spatially control settlement and (3) to produce substrate units for further handling in mariculture. Ceramic tiles with vertical (i.e. pyramid tile; truncated pyramid shape, 22.0×22.0, ±1.0 mm, L×W) and horizontal surfaces (i.e. flat tile; 17.0×17.0, ±1.0 mm, L×W) were temporarily arranged chessboard-like in a polystyrene grid. Surfaces of both types were structured with grooves (width and depth 2.0±0.1 mm). Material analysis by ICP and photospectrometry showed negative influences on water chemistry when new tiles were directly used; high contents of heavy metals could be detected depending on the production process. Planulae of Acropora tenuis (16.3±3.1% settlement) preferred to settle in the grooves of pyramid tiles with a density of 0.19±0.03 to 0.44±0.06 settlers cm−2, whereas those of Favia fragum (60.7±13.3% settlement) showed high preferences for the grooves of flat tiles (0.48±0.22 to 1.05±0.44 settlers cm−2). Settlement occurred exclusively on surfaces with a biofilm (turf and crustose coralline algae) and was independent of available substrate surface area, whereas the number of tiles per set-up influenced the density of settlers per unit. Spatial control of settlement was achieved through tile design and arrangement. Tiles with settlers could be easily separated for further use in coral culture.