In article # 1, we talked about our shared dreams to have a thriving reef aquarium, filled with corals and set the stage that fragging corals is a great way to increase the number of rapidly growing coral colonies in your tank and also creates an opportunity for you to trade the corals you are growing with your friends and local fish stores to continue to add more coral species to your aquarium.
This is article # 3, in a three-article series, taking a deep-dive into the world of coral fragging.
In article # 2, we reviewed the tools of the trade, and I showed you exactly what tools you need to get yourself started fragging corals. I also walked you through each of the 11 techniques for cutting or attaching corals.
When I started out in the saltwater aquarium hobby, I was afraid of even exposing my corals to the air–fragging was a scary, complicated aspect of the hobby that I was afraid to get into. Eventually, I took the plunge into fragging corals, and what I have realized, over the years, is that the basics for fragging corals are the same for just about any coral type–you just have to know what techniques to use with each coral type. If you understand the 11 techniques for cutting and attaching corals, you can frag most of the commercially popular corals.
0There are 11 Fragmenting and Attachment methods:
- Chipping method
- Snapping method
- Shearing method
- Slicing method
- Sawing method
- Slow Creep method
- Plastic Container and Mesh method
- Glue method
- Impaling Method
- Rubber Band method
- Fishing Line method
Fragging corals is how many of us fill our tanks with colonies and gives us an opportunity to trade with other hobbyists and our local fish stores to increase the diversity, colors and textures of our tanks, all while reducing the pressure our hobby places on natural coral reefs.
How to frag your first coral, without ever making a cut
If you are interested in what you have read, so far, but remain timid or squeamish at the thought of cutting up one of your prized corals, then I recommend you pick up one of The Tree Corals: Capnella, Kenya Tree or the Colt Corals.
These corals are hardy, which means they grow well in a range of aquarium conditions, and they will actually create fragments of themselves (a process called passive propagation), so you don’t even have to cut them.
No kidding. These corals can fill up your aquarium with a clone army, all on their own. They reproduce by a method called branch dropping, which is one of several ways corals actually frag themselves–this is called passive propagation–meaning the corals reproduce all on their own.
As the tree corals grow, they periodically pinch off a branch and let it drift away in the current. What I recommend new fraggers do is look out for those branches floating by or seemingly popping up on the other side of the tank and use them to get some practice with the techniques. If you are able to catch one of the free-floating branches, you could try to mount it using the Fishing Line, Impaling or Plastic Container and Mesh methods. If you notice a branch that has attached to a separate piece of live rock, you could use the Chipping, Shearing or Slicing method to remove it from that rock and place it on another rock. While it may seem like semantics to wait for branches like this, but I can attest, first-hand, that it is much easier to start fragging when the risk of loss is low. If you are creating a frag from a branch of coral that has already been removed from the mother colony, the risk of loss is much lower–and you can frag to your heart’s content without fear of damaging the mother colony.
Another great group or corals to start your fragging empire are the Corallimorphs, often called Mushroom Corals or Mushroom Anemones. These corals will also reproduce on their own. Mushroom Corals create clones of themselves with a process called pedal laceration. Soft corals, like Corallimorphs, stretch out a small piece of their body tissue that reaches as far from the base as possible and then pinches off from the mother colony. That small piece of flesh from the foot will grow up to become a genetically identical clone of the mother. A single polyp could eventually cover an entire piece of live rock in this way.
Mushroom corals are also great for getting experience with cutting corals. In my experience, just about any sliver of a mushroom coral can and will reproduce a new polyp, no matter where it is cut from, and no matter how small, which is why I recommend these coral as a first choice for fragging.
How to frag the Mushroom Coral
You didn’t make it all the way to this part in a three-article series just to leave before you had an opportunity see yourself actually making your first cut, did you? In this next section, I will show you how easy it can be to make your first true coral frag–enough with the passive propagation, let’s see you visualize some active propagation.
Here are the materials you will need to frag a mushroom coral:
- 1 brand new razor blade
- 1 large plate or bowl
- 1 small plastic container
- Several pieces of live rock rubble or other substrate to attach your frag to
- 1 small patch of plastic mesh (from a bag of fruit, or wedding veil material from a fabric store, etc.)
- 1 rubber band
- Lots of paper towels
Here is how you do it.
Remove the entire piece of live rock with the mushroom corals from your tank. The rock is going to be wet–dripping wet–so make sure you place it in a bowl or on a plate large. Feel free to clean up any mess you make with the paper towels.
Locate the Mushroom polyp you want to frag. I recommend you pick one of the largest polyps.
Hold the razor blade so that it is flat along the rock and gently slip it underneath the mushroom cap. Slide the razor back and forth to cut the mushroom horizontally across the stalk and essentially cut the cap off, leaving the foot/stalk attached to the rock. If you manage to only cut a portion of the cap off, don’t worry. As I mentioned before, just about any piece of the mushroom should work fine.
Prepare yourself for a small amount of ‘gross-out factor’. You may see some strange, curly, white stringy-stuff (which is actually part of its digestive tract) slip out from the cut. You may also see some brown liquid seep out. It is a bummer. The coral is a living creature, but the coral should be fine and should recover and multiply.
If you successfully managed to decapitate the mushroom, in Step 3, you can optionally slice the mushroom up further into 2, 3, or 4 or more pieces, depending on how large the mushroom cap was when you started.
Fill the plastic container with a few small pieces of live rock rubble, some aquarium water, and drop in your Mushroom Coral fragment(s).
Cover the plastic container up with the plastic mesh and hold in place with the rubber band
Return the mushroom rock to its original location in your tank and place the plastic container in an area with relatively low water flow so that the small coral fragments rest on the live rock rubble undisturbed.
This is the hardest step–wait patiently until the frags attach to the live rock rubble inside of the plastic container. This can be anywhere from a 3 to 14 days.
After a few days, you will notice that the damaged stalk will grow a new discoid-shaped head, and the piece of coral you cut free will naturally attach to the live rock.
Once you are certain the frags have attached to the pieces of live rock, you can safely remove them from the container and place them in a new location in your tank.
Visualizing Your Success Fragging Corals
Can you see yourself doing that? How would it feel to peel back the mesh from the plastic container and see a handful of baby mushroom coral frags growing on the tiny pieces of live rock rubble that you created (sort of) with your own hands? Do you already have a Mushroom Coral colony in mind? What color are the Mushrooms? Where would you put them in your aquarium?
Now imagine filling your aquarium with frags of your own, or envision trading those frags with fellow hobbyists to get a few different corals for your tank. That is why I love coral fragging, and I hope you do, too.
Thank you for joining me on this three-part journey into the world of coral fragging. I hope you were able to see how learning about these techniques and putting them into action can help you fill your aquarium with vibrant, thriving corals, and I hope that coral fragging adds as much joy and fulfillment to your experience with the hobby as it has for me.
For those of you who want to continue learning how to frag corals, check out my book, How to Frag Corals (that is an affiliate link to where you can buy the book on Amazon.com)
The book is over 32,ooo words and is jam packed with tips, techniques, advice and step-by-step instructions to help make sure you have success fragging corals. Whether you are looking fill up different spots in your tank with clippings from your existing corals or if you want to make a few bucks selling off some of your extra growth, How to Frag Corals (affiliate link) pays for itself in just a frag or two.
Please leave a comment and let me know:
What questions remain? Is anything holding you back?