Coral Propagation

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Frag tank 3.jpg
Frag tank filled with Acropora sp. frag colonies growing out.


Introduction

Propagation can be one of the cheapest ways of stocking a reef tank, either by re-using newly formed corals in another area of the tank or by swapping frags with other reefers for new specimens. Anyone can do it, all that is required is a bit of spare tank space. Methods can vary depending on the coral/invertebrate being propagated but general methods are covered below. The term fragging is often used to describe the propagation of corals.

Methods

General methods are covered here, for more specific information visit GARF which provides a great resource on propagation of particular types of corals.

See also ‎Coral Skeleton Fragmentation.

Natural Growth

Sometimes the easiest is the best. You can propagate some by simply placing them on or near another rock, allow them to grow over the other rock and then separate the rocks again (you may need to cut the tissue joining them with a razor), relocate the new rock somewhere else. This method works well with Zoanthids but can also be used with many others. It's generally a slower process than the others listed.

Soft Coral Fragging

Scalpel, perfect for cutting up soft corals

Most soft corals can be fragged by simply cutting a section from the coral and attaching it to a small piece of rock, there are several methods of doing this including sewing the section to the rock using a needle and thread, the thread can then be removed once the coral is attached. Super glue cannot be used with these, in most cases it will kill the part of the coral it comes into contact with. Make sure the section is big enough so that it has a chance of survival and place in a fairly low light, low flow area for recovery.

For those new to the hobby finding it difficult to get the marine putty to attach and the super glue gel alone doesn't quite attach rock to rock? One useful tip is to try dabbing a bit of super glue gel on the underface of the rock the coral is attached to - then pop a ball of the putty over that and mould it to the rock or frag mount. Just before it goes into the water, squeeze a generous amount of the gel over the putty where you plan to attach it and firmly press into the area to attach. The glue helps to hold the frag / rock steady while you gently mould a little of the marine putty into place. Voila! Newbie success!

Another idea for attaching Xenia and other stalk like soft coral is use to use a toothpick as your anchor for mounting. Just before slicing your coral, run a toothpick through the stalk about a 15mm up from where you plan to slice. You can then cut below the pick and use the toothpick as an anchor for elastic band or cable ties on a piece of rock. Remove the pick when the coral has attached.

See also ‎Coral Skeleton Fragmentation.

LPS Fragging

One of the more tricky corals to propagate manually depending on the species. Anything which has branching sections can have branches removed using pliers or a small saw, these branches can then be relocated. Encrusting brains and Acanthastrea spp. can be chiseled off a section of rock, removed polyps can be attached to another rock using super glue or epoxy putty and will regrow slowly but are usually helped along by direct feeding.

SPS Fragging

Similar to branching LPS, any branching SPS can be propagated by simply snapping a section off using pliers and re-attaching it to another area/rock. This can be done safely with either super glue or epoxy putty.

Mounting Coral Frags

Epoxy putty, good for mounting hard corals.

Equipment

  • A sharp razor-like knife
  • Pair of small needle-nosed pliers
  • Needle and thread
  • Superglue (gel is best)

General Tips

  • Watch out for crabs, they love the smell of freshly cut coral and will feast on your prize babies, make sure your grow-out area is crab-free.
  • Always wear safety glasses and gloves, they don't call it the emergency room because it's a fun place to go.

Gallery

Resources



FAQ

Can I get poisoned whilst propagating?

Yes, certain species of Zoanthids produce a chemical called palytoxin which can cause numbness to fingers, lips and can lead to paralysis and death in extreme cases.

How can I avoid this?

Always wear gloves and safety glasses when working with propogation specimens.

Can I use superglue to attach corals?

Yes, but only if the glue doesn't come into contact with any soft fleshy areas of the coral, LPS and SPS can be glued by their hard skeleton. Other soft corals can be attached to small pieces of rock or gravel, this can then be glued to larger rocks.

Which brand of super glue should I use?

You can use virtually any type/brand of super glue (even the cheapies), the gel comes highly recommended as it has more substance at time of application but you can achieve the same effect by storing regular super glue in the freezer before use.

Should I remove my coral from the tank whilst propogating?

Yes, if it is at all possible. When cut into (or generally stressed) some corals can give off a defensive mucous or toxins. This is best isolated to a bowl during the operation, then return the coral to the tank to recover afterwards.