How to Frag Soft Corals Successfully
Soft corals are often described as beginners’ corals, and consequently most reefers will have one or two soft coral varieties in their tanks. Of the three coral types, soft corals are also the most prolific growers and it may come to a stage when you need to do some pruning. You may want to trim some from one part of your tank and add it to the other end, or you may decide that you would like to support your hobby with a bit of a side hustle, selling some of your soft coral. In this article, we look at how to frag soft corals, ensuring that they heal successfully.
What do I need to frag soft coral?
Soft corals are a group corals that do not develop stony skeletal structures, unlike LPS and SPS corals. The way in which they grow is varied. They can split from the mother when she moves position, as can be seen when keeping mushroom corals. They can split from the colony, like the Pulsing Xenia, or they can grow outward from the colony continuously increasing the size of the colony itself, such as Zoanthids or Green Star Polyps.
To take advantage of the relatively rapid growth rate of soft corals, and frag them when it becomes necessary, you are going to need a couple of items:
New Utility razor blade – This is your number one tool to frag soft corals, but make sure it is new and clean. It needs to be very sharp for a clean cut.
Superglue Gel – Every reefer should have this in their fragging arsenal.
Rubber bands – These are extremely handy for settling newly fragged soft coral.
Frag Plugs – You will need something to secure your new to onto.
Rock rubble – For some soft coral frags, it is easier to secure them to rock rubble instead of a frag plug.
Spudger tool – A very handy tool for removing soft coral from live rock or glass.
Fish breeder box – A great investment to nurse soft coral back to health out of direct aquarium flow.
Safety Eyewear – A must for fragging Zoanthids and Palythoa soft corals.
Gloves – Another must for Zoanthids and Palythoa. Also great for keeping your hand dry!
Iodine Coral Dip – To keep your corals frags healthy and help them heal quicker.
You will not need the items above for each soft coral that you frag, but you will need all of them at some point depending on what soft corals you keep and what you hope to frag.
The assumption is that you will be using protective eyewear whenever you are fragging corals to protect your eyes from damage. The choice to wear gloves is an individuals’ choice. If you have to handle a coral frequented by bristleworms, or you will be handling Zoanthids or Palythoa it will be a good idea.
How to frag a Zoanthid and Palythoa corals
Zoas come in an abundant array of colors and sizes, the more exotic their colors are, the more expensive they can be. Zoa colonies grow by spreading over live rock in all directions. The zoa ‘base’ that covers the live rock can support hundreds or thousands of heads, from which they grow. The base is thin and leathery to the touch, and given the opportunity, it will completely cover your live rock.
To control the growth of a zoa colony, it is often necessary to pry the mat from the rock as carefully as possible with a spudging tool, ensuring none is left behind on the rock. Any remaining fragments will re-establish themselves as new colonies.
To frag zoanthids you can pry some of the mat away from the live rock, and use a blade to separate it from the colony, trying to miss the heads. You can also cut a head away from the mat, as close to the mat as possible. Cutting mat away makes the frag easier to handle, than cutting a polyp from the mat. Using superglue gel, place a small blob on a frag plug and place the frag on the glue. Holding it in the water will hasten the curing of the glue. Dip your frag in a coral iodine dip to aid its recovery and to ensure it does not become infected. Your zoa should be open within a day, if not sooner, and growing again soon afterwards.
Extremely Important – Always wear safety glasses and gloves when fragging zoanthids and palythoa. They have the potential to contain palytoxin, a poison that could lead to your hospitalization.
How to frag Mushroom corals
Mushroom corals grow by naturally splitting from the mother as she moves. If you need to remove a mushroom from your live rock, simply massage the mushroom by surrounding it with your fingers. This will encourage it to withdraw and expose its foot. Use a razor blade to slice through the foot as close to the live rock as possible. The remaining foot will regrow. Place the mushroom on a cutting board and slice through the center of it once to halve it. Dip the frags in a coral iodine dip.
To mount the mushroom, you have two choices. You can secure it to a small piece of live rock rubble with an rubber band, but be sure not to secure too tightly. You can also place rock rubble in a fish breeder box and leave the two halves to settle atop the live rock. In both cases, the frags will attach to the surface they are in contact with and will have fully recovered within a week.
Some mushroom corals never split. My OG Bounce is a prime example. If you want to encourage a mushroom coral that is already on a frag plug to split, then you can cut directly through the middle of the mushroom, dip it, and allow it to heal. In a couple of weeks, you will have two healthy mushroom corals. Once healed, you can follow the guidance above, by slicing the foot from the frag plug.
How to frag Green Star Polyp coral
Green Star Polyp grow in the same way that Zoanthids grow. It is a fast grower that will cover your live rock with a leathery mat. The green polyps, after which the coral is named, emerge in their hundreds from the base. To frag soft corals like GSP you simply lift the mat away from the rock with a spudger tool, or check if there are any loose ends, and cut it away with a razor blade. Dip the frag in coral iodine dip, and attach it to your frag plug with superglue gel. Be sure to attach the mat the right way up. Hold it under water to help the glue cure quicker.
How to frag Pulsing Xenia
Xenia are an amazing coral that can grow incredibly quickly, and can even be considered invasive by some reefers. However, it is equally loved by many others for its unique pulsing polyps. To remove Xenia from your live rock you need to be very patient. You can gently pry the Xenia away from the rock using the spudging tool. However, in my opinion, the best way to remove Xenia from live rock is by using your fingers and nails to persuade it from the rock. This will have a higher chance of making sure you do not inadvertently leave traces of the Xenia behind that can re-grow.
To remount the Xenia, secure it to a piece of live rock or rock rubble with a rubber band. Be sure not to have the band too tight. The Xenia will attach to the area it will come into contact with.
How to frag Kenya Tree
The Kenya Tree coral is very helpful. To proliferate its species, it will pinch off its own branch ends which will float around the tank until it gets wedged somewhere it can attach on to. To prevent the Kenya Tree from taking over, it is highly advisable to scoop up those loose branches.
If you want to attach the loose piece to rock rubble, secure it with an elastic band, but not too tight. It will attach to the surface it is making contact with.
How to frag a Toadstool coral
Toadstool corals have a pretty rigid structure for a soft coral. To trim the Toadstool coral down you have to simply cut sections off the uppermost growing end. Then dry the cut end of the frag and secure it to a frag plug with superglue gel. The frag will grow out and attach to the plug over a few weeks, while the mother colony heals over within days.
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