Soft corals are diverse in color, shape, and movement and are a great addition to any tank, whether you are an entry-level hobbyist or an expert reefkeeper. Most soft corals are generally considered easy to keep; however, fragging them can be challenging and sometimes dangerous.
Why Frag Soft Corals?
Coral fragging is a significant evolution in any reefer’s enjoyment of the aquarium hobby, but what is the true reason for doing it? There are two main reasons why a hobbyist would want to frag a coral.
- Overgrown: Like a tree or plant, a coral can outgrow its space and need a trim. Often, fragging must occur to prevent different corals from coming into contact with one another.
- Sell or Trade: The other common reason to frag is to capitalize on the growth your coral has experienced. Whether you want to place some of the frags in different tanks as a failsafe, trade them with friends, or sell them to recoup some of your investment, coral fragging gives hobbyists plenty of options.
What Do I Need?
Having the proper tools to conduct a successful fragging session is essential. Not only can fragging corals be challenging, but it can also be hazardous if you are not taking the proper precautions. Here’s what you’ll need:
Safety Equipment: Rubber gloves, dust mask, and sealed safety goggles
Fragging Tools: Two sizes of bone cutters, razor blade or scalpel, fragging scissors, and a hand-drying rag
Mounting: Glue, frag putty, frag plugs, frag tiles, a container for holding the frags, and a place to put the frags
Tips for Fragging Different Soft Corals
Below are some helpful tips for fragging common varieties of soft corals.
Zoanthids & Palythoa: These coral varieties can release palytoxin when stressed, so wearing hand, eye, and mouth protection is essential. Palytoxin can enter the body through direct contact with the skin or eyes. It can also become aerosolized, so wearing a dust mask is necessary.
When fragging, use a scalpel or a blade to score the flesh between the polyps you want to isolate, and then use a good pair of bone clippers to break the surface of the rock or plug the coral is on. If you plan on fragging the same Zoanthid or Palythoa colony again, we recommend mounting them to a frag plate or tile to make future cutting easier.
Mushrooms: Most mushroom corals tend to spread rapidly, so it is not common to frag them. That said, it is possible to frag mushrooms by using a sharp blade and cutting them directly through the center of their mouth. The success rate for this fragging process is substantially lower than most other fragging methods. If you are trying to separate two mushroom heads from one another, slicing through any of the base tissue that is connecting them together should be perfectly fine.
Leathers: Most leather corals are easy to frag but challenging to mount. Fragging scissors work well for cutting leather corals. However, gluing a leather cutting to a frag plug or rock is virtually impossible as the leather coral will shed the glue layer and detach from the plug. Secure the leather frag to a rock by sticking a toothpick through the base of the frag and then attach the toothpick to the rock using fishing line. Over time, the leather will attach entirely to the plug or rock, and the toothpick can be removed.
Green Star Polyp: Green Star Polyp or GSP is very hardy, and as such, it is one of the easiest corals to frag. Fragging GSP is done using a sharp blade, and then the frag is attached using a touch of glue. Alternatively, the frag can be wedged into a rock where it will naturally encrust over the rockwork.
How to Prepare
Fragging corals for the first time can be overwhelming and stressful, so it is crucial to be prepared and know what to expect. We have broken down the process into three steps to ensure you are ready to begin the fragging process.
- Gather your needed equipment and think about laying out your gear so the cutting and mounting process is logical. The more thought you put into the preparation, the better your frags will turn out.
- Wear gloves, eye protection, and a dust mask for your fragging session. This equipment is not optional; it is crucial to take these safety precautions.
- Before getting started, envision cutting, mounting, and placing the new coral.
Soft Coral Fragging Steps
- Make sure your eyes and hands are covered.
- Fill the three containers with fresh saltwater (not water from the tank) and place the coral colony you want to frag in the first bucket.
- Gather your tools.
- For corals growing over a rock or rubble, score the coral when you want to cut it. Try to follow the natural grooves of the coral to cut as little tissue as possible. Then, use the bone cutters to separate the frag from the colony.
- Repeat this process to create as many frags as you would like, then place them in the second container.
- Secure the frags to the plug with glue, epoxy, or another method, and allow the glue to cure for at least five minutes.
- Use the third container to dip the coral frags and colony, following the instructions on your coral dip of choice.
- Place the frags into either a frag tank or a quarantine tank. You shouldn’t purchase, trade, or sell a frag that looks freshly cut. Wait until new tissue is growing over the plug.
Additional Soft Coral Fragging Tips
While the above fragging steps are a great tutorial on effectively and efficiently completing a soft coral fragging session, like most things in life, there is no substitute for experience. The additional fragging tips below are some helpful things we have gathered after conducting hundreds of fragging sessions.
- Don’t be afraid to make adjustments based on your previous fragging experiences.
- Never try to frag more than one soft coral colony at a time.
- Avoid cutting coral tissue when fragging as much as possible.
- Dipping a freshly cut soft coral frag in a dip before mounting it is a great way to revive it and promote tissue healing and growth. It can also help you remove any lingering pests.
- Use as little glue and epoxy as possible.
- Rinse your tools in RO water before and after the fragging session, and dry them before storing them.
- If you plan to eventually frag your soft coral frags again, mounting them on plates instead of plugs or rubble can make it much easier.
- Cutting tiny frags can dramatically reduce your success rate in fragging soft corals.
We hope this guide has given you a better understanding of how to frag different soft corals. Following the above steps will ensure that you can accomplish the task of fragging safely and efficiently.
If you have any additional questions about fragging or other aquarium topics, our support team would be happy to assist you.