How to Frag and Mount Coral
Fragging corals is so widespread and mainstream now that even novice reefers are doing it. It is a great practice for when you want to replant or spread a particular coral species throughout your tank, to save a dying colony, for trade with others, or to create a side hustle for an extra dose of income to support your reefing passion.
Whatever the reason you decide to frag a coral, it's easy to do, is not costly, and is a great way to help make the hobby more sustainable for all of us.
Safe Fragging Methods
Fragging a coral is the process of cutting a small piece of coral from a larger "mother" colony, then relocating that fragment to grow somewhere else. We typically mount the coral frag onto a frag plug, coral mount, or piece of rubble rock so you can safely handle the frag and easily mount it in a frag holder or somewhere in your tank.
There are various approaches to cutting corals that are based on the type of coral - Soft Coral, LPS, & SPS.
Its often by accident but can also be done purposefully, simply breaking off a piece of coral is an effective way to frag stony corals. This includes plating and branching Monitpora, Turbinaria, Seriatopora, Echinophyllia Chalice coral, and most any branching SPS. All that it usually takes is to gently hold a piece between your thumb and forefinger, then gently apply leverage and it should break off in your hand fairly easily. The downside is the lack of control on where exactly the coral breaks, this approach is usually only opted for when other methods are not possible. If the coral is too thick to break by hand without damaging tissue, opt for cutting with some coral shears instead.
A sharp razor blade, X-Acto knife, or even scissors can come in handy for taking frags of soft corals like Mushrooms, Toadstools, Finger Leathers, Pulsing Xenia, and Green Star Polyps. Take them out of the water, place them on a hard surface and make a clean slice in one smooth motion. Leathers and branching soft coral can easily be cut using sharp scissors underwater where they will retain their shape.
Coral cutters or even garden pruners will cut through branching stony corals such as Acropora Torches, Hammers, and Duncan corals. The first step is to make the polyps retract before removing them from the water, this is especially important for LPS corals like Euphyllia. It is best to cut the coral at the base of a branch and be sure to choose a healthy stem with healthy tissue to create a successful frag that will regrow. Coral cutters give a cleaner cut and do less damage to the flesh of SPS compared to breaking pieces off by hand.
A coral bandsaw is best for coral species where you have to cut through a thick skeleton and coral flesh. This includes the encrusting LPS corals like Acanthastria, Catalaphyllia, Goniopora, Chalice, Goniastrea, and Favites. It works just like a wood bandsaw but has a diamond-coated blade and is safe for use with salt water. The idea is to cut along the coral's ridges or in between the mouth or "eyes" of the coral. The technique takes practice and different corals will require particular cuts based on their particular growth patterns and skeletal structure. This technique is very clean and efficient but does require a bit of experience.
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