ISSUE # 3 page 1
This months article will show you how we set up the rack farming reef aquariums you can use for a small scale coral farm that you can build one tank at a time.
You can Produce 240 coral cuttings in each 55 gallon Bullet Proof reef aquarium. These tanks have stacked rows of plastic shelves with 62 - 1" holes drilled in them to hold tapered concrete plugs with corals attached to them.
|We use an Eco-Sand plenum and 4" of aragonite gravel to build our live sand filter. |
We operate the plenum as an undergravel filter for several months, and we slowly decrease the flow until it is operating as a plenum.
This tank was set up 2/14/97 using GARF GRUNGE live sand activator. We added 48 cuttings the next day. The REEF JANITORS have been able to eat all of the diatoms that grow in all new systems.
|This is the same tank on 2/17/97 just 3 days after it was set up. This tank is now 3 weeks old and it contains about 100 cuttings.|
New rack frames made from 1/4" bent Plexi -glass.
|These frames are bent with a hot air gun that is used to apply shrink wrap. The part of the frame that holds the rack has two holes drilled in it that match the holes in the rack. The two plugs on each end lock the racks to the frames. The frames can be removed when the plugs are ready for harvest.|
|BENT PLEXI-GLASS RACK|
If you remove the nails by rocking them you can use the same holes to form the more frames the same size. We will include several other methods of building frames in future parts of this plan.
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He answered: "People have more trouble, problems and questions about propagation of soft branching corals than with any other type. If you have time, would you mind putting your own experience with these in writing for the propagation newsletter? This would help answer a lot of their questions."
I get this question quite often myself, come to think of it. I used to be
quite nervous about making cuttings of so-called colt corals which look
like nice little bonsai trees in our reef aquariums.
There are many methods used by just as many people. One way is to use the gravel bowl method, from last month's newsletter, for small cuttings.
Perhaps the slowest but surest and easiest way is to simply place a rock against the base or a branch of the treelike coral you would like to get a cutting from and wait a month or two (or three) for the coral to slowly and firmly attach to the new rock also. You can then use a razor blade to cut the coral into two pieces, one attached to the original rock and the other attached to the new piece of rock.
Now, is that hard? No. But, you probably want to move a bit faster than this. Perhaps you have an overgrown coral that is trying to "climb" out of your tank. It just needs outer branch pruning.
So, let's look at the real problem
- how to attach a cut off branch
to a chosen piece of rock.
The sometimes slimy stuff doesn't
want to stick!!!
So, let's look at the real problem - how to attach a newly cut off branch to a chosen piece of rock. The sometimes slimy stuff doesn't want to stick!!! Some people have asked for "how-to" drawings for propagating these and other types of corals. I intend to work on this later, or maybe one of the readers would be interested in making drawings. But for now, I'll try to explain it in enough detail to get you successfully started.
Soft branching corals, often called colt corals (sinularia, cladiella,
alcyonia and similar bushy, treelike soft corals) might at first seem to be
difficult to attach to new rock.
Sinularia are often very leathery and rugged looking. This is why they are often referred to as leather finger corals. Not all sinularia look like leather corals. Some look a lot like cladiella or alcyonia.
Cladiella and alcyonia are somewhat transparent,
more delicate or jelly looking treelike corals with lots of small fluffy
polyps. They seem to enjoy a light to medium light current. They look
like they might deflate or ooze out liquid or gel if you cut them.
There are nasty rumors "out there" that cladiella WILL deflate, shrivel up and die if you cut off a branch! I don't know how this got started but I've even seen it in print! Don't believe it! Don't get alarmed! It's a bunch of "bunk, an urban legend, if you like. To prove it to yourself, try the following: Take a sharp pair of scissors or a razor blade and just slice off a branch anywhere. What you'll see is nothing more than the parent coral, and the piece you cut off, retracting their polyps and shriveling up a bit, kind of like they may do at night anyway.
Don't worry, even with a major cut,
they'll come out of it after a day or two.
I have better success with small and medium
size branches than I do with large ones.
Very large branch cuttings can sometimes
be a royal pain.
Don't worry, even with a major cut, they'll come out of it after a day or two. I have better success with small and medium size branches than I do with large ones. Very large branch cuttings can sometimes be a royal pain. Take the cut branch out of the tank and put it in a glass bowl of tank water. Take it to the kitchen counter and proceed to sew it onto a rock with a needle and fishing line. Don't worry about taking it out of water. It has plenty of water inside to keep it alive for quite a while.
Now, here IS the problem with cladiella
type corals: They are slimy, jelly-like and fishing line can tear through
their skin. They can at times be prone to protozoan attack (slime-out)
while attaching to a new rock shortly after cutting.
I hope I didn't just scare you off. These problems can be overcome if you know what to do. Just think of corals as mostly plant-like, and imagine that you are working in a greenhouse making cuttings of plants. Not every one of them will take root and grow, but if you know what to do and how to care for them the first two weeks after taking the cuttings then you will have a high success ratio.
Nurserymen don't expect 100% success with plant cuttings but they expect 90% and higher with most species. As a coral gardener, you can expect this too, if you use good techniques. Since fishing line can slice through the coral, you should consider placing the cutting in a depression in the rock you choose to attach it to. This keeps the fishing line from cutting right down through the coral to the rock when pulled and tied tight. It also keeps the coral stump from sliding around. If the rock doesn't have a depression, I drill a slight hole with a masonry drill bit just wider than the coral's stump.
If the colt coral branch is small, I only sew one strand through it to hold it in place in the depression in the rock while it attaches over the next week or two. If the branch is thicker and longer, maybe 5-6 inches long, then I sew a second strand through it, making a cris-cross. This adds stability while still allowing the coral to expand and contract.
The first few days is when the new cutting might secrete a white pasty
slime around the freshly cut base which is a feast for protozoans. Once
protozoans get started eating this, they multiply and keep on eating live
coral flesh too. The whole coral can turn to goo - a slime-out. Use a
turkey baster to blow the white slime away, especially from cladiella and
alcyonia, each morning and night. Once this is gone, you're probably "out
of the woods."
However, If the polyps stay retracted and turn very dark, start decaying, sloughing off or turning to goo after a day or two, this also means that you don't have enough aquarium water movement to keep the slime cleaned off.
Leathery sinularia or finger leather corals don't seem to have much of a problem here, but water flow is still important to prevent a possible slime-out. The trick with cladiella and alcyonia is to have enough aquarium water movement to wash away the material which sloughs off but not so much as to slowly blow these extra soft corals off of the fishing line.
LeRoy Headlee prefers silk thread instead of fishing line because it
disintegrates after about three weeks. He's had fishing line come off of
rocks and get sucked into power heads, ruining them.
Rubber bands have also worked for me. I cut off a branch of the colt coral just under a fork in the branches, then band the forked branch into a depression. These corals expand and contract a lot and some softer ones can work their way out of the rubber band or can expand so much that the rubber band cuts through them. I still prefer fishing line. It works well if you use it right.
You may want to try two or three small (2"-3") cuttings first before cutting up or pruning a large overgrown coral. This will let you see if you really have the knack before taking the big plunge.
Cladiella and alcyonia type corals (as well as many others) do best under higher specific gravity of about 1.023 - 1.027. I like 1.025 personally. It appears that you will have less problem with slime-outs in a specific gravity of 1.023 or 1.025 than you will have with 1.020. This seems to be because the coral is able to stay healthier more easily in the higher specific gravity. Once you've made a few of these cuttings and watched them attach, you'll feel quite comfortable and confident about making more.
I haven't been able to get cladiella or alcyonia type corals to stay attached with super glue, but some people have. They are slippery and tend to detach within a short time. Leathery varieties of sinularia may stay attached with super glue gel when glued either to the cut end or on the side of the branch laying down. Some times you can get cladiella to attach with super glue by laying the cut branch on its side and gluing a strip of glue over the branch and attaching the glue to the rock on both sides of the branch. This creates a band over the coral which locks it in place. This method still doesn't work as well for me as fishing line which lets the coral expand and contract without cutting it much if at all. The band of glue over the branch often restricts it when the coral expands, resulting in the coral being sliced, as it expands, by the band of hardened glue. This often happens despite these corals having calcium spicules running up the insides of their branches for light reinforcement. And remember, when tank conditions are excellent, attachment and growth of corals is quicker and goes more smoothly.
A healthy parent coral will provide cuttings that are MUCH more likely to survive than a sick coral will. Proper water movement is some times ignored and good water surface movement is often forgotten. Refer to my monthly column in the February, March, April and May 1997 issues of Marine Fish Monthly for more on propagation of corals in general. Happy reef gardening.
Always include at least two colors of INVERTABRAT E S
Cut 2" inch section of Gorgonian and prepare it for attachment. Remove two small Zoathid cuttings from Parent colony. Glue the Zoanthids to each side of the Reef plug. Always try to match the Zoanthids for size on any combination rock or plug. If you place a large polyp Zoanthid next to small polyp Zoanthid the larger one may overgrow the smaller one.
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