Coral Is Too Big, What Shall I Do?

Marine aquariums need to be looked after, pretty obvious. This means the aquarist needs to keep an eye out for changes as not all changes are good and need attention. This is not difficult and gets easier as experience grows. Cleaning my aquarium takes place once a week when obvious things such as glass cleaning, debris removal and a partial seawater change take place.

So a few weeks ago, about four or five, routine maintenance was in progress. I noticed a coral that had a branch leaning over across other corals. Once the cleaning and other maintenance had been completed I searched around for a suitable hole in the reef that the offending branch could be moved to. I found one which was too large but in a suitable area. The coral wasn’t touched straight away as I left the coral to see if the branch would shift and fix the problem itself, but it didn’t. Therefore I readied myself to proceed. ‘Readied myself’? When a coral is obviously healthy I am loathe to mess with it in case anything untoward could occur.

The hole in the reef that I had selected was clearly a little too big even for the expanded coral branch. Of course it would deflate and make it worse. So my bag of marine suitable rocks were brought in so that one could be selected to act as a jamming anchor.

Now came the worst bit. The sharpest scissors available were obtained from the kitchen, the scissors had been used before successfully. With great care they were positioned on the branch and with one smooth cut the branch was free. It deflated fairly rapidly of course and was placed in the selected hole with a suitable stone put in with it to stop it from coming out. Not a surprise when the parent coral also deflated.

A close eye was kept on the original coral and the repositioned branch to ensure the branch didn’t come loose and the parent coral reflated. No problems, the parent coral reflated surprisingly quickly and the removed branch didn’t lose its position. The repositioned branch also reflated after about a week and is now doing well.

When sitting in front of the aquarium admiring various lifeforms I thought how it would look better with another coral near the two that had been dealt with as described above. ‘Hold on’, thought I, ‘would that mean a trip to the dealer?’ Then I thought, there is another branch available that could be moved. ‘Hold on!’ was the next thought, ‘the original coral must have already been stressed when it was cut.’ But the next thought was that both the original and the transplanted coral looked healthy and the transplanted one showed small signs of growth. An inspection of the parent coral showed another branch that would be suitable for transplant. Hmm, let’s hold on a while and think about it.

Again after weekly maintenance had been completed an inspection was made of the parent coral. No problems were seen. Another suitable branch was noted. Again it was left to stew in the brain for a while.

A few days later the decision was made to do it. Again a suitable hole in the reef was found and again it was too big. Some marine suitable filling stones were again brought in to ensure the coral remained were it had been put. The branch was very carefully cut off and placed in the hole with a stone to hold it in place. Job done, sigh of relief!

The next morning when the corals were examined the new coral was lying on the reef not in its selected hole. Oh dear, the rock can’t have been large enough to hold it in. So a larger rock was obtained and the coral was replaced in the hole with the larger rock. All seemed fine. Crossed fingers! This time the coral was in place when next examined and was showing signs of expansion. Hopefully the two branches will become larger healthy corals and improve the display somewhat. As said, fingers crossed!

Cutting corals to obtain new ones is given the name ‘fragging’, with the cut off portion of the coral the ‘frag’ (assumed to be short for ‘fragment’). The process shouldn’t be overdone as clearly it must exert considerable stress on the parent coral. However done carefully it is a means of producing more healthy corals from a healthy parent. It demonstrates another wonder from Mother Nature. Presumably the ability to re-grow is in case of damage on the reef from a storm etc.

In the photo the larger coral on the right is the parent coral, the coral on the left is the first branch to be moved, and the one in the middle further back the final branch to be moved. The last one is showing some sign of expansion but not very much, it has been in position for a day so hopefully no problem. The light coloured stone just behind it is the second larger rock to hold the coral in position until it is fixed naturally.

With suitable experience gained by time, some new avenues open to the aquarist which allow expansion of the reef by using the ‘fragging’ technique. If the coral to be cut is healthy then this suggests the aquarium environment is of good quality and the re-positioned frags should hopefully respond and given time become corals of beauty.

(Photo: John Cunningham)