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Old 11/13/2005, 04:35 PM   #1
Anthony Calfo
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Optimizing coral fragging efforts

As per the name of the thread... lets chat about improving coral propagation efforts.

A brief aside first: the hobby of reef keeping has progressed, fast indeed, in large part due to fragmentation and sharing of propagated divisions. But we must be vigilently mindful that this will not carry our hobby into the future wholly nor save it from restrictive legislation if/when imposed on the collection of wild corals. There can be no doubt of this. The demand for corals overwhelmingly dwarfs the number of frags created and the ability of present and likely future operations from satisfying even a small overseas market, let alone the American market with frags only.

The key to the hobby becoming self-sustaining seems to be the collection and rearing of planulae. Asexual at first perhaps, and later (hopefully) the harvest of sexual acts of reproduction. We are talking events that produce thousands or tens of thousands of corals... far faster than the very best "fragging" operations. And do know that to stimulate such acts of planulation... you will have to have broodstock that is allowed to mature to a sexually mature critical mass. That means no fragging of the colony perhaps for some years until it grows large enough!

Thats said... we are not there yet, and the delightfully simple act of coral fragmentation supports many of us, raises awareness and increases the participation of more and more conscientious reef keepers.

Lets step out of the shadows of dreadfully archaic techniques like breaking off a "stick" of a frag and then gluing it upright like a planted tree. Just awful! Read below for why.

No... we NEED to always ponder and improve techniques for more and more efficient techniques and the effieicent use of precious resources (energy, water... your money )


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Old 11/13/2005, 04:58 PM   #2
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BREAKING STICKS

Heehee... the most common endeavers of coral fragmentation to date have largely been with digitate stony corals like Acropora and Montipora digitata... finger Porites, etc.

And to date, the most common way of fixing these frags to a substrate as been to glue, epoxy, insert (into a hole) or otherwise position the finger of a frag in an UPRIGHT position like a planted tree.

Yet do consider how unnatural this is. Can you imagine how many frags created on the reef by various water, weather/storm or animal damage... actually sink and settle - voila! - in a planted an upright position? Ahhh... not many, if any

More importantly, as it pertains to optimizing fragmentation techniques... the vertical orientation of a frag severely handicaps the potential for growth that accumulates total mass overall.

You have heard perhaps of other means for optimizing growth for mass? See my article index for links to an older Reefkeeping.com article on suspension growth of corals... there are some threads here on RC too from over one year ago on the same subject. You can grow more mass faster by suspending a coral on string since the colony will get more water flow all ways around and more light (refracted off sand and aquarium walls/substrates to the underside of the coral). But indeed... few folks will have the space or the desire to string corals.

So addressing the typical keeping of frags on substrates, let's look at an example:

Imagine a 2"/5cm single branch frag of Acropora.

"Planted" in an upright and vertical position, the axial tip of the branch continues to get the best light and water flow and grows the fastest.

But do you know what's better than a nice little fast growing axial corallite? Several of them: Lay the frag down horizontally.

Laying down horizontally... that 2" frag now has tens of secondary corallites now exposed to better water flow and light (especially) for being out from under the "shadow" of the vertical orientation. On this horizontal branch you will get at least several new branches that will each grow at the same or better pace than the single axial branch of a vertically fixed branch.

But do you know what's better than several new branches growing from a horizontal 2" frag? Two times the number of branches! And we get this by simply splitting the branch in half bilaterally (like a bananna split). Thus... we get 4-6 new branches off of both pieces laying down horizontally with their cut sides face down... instead of just several from the whole uncut branch laying down horizontally.

But do you know what's better than 4-6 new branches off of a bilaterally split coral frag? 20+ branches! And we get this by instead sawing the 2"/5 cm frag into say five 10mm disks/wafers! (done with a thin wet tile saw blade or lapidary saw blade as some of you have seen Eric Borneman or myself do in frag workshops... see 2005 IMAC and/or MACNA DVDs).

Each wafer of stony coral can be placed on a new hard substrate with a dab of glue and the topside cut edge will be stimulated to cover with new tissue and form at least several (if not more) branches in the process.

So comparing the growth on the same 2"/5cm Acropora frag in a single month between:

-vertical frag with single axial tip
-horizontal frag with several new branches
-split horizontal frag with 2X several branches
-4-5 10mm wafer cuts of the frag which each produce several+ branches

... the productivity is remarkable.

What great differences in the total amount of mass (and ultimately salable/tradable) corals produced!

This is the sort of mindful examination of our techniques we must continue to do as we collectively advance the hobby

Let's use this thread as one small place to add ideas and discussion about improving coral propagation techniques.

With kind regards, Anthony


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Old 11/13/2005, 04:59 PM   #3
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Would anyone care to share their pics/techniques for sawing Fungiids like Cycloseris across the septa! Or maybe chopping blastomussa or Acanthastrea polyps in half with poultry shears?

Please?


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Old 11/13/2005, 06:45 PM   #4
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Here's a reference chart on fragging softies and LPS I did for a recent workshop. I can't imagine from what book I lifted a lot of the details.


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Old 11/13/2005, 08:28 PM   #5
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Fragging Blastomussa

Just my take, I know others have different experances but this is what has worked for me best.

Merleti:

Is the one balsto I am comfortable with doing a hack job on in an "unconventional" manner. Meaning using bone shears and darn near breaking heads in two. They have such easy skeleton structure to work with. You just slide the shears in between each head and snip the pop right off.



If the sheers don’t do the trick or are too awkward there are the little dental saws! They are so perfect for these guys and I like it more then the sheers. It takes longer but you can get even cuts with it. It looks like a little miniature hacksaw. Diamond coated and cuts through the skeleton like butter. It’s just important to try to not cause any tissue damage. They are not as delicate IMHO as Blastomussa wellsi when it comes to tissue damage but still better safe then sorry.

Even though I am sure you can take blunt eyebrow tevezers and snap them off like a twig if you wanted to.

Mounting them is not too difficult. Epoxy them to the rock work or rubble, super glue will work if it’s small enough. Moderate water flow and light.

Wellsi:

It has been my experience and what I have read and heard from friends that these can be very fussy when it comes to a messy fragging. Tissue damage on a wellsi can turn into a secondary infection (brown jelly) disaster. I’ve heard and have seen a head of wellsi nicked or cut in two and in a matter of 5-10 hours turn into a slimy ball of goo.

They can share connective tissue often times and can even overlap.





I think the cleaner the cut you can make on these guys the better! I’ve taken a scalpel and run it in between the corallites to make sure any tissues are nicely separated. Then I take this magical attachment to my dremel (diamond wheel)



And slowly (with eye protection on and gloves) cut along where I ran the scalpel. Only going so far. If there is rock underneath it’s not the much of a problem. Once a good deep cut is made I’ll take a hammer and chisel and snap the frag away from the mother.

Once good tip for attaching a wellsi frag would be to get a somewhat flat piece of live rock. Take your dremel and work out a hole in the center of the rock, just so the new frag can rest in it. Not resting so deep that the cut edges are masked, but so the skeleton rests in it. You can glue of epoxy it down after that point. Doing this will allow it to encrust over the rock evenly, not make that gold ball frag of blasto many people get and have a hard time mounting.

Pics taken from: Here
(excpet the dremel attachment)


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Old 11/13/2005, 08:46 PM   #6
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Very helpful post Anthony, thank you!

I haven’t been fortunate enough to see you're acro fragging techniques in person or on video. When you are referring to splitting a branch bilaterally, what type of tool would you recommend for a cut of this nature (wet-tile saw as mentioned for the wafer cuts?), and how much does the physical ‘branch’ thickness of the acro species itself play into the feasibility of a bilateral cut?


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Old 11/13/2005, 08:53 PM   #7
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Acanthastrea lordhowensis

My abslout favorite method of fragging these are just as Anthony suggested, bone shears! Nice even cuts, the skeleton and turn into rubble or snap evenly it really doesn’t matter. The more you do it the better your cuts become. It’s simple because you have nice control over each division and can frag off individual polyps with no problem this way. You can do the delicate work of cutting a polyp. Anthony had a great demo in this article: Good Lordhowensis
Along with the shears, a razor and dremel is shown.


You can make a bloody mess of this coral and I tell you it will bounce back in a matter of days (water quality allowing). The first time I ever used a dremel with a diamond wheel attachment was on this coral. To say I underestimated the power of this little tool is a laugh. I pretty much buzz sawed the whole mother colony into something out of a horror movie. I ended up with a frag that looked like this:



Four days later (no joke!)



One month later



Also I say it with all sincerity; you could take this coral out of the tank and toss it on the floor. Step on it with a pair of cleated shoes and sweep up the bits. Toss them about the bottom of the tank and in a few days you will have tons of little polyps all over.

You don’t have to attach them to a thing either. Just let them tumble about on the sand bed. Or if you run bare bottom they would be too sweet to allow to encrust along the bottom. You can also do the trick I mentioned above and dremel out a dip on a flat piece of rock. Rest them in that little hole so they can encrust evenly.

Just for reference:


Pics above taken from: Here


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Old 11/13/2005, 09:17 PM   #8
Anthony Calfo
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you guys are good Super thanks already to Nicole and Amy!

Matt... yes, a portable wet-saw for ceraminc tile is a decent choice. They are cheap (around $50 at Home Depot/Lowes, etc) and rather effective. A lapidary saw (used for cutting gems/stones) is far more precise... and far more expensive (unit and blades).

So... if you own an Aqua C or ASM/Euro-Reef style skimmer... then you buy the wet-saw for ceramic tile. Or... if you felt the need to buy a Deltec or Bubble-King skimmer... then you may be inspired to buy the lapidary saw. All of the aforementioned instruments are very fine and effective in their respective categories equally so (generally speaking) and well enough for me. Knock yourself out.


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Old 11/14/2005, 09:20 AM   #9
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Very good thread Anthony. And i thought i was the only one cutting acro's into cookies .


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Old 11/14/2005, 09:52 AM   #10
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couldnt you use a dremel with a cutting disk to make the acro wafers?


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Old 11/14/2005, 10:06 AM   #11
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you could indeed... but its awkward for all but the thinnest branches. The cutting wheel of a Dremmel is just too shallow for many stony coral propagation techniques, hence the popularity of a wet tile saw, side-cutting bits, band saw, etc.


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Old 11/14/2005, 04:08 PM   #12
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Minimum size question... I seem to have trouble keeping 1/4 inch frags alive... What is the minimum size that you would cut that would allow the animal to get enough food to sustain itself..

I am not cutting 1/4 inch, it is the act of sticking my hand in the tank that creates the 1/4 inch frag ( but I try to keep em alive anyway ).

I have had pocillopora reproduce in my tank via planulae.

How big does a acropora need to be to reproduce in this manner? I have some acro's that are over 1 foot across. I havent seen any planulae from these yet.

One more question about filter socks... I use them to keep water flowing over my mesh bags of coral, but am sad when I see all the animals trapped in them. Good or bad?

thanks

Great book.. still reading it over and over again...

Frank


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Old 11/14/2005, 05:17 PM   #13
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fragging favia

Does anyone have a good website to exhibit propagation of favia/favites?

Here is what I'm working with, it's a half grapefruit sized piece.



Thanks!


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Old 11/14/2005, 05:59 PM   #14
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Here's a few slides I did for that same presentation, mostly featuring natural fragmentation.

A leather dropping a baby:


A mushroom "walking" and leaving babies behind:


A frogspawn head splitting:


A ricordia dividing itself:


A yellow Tonga leather healing from fragging:


The "toothpick" mounting method, where rubberbands hold down the ends of the toothpick:

(Photo courtesy of RC member "sharkdude")


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Old 11/15/2005, 02:32 PM   #15
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Can you show me a picture of the "wafer" method for sps? How thick should the wafers be?


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Old 11/18/2005, 05:16 AM   #16
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Hi Anthony.
I just bought my tile saw on monday. So far I have only put it to work once: to save a Montipora digitata with STN. It produces perfect, clean cuts.

However, I did notice that tissue closest to the cut has taken longer to recover.

While cutting I noticed a considerable build-up of slurry (mixed water and powdered rock/skeleton) on the tissue nearest the cut. This is precisely the area that has not recovered well.

What can I do to reduce the trauma?

I'm currenty using a 2.2mm thick diamond tile blade. Is this too thick? It just seems to produce a great deal of waste.


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Old 11/18/2005, 07:13 AM   #17
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The blade is probably fine enough, though fans of the lapidary saw would say this is the reason for the extra expense/benefit for such jem cutting saws.

I still am quite happy with my tile-cutting saws. You could rig up a streaming drip (like a kalk drip or IV bag with water regulated by a thumb or needle valve) to add cooling water to the blade.

You may have noticed that wet scroll saws cool their blades this way with pumped water from small (1/4") adjustable jet nozzles.


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Old 11/20/2005, 12:19 PM   #18
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Fragging the Efflo w/Dremmel and diamond blade:












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Old 11/20/2005, 12:20 PM   #19
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Old 11/20/2005, 01:48 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally posted by Anthony Calfo

Each wafer of stony coral can be placed on a new hard substrate with a dab of glue and the topside cut edge will be stimulated to cover with new tissue and form at least several (if not more) branches in the process.

So comparing the growth on the same 2"/5cm Acropora frag in a single month between:

-vertical frag with single axial tip
-horizontal frag with several new branches
-split horizontal frag with 2X several branches
-4-5 10mm wafer cuts of the frag which each produce several+ branches

...
Does anyone have pics of this?


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Old 11/23/2005, 06:45 PM   #21
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Inspirational Presentation

After seeing your presentation last sunday At UMass boston I could not wait to slice my Rbta but that is going to take some time to get out of my display tank. Any way I did have a Condy in my fuge that came in with my LR, well you know the rest A trip to the stores and i was ready. I missed the before shot my gloves were a little slimy after fishing it out here are some pics


4hrs

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Old 11/23/2005, 06:48 PM   #22
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Do tell about the speech
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Old 11/23/2005, 06:49 PM   #23
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That's awesome!


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Old 11/23/2005, 07:12 PM   #24
Anthony Calfo
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oustanding... please do continue to share pics and progress in time!

Do be careful too with the keeping of these/any motile cnidarians with any sessile ones (corals). Can be tricky and is usually unnatural. Best bet is to keep them separated (refugium, stand alone tank, etc).

And thank you for your kind words... I had a wonderful time at BRS

Anthony


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Old 11/23/2005, 07:19 PM   #25
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Tell us how you did it.Also tell us what tools you used


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