As a seasoned reefer, fragging is a relatively new concept. When I started almost two decades ago, we had limited coral selections and buying coral frags was basically unheard of. Mother colonies were often large and expensive. There just wasn’t an option to purchase a “part” or “frag” of these corals. Most “one-of-a-kind” pieces were just that, once they were purchased, they were gone. Fragging has popularized and significantly changed the industry as a whole. Ultimately, it has allowed for the introduction of various corals to mainstream aquarists that could have been lost forever.
To frag, or not to frag, that is the question. Before we get into answering that, let’s define “fragging.” Fragging is the dividing of a coral colony, or Mother Colony, into fragments. Hobbyists, experts and coral importers do this for a variety of reasons; we will define the 5 most popular motivations.
- Profit and Sharing: Many reefers feed their coral addiction by purchasing sought after pieces, “fragging” them, and then selling them to others. In fact, over the years, many successful companies have been created with this as their sole business model. While many frag for profit, other hobbyists share the coral and the cost of it by fragging/splitting it with their friends or fellow reefers.
- Encroachment: In a successful reef aquarium, corals flourish and grow, eventually encroaching upon neighboring corals. Coral warfare and sweeper tentacles make fragging essential to preserve the health of coral and the aquarium as a whole.
- Tissue other Damage: Corals can become damaged for several reasons (shipping, coral warfare, water quality etc) and may have to be fragged to survive. Removing the damaged areas through fragging helps prevent die-off, infection and total loss of the coral which can ultimately affect the health of the entire system.
- Overgrowth: Most aquarists and their aquariums are ever changing. What your vision is today may not be your final goal. This is perfectly normal, and in fact, what makes this hobby so much fun. When that cute, little leather coral becomes the size of a basketball, and now you have no room for anything else, you may consider fragging to make some space for other new corals.
- Filling out Your Aquarium: Patience is such a virtue in this hobby. During the first couple months, the coral additions are scarce and your aquarium may look bare. Over time however, certain pieces grow much faster than the other corals making certain areas look more lively and full. To instantly make your aquarium look balanced, you can frag from an existing coral and add it to any bare spots until the other corals catch up.
So much has changed over the last several decades… Gone are the days were I paid hundreds of dollars for Purple Mushroom rocks and Kenya Tree coral; and where Pulsing Xenia was one of the most highly sought after soft corals. Today we have so many more coral options. Information and education is at our fingertips and technology has allowed us to grow and propagate species that we never dreamed of years ago. With all this knowledge it’s time to learn HOW to frag!