Fabio Iannelli

Unlike what many people might think, the propagation of soft coral and polyps is a relatively easy thing and can still be performed by anyone with limited time and resources. Below I have documented the process I have followed to propagate mushrooms in my main tank. Note, this write up is the process I follow, I will not be held responsible if you try this and damage or somehow spoil your tank or livestock. It is meant to be used as a guide in your endeavors to propagate and cultivate your own mushrooms.

Before I start, let me tell you about my main set up and my prop tank. I live on the 6th floor of an apartment building. As much as I would love to have a 100+ gallon tank, I drew the line at a 72G Bowfront. I was running a 40G with a 30G Refugium/Sump before that. The tank I have used as a prop tank until now is the cheapest set up possible, in other words, a 10G tank, with some sand at the bottom, a NO Fluorescent tube, and a small Whisper filter. Nothing more, nothing less. Sure, this is not the best of setups to do this, but I, like most people, did not have much money to spare and what little extra money I did have was going into my show tank. I have since moved up mostly due to size limitations with the 10G tank. My boss at work tore down a turtle tank he had and kindly donated a 20G long tank, which I have converted to my prop tank. I have set it up with 2 Lights Of America† power compacts for lighting and a small Rio powerhead for circulation. Skimming on the 20G is provided by a RedSea Prizm I used to have on my 72G which I replaced with a AquaC EV 150.

Now that you have an idea of the setup you will need to maintain the frags, let's make the frags! Prepare for the day that you are going to frag.

This includes the following:
  • Have base rock or reef plugs to mount your frags on
  • Have 2 small tanks or containers big enough to work in. ( I use a 10G tank and a small Rubbermaid container)
  • Sharp scissors (Toxin free, oil free, rust free)
  • Paper towels (Bounty)
  • Super Glue Gel (Keep it in the freezer to thicken it)
  • String/Rope/Nylon filament to tie frags to rocks
  • Tweezers
  • Water Ė I usually use about 5G of water, so what I do is use the occasion to do a small water change in my show tank, and use the water I have taken out to do my cutting and chopping in.
  • Tank to put the frags in. (This could be your show tank but itís not recommended as frags emit a lot of mucous and other toxins in the water that could affect your other livestock)

Once you have all your equipment ready and are psychologically prepared to cut your livestock up, get ready to get your hands wet and slimy :-)

Step 1) Pick the mushroom that you are going to cut. This should be a healthy big mushroom with a base that you can cut. If you are dealing with a mushroom that has a big base, you can still do it, itís just more of a pain. Pull the rock out of your tank if possible and place it in the tank where you are going to cut. In my case my rock had several mushrooms I wanted to frag on it, so I pulled the whole rock out and placed it in the smaller tank.

Step 2) Use the scissors and make a clean cut at the base of the stem of the mushroom. Be careful to try avoiding cutting the disc at the top. The mushroom will most likely make it if you cut the disk but it will be harder to splice afterwards.

Step 3) If you want to frag the mushroom more than just once you can cut the crown up like you would a pizza. You will quickly notice that this is a lot easier said than done. As soon as the mushroom is cut it will start releasing a very slimy substance which makes it hard to handle and cut accurately. From personal experience just about every piece, big or small, no matter how lopsided the cut has grown back into a full mushroom, including the original base. As you cut up the rest of your mushrooms, you can place the cut pieces in a cup of tank water or let them float in the tank.

Step 4) You will then want to dab the little pieces of mushroom on a paper towel to remove some of the slime and make the frag more maneuverable. Here, depending on the size of the frag you have several options as to how to secure the frag to the rock or reefplug.

  • Super Glue Ė If the piece is small you may want to superglue it onto the rock. This is relatively easy. Place a drop of glue on a rock where you would like to secure the frag and gently press it onto the rock. If you are gluing several little pieces at the same time, it might be easier to put all the drops of glue first and then start pressing the mushroom cutouts onto the rock. Try to keep the mushroom cut ups out of water as little as possible. The fact that you are chopping them up is traumatic enough to the organisms.
  • String/Rope Ė If the frag is big enough you can use a rubber band or string to tie it to the rock. If you are using string or rope, make sure you soak it in water first. I use 100% cotton string so as to make sure there are no dies or bleaches in the string that might affect the tank. Tie the frag securely to the rock. Keep in mind that the frag will expand with water and swell during the healing process, and coupled with water current may come loose.
  • Wedding Veil- Some people use wedding veil as a net to keep the frag in place. I have never used this method, but I wanted to mention it in case you might be interested. This is more common for Sarcophyton (Leather Corals).

Step 5) Place the rocks in water, you may want to use the second tank as a temp holding tank while you finish the other rocks, or you may put them into your propagation tank or show tank.

I personally place them in my 20G propagation tank. Make sure to run carbon and a skimmer for the time directly following the fragging. Itís important because of all the toxins released into the water where all the cuts are healing. This will clean the water. Water changes would also bee good if you are able to do so.

Step 6) Be patient. It will take 1-2 weeks for the frags to grab onto the rock and slowly start growing. Depending on water quality and lighting conditions, your frags may grow very fast. Thatís it. You can now call your friend up and offer a new frag for trade and get some more new distinctly colored frags.

If you have any questions or comments please
 don't hesitate to send email!

Pictures and text ©Fabio Iannelli Kaotica Designs
Do not reproduce without permission.