Propagating a Colt Coral or finger leather is a very easy and rewarding process. For those of you who are reluctant to propagate your corals for fear of hurting the animal, you will be happy to know that Corals do not feel pain. They do not have a nervous system therefore they do not feel pain the way we do. So the parent and cutting will not be hurt during propagation, even though it will seem that way when you see them curl up in a small ball, so don’t let it deter you from propagation.
AA second area of concern that may hinder a decision to propagate a Colt Coral is lighting. Minimal lighting is required for these corals because they are naturally found deep in the ocean where they do not get very strong light. I am only using two fluorescent lights, one actinic blue and one super daylight bulb, and my coral is thriving.
However, during propagation the corals are more susceptible to infection and other ailments while they are recovering, so it is very important to have a healthy tank before, during, and after you make the cutting.
1 Toothpick (I find the round ones are easier to work with)
1 Razor blade or very sharp scissors
1 Rock to fasten the cutting on
A container of clean saltwater to put the cutting in
Before you make the cutting, you need to have a very healthy tank. Make sure that all of your readings are (preferably) lower then the safe range. You don’t want to stress the Parent and Cutting any more then you have too. I generally do a water change 4 or 5 days before I propagate my Colt. This way I know that I wont have to worry about stressing the new cutting by having to make a water change while it is just starting off. The water change will also help replenish the required trace elements in the water which the colt corals will need to recover and grow.
Next, you want to make sure the Colt Coral is healthy as well. Make sure that the polyps open up all the way and that the coral is fully extended, if it isn’t for any reason wait a couple of days before you make the cutting.
The time has finally come to make the cutting! Make sure you have everything you need to make the cutting close at hand. Choose a branch that you want to cut, make sure the branch is at least 2 or 3 inches long. This will give you around a 1½ inch cutting. When you make the cutting, don’t cut the branch right at the base, leave around a ½ inch from the base. The parent coral will eventually grow another branch from the stub.
The Colt Coral has a very tough skin, so when you make the cutting, you will need to use some force. I generally use a razor blade to make my cutting and lean the branch against a rock for support while I cut. Make the cutting in one clean cut. This will help the coral recover quicker and the cutting will grow onto the rock easier. When you make the cut, the corals will excrete a clear liquid, this is normal and it will stop soon after.
Once you have the cutting, take it out of the tank and put it in the container of clean saltwater you have prepared. Get the piece of rock you want the new coral to grow on and lightly dry off a spot to place the cutting on. Wrap two elastics around the rock, one on each side. You will use these to secure the cutting in place until it has had time to grow on to the rock.
Next take the cutting and push a toothpick through the centre, near the base. Place the base of the cutting on the rock and put the toothpick under the elastics. The cutting should be held firmly against the rock.
Now you are ready to put the cutting back in the tank. Place it in a location with good lighting and a light current. Make sure that it is in an area where other creatures in the tank will not disturb the new coral (ie. Knock it over or bury it).
Now that the hardest part is finally done, you have to have patience and wait for parent and cutting to open up. I have found that the parent will open up first within a few hours. As for the cuttings, I can’t tell you any normal length of time. I have had one open in a few hours and another open in a day. So have patience! (Something I am trying to learn myself!)
If the cutting doesn’t open in a couple of days, check to make sure that the cutting is firm to the touch and isn’t losing it’s colour. If it is soft to the touch, or dull looking then chances are, it isn’t going to live. I suggest that you remove it from the tank before it pollutes the water. If you have a quarantine tank you could try putting it in there to give it more time.
Over the next couple of weeks the new cutting will start to grow and secure itself to the rock. It should be attached after about a week but I suggest that you give it a little more time. After two weeks, it’s time to take the toothpick out of the young coral. Remove it slowly and gently so you don’t pull the cutting away from the rock. I find that it helps if you turn the toothpick to detach any part of the coral that has grown on to it. Remove the elastics from the rock at this time also. Replace the young Coral in the tank and you are done!
Congratulations! You now have a new Colt Coral! Easy wasn’t it! (After you got over the jitters of harming the coral and see that everyone is going to live!