Can I prune these corals?
My reef tank has been set up for about five years. The trouble is that during this time my leather corals have grown and spread so well that I’m now having problems with them shading other corals.
How can I reduce the size of these corals? Is it possible to actually cut the excess parts away or will that kill them? I don’t want to harm them, just reduce their size and spread.
Anything I have to do will need to done in the tank as there is no way I’ll be able to get them out! JACK MASON, EMAIL
Dave replies: Yes, it’s certainly possible to trim leather corals and it’s quite easy to do with minimal tools.
Finger leathers are the simplest to trim; simply take a very sharp pair of scissors or a fresh scalpel and slice off ‘branches’ as necessary.
Mushroom leathers can be dealt with by cleanly trimming away areas of the ‘cap’ as required; it’s possible to trim all the way around the cap if necessary. In some cases, aquarists have sliced the entire cap away from the coral’s base. This sounds brutal and you probably don’t want to go this far, but the ability of leather corals to heal is amazing and the cut stalk can regrow a complete new cap.
Sharp tools are essential as you’re looking for a clean cut to minimise damage to the coral and reduce the risk of infection. Incidentally, any pieces you cut from the coral can be used to propagate new specimens, so it’s worth speaking to fellow hobbyists or your local aquatics shop about selling, donating or swapping them – someone will almost certainly want them! It’s best to trim one coral at a time rather than deal with the whole lot at once, as soft corals can throw up a lot of slime when pruned. This can be a big problem if you’re not able to lift the corals from the water, so deal with one, then wait a week or so before trimming the next coral, and so on. After trimming, run activated carbon to adsorb any toxins that may be released as a result of the pruning and ensure the skimmer is tuned well to remove any slime produced. Keep an eye on the coral for any signs of infection such as blackened tissue (which could require further cutting away of the infected portion or removal of the coral to an isolation tank), and maintain optimal water quality.
large specimens can be cut down to size.
leather corals are suprisingly hardy.