Can I prune th­ese corals?

Practical Fishkeeping (UK) - - Advice -

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.

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