Zen-Reef.com



Written by: Who Dah?
Contributions by: mfinn, Jovreef, Reef Junkie, weatherson, Where Dah?, Mrs. Who Dah?
Rev 1.6 2006.06.04Hello all!First off, a special thanks to Where Dah? and to Mrs. Who Dah? — the shutterbugs for this article!

Again – I’m no expert here… No official schooling or doctrines! Just sharing my experiences – so bare that in mind!

Today, I’m going to talk about how I frag some of my Zoas. There are easy techniques and there are difficult techniques – this will focus on the latter. The main technique to frag a Zoa is über simple: Take a hammer and chisel to it! The problem with this is that your rock gets smaller and smaller each time, and it’s not very precise. Sometimes, the rock won’t break the way you want it to either. The upside: quick, easy, the zoa stays on the rock it is ‘used’ to.

Myself, I tend to do this advanced technique when the zoas are on a nice rock that I do not want to loose mass. As in, I don’t want to chisel/cut/pry it down each time. But don’t get me wrong, I do this advanced technique once every 10 or so ‘fraggings’ due to it’s ‘complexity’, or at the very least, it’s time consumption. I’m lazy, it’s how I roll.

There are some other techniques out there as well – but those are for another article! Now let’s begin our talk about fragging Zoanthid with a scalpel.

Another major advantage to fragging with a scalpel is the pattern in which we’re about to do this. I’ll cut out frags from the middle area of the mother colony, not just the edges. So you are asking, “But why Who Dah? It’ll make your mother colony look weird!!!” Good point o’ reader! However, by cutting frags out from the middle of our colony, we allow the polyps in the middle of the rock to spread out too! If we only cut from the edge, then only the ‘new edge’ polyps will have room to grow. By following this technique, we’ll have new growth on the edge and the middle!

Ahhh, eye candy… Here’s the Zoa we’re going to slice n’ dice in Figure 1!

Figure 1: The Zoanthid Mother Colony prior to fragging under 14K Phoenix DE with VHO Actinic.

Figure 1: The Zoanthid Mother Colony prior to fragging under 14K Phoenix DE with VHO Actinic.

Isn’t she purdy? Here she is under some flashes in Figure 2 and Figure 3:

Figure 2: The Zoanthid Mother Colony prior to fragging under flash lighting.

Figure 2: The Zoanthid Mother Colony prior to fragging under flash lighting.

Figure 3: The Zoanthid Mother Colony prior to fragging under flash lighting.

Figure 3: The Zoanthid Mother Colony prior to fragging under flash lighting.

Now, if you want me to unpimp this thing, let me here you say Vhat? OK then, here we go!

Step 1: You ABSOLUTLY NEED protection! These guys can be EXTREMELY toxic! We’re talkin’ send you to the hospital toxic. As of now, there is no ‘cure’ for Zoanthid toxins in the human body. You’ll be in pain, freaking out because your eye/mouth/arm/hand is swollen, and the doc will put you on Oxygen, Saline, and tell you to ‘hang in there’. Then you’ll get a bill! PLEASE DO NOT skip this step. And typical disclaimers apply: we cannot and do not take ANY responsibility for anything that can/will/does go wrong if you attempt this at home. This is a demonstration only.

Having said all that – “What kind of protection are you talking about Who Dah??” I’m glad you asked. I’m talking about a face shield and gloves. Here is what I use in Figure 4:

Figure 4: Necessary protection when fragging Zoanthids -- gloves and a face shield!

Figure 4: Necessary protection when fragging Zoanthids — gloves and a face shield!

You’ll also see that I have plenty of towels available – and my other tools… All in all, you’ll need:

  • FACE SHIELD – do it. seriously. do it. you know you want to. do it, do it, do it, do it. wear the shield. do it.
  • GLOVES – again – do it!
  • lots of ‘fish towels’ as my wife calls ’em
  • a small tub of your tank water that the frags will go in
  • a small/medium tub of water large enough to hold your mother colony in
  • I prefer to use plugs to mount my Zoas to so that they are easily traded/sold/kept-upright. More specifically, I prefer Boston Aqua Farms plugs. They stay up in egg-crate real nifty like. I’ve toyed with GARF’s and they’re OK… But BAF has it goin on w/ the egg-crate plugs! Reasonably priced too. Give ’em a try, tell ’em ZoaID sentcha!
  • something to hold your frags upright – mostly if you are going to use plugs. I’ve made a little egg-crate stand to hold them upright temporarily.
  • surgical tools – I got all of these at pretty good prices from Dr. Instruments. I use just about every tool they offer under that Aquatic Tool section in my tanks. For this? I use the forceps, bone sheers, scissors, their solid scalpel, and their handle/blade scalpel handles. (All stainless steal of course.) Hrm… those scalpels aren’t under the Aquatic Tools section. Maybe after this article is posted, they’ll add ’em!
  • super glue gel – be sure to get gel. I prefer the loctite stuff in that it’s an easy to manage bottle. Available at Wal-Mart, Lowes, Home Depot, just about anywhere. It’s a little more pricey, but not much. The consensus is that any ‘CYANOACRYLATE’ based gel glue will work. I’m using the word ‘gel’ a lot, huh? Be sure to use gel. Non-gel will come off real easy and there are several reports on RC of fish eating a non-gel super glue blob! GARF sells some too. Or that Icey Gel stuff as well.
Figure 5: Preparing to frag: A container of tank water to hold the mother colony and a second container to hold the frags.

Figure 5: Preparing to frag: A container of tank water to hold the mother colony and a second container to hold the frags.

Figure 6: Preparing to frag: A scalpel (both solid and handle/blade combos), super glue gel, bone sheers, forceps, scissors, towels, frag plugs, and an eggcrate stand to hold the plugs. (All metal tools are stainless steel.) Instruments acquired from Dr. Instruments. Frag plugs acquired from GARF and Boston Aqua Farms.

Figure 6: Preparing to frag: A scalpel (both solid and handle/blade combos), super glue gel, bone sheers, forceps, scissors, towels, frag plugs, and an eggcrate stand to hold the plugs. (All metal tools are stainless steel.) Instruments acquired from Dr. Instruments. Frag plugs acquired from GARF and Boston Aqua Farms.

Alrighty then, we’re ready to cut! Don’t forget to put on that face shield and gloves! Grab yer mother colony and get situated. Here’s mine in one of the tubs we talked about earlier (Figure 7).

Figure 7: The mother colony out of the tank and in it's holding container.

Figure 7: The mother colony out of the tank and in it’s holding container.

Get situated, let your mother colony drip a little to get rid of that excess water, and we’re ready to go! Oh, by the way… In this session, my mother colony was out of the water for about… Ohh… 30 minutes or so. No ill effects. Not saying all Zoas can do this, but most can. They’re hardy and frequently get exposed on the reefs for hours at a time during low tide!

Figure 8: The mother colony prior to the first cut.

Figure 8: The mother colony prior to the first cut.

OK, now to the good stuff! This is when the sturdier one-piece scalpel becomes my tool of choice! Agitate the polyps so that they close up. Be prepared for them to squirt out at ya! But you have your gloves and face shield on, right? Once they are agitated, look for an obvious cut line where you can make your incision. You can spread the zoas out a little w/ the backside of the scalpel (non-sharp side) and make a valley/channel where you can cut *just* the Zoanthid Mat, not the polyps. Avoid cutting the polyps as much as possible. Most of the time, you can avoid cutting the polyps 100%! Firmly and without hesitancy, make a clean cut in the Mat where you want the frag to be as seen in Figure 9:

Figure 9: Using the handle/blade scalpel combo: A clean, firm, and non-hesitant cut on the mat separating the Zoanthid polyps.

Figure 9: Using the handle/blade scalpel combo: A clean, firm, and non-hesitant cut on the mat separating the Zoanthid polyps.

Once your cut is made, carefully pry *underneath* the zoanthid mat. The goal here is to not scrape the Mat, but scrape a VERY thin layer of rock/surface-algae underneath the Zoanthid off. We’ll be gluing these down latter, and the Zoas are already attached to this thin layer of rock. Why not utilize that? If we can keep this thin layer of rock, we’ll be gluing ‘rock’ to our plugs, not ‘Zoanthids’ to our plugs!

Figure 10: Using the solid and stronger scalpel: prying underneath the zoanthid mat scraping a very fine layer of rock/algae still attached to the Zoanthid mat with it.

Figure 10: Using the solid and stronger scalpel: prying underneath the zoanthid mat scraping a very fine layer of rock/algae still attached to the Zoanthid mat with it.

If you look closely in Figure 11, you’ll see exactly what I mean. The Zoanthid Mat has a very then layer of rock/algae still stuck to it. It’s not 100% bare Mat.

Figure 11: Rock/algae still attached to the Zoanthid mat of the soon-to-be frag.

Figure 11: Rock/algae still attached to the Zoanthid mat of the soon-to-be frag.

After your initial cut, you can peal back the Mat and cut the Mat to the frag shape you desire. In Figure 12, I’m pealing it back and cutting the Mat to make about a 10 polyp frag. The quantity of polyps per frag is of course up to you. There’s a great discussion on RC right now on zoanthid growth. One theory is to make frags small and they’ll explode in immediate growth in a “flight or fight” manner. Sounds like a good experiment in the works! Check out the topic here:
ReefCentral’s Zoanthid forum – Serious Disscussion of Zooanthids Growth

At any rate, my frags will range in this demo from about 2 polyps up to about 15 or so.

Figure 12: Additional separation of mat and the rock leaving a fine layer of rock/algae still attached to the Zoanthid.

Figure 12: Additional separation of mat and the rock leaving a fine layer of rock/algae still attached to the Zoanthid.

Once I have a good group, but not all, of the frags detached from the mother colony rock, I place the mother colony rock back into the holding tub. Not back into the tank yet – I’m not done cutting frags off it! But I want to get the frags mounted that I have made already before they sit out too long.

Figure 12-2: Placing the mother colony into it's container as I glue frags to frag plugs.

Figure 12-2: Placing the mother colony into it’s container as I glue frags to frag plugs.

In the end, this is how my mother colony ended up looking. A couple of places I cut away too many zoanthids. I wanted to leave more ‘dots’ of them on the mother colony so they could spread easier. So, I simply glued a couple small frags back on to the mother colony!!! (More on gluing in a sec…) See how the mother colony now has room to grow both on the edge and in the middle of the rock? Admittedly, a full mother colony looks better in the tank than a splotched one. But this rock will be covered in full before you know it!

Figure 12-3: A shot of the mother colony post fragging with a couple of 'patches' re-glued to the mother colony.

Figure 12-3: A shot of the mother colony post fragging with a couple of ‘patches’ re-glued to the mother colony.

OH NO!!!! A ZOANTHID GOT ME!!! One of the frags squirted me! (Ya ya, all inappropriate sexual innuendos go here ) But luckily, I’m geared up in my gloves and face shield! No trips to the hospital for me tonight!! After finding the culprit, I was able to replicate the offender’s preemptive strike. Granted, this is more than likely dominantly saltwater. However, there very well could be toxins in here. Sorry, I didn’t bother to find out

Figure 13: A Zoanthid squirting!

Figure 13: A Zoanthid squirting!

Figure 14: A Zoanthid squirting!

Figure 14: A Zoanthid squirting!

Figure 15: A Zoanthid squirting!

Figure 15: A Zoanthid squirting!

OK – so now that we have a ton of loose polyps in various polyp counts, lets make our final frags! When cutting these polyps off the mother colony, some came out perfect size, some too small, some too large. The perfect sized and too small frags we will simply glue to our frag plugs. However, let’s trim down some of those frags that the polyp count is too high on! I prefer scissors if I can get them in there… It’s safer, a true cut, and easier. But sometimes you cannot get scissors in there to make a clean cut without damaging the polyps. In that case, the scalpel will aid in more maneuverable cuts. However, I’ll use the sharper scalpel this time as I’m not wanting to place pressure on this cut and the sharper blade will make a cleaner cut. This is the scalpel handle and this is the scalpel blade I’ll be using.

Figure 16 shows a scalpel cut and Figure 17 shows a scissor cut. Not much to it, just be sure to cut in between the polyps and not the polyps themselves!

Figure 16: Using the scalpel handle/blade combo: Making a clean cut on the mat to separate polyps.

Figure 16: Using the scalpel handle/blade combo: Making a clean cut on the mat to separate polyps.

Figure 17: Using the scissors: Making a clean cut on the mat to separate polyps.

Figure 17: Using the scissors: Making a clean cut on the mat to separate polyps.

While doing this last-minute cutting, Figure 18 shows the other frags waiting in a tub of water.

Figure 18: Frags awaiting to be glued to their frag plug in the second container of tank water.

Figure 18: Frags awaiting to be glued to their frag plug in the second container of tank water.

The general consensus is that you want to use as little superglue as possible. This does induce a risk of frags “blowing away” in the current… But for best growth, as little glue contact, the better. The idea is that zoa growth will be much greater on the points of contact with the rock/plug than that of the superglue. Here, I’m applying glue (again, I typically use a greater amount) to a frag plug in preparation for final mounting.

Figure 19: Applying super glue gel to a frag plug.

Figure 19: Applying super glue gel to a frag plug.

Sometimes it is easier to apply glue directly to the polyps/mat then the frag plug as seen in Figure 20. This type of superglue container allows for some pretty precise glue application. I’ve read online that some people will dip a toothpick into superglue and apply it – thus, using as little glue as possible.

Figure 20: Applying super glue gel directly to the mat/polyps.

Figure 20: Applying super glue gel directly to the mat/polyps.

A gentle push of the polyps onto the frag plug and… voila! A mounted frag!

Figure 21: The frag is finally mounted to the frag plug!

Figure 21: The frag is finally mounted to the frag plug!

On occasion, I found that I hadn’t used enough glue. So, I then apply it “directly” to the final mounted frag as in Figure 22:

Figure 22: If an inadequate amount of super glue was applied, you can 'fill in the gaps' with the frag already mounted to the plug.

Figure 22: If an inadequate amount of super glue was applied, you can ‘fill in the gaps’ with the frag already mounted to the plug.

After the gluing is complete, a quick dip in the water is performed. Super glue dries “hot”. By dipping it in water, we accomplish two things:

  1. Cool down the superglue during it drying process
  2. Create a quick-curing period on the surface of the glue, holding the frag in place better

So go ahead – take the frag and drop it like it’s hot. Cause… well… they are, Snoop!

Figure 23: Dip the frag into a bin of tank water to quickly cure the surface of the super glue gel and to lower the temperature of the curing process.

Figure 23: Dip the frag into a bin of tank water to quickly cure the surface of the super glue gel and to lower the temperature of the curing process.

After the quick dip, I let them sit out a while to dry. Again, remember that zoas are found exposed to air for hours on end where low tides occur. I’m not recommending that you keep your zoas out for hours, but a couple minutes shouldn’t hurt ’em!

Figure 24: Frags on frag plugs in the egg crate stand!

Figure 24: Frags on frag plugs in the egg crate stand!

A couple of minutes later, I place them back into a holding bin (Figure 25) while I complete the others. They are ready to go back into the tank at this point, but for efficiency, I continue mounting and add them to the tank later!

Figure 25: Mounted frags in a container of tank water awaiting to go back into the main tank.

Figure 25: Mounted frags in a container of tank water awaiting to go back into the main tank.

And here we are in the tank! Just minutes later, these guys are starting to open. Be prepared for your frags to stay shut all day and night. In my experiences, about 1/4 of the morphs I have will start to open within an hour of fragging, about 1/2 the same day, and the rest over the next day or two. Apply moderate water flow to help push away anything they may excrete during the healing process.

Figure 26: Frags back in the main tank - some starting to open only minutes later!

Figure 26: Frags back in the main tank – some starting to open only minutes later!

And lastly – a nifty little animation of the fragging process!

Figure 27: See the fragging accumulation in motion!

Figure 27: See the fragging accumulation in motion!

In the end, it looks as though I did not have to use the bone sheers in these sessions. Usually I do, and they help aid scraping the zoa/mat from the rock when a bit more force is needed.

Now the fun begins – time to get these guys out to other people!!!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this presentation and I hope it helps you in future fragging endeavors!

-Who Dah?

AquaSafe