Out of all the soft corals we propagate here at GARF, one of the groups we have had the most success with are the Gorgonians. We do our work with two families of the order Gorgonacea. Genus such as Eunicia, Swiftia, and Plexaurella are found in the family Anthothelidae. The family Gorgoniidae is represented by various genus including Gorgonia, Pseudopterogorgia, and Ptergorgia. Some Gorgonians, such as Swiftia, require feeding, but most are photosynthetic making them a beautiful, easy to keep soft coral.
Not only are these corals a wonderful addition to a reef system, but they are also being researched for their anti-inflammitory and anti-tumor properties. Many Gorgonians are being used now for medical and cosmetic products.
|This article will teach you how to grow Gorgonians and we will give you the basic steps of gorgonian propagation. The
gorgonian being propagated in this article are all members of the Order Gorgonacea. The species that we are writing about are in the species Diodogorgia - Red Finger gorgonian and Yellow Finger Gorgonian - Pterogorgia- Purple ribbon Gorgonian and Pseudoplexaura - Bushy Sea Rod.
One thing to keep in mind is that Gorgonians need moderate to strong current. The Purple ribbon Gorgonian tend to "wax over" and this wax layer will shed on it's own and the surface of the Gorgonian will be bright and clean.
Feeding will increase the growth of these corals. We use Rotifers and Brine shrimp to feed the systems that contain our Gorgonian brood stock and cuttings.
|The first three Gorgonians that we will look at are # 1.Pterogorgia- Purple ribbon Gorgonian Diodogorgia - #2. Red Finger gorgonian and #3. Yellow Finger Gorgonian -
#1. Pterogorgia- Purple Ribbon Gorgonian
#2.Diodogorgia - #2. Red Finger gorgonian
#3.Diodogorgia - #2. Yellow Finger gorgonian
Soak the flake food in the Reef Plus for one hour and then add the fresh water. Puree the mixture in a blender for several minutes.
|THIS PICTURE SHOWS TWO MORE SPECIES OF GORGONIANS THAT WE PROPAGATE.
Muricea sulphurea - Spiny Gorgonian
Plexaurella grandiflora - Slit-pore sea rod
We often mount several species of Gorgonians on one Reef PlugTM and each coral can be seperated from the others after they start to grow. We have grown many of these mixed Reef PlugsTM for several semesters with no indication of damage to the corals.
|These corals are growing very well in one of our 10 gallon tanks This tank includes a 22 watt power compact light that works very well for keeping any species of soft coral.
There is an unexpected bonus that we did not plan on. The plastic racks do not cover the entire bottom of the tank. The front portion of the bottom of the reef farm makes a great place to drop cuttings so they can attach to gravel before they are glued to Reef PlugsTM.
Muriceopsis flavida - Spiny Gorgonian
These spiny Gorgonians are very hardy and they come in several colors. We are growing both pink and yellow. You can see in the detail disk that these Gorgonians have sharp spines that point up and it is easy to tell the proper direction to mount cuttings because you can easily pull the cuttings through your finger and thumb when you are pulling it from the bottom of the cutting.
These corals do best when they are placed in strong water flow. They can catch food as it is swept past them in the current. They are easy to feed on crushed flake food and frozen brine shrimp. It is important to supply good illumination to all of the photosynthetic Gorgonians.
This group of Gorgonians is very easy to propagate and they do not need to have any of the tissue removed before they are glued to the rock. Several colors of this genus can be grown together with no damage to them. These corals are often damaged by storms and fragmentation is a natural method of reproduction.
Eunicea succinea - Candelabrum Gorgonian
These corals tend to be brown with knobby projections when they are closed. These are some of the most common Gorgonians that are sold in pet shops. The problem with ocean collected specimens is that they are often damaged, and that damage can cause an infection that kills the entire coral in less than 24 hours. Captive raised Candelabrums are very hardy because they are not as likely to be damaged when they are shipped.
We have grown some of this genus for over 5 years and like many corals they become more hardy as they are cloned in captivity. Much of our future research will include DNA studies of the internal symbionts that are so important to the growth of photosynthetic corals.
This group of Gorgonians do not need to be fed, but they grow much better when there is some food for them to consume. This is often fish waste that is swept up in the strong water current that these corals thrive in. In our grow out tanks we often add one extra power head that is on a lamp timer so that it is on for 30 minutes and then off for 30 minutes.
Each of these links show you one half of the 30 gallon color reef that we use to grow predatory Gorgonians and other soft corals that need to be fed. Please e-mail us if you like these larger pictures so we can make our site more enjoyable and educational.
SEE A LARGE PICTURES OF THE LEFT END
SEE A LARGE PICTURES OF THE RIGHT END
STEP 1 - Drilling the Holes
Use a drill press or hand held drill with a 3/16 inch or 1/4 inch cement bit to make a hole in the plug or rock. The depth of the hole should range from 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch maximum. Wash plugs in tap water to remove excess dust and particles.
Some people use a Dremil tool to drill holes, but we have found that a small drill press works very well. Start your holes very slowly and allow the drill bit to do the work.
We have been drilling three holes in our Reef Plugs so we can mount several types of Gorgonians on each plug. These separate Gorgonians are glued into the holes so that they fan out from the center. This allows the Gorgonians to mature before they are separated for mounting in their own part of the reef aquarium.
| You can plan your cuttings so that each piece has a nice shape by leaving small branches on some of the cuttings and by making unbranched pieces longer. Cut off pieces of your mother colony, into a large bowl with tank water. The
size of the cutting does not matter, but if you are planning to ship these
cuttings, larger ones require more water and are therefore more expensive
to ship. Scissors work the best for this step, but a scalpel or razor will
work just fine.
We always cut collected Gorgonians so that there are several short branches left on the base. These bases are glued into our brood stock systems. Each of the branches we left on the base soon grow new stalks that can cut later.
|When you are cutting brown photosynthetic Gorgonians you can use your wire strippers to remove 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch of the coenchyme
(tissue) leaving the hard central axis.
This exposed axis offers a stronger bond with the reef gel than the tissue would. We have also seen that some Genus such as Plexaurella will develop an infection if the reef gel is covering the coenchyme.
The small pieces of left over tissue can be scattered over the substrate in your tank. We have observed some of these pieces attach and begin to grow.
We have been using the wire stripping pliers for several semesters and they work very well for this job. The pliers seem to do less damage to the tissue we remove and more of them start to grow in the gravel.
STEP 4 - Attaching the Cutting
|Using the reef glue, fill in the hole of your plug or rock completely. Next
place the exposed axis of your cutting into the glue filled hole. Dip the
cutting and plug into your second bowl of tank water and hold under water
for 10 seconds or until there is a firm bond.
Your first gorgonian cutting is now complete. Remember to place the plug in an area with strong current and moderate light. If the cutting is not doing well in one spot, and this goes for all corals, move it each week until it finds a place it likes.
It is very important to dip any glued cutting in reef water as soon as possible. Reef glue heats as it cures and the tissue can be burned. We dip all cuttings in bowls of reef water as soon as we attach the coral.
The glue also seals the cuttings so very few of them get any type of infection. Notice the branches we left on this cutting. These branches make it very easy to tell the top of the coral. When you have many non-branching cuttings it can be hard to tell which end should go up. You can run the cutting lightly through your fingers. The polyps point upward, so the coral will feel smooth when you are pulling the base of the coral down. Glue the end down that feels like it is easy to pull through your fingers.
|*Note - You can substitute the reef glue with Styrofoam Cut a small piece
of foam and wedge it in the hole against the exposed axis of your cutting.
Although this is an inexpensive method, we have had much better long term
success using the reef glue.
Some people use epoxy to attach his cuttings to the rocks. We have found that we can complete many more cuttings with super glue in the the same time. One good thing about Epoxy is that it will hold the cuttings in place better if you are shipping them a few days after they are glued. The super glue is more brittle and it is better to wait until the Gorgonian starts to grow down onto the rock before you ship it.
FOR THE LAST 5 YEARS WE HAVE WORKED VERY HARD TO PURCHASE, TRADE, AND SAVE AS MANY TYPES OF CORALS AS WE CAN.
We are having a special on all of the coral cuttings. WHEN YOU PURCHASE 5 AT THE REGULAR PRICE OF $100 WE WILL GIVE YOU TWO FREE CORALS!. We will continue to provide the most current data on reef farming for both education and profit.