Is My Leather Coral Splitting?

Leather corals are popular soft corals, known for their ease of care and diverse range of colors and shapes. They are also one of the many corals known to reproduce via splitting themselves in half, spreading horizontally, and quickly dominating the entire aquarium, creating a very interesting display!

So, if your leather coral does start splitting, it is no cause for concern, and I am here to tell you everything you need to know about the process! 

Can Leather Corals Split?

Leather corals split as a natural way to propagate themselves, this process is often referred to as coral fission. If your coral starts splitting, you should have nothing to worry about unless it starts drooping, as that may be a sign your leather coral is dying

When your leather coral splits, it will separate right down the center, through your leather coral’s mouth. During this time you may also notice your leather coral slightly shrinking, but do not panic as this is normal. Once your leather coral has successfully split, it will look back to normal after 3-4 days.

One thing you need to be aware of though is the release of toxins known as Terpenes. When your leather coral splits, it will release these toxins into the water as a form of chemical warfare because it has detected a stress response. If you notice any decline in your stony corals (SPS and LPS corals), consider removing larger leather coral stalks from your aquarium. 

During the splitting process, add activated carbon into your filter and replace it as needed to help remove any toxins released. Activated carbon is also beneficial for removing tannins in your aquarium water. 

How Long Does It Take For Leather Corals To Split?

Depending on your leather coral and the tank conditions, it should take a day or two for your leather coral to split into two individual corals. Some hobbyists have experienced leather corals splitting over a week, sometimes even longer, so sit tight if that is the case!

During the splitting process, your leather coral may also shed their outer mucus layer, so don’t be alarmed if they decide to do this.

How Often Do Leather Corals Shed?

As your leather coral grows, it will shed its outer mucus layer, similar to how a snake sheds its skin.

Most leather corals will usually take around 7 days to fully shed their membrane, however, some like the devil’s hand leather coral can take weeks. This time allows your leather coral to clean its surface of dirt and debris and feel ‘reborn’. 

If your leather coral is taking a long time to shed, be patient. Unless your leather starts disintegrating or turning black/white, I wouldn’t worry about it.

How Do Leather Corals Reproduce?

Leather corals will easily reproduce once they have been established in a well-maintained aquarium. While you can help them reproduce by fragging them, it is very fascinating to watch your leather coral reproduce on its own. 

Leather corals can reproduce both sexually and asexually, however, in your aquarium you will only likely see asexual reproduction take place. This is when your leather coral splits as mentioned above. Your leather coral will split off pieces of its cap, which will then fall to a rock or another substrate to eventually attack and grow into another leather coral colony.

If your leather coral is taking some time to reproduce, you can help this process by manually splitting your coral with a fragging kit. 

Manually Splitting Your Leather Coral 

You can manually split your mushroom coral, referred to as ‘fragging’ in the aquarium hobbyist world. Fragging involves removing a small piece of tissue from your main leather coral. 

  • Step 1: First, select which leather coral you want to frag from your aquarium. An ideal specimen would be bright and healthy-looking with normal-looking polyps. 
  • Step 2: When fragging corals, it is highly recommended you remove it from the aquarium to prevent any toxins being released into the water. If your leather coral is attached to a rock, remove the whole rock, as removing it can increase stress. Removing your leather coral also means you can treat it afterward with a coral treatment so that it heals faster. 
  • Step 3: Now, it is time to get your fragging tools, such as a scalpel or sharp knife, and cut your leather coral. A sharp tool is required to prevent any blunt trauma, and ensure your cut is clean and in one gentle motion – you do not want to be hacking into your leather coral. 

After you have cut your leather coral frag, place it into another container with aquarium water. Add coral treatment to both containers to allow your original leather coral and your coral frag to heal where you made the incision. 

After 10 minutes of soaking in the coral treatment, place your original leather coral into the aquarium and run carbon in your filter.

  • Step 4: With your leather coral frag dipped in the coral treatment, now you can finally attach it to a rock. It is always best to allow leather corals to naturally attach, as they are very difficult to stay glued down because of the mucus/slime they constantly produce. 

The best way to attach a leather coral frag is with an elastic band, applying enough pressure on the frag and rock to hold it in place, but not too hard that your leather coral will become damaged. 

  • Step 5: There you have it, your leather coral should look nice and secure on its rock! Place your leather coral in the lower region of your aquarium with a gentle water flow to make sure it fully attaches. 

After a few weeks, your new leather coral frag should be nice and secure on the rock.

Remember that this time is crucial for your new coral frag, so keep on top of your water changes and check your leather coral’s water conditions are being met. Congratulations, you have successfully split your first leather coral!


When leather corals split for the first time, it can be a little terrifying to watch if you are not aware of this ‘mastery’, however, this is a natural process, so there is nothing to worry about!

Keep the conditions stable and be patient during this process as it can be a very stressful time for a coral, but the result is well worth the wait, trust me!

  • Roy Lee

    I have an unhealthy obsession with reef keeping and maintaining successful tanks. If you haven't noticed from the website, I love everything related to saltwater tanks like coral, fish, and everything else in between.

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