Corals; Where do they come from?

Discussion in 'Reef Aquarium Articles and How To's' started by Dr.Fragenstein, Dec 9, 2008.

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  1. Dr.Fragenstein

    Dr.Fragenstein Panda Puffer

    Oct 30, 2008
    SE Wisconsin
    I thought this would be a good article as most of us KEEP corals... Many of us bought them at the local shop. Some of us bought them online. Some of us got them at frag swaps or from a fellow reefer. And some of us got them as a whole set up that fell upon our laps!

    Corals originate other than the place that WE got them. But, where do they come from?

    There are three places a coral can come from. The wild, i.e. ocean caught, maricultured; grown in the shallows intentionally, or aquacultured; grown in a commercial type indoor operation or in a hobbyists' tank. We we decide to purchase our corals from will determine our hobby's future....

    Wild caught corals are still very common in our industry. They are typically cheaper than the other two forms and are usually a good sized specimen. They are not without their downfalls though.. Wild caught first and foremost damage the reef. A diver literally breaks a hermatypic piece of coral from ther reef. This not only damages or completely removes the coral from the reef it removes the refuge it provides to fish and inverts.

    Wild caught corals are typically picked by divers that specialize in inverts as compared to divers that catch fish.(Personal communication) Many of the pieces are picked in either the Phillipines, Bali, Makassar, Fiji and Australia. Australia out of all the nations has the most strict rules of coral harvest.

    Wild caught specimens are usually LPS as many SPS are controlled carefully by CITES. LPS specimens include caulastrea, galaxia, euphyllia, acanthastrea, and trachyphyllia. Many others are also harvested from the reef. Many of these species are very easily maricultured or aquacultured. Favia, favites, galaxia, caulastrea, euphyllia and acantastrea are actually very easy even for the beginner to fragment.

    Trachyphyllia and a few others like scolymia and cynarina, reproduce by sexual reproduction and haven't been sucessfully fragmented in mass for the hobby(Personal communication)

    Maricultured corals are anything from soft corals such as zooathids or mushrooms to LPS like caulastrea and euphyllia to SPS like the various accroporids and montiporas. A person will take a piece from either captivity or more often from the reef and break it up. They will then take the various fragments and adhere them to a plug of some sort, typically cement based. They will then let those fragements grow in the ocean in protected shallows for a few months. When the piece starts showing a good amount of growth or when a transhipper is interested, the piece leaves its ocean home. It is then sold off to the hobbyist. This method is more efficient than wild collection but is still not the "best" way to go..

    Maricultured pieces can still harbor invasive critters and still relies on pieces being taken from the wild. Granted, it does provide a way of constantly using the same parent colony for fragments, preventing more parent colonies from being harvested. The parent piece is plucked from the reef, broken into pieces but still left big enough to reproduce rather quickly to support the fragging.

    Mariculturing takes place in Bali, the Philippines, Australia, Fiji and Vietnam among others. Vietnam specializes in maricultured clams mostly Croceas. Upwards to 95% of the clams that are purchased for the aquarium trade are maricultured and most of them are from Vietnam(Personal communication).

    If one cannot find aquacultured specimen, maricultured would be the next best(ecological and otherwise) way to go. Just remember it isn't foolproof and there could still be acclimation issues.

    Aquacultured pieces are a very different animal, in more ways than one... First off the piece is typically more than a few generations from the reef, meaning person A got the coral from the ocean. He grew the piece and sold a fragment to person B. He inturn grew the frag and then sold it to C. This continues until YOU come in. The coral piece also goes through physiological changes(R.Shimek) making it more acceptive of captive environments. Being grown in artificial seawater and under electrical lights makes that piece even more willing to do great in your tank. Whether you buy the frag from the store, your neighbor or someone in Detroit, it is POSITIVELY helping our hobby.

    Many types of coral, from beginner pieces all the way to high light demanding smoothed skinned acroporrids, can easily be fragmented.
    For the most part all you need are either a SHARP stainless steel or titanium coated scissors(softies) or a bone cutter or dremel with a cutting blade(for LPS and SPS) and glue to adhere them to a plug or rock.

    Musrooms for example, can be cut at the stalk, under the "cap" and then the "cap" cut into pieces through the mouth. Essentially you can even cut it into eighths like a pizza. Then take each of those pieces and loosely attach them to a rock by covering them with bridal netting, not too tight or they turn to mush!

    Many LPS such as branching hammers(Euphyllia) or candy canes (caulastrea) can be fragmented VERY easily! You can either take a bone cutter or if you are up to it(I wouldn't recommend it as the "bone" breaks oddly) break it by hand, and then take each branch and glue them to a rock or plug. Each of these branches will in turn grow and multiply heads until they are large enough to trade/sell or fragment themselves.

    SPS, since they grow so quickly and aren't incredibly thick or tough to break are some of the easiest to fragment. Start with a nice sized, healthy colony. Break a few pieces off, many shoot for around an inch, some smaller. Glue these to plugs and place close to the mother colony if possible; this usually helps speed the intial growth as the conditions are nearly identical. Once the frag encrusts the plug and starts growing its time to trade or sell!! Congradulations, you just saved a piece of the reef!

    Please remember this if nothing, only we can save our hobby, we might as well start now!!

    Happy reefing!!
    11 people like this.
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  3. PharmrJohn

    PharmrJohn The Dude

    Jun 29, 2008
    Shelton, Washington
    Bump.....Excellent article.
  4. missionsix

    missionsix Super Moderator Staff Member

    Sep 25, 2007
    Bend,Oregon - USA
    We can also save the reefs this way..... Awesome article frag....... Thanks for being a 3reef contributor8).
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  5. baugherb

    baugherb Giant Squid

    Sep 8, 2007
    southington, ohio
    Great article...
  6. scenario1313

    scenario1313 Tassled File Fish

    Jul 19, 2008
    Athens, GA
  7. thebeadlady

    thebeadlady Astrea Snail

    Jan 26, 2009
    Thanks, awesome read.
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  9. totter0817

    totter0817 Purple Spiny Lobster

    Feb 4, 2008
    Good Article, and thanks for the Detroit shout out!!!
  10. Bogie

    Bogie Snowflake Eel

    Feb 7, 2008
    Wow....Do you know where my dog came from?
    A junk yard! I paid $20 for her when she was an 8 week old pup.
    Think I give a hoot where my coral comes from?
  11. Matt Rogers

    Matt Rogers Kingfish Staff Member

    Dec 31, 2000
    Berkeley, CA

    You should.
    2 people like this.
  12. {Nano}Reefer

    {Nano}Reefer Dragon Wrasse

    Aug 9, 2008
    +1 for sure....
    1 person likes this.