Random musings on coral frags...The beginning of an open dialogue!

By uniquecorals, Sep 13, 2013 | |
  1. This Article is Sponsored by @uniquecorals
    As you might have noticed, we offer and sell a lot of coral frags here at Unique Corals. When you work a lot with frags, even the most dense reefer (hey, that might be me!) can pick up some priceless gems of information that can add to the body of knowledge on the subject.

    I don't need to remind you of the many benefits of coral frags, but since this is my forum, I will anyways!:mod:

    Bottom line is this- among the many reasons why frags are so great is that they offer even the most budget-conscious hobbyist the opportunity to try a wide variety of new corals that would be prohibitively expensive if they were purchased as colonies. In addition, you get the added plus of being able to grow your own coral from scratch, learning all about its tendencies, strengths, and weaknesses along the way. You'll become a battle-hardened, test kit-toting reef warrior, chock full of the sort of arcane knowledge that reefers love to share! And, you'll help increase the body of knowledge of the corals that we keep! I didn't even touch on the fact that frags are the most environmentally sound way to create a reef system, and are a key to the "conscientious, sustainable, and responsible" way to practice reefing (Hmm..that mantra sounds familiar. Where have I heard those words before...? LOL)

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    The first key to success with your frags is to make sure that you're not getting a freshly-hacked-off-the-mother-colony specimen. Most reputable online vendors would never resort to this ridiculous practice, as it creates an absurd amount of stress on a coral that is already undergoing a stressful time, rendering the coral susceptible to infection and other maladies. Why on earth would you want to order a fresh cut frag on line? Just don't support this abysmal practice. Do not enable stupidity. It's one thing to get a freshly cut frag from your buddy down the road, but to ship it in a box...nope...nada.

    Obviously, the other smart move you can make to help assure success with your frag is to know something about the conditions it was kept under, or the conditions it favors in general. We love to get frags at swaps or even online (gulp) as "impulse buys", and in our excitement, may have not done our homework on the corals' needs. This seemingly obvious information-gathering practice is often overlooked, and can seriously impact your success!

    Oh, and you should really quarantine and/or dip your newly-received corals...Thge single best thing you can do to help avoid the spread of potential pathogens. There is a lot of information out there on this practice, so I won't beat you on the head with it!

    So, specifically, what are the factors which affect the growth of our coral frags?

    Well, to begin with, we can take into consideration water movement. Water movement is perhaps the most important factor in coral health and growth, even more so than light. Think about it: When you have a newly propagated coral frag, it needs water movement to foster gas exchange, which helps with healing, encrusting, and growth. In fact, it's known that corals are dependent upon diffusion of gases and for nutrient exchange across their tissue layers, so intelligently controlled, non-laminar flow is great for many corals. Sure, you don't want a direct return from a powerhead blasting the tissue off of a coral skeleton, but you want strong water movement, even for corals that come from so-called "low flow" environments. That term is certainly a relative one! I mean, have you ever waded out into a lagoon? These supposedly "low flow" environments have pretty strong currents, actually, and will push you around if you allow them to. So, you really can't have too much flow, in my opinion. Our systems have strong, yet indirect flow configurations across the board, and we grow a wide variety of corals without any apparent negative issues caused by water movement.

    Light is of course, important, as it's the source of energy that drives the physiological processes that happen within the coral tissues. Light is a hot topic among reefers, as we all know, but I think we go a bit too crazy with it. one of the things that we've learned in our propagation efforts is that not every coral needs to get blasted by intense light to be healthy and happy...Nope! In fact, the term "moderate" is a beautiful thing, as it will encourage us to not go light happy with our corals. Obviously, some shallow water Acropora species do better under high light intensities, and you should provide the frags with the intensity they require to grow and color up. However, a large number of species do quite well in lower light intensities, provided other parameters are met.

    In fact, some corals, such as Chalices, prefer very minimal light, and will often react poorly to even "moderate" light. I think I told you that the outer edge of our Chalice frag section in one of our raceways, illuminated by Kessil A350W's has a PAR value of...7! And our Chalices are as colorful a collection as you'll see anywhere, as visitors to our facility, and many happy customers nationwide can attest. As a rule, I'd make the default assumption that any Chalice frag you start with has come from a very dim lighting environment. You can always acclimate the frag slowly to a brighter lighting regimen. Keyword "slowly", as rapid lighting changes will negatively affect virtually any coral. It's always easier to save a coral frag that has been affected by too little lighting than it is to save one that has been fried by too much light, in my experience. With all of the great lighting choices we have available nowadays, it's easier than ever to keep your frags happy!

    Other environmental parameters, such as calcium, alkalinity, temperature, etc. all play a role in the health of your coral frags. However, in my experience, it's best to look at the overall picture, and think in terms of stability, as opposed to being fixated on specific values. Most of your frags will "tell" you when they are not happy, believe me!

    In my experience, one of the single most important parameters to monitor is alkalinity. Higher alkalinity values, around 10DKH or so, seem to be indicative of overall environmental stability. Slipping alkalinity levels will almost always result in issues with your frags, believe me. It's the most important of the "basic" parameters (other than making sure you're keeping your corals in saltwater, LOL) to follow, IMO.

    I've never been a big fan of additives per se, because in the past, hobbyists tended to add things to their systems based on manufacturer's recommendations and marketing, rather than the needs of their systems. This often resulted in mysterious algae blooms, etc. which we would rather all avoid! Let water testing dictate what you need to add. One substance that I would add to my frag tank, however, would be potassium. This element is used up rapidly by corals, and is responsible in a big way for coral coloration, and is used often in coral farming. We are experimenting with levels over the NSW level, and results have been very encouraging. Coloration has been fantastic!

    Another good practice with coral frags is to give them some space! We need to take into account how large they are going to grow, and how they will interact with other corals in our system. Place your corals with enough room for them to grow and not take each other out with allelopathic "turf warfare" in your reef! That little Millie frag today will become that insane thicket tomorrow, so keep that in mind!

    Well, there is a very quick, very dirty little rundown on just some of the many, many things that you can do to help assure that your frags get off to a good start. Obviously, there are a million things I didn't touch on here, and there are dozens more tips and tricks to help make your little frags grow into big colonies! I'd like to hear your tricks and ideas that you use to grow those little frags into big, healthy colonies. We'll keep this "open source", so that we can all learn together from this stuff!

    So...have at it! Share..maybe we can make this a "sticky" on this forum...

    Remember, frags are literally the future of the hobby, and will enable us to continue to learn, share, and grow together, while helping conserve the world's reefs!

    Thanks,

    Scott Fellman
    Unique Corals

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