Aquaculture is defined as the science, art, and business of cultivating marine or freshwater organisms under controlled conditions. Depending on the scale one wishes to pursue, aquaculture can be accomplished in a container as small as a 10-gallon fish tank or as large as the sea on a south pacific open-ocean coral farm. As long as adequate light, stable water conditions, and food are provided, many types of coral can be kept and propagated for resale.
Benefits of Buying Aquacultured Corals Coral that are freshly imported are exposed to extreme conditions. It is no picnic for them to be removed from the ocean, stored in a holding facility, then sent overseas into another holding facility before finally making it to the tanks of retailers and customers. The stress of transportation alone can be lethal, and it is not uncommon to have seemingly healthy colonies take a quick turn for the worse. Not only is the shipping stressful, their new environment is stressful. The difference in water chemistry of the tanks during the supply chain can also lead to unstable corals.
Aquacultured corals on the other hand are generally more hardy as they have been growing under home aquarium-like conditions. Once it is time to ship aquacultured coral, it is coming from a domestic location greatly cutting down on the amount of time the coral is in transit. All of these factors lead to a higher rate of survival which benefits everyone involved, especially the corals!
Frag Swaps Tidal Gardens is highly supportive of frag swaps as great venues to buy and sell aquacultured corals. Take a look at the video below to see what they are all about:
Coral Reproduction Corals reproduce either sexually or asexually. Some coral species rely on one type more than another, but both play a major role in the coral population as a whole. Coral spawning in home aquariums is not unheard of, but is uncommon. The main reason coral spawning is uncommon in most home aquariums is because there is evidence that coral spawning behavior is tied to lunar cycles. Most home aquariums do not simulate the phases of the moon (although some newer fixtures are incorporating this feature into their products).
Here at the greenhouse I imagined it could be possible that the corals were spawning, but I never expected to witness it because I do not regularly spend time looking at the corals at night. Recently however, I was looking at the corals in the early morning when it was still dark out and saw one of my torch corals releasing eggs!
Perhaps in the future sexual reproduction of corals will be a sustainable method of propagation. In the mean time however, the majority of propagation techniques make use of a particular coral's asexual methods of reproduction, which include budding, fragmentation, fission, and polyp bailout.
Budding A coral reproducing through the budding process forms a small polyp ball that slowly droops off the mother colony. After a while the flesh that attaches the two tears away and the daughter colony resettles in another location. This method of asexual reproduction is very common in stony corals.
Fragmentation Reproduction through fragmentation occurs when a piece (fragment) of a coral is broken off of a mother colony and resettles to form a new daughter colony. Fragmentation is very common in branching stony corals. Most of the corals available for sale here at Tidal Gardens were produced through this method.
As a coral farmer, it is important to follow a few simple guidelines to ensure the success of the new fragments. First, one should select a healthy specimen for fragmentation. An unhealthy mother colony or one that has not completely acclimated is at risk of developing an infection after fragmentation. In emergency situations where the mother colony appears fatally ill, it makes sense to fragment it in hopes that one of the daughter colonies survive. In most cases however, choosing a healthy specimen is recommended. Second, the new frags as well as the original colony would benefit from increased flow. The fragmentation process is a stressful one, and often results in elevated mucus production. Washing a way the mucus will help the corals recover.
It is important to note that some corals do not respond well to fragmenting. Large polyp stony corals for example often do not survive fragmentation, so the coral farmer has to have some level of understanding regarding the regenerative ability of the coral before hacking away. Some elementary research before attempting to fragment a new species is always recommended. There may be new techniques that result in higher success rates out there.
Fission A common method among corallimorphs is fission. Fission is the lengthwise split of an individual polyp resulting in the generation of two separate polyps. After the polyps pinch off and separate, the margins of each polyp regenerate and form whole polyps with the original shape.
Polyp Bailout Polyp bailout is the process where some stony corals eject themselves from their skeleton and drift to a new location. Once the polyp settles, a new skeleton is formed and a new colony begins. Bailouts are almost always a response to stress and is often a last ditch attempt for survival. If you notice the bailout of a coral in your tank, it may be time to do some additional testing to see if there is a problem in the reef tank.