Cherry picking corals from an ocean based coral farm is very much like picking ripe fruit from a tree. Otherwise known as mariculture, growing corals in the ocean offers the same advantages and disadvantages as growing of food crops.
On one hand you don’t have to worry about providing ocean-farmed corals with light, food, water flow or replenishing mineral balance and trace elements. But these outdoor corals are also subject to the whims of bad weather, temperature fluctuations and predation from parasites and predators.
On the other hand, with farmed corals you have access to vast numbers of the same produce, and it offers the opportunity to pick out the ‘best’ corals from the growing racks among many colonies of the same types. In the case of corals, we consider them ‘ripe’ for the picking when the corals have grown sufficiently from their starting frags, and we look for encrustations by SPS corals and good coverage of the coral base in LPS corals.
The most desirable corals will not be too small, but also not too large – both to get a good value for the amount of water and freight this coral will incorporate into its cost when shipped to its final destination, and also not too large so that the coral colony is of suitable aquarium size.
Also, among a hundred otherwise genetically identical corals, not all of them will have precisely the same color or colony shape. When cherry-picking farmed corals we look for the colonies that have the best combination of brilliant color and attractive colony shape.
Once the corals are selected, they must be processed much like farm grown fruit. Algae is cleaned from the bases, the weighty pegs are removed to facilitate and save on shipping, and all the corals are given a secondary inspection to ensure “quality and freshness”.
Earlier today we were snorkeling in ripping surf beach currents where Bali Aquarium grows many of their shallow water SPS corals. It wasn’t a cake walk, but it sure was worth it to harvest a picture perfect selection of maricultured corals. This crop is destined to ship to Unique Corals later this week and as you can see from the photos, they are going to have quite a fun time unpacking these perfectly ripe corals from Bali.