Everyone has seen the scene in a Western movie where the gunslinger walks into the dark saloon and the light from outside is so blinding that no one can really make him out. This week I had a similar experience, but in opposite. As I came in from the bright Florida sun I was nevertheless blinded as I entered the front of World Wide Corals.
While it was bright outside, the intense blue light and even more intense coloration of the corals in their tanks temporarily blinded me as I entered. Usually one is blinded by white light, but the only thing white in any of the tanks at that time was Casper, the defacto white “Yellow” tang that is housed in the front tank of their shop.
It actually took several minutes for my eyes to adjust, but once they did I remembered that white light is actually composed when all the colors are blended together. So it was no wonder I was blinded as virtually every color imaginable can be seen in the collection of corals that Victor, Lou, Ryan and their staff have collected and put together.
I have known Victor and Lou for going on eight years, and one of their employees Chris Turnier for almost 20 and we became friends almost from the moment we met. I know that some who read this column get upset as I seem to write about my friends often. Which I do. But I will be honest and let you know that I won’t write about my enemies. When I write about my friends I write to let you know what they are doing that is unique, innovative or how it may help or shape the hobby in the future. In this regard, my trip to World Wide Corals (WWC), as I continue my world tour, was well worth it.
For those of you who do not know Victor and Lou, they have been running WWC for going on ten years. And over this time, they have set out and achieved being at the cutting edge of many shops in the country. They were one of the first shops that was built around the concept of selling frags of the corals they had propagated rather than selling wild colonies, but they did not want to be a chop shop.
They started being the supplier of many of the rare chalices, when they were all the rage, but during this time they were also preparing for the future and started stocking up on the most colorful sps, lps and zoas they could find, all the time increasing the number of mother colonies from which to draw. And while they have fish, as with many of us, fish are kind of in the background compared to the corals. And once you see the corals they have you actually kind of forget about the fish.
They have also been the main force behind the highly successful Reefapalooza events and moving it out of California and into Florida and the East Coast so that more of us could attend. And they were also as far as I know, the first to set up live sales on the internet. I thought they were crazy when they started the 24-hour live sale right after Black Friday several years ago.
I still remember watching the first couple for almost 20 hours, I can’t hang like I used to, and marvel at how many great corals they posted and how many I wanted, but luckily was not fast enough on my keyboard to get. And they are even having another sale next weekend, that as always I will follow lest I not see a coral that I want to put on my wish list for the next time I visit.
Fortunately, they still have more colorful corals than just about anyone I have seen. Visiting their shop is like going to a frag swap, because as soon as you walk in, you don’t know where to look first. To your left, is the 300 gallon sps and lps display housing Casper and a pair of beautiful designer clownfish. It is now illuminated with Radion G4 Pros, the first full tank I have seen using them, and it is dazzling.
While directly in front of you as you walk in the door is a nano tank housing some of the best
acans Micro Lords I’ve seen, in a cluster as well as a uniquely colored and healthy bubble tip anemone and lots of nano colonies of things that you don’t see many places. But those both pale once you see the magnificent 500 gallon sps tank that dominates the room.
This tank has now been up for a little over 4 years and during that time they have filled it with some of the most colorful corals they have come across and allowed many of them to grow to their full potential. One of which, and I am happy to say, I traded the original frag of to Victor 6 years ago, is a massive colony, possibly the largest in existence, of the true paletta pink tip Acropora.
This colony measures over 2 feet across at the top and as is somewhat unique about this coral, it really does not grow up and sprout branches until it has thoroughly encrusted at the base, which you can easily see. In addition to this there are at least another half dozen large Acropora colonies that show how impressive large colonies can be as well as at least a dozen encrusting Montiporas along the bottom glass of the tank constantly battling one another for space.
But it is only when you look carefully that you see that Victor and Lou have filled in every nook and cranny of this tank with something unusual to look at. It may be a red or orange Diaseris growing on the side of an overhang, or one of their classic chalices that is as beautiful today as it was when it was “the” coral to have five years ago or a stylo or cyphastrea that could be overlooked due to the overwhelming color surrounding it.
Then to take it to the next step they have added a 900-gallon display that is just over 18-months old in the back. This tank is usually not for the general public to see, which is a shame, but it houses over 500 different coral frags, mini-colonies and colonies according to my estimate. This tank was set up from only frags that were deemed to be worth growing into colonies.
As a result, it will be possible to see what a particular frag will look like once it grows to a colony. This tank is only 18 months old, and new frags that were deemed worthy have been added throughout this time. So while the tank is impressive now, it will be incredible in another year once most corals have grown out. This tank coincides with the last big step that they took, and that was to set up an in-house coral farm to grow fragments from corals that they deemed to be worth growing.
And while I know this is not a new or novel concept, the size, scope and attention to detail along with Victor’ passion for finding and getting the most colorful corals out there make it a potential boon for those of us always on the lookout for rare colorful corals. To do this, they set up a farm in their back room that houses 4 approximately 500-gallon glass tanks that can house approximately 5000 frags per tank as well as three 200-gallon runway tanks.
As someone who purchases a lot of frags, it was interesting to see how they kept track of which coral is which, considering how many different corals they have. So in order to do this, each coral plug is numbered with a water resistant pen and a log has been developed that says what number corresponds with which coral.
I found that this is even more useful there, as they have found that it is beneficial to regularly move the plugs from one rack to a new clean rack in order to keep the plugs from encrusting onto the racks and also so that any algae or other wanted material can be removed from the plugs before it becomes problematic. This attention to detail is one of the aspects of WWC that to me differentiates them from other farmers.
All of this would have been enough for me to keep Victor and Lou at the top echelon of shops and coral propagators, but they are now embarking on doing even more. Because or the success of the current farm, where they move an average of 1000 frags a week, they have decided to more than double their farming capacity. So in order to do this they have set up an additional 16 400-gallon tanks in a facility adjacent to their current one.
In these they hope to propagate at least an additional 100,000 frags per year. This may sound like a lot, but because of the 9 years they have spent collecting colorful corals and cultivating friendships their goal is to have the kind of colorful corals we all want available pretty much all the time. So they are committing the space resources and their expertise in order to do this. They also hope to take a lot of the “guesswork” out of purchasing corals online be developing a catalog of the corals they sell that will show the mother colony as well as what the coral looks like under both white or blue light.
Something I hope a lot of coral purveyors take note of and also eventually do. I was also thoroughly impressed with the level of quarantine that Victor is implementing for this new facility. It is basically a three-part system, which when in operation will keep any new corals from being added to it from month to month, while the whole time in quarantine, the frags will be dipped regularly to insure no pests or pathogens are present anywhere in the grow out tanks or when they come to us. Considering all the nasty hitchhikers and pests that our success has wrought, it is great to see that a propagator of corals of this size, understands our concern about how one of these pests can decimate our tanks.
As I am writing this, Lou and Victor are making preparations for the potential damage that hurricane Matthew can do to their area. They bought enough generators to handle all of their tanks flow needs and cooling should the power go out, as well as enough gasoline to keep things functioning for at least a couple of days. But unlike me, who would have just bought everything and hoped for the best, while I was there they actually took their tanks offline and made sure that what they had was capable of covering their potential needs even gong to the point of figuring how to run the generators so that the exhaust would go out of the facility even during strong winds.
This level of commitment is further demonstrated by Lou volunteering to miss his birthday and stay at the shop all night to man the generators should the need arise. So hopefully the forecasters will be wrong and the storm will head out to sea and miss them and the rest of the east coast. I should note though that as a precaution while I was there I did bring back some corals just in case.
I have been visiting WWC and Lou and Victor for over 6 years and in that time I have never seen their passion for the hobby wane. As a fellow coral addict, I know when I am in the company of fellow addicts. So for those of you who have not had the opportunity to visit WWC and see more colorful corals than I am willing to wager you have ever seen before, I strongly suggest that when you book your visit to Orlando and get your family in line for Space Mountain or to see Harry Potter, that you make an excuse and sneak off for the 2 hours they will be waiting and go to the main attraction for reef addicts I know.
Lastly as I was leaving the shop to head to the airport before the hurricane hit, Victor was also leaving. So I said to him “where are you going at a time like this?” With a smile on his face and a twinkle in his eye he calmly said I am going to get corals”. That pretty much said it all. Hope you and all the people who face the hurricane got through it safely. In late breaking news they came the hurricane relatively unscathed, which is great news. I hope it is the same for all of you out there facing it.