It’s not a stretch to say that the coral aquarium hobby is a fairly mature past time with more than a few decades of experience and refinement. After more than twenty years of intensive culture we have access to a huge variety of captive grown coral frags in virtually all the developed countries of the world but we’ve felt something missing for some time.
The harm and dangers of coral pests are well known and a significant market exists for coral dips, aiptasia and majano anemone eradicators and there’s nothing worse than a reef tank with healthy corals that are suffering from preventable pests. So tell us why after nearly two generations of reef keeping, and more coral farmers than ever before, do we not expect neigh demand that captive grown corals be pest free?
Fish vendors who sell unhealthy or sick fish get flamed and put on blast, dragged through the coals if they sell sick fish to anyone but somehow the same accountability is not expected of coral and frag vendors. It takes a lot of effort to personally dip, clean and inspect every coral we get and we typically resort to simply removing the base they come on but just one tainted coral can easily undo years of coral growth!
We’ve been pondering this imbalance between the hobby’s expectations of fish health and coral health for some time but the idea was crystallized when we came across the first instance of a coral vendor offering a “100% Pest Free Guarantee” of their corals. Leo Den Breejen has been a respected stony coral reef builder for sometime with hit reef displays like the Formosa Forest but more recently he has been offering coral frags to the European aquarium market.
While most coral vendors offer many different kinds of guarantees, ‘arrive alive’, ‘satisfaction’, ‘certified captive grown’, as far as we can tell Leonardo’s Reef Laboratories is the first one to offer a Pest-Free guarantee. You’d think that this kind of assurance from Leo’s Reef Lab would be worth a premium to prospective buyers but his coral frags are so affordable, they’re practically pocket change compared to the prices in the United States.
Think about it; you’ve spent thousands of dollars to set up your reef tank, carefully cycled the ecology of the microbes, battled through the successions of algaes and now you’re ready for the main event, corals. Is it fair that whether you buy cheap or expensive corals, from any number of reputable suppliers, the onus is still on you to dip, inspect and quarantine the corals and frags?
To be fair, freshly imported wild corals should be held to a lower standard of hygiene than strains of coral frags that have been in aquarium culture for decades. But if you’re spending a premium on coral frags – we’ve all seen the stratospheric sticker prices over the last year – is it really such a low bar to expect a $500 Acro stick to be guaranteed free of flatworms, nudis, red bugs, Bryopsis and Aiptasia?
We very rarely ask questions like we have in this article because we our mind is already made up. We are already of the opinion that ANY captive grown coral should be pest free instead of passing the buck to the customer to dip, inspect and quarantine their own corals. Nothing will change until more reefers expect and demand coral vendors to completely eradicate pests and parasites from the corals they sell, and hold them accountable, so we commend Leonardo’s Reef Lab for being the first to offer a Pest Free Guarantee, hopefully more companies will follow suit.