One of the more recent “pests” becoming prevalent in mariculture is a small crustacean that resembles a mite.

It is nearly impossible to see without a magnifying glass at a mere ½ mm in length, but this crustacean is yellow in color with a red dot and appears to prefer species of Acropora corals.

This particular parasite wears its “red bug” moniker proudly. It has been theorized that these red bugs are either a parasitic form of copepod or micro-amphipod, though little research has been done to uncover their true identity.

Parasites and pathogens can—and should—be avoided when choosing your corals, so pay careful attention to where you purchase them from. Many experienced reef hobbyists understand the damage red bugs and flat worms inflict upon a reef system. That is one of many reasons why maricultured corals are becoming more popular in the industry today.

Here are some things to look for when choosing corals for your aquarium:

  1. See if your current vendor and/or local pet store carry maricultured corals. If not, ask them to order them!
  2. Observe the husbandry and quarantine techniques of your local pet store. Ask them how they would administer treatment if the need arose. Also, don’t be afraid to ask what measures they take to ensure their systems are free of pests and pathogens.
  3. Never take a fellow hobbyists’ word that their system is free and clear of pests when trading frags. You must quarantine all new specimens until you are sure that the colony is free of unwanted organisms and are adjusted to their new environment. This is a perfect time to acclimate new arrivals to the water and lighting conditions used in your main system.

Despite the many pros, there are several downfalls to maricultureing products.

Waste can leak into bodies of water and contaminate that ecosystem. Excessive feeding and treatments that would not occur naturally in the wild can sometimes leach out if handled carelessly by farmers. Cleaning supplies, chemicals, overfeeding and sedimentation can be released back into the ocean if mariculture is not practiced thoughtfully under stringent regulation.

The flipside, “black market” mariculture, can alter or decimate reefs altogether due to a lack or understanding or concern for the surrounding wildlife.

The good news is more and more conservationists are teaming together to thwart such bootleg operations. The Global Coral Reef Alliance (GCRA) is comprised of several large mariculture farming operations and operates under a stern code of aquaculture ethics and guidelines.

A great way to lend support to conservation and preservation efforts is to patronize local pet shops that deal only with reputable mariculture facilities and/or groups. Strike up a conversation with your vendor/supplier and ask whether they get their corals from mariculture or the wild.

Some popular, eco-friendly mariculture and frag suppliers include:

  • fish, inverts, coral, etc.
  • ORA: Supplier of corals, clams and clownfish
  • Walt Smith International: Supplier, live rock, coral and fish
  • Pacific Aqua Farms: Supplier, live rock and corals
  • Frag Farmer: Supplier of corals and rarities; “frag specialist”
  • Atlantis Aquarium: Supplier of corals and rarities; “frag specialist,” fish

Knowledge is power. Use the knowledge you have acquired as a practicing reef keeper and share it with other hobbyists and local groups to empower them and change the way they think.

Sure, it might be fun to get a saltwater tank and throw a bunch of life into it. But unless you take the time to educate yourself about the bigger picture, you may never truly see things in the proper perspective.

Reefing is a lifestyle that should not be taken lightly.

Don’t get me wrong: I think everyone should experience the joy and awareness that comes with being a hobbyist. But I also think that before you dive in head first, you should do your homework and due diligence. You owe it to yourself… and the creatures whose lives you hold in your hand.

And with that, my mind begins to wander back to that tropical island paradise. I realize that my fantasy of being submersed in my own personal “aqua world” is only a dream. But hopefully a dream that will one day be fulfilled.

Whether it is an island or merely a small spot in the middle of nowhere, I hope my dream of operating a mariculture facility becomes reality one day soon. I cordially invite you all to join me and share the passion I have for this hobby … and the world!

Until next time … thanks for reading. Happy reefing!