Victor from World Wide Corals - 13 Secrets to Running a Successful Coral Farm
1. The Right Team and Experience
Bringing together a team of experienced coral growers and industry experts is paramount. With combined knowledge and efforts you can achieve the ultimate goal of growing healthy corals much faster and more efficiently.
2. Separate Wild from Aquaculture
Don't mix wild corals with your aquacultured corals for the sake of not transferring pests, parasites, and diseases. Remember, some of these things, including diseases, can be transferred through moisture in the air so 3 degrees of separation between the two separate systems are important to be successful.
3. Parasite Knowledge
There is more to coral parasites than aiptasia and flatworms. Understand new pests and parasites that you may have never encountered before will likely come on wild corals and be prepared to ID and deal with said pests. Take precautions and never relax when it comes to protecting your aquacultured corals from the threat of parasites.
Photo Courtesy of World Wide Corals
4. Equipment Maintenance
Your inventory (the coral) is alive and relies upon the life support equipment to survive. One lapse in equipment maintenance could be the difference between a living or dead coral. Since a dead coral cannot be propagated or sold, having equipment you can rely upon is fundamental to your success. Furthermore, well-maintained equipment lasts longer meaning you will get more for your money in terms of equipment lifespan.
5. Temperature Control / Humidity
The HVAC system and humidity control in your facility are incredibly important for maintaining the stability inside your aquaculture system. The equipment you need to maintain a suitable environment may need to be specialized depending on the particular conditions. For example, you will likely need a powerful HVAC system to maintain air temperature alongside something to control humidity. Furthermore, a facility located in Arizona will have different requirements from a facility in Florida because of the different ambient environments in these locals.
6. Leak Detectors
With hundreds if not thousands of gallons of water being contained, it's incredibly important to monitor for leaks. Even the tiniest of leaks can lead to fluctuations in salinity or worse yet, damage to your facility.
Photo Courtesy of World Wide Corals
7. Large Colonies Grow Faster
Larger colonies of corals grow faster than small frags. Always maintain "mother colonies" and allow them to stay large while breaking off small frags to "grow out" for sale. Be patient with new corals and allow them to grow into a sizable colony before attempting to frag them.
8. Having Sufficient Options
Diversify when it comes to different coral species. Not only does this help you appeal to a much wider audience of hobbyists but also ensures your revenue stream. If you don't have any SPS corals ready for market, you could have LPS and soft corals ready to go. Ideally, you will have a mix of all SPS, LPS, and soft corals at all times. You might not always have everything available, but never let your selections fall stagnant which means starting with a good variety.
9. Chemistry Owner
Assign one person to be responsible for water chemistry at all times. Test regularly and don't ignore deviations.
Photo Courtesy of Matthew Zahler
10. Checklists and Duties
Maintain a log, write down necessary tasks and ensure they get done. While this is good practice for home aquarists, it's absolutely crucial for success on a commercial coral farm or frag operation. Missing just ONE task can lead to the loss of corals.
11. Fragging When The Coral Is Happy
Never frag corals when they are stressed and don't chop things down. Related to keeping a mother colony, only take small frags from the mother when the coral is happy and healthy. This ensures a quick recovery and you will secure that particular strain of coral for future grow out. Don't get distracted by dollar signs and demand, if the coral isn't large enough to frag, wait it out.
12. Farm and Retail Together
Maintain your retail facility in close vicinity to the farm in order to reduce the stress upon your corals. When a coral is ready to market, moving it from the farm to your retail sales tanks is a matter of carrying the coral a very short distance. If selling corals online and shipping them, package and ship those corals directly at the farm. This will reduce any stress the corals may encounter during transit.
13. Use a Reliable Salt
Use a salt mix this is consistent and reliable. You don't want a salt mix that you cannot rely upon to provide very consistent parameters. One bad batch of salt can pose a threat to your entire aquaculture facility. Choose from the handful of trusted, well-known brand names.