This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
Article & Images by Richard Ross
eef hobbyists can spend years growing and ﬁlling out a collection of unique corals. Given the time and money involved, it seems crazy not to have some kind of insurance, some kind of coral ‘bank’ to draw corals from for when your tank crashes for any of the billion reasons that tanks crash. This idea of banking coral may also go beyond the understandably self-serving quest to restock a tank, as it seems there is almost always legislation looming on the horizon that could shut down or severely limit coral imports and exports. Banking your corals beneﬁts the entire reef keeping community by helping to ensure that various strains of coral are propagated in captivity and available to hobbyists.
I have had a lot of ﬁrsthand experience with coral banking. Last December, I did three things wrong at the same time with my home reef which resulted in a Kalkwasser overdose. I lost 98% of my SPS corals. It turns out a pH of 10.5 is bad for SPS! (you can read the full, gruesome story in the fall 2009 issue of Reefs magazine available at www.manhattanreefs.com) Like all such events, this was horrible and a major pain to deal with, but there was one silver lining that kept ﬂashing through my mind while removing buckets of dead coral from my tank – most of my corals could be easily replaced because they had been backed up in other hobbyists’ systems. There are many ways to approach the creation of a coral bank. Some are more robust than others and some are easier to access than others. In the end, I think the important part about coral banking is to start doing it immediately because you never know when Murphy is going to visit your system. In this article, we’ll look at some of the various methods of banking corals.
This birdsnest colony was grown from a frag reacquired after the tank crashed.
I still have the tort pictured here because I backed it up early.
I personally collected this tenuis in Tonga and would have lost it except it was backed up with friends.
RHM sponsored Midwest Marine Conference is May 21-23 in Bloomﬁeld Hills, Michigan. www.midwestmarineconf.org
I know there are a lot of vendors selling corals, and vendors can be thought of as a coral bank; if you have a tank crash, simply re-buy the corals you want to replace. This can work well with some of the vendors who are more into culturing coral strains, but not all of them are, which means the coral you want to replace may not be available when you want it. Also, the reality is that vendors come and go, which can limit the availability of a speciﬁc coral. We are seeing more vendors look at long term sales and availability as a business model, and hopefully that trend will catch on and expand. There are also a growing number of suppliers whose business is to propagate and make available corals over the long term. If you have a good relationship with a vendor, make sure they know the coral bank idea is a two way street. Vendors lose corals or have system crashes from time to time and are just as pleased as any of us when they can easily replace a lost, treasured coral strain.
large enough pool of coral, nor a robust enough system of backing up corals in the long run. That said, an informal group of friends as a coral bank is way better than nothing, and can be maximized by splitting corals among the group at the time of purchase.
A group of friends
A coral bank can be as simple as a group of friends selling or trading corals back and forth. I started banking my corals years ago among a group of local reefers and it was a fulﬁlling way to spread corals around and hopefully get them back if there was a problem. However, I don’t think a small group of friends trading corals is a
Reef clubs offer a variety of ways to bank your corals. My local club, Bay Area Reefers (BAR), grew out of a group of friends as mentioned above which meant that, at the very least, the size of the informal coral bank got bigger. The online-forum based communication that most reef clubs utilize is a great way to organize trades, and to appeal to a larger audience when you are looking to replace corals. Club meetings are ideal events to trade corals for backup as are the popular coral fragging events. In short, reef clubs are set up to facilitate coral banking. Some clubs put on frag swap meets where people sell and trade corals. My local club does a frag swap where the frags are actually swapped – no sales. The corals are all brought to the event in reusable containers (no bags), and put out on tables. The people who bring corals are assigned to a picking group and then the groups take turns picking coral until there are no corals left to pick. These kinds of events can serve as a de facto coral bank because they accomplish the major goal of coral banking spreading the corals around.
Upgrade to fixtures that offer features and reliability not currently found in the market!
M ARIU AQU ORE T OUR AT Y D PET S FOR E AN
BSIT WE IONS O SEE OCATI L
W NOABLE! IL
Six-Lamp T5 HO Light Fixture Series
With six lamps across, these ﬁxtures offer more controlled light in a compact footprint!
�� Special 420/460 Lamps produce a mix of actinic and blue light to beneﬁt most corals and enhance ﬁsh colors. �� 10,000K Lamps with high PAR value help corals to photosynthesize. �� Built-in Fans keep the ﬁxture cool and direct heat away from the aquarium. �� Optional Suspension Kit for various mounting conﬁgurations. �� Available in 36" / 48" / 72"
BR I NGING THE O CE A N TO YOU, AN YO U, W H E R EVE R YOU MAY B E.
WWW.AQUATICLIFE.COM DEALER INQUIRIES WELCOME. CALL 1-888-548-3480
TANK TIPS & TRICKS
Organized back up – “Don’t Break the Chain”
Bay Area Reefers’ frag swaps were going well, but we were always trying to ﬁnd ways to encourage generosity and ways to get people motivated to bring lots of quality corals to the event without worrying about what they were going to get in return. One of the successful motivators was the idea of banking corals, and it just made sense for people to spread the wealth of corals around in case they ever needed replacements. At the same time, it was felt that a more organized program would be helpful in banking coral strains. The idea of a ‘pay it forward’ propagation program was suggested – you do something nice for someone now (give them coral), and in the future someone will do something nice for you (give you coral) – and the Don’t Break the Chain (DBTC) program was born. The idea behind the program was very simple – people start chains for particular corals, and they determine the ‘rules’ that govern who gets the coral. This means very little administration is needed to coordinate the program. The rules can be basically anything, but almost every chain we have has a form of the following ‘If I lose my colony of this coral, you agree to give me the next available frag’. The pros and cons of the DBTC program were covered on page 14 of RHM’s Second Quarter 2008, Volume 2 issue (www. reefhobbyistmagazine.com), so I won’t go into details here except to say the program is a massive success, and more to the point, plenty of tanks have been at least partially restocked through the program. One of the best things about DBTC is that records of each transaction are kept by software, so if you lose a coral, it’s very easy to ﬁnd someone else who has it.
for me to feel comfortable fragging them. Some were going to be fragged when I got around to it. Sadly, those corals are now gone, and may never be replaced. If only I had bothered to cut them when I was thinking about it, I would have them again today.
Doesn’t this hurt local reef stores?
When BAR started the DBTC program, some people were worried that all of the organized giving away of corals would negatively impact local reef stores’ sales. In my experience, this seems to be an empty worry and it seems that these kinds of programs don’t negatively impact sales, and may actually serve to increase excitement around the hobby in general. It is also gratifying to see local vendors taking part in the DBTC program and frag swaps. I hope this article has convinced you to do some type of coral banking because it’s good for you, the corals, and ultimately, the hobby as a whole. One ﬁnal thought - in my experience, coral banking is most successful if people are generous about it; the more coral we give away, the more likely people will give us coral when we need it. So, get banking!
Beyond the local
Living in California, earthquakes are always at the back of reef keepers’ minds. In regards to coral banking, the worry is that a decent sized earthquake could literally crash not only my tank, but the tanks of everyone local that has the same coral strains. I am lucky enough to travel around the US to reef keeping events and when I do, I usually bring corals for my hosts and usually end up going home with corals from my hosts, which is a great way to extend a local coral bank network. The DBTC program has started to reach out to sister clubs as well, offering the Interclub DBTC where clubs send boxes of frags to each other which then get distributed to the members as an extended coral bank. This can come in handy not just in the aftermath of some larger emergency, but also for speciﬁc reef keeping emergencies like the fast proliferation of a particular coral pest in a region. Red bugs, Monti-Eating Nudibranchs and Acro-Eating Flatworms have all done damage to local captive populations of corals and it would have been great to know that those prized corals were still thriving on the other side of the country. I think the Interclub DBTC is a great program, not just for the practical considerations of coral banking, but because of ‘cross pollination’ of ideas between clubs – it is amazing how differently two different groups of people can ﬁnd different solutions to similar issues.
This acro was never backed up. Consequently, when it was lost, it was lost.
Don’t be lazy
Before my tank crash, I had a couple of corals that I hadn’t spread around. Some were collected by me and hadn’t grown out enough
Almost every SPS in my tank had to be re-grown from backed up frags. Here is the tank 1 year post-crash, as nice as ever!
RHM sponsored MACNA 2010 is September 3-5 in Orlando, Florida. www.macna2010.com