Coral Fragging

Nano Reef Aquariums and the Advent of Coral Fragging

Albert J. Thiel




It is undeniable that over the last few years a large number of advances have occurred in the Reef-Keeping Hobby, not the least of which is that Hobbyists are now able to successfully nurture and grow very delicate corals such as Acropora, Echinophyllia, Oxypora, Mycedium and other highly desirable species.

 However, an even more important change is the advent and ability to frag parts off a large coral and use those small coral parts, taken from a mother colony, to attract a large number of aspiring Hobbyists into setting up what is now referred to as Nano-Reefs. These are individuals who had an interest in setting up a reef aquarium but who, due to the high cost of stocking a reef tank, were not able or willing to make the decision to start up a reef tank. Fragging has changed all of that.

Let me clarify, many who are involved in the hobby, professionally or even semi-professionally, acquire a fairly large coral specimen and then use various techniques to cut quite small parts off those large corals, glue them to what is referred to as a plug which is made of limestone, or another suitable material, and sell those coral frags to hobbyists who add them to their aquariums and regrow them to larger and larger sizes.

Why is fragging such an important development? Very simply because all those who wanted to enter the hobby but could not, or would not, due to the cost involved, are now able to acquire even the most desirable corals at a fraction of what they used to cost prior to the availability of coral frags.

Could this simple change make that large a difference and convince so many that they could now justify setting up a marine coral reef tank? Indeed, and to use just one example, a mother Echinopora coral of a decent size was retailing for upwards of as much as $1,000 (£ 675.00) before fragging came about. A frag of the same coral can now be purchased for less than $100.00 (£ 67.50). These lower prices are not limited to the so-called Chalice corals mentioned earlier, but are a fact across the board for all corals that used to fetch a very high price.

Acropora species corals, for instance, were selling for prices upwards of several hundreds of dollars whereas frags of even the ultra special species can now be purchased for less than $100.00 (£ 65.00) and even less for the more common varieties.

Besides the large reduction in the cost of stocking one’s reef, the other change that convinced so many to get into the hobby is the appearance of the Nano-Reef concept. Not only were the life forms now that much more affordable, but all the equipment needed to set up a Nano-Reef are far less costly than what it used to entail to set up a full-fledged reef aquarium.

Without the advent of the Frags and the Nano-Reef Aquariums, tanks ranging from as low as 10 gallons up to perhaps 30 gallons, the reef hobby saw a large growth which is confirmed not only by the number of reef aquarium hobbyist clubs but also by the increase in the number of marine pet stores and the large change in what they now stock versus what they used to stock, so in essence fragging and Nano Reefs have helped the pet store industry as well.

In addition fragging and Nano-Reefs also contribute to reducing the hobby’s impact on the environment, as far fewer of the fragable corals are now being collected from the reefs. The impact may still not be as significant as it could be, but fragging is certainly starting to make an impact and will continue to do as more and more fragging takes place.

Fragging has evolved to the point where hobbyists themselves are now not only making cuttings of delicate corals but also of other Nano-Reef life forms including the many species of Corallimorpharia such as quite a few of the so-called Mushrooms species of the Discosoma and Rhodactis types.

As this trend continues, and there is no reason why it will not, more and more individuals will be attracted to the marine reef hobby, but more particularly to the Nano-Reef type part of it, given that the entrance cost to the reef hobby has decreased so much, and also given that the variety of corals and other organisms that can be kept in Nano-Reefs is now so much greater thanks to, especially, the increasing number of marine life forms that are successfully being fragged.

 So how does one acquire frags for one’s Nano-Reef?  Initially most hobbyists may purchase them from pet stores, but as they become more knowledgeable, and have perhaps joined an aquarium club or society, many frags will be acquired at the so-called frag swaps, swaps that seem to be happening more and more frequently and in more and more areas.

Although fragging has been around for a few years now it is only in the last 4 or so years that it has really taken off, and this has led to more and more hobbyists being aware of them, and even researching where and when some of them will be happening.

This is a good omen for the Nano-Reef Aquarium Hobby. I encourage anyone who has been thinking about reef aquariums to consider setting up a Nano-Reef and starting off their tanks with a nice selection of frags.

It is a wonderful hobby and I wish all readers a very enjoyable Nano-Reefkeeping experience.

Albert J. Thiel

About the author 
Albert J. Thiel is the founder of legendary Thiel AquaTech (Active during the 90's) and a pioneer of many of the current reef keeping methods widely used today. Albert has been invited as a guest speaker to may international aquarium conferences and In 1989 he published possibly the first book on what we now call ‘nano reefing’ entitled, Small Reef Aquarium Basics – for smaller tanks and for beginner hobbyists. Other notable works include  The Marine Fish and Invert Reef AquariumAdvanced Reefkeeping IAdvanced Reefkeeping IIThe New Marine Fish and Invert Reef Aquarium.