Coral Frag Swap 101

We all know starting an aquarium takes work. And if it’s a saltwater aquarium, it takes a little more work. You’ve got salinity to worry about, not to mention other pH factors and finicky corals (okay, maybe they’re not all finicky, but they do require love and attention.) Enter the Coral Frag Swap. It’s the best way to compare prices, meet other coral junkies and choose from a wide variety of coral fragments you might take home. The key is to know what to look for. To help, I’ve compiled a list of a five things you’ll want to know that people don’t always tell you:

1) Have a plan
If you go into the aquarium hobby with your eyes closed, you’ll only waste your time, money and – let’s face it – emotions. Don’t buy something just because you think you might need it. Don’t buy a coral frag just because it looks pretty or is cheaper than others. And above all, remember that this hobby takes time. Make sure you know what you’re getting into. This leads us into the next tip!

Hobe Sound Frags owner Brad Beese shares tips on coral swaps, building and aquarium and more.

2) Educate yourself
Remember that corals are live animals. And, the frags can be expensive, depending on the type, the dealer, or time (and money) it took to cultivate the frag into a healthy one. Do your research. Talk to multiple experts. Get the right products for your tank to sustain your coral. Learn about the different types of corals, fish, tank size pros and cons, maintaining pH and more.

Coral frags at the Palm Beach Marine Aquarium Society frag swap.

3) Have patience
Invest in the hard work. It may take time and energy, but the result of a gorgeous and healthy tank is worth it. Jay’s Clownfish owner Mike Garateix says not to “stock your tank with all the pretty stuff” immediately. People who try to buy cheaper fish and spend as little money as possible, he says, won’t get very far. “You can’t skimp on anything – the filtration, the food or the fish,” Garateix says. That’s why he believes people often give up the hobby after just a few years – because it’s a big investment that takes time.

Aquarium hobbyist Matt Fraser shares his thoughts on swaps, corals and more.

4) Build the tank around your favorite coral
Because who wants to take care of corals they don’t like? Corals are beautiful when they’re taken care of properly, so don’t be afraid to pick your desired coral and base the rest of your tank environment off of it. Just make sure you do some research ahead of time and you’re right as red coral.

Starting your aquarium off right starts with high-quality products and lots of patience.

5) Fear not
Don’t be afraid to compare corals between vendors or negotiate prices. There are tons of frags to choose from, even at a small swap. Check that the corals look good. If they don’t, do not purchase them. It’s okay to be skeptical – otherwise you could end up with a tank of unhealthy coral. To ensure germ-free frags, Amanda Whitman of Hydra Aquatics International recommends “one shots” from ME Coral. They’re a cleanser that helps reduce the risk of a parasite-ridden coral contaminating everything else in your tank.

In the end, coral frag swaps can be summarized in three words: Lots of fun! Visiting a frag swap might intimidate the beginner at first – but at the end of the day, it’s a bunch of great people who care about a great hobby. The Palm Beach Marine Aquarium Society Frag Swap (where I visited for this article) is a great example. Remember to enjoy the process. Sometimes the unexpected happens – whether good or bad. And if you educate yourself, have patience and worry less, the process will become easier. Like many marine organisms, as long as you go with the flow, you’ll do just fine.