The “Pick of the Reef” section of our website, located in the live fish area, is filled with some gorgeous corals and frags. One of the great things about that section is that it is what you see is what you get, so the photo of the item you look at on our website is the actual item we will ship to you. This lets a customer really know what they should expect, and 9 times out of 10 I hear back from those who shop from that section of our site that the corals they have received look MUCH better in person than they do on the site and they looked great on the site. That is a product of our camera, our computer which our photographer uses to process the photos to upload, and the purchaser’s computer. When buying aquarium fish or corals online, there will always be some small differences in color between the real thing and a photo. There are many reasons for this, but to sum it up we don’t “doctor” our photos to artificially color them up, and we don’t take the photos only under actinic blue lights like so many sellers do online. We like you to be able to see the coral as close to reality as possible, and if anything they will have more color when you receive them and not less. I have heard so many times from customers that this is a wonderful surprise, and is the opposite of what they are used to.
The coral frags we sell are all fragged here in the United States. They aren’t imported from other countries where they were grown in lagoons, or from places where the corals are collected and cut up and shipped out with the glue barely set. There is nothing wrong at all with growing corals out in lagoons in foreign countries, that is just not the route we have chosen to go. The frags we sell are about 99% from a local coral greenhouse about 20 minutes from our building, and the other 1% or less are frags we bring in from time to time from ORA which is located in Ft. Piece Florida at their facility on the Harbor Branch campus of Florida Atlantic University. Corals to be fragged come into the greenhouse where they are allowed to settle in before being subjected to the stress of being cut into frags and mounted on cured aragonite sand based coral plugs. Frags are cut using a variety of methods and tools, depending on who is doing the fragging. The owner of our greenhouse (who also works for us in our fish room) uses bone cutters, scalpels, and a band saw with a very fine blade…yes….a band saw. Demonstrations have been done by some of the biggest names in the coral hobby, where they will take a coral and put it on a table saw to cut it into segments for research but our cuttings are a bit more surgical. After the cut piece of coral is attached to a blank coral plug it is set aside in the greenhouse to recover and to encrust onto the plug which can take several weeks. This is very different than what many coral frag sellers will do, which is to offer a piece for sale the day they cut it and they charge 4x the price we do for the same type of coral.
Once the frags and larger corals come in to us from the greehouse, they are settled in to a temporary home here in our fish room in very large coral tubs beneath 400 watt 14,000k metal halide lights. Each piece is carefully located in the system so that it is in an area with the proper light for that particular type of coral. SPS coral spots are directly under the bulbs of our lighting, while zoanthids are on the outer edges where the light is less intense. After all of the pieces have a day to settle in, our photographer goes through the system and shoots a photo of every new arrival. They are shot just as they are, under full lighting, and not under only actinics. We want our customers to see what the coral really looks like, and the phenomenal color and quality of the piece in full light is going to give a potential buyer the best feel for how it may look in their own aquarium. Once the photos are taken, our photographer will resize the images for posting on our website. Then it is my job to get size information, assign pricing and descriptions to each item, and get them up on our website for sale. Pick of the Reef has new pieces posted every Friday, and I have many customers who eagerly wait for that day so they can run through the new corals and put orders together. Since every piece is one of a kind, when a piece is sold there will never be another one exactly like it. If you’re serious about your reef aquarium, and you want to know exactly what you are buying, be sure to check out Pick of the Reef each week for the best we have to offer!