The Chicago Marine Aquarium Society (CMAS) held its annual “frag swap” today. This is where several vendors converge on a convention center to sell saltwater aquarium supplies and livestock. The main item for sale are pieces of living coral. Of course, they also had fish, snails, sea urchins, sponges, starfish, anemones, and other livestock for sale, too!
I saw some corals with asking prices of $6,000 — but that’s the exception (thankfully). Actually, the reason it is called a “frag swap” is because the common practice is to take a colony of coral and break it into small fragments and sell them for much less. For example, I saw some beautiful Zoanthids but the colony cost $400. They also sold individual polyps of that same coral for $20.
Although a single polyp can grow into a large colony, it could also die and you’d be out your $20. The small colony at $400 could lose some polyps without any noticeable difference. That kind of judgment call comes to the individual reefer.
A reefer is someone who owns a reef tank. Some people have fish-only tanks. Other people (like myself) have a reef tank — which has fish and coral (and often many varieties of invertebrates).
I am cheap and passed on the Zoanthids (both the colony AND the single polyp). I did pick up a large fighting conch as well as an abalone. I am very pleased with both. They are now the two largest invertebrates in the tank! The abalone is quite beautiful – it has a smooth shell covering its back with nine holes it breathes through. Under the shell is an elegant lacework on its sides.
I promise — I will take pictures and post them soon. For now, here is a picture of three species of coral that I have grown out in my tank: