What’s this? It sounds like a technical abbreviation such as PAR, PUR,
DOM, DSB and the rest. They are all relevant to a marine aquarium whether it be a reef or fish only system.

No, this isn’t technical at all. No mumbo-jumbo. However, it is directly to do with the aquarist and his/her aquarium. Very much so. The reef aquarium in this case, and it doesn’t matter if it is a hard coral reef, soft coral reef, or a mixed reef.

We’ve all heard of global warming. I know, I know, but please don’t switch off! This is to do with global warming, but there isn’t going to be any doom and gloom and techno- babble. Well, to be truthful a little gloom just to set the picture.

Reefs are at risk from global warming. Nothing new there. The corals we all care for so responsibly in our temperature controlled systems are at great risk from a temperature increase in the wild. Maybe not tomorrow or the day after, but if science is correct the time is going to arrive. Bleaching corals, dissolving soft corals, acidification and the rest. Not much to sing about really. It will apparently happen over a quite lengthy period in human terms, but a short period in nature’s terms. That’s the end of the gloom, hopefully the picture is clear enough. We’ve all heard it enough times anyway.

The marine hobby has advanced in leaps and bounds. Aquariums that used to house dead rocks and bleached coral skeletons with a few fish and maybe a shrimp or two, are now captive living reefs supporting a host of life forms. This proves the tremendous advance in husbandry techniques. There are of course fish, hard and/or soft corals, shrimps, algae and the myriads of tiny life forms that inhabit the reef rocks and sand. The trend is towards natural methods, hence the DSB (deep sand bed), algae filtration etc in addition to live rock. The captive living reef has been achieved by the maintenance of high quality seawater and the provision of high quality lighting, plus adequacy in other areas such as feeding.

Once an aquarist has, say, around a year of experience and can very honestly state that their aquarium is settled and successful there isn’t any reason that an exercise into ‘fragging’ cannot be undertaken. Many aquarists do this and are to be applauded. It is simply creating new corals from a mother hard or soft coral. It is straightforward and more than likely to be successful provided a little research is undertaken before starting. The techniques are well known and simple, and the research will take little time.

A major advantage of ‘fragging’ is that corals are produced that appear to be more hardy than those in the wild. It also reduces the pressures on wild stocks.

If the practice was done by sufficient numbers of aquarists then there wouldn’t need to be the heavy imports that are currently necessary. I don’t believe that imports would stop, but they would reduce very considerably. Commercial concerns are already involved.

But this is not all about the practice of ‘fragging.’ It is about the aquarist.

It is fairly well known that ’seed banks’ exist of very many land based plants. One such bank is in the UK, Europe. There are others. These banks are there to protect a species should there be a problem that threatens their numbers or even existence.

If enough aquarists undertook the practice of ‘fragging’ the hobby could be nearly self sustaining. But take it further – how many aquarists are there in the world who maintain reef aquariums? There are thousands.

All these aquarists keep corals on their reefs, hard and soft. There isn’t any global warming danger within these aquariums – they are temperature controlled with heaters and/or chillers. The corals grow very well.

So what in effect have we got? A seed bank, or in this case a coral bank. Whatever happens in the wild in the medium and long term, disaster or not, many of the corals will still be with us. They grow and produce more without too much difficulty for the aquarist. In fact, often they grow so well they have to be reduced by ‘thinning‘ – so more corals appear. Provided the marine hobby continues to exist, and I cannot see why it should not, many corals types will never be lost.

Public institutions usually are the main keepers and protectors of wild species, except in the case of marine corals (and fish). I haven’t any figures, but the numbers kept by all the marine aquarists around the world must greatly outnumber those in public aquariums.

So back to VIA then. You’ve no doubt heard of VIP, standing for Very Important Person. VIA stands for Very Important Aquarist.

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