View Full Version : How many of you guys frag corals for a profit?
02/03/2006, 07:45 PM
I am thinking about setting up a 50-60 gallon propagation system to grow, frag, and propagate corals for a profit. I would mainly do more of the rare corals...mostly SPS and LPS, but possibly some rare softies.
I have a few questions for some of the experienced guys.
I would love to keep all of my livestock from my 20g long, that the prop system will replace. The only problem is I would like to keep the system BB...so I was thinking about having a tub with sand in it for my Blenny, snails, and starfish to retreat to at night...just like they do in my 20g long. Would this work? I have heard of people doing this in BB reef tanks, where they need sand for several spcies of fish and inverts.
How do you guys aquire your livestock?
Would I be alright dosing Randys 2-part homemade Ca/ Alk solutions, instead of using a Ca reastor and Kalk reactor? I would like to keep the cost down of the system initially, untill I make some money and can afford to purchase these items.
I am sure I will have more questions as the tank planning progresses.
02/03/2006, 10:54 PM
I am just starting in this myself. In my limited selling experience I have found the fast growing softies sell better than SPS. I bet I can grow 10 $10 pieces of Xenia in 1/4 the time it would take for a single $100 sps.....and with 1/4 the lighting wattage.
Remember that there are many more people buying softies than rare sps. We are not all doctors and lawyers :)
I think the tub idea sounds neat.
02/04/2006, 06:55 AM
That is true about the softies. I am just thinking.....here in Ohio, it is nearly impossible to find rare SPS, since we really only have one good LFS that sells SPS. Plus.....I really like SPS!!!!
I would also be going to frag swaps, and selling peices there, as well.
02/04/2006, 06:55 AM
Where do you get your corals from?
02/04/2006, 07:16 AM
Please take this with a grain of salt (IO, Reef Crystals, or whatever you use :p) but with a "50-60" gallon system, the likelyhood of making a profit is very slim. If you're in it for profit, then as hamburglar said, get some xenia, and I'd add into that GSP. Thats your best bet for making money. If you're proping corals merely because you like the corals and want to be able to get some new colonies in, and then spread them throughout the community, thats a whole different ball game. In my mind, a system that size is limited in its abilities to turn a profit. Even some people with several hundred gallons in their prop systems have difficulties making a profit.
That being said, I'm currently setting up a 95gal system which consists of two 30gal breeders and a 60gal sump. For me to consider this venture a success, I will need to pay for the operating costs (salt, electricity, bulb replacement, etc) and occasionally haev enough money to purchase a new coral from time to time. My goal is to prop zoas sucessfully, with some room for other softies, LPS and eventually some SPS (but limited amounts). In order to meet my financial goal with this, I am going to have a forest of Xenia to harvest from as well as GSP because at home I've noticed $5 frags of GSP sell faster than I would have EVER imagined. I've sold some 2-3" pieces of Xenia with three or four heads for $10-15. Total growth time from tiny frag ~1 month. All of that being said, I dont think I'll be able to call it a success for a long ways off.
I personally am lucky in regards to the LFS around here, as well as the hobbyists in the area because they are where I get most of my corals. Never purchased them online.
02/04/2006, 09:36 AM
It sounds like your system would qualify more for the "supplemental" income category, rather than "profitable".
Let me try to explain...
I can say from experience that it takes A LOT of time and investment to actually turn a profit propagating corals... tekknoschtev hinted at some of the serious expenses involved with marine systems. (There are many more not mentioned).
It is easy to get crazy excited when you ship a $300 order, or when you get the manager of the LFS to come by your place in order to restock his coral tanks, or when a local reefer stops by and drops $350...all of these have happened to me but I'm far from turning a profit! When I get my electric bill every month I get knocked back down to reality.
I'm not trying to discourage you...propagation is very rewarding in many ways and I encourage you to have fun with it...just keep it in perspective and you'll do better expecting some spending money rather than having a truly profitable business. It can be done (I suggest reading Anthony Calfo's "Book of Coral Propagation" if you haven't already) but I knew before I even started my systems that my intention was to simply offset some of the extreme expense my hobby requires. I've been able to get some money back, while offering quality, healthy, environmentally friendly, affordable corals to local reefers - but I'm far from turning a profit.
Sorry for the rambling...just giving my two cents.
In looking at your system plans, I say go for it, but if you want to turn a profit I'd treat the prop system as a tank for growing corals EXCLUSIVELY; adding in other creatures/equipment/etc. will only add to your costs and hinder your growth. Leave all that stuff in your display tank, and make the prop tank all about growing corals...
02/04/2006, 09:51 AM
These guys have great advice. I've dabbled with propagation, and my limited experience jives with what they're saying.
I have a 60 gallon prop tub in my basement - that I have corals in because I think it's fun. It's quite handy having a second system around, it's a better home than my display for a few LPS - and for frag swaps, for trade in at the LFS for credit, salt, bulbs ... it's great.
But given tastes change rapidly, today's hot coral is being grown out by 100 other people for future hoped profit ... IMO do it because you like it vs. hoping to make cash from it.
If there's some coral you make thrive - go for it, but be quite realistic about costs, electricity, and time.
Set up the tub, if just for fun, though :)
I would echo reelheel's suggestion to keep other livestock [fish/etc] out of it, if propagation is the focus. IMO, you want the best water quality you can + that's easier achieved without extra bioload. You may want snails or other algae control like that ... but beyond that, IMO skip it.
Just opinion - I'm sure plenty of folks disagree :)
02/04/2006, 10:48 AM
I've got 200 gallons of my 5-600 gallon system devoted as a prop system, and even then it's difficult sometimes, keep in mind, as stated before, the unbelieveable amount of overhead you'll pay, from the water bill for the ro/di filter, to the electricity, to the kalk drip if you're planning on doing sps, believe me the list goes on and on, for slow growing corals you'll find that you won't even turn much profit at all. Also, if you're growing out rarer corals, keep in mind that what's rare today might not be rare tomorrow, as the market for those is extremely volatile, kind of like the safecracker zoos on ebay, $20 a frag a few months ago, $200 a frag a few weeks ago, now back to $20 a frag. The best prop system for profit, in my opinion, would be taking some nice blue mushrooms, and a lot of nice ricordia florida polyps, you can cut and grow those out over two week intervals, under lower pc lighting, and not the cleanest water quality for great results
One more thing, especially for sps, they'll grow faster as a colony than as a frag, your best bet is to let them grow large into your main display, and then you can frag them when you're ready to sell
02/04/2006, 02:05 PM
Thanks guys...tons of great advice.
The only reason I would set up this prop system would be because I love this hobby, and I love fragging corals. It would only be a supplimental income for me...as I am 16 and i don't have a full time job. It just seems to me, that when I get on a " fragging spree" it is fun for me. Recently, I was fragging out my birdsnest, and ended up fragging my monti cap, undata, zoos, and tenuis. It is just fun for me.
for me, this prop system would be my display tank. It would be like no other prop system ever made. There owuld be eggcrate for the frags...with islands of LR for the mother colonies to grow on in the middle of the tank. So there owuld be eggcrate going around the LR islands.........I just think it would look really cool.
As far as profits go, I would be happy selling a few frags every weekend...it would be open appt. only...with no internet site or anything. Basically, it owuld be a fun project for me....I am not in this hobby to make tons of money ( thats why I fish in national tournaments :)..but rather to have fun fragging and growing corals. I got so excited when my little green milliepora that I had fragged two weeks ago laid down a base on the frag plug. I love to see corals grow.
02/04/2006, 02:52 PM
Sounds like you're on the right track CJ...propagation for fun is great, and when you get good at it you'll make a little money on the side to help pay for the hobby. IMO everyone wins this way.
BTW, you're already living my dream if you're fishing for a living...I can't think of anything much better than that. I can tell you to enjoy it while you can...I went from fishing EVERY day when I was your age, to almost never fishing anymore... wife,kids,job,tanks=tackle in the attic!
02/04/2006, 04:53 PM
Why not get your kids and wife into fishing so you can all fish and spend time with each other?
02/04/2006, 09:31 PM
I say if your interested, definitely go for it. When I was 16, I cut yards for spending money. Maybe made 1K a year. 20 years later, I have a real job and could never consider making a living fragging coral but I know I could make 1K, especially if someone else was paying the utility bill. I agree with all the suggestions about if you want to make more money, go with GSP, xenia, shrooms, zoos and or softies.
02/05/2006, 07:00 AM
Thanks again guys.
I will definantly prop zoos. I have found that colorful zoos are probably the most wanted corals on the market...and finding them is hard. I have 4-5 nice frags of awesome zoos that will hopefully grow into a colony which I could frag from.
So what would be a good tank? I would like something shallow and wide. The tank would be mostly a look down tank, as well.
02/05/2006, 05:57 PM
some kind of breeder tank is nice, like a 40 breeder...
02/05/2006, 06:02 PM
I personally find that these 30breeders are great for size. You obviously want the largest foot print you can get, but there are limits there as well :p If you're going budget and cant find tanks on the cheap, check into some poly stock rubbermaid tanks. Great price/gallon ratio.
Shorter tanks lend themselves well to utilizing light efficiently, though I've found that around 12" high is about right for me. That gives me room for the eggcrate raised sheet, and I run the water level lower. Water line to eggcrate I have probably 8" of water.
I'd give up on the idea of a look down tank unless you want to kill the flow during looking down. My tanks are such that they could be looked down into, but I have to cut the powerhead to see anything clearly. I do that when I'm taking pictures of things. Having a shallow tank is also great for that (top-down photos).
02/05/2006, 06:46 PM
check out glasscages.com for dirt cheap tanks.. I bought a couple of their 50 Gallon Long tanks (48x18x13) and love them..
02/05/2006, 07:28 PM
thanks for the tank suggestions. I too was thinking that a breeder style tank would work best...with out going totally custom.
As far as look down tanks go...I would definantly utilize some sort of flow that would disturb the surface ( closed loop?)...and one that would give flow to the bottom part of the tank( return?) That way, when I look into the tank, I can just kill the CL, and then turn it on when I am done. I would still like it to be glass, though, so that I can look at different angles and see the livestock. I am going to look into the 50g rubbermaid stock tanks...they seem nice for what I would want to do.
02/05/2006, 08:01 PM
well you also wanted this to be your display tank too correct? if so, dont get the rubber maids...
02/06/2006, 03:18 PM
Very true, Static.
I am thinking that a two level tank would be sweet. One would be higher than the other, and the higher one would overflow into the lower one. This way, I would be able to seperate non compatable corals...and my RBTA :)
Trying to prop out of your display tank will never turn a profit.
You might make a few bucks, but you'll be far from even covering costs.
To make money propogating, you need to minimize all costs. If you can't find a way to be profitable on paper, you won't be in real life.
Propping in a glass tank? Waste of money. For the same money as a 40g breeder and stand, you can buy one or two rubbermaid stock tanks and put them on the floor.
Water pumps? Streams? Again, waste of money. Cheap air lifts.
You need to maximize usable area. You need to maximize utilization of light. You need to maximize your possible yield.
Then will you make a profit? Probably not, but you had fun. :)
02/07/2006, 11:15 AM
Minimizing costs is essential to turning a profit, or at least getting closer to breaking even.
If you haven't bought your lights yet, I would advise against PC lights for propping. Sure the fixtures are cheap, but if you are going for growth PC bulbs only last about 6 months and in the last couple of months their output is reduced.
I would keep an eye out for a retro VHO or T5 setup on the cheap. The T5s consume less electricity for the same equivalent wattage and their bulbs can last up to 18 months.
I plan on setting up my prop system 3-5 years from now and I just found a great deal on 2 used icecap440 ballasts that I'll use to run T5s over my prop setup. Take a long term approach and find good deals on used equipment that uses low electricity and you'll be on your way to keeping your costs extremely low.
02/07/2006, 02:10 PM
Tagging along on this one. So far this is pretty disheartening. I too was hoping to make some money off of corals. No I would not plan on retiring anytimne soon, but the wife would feel better about the money I spend on the hobby if I could lessen the financial burdan.
I will say that it is difficult to believe that there is no money in this. We have a LFS that up until about 6 months ago was mainly a coral store. They had a very small selection of fish. They are in the process of adding tanks to have more fish. Ofcourse they do dry goods as well. Sure they have a store front that brings in regular customers, but they also have rent and tank maintenance about 15x what we would have in our basement. Talk about electricity, generators, huge cal reactors,etc. How do LFS make a profit? When you compare thier expenses to ours, it is minimal. Isn't this a micro-LFS afterall? I see people on here selling corals for $1000+.
Keep in mind this is just wishful thinking on my part. I really think there has to be some money in it.
02/07/2006, 02:47 PM
I think you can make money at it, but it takes time, planning and an excellent business plan if you go larger. Right now I'm just propping in my main tank which definitely is not the way to go, setting up a separate frag tank or rubbermaid tub the only way of hoping to make a profit.
My wife also likes me to find ways to recoup some of my costs and I frag mushrooms and zoas to help out. Our club does a frag swap 4 times a year and I am able to sell usually 8-10 mushroom frags at $5 each and 5-10 zoa frags for an average of $8 each, so I come out with $130 cash. I then use that money to buy frags I want or to buy salt, bulbs or whatever for the tank. That helps the wife feel better about things :D
02/07/2006, 03:04 PM
I already have just about everything I would need to set up the prop tanks...minus the larger tank. So my costs aren't going to be significantly higher...I have a 175w MH..wich would be perfect for a shallow tank that I am looking at. I also have a large stand that I would use. Remember, I have been in this hobby for 4 years now.....I have tons of extra pumps and what not, so really, my only cost would be the tank and extra corals that I would propagate and sell.
As I stated above, This is not going to be my only income..just as a little supplimant....and I am in this just because I love fragging and this hobby.
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