Loony's Frags was born of the desire to see coral frags more readily for sale to the reefing hobby in Australia. Being a fellow reefer and being in regional Victoria, I've found it incredibly difficult to source interesting frags and found that others have the same issue.
While the idea of aquacultured corals, and in particular "frags" is a popular method of obtaining corals in countries like the United States, it's still in its infancy in Australia. I believe in this hobby needing to become sustainable - to reduce the demand for wild caught corals from our suffering reefs, and to find better ways of prolonging the life of each coral removed from the ocean.
The only way that aquacultured corals will become popular is if someone takes the initiative to start marketing them, which is what leads us here. I've been working on producing frags since mid-2012, initially by selling frags and frag packs on Reefing forums, then finally starting this website in some attempt at trying to rationalise the sales process. Sales through forums become challenging when you post a picture and have 10 people chasing exactly the same frags, so having a website that provides stock availability in real time takes away all of the issues - the first person through the check out gets it, there isn't any holding stock waiting for people who may or may not pay, and once the stock is sold no one else can get it. It also rationalises knowing exactly who has ordered what, where to send it, and being able to record and notify each customer when their orders have shipped.
Moving forward, Loony's Frags is in the process of building larger grow out systems to hold a significant number of frags to help keep both stock levels and stock variety at optimum levels. It's a fairly slow process, but it's important to do this to move forward. A lot of thought has gone into optimisation of this system - everything from very specific spectrum lighting, maximising heat retention during the cooler months, low wattage flow options and a myriad of other details have been factored into the build to keep it both as cost and environmentally efficient as possible.
This isn't an endevour that a person would undertake to make any serious profit - it's an endevour of passion. If the initial outlay for the amount of equipment to build these kinds of systems (even small ones!) doesn't look like an impossible amount to ever recover, the running costs will make it look like it!
So, what are aquacultured corals? Put simply, they're corals that are grown in aquarium conditions. What are frags? They're pieces of coral.. often attached to a rock or, a frag plug or a tile (we use tiles!). In the context of an aquacultured coral frag what this means is that it will be a frag that has a piece of coral that has been grown/propagated in aquarium conditions. We strive to sell completely aquacultured frags, but sometimes there may be some polyps on the frag tile that came out of the ocean, and some that have grown since they moved into our system. One of the important points of our new grow out system is to allow us to grow them out to a point where each frag is completely aquacultured. Hacking up a coral into pieces is easy, and it's not what selling aquacultured corals is about; aquacultured corals need time to grow and thrive in tank conditions, and that is what makes aquacultured frags more expensive than the same sized coral would be if it were wild caught. A lot of time, effort and cost goes into each individual frag!
What's with the name? At the dawn of the Internet age I gave myself the handle "Lunatic" for a whole range of reasons that anyone who knew me as a teenager agreed with. The name has stuck around for a long time, and it seemed to be a logical naming choice for someone without a creative bone in his body. A few people still think the name is fitting in regards to my marine endevours - I have been known to look at a kid's swimming pool and start doing calculations on how many frags I could fit into it! I also once had kiddy clamshell pools (and anything else that could hold water) scattered through my kitchen and dining room for months full of live and base rock... complete with wave makers, heaters and gravity fed DIY ATO set ups just so I could seed the base rock and some coral sand.
Big on LEDs? The only aquarium light I've ever kept myself over a marine system that isn't LED is a dual T5HO I had on a nano set up. At the time I didn't have a lot of access to good tubes, and found the colour spectrum to be fairly boring quickly. At the time LED was starting to build momentum though the options at the time were either DIY or high end brand names that were constantly being changed. I jumped into a DIY kit - I have some electronics background so a few wires and electricity don't scare me that much. I had gone out and went straight for the best CREE LEDs available at the time. Around that time I had committed to upgrading my tank size (about 10x the volume), and was already planning how to turn that light kit into something a little bigger. Since then I've made quite a few LED rigs, and I'm fond the Typhon controllers. I've also since built lower cost DIY rigs using Bridgelux and Epistar LEDs.
The way I look at LEDs is that they're flexible. Once you understand the importance of spectrum and how the quality of LEDs impacts this (this is why most of the cheap eBay LED "marine" fixtures are actually rubbish despite telling you that they use CREE LEDs and that they're designed for it, etc), it's easy enough to plan a light build. You can build in various channels, and implement channels that let you tune and control them.
One of the new grow out system tanks use Illumagic ComboRay lights running a custom light spectrum. These fixtures are more expensive than my usual DIY options, but Illumagic are who I consider to be the best Aquarium LED lighting manufacturer around, and it seems logical to use the best products around to get the best results. This particular model is a lot less expensive than their flagship Blaze series, and could easily fill the current whole in the market for quality lighting at affordable pricing. I'm looking forward to the system being complete so I can put these lights to the test; and I will be testing them ....and I will be giving results back to Illumagic as they've indicated that they're interested in what I'm doing with these particular lights.
But MH looks better, and T5HO is considered better for growth. Indeed both are probably true, though I find MH looking better is completely subjective (I prefer LED). MH also use a lot of power and create a lot of heat which means wasted energy, and is even a bigger waste of energy in summer when the extra heat needs to be dealt with. T5HO is considered by a lot of people to be excellent for growth compared to LED; I tend to think a lot of that is to with the way the spectrum works with LED. A lot of lights have used all kinds of combinations of LEDs - some may be similar colours but don't adhere to the ideal colour spectrums (typical of cheap LEDs), and some use colours in quantities that don't really suit what they need to light. As LED lighting is better developed and there are people paying attention to specific spectrum lighting I believe the tables will turn and LEDs will become superior in this respect. One of the things about being able to provide direct feedback to Illumagic is to really work on specific spectrums and try different combinations to see what works the best and produce evidence of this. The other way to look at T5HO against LED is cost: T5HO fixtures aren't that cheap, quality tubes are expensive and require replacement every few months. They also use quite a bit more power, so once you factor in the additional power cost of running them, then the tube replacements, within a year or two LED is the cheaper option!