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Shipping Coral Frags

One of the greatest ways to help your nano reef grow, without spending a lot of money, is to trade coral fragments or cuttings with other reef keepers. This article will focus on some good techniques and guidelines to follow when shipping your frags to their future home.
The most important part in shipping is having the correct packaging. Boxes made for shipping livestock are typically a thick styrofoam container with a double wall cardboard box that fits snugly around it. The best place to get one is from your local fish store. Many stores will hang on to a few that they get from their livestock shipments, and will typically give them away for free. Mail order livestock will also arrive in these boxes, so be sure to hang on to them. The actual coral frags will need to be placed in thick plastic bags, which you can also get from your local fish store, and positioned in the box. Keep all the bags packed tightly in place to ensure that nothing will move during transit. If you have empty space in your box, fill it with newspaper or bubble wrap to prevent tipping. Once your bags are properly arranged in the styrofoam container, seal it with packaging tape and slip it into the box. Seal the box also to prevent heat loss.

Plan ahead for weather during shipping too. Check local forecasts in your area and the destination area. If the temperature is going to be cold, tape a heat pack to the inside of the styrofoam container's lid. You can purchase these from camping supply stores or hardware stores, sold as hand or boot warmers. Be careful not to overdo it though, too much heat can destroy your coral frags before they ever leave your local shipping center.
Properly placing your frags in the bags is key. Placement depends on the type of frag also. For corals that are not attached to anything use a rubber band and attach them to a piece of styrofoam. It will float on the surface with the coral dangling upside-down, which will protect it from being smothered or crushed. If your frags are attached to a rock, rubber band the rock to a piece of styrofoam like before. If the rock is large, simply place it at the bottom of the bag. Mushrooms, unattached star polyps, and alike can be shipped loosely in the bag. Keep coral types isolated to their own bags so they do not sting each other. Make sure you give the coral 3-6" of water space too. When tying the bags, leave room for oxygen, or fill it directly with oxygen if it is available. Twist the bag closed, fold that part in half, and secure it with two rubber bands.
Always ship your corals overnight. Many people have been experimenting with different corals and their tolerances to shipping times, but do so at your own risk. Call your shipping provider and arrange a pick up time, or take the package to them. Always pack and drop off packages as close to the depot's closing time as possible, so the box sits for less time. Schedule A.M. delivery or pick up at the local depot for the receiver, so the corals don't spend all day in a truck. When the corals arrive just acclimate them like usual and monitor for signs of stress.
Pack well so the receiver can reuse the packaging that was sent to them to ship their coral frags to you.

  • RayWhisperer, el fabuloso, metrokat and 11 others like this


Jan 22 2013 11:55 AM

Great thread, I wonder why I never saw it before. Quick question though, why is it necessary to ship coral with oxygen? I've had some corals shipped to me with little air and they arrived perfectly.

I don't know how people get the $45 overnight delivery rate--whenever I do a calculator online, it's always around $65+.  Tips?

    • Polarcollision likes this

oxygen is probably just a safety if the corals take longer than overnight or for fish

Jun 05 2014 08:22 PM
Corals dont need air, in a survivable shipping period, I.e., up to 72 hours. Id imagine that fish would be suffocated in 48.

I was just reading through this again and wanted to add what I think is a helpful tip.  Ziplock bags do not do well for shipping corals.  They almost always leak in my experience which isn't good for the integrity of the box or the corals being shipped.  Chris made a good point here about thick plastic bags and you can also get them very inexpensively on amazon: 


The actual coral frags will need to be placed in thick plastic bags, which you can also get from your local fish store, and positioned in the box. Keep all the bags packed tightly in place to ensure that nothing will move during transit. 

    • HarryPotter and drgibby like this