Frag shipping: The Fantastic Journey

masterswimmer

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I'd like to relate an experiment that I conducted this week.

As many of my fellow MR members have done, I've traded frags with folks around the country. Well I've been dabbling a bit lately in selling some frags, also around the country.

I met a guy on another board, nano-reef dot com that wanted to buy three frags from me. Pink Birds Nest, ORA A. Tort & Monti Dig. He asked me if I can ship to him overnight Express. I checked the USPS website with both of our zip codes and it said only Post Office to Post Office (10am guaranty). I informed him that I could not guaranty door to door. He let me know he was located only 6 miles from the Mexican boarder and he doesn't get door to door from anyone in less than two days.

With this information, I agreed to ship PO to PO overnight guaranty. I added a twist to it. I asked if he had a digital camera. He said he did. I asked if he'd be willing to conduct a shipping experiment and document it with photos for me. He agreed.

The experiment was that I was to ship him the three above corals in the standard way, double bagged in water. However, I wanted to try an Eric Borneman and Anthony Calfo endorsed method as well. I wanted to ship him one each frag of the A. Tort and the Monti Dig. free of charge. I chose those two because they are heavy slimers and the Birds Nest isn't.

The theory postulates that these corals slime heavily because they are exposed to air during the day for sometimes up to 6 hrs and the slime coat is a UV protection that keeps the coral moist as well. The shipping method is to saturate a paper towel and wrap the frag in it. Then place the frag in a sealed plastiic bag to create 100% humidity.

Well I packaged everything up on Wednesday for Thursday delivery to his post office. I double bagged the frags in water, wrapped the frags in wet paper towels, enclosed all bags in a larger bag, put them in a reusable Coleman Cooler (instead of cardboard with styrofoam), surrounded the corals with styrofoam, added a heat pack, and went to the post office.

Here's where the fantastic journey actually starts. I like to get my shipments into Express mail as close to 5pm as possible to shorten the shipping time as much as possible. When I got to the post office, the clerk said they can't guaranty any less than two day shipping! I explained what their website said and she consulted with the postmaster directly with me. They said the websites have been known to be incorrect. They also said it was possible to get there overnight, just no guaranty.

I had no choice at this time, I commited to the guy in Tx and off it went. Well the delivery did not get there yesterday the way I had hoped. At that time I spoke to the Tx dude and explained everything. He was very cool and said that's what is expected in deep south Tx. Obviously at this point I was not thrilled of the prospect of having the corals die.

Well this morning he calls me and tells me that the PO called him and said the cooler arrived. He took pix, which I haven't gotten yet, and said EVERYTHING I packed survived the two day shipment! We were both ecstatic. I actually didn't realize that I was as good a shipper as that :thrash:

The corals in the water were probably in a toxic soup from sliming for almost 40 hrs of shipping, in 90 degree south Tx heat no less. And the frags wrapped in paper towels I'd have figured would have just died from lack of submersion.

The experiment was a success in shipping in saturated paper towels. This translates into lower shipping costs (salt water weighs 8.5 lbs per gallon) and healthy corals on the other end! :D

I will post his pix as soon as I get them for all to see. He actually said the A. Tort was as purple as can be.

I hope this little experiment goes a long way for all of us.

Russ
 
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Reefer420

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i got a shipment the other week- it was overnight from FL, but the shipper did not pack a heat pad in with the order. When the order got to me the water was pretty chilly- even though it was nicely packaged in styrofoam- with no heat source. I was worried about the corals- but everything opened up fine in my tank!

btw- not to get flamed, but I rarely acclimate my corals more than having them sit in my tank's water in the bag for temp acclimation for a few hours. I have never once had anything have any problems what-so-ever! Granted, I do not have hard to care for SPS in my tank...

I think corals are a hell of a lot tougher than many people give them credit for. Just think about what they have to put up with in the ocean!

On an aside- I also have two frags of an SPS Acro in my PC lighted tank that I got for free at last summers swap. They have been growing nicely over the last few months- and though the color is boring brown, they are very healthy and look great. I can't wait until I upgrade to MH and see what happens...
 
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masterswimmer

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420, no chance of a flame here. I only acclimate temp by floating my corals for 20 minutes or so. Then right into the tank.

master
 

Tonyscoots84

REEF ON!
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reefer i just think again this is my opinion by not acclimating them by placing them in a diff. temp,salinity,and paremeter tank that stresses the corals out... well im happy if it worked out for ya.. my luck the corals would die if i did that.. lmao... (im not flamin you).
 

Josh

in the coral sea...
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Great experiment!

Paper towels are a good idea, certainly a must for snails and crabs, so why not corals as well?

Next time, why don't you try shipping 8 total frags as follows:

species 1
2 frags in water (mounted or at least not fresh cut)
2 frags in paper towels (mounted or at least not fresh cut)

species 2
2 frags in water (mounted or at least not fresh cut)
2 frags in paper towels (mounted or at least not fresh cut)

Admittedly, 8 total frags is not enough for a study, but if one of the corals or methods seems to work much better, then maybe you can try and concentrate your testing on that theory next.
 

masterswimmer

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Josh, I just got the pix back from him. OMG, they look sensational with two days in transit.
FYI, the paper towel frags were mounted on a plug and a disk. The water bagged ones were unmounted.

I'll post the pix a little later.

Actually, here's one pic of all five frags in his tank (all on sandbed):
 

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masterswimmer

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Ok, here's a few pix of the packing and the final frags (shown above):

Pic #1: obviously the shipping cooler
Pic #2: packaging inside
Pic #3: bag on left is the frags in paper towels, middle and left bags are unmounted frags
Pic #4: A. Tort and Monti Dig. packed in paper towels, opened
 

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masterswimmer

www.saltwatercritters.com
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Paper Towel method of shipping:

#1: mounted ORA A. Tort Blue
#2: mounted Monti Digitata

Traditional shipping, via water filled bag:
#3: unmounted Pink Birds Nest
#4: unmounted ORA A. Tort Blue
#5: unmounted Monti Digitata

Keep in mind, these frags took two days to get to their destination.

Russ
 

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lfsmarineguy

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We sometimes have to or are forced to let shipments sit at the airport for a day due to flight timing and delays. The die off is a lot less than you would expect on the coral side as well as most fish. Even in water I would say a 90% survival rate at worst for 2 days of sitting in bags of cold water (at that point). Never seen the wet paper towel trick except on some inverts such as hermits and snails. Even when we tranship an order direct to us everything comes in stressed but alive. Corals are a lot more resilient than most people think. In that stressed state it's what you do to them when they get there that decides their fate.
 

Quang

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Russ that was really interesting...great idea!

btw...was that 22.50 shipping including styrofoam and the cooler? How much is everything total?
 

masterswimmer

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Thanks guys. I was very enthused by the results. You can bet I will be shipping this way again.

Keep in mind, the $22.20 for shipping included the water for the frags. Next time, I'm hoping for that to go lower by shipping totally in wet paper towels.

FBB, that was just the postal fee. The cooler and heat pack are additional. But that would be the same anywhere. It's the postal delivery fee that is variable.

Russ
 

masterswimmer

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Thanks Jim. I would love to see some of the e-tailers ship this way and save us some $$ on weight/freight costs.

This shipping method is also limited to sps. I wouldn't try it with LPS or obviously softies. Actually, I've heard a lot of people ship zoos this way, successfully.

Russ
 

Quang

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yeah russ, for one I know that coralfanatics ship zoas 2day, and I think using this method or something similar and they've had great success.
 
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