Rich Ross

Duty now for the future

Skeptical Reefkeeping Part 5: Experts and Changing Your Mind

From Reefs Magazine

In the previous installments we talked about skeptical methodology and how it can be used to sort through the overwhelming amount of reefkeeping information that is now at the virtual fingertips of reef hobbyists. We also discussed how skeptical thinking has impacted the idea of sustainable reefkeeping, scientific terminology, magic products and more. In this installment we’ll take a look how to decide which expert to listen to and the most important tool in the skeptical reefkeepers toolbox.

A brief reminder to set the scene

Skepticism is a method, not a position. Officially, it’s defined as a method of intellectual caution and suspended judgment. A skeptic is not closed minded to new ideas, but is cautious of ideas that are presented without much, or any, supporting evidence. In our hobby there are tons of ideas presented without much, or any, supporting evidence. Being a skeptical reefer essentially boils down to taking advice/products/new ideas with a bucket of salt. Being a skeptical reefkeeper requires that you investigate why, how and if the suggested ideas actually work. As a skeptical reefkeeper, you decide what is best for you, your animals, and your wallet based upon critical thinking: not just because you heard someone else say it. The goal of this series of articles is not to provide you with reef recipes or to tell you which ideas are flat out wrong or which products really do what they say they do or which claims or which expert to believe – the goal is to help you make those kinds of determinations for yourself while developing your saltwater thumb in the face of sometimes overwhelming conflicting advice.


In any endeavor, it is always great to be able to consult with someone who has more experience than you do. There is no need to reinvent the wheel, and avoiding avoidable mistakes can save you time and money, as well as lives of animals. However, there are ‘experts’ everywhere you turn, and it can be difficult to know who’s expert advice is worth listening to and who is just spouting opinion or perpetuating something they heard somewhere under the guise of being an expert.


The allure of a pure frag swap

From Reefbuilders

I have been fortunate to attend several frag events around the country this year, but none gets me as excited as the Bay Area Reefers (BAR) regional fragswap. Last weekend there were no guest speakers, no vendor booths, and best of all, no money changing hands for corals. There is a small entry fee to help pay for the infrastructure, and each participant is required to bring at least 3 frags of different  strains. The format is an actual ‘swap’ where people bring corals in deli containers (they don’t leak, you can see through them, and they are reusable), check in, and the frags are then grouped by type on tables in picking area. There are 10 picking groups of about 10 people each, numbered, a-j, to which participants are randomly assigned. When the picking begins, groups are allowed into the picking area for 2 minutes and are allowed to pick one frag from the tables. After about 3 or 4 times through all the picking groups, the number of frags goes up to speed things along.
There is also a raffle to help pay for the event and to promote local LFS sponsors (and many of those sponsors actually participated in the  swap), and the numbers are called during the swap so everyone gets there corals home in a timely manner. The club has put together basic care sheets, and sells essential fragging equipment for just above cost, including glue, salinity standards and povidone frag dip. The focus of the event is not on getting, but on giving, and it is not uncommon for people to bring 10, 20, 30 0r 40 frags to the event and competition to bring the most of the ‘best’ frags is friendly but fierce. And we aren’t talking schwag corals. Lots of the LE de jour
and other cool stuff available through the first couple times through all the picking groups. There is even a list of corals that don’t go into the event proper, but onto a free table, because they are too common. Sponsors donate frags and the club even has a prop program to help fill out the tables. All in all, there were about 100 people at the event and over 600 frags. Super awesome, and I cant wait until the next swap in February.