My First Experience Transshipping Corals

I’d like to share my first experience ordering corals directly from Vietnam. It’s been a bit of a wild ride to say the least. I’ve dealt with domestic coral shipments but never oversea shipments before. Many people only share success stories but here is one about my mistakes as well. Hopefully you can learn from me!

I’ll start by saying that Vietnam is going to be closing down soon. I placed my order initially weeks ago but their customs keeps changing rules and not allowing product out of the country. They are going through the same process that Bali or Fiji did right before they shut down as well.

I placed my order for zoas, mushrooms, and soft corals. I received only mushrooms and soft corals. I learned this was because their customs would not let any zoas ship out even though the permits were all signed off and the workers had to recreate boxes on the spot at the airport. My contact is working with me however on getting those zoas to me still.

Day Zero – Corals Arrive

The mushrooms are pretty stellar looking. Odd color combinations that I have never seen before. Unfortunately they are also my problem corals and keep disintegrating on me, causing ammonia spikes. I have never had this happen with mushrooms before especially on this level. I started by receiving about 80 polyps on 14 rocks. Roughly 5 entire rocks have been lost so far with random polyps on other rocks melting away as well. More on this later though.

The soft corals are mostly alright, nothing fancy but nothing poor either. Some are nice large pieces and others are so shriveled up it’s hard to tell what they are or if they will live. Time will tell perhaps. There is one I really enjoy, it’s some type of leather coral with little bumps coming off that are green with lime green spots on it. Never seen anything like it before so I hope it becomes a good seller! Supposedly I received a yellow leather which I am excited to see if it colors up again.

My quarantine tank is a 50 gallon stock tank. I bought it from Tractor Supply here in town. I have two Euroquatic Angel A1P lights above it. There are two different power heads in the tank, one to provide some water movement while another pushes water up to breach the surface allowing gas exchange to happen.

I dipped all my corals with ReVive coral cleaner and gave a rinse before going into the quarantine tank. Most seemed to handle shipping well, with only a few melted mushrooms and a couple soft corals that don’t look good.

The day the corals arrived

The First Few Days

The first few days were a whirlwind of commotion. I woke up the first and second morning after getting the corals to a rather pungent smell that filled the house. I have been told before that wild coral has a distinct smell to it and they were right! Once you smell that sweet, pungent smell it becomes forever engraved in your nostrils. I don’t find the smell bad, my wife doesn’t like it though.

I went downstairs and, much to my dismay, could barely see the corals through the cloudy, almost smoky looking, water. I prepared for this by having a 20 gallon Rubbermaid bin full of fresh saltwater. I went to the bucket and oh no! My heater went out during the night. So now I had 20 gallons of cold water that was barely 60f degrees.

Cloudy water and pungent smell meant trouble

I decided to transfer the freshly made water into my display tank as it has a volume of around 180 gallons. I figured a few gallons of cold water shouldn’t hurt, right? I did four gallons at a time; adding to my system and letting it mix for 15 minutes before I removed four gallons. I used that to do four gallon water changes at a time on the quarantine tank until all the water was used up. It was an all day process to say the least.

The next day the same thing happened. Now we are at day 2 after receiving the corals. So I did the exact same process as before. I had ordered a water heater on amazon but was still waiting to receive it at this point. By now some corals that looked alright on arrival are starting to melt. Various soft corals as well as mushrooms all over the place. I started using my turkey baster to suck up the dead mushrooms as well as the rotten tissue falling off the soft corals to reduce ammonia spikes. This day I dose Prime with the water to help with ammonia. I went ahead and moved 8 mushroom rocks with healthy polyps and 3 soft corals that are good into my connected frag tank. I am taking a calculated risk by putting them in my system but hopefully they will do better and not melt.

Day 3 and now I have my water heater back so I am able to start doing 100% water changes with all fresh water. I do that but corals still seem to be getting worse each day. I just couldn’t figure out what was happening!

I couldn’t figure out what was causing my corals to die until someone said I should check my PH. It was way low! Less than 7.4 on the chart. I have never had such a low PH before. It seems to be an issue with my fresh RO water. Even my fresh batch of saltwater was showing a low PH. I put an air pump with two outlets into the water, using any air stone I could find. I continue testing the PH every couple of hours to no avail. It just won’t go up at all! By the evening I went ahead and moved as many corals as I could into my connected frag tank. Even my mostly dissolved soft corals now. I am hoping they can recover still although hope may be bleak. If they do die, my large system is well equipped with bacteria to handle small bits of ammonia.

The first corals I added to my connected frag tank are doing well. The soft corals have opened up and polyps popped up all over all 3 of them. The mushrooms mostly look healthy now with a few still having gaping mouths. This gives me hope. I didn’t lose all my corals!

Day 4 begins and I start by checking the PH of the quarantine tank as well as the fresh saltwater. Both have been aerated over the entire night and now show a PH of 7.8! Phew. By now all that’s left in the quarantine tank is 3 soft corals, star polyps, and 2 mushroom rocks. One mushroom rock looks like it is still melting away, the star polyps don’t look good either. I will be trying to make room for the star polyps in my connected frag tank today and see if I can get them to recover while I figure out how to stabilize my quarantine tank.

Day 5 and 6 corals seem to be doing better in my connected frag tank. No surprise though. Perhaps a week of healing and I can sell some of this stock. Some may take months to heal again but that’s OK, I’ll give them time and a little TLC to hopefully bring them back to life once more.


All in all it was a very rewarding experience. I have had a steep learning curve here with getting corals from another country but I am ready for my next box. I will be letting the quarantine tank continue to run like normal while I work on getting it stable for my next shipment.


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