[Coral-List] Responses to "Numbered tags?"

Malin Pinsky malin.pinsky at gmail.com
Fri May 8 16:04:09 EDT 2015

Hi all,

Thanks all for the quick and helpful responses! Most people suggested
livestock ear tags, some suggested aluminum tags. I've copied the responses

My original query:

Dear colleagues,

I'm curious if anyone has suggestions on a source for small (3-5cm),
durable, numbered tags in bulk (small plastic discs with engraved digits,
or similar). We plan to epoxy them to the reef to identify individual
anemones over the course of a 5-year study.

Many thanks for any suggestions.




Have you looked at livestock ear tags (sheep tags should be about the size
you want).  They are very durable and I have used them to mark corals on a
short term basis.

Look into livestock ear tags.  They come in many colors and can come
numbered.  Some vendors will customize them.

I used something similar for a reef study several years ago.  I ordered
cattle tags from an agricultural company.  They come in a number of sizes
and colors and are relatively easy to nail to the substrate.  They do get
covered in algal growth, so you need to scrub them periodically, but I had
them deployed for several years and they worked great.

We've successfully used cattle tags (like these
https://www.angusonline.org/Store/RFID/RFIDMain.aspx?t=1) to tag corals.
They're perhaps larger than you want, but they might come in smaller sizes.
They're very durable, come with holes for zipties, last at least several
years in the field, and you personalize them with, for example, your
project name or a phone number.

Jeffers Supple Company sells small cow tags that come numbered. We use them
often to tag coral colonies. They are quite durable, especially if you
maintain them once or twice a year.

These are the ones I use: https://nationalband.com/products/6546s/, though
they have others made of aluminum that are smaller.

Have a look into plastic cattle tags, nice and flexible so you can easily
break off any CCA that has accumulated.

When I was working at NOAA we started using round numbered aluminum tags to
mark Acropora colonies and nailed them to the reefs. These were fairly easy
to clean underwater with a knife or even a tap with a small hammer after 6
or so months. Then we switched to small sheep/cattle tags to mark small
coral colonies that we epoxy on to the reef but. These tags were more
challenging to clean after few months, but a little bit of silicon kept
fouling organisms away a bit longer. Sheep tags can be of different colors
and are ideal to set up experimental treatments  on the reefs. Link for
sheep tags. You might get them cheaper in ebay:

We used small cattle ear tags to label reefs and sites in the bahamas. not
sure if they're small enough for your purposes, but there are a diversity
of livestock ear tags (i'm sure you can find something smaller than the
cattle ones we used) that come numbered and would definitely last.

Check with agricultural supply houses. Plastic ear tags for cows come in a
variety of sizes and neon colors -  they don't break down in sea water,
look great in photos and can be the source of lively discussion in bars
after your talk.... and not a single one was eaten by an endangered marine

I just finished my thesis. My focus was on crustose coralline algal
communities on Little Cayman. We used plastic pear tags that are used for
live stock and cattle ranching. We placed these tags at 60 feet for a few
months. Then used them in an aquarium experiment. They were extremely
durable. They come in all different shapes and sizes, some even come
numbered. This is the place I used to purchase them check out their website
below. Very inexpensive as well: https://nationalband.com/livestock-tags/


I saw your post on the corallist regarding tags for a long-term reef
experiments. We have used numbered aluminum tags for long-term (>2 yrs)
experiments with a high level of success. You can order them from Forestry
Suppliers in bulk (
They come pre-numbered from 1-1,000 and if they get fouled you can easily
clean them with a dive knife or by gently hitting them with a small hammer
(if they are encrusted with CCA). We typically anchor them with U-shaped
fencing nails and they stay put just fine. We've used epoxy in the past for
these and smaller plastic tags, but they don't stay anchored as well as the
U-shaped nails.

We use sequentially numbered race track shaped aluminum tags for our coral
tracking. We can get them numbered from 0001-9999, 2000-2999 and so on. Our
supplier is Forestry-suppliers and its about US$ 93 for a box of 1,000.
Below is the link to their site.

Would be curious to hear what suggestions people have, but we've used these
for coral marking in the past (http://www.mcmaster.com/#=x3dxp4) and are
about to use these for our next trip (
The sheep tags don't have raised numbers but the mcmaster ones have
engraved numbers so even if they get fouled you can scrape them clean. I
know other folks have used cattle tags as well.

Forestry Suppliers  sells numbered aluminum tags which should work.

These are the ones we use for the corals on Ofu:


You can use these cable markers:
and use cable ties to attach them.

Have you looked at the Floy Tag company?  http://www.floytag.com/ They make
small vinyl laminated disc and ovals for marine tagging purposes.

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