Reef Aquarium Farming News
Online Newsletter for Reef Aquarium Propagation Research

ISSUE # 15 page 3 MARCH 1998


Last month we discussed the Business Plan and what it needs to contain for a successful Business Startup. I have received a number of E-mails based on the article looking for more information on Business Startups, several were quite lengthy. From them, and several other messages I decided to postpone until next month the discussion on a Reef Enterprise Expansion and elaborate further on some of the information requested by the writers.

This comes down to requests for information in detail on various subjects that I have received, and replied to, and where to find it.I have been thinking about this and am offering a Bibliography on Business Operations that is available either through the publishers, or large book stores. The books are far-ranging in topics,but taken together will form a strong basis for running your own Reef Propagation Enterprise.

None of these books discussed below deal with coral or fish propagation, for that I will refer you to the excellent books written by Martin Moe, Dana Riddle, Frank Hoff, Albert Thiel, Delbeek & Sprung and Stephen Spotte. If your library does not contain their works you need to get them. There is also a new one coming out next month by Joyce Wilkerson on rearing Clownfish. These books will give you an excellent insight on how to propagate your chosen reef products, the books I am going to discuss will show you how to remain in business to do the propagating.

I am going to begin with what I consider to be the best self teaching text on the field of Accounting that I have ever seen. It is titled ACCOUNTING: THE BASIS FOR BUSINESS DECISIONS, and is published by McGraw Hill and is written by Meigs & Meigs, Bettner and Whittington.

I termed this a 'self-teaching' text but it is also used in many colleges as the basis for Accounting courses and takes the reader from the beginning fundamentals of accounting and of what accounting is through the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles(GAAP) through Financial Statements and their preparation to forms of Business Organizations, the yearly Business Cycle and setting up books and the various types and the necessary entries.It contains a thorough discussion of Cost Accounting as applied to Small Business Operations, various Accounting Systems and Internal Controls and Managerial Accounting. An excellent section is devoted to Planning & Decision-Making and Cost behaviors and establishing Operating Incomes. The later part of the book is devoted to Capital Budgeting and Operational Budgeting. This is not a 'grab and read' in an hour book, without the appendixes and indexes it runs to almost 1200 large format pages and has numerous case histories. While very readable and building on technical terminology as it goes along it is a serious self teaching book for the individual needing a grounding in accounting or the serious college accounting student. If you can only buy one book on Business this is my book of choice.

Closely allied to this excellent Accounting Book is an excellent book that makes the intricacies of Income Taxes and Tax Preparation clear to the untrained reader in Taxes. It is titled INCOME TAX FUNDAMENTALS, published by South-Western College publishing and written by Whittenberg and Altus-Buller. This is also a book designed to be a self-study and teaching book that is also used in colleges to teach Tax Preparation. It is a very simple and straight-forward book on Federal Tax Preparations for Individuals, Sole Proprietorships, Partnerships and Corporations including S Corporations. it contains 12 chapters plus Appendixes of tax rates and tax tables as well as glossaries of tax terms. Each chapter contains many quizzes with the solutions in the back of the book. This book is probably the best guide to the average Small Business Owner on the market on the subject of Income Tax Preparation.

The next book is another one published by McGraw Hill. It is titled The McGraw Hill Guide to STARTING YOUR OWN BUSINESS, A Step-by-Step Blueprint for the First-Time Entrepreneur, and written by Stephen C Harper. This book is the best short and concise wrap-up of the fundamentals discussed in the Meigs & MeigsAccounting for decisions book, plus it adds a lot more. It takes the reader step by step through the entire process of starting a new venture from first deciding if you should be doing it to obtaining the best loans for the business that you can. it tells what works and what does not and it provides work lists and checklists and available references to get you on the way. One of the topics well covered is how to write a Business Plan. This one is well worth owning.

The next book I suggest that you have, and read and then reread, is titled GROWING A BUSINESS, published by Simon & Schuster and written by Paul Hawken. This was the basis for a Public Television Series. As the author says, this is a book " about what works and what does not, and why". Hawken says that'' the successful business is an expression of an individual person. That the most successful business, your idea for a business will grow from something that is deep within you, something that can't be stolen by anyone because it is so uniquely yours that anyone else who tried to execute your idea would fail.' ' This idea is why I have stated in previous articles that to succeed in an Reef Propagation Enterprise that you must have a PASSION for it, only then will you make the enterprise live. As Paul Hawken points out,' The purpose of business is not to take risks but rather to get something done.' He also says that many good ideas are like a puppy, awkward, helpless and unimpressive, and then they grow up. Hawken also endeared himself to me when I read,"

Because banks have made ridiculous loans to Third World countries ... they make sure that every small business jumps through all the hoops that the bad loans should have encountered , but did not. Despite the fact that the banks have far lower losses from small business loans then from large, it is exponentially more difficult for a small business to get a loan. I call this the Peru Syndrome, in honor of the first country to suspend its interest payments."

He does make one other point that is applicable to Reef Propagation when he talks about TRADESKILLS. He says ," Tradeskill is the set of skills that spells the difference between success and failure in a business... Tradeskill is what you learn as a kid while running the paper route, working in your uncle's store, or starting an over-the-counter market in baseball cards....If you have not got it, ....consider going into business with a partner who has it... Without tradeskill, business is a caricature of itself". This is a book that will make every ones business better.

The next book is a fascinating little one titled, " NOBODY GETS RICH WORKING FOR SOMEBODY ELSE, AN ENTREPRENEUR'S GUIDE, Published by Dodd, Mead & Company and written by Roger Fritz. This is an excellent one for deciding if your own business is for you, and why it should be. it gives solid insight into: key principles upon which to make an informed decision about going into business, a down to earth self-examination to help you learn what you need to know about yourself, specific instructions on where to get help and advice, practical recommendations on what it takes to survive and examples of everyday people who succeeded beyond their dreams. This book will help keep you on the right track.

The next two books are, and have been best sellers, and contain an amazing number of insights into self management as well as culturing maximum return on what you have to invest in time and money. They need to be at the core of everyone's business library.

The book THE 7 HABITS OF HIGHLY EFFECTIVE PEOPLE, Published by Simon and Schuster,and written by Stephen R Covey is one of the most praised books on business of our time. In this short book the author teaches on improving personal effectiveness to generate positive results from all that you do. He goes through the first principles of management and organization in a very readable style that enables us to apply them to our own lifestyles and pursuits. This is a book that we all need.

The last book is titled THE FIVE RITUALS OF WEALTH, Proven Strategies for Turning the Little You Have Into More Than Enough, Published by Harper Business and written by Tod Barnhart. This book is another that we all need, not only to increase our personal wealth, but for its ability to change out lives. Follow what this book teaches, and you will overcome whatever has been holding you back. It is a very easy-to-read guide for security. get it.

These books make up what I believe is an excellent core of need-to-know Business Information. If you apply the principles and tactics and strategies contained within these books, then you will succeed in whatever venture that you choose.

I have had some excellent comments from the readers of this series and look forward to more. You can reach me at the Email address below and I will try to answer as quickly as I can to your comments and questions. Next month I will go into the area of expanding your Reef Enterprise with examples of production figures from different sized Production Modules. I will also include a section on Business Ethics, and examples of those who are at the top in Ethical Business Operations and others at the other end. "Stay tuned, tape at 11". Til next month,

How to make "Egg" Plugs

By Michael Vendetti

Hello and welcome to my second article. I will be showing you how to make "Egg" Plugs. the reason we call them "Egg" Plugs is because they are molded in Styrofoam egg cartons. "Egg" Plugs are a little bit smaller than the normal plugs made with 1" paper cups and about the same size as the plugs made in ice cube trays. however these don't look like ice cube. To me they look more natural. Now on to the project.

Some Precautions

1. Pour and mix concrete out side if possible.
2. Avoid breathing concrete dust.
3. Where hand protection, I used latex gloves
4. Clean Egg Cartons with clean water.


1. 60 LB pound bag of Portland concrete sand mix
2. 18 LB pound bag of "Caribsea Agranite Reef Sand"


1. Wheel Barrow (for mixing)
2. Ordinary Garden Hoe
3. Garden Hose (for water into mix)

And now on to our project Step one

Assemble all tools and materials in a work location. Have the garden hose in the place and ready, running a slow trickle where you plan to mix the concrete

Step two

Before adding water Mix the Cement mix and the "Caribsea Agranite Reef Sand" in the wheel barrow. Try to get an even mix before you add the water. Then add water to the mix, not too much. It should never be puddles. If these occur add some of the left over cement mix to dry out the mix. Stir with a hoe. This mix produces around four hundred plugs. Total cost of goods and equipment under $25.00.

Step three

After this you check the consistency of the mix. It should be able to clump in your fingers and not fall off as you roll your hand a little. If the consistency is too wet it will tend to spill or leak if it is right it will sit in a clump on your fingers. Look for clods of dry mix and be sure to break them up. Move the wheel barrow to your working area, preferably somewhere you can sit. If you have others that might help this is the point they may volunteer. Now start filling the egg cartons making sure that the tops are pressed down to push out air pockets. You may find more dry clods at this time, break them up and mix them by hand. This must be done as they will cause the new plug to be weak and it will erode. There are several ways you can put the concrete in the egg carton, you can lay it in there then push it down or just pick up some and just drop it in the molds. Avoid letting the mix slide together when finished they should resemble this picture:

Step Four

Clean off all tools and wash hands and tools. Step Five

Leave plugs to dry in a warm (above 50 degrees Fahrenheit) till light gray in color. which is in about 3 to 4 days. This is called curing.

Step Six

Remove plugs from egg carton by just popping them out from the bottom. If they are stuck together just break them apart using your hands or a chisel.

Step seven

Curing: to cure the plugs put them in a water tight container and let them set in white vinegar for 24 hours.

Step eight

After taking the plugs out of the vinegar place them in fresh water for one week.

Well that's all there is to it. Good luck and remember to have fun doing this project
These are some pictures of the corals I plan to put on these plugs.

This is a picture of my pulsating Xenia. This coral was grown in captivity from Inland Aquatic (Terre Haute, IN). This xenia seems to like three watts a gallon put as close to the surface as possible. And like's enough water current to make it move or sway in the water

These are a pair of colt corals which I purchased from a store called Marine Aquatics in Normal IL. They were grown in captivity. These corals like three watts per gallon also and little to no water current.

Thanks for reading
by Michael Vendetti
Chenoa , Illinois
Whispering Pines Christian Academy
email (


"It was the best of times, it was the worse of times. .......It was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair..........

This week Joe Woods and I went up to the 'big city' to stop at our favorite shop, Caribbean Forest on Ridge Road in Rochester NY. We got there early before Milly opened so visited another store, the big 'home store' of a local multi store chain. It is a nice, big, clean store, packed with hard goods, and it is a full line store with other pets but has a large fish trade. They have a big receiving center for fish shipments at this store and distribute to their other stores from this location.

We wandered around, admiring all the hard goods and the big tanks, in every shape and configuration that is available. I admired the large pool Koi also which they have many of, one of the owners is president of the area Koi club. Looking at the salt water tanks was something of a disappointment, totally inadequate lighting for the corals,plain red and blue spectrum aquarium lights, without enough wattage to maintain the zooxanthellae in the corals or anemones. I felt particularly sorry for one Bubble tip anemone in a corner and hoped it would soon be purchased by someone with adequate lighting for it to survive.

They are serious about offering best quality in everything,
and its just a matter of time before they have a full array
of captive raised fish.
Also, it is true that much of the variety that they carry of fish
are not yet cultured, but, many are.

I am of the opinion that most anemones should be illegal to possess without a clearly stated minimum of wattage on them, and I would even say that until it was shown otherwise they should be kept only under VHO's. My opinion but I believe that I am in good company. Pacific anemones have a very low survival rate without a LOT of wattage on them, and the few that have budded have had mostly HO or VHO's on them. Check Joyce Wilkersons' excellent survey on anemones on the web.

There were a couple of clerks working around the tanks and we made small talk with them as they passed by, the fish were in nice condition, and well fed, this I give them credit for. No hollow bellies here. I did ask one clerk if they kept any tank raised fish and where would they be? He replied, "Oh, we only bring in wild fish, from all over the world, we give better buys on them than on tank raised". Well, looking at their prices I disagreed but said nothing more, they had full markup on all their fish, and some more then full, but, it is a large store, and has a big overhead. But, I did not like the argument that they offer wild fish over tank raised because of the price difference! They had wild fish because they COULD mark them up full price and make a bigger margin! A subtle difference, but an important one, the CONTRIBUTION MARGIN on their imported fish was greater than on tank raised fish.

On the way out I visited with the floor manager a bit and asked her about cultured versus imported wild stock and she said they only bought cultured fresh water fish for now and probably would not carry captive bred marines for some time as there WAS NOT ENOUGH DEMAND FOR THEM YET! I was very surprised as I know several local aquarists who do trade there and know that they support captive breeding of marines. By now it was almost noon and Joe and I headed over to Milly's store.

As usual going in there was like 'going home', a clean, well laid out store with large numbers of fish and invertebrates and corals all in top health. Milly and her husband Dan also import , mainly through one large California importer and get top quality fish from them, and corals. Also, their tanks are heavily VHO's or HO's and the corals get plenty of light and show it. She has little plankton in the water as she really 'scrubs ' it, but she feeds everything very well and has a quick turnover on most of her stock, and in the several display tanks she has a number of fish that have been in those tanks for 3-4 years so she is obviously doing a number of things right. But, there was one cloud here also, when I asked her if she and Dan were going to split an order with me to CQuest she says no, Dan wants to keep buying where they can get better prices. This was almost devastating to hear in a store where they were doing so many other things so right. Then her final clincher," besides, we get very little demand for tank-raised fish". This from a lady who has several tanks full of her own cultured corals that she has done over the last year, and is enlarging her propagation area.

Well, I let it go, and told her that she knew one person at least who preferred tank raised fish over wild caught. I pointed out some real nice clowns to her and asked how old they were? She said probably under one year, and I replied, they could be five years old, if they were sharing an area or anemone with a large dominant pair they could have stayed juvenile size for five years or more, but, if they were tank raised they would be under a year, but with these we just would never know. Then I asked, did you lose any, and she said " yeah, a couple when they first came in", and I said " well, if, you only lost two out of a dozen that is pretty good considering what they have been through and how many water changes they have had, probably 5-6 at a minimum.

But, if they had come from CQuest they would have had one water change, from theirs to yours". She said nothing to that but I knew I had made a couple of good points with her, and I also know that sometime they will be trying a full order of captive raised fish. They are serious about offering best quality in everything, and its just a matter of time before they have a full array of captive raised fish. Also, it is true that much of the variety that they carry of fish are not yet cultured, but, many are. They do stock a few clowns from Florida that are tank raised, but, not a lot yet.

The thing that really hit home with both of these well run and successful stores is that the major reason they cited as their closing argument for not stocking tank raised marines is " not enough demand''. That is something that we can provide dear folks and gentle hearts, we can provide the demand by asking the dealers that we want to trade with to stock captive raised marines, and then buy them when they do stock them, it is really that simple, "if the customers come we will stock them". So, its up to you my friends, if you really want to see the pressure off the reefs then you, I , all of us, need to let the dealers know that we would prefer to purchase captive bred stock over wild caught whenever there is a choice. if we do this then the demand will lessen for the wild caught ones, and they will begin to recover.

Have any of you ever considered just how the wild produced 'live rocks' are harvested? Where they come from? The next time that you go into a dealers shop look closely at the 'live rock' offered for sale, you will clearly see the fracture marks where , if lucky, it has been chiseled away from the mother rocks. If it was not lucky, then it was dynamited loose. Keep in mind that it is heavy, it is rock, and can only come to the surface collecting boats in baskets . All over the Pacific and the Caribbean the reefs are being denuded of the sheltering rocks that the reef creatures need as homes.

I have seen these in the Philippines. As you fly to the Philippines and head towards Manila you can see a brown color to the water miles off shore, as the mud and silt from the mainland covers the shallows from the massive erosion from the deforestation. If you travel out to the islands where corals and fish are collected you can see the same, silt from dynamited reefs covering the others. Then the survivors are subjected to cyanide as the fish are collected. True, there are a couple of tiny operations where safe catching methods are being pursued, but these are tiny in comparison to the overall collecting that is done.

For my part I have sworn to never buy another fish or coral coming from the Philippines until they change all their collecting. Which I do not expect to happen in my lifetime.

Think about these things as you stand and look at the dealers 'live rocks'. What is there that you are looking at that you cannot grow better yourself? Nothing my friends, absolutely nothing. You can make more attractive rocks with the life forms on them that YOU want on them , with no destruction to countless other wild ones for every one that is finally gathered and shipped to the US. Grow your own, and tell your dealers that you only want to buy tank raised fish whenever there is an alternative to captive bred or wild caught. You will get better, healthier fish, and corals, and you will be making an important vote where it counts, in the economy of the industry.

Well, this is titled a Tale of Three Stores is not it? The afternoon of the same day, after we returned from Rochester I was in a nearby small town to get my pickup worked on and walked down to a local pet shop on the main street, and afterwards wished that I had not. The only thing in there that I thought was actually really healthy was a pair of adult ferrets in a large play cage, and a large iguana in a cage under a heat lamp. They had some nice looking baby ferrets but there were droppings in every corner of their play cage.

The store was actually cool with few heating devices in any cages or aquaria, and what there were all were in the low 70s. No droppings in the snake or reptile cages, but, probably had not been fed lately either. The fish are, were a disaster. Two discus huddled in the corner of a 10 gallon tank, temperature 72 degrees, loaded with hexamita. The other freshwater tanks followed suit, sick or dying fish in cold water, neither owner had a clue there was anything wrong with them. They were dumping medications into two tanks of fresh water fish loaded with ich. The marines were even worse, one 55 had a sick hippo tang and a clown Sweetlips on the way out and an assortment of corals, closed up and barely noticeable as to having any polyps, a once glorious Elegans had several polyps left feebly trying to get some nourishment and losing the battle.

A single strip light with a cheap aquarium lamp was the only lighting on the corals, and tank temp was 71. This store is an unmitigated disaster, and my only suggestion when seeing such is to avoid buying anything from them at all costs until they go under, and in the meantime notify your county authorities every time you see dirty cages. Such places give the whole pet industry an undeserved bad name. I hate to give advice like this, but, these people although probably caring for animals, have no business being in this business without a lot more knowledge then they obviously have.

I think that they do care for pets, some things did show this, toys in the ferret cages etc, but they are totally inadequate in the knowledge that they need to adequately care for the stock that they have chosen to offer for sale. Buying livestock from them is buying sick and malnourished livestock which will not do well for the buyer.

Avoid places like this like the plague, because they are. As I was thinking of this article, and what I wanted to say, I was also thinking that the dealers were not the only ones in this industry deserving of comment, there are many distributors across the country that reflect much of what the stores above have, and I believe it is worthwhile to offer some comments on them as well, what is offered in product quality, as well as the business ethics that they operate under. There are a lot of places operating that advertise in the national mags that have very questionable practices and I will be commenting on several.

Several have been recently highlighted in previous GARF newsletters that offer superior products and service, and others deserve mention, pros and cons. So, next month I will offer a potpourri of ones I have noted. Also, I am including another article on expanding a REEF PROPAGATION ENTERPRISE, with costs that can be expected, as well as production that should be planned for, and realized.

" Tis a far far better thing that we do then ever we have done.......", if, through our efforts to raise our own reef animals and to propagate the fish and corals that are now taken from the wild we CAN positively impact on the destruction of the wild reefs that is now going on. Create the demand for tank raised fish and corals by asking for them and then buying them when the dealer stocks them. Stay away from those pathetic places that cant keep creatures alive. We CAN make a difference.

Keep those comments coming, this article is a direct result of one such.


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Learn how you can grow a wonderful reef aquarium like the one we visit in this May 1997 special feature Learn to set up your own fantastic reef aquarium like
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Learn to propagate xenia. Please enter any data you have about these corals.

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