Reef Aquarium Farming News
Online Newsletter for Reef Aquarium Propagation Research

ISSUE # 16 page 2 APRIL 1998


This reef aquarium was set up last month using 50 pounds of Idaho hand made rock. Six months ago we sent a box of our ARAGOCRETETM caves and arches to Jerry Heslinga in Kona Hawaii. After the rocks had been the tank for 6 months Jerry sent them home. THEY LOOK GREAT - but even I would look great after 6 months in Kona :)


This has been a fun reef aquarium to do. We placed the rock in the aquarium and it was ready for sps cuttings the next day. This rock smelled sweet when it came in. It was like a nice sea breeze. We glued over 100 frags in this reef during the month of March. Most of the frags came from the 150 gallon brood stock reef in the front office.

This reef will be a teaching project for our online coral farming school. We will show pictures of the 55 gallon reef as the corals get large enough to frag. One of the most important things you can do if you plan to raise corals is to start a brood stock aquarium. This project will show you how to do this in a small aquarium. You do not need large pieces of corals to start. When we purchase corals we always try to buy a large number of tank raised types in each order. It is much better to have six colors of Montipora that were grown in a captive reef system than one large wild collected coral.

This reef has four - 4 foot VHO bulbs and an Ice Cap ballast. We used two Aquasun and two Actinic 03 bulbs. The reef has two Maxi - Jet 1000 power heads and we added a Maxi - Jet 1200 today. We will put the Maxi - Jet 1200 on a timer that can be set to go on and off each 1/2 hour. We will add a Sea Clone skimmer to the reef in 3 months after the coralline algae has spread from the Kona rock to the back and side glass. We used 3 inches of Carib Sea gravel and Garf GrungeTM with no plenum.

We use SeaChem Reef Plus, Reef Complete, and Reef Calcium in the reef water twice a week. All of the make up water is treated for one week with SeaChem Reef Advantage and the next week with Reef Builder. We use one heaping teaspoon of these powders in each gallon of water. Each reef takes about one gallon of make up water each morning. We have been changing back and forth between these two products for about 20 weeks in all of the other reefs in our labs. The coralline growth has never been better. We follow up each month with a 10% water change in each system.


You can see how we glue the frags onto the rock in this picture. The arches are very good for this type of reef aquarium because they get the frags up to the top of the reef. The arches allow water to flow around the corals. Coralline algae grows very well on the plastic filled rocks and this keeps the problem algae from growing. We use extra JanitorsTM in all of the new reefs so the algae does not get started. This rock has a rare small macro algae that is the kind they are using in the mud filters.

We are going to control this algae by adding some extra Bubble algae eating Emerald crabs. They love all types of green algae and they do not harm the corals. Jerry is growing this type of rock for sale in systems that have algae and in systems without algae. We do not like macro algae in most of our coral tanks, but this one is very well behaved.

We use Super glue to glue all of the frags in the reef underwater. Many of the frags are just 1/2 inch long when we attach them.


When we set this aquarium up it was stocked with GrungeTM so we could start adding the sps corals the next day. These two pictures were taken about 3 days apart and you can see new corals in the picture on the right. We wanted this reef ready for this issue so we had a great time finding new corals and fragging them with the tweezers. We need to grow more Pocillapora so we added several colors of it to this reef. We added extra frags that we will remove as soon as the Acroporas next to them get larger.


col0or (kÓl2™r) n. Abbr. col.
1. That aspect of things that is caused by differing qualities of the light reflected or emitted by them, definable in terms of the observer or of the light, as:
a. The appearance of objects or light sources described in terms of the individual's perception of them, involving hue, lightness, and saturation for objects and hue, brightness, and saturation for light sources.
b. The characteristics of light by which the individual is made aware of objects or light sources through the receptors of the eye, described in terms of dominant wavelength, luminance, and purity.

We can not stress this point enough. It is better to purchase small bright colored corals for brood stock than to purchase large brownish wild collected stock. When you do have a coral that has good color it is important to grow it in a low nutrient system. Excess phosphates and Nitrates in the water can cause the internal algae balance to shift and the coral may appear brown. We use live sand and low feeding rates in our systems to keep the nutrients low.

One of the most important things you need to do for good color and growth is to keep the Calcium, Strontium, and Magnesium in balance. We have so many reefs that we can not take a lot of time messing with this problem. Several years ago it ocured to us that none of us were Chemistry professors and that the owner of SeaChem was. We decided to let him do the hard part and we use 5 of his products that work great here. There are many ways to do a reef aquarium right, but we needed one that works all of the time. We also always use Ocean Pure Salt because it is always the same from semester to semester.

We do research in our lab on new ways to propagate and market corals so we needed to develop a bullet proof system that we could teach to people in other countries over the internet. You can use any products and you can make them work. We only list the products we use so that you can have a good base point to start your own research. Please report any things that work for you in your country.

Email: leroy@garf.org
208-344-6163 FAX 208-344-6189


These pictures show one of our best new products. We are certain that three pound coralline covered caves full of Pom Pom Xenias with a different strain of Xenia on top of it would be be a good seller.

Using the AragocreteTM and glue method you can produce several hundred of these during the next few years and see if we are right.

The main point we are trying to get across in this series of articles on new AragocreteTM and glue reefs is that the way to start is to just start, and the time to start is now. You can use the reef aquarium you have for the first brood stock and you can grow it into as many reefs as you need. You can grow corals at home and trade them for the supplies and corals you desire. By starting small you will learn to solve problems while they are small. By starting now you can plan the future of your project before you commit a large amount of time or money into a new venture.

Coral farming is one of the most challenging things we have done in our 20 years of commercial aquaculture research. Raising giant fresh water prawns outside in Idaho using geothermal water when it was 11 below zero in 1979 was a piece of cake compared to this. Growing 250,000 angel fish a month inside of the Utah prison from our computer in Boise was almost as fun, but at least more people had raised angel fish before we did that 900 aquarium hatchery.

This is not easy and we have to thank people like Dick Perin, Steve Tyree, and Tom Frakes every day. If you want a simple way to make some money then you should just go ahead and try to make gold out of straw. If you love corals and nothing in the world can stop you from having as many colors and types as possible, if you want a way to deduct trips to Fiji and Bali, then the future of coral farming needs you.

Please study all you can about natural reefs and the way corals grow. Study systems that you plan to use later. The best systems always take ideas from the past and put them together in new ways. As you start to learn more about your corals please share the information with others. We share as much as we can because it is the only way we will be able to start to pay back people like Dick Perin for getting up at MACNA 94 and showing everyone how to cut corals.

WE are so happy when we first frag a new coral such as this small branch bright purple Acropora. We bought this super coral from Steve Tyree several months ago and now that 3/4 inch frag has grown into a small colony in the front office. We have moved frags into two other systems here and we have sent frags to 3 states. We are sure that this new coral will survive in the hobby for decades to come. I am certain that this is one of the corals Sally Jo and I will take to Switzerland when we give our seminar there in September.

Corals like this little jewel are the types that will be harvested too much because it grows slower and when the colonies are removed from the collecting areas the unique niche - Ecology. a. The function or position of an organism or a population within an ecological community. b. The particular area within a habitat occupied by an organism. - this coral grew to fill may be taken over by a larger browner corals. It is our hope that by teaching people in the tropics to mass produce these rare types of corals in controlled farms that the hobby will always have new and exciting corals. We hope that in years to come, when we all get to the point that we can visit the natural reef, that the wonderful biodiversity we want to study and enjoy will be there keeping the reef stable and strong.

More later LeRoy


The last two issues of the newsletter I have discussed a test that I have been conducting on curing rocks that I have made using #3 Portland Cement and crushed oyster shell. I am including the final results on this test here.

I chose oyster shell as the gravel mix because of the high calcium/carbonate content with the expectation that it would be slower to cure, and would then present a 'worst-case' scenario for testing to determine when it would be safe to put into tanks without jolting the pH too high. I would expect other gravel mixes to have less calcium and to cure faster, I have made rocks with plain sand and found it to cure very fast. The less calcium content of the gravel mix the faster that your rocks will cure. I like oyster shell for the 'look' that the shell gives to the cured rocks. I have also used crushed coral, and Carib Sea brand gravels. Your imagination is the limit on what you can use. Karen Holt has used the white 'Riverside' cement to make attractive white rocks. You be the judge of what you want to use.

You CAN make good, attractive reef safe rocks yourself,
that can replace the rocks torn from the reefs and are
destroying the reefs.
And these rocks that you make will be colonized by species that
YOU choose them to have,
not pests that you do not want them to have.

I have regularly been giving my rocks a 6-7 week soak in fresh water, with weekly water changes, and then a two week soak in salt water before adding to tanks and have found that this has worked for me. I do believe that the best and quickest way to cure rocks is in running water, either the ocean, or a stream or river or even a pond or lake.

For this test I made one batch of cement/oyster shell in a one to five mix. I made the mix stiff as I usually do and made 3 'cookies' of about 4-5 ' diameter with equal spoonfuls of mix to each. I then spooned the remaining mix into plastic ice cube trays, two spoonfuls per 'cube'. I use these for mounting some cuttings on and then often mount them on other rocks, or sell them as is once the cuttings have developed, usually about 2-3 months depending on the species. The bottoms tend to be flat but I use that for the cuttings' mount so when it is grown a bit it is difficult to tell what the origin of the rock is. I also make the cookies irregular, some with humps, some oblong, I vary the shapes quite a bit but use the same amount of material for each.

After the rocks had dry cured on my kitchen counter for two days I began the water soaking. Usually in making my rocks I also incorporate some pasta or other mass into the mix that will leave different holes and vary the shapes of the rocks. I like pasta as it rinses right off when finally cleaning them under a kitchen spray hose and leaves very interesting holes and configurations to the rocks. I use the pasta dry in the mix, one part to the rest of the 'gravel' mix in no more then one fifth of the gravel mix. No 'sauce' is needed.

This batch of rocks had no pasta as I intended to make them as more of the readers would make theirs. Using pasta does add an extra washing step that many do not want to bother with.

What we need to learn is when the new rocks are safe to put into tanks
without harming the occupants by raising the pH too quickly.

To cure the the rocks, I divided them into three groups, identical in size and quantity, and placed them into one gallon milk jugs with the tops cut off far enough down to place the rocks into the jugs. One cookie and 8 cubes per jug. This gave a volume in the jugs of about half of the space inside the jug.

The first jug labeled #1 was filled with lukewarm water, the 2nd with lukewarm water and one cup of white vinegar. The 3rd jug got hot water with one cup of hot vinegar. The jugs were then set on the kitchen counter to begin curing. The rocks were placed into the water on Jan 31, 1998.

I followed the same procedure each week on water changes, pouring the water out and a quick rinse to wash off any remaining water or calcium residue and then let soak 24 hours in the new water and then did a pH check. I used regular tap water to soak the rocks in. Our tap water has a high pH, usually right at a pH of 8 as we have a lot of calcium in our water here. It was noticed that for the first five weeks there was a pronounced slick on the water surface at water change time, of calcium, this was heaviest at first and gradually lessened but even on the last week of testing there was a trace of calcium on the surface. This is a process that occurs over a length of time, even after several months the rocks will give off some calcium.

This is not a danger, in fact, it can be used to help in buffering ph. The purpose of the test was to determine when rocks can be judged cured enough to place into a tank without adversely elevating the ph. Jug #3 was filled with hot water each time for water changes and did produce more calcium throughout most of the test period. Use of RO water will definitely hasten the curing process with significant amounts of calcium given off and very high pH readings at first.

One thing to keep in mind on making rocks is that there is nothing in cement that is not found in natural environments, it is only in its new raw stage that it can be harmful if too much mass of it is put into a tank. The larger the volume of water the less change there will be on adding new rock, and the smaller the volume of rock to volume of water the less the pH will be affected. There is no absolutes here, it is all a matter of degrees and we have to learn how to adjust and use these. Cement based rocks will continue to cure for a very long time but as the surface cures deeper this becomes less and less until it is insignificant. What we need to learn is when the new rocks are safe to put into tanks without harming the occupants by raising the pH too quickly.

I cannot afford to gamble on 'maybe' they were cured
and wipe out a tank or vat of cuttings with uncured rocks.

For the test I used a Tetra and a Hach pH test, their results were consistent with each other and I found no significant deviation on the results between the two brands.

On 2/8/98 all jugs tested over pH of 9+
on 2/15/98 all jugs over pH of 9+
on 2/22/98 all jugs over pH 9+
on 3/1/98 jug #1 at 9+, #2 at 8.9, #3 at 9+
on 3/9/98 jug #1 at 9+, #2 at 9, #3 at 9.1
on 3/16/98 jug #1 9, #2 at 8.9, #3 at 9
on 3/21/98 jug #1 at 8.9,#2 at 8.5,#3 at 8.9
on 3/29/98 jug #1 at 8.5,#2 at 8.5, #3 at 8.4
on 4/6/98 jug #1 at 8.5, #2 at 8.5,#3 at 8.5

As you can see the results varied up and down within the test period. Faster results would have occurred by making water changes more often, several times a week or daily, and also aerating the water. For my bulk rock curing I use two rubber maid tubs, 50 gallon size, one on the floor, the other on a rack over it, tilted a little so water runs out of the air holes in a handle which was enlarged with a return pump bringing the water back up to the top tub. I fill them both with rocks and change the water weekly, this usually gives me safe rocks in about 6 weeks. but, I ALWAYS TEST THE PH OF NEW ROCKS BEFORE USING THEM!!!! I cannot afford to gamble on 'maybe' they were cured and wipe out a tank or vat of cuttings with uncured rocks. With lower calcium content gravel mix you have more leeway but, I like the oyster shell and sometimes crushed coral which are both very high in calcium.

After curing the rocks in the tubs for 6-7 weeks I then soak in salt water for another week or two, actually its just a simple way to store them until used, I use a rubber maid plastic garbage 'can' with waste water from the tanks from water changes, it works best also to have an air stone in this to keep the water moving.

This method gives me safe rocks to use that make a nice product that are very hard to tell from naturally made rocks when in the aquarium, one shop in Rochester NY has several of my rocks in their display tanks and you have to know which ones that they are to tell them apart from the natural rocks. You CAN make good, attractive reef safe rocks yourself, that can replace the rocks torn from the reefs and are destroying the reefs. And these rocks that you make will be colonized by species that YOU choose them to have, not pests that you do not want them to have. The cement based rocks grow good coralline and work far better for growing cuttings on and developing brood stock.

As usual I enjoy the responses to these articles and am glad to answer your questions and help as I can.It is a combination of art and science making your own reef rocks and the best way to learn is by doing. So, what are you waiting for?



LeRoy, All of my students are on break for Easter the next week, so I won't be able to get you photos and stories concerning my classroom 10 gallon until then. Meanwhile, I have sent you a photo of the tank my wife and I keep at home. It is a 55 gallon with some nice purchased colonies and many cuttings.

Reef aquarium

We have over 40 species in this tank, with my favorites being the sps corals. The large rock covered with yellow polyps in the upper right is from GARF. It started out with 12 - 15 polyps, and now has too many to count. I have made some yellow polyp rocks from it. There is also a flower anemone, xenia, and reef janitors from GARF. There are a few aragocrete rocks and plugs that are doing well. We love this tank!

We dose with Seachem products per SallyJo's instructions,
and everything loves it.

We have a large finger leather that drops babies regularly.

We have a plenum, a homemade counter-current skimmer I made for $9.00, a homemade hood consisting of two Blue Moons, two Tritons, and six 13 watt 56k power compact flourescent bulbs. I run the lights on two inexpensive intermatic timers that allows me to simulate sunrise, high sun and sunset. We create surge by controlling two of the three maxi-jet pumps with intermatic timers. These timers have really worked well. We dose with Seachem products per SallyJo's instructions, and everything loves it. We have a large finger leather that drops babies regularly. In fact, the bottom of the tank is usually littered with them.

Reef aquarium

The 125 gallon sits empty in our living room awaiting a new reef. This tank will have 90% aragocrete rocks, most of which are made already. Once we set up the 125, our 55 will become a full-fledged farm tank. Already I am using mini-racks for coral plugs at the top. I can't wait to make it a full farm tank!

Jay Raymond
Fargo, ND
Moorhead Senior High School



Take care and... "Save a reef... Grow your own!"

We are happy to announce that Tim L. Weidauer has purchased the famous GREEN WATER AND ROTIFER SOURCE Wasatch Aquaculture in Salt Lake City. His green water may be the most hardy culture in the hobby. We have frozen and thawed these cultures over 30 times during the past month, and the green water is still thriving. We have just thawed his Rotifer cultures and they are now producing strong populations. These strains allow us to freeze 1/2 of the orders we receive every two weeks. Please visit Tim's web sites.

Tim L. Weidauer OWNER- Wasatch Aquaculture -http://www.rotifer.com - "Live Plankton!"

President - Wasatch Marine Aquarium Society - Salt Lake, Utah



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Email: leroy@garf.org