Geothermal aquaculture Research Foundation has been able to collect, maintain, and propagate several hundred different strains of sps corals. During the last two years we have been researching production techniques that include symbiont recombination and axial corallite -growth tips- initiation. The growth tips of SPS corals in the genus Acropora are very important in the commercial propagation of fragments. By manipulating the brood stock corals we have been able to increase the number of salable frags.
One of the most important things that we are researching now is a phenomenon that has been noticed in many different invertebrates that divide or are fragmented in nature. The process that we are studying is called escape size. When I looked up escape in the dictionary I found this definition - To avoid capture, danger, or harm.
Escape size was explained to me by my teacher to make clear something I had noticed during the last several years of SPS coral production. We noticed that there were times when we would remove a fragment from a small colony of coral, and the fragment would often outgrow the colony it came from. When I asked my teacher why this happened so often he told me that there was a well-known process in marine biology called escape size. During evolution any coral that was broken into small pieces and was able to initiate a rapid growth were able to survive to produce offspring. I best understood this when he explained that escape size for sps corals may well be the size that is large enough that something will be left if a Parrot Fish takes a bite.
ESCAPE SIZE AND FRAGMENT ORIENTATIONEach distinct body type of Acropora has its own different optimum Escape Size. Cuttings that are below this size do not have enough polyps to start rapid growth. When too large a branch is used as the cutting the coral often does not go into accelerated growth. At GARF we have over three hundred strains of ornamental corals, and we're researching the proper size of cuttings for each of these strains.
The Blue tip Acropora and in this article is of a medium branch size and it has tubular corallites. I will now explain the method that we use to produce multi tip colonies of this coral in the shortest possible time. The cutting is taken of this coral that is approximately 1 in. long. This cutting is mounted very close to the original colony with the growth tip pointed slightly down at what would be 08:00 on a clock face. GARF super glue is used to attach a group of these corals to a clean Aragocrete rock. During the last year we have been able to mount dozens of these cuttings in our brood stock tanks. The cuttings that are glued with a growth tip pointed down soon produces several axial corallites on the fragment. These fragments grow most rapidly if they are mounted closer to the light than the parent colony.
This blue tip Acropora has morphed into a rapidly growing commercial coral and the new branches grow to about three-quarters of an inch in twelve weeks. The original fragment is carefully removed from the GARF super glue that is holding it. Super glue allows you to attach fragments in a few seconds, but more importantly unlike epoxy putty is very easy to remove the fragment. This is when we break each of the branches 1/2 of the distance to the tip.
The small broken branches can be glued to another rock. The original fragment with the branches removed is then mounted in the same location. When this fragment is glued it is mounted upside down so the branches are pointing toward the bottom of the aquarium. On this fast-growing blue tip Acropora the bottom of the branches are much lighter colored, and there are very few corallites.
It is important to get into the habit of snapping Acropora branches instead of cutting them. By breaking the branches with a pair of needle nose pliers you produce a clean break. When Acropora branches are broken you often find that several of the corallites at the break have been split in two leaving the polyp exposed. On this strain of Blue Tip Acropora the surviving polyps first look like black dots set back slightly from the edge of the white skeleton. For several years we have been studying thousands of Acropora cuttings to learn what initiates axial corallite production. A major part of our research is the collection of over fifty-nine thousand digital pictures of our reef aquariums. We are now able to go back several years and watch cuttings as they grow into colonies. Sally Jo's and I have burned over one hundred and twenty five CDs, and soon we will be loading the pictures onto a 50 GB hard drive.
FOR THE LAST 5 YEARS WE HAVE WORKED VERY HARD TO PURCHASE, TRADE, AND SAVE AS MANY TYPES OF CORALS AS WE CAN.
We are having a special on all of the coral cuttings. WHEN YOU PURCHASE 5 AT THE REGULAR PRICE OF $100 WE WILL GIVE YOU TWO FREE CORALS!. We will continue to provide the most current data on reef farming for both education and profit.