|How I started|
Gosh it seems just like yesterday that LeRoy sat me down and said your going to learn this stuff. He bought me book after book and I fell asleep many nights dreaming about the ocean and wondering about the magic she possess. Each day I began to ask LeRoy more questions, I felt so intimidated, and even more confused. I watched LeRoy have such fun and compassion with his tanks but I also watched many animals die. Every time a new box came in it was like Christmas. I never witnessed anyone having such compassion for these animals and their care as LeRoy has. I asked many questions and went back to the book before opening my mouth in hopes that I would find the answers within the chapters. I only found that my brain would think up more questions and my heart felt like I was overwhelmed and out of my league. I felt that some of my questions were silly but found that the longer I studied and the more information I attained the more I started to see that many questions I may have never been asked. It did not seem anyone had an answer for my queations. There are still many questions that need to be pursued. So much territory has yet to be explored, I found this exciting.
One would have to know me to understand how deeply I care about life. I was the Director of the Idaho Botanical Garden, which started with nothing but a dream followed by a larger vision. We leased a 50 acre site that was nothing but rocks rubble and weeds, to develop a gift to the people of the State of Idaho. I received some tremendous awards and accomplished great things, but my biggest reward was falling in love with LeRoy. He was kind enough to volunteer his services for our ponds at the Garden and his knowledge was so vast, I would go to him with the wonderful questions the children would ask. For if we do not continue to seek answers to their questions they will begin to stop asking. They tend to think of some of the most important questions and they leave a mark on all of us.
|I was always looking for new plant material, designing new gardens and always asking tons of questions. I was a firm believer in if you can count how many plants you have you do not have enough. I also like to expand the envelope so to speak. What plant zone are we?:) Many of the plants would never have been seen in Idaho if everyone stuck to the same chart. I found LeRoy to poses many of the same ideas. He had over 200 species of wetland plants that would never be used in Idaho expect for his willingness to expand the envelope and utilized the natural resource in the backyard of the Foundation which has a Geothermal source.|
|One of the biggest mistakes I have seen is with hobbyist wanting to save an almost dead animal by taking it home only to introduce tons more problems. I will have to tell on LeRoy for a moment. He recently came home with a prize possession of a big coral on one of our plugs. He was proud of this new addition to our bank, I looked at him in shock for nothing was alive on this animal. I asked him how much he paid for it and he said $40.00. I called the pet store and told them they could not sell anything without LeRoy having his glasses on:). Introducing new fish in an old tank that has named fish in it is another risky adventure I see people take. It is much smarter if you are this kind of person to set up a quarantine tank and once you know the fish is healthy or the coral is safe then you can place it in your system.||
I guess what I am trying to convey to you by saying all of this is that my first tank (the empty tank LeRoy challenge me with) is now famous across the Country. It is mostly an expression of my love for these animals, my will for them to survive, and the willingness to find better and safer ways to maintain a reef system more focused on the animals than on equipment and gadgets. I feel the best teacher I had other than LeRoy was Mother Nature herself. If you really want to learn the true facts the facts that will stick with you visit her. We hope by sharing our systems with you it will encourage more of you to become involved not only from the hobby stand point but more importantly for safeguarding these animals for future generations. If I can do it so can you. I know this fact because I have six systems in my office now, I am in charge of the maintenance of the 40 separate systems at the Foundation. Five years ago I had never touched salt water, let alone known what beauty lay beneath her salty taste.
|We have spent countless hours sharing our systems with everyone who will stumble across our Internet site. We share not only text but, pictures as well as the recipe for our success. We know that there are many ways to maintain a reef system, ours is but one way certainly not the only way, but the best way for us! Our only hope for sharing the chapters of information is that if there is somebody out there who felt like me perhaps I can give them the wonderful life changing experience LeRoy gave me. The simple words you can do it is the biggest jump start I can give you. Visit our web site often, e-mail us and please never give up. All of what we have invested personally and financially has always been worth it.|
Remembering that tanks go through natural cycles is also important. The ocean has different seasons, and different cycles. Knowing that we are all human and we make mistakes is also important but we need to learn from them and go on. Do not let the fear of making the first step of reef keeping keep you from enjoying the beauty of reef keeping. We all had to take the first step and for each of us it has been a different reason or outcome.
This summer my 12 (just turned 13 last week) year old niece Samantha Headlee worked with me every single day. Sam was given more responsibility than most people after reaching the age of 21. I was amazed by her willingness to never give up and her desire to keep the peace. Sam never missed a day and never complained about any task she was assigned. One day she looked at me and said I am going to grow up and be just like you Aunt Sally Jo. It was one of the proudest moments for me this summer. One day a trade arrived at the Foundation she helped me unpack the animal and place it in my newest reef system. We went outside of my office and spent hours packing orders, answering phones and when finish with all tasks at hand went back into the peaceful setting of my office. Her mouth dropped open and she said "I never knew a coral was so big". The trade animal we placed in my tank only hours ago had tripled in size and took up a good third of my tank. This gives you an idea of how much propagating we do:) She is soon to be setting up her own 55 gallon reef tank and I am certain I will learn loads from the questions she will ask. It will be fun learning along with her. I can honestly say that I learn something new each and every single day. I also realize that so much more needs to be learned about these animals.
|THE XENIA FILTER AND THE CANCER RESEARCH |
CORALS ARE DOING FINE THANKS TO ALL OF YOU
The trades that some of you have sent in to us are not only great additions to our growing genetic bank but are remarkable animals and are certain to add to our on-going cancer research. With the underlying focus at this time getting DNA testing for each animal and sharing those results with the rest of the World. We have been trying to get this done for a couple of years and hopefully soon we will have found the right funding, machines and staff to accomplish this goal. Each coral morphs differently in tanks, so species identification has been extremely hard. It is our hope with the DNA testing that not only will we be able to accurately ID them but we will also be able to give them a history and origin. Making certain that no animal has to become extinct.
|Some of the greatest accomplishments I feel GARF has made is by sharing the updates and pictures on our web site. We enjoy sharing pictures and more importantly sharing the animals with others. I recently sent back four corals to the Mike Paletta who gave me these as babies almost four years ago. On the bag I wrote a special note WELCOME HOME! It is a great pleasure trading animals, replacing ones that were lost, and finding good homes for our clones. Some of our propagated animals are well over 20 generations from mom. We have developed ways to have zero impact on the wild reefs and I go to sleep each night knowing we are making a difference, a positive one.|
|We are very concerned that we are closer to having to face a huge ban on wild animals in the near future. As everyone has an opinion on this subject I feel compelled to share mine. I know with our operation that propagation is important, again thinking in the same lines as gardening when left alone things do get out of balance. I believe that managed care is what is needed for our wild reefs. Safer collection practices and shipping methods will supply better fish to our hobby. Educating the hobby to pass their animals to others, starting new tanks with hand made live rock and never allowing the coral itself to hit a dead end system will make our hobby one we can all be proud of. I am more afraid of accidentally introducing something from the wild that could wipe out our closed systems than I am about the animals coming out of the ocean being the cause for the wild animals demise. The chance of introducing a new source of deadly coral bleaching could damage our closed systems if we are not careful. We know now that bleaching is not caused by one issue. Many issues are the fault in wild bleaching. In our wild reefs it wipes out miles at a time. The other part that really concerns me is the need for DNA testing on these animals. This process becomes even more important when you look at the biomedical uses of these animals. We are now providing animals in the hopes of finding cures for life threatening diseases. If anyone out there wants to help us please contact us!||
We simply can not fight these battles alone, we need your help to make this happen. We need to become team players, educate ourselves and become active in decisions that might arise by committees appointed by the President of the United States over a year ago. If we expect the Government to protect this wild resource and their resources are already limited what will happen. It is the people who need to care, for it is the people who can and will make a different. Please help us be the voice, the solid voice these animals need for the future generations. Do this not only for our children but for the fish, plant and animal life that can not speak for itself. What will happen to the villages that live off of the life that is sustained in the ocean if it dies or if the livelihood they rely on is gone. Many villages do not think of saving for college educations but for the next meal they will feed their family.
If only we could figure out a way for a huge skimmer to filter the ocean (putting back the wetlands, might help), a huge chiller, (I am certain one of you could figure that one out). Mangrove stands cool the water in bays where baby fish and invertabrates are born. We need to stop the destruction of these coastal forests. Managed fish populations, lighting, water changes and all the remarkable tools we have at our finger tips is what the wild reef needs. Perhaps we could produce stronger strains of zooxanthellae to assist our wild animals from bleaching. It is our opinion the idea that will save the wild reefs has not been sparked yet. So keep asking questions, keep scratching your head more importantly keep the ideas flowing and share them with others. Someone out their has the answers and I hope in my lifetime I will witness there practice.
IT GROWS VERY FAST AND IT IS HARDY
|Just like the ocean environment we always need to work on finding a balance for our closed systems. We need to upgrade our lights, our powerheads, the supplements and so on as we add more corals to our systems. I have often wondered how many types of zooxanthellae I have in my systems. Are some of them stronger strains than others. What causes my corals to have such vibrant colors. Some of the corals will come in so brown and within weeks I see color develop. I can send some of my colored propagated animals out to someone else they loose their color, could the answer be found in the supplements we use. What makes the animals grow so fast and recover from the massive propagation I constantly give them, could the answer be just like that found in gardening the more attention you give your plants the more they will grow. What makes the corals become stronger each generation we clone away from mom, could it be we are growing stronger corals by producing new strains. I know any animal that made it to Boise, Idaho was a strong strain. Could the answer be that I just ask too many questions and that I love the animals too much:) I do not think so.|
It is important to put your reef as a priority in your life. You must check it every day. Maintain a maintenance schedule, find someone to care for it when you are gone, and never neglect it. Changing lights, water changes, a strict regimen of adding supplements, adding janitors, looking at all mechanical items is a must for the success of reef keeping. As with all hobbies there comes a time when people loose interest in their systems. This is sad and deadly. We recovered several this summer alone. One should way all the positive and negative components before ever making the commitment to caring for a reef system. It reminds me of the individuals who leave their children or their dogs in a car when it is boiling hot outside to run into the store for just a minute. We as hobbyists can not take those chances. I hate to hear of tank crashes and hope in some small way by sharing GARF with the rest of the World we will save someone that grief. Many of the crashes never have to happen and most happen due to human mistake.
|Remembering the reef system is a balancing act, always trying to give it the best possible of conditions. Taking the time to move animals up or down where they seem to do the best. Never being to tired to care or to broke to buy the supplies. Is honestly what it takes to be a World class reef keeper. Being consistent, and buying healthy specimens will also breed success. Making sure to quarantine animals before risking your tank is also important. Make certain your fish were caught properly and be as proud to show off your reef and share it with others as we are. Be willing keep your tank going even through the tough time or the curves life throws at all of us or holding on even at the bumping times. These tanks can not thrive or survive without us. Think about all the animals that are put to sleep each and every year due to human neglect or taking on something we should not have.|
I hope many of you will come to GARF for our fifth annual Coral Farming Seminar. It is on the calendar for October 23rd and 24th. Everyone is to leave Boise with salt water hands, a deeper appreciation for the animals and tons of knowledge on how to sustain them. For making your reservations or for more information please give our staff a call at 800-600-6163.
An ending greeting to Marine Fish Monthly for allowing us a voice in the hobby. On a personal note, four people have been saved from the pain in their spine at Johns Hopkins. It makes each and every second I suffered from pain worth it when I can save others and hope that the word will cover the medical field and save people from unnecessary surgerys and unlimited pain. We never could have reached as many people without you!