Reef Aquarium Farming News
Online Newsletter for Reef Aquarium Propagation Research



Welcome to page 2 of Reef Aquarium Farming News. All of us here at GARF would like you to know that we are honored that you have chosen to visit our newsletter. If you have any suggestions about any subject you would like us to explore please feel free e-mail us.


I spent a great deal of time soul searching for a title to this month's article. To think that I have been privileged enough to share these past four years with these incredible animals is not measurable by words. It is with tremendous pride that I celebrate the birthdays of each of my office tanks.



The oldest one is four years old, the middle one is three years old and the youngest two just turned one year old. I have been blessed to share these tanks through our Internet site at from day one.

I hope all of you will take at peek at their beauty, and realize that you too can have the reef of your dreams. The corals that I began with are still in my tanks and they have mothered so many generations I have lost count.


As I take the time to reflect on how much these tanks have changed my life. I also want to reflect on how this journey started and the lives my reefs have touched by our sharing their success. My first challenge is that I don't know if I will ever be able to find the words to describe what is felt deep in my heart. It is like trying to find words that perfectly fit the description of the word love. Each poet tries, each author tries, and the dictionary tries; however each individual person's definition is unique.


I remember the first day LeRoy proposed the idea of setting up my own personal reef tank. I was still the director of the Idaho Botanical gardens, and I was playing in my gardens and felt my creative energy was being utilized in the expression of my designs. The next thing I knew LeRoy was buying me reef book after reef book to begin my research into this adventure. He would ask me each and every day about the books he purchased for me to read. He always reassured me that he was there for me if I had any questions.

At first I was afraid to ask them for I felt they were stupid and had been asked of him many times over. You see LeRoy has been active in this Industry for over 33 years. I would watch him set up new tanks, purchase equipment and animals and go home and read the books. I personally did not know one coral from another, did not understand the equipment, nor had I ever had fresh water tanks or salt-water fish. You could say I knew absolutely nothing about reef keeping and felt way out of my league.

The books scared me, however they also peaked my interest and I found myself asking questions. Perhaps one of the biggest advantages to my success was the fact that I did not have 33 years under my belt. Or perhaps because of my compassion for gardening and animals I could emphasize with their needs. I found myself asking more and more questions, and more frequently LeRoy would ask me about setting up my own tank. The answer from me was always, "NO". Yet I would still go home and read my books and wonder how in the World was it possible to care for these animals and sustain their life outside of the ocean. Believe me no one gets into this hobby to spend money only to watch animals die.
I would go home and read more chapters but I felt overwhelmed with confusion, and fear. I am not one to take on any task and fail at it. I always strive to be the best I can be and when we add live material into the equation I become that much more serious. When placing a seed into the ground you have to nurture it to have it grace you with the beauty of your love reflected in the flower.

I understood this, however when you are talking about a reef tank you are talking about equipment, gadgets and animals I had no understanding of. I do carry compassion for animals and I have at my feet this very moment two of the most loved dogs in the world that we rescued from the pound. These guys have never let me down either for they help make my world worth waking up to and they keep me smiling.


On Valentine's Day now over four years ago LeRoy blind folded my eyes walked me into my office and than released the blind fold. Before my eyes adjusted I expected a new desk or a new chair but lo and behold in front of me was an empty 55-gallon tank. I tried to show my appreciation but am certain some disappointment was reflected in my expression. I looked at him in disbelief, and yet now am so grateful for the plunge he made me take. For I know without any reservations that I would never have dived into the hobby of reef keeping if it had not been for his solid push. I thank you with a full heart LeRoy and all the creatures at GARF thank you as well.

My first tank and oldest tank is now four years old and is comprised of most everything everyone told me I could not do. I remember the debate of plenum or no plenum, what types of lights, as I recall all topics seemed to cause debates. I felt like the lone pioneer setting out to discover new territory, for so much of it yet today is left unexplored.

I asked LeRoy to take me on several trips to the ocean for I feel that Mother Nature is the best teacher of all. I am not one who learns or relies souly on textbooks, I have to touch and witness life for myself. I often am found asking why or why not, if no one can answer my questions I tend to seek out my own results.

I took what I learned in the wild and planned out this first reef. My first step was to figure out ways to take as little as possible from the wild. Not because I feel this Industry is the cause of the demise of our wild reefs. I was just concerned that the risk of introducing something from the wild that could wipe out ones whole system was too big. Also I did not want the algae that comes with wild rock, nor the Aiptaias, the mantis shrimp or any of the pesky crabs that one can not get out of their tank without tearing the whole thing down.

It was then that LeRoy and Eddie began making the first Aragocrete rock. We can reflect back on the first pieces that was made and laugh, however they have evolved into pieces that any tank would welcome. This rock is completely man made with the recipe shared in many of our monthly on line posted newsletters at
Eddie is a master at making concrete into masterpieces. If I said I wanted an arch, he worked on the shapes until perfection. Same with the caves and tables, he is constantly improving his designs. LeRoy has fun trying new recipes on how to make the rock and the formula used to shape the rock. He was having such fun playing in this own beach right here in Boise ID. Having many different shapes of man made rock also allows one to create several environments within the one system. Some animals don't like light, some don't like much current and some love it. GEOTHERMAL AQUACULTURE RESEARCH FOUNDATION

In Feb. of 1996 I started out this journey with a 55-gallon tank a huge fear in my heart but the will to move on. LeRoy convinced me to start with an Eco Sand Plenum, made by Richard Brown who custom makes these Plenums for any size setup. Aragocrete rock, and low light. To seed the rock I of course I choose our own GARF GrungeTM which is live sand that has been in closed systems for over 25 years. The GrungeTM has spores of coralline algae, bacteria, spores of sponges, eggs and tons of surprises that are naked to our eye. I placed the plenum in the bottom of this 55-gallon, then the GARF GrungeTM, and then the man made rock. I decided to go against most people's recommendation and truly focused on what I witnessed when viewing Mother Nature.

My first focus is to make the man made rock become live rock so I wanted to force the coralline spores and sponges to grow unto the rock. All of this material is found in the GARF GrungeTM. I use low 40-watt lights to achieve this goal figuring that coralline loves blue light and grows best in low light. My favorite lights to start with are the blue moons and tritons. I do not place a skimmer on the tank in the beginning stages for I do not want to skim out all the beneficial organisms in the grunge. We placed two Maxi Jet 1000's in the tank one blowing current one direction the other blowing current the other direction. LeRoy uses the plenums as Undergravel filters for the first few months.

Believe it or not the very next day when the dust has settled I begin placing our Reef Janitors in the tank along with some of the hardier soft corals. Within the very first week I also add some fish to the system. Often I am asked about fish, I personally prefer the cheap mean fish for they live.

I try my best to simulate the real reef, and feel that the bio-diversity found in my oldest reef is what has led to its tremendous success. The damsels, clownfish and dottyback's are great fish for the long term. There are a few damsels you want to stay away from for they are cute when you first purchase them but they grow real big real fast and can be a problem.

It is so hard to reflect back on all that I learned from this first reef experience. But I can tell you this almost every animal I first put in this reef is still alive. Out of the over 200 different types of coral maybe at the most five are actually from the wild. Dozens of starfish have shown up from the Grunge as well as beautiful sponges and although it is four years old it is alive! I have rarely replenished the Grunge to seed it again.

Along with the setup one most also understand that supplements are important to add to a new system. As well as establishing a maintenance program that you will constantly follow. It has taken a lot of time to try and understand the needs or even the placement of all of these animals. I actually can say that I learn something new each and everyday. One of the reasons we share so many pictures of our tanks on the web, is to give you some idea of placement. You also have to realize that these animals grow and as they grow there needs grow. I feel that in order to keep my tank in balance it is important to place a skimmer on the tank at about the five to six month stage of development. I also feel water changes of at least 10% a month is important not just to change the water but to add back the minerals that get depleted over time.

On my four-year-old tank, I have six VHO bulbs that is 11 watts per gallon but this was spread out over a two-year period. I change my lights on a six-month period, changing two bulbs at a time spreading it out over a one-month period so as not to shock or bleach any of the corals. I have a good skimmer on this tank. I add reef janitors every six months, to keep the tank in balance. I add the supplements never missing a dose using Sea Chem.

I do monthly water changes of at least 10% with Instant Ocean. It has five powerheads in the tank making certain no one animal is blocking another animal from getting current or lighting. I have to do weekly pruning and daily visual to make certain no one is unhappy or touching. I feed only sprilina flake food almost daily sometimes more depending on visitors. We use no RO unit Boise water it great. We set our makeup water out for 24 hours before using it in our tanks.


In my newly set up tank it was not long before many of the animals began to grow and I do mean grow real fast. We were having our first reef tour where we opened our doors to the public to showcase our reefs and to educate them about corals. My biggest animal was my Sarcophyton, LeRoy told me I needed to propagate it for it was becoming to big and I needed to worry about bio-mass. I kept fighting him on this issue, until one day he came into my office and said if you let me propagate that animal you can have ten more.

Four years later my Sarcophyton is still in my tank and is being propagated still:). I was making babies from the mother colonies in the very first six months of my first tank. LeRoy had to really twist my arm to make me partake in all the propagation research but it wasn't long before I was cutting and gluing along with the best of them.

By this time my interest in having as many different species as I could became my focus. I wanted some of the delicate sps corals. So I decided to increase my lights slowly so as not to shock the animals already in my tank and honestly my lights of choice is the VHO bulbs. What was an all soft coral tank with six 40 watt lights, grew into a sps coral forest with six VHO bulbs. This tank is indeed my biggest challenge to date. For I have to make certain all animals are happy in this environment that I created for them. I am constantly propagating from this tank, and seeding tanks throughout GARF. Presently at GARF we have over 40 separate systems, mine are all set up with the same structure.


Not everyone will have the same desire I have had with trying to get as many animals as I can into a small 55-gallon system. However I have shown people what you can do if you want to. Animals are growing on my powerheads, on my overflow box and anywhere there is room. These tanks are indeed my pride and joy and many people across the Country have grown to love them. They have babies from Dick Perrin, Mike Paletta, Steve Tryee, Jerry Heslinga, Joe and Cindy Jones, the Smithsonian, and several individual farmers across the land.

Their original colonies are from all parts of the World. I look at these tanks and I loose my heart. Yet when I look at how many animals are still out there we only have a small part of the World in our tanks.

GARF now has a little over 400 different types of coral. We have many soft corals and a large collection of small polyp stony corals. Since opening our doors to trading we are increasing the animals in our genetic bank drastically as well as spreading our animals out in tanks across the U.S.A.

When my desire to keep the sps corals grew and my success with them was so incredible that I found the soft corals to be outgrowing the tank so much faster than I could keep up with. Again Valentines Day came and LeRoy took me into the office and here was another 55 gallon tank that was empty and needing my love. It wasn't long before this tank started to house many of the second generation Sally Jo corals. People who came to visit could not believe how fast the tank matured and how much fun one can have from the