START WITH EMPTY AQUARIUM
ARAGOCRETETM CAVE ROCK
ARAGOCRETETM ARCH ROCK
HOW TO STACK YOUR ARAGOCRETETM REEF
ARAGOCRETETM REEFSCAPING DETAILS
PLANTING CORALLINE ALGAE
NEW REEF DAY 3
NEW REEF DAY 4
NEW REEF DAY 14
|THIS REEF AT TWO YEARS OLD
This series of articles starts with an updated reprint that will document this reef aquarium as it grows into another prize winning brood stock aquarium. Sally Jo now has three of the finest reef aquariums I have ever seen including this new 55 gallon tank.
We will be taking pictures of this tank all year so we can show some of the newest ways we build these complex reef systems using almost nothing from the wild reef.
3- 40 WATT LIGHTS AND 1 - 4 FOOT VHO
YES, THOSE ARE THE RARE, BALI GIANT XENIA, AT THE TOP OF THE REEF!
THIS IS THE FANTASTIC GREEN POLYP SARCOPHYTON.
|This new molded cave rock that Eddie made for my office tank is placed on top of the GARF Grunge. With each new tank we try some new ideas to see if we can make each one better than the one before. We decided to soak the aragocrete in our grunge for a couple of days. On Valentines day LeRoy placed the plenum and live sand (GARF GrungeTM) in this tank.
WE USE THE PLENUM AS AN UNDER GRAVEL FILTER FOR THE FIRST FEW MONTHS. After the gravel bed is started we remove the power heads and the gravel becomes a regular plemnum gravel bed.
It was time to place the first rocks in the system and landscape our newest reef. This cave table works great for keeping the whole rock off the sand.
|We decided to place several of these new molded cave rocks in my tank. It has been set up now for 5 weeks and the fish absolutely love to swim in and out of these rocks. If you look very closely you will see that we are using shavings of plastic to encourage the coralline algae to grow on these newly placed rocks. We also felt that my old man tank worked so well with using the blue lights on it for 24 hours we did it again for two weeks with this new addition to my office. When placing your rock in your tank you do not need to worry about making a mistake you can always move the rocks to different positions. What you really want to achieve is a solid foundation that you can build on that is why I love these cave rocks. They truly make your landscaping job easy.|
|I am lucky enough to work at GARF so I spent a couple hours going through our mountain of AragocreteTM. I wanted to pick special pieces that I felt would fit in my 55 gallon reef tank. We have tons of this Aragocrete fully cured and ready to place in reef tanks. The reason why we are walking you through how to do this is because we hope to take the burden off the ocean. When all of your corals come from aquaculture, you do not take the risk of introducing something from the wild that could wipe out everything we have worked so hard for. It is such a learning experience when you and your family build your first reef with nothing from the ocean. This piece of Aragocrete I call my ledge rock. In the pictures below you will see how it was placed in between rocks so that is creates a natural ledge that I can place many babies on. This piece is also seeded with pieces of plastic.|
|I really love the arches that Eddie Postma makes. I found out that I am not alone. I went outside to hand pick the arches and they were all gone. I asked Eddie if he would go rescue me some from our curing site. He found many of them for me to choose from. The arches give you the ability to place animals up closer to the light and also allows the fish to hide and to swim through them. Make sure you have secured the arches in place so that when you glue other animals to them they do not fall over. Again you can not make a mistake you can move the rock and design your own landscape very easily. It kind of reminds me of gardening. Everyone has their own idea on what they want and what they think is beautiful. Because of this fact it is what makes art so fun and each project unique.|
|This arch rock is even better than the ones in the picture above. This arch rock has holes in it. These plug holes are used to place the reef plugs with the propagated livestock that we grow at GARF. It is so fun to place your rock in your tank. Take some pictures so you remember how you set it up. Once this step is done I start planning for the babies that I will be growing in my new system. The plugs fit perfectly in the holes and will not fall out. We can place the baby corals right in your tank the very same day because we use Garf GrungeTM to start the systems. I tend to pop the original plug out once it has grown onto the arch rock and use the plug in another arch. I can then place a different color of Zoanthid to grow side by side with the first one I seed the rock with. You can get great color this way. This is a good way to start collecting different animals to farm out later.|
I have often screamed at LeRoy thinking I had lost one of my fish only for him to look at me like I am silly because the fish is sleeping in its own little cave:)
You can make these any size you want to. It is extremely important to be thinking about what animals you will be placing in your reef. Remember I start my systems out with low lights to encourage coralline algae growth. I place no skimmer on the system because I do not want to skim out all the great things in the GARF grunge. Once my tank is full of coralline algae I place my skimmer on and never shut it off. I am proud to say there are more and more low impact or no impact reefs starting up all around the World. We hope to hear from you as you develop your own one of a kind reef tank.
LeRoy actually stacked all of the AragocreteTM in this tank for me. I could not pick up the pieces since I am very limited to what I can and can not do because of the recent surgery on my spine.
|This is a series of pictures that show you one rock at a time how LeRoy landscaped my newest reef tank. You must remember before this step you must make your own rock or buy them fully cured from us. We sell them to fit every different sized system. We can send them UPS ground because they are dry and ready to place in your tank after you have made the decision to use the Zero Impact - Low Foot Print Method. I use an Eco-Sand plenum and CaribSea SeaFlor Gravel. I use GARF grunge to seed the tank to create live sand. This allows me to place some corals in the tank the same day. LeRoy always uses a Maxi-Jet power head to run the plenum as an under gravel filter fo several months. When he removes the pump and plugs the hole my plenum starts to remove Nitrate.|
I am sharing the step by step set up of this system, I do want to add that when you are making your own rock, curing your rock is very important. The longer you cure your rock the better your rock will be. It is important to cure your rocks in fresh water for six to eight weeks.
The advantage of getting them from GARF is that they are fully cured and reef safe. You also get rocks made by a professional sculpture - Eddie Postma. We are also putting together a video that will show how Eddie makes all of these rocks. His biggest challenge at this time for making rocks is to make them small enough to fit in the smaller systems that are soon to be on the market.
|You can see for yourself in this picture that with the cave tables in place the ledges fit very comfortably on top of them. I find the ledges to work great to hold your clams and many other animals that you want to hold upright without having to glue them in place. You can really see how the blue lights work on this system. I allow the GARF grunge to settle before placing my rock in the tank. Otherwise you are working with a tank that is cloudy and you really can't see how the landscape is going. Again these are just our ideas of how to place the rock. Be creative and share these ideas with others. This can be the favorite family project. I can not think of a better way to teach ecology than by creating a Zero Impact Reef.|
|In this picture you can already see many places for the fish to swim through. The other thing that we are trying to show is the placement of the cave tables so that only about eight places are really touching the sand. I am not certain that this is all that important after working with my first tank for over 3 years. There is no bare bottom and a vast amount of life is thriving in it. Over time your landscape will not show as much because your animals will grow over the rocks. It reminds me so much of my gardening experiences. When you first design your garden, landscaping with rocks, wood and so on really makes the garden. As the garden matures you see hints of the landscape and find yourself pruning the plants to show rock and wood work.|
I can not put enough emphases on how important it is to enjoy each and every stage of your reef development. You can and should have fun the very first day you start to set it up. Each month your tank will change. I see this more on a daily basis but for the most part this is because I am caring for over forty reef tanks.
Once your tank matures you will find that propagation is a must. I realize that by being a staff member for GARF I have the advantage of certain items. However, I hope by sharing this information it will kindle your interest and you will find ways to do similar shortcuts. Many of our local customers come in and visit us to see what is new and what they may want to do differently. Because you are so far away from us we bring you the next best thing and that is pictures. Some people complain because our site takes longer to load. We feel the pictures are important and many people write us and ask for even more!
If you look closely at the pictures you can see that our Reef JanitorsTM are already working hard. For the beginning system it is important for them to help you find a balance by cleaning the diatoms up so that is not all you see.
| I also want to make this statement that no garden is without some weeds and no reef tank will be completely without algae. You do not see any algae in my tanks, but that is because I place a handful of janitors in each reef every semester to keep everything in balance. |
The only place I have algae that is visible in my three year old tank is in my overflow box where the janitors can not go. It is best to combat the problem before it becomes a problem. If you are worried they do not have enough to eat just use one and a half Janitors per gallon and they will do great. I am so spoiled that I never worried about cycles. I just start by starting and enjoy every single stage of setup.
|You can see how the rocks interlock and are really stable. I am now ready to place some of the corals in this system. You must also realize that I try to age the tank in several ways. One way that I love to do this is by taking water from the oldest tanks at the Foundation and place it in the newest systems. What this does for me is allows me to make my 10% a month water changes in my oldest tanks and gives me aged water for my newest tanks. Only by doing this do you realize how much of a difference this makes to your new tank. We hardly ever throw anything away at GARF:) We use Instant Ocean for all of our salt water needs and truly believe that in some cases Instant Ocean is better than the wild water our ocean corals are fighting to live in. I feel the less we can take from the ocean the better our chances will continue to be.|
|I have over 2,000 babies to choose from at the Foundation. My newest grow out tank holds over 1,000 cuttings at a time. I feel that it was very important for me to have all these tanks running separately even though they are side by side in my office. One reason that it has become important to have as many tanks as I have is to spread the risk of having one coral in just one system. I now cut them into threes so they are found in the three year old tank, the two year old tank and when ready in the five week old tank.|
This rock was growing in one of the 29 gallon reefs. We took it outside and crushed it into small pieces. These pieces were dumped in the reef on top of the new rock. LeRoy decided he wanted to make my tank age quickly because I was running out of places to put babies from the oldest tank because both of them are almost full.
It seems silly to admit but after cutting over 600 babies from my three year old tank people could not really tell I had cut anything.
It sure made it easier for me to show off corals that you could not see unless you could position your head to look around some of the ones that were hiding others.
|I always seem to find second layers of corals as well:) I already spoke about placing aged water in this newest system when doing a water change in my oldest system. One other way LeRoy aged this tank was by breaking up some of his older tank raised rocks to help seed the coralline and other animals . This made a huge difference not only from the stand point of adding corals but fish as well. Again it is important to note I use low lights, no skimmer, two or three powerheads, man made rock, the Eco - Sand plenum seeded with a thick layer of GARF grunge.|
These pictures show how LeRoy breaks up the rock and uses this crushed rock as the top layer of the GARF grunge. This is why I feel the skimmer hurt my efforts in the very beginning stages of set up. I do not want to skim out the beneficial organisms in the live sand as well as the invisible spores of coralline, sponges and many more surprises that show up over the years. You might want to take a piece of live rock from one of your older tanks and do the same. Or you can visit your friends and see if they have any pieces they will let you have or simply call GARF at 1-800-600-6163 to secure a few pieces of already aged man made rock. This crushed rock comes mixed in all of the Garf GrungeTMleroy.
|How many people out there in the vast internet World are tired of spending money on gadgets and having their animals die? If I can do this so can you!! I have done it many times and so can you. I was extremely afraid of my first tank. I think of all the information that would have been lost if LeRoy had not made me roll up my sleeves and start my first tank. I can not give you that push but I can feed you with so much information, with pictures and answers to your questions in the hope that you will be brave and share in this incredible hobby.|
I have the janitors working over the glass, scrubbing rocks and stirring sand. They stay busy from day into the wee hours of the night. I could already see signs of coralline starting to show up on the plastic in my rocks.
|When you understand how most live rock is transported and stored before arriving to its tank destination it is one of the worst ways to start out your tank. We found boxes upon boxes of so called fully cured live rock with no light, no water and no telling how long in the box. This is the last way you want to set up your first every reef tank. It will be nothing but trouble from day one. I have seen some beautiful aquacultured live rock on the market. Just be smart, ask questions and try your hardest to make sure you are starting out giving your reef tank the chance it needs to thrive and survive.|
We are doing all we can to show and teach you how to propagate. Maybe by telling you and warning you about this on only day four seem premature. I am just letting you know you will have to learn how to propagate these animals. Maybe by doing so you can pay for the upgrade of your lights.
|I had one gentlemen who has been a member of GARF for three years. He came into the office and wanted to up grade his lights and was watching me propagate my corals. He was to scared to do this himself so I encouraged him to bring his coral over so I could show him. I forced him to make the first cut. I was not easy on him as LeRoy was not easy on me. This was a huge toad stool-(Sarcophyton) that I made the gentlemen cut the whole head off of the stock. I told him the stock would grow a new head and we cut the head into about 20 pieces. He took four of them home and left with about 12 different species that I traded him for. I placed one of the new freshly cut babies in my four day old tank:)|
|I glue the shell or the little rock to my AragocreteTM to secure the mushroom in place. Mushrooms propagate all by themselves and by the time your tank is three years old you are looking for ways to remove many of the babies that grew on the rocks. The more colors you get the better. I often wonder if the only mushrooms left in the ocean are brown we have so many beautiful colors in our hobby. You must remember with mushrooms when you move them from one tank to another you must give them some time to come out and smile. Placement for mushrooms is important. They do not like intense light, or strong water movement. If the guys are not happy with your choice of placement they will move all on their own.|
|Many of the rocks from my oldest tank needed to be thinned out so it did not take long to start filling up my very young tank. I am sorry I will have to get back to finishing this article LeRoy just called me to tell me to come to the office because a box just came in from Jerry Heslinga wishing me a Happy Birthday. I hope I don't hit any one with my car on the way to the Foundation - he has the most incredible clams. I think I will take the camera so I can share with you my newest tank mate:) Its a good thing I only have to drive five minutes to get to the Foundation this is indeed a great surprise. I am speechless this is by far the most beautiful clam I have ever seen!!!!! The little princess won my heart and was certain no clam could or would surpass her beauty. I was wrong , I have already named my newest clam KING KONA. Jerry must have the best water in the World to grow an animal with this much beauty. I will picture him at the end of this article Picture of finest clam!|
|As you can see I do not wait long to place corals in any of my new systems. I must state that I have two blue lights over this system and one white light. I will keep these blue 40 watt lights on my system 24 hours a day until I see coralline algae spreading on all of the rocks. I notice coralline already spotting the glass. It does not take long once coralline spots appear for it to really start coating the rocks. I look at all three of the systems at the different stages of growth and it reminds me that we have to learn to enjoy our systems every single day. Remembering they are constantly changing, growing, and developing. I often find myself shaking my head at people who have great success with their reef, yet here of a new idea or method and decide they want to try it. Your tanks looks great for a reason and it is so important to remember if it is not broken do not fix it. Keeping your tanks as stable as possible is truly important.|
|I simply love setting up new reefs. I watch and monitor what works the best so that I can share it with you. Each new system has become easier for me, yet I learn something new each time. I will be sharing each week with you so that you will be able to watch this tank grow and as it grow watch how I grow with it. We are firm believers at GARF in sharing information and that secrets are what truly hurt everyone in the hobby. I can think of no better way to start my day than by the reef tanks that reflect so much love and can not live without my love in return. If you have questions about this system or something I forgot to mention please don't hesitate to contact us, but as with the reef tank be patient for our return reply. We try to get back with all the e-mails as fast as we can.|
Some days sally jo answers 45+ emails leroy
|We have proven time and time again that you can have an incredible tank in a very short period of time and not take one single item from the ocean. As with all of our dreams this to has a purpose. Someone will start reseeding these animals back into the wild so future generations can enjoy them. I hope to hear one day that home reef tanks house corals that have out lived their owners. Although I know I will become upset when my most beautiful clams out grow their reefs, I will just have to have bigger tanks:)|
|I have had the privilege of visiting reef tanks in the US that have started out by following the bullet proof reef tank systems that we have shared on our site. It is important to follow our updates so that you will know when we make changes and why. My tanks was actually beautiful the first week of setup. It was fun to move animals that were crowding my oldest tank. The room they had to spread their polyps was important. It won't be long before I make cuttings from this tank. You will notice just in a seven day time period the corals already show signs of growing.|
|I already have two tangs in this system. My favorite tangs to assist our janitors in the maintenance of these tanks are the Red Sea Sail Fin Tang and the Purple Tang. They love to swim in and out of the rocks, often peaking out at me, because I play in the tank all the time. Having the different shapes of rocks and ledges to sit some of my corals on makes my job of decorating so much easier. I am amazed how well these corals do in the short time my tank has been setup. |
I have been running around from tank to tank at the Foundation finding some of the rarer soft corals and sticking them in this tank. Joe and Cindy Jones from Salt Lake visited us this past weekend and they brought me many corals and some beautiful blue mushrooms that love their new home.
| Sometimes reef keeping reminds me of standing in front of a tea pot waiting for the water to boil. We all want things to happen so fast, yet time is the only key. You can have fun and take great pride when showing your friends the rock you made and the animals you start to grow in your newly set up reef system. By the time you are ready to upgrade your lights or move up to a skimmer some of your animals will have grown considerably that you may be able to trade animals for the equipment you want.
You will notice that at this stage of my system I do not add any small polyp stony corals nor any large polyp stony corals. I place as many soft corals and mushrooms as I can find. I have already lost count of how many different types of I have in this new system. It is fun to thin out my other tanks and seed this new tank. I really have my hands full. I have the three tanks side by side and the recent addition of the three 40 gallon cutting tanks. I never thought I would have this many animals or this much success. My hope is you will have the same success.
|Some of the babies are not ready to leave yet but as soon as they are attached to the plug my staff will make sure you get the top quality of captive raised animal we farm. I hope that you enjoy watching this tank develop and that it will encourage you to take the reef plunge. I find the 55 gallon system to be my personal favorite. I can reach my hand anywhere to rescue any coral that has fallen down. We hope that when you make your own rock you will share the information with us and with everyone who shows interest in this hobby. Take some time to visit your local pet stores inform them about your project and see if they will trade you for your captive raised animals.|
|Our first rocks that we made look pretty funny, some the dog ate and many never made it to our reef tanks. I think making your own rock is important when thinking about setting up a small system. It would be hard to find rock in small sizes. I have seen very few little rocks come from the ocean that has holes in them. Also the problem I have seen with stacking rock from the ocean it that it is a balancing act. Many collected rocks allow little chance for the fish to find places to swim through. If you do not have the time, or space to make your own rock give us a call. We make all shape and sizes of rock. The rock can be shipped dry & fully cured. I hope by sharing the step by step rock placement it will help you place the rock in your system. Be creative and remember to have fun!!!!|
|I like to add tons of color to my new reef tank. I also enjoy watching the animals change as they adjust to their new home. They tend to settle in with very little stress when they are moved from one tank in my office to the other. I love the cave rocks because that is where the sponges first show up and the mushrooms start to grow over them. I also found out that by growing your corals on Aragocrete rock that when it comes time to propagate the animals this rock is extremely easy to chip off a little of the rock with the animal for very easy attachment. Some of the live rock on the market is so hard it is very difficult to force the animal off.|
|Much of the Aragocrete rock interlocks so that you can create very safe and stable environments for your animals. I placed some rock from aged systems to help seed this tank. Once the coralline is seeded I remove some of the rock to start the next system. It is also important for you to consider how big to make your rocks for the size system you are setting up. I am afraid with the success of my office grow out system that soon my desk will be outside of my office. I am also certain that the mother does much better when I continually propagate from her. Both the baby and the mother grow faster. I recently tested propagating the Palythoa. I cut the head right off the body. The body grew back from each cut and the head grew into a new body. Each day I visit my tanks I learn something new and spend hours diving in my captive systems.|
|The first thing I notice on the rock is it turns a greenish color and once that phase is over the pink coralline starts to show up every where. I can hardly wait to show you pictures of this tank in our next newsletter. That will give it a whole month to grow and develop. If you have any questions about this tank or making rock the recipe is found in many of our posted newsletters. If you want to speak directly with LeRoy on this subject you can call him at 208-344-6163. LeRoy has his own private beach outside of the Foundation where Eddie spends countless hours making rock.|
|GARF has many hardy soft coral cuttings that you can purchase right after placing the Aragocrete and GrungeTM in your system. Also you should consider getting a janitor package to help keep your tank in balance from day one. Be careful not to add too many fish at the beginning. You can seed your Aragocrete with our GARF GrungeTM as I do. When doing this I do not put a skimmer on the system because I do not want to skim out all the beneficial organisms in the live sand. Be careful not to introduce fish that will also eat all of your animals found in the live sand. We sincerely hope you have fun and reap the rewards of growing a underwater garden in your very own home.|
|The white stuff in the rock is the plastic shavings I place it in the Aragocrete to encourage coralline to grow on it. It also holds the rock together better and makes the mixture light. Water runs through Eddie's rocks so many bateria can live inside of it. |
It won't be long before you won't even see the plastic. You also see sea shells because we use Carib sea in with our rock mix. Eddie has become a pro at making the best rock I have ever seen. We take great pride in not taking anything from the ocean and in showing you how you can do the same. SAVE A REEF GROW YOUR OWN- this has been LeRoy's quote from the very beginning and I have watched it become a reality.
REMEMBER - SAVE A REEF - GROW YOUR OWN
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 FREE CORALS!. We will continue to provide the most current data on reef farming for both education and profit.