Reef Aquarium Farming News
Online Newsletter for Reef Aquarium Propagation Research

ISSUE # 16 APRIL, 1998 PAGE 1

Hello, Welcome to the 16th issue of our newsletter. We have been having a very good time propagating many of the corals that are now large enough to cut. As we get experience operating the research coral farm we are starting to understand how exciting this project can be. Many of the sps coral heads have started to develop great new colors. We are now using some very simple systems to grow our brood stock. As our systems mature the water quality is staying very stable. We have learned that the most important thing needed for sps corals to develop their best color is low nutrient levels. When the Phosphate and Nitrate get too high the internal algae balance in the corals changes and the brown color of the algae masks the other colors.

Coral farming is going to grow into a major new business during the next few years. We are getting reports from around the world from people who are starting to have some significant commercial success. This may be one of those rare types of farming that will be more profitable when done as a large number of small scale farms servicing local markets. Coral farming, like some other complicated agriculture ventures, may not lend itself to mass production methods. Reef aquarium keeper is not one of the skilled positions that you can call your local employment agency and hope to find a number of people ready to fill.

This month we have part three of our report on production of Xenia. On page three we have an article that shows you an easy way to propagate some hard to attach soft corals. We have two fine business planning articles on page three. We have included links to many of his business planning articles. We are very interested in any reports about both small and large scale reef farming. If you have a farm that consists of acres of live rock or if you trade your frags for fish food we want to hear from you.

The more we share the more we harvest - join in the information exchange and everyone will grow together.
Thank you so much for reading our humble newsletter. more later LeRoy



We use a net bag to hold a large number of Xenia cutting so that they become attached to the netting. The netting is then cut into small pieces called Xenia tags. These tags are very easy to glue to live rocks and reef plugs.

The biggest problem we have found in mass producing Xenia is the trouble we have had getting large numbers of cuttings mounted in a hurry. There are many methods used to attach Xenia in the hobby. Many people place rocks next to the parent colony and then wait for the Xenia to grow onto the rock.

We needed to develop ways to make this coral easy to produce because this is one of the best corals for small scale farmers to grow. Xenia tend to be very hard to ship. The best types of Xenia pulse and have great shapes that are not like any other common soft coral. People read about Xenia and this creates demand. Many people who purchase Xenia do not read about this corals needs. Xenia tend to over grow their aquarium. If these crowded corals are stressed then they will often crash.

This combination of high demand and hard shipping makes this coral group a good one for local production. Small Xenia that have been grown in captive reefs for several generations are much more hardy than wild collected Xenia. These captive strains ship much better than any wild Xenia we have ever purchased.

We use these plastic net bags that we purchase nuts in. These bags come in tubes that are sold on a roll. The tube is pulled off of the roll and a clip is used to close the end. We use heat to seal the end of the tube after we have cut it the length we need.


The two Xenia types in the pictures above are the best ones to use for this method. The Xenia on the left grows by spreading along the rocks and glass. This is the type of Xenia that we used in this project. The Xenia on the right grows on long stalks and it can be produced using this method.

 This the most popular Xenia we grow here in Boise. This Pom Pom Xenia came from Fiji several years ago. This colony is the third generation we have raised from the original one polyp that Sally Jo found after the wild colony exploded.

We have been able to grow this Xenia by using netting. After the Xenia is attached to the netting we cut the colony into small tags that can be glued to rocks. We have found that the most deadly thing we can do to a colony of Xenia is to allow the temperature to get over 80 degrees. Even a short period of high temperature often causes the adult colonies to fall apart.

We have saved many Xenia colonies by treating them with extra SeaChem Reef Plus. When we cut these corals we always use from 3 to 6 times the regular dose of this product. We are certain that the amino acids supply needed nutrients and that the Iodine may also have an antiseptic effect.

We have found that these corals do very well when grown under VHO lighting. The water flow that works best for our Xenia production is supplied by having one of the power heads on a timer. We use timers that have pins that can be pulled up so the pump is on every other one half hour.

This is the wonderful Bali two color pulsing Xenia. This coral can grow into a giant if the reef stays cool for an entire year. We have had colonies of this Xeina with stalks that were over 5 inches wide. The polyps of this Xenia pulse almost 100 percent of the time.

We use the timers on one of the power heads in each system so the Xenia is exposed to both high and low water movement. During the time when the water flow is slower the Xenia pulses very strongly. We are certain that these corals use the slime they produce to trap organic material.

We have found that this coral produces a very large amount of slime and this may be one of the reasons it is so hard to ship large colonies. This slime may produce toxins when it is consumed by bacteria in the closed bag.

We have had the best luck shipping small colonies of this coral that have been stressed and washed in reef water for several hours before they are sealed in the bags.




These two pictures show how the net bag full of Xenia cutting is placed in the direct flow of two Maxi-Jet 1000 power heads. We attached the net bag to one of our drilled plastic plug racks. Jay Kanrich brought us a huge piece of Creeping Xenia he removed from his glass. We placed all of the chucks of Xenia in this one net bag and it took about 6 hours for the polyps to extend through the netting. This method of propagation will work very well on the long polyp Xenia species. Most of the Xenia we see in reef aquariums seem to be brown stalked types. These corals are very good for this type of mass production. We also have some true Xenia elongata and we are certain that we can propagate it this way.

This picture shows the net bag just after it was removed from the reef aquarium. We left the Xenia in the net bag for 21 days and it seemed like every hole in the bag had polyps growing through it. We decided to harvest the cuttings when we noticed new polyps growing.

Xenia corals have a very strong smell and when you work with this many at once it really does STINK. We are certain that after you have worked with Xenia for a while it would be possible to identify species by their smell. Each type has it's own odor. This part of the coral farming research made me glad I do not have very good olfactory senses during the spring. Healthy corals often have a pungent fish smell, but I think creeping Xenia wins the prize.

After we took this picture we cut the top of the bag off and then we cut down into the coral mass. This type of net bag works very well because it is very elastic and flexible. We were able to flatten the entire mass of Xenia out so we could see where to cut between the main parts of the coral. The entire inside of the netting was overgrown with tissue.

This is how the Xenia mass looked when we turned the netting over in a bowl of reef water. As we stretched the netting it became more obvious where the first cuts should be made. After we started cutting the netting apart we divided each large piece into smaller sections. We wanted to be able to sell the corals in 3 weeks so we did not cut the tags as small as we could have. This bag was cut into about 48 sections. We tried to make the cuts so that a piece of the netting without Xenia attached was left on each cutting.

This extra netting is important during the next part of the process because we use it to glue the tag to the rocks. We have been using Aragocrete reef plugs for all of our soft coral production. We like the way that we can move the plugs from one part of the plastic rack to another. We can also keep track of how many corals we have sold during each week by counting the empty holes in the racks.

Now that we are selling corals every week it is easy to inventory the racks and to see how many cuttings we need to make. We have had a special this week and we gave a free Xenia with each 5 corals we sold. Today we moved all of the creeping Xenia together on one rack so it was easy to see how many we need to make this week.

These small cuttings each have from 4 to 12 polyps attached to the netting. If we were putting these corals away for later we could have made twice as many tags. Xenia corals are very fast growing when they are in the right aquarium. Finished corals of the group ship much better when they are small so the customer is happy to receive a living small Xenia that will grow rather than another large dead or dying wild colony.

We have noticed that each generation of Xenia seems to be stronger than the ones that they were propagated from. Alf Nilsen gave a great talk at the Seattle seminar this month. He had some slides that helped me understand why corals become better aquarium animals as they are propagated in our reefs. He had corals from his reef aquariums tested for minerals. He compared them with corals from the same colony that Bruce Carlson collected directly from the reef in Fiji. The corals from Germany had minerals in them that only occur in the tap water from that region. As we grow corals in aquariums they are composed of the types of water we use and the minerals we add. One important part of the reason that captive Xenia are stronger than wild Xenia is because the weaker ones died before we could propagate them. When a strain survives a problem such as overheating then the next generation will often be able to survive that problem later.

 This is one of the Xenia tags that we made from the larger mass that we grew in the bag. Note how we used the extra piece of netting to glue the tag to the reef plug.

We put a small drop of reef glue on the dry reef plug and then we press the netting into the glue. None of the tags came off of the plugs.

These pictures show some of the glue we use for our research hatchery work. We now use about 400 grams of glue each week. The 20 gram tubes will be big enough for most people. The small .4 gram tubes are fine for learning, and they will do between 5 and 15 cuttings. Remember to dip any cutting in the reef water as SOON as you can. Super glues heat up as they cure.


The next 3 pictures show how we attached a Pom Pom Xenia tag to a live rock underwater in our Kona reef. This time we added the drop of glue to the tag before we put it on the rock that was near the top of the reef. We can choose parts of the aquarium that have good water flow and bright light. These tags are all growing very fast. The tags allow the water to flow over and under the cutting so it does very well. As the Xenia grows it covers the netting and you can not see it after a few weeks.


This method of attaching Xenia makes it easy to move the corals to new aquariums. We can not stress enough the need to divide your brood stock between several systems. If it is possible, give some of your first cuttings to an experienced reef keeper who would be kind enough to return some of them if you need them later.

Xenia colonies crash in nature as part of their natural cycle of reproduction. Many divers have told us that during the late Summer these corals grow so fast on some reefs it looks like Xenia will soon be the only coral left. As the season goes on the Xenia often crashes and it is hard to find any adult colonies. By keeping the broodstock in several systems we have been able keep many species going for several years.

 These two Xenia tags are several weeks old. They will be grown for brood stock in our newest AragocreteTM and glue display. This reef is a 55 gallon tank with 50 pounds of hand made rock that we sent to Jerry Heslinga in Kona for 6 months. This reef has 4 VHO bulbs and 2 Maxi-Jet 1000 power heads. We used several inches of gravel and Grunge with no plenum.

We will keep track of these Xenia tags during the next year so we can show you how many cuttings you can make using some of the new methods we have been writing about in the last few issues. XENIA MASS PRODUCTION RESEARCH This article shows you how use plastic rings to make Xenia cuttings from single polyps HANGING XENIA PROPAGATION FOR PROFIT This method of hanging cuttings can be used in reef systems that are full of corals.

We are very interested in purchasing or trading for any strains of Xenia that we do not have. We hope to collect several morphs of each species so we can use them in our next research project. We will be spawning many of the corals in our genetic bank during the next two years. By cross breeding the best selling, most colorful, hardy and easy to keep corals we will be able to provide some of the first reef invertebrates that are going to help move this hobby into the next century. We are certain that in ten years we will be keeping and spawning so many wonderful corals in this hobby that we will all set around at seminars and talk about the old days before we spawned mushrooms of all colors by the thousands. When I started my first Marine fish store in 1972 the idea of keeping Acropora - much less cutting it up - was not even a dream. The best books of the day said it would never be possible and it was a waste of time and corals to try.


We will continue to bring you as much new data as we can so that soon the only corals we will need to take from the wild reef will be wonderful new types that can be used as brood stock for all of the new land and ocean based coral farms. We are certain that as soon as tropical countries start to see the giant reef farming industry that they can share in, they will do the things that are needed to protect their reefs. They may find it is better to NOT strip and burn the forests so the reef can heal. We may be forced to rebuild the wetlands so our land based agriculture, lawns, and golf courses do NOT keep dumping tons of Phosphate into the oceans. We are more certain than ever that it is very important that as many children worldwide as possible see reef aquariums. We have seen how the children learn to love corals and how the child in all of us grows when we learn that - corals are like flowers not rocks - I have heard this statement from several crusty old Idaho farmers.

More next time - LeRoy






Green. Just green. As far as the eye could see was green in my 55 gallon reef aquarium before we dumped in the little "Reef Janitors"



Mark Peterson, Treasurer,
Wasatch Marine Aquarium Society
Salt Lake City, Utah


Reef aquariums BEST FRIEND

"Reef Janitors" are to the reef aquarium what the Plecostomus is to the freshwater aquarium. They saved my reef and allowed it not only to regain, but to improve its life and color.

Green. Just green. As far as the eye could see was green in my 55 gallon reef aquarium before we dumped in the little "Reef Janitors". Where once beautiful live rock had colored the tank, my hobby was being choked to death by a flowing mat of hair algae. The hair algae had completely covered the live rock.

It was two inches long, covering everything
and waving as though it
were the green hair of an ugly mermaid.

Where once pink and purple coraline algae had brightened my aquarium, now only green hair flowed in the current. It was two inches long, covering everything and waving as though it were the green hair of an ugly mermaid. My best efforts at physically removing it were frustrating, to say the least. For two years this algae had been gaining ground. I was at the point where I was ready to throw in the towel and go back to my African Cichlids.

The introduction of the "Reef Janitors" came just in time. During the first ten days small patches of coraline algae began to reappear. The crabs would climb to the top of a rock and pick it clean. During days 10 to 20 of the first month the hair algae would reconquer some of those hills. Gradually, owing to the strength of these little soldiers, the second month saw more and more rock and substrate taken by my "Reef Janitors". The algae was losing ground and "we" were winning!

Gradually, owing to the strength of these little soldiers,
the second month saw more and more rock
and substrate taken by my "Reef Janitors".
The algae was losing ground and "we" were winning!

The snails also did their job. Where before I had to scrape green algae from the glass at weekly intervals in order to see my ugly green haired mermaid, the snails immediately attacked the problem. They did so well that the only glass scraping since the introduction was at about 10 weeks because of a buildup of tougher algae. I also noticed coraline algae growing again.

At two months I began to gain confidence so I added cuttings of GARF's captive grown corals, which have flourished. I also purchased some beautiful "rock flower anemones" from GARF which seem ideally suited to my reef. They have grown and stayed on the same rock for almost two years. The algae problem had been created by an abundance of nutrients. Two years of feedings without any real attempt to remove nutrients didn't help. A change to the Live Sand method more than a year before had kept nitrates in check but phosphates were out of control.

Reef aquariums BEST FRIEND

Several actions on my part helped the "Reef Janitors" reduce the algae.
1) I used a mechanical, sponge filter to strain out the uneaten bits of algae that became free floating after the crabs snipped them off.
2) I began using phosphate remover which I had never used before.
3) I turned off the lights and covered the whole aquarium with a dark sheet for the whole day several times weekly for the first month which seemed to facilitate the last step.
4) I removed all algae that a 3/8 inch diameter siphon hose could pull off the rock at weekly water changes.

"Reef Janitors" are indispensable in my reef. I believe that "Reef Janitors" are the miracle cure for most marine algae problems.

Mark R. Peterson, email: [email protected]
April 1998


Western Marine Conference report and my center reef is maturing

LeRoy and I just returned from the Western Marine Conference a week ago. I thought that one of the topics of this article should be a brief reflection of what was presented. I will try to tell you a little of the vast amount of knowledge that was presented in one room.

I don't know how many of you have gone to a presentation that provides so much information and so many resources that your brain feels like its expanded and you have to go home and download it before it is lost:) That is somewhat how I felt.

The presentation I enjoy the most, laughed the hardest at ,
and carry the most compassion for was done by Martin Moe.
What a truly delightful man and his wife is just as remarkable.
As all you lady's know it takes a special person to love a reef man.

We left late Boise Thursday evening and drove the 590 miles to Seattle. The first presentation began at 10 a.m on Friday morning needless to say I missed the very first one which I regret. LeRoy took notes and shared them with me at lunch. The speaker was A.J. Nilsen from Norway. I was sound asleep when he shared his charts on how few of the people in the hobby are woman. He reported it is less than 9%. At the end of the conference, not knowing who he was because I missed his speech, I encountered him speaking with LeRoy. Mr. Nilsen looked at me and asked if I could I explain why only 9% of the hobby were women.

Many of the women who study nature are able to perceive
in an intuitive manner the hidden nature of things.
When we combine this insight with nurturing we can only enhance
all the animals lives that our fingers touch.

I told him I thought that it may be because many of you guys simply make it too scary! Many women don't like conflict, machines, and gadgets. We tend to care for the animals and the life that is sustained in the underwater garden. So lady's it is time to change that statistic and become a greater part of the reef hobby. We have so much to offer. Many of the women who study nature are able to perceive in an intuitive manner the hidden nature of things. When we combine this insight with nurturing we can only enhance all the animals lives that our fingers touch. The next speaker was Dr. Bruce Carlson. LeRoy worked personally with him for years. We have watched him present many topics and share not only his vast amount of technical knowledge but also his hands on approach to diving, coral care, and fish. Bruce is truly a remarkable man! The theme of his presentation was one we all need to listen to and respect.

There are many invertebrate species that
we do not know enough about feeding.
Large public aquariums have not had
success or at least long periods of success
with many of the sponges, tunicates,
carnation corals and some of the
filter feeding deep water
brightly colored corals

He explained what invertebrates we should not be capturing for our closed systems. Dr. Carlson explained why some types of coral eating fish should be off limits. We saw some incredible underwater video that showed how many square yards of coral it takes to feed one pair of small fish. There are many invertebrate species that we do not know enough about feeding. Large public aquariums have not had success or at least long periods of success with many of the sponges, tunicates, carnation corals and some of the filter feeding deep water brightly colored corals. Some of the fish we should not use in our closed systems consisted of some species of butterfly fish, angelfish, and some incredibly colorful fish that have not even been identified as yet.

I was very delighted that I had a chance to rest and enjoy his input on this subject. At the conference I once again respectfully shook the hand of Dana Riddle and listened to his hour long presentation which as always brought up some topics for debate. He has committed himself to working hard on growing propagated animals and giving them the best possible care.

It is very important that he is sharing information about his ongoing projects. He gave us some light theory, as well as water movement and feeding practices in regards to growing corals. He told all of us that alkalinity, light and water movement were the only important things to consider in growing corals with bright colors. I do love his book and can hardly wait for this next one.

The presentation I enjoy the most, laughed the hardest at , and carry the most compassion for was done by Martin Moe. What a truly delightful man and his wife is just as remarkable. As all you lady's know it takes a special person to love a reef man. Martin has written several books on his fish rearing techniques and has successfully raised many different species of fish. You honestly had to be present to get the full impact of what this family has contributed to the hobby. I can only imagine how much they had to give up. At the end of Martin's presentation he showed us a slide of him setting inside a little plastic car similar to what you would purchase for you child before you are ready to buy them their first bike. He said what that slide represented was that after all his hard work he finally got to buy his new sports car:) I jokingly told him after his speech, that he should have went into coral propagation for I am driving a real sports car:) If you ever get the chance to hear this man speak or buy his book do so. It will not only keep you in stitches but it will provide you with valuable information on the captive breeding of marine fish.

How many of you have tired to take the perfect picture? Well if you haven't seen the work of Scott Michael's you have missed meeting the man that can take a perfect picture. He showed pictures of many of the reef fish that he has seen in many of his dives as well as some unexpected pictures. Scott is a very talented photographer. It is my feeling that he can make even an ugly fish look beautiful. Taking pictures is an important part of what we all do in this hobby. It is one of the best ways to document all that is taking place in your reefs. The person who came up with the statement that a picture is worth a thousand words was not wrong. Scott has made them worth even more. I missed the second half of the presentation due to a bulb blowing out in the projector but I am sure he continued to entertain the quests with spectacular pictures of the massive and diverse ocean inhabitants.

How many of you have ever closed your eyes and pretended you where in Australia? Paul Hough took us there through his video of the Great Barrier Reef and the Public Aquarium that he maintains. His aquariums are measured in millions of gallons so you can only imagine how big they are and the incredible responsibility he has undertaken. Paul has brought so much to this hobby most of us don't even realized all he has rewarded us with. He has taken egg and sperm from different colors of spawning corals, he allowed the hybrids to settle out and his oldest F1 generation babies are now five years old. This generation of corals are now spawning. One of the long term goals of Great Barrier Reef Aquarium is to develop hardy, colorful aquarium corals. We first saw Paul speak in 1996 in Hawaii at the Public aquarium and Zoo society meeting.

He informed us that some of our corals
may not spawn in captivity because they
need to reach maturity before they can spawn.
He said that his own baby corals that he raised
from eggs took four years before the they spawned.

He informed us that some of our corals may not spawn in captivity because they need to reach maturity before they can spawn. He said that his own baby corals that he raised from eggs took four years before the they spawned. This was the first speaker you could actually hear a pin drop after he finished his video presentation and talk. I told LeRoy nobody has any questions for him because he is miles ahead of what we all are doing. He donates his harvested eggs and sperm to public aquariums around the World and has blessed us all with so much knowledge.

One of the funniest things he said to LeRoy and Myself was when we spent an extra day with him and Tom Frakes sight seeing in Seattle on Monday. We where talking about coral propagation and the time it takes to grow out corals. We discussing the new market that has finally started to take hold for the propagated animals. He turned around and looked at LeRoy and me and said I wonder how much money we could make with cuttings from his five year olds:) It is amazing to listen to someone who measures corals by saying that a coral has 150, 000 polyps.

The next two speakers where Charles Delbeek followed by Julian Sprung. Charles is brilliant when it comes to speaking up about the corals and their environment. He cares deeply about his ongoing projects as well as the ocean and its inhabitants. He talked some about chemistry but more about the different environments that these animals come from. Charlse showed us some video of the great aquariums of Japan. Julian spoke about mangroves and showed us where they come from in the ocean and how he has set them up in his home system. He also explained some of the adjustments you may need to make when setting up a system that has to sustain a plant that grows roots and also grows tall and shades certain places that the light should go. He also showed us pictures of his trips to Brazil and some of the great new soft corals we can expect from there soon.

Needless to say it was an incredible list of guest speakers.
Over 375 people attended this seminar and
all walked away with a deeper understanding of nature.
I personally was thinking that the
people who put this conference together needed to be commended.

Needless to say it was an incredible list of guest speakers. Over 375 people attended this seminar and all walked away with a deeper understanding of nature. I personally was thinking that the people who put this conference together needed to be commended. I know from experience this is not an easy task and one that you get little attention for. I am saluting the people who planed this and pulled it off, what a great JOB! I did walk away with some insight on how I want to plan our seminar that is scheduled for Oct. 24 and 25. of 1998. We will have more hands on activity and will get the audience involved with the process of propagation. I also am very proud to announce that the Seminar will be only $50.00 we are asking that people prepay so we know just how many people to plan for. The University Inn is giving great price deductions to all who come to this Seminar, but once again you need to make these reservations well in advance because rooms are limited. The list of speakers who are confirmed are Stanley Brown (Breeders Registry), Mr. Tom Frakes (Vice President Aquarium Systems), he will be addressing aquacultured rock. Jerry Heslinga the master of coral farming from Hawaii, and three more that we are waiting to announce until we have a valid confirmation. I can promise you that this is one seminar that you do not want to miss.

The final day will be a tour of homes in the Ada County area showing their reefs and sharing their knowledge about home aquariums. They can explain what has worked and what hasn't.

Last but surely not least on my mind is we have one pioneer of the hobby who is suffering and I think it is important that we share our support for him. Albert Thiel has just recently had two back to back strokes and has been warned that he absolutely needs to slow his pace down and look at life a little differently. Our heart goes out to Albert and his family and hopefully you will heed your doctors warnings because so many people care.

I guess I better write a little about my systems. We decided to spend some time talking about my middle tank. It is the youngest system that is in my care and sets in between my other two aquariums. This aquarium is now at about the eight month, and we have learned so much from it. As you can see by this picture I have yet to open up to putting any sps corals in it yet. This system was setup with a plenum, Aragonite gravel, and GARF grunge. I then decorated with Aragocrete, all man made rock, except for the the rock I picked up while in Mexico (he is the rock you will see that looks like an old man). I picked up this rock because I wanted to test the difference between the Aragonite in Mexico and that of which we find in Idaho. In the one half of the man made rock we used plastic shavings in the Aragocrete mix. I would guess that I used about 90 pounds of this rock. I wanted to prove that no one needed to take anything from the ocean any more. Because I carry a great concern from what could be brought into our system from ocean water, I want to protect our valued closed systems. The next step was to throw in hand fulls of our reef janitors. Believe it or not I started gluing animals the very next day. I starting with some of the easier to keep soft corals from my already developed systems. This tanks was completely covered with coralline algae in two months time and I do mean from top to bottom. It first started on the plastic and continued to spread rapidly. I started with really low 40 watt light and left it on for 24 hours a day. Mind you this was not on purpose I thought someone had put my lights on timers and it was about a month before I realized that the lights were remaining on all the time. LeRoy has tested this method several times since then and the 24 hour low wattage lighting seems to cause the coralline algae to spawn. this reef also had no skimmer but you must also realize when I say this that I also did not have any fish in this system either. After 2 months we added a timer. All of the corals were thriving.
When I first introduced fish it was probably at least three to four months old and all the fish I put in the reef died at night. I thought my fish supplier had some bad diseases at his place. But the next 3 fish I put in this system also died. LeRoy figured that they were starving for oxygen. We ha