This newsletter is part of the Geothermal Aquaculture Research Foundation, Inc. free online coral farming school. This newsletter will be used to present our most current research data. We will include lists of links to other sources, questions and answers, and plans for building commercial reef aquarium farming equipment.


You can build a coral farm one tank at a time using these plans.

small jay Rack farming in reef aquariums is the method
we use to produce large numbers of corals in
55 gallon aquariums. This method uses stacked
rows of plastic shelves with 1" holes drilled
in them to hold tapered concrete plugs with
corals attached to them.

This tank has 5 racks full of small polyp
stony corals. The rack #4 holds the parent colonies
for growing new frags.

This method of growing cuttings has several advantages.

  1. corals can be moved
  2. corals can not fall over
  3. you can grow several types of corals in one tank
  4. corals can adjust to light one layer at a time
  5. you can grow several hundred cuttings in one tank
  6. every hole is numbered so you can duplicate experiments
  7. you can vidio or photograph all corals at one time

Getting Started

small sps smallsps These two coral heads have been cut several
times. the frags are grown out on the plugs
in this tank. We are able to recut the coral
head several times each year. The frags are
started on the lowest rack , and they are then
moved up step by step, This is a very good way
to adjust them to stronger light.



Research Racks

We have developed several types of racks to hold the plugs. Tha simplest one consists of 19" pieces of 3/8" plexiglass 3" wide. These racks are drilled so they have two rows of 1" holes in them. A simple plexiglass frame is made to support these racks 4 inches under water in a reef aqarium. You can place one of these racks on each side of a 55 gallon aquarium. This simple system will hold about fifty plugs. Four layers of these racks will fit in a standard four foot lomg 55 gallon tank. This system will grow out 200 cuttings in each tank.

Research Plugs

You can make reef safe plugs from #3 portland cement. This type of cement is used to make bridges that will contact road salt. You will have to special order a bag in most cities. The plugs are formed in small paper cups. -NOTE FROM LEROY- Find your paper cups before you drill all of your holes. After the plugs are dry they should be soaked in hot white vinager for 24 hours. Rinse the cured plugs in running hot tap water for 5 minutes.

Attaching Corals

Most corals can be attached with Super glue. Branching Soft Corals, Mushrooms, and Gorgonians require other methods of attachment. These types of problem corals are explained on the pages listed below. I will be adding data to this article several times each week for the rest of this semester. I will mark the newest parts so you can find them.

small frgs



I am able to answer most of the e-mail sometime during the week it arrives. I am in contact with about 100 people from around the world who are growing corals and other invertabrates. As you can see from the following letters I learn much more than I teach. The letters point out a great need for more research into the lighting of reef aquariums. When you are keeping a reef aquarium for a hobby lighting is important. When you are producing corals for trade or profit lighting is the most important thing you can control to increase growth.

Date: Mon, 23 Dec 96 09:34
Subject: Xenia Propagation
Dear Garf,

Thank you for putting a free coral propagation workshop on the web. I had my corals almost growing out of my aquarium (actually the fire coral did!) and had to do something to spead them out. Your webpage was very informative and taught me other techniques besides the typical rubber bands technique and has produced spectacular results.
Now for the good stuff: I purchased a single specimen of Pom Pom Xenia that over the last 5 months has grown from a single colony and inch tall to over 24 pom-poms! These have grown so well that I've had to continually 'thin out' the clusters. (I believe that this is the key to why they have grown so well and have yet to crash out like other people have reported.)
The easiest way I have found to propagate this coral is to use a razor blade to trim off the taller pom-poms and thin out the colony. By trimming the corals in this way and placeing them between two rocks, the corals will attach w/in two or three days. One of the best rocks to hold down these corals is to use a broken piece of 'Plate coral.' The shape of the skeleton firmly holds the coral in place but has a small surface area that forces the coral to attach to the larger base-rock. Then in a few days hold the pom pom so it will NOT separate from the base rock and carefully pull off the plate coral.
Propagation by this manner is a much reliable method than just placing base rocks next to the xenia. This method removes the problems of large rock placement in an already established reef and the annoyance of the placed rock shifting or falling away from the xenia.
Question: I purchased a piece of absolutely undamaged blue Acropora millepora, but because it was so branched the base seemed to be shaded no matter how I positioned the colony. I was afraid of the base bleaching and tissue recession, so I removed some of the lower braches and superglued them to base rock using your techniques.
My question is this: Will the exposed skeleton eventually be covered with new growth or is this area dead for good? Should I treat the exposed parts with anything? The polyps around the cut area are out and the area is free of alge. (I have heard of people putting superglue over the cut areas to slow down the growth of algae.) This is my fisrt experience with SPS corals (I had soft coral for over 3 years now,) and your webpage gave me the confidence to trim the arms off of an exquisite coral (even though it did break my heart!) Hopefully, I will have 5 more corals in the near future beacuse of this.

Thank you very much,

Mike Christesen
Date: Thu, 02 Jan 97 09:48
Subject: Re: Xenia Propagation -Reply

Of course you may use the message/info I sent you on propagation of Pom-Pom Xenia. (Sorry I haven't written earlier but I was on vacation.) Update on the Acropora sp. (probably millipora): You were right! The exposed skeleton stayed free of alge and after a week I could see small polyps (they were transparent.) Now after two weeks, the area is growing tissue and is slowly coloring up.
Does the tissue regrow the broken area first and then color up with symbiotic alge and pigments? This is what seems to be happening. The center of the broken area has grown a calcium structure that resembles the tip of the other branches (axial bud??) This coral is also becoming more pigmented: I went form being a brown with a blue sheen to a green coloration on the base, with the branches still being a blue/green.
LeRoy, I would be very interested in trading the Pom-Pom xenia for SPS corals. I currently have about 15 cuttings that I am trading with others. I dont know if your interested but I also have a Fire Coral (from the Atlantic) that is growing on the back wall of the aquarium and has since gorwn above the water line where its barely kept moist. Also, I have Golden Crown Coral (Sarcophyton) that naturally propagated over 14 times while being kept in a 10gal reef I had in college (Im now a Boichemist.) The neat thing about this coral was that it continued to divide even while being transported between Iowa University and Chicago where I live between semesters. Very hardy.
I already have a stryo box and heat packs, but I have never sent anything live through the mail. If you are still interested in these corals, I am going to need you to 'walk me through' but since I live 10 min from Ohare Airport there should be no problem.

Thanks for responding to my email message, Mike Christesen

Date: Mon, 06 Jan 97 08:33
Subject: Re: Xenia Propagation -Reply -Reply

The Xenia are all doing fine! I love it when I can cut off a Pom-Pom and then a few weeks later the base of the removed polyp starts growing polyps again! After four or six weeks the new polyp is really to be removed again!
I do have one question about some of the Acropora I have receintly purchased. They were a tan/beige color but otherwise had no damage to the branches or base. I have had these corals in my aquarium for about a week and they seem to be getting lighter in color, but Im not sure they are bleaching. When lighted by a 250W 6500K MH they seem whiter but when the light is off and the room light is on, they seem to have a purple/blue sheen to it. This is the best way I can describe it.
In your opinion are they just adapting to the new light conditions or are they bleaching? I am not sure what species they are but their polyps are not as many and they do not extend as far as the Acropora millipora that is also in the tank.
I have placed two layers of eggcrate to diffuse out the light a bit so that the coral will have a chance to adapt, but it is still brightly lit. Was this the right thing to do? (They are placed near the center of the tank and at the top, so the light is VERY intense.) The Acropora millepora cuttings are starting to grow down onto the base rock and have their polyps out even during the day! It was brown when first purchased and is getting a green sheen to their bases and the upper branches.

Thanks in advance,
     Mike Christesen

Date: Wed, 15 Jan 97 09:05
Subject: Shading on the base of Acropora

I wrote you earlier to describe my Brown Acropora that was originally brown, which under my MH lights became blue/green. Well I have another question about this coral. (This is the same specimen that I originally pruned off the bottom branches because the base seemed shaded in any position I placed it.)

The pruned areas are growing nicely and the cuttings all have a ring of new growth connecting them to the base rock!
However, I did notice that a VERY tiny area of the base, under one of the larger branches (on the side that is opposite the light) had a SMALL area where the tissue had died. This was a 1/8" by 1/4" area.

I chipped off this area along with some of the living tissue in an effort to stop the recession. How can I stop this from happening again? I really could not cut off more branches cause the brach above the dead spot is a major (ie. thick) branch of the colony. Im not sure whats in store for this dead area...any advice?

The main reason for this loss of tissue (I believe) is that lighting in an aquarium is fixed so certain areas receive all or most of the light; while in nature the sun rises and sets, letting different areas of the coral receive more light throughout the day.

Corals grow in response to their lighting conditions, so when we pull the coral out of the ocean and keep it under artifical conditions, certain areas may not receive enough light and die.

Do you agree with this?
Using the above statement, this would also explane why fragments may do better in aquariums and why their growth forms look different from the parent colony.

Thanks again,

PS The Acropora that I wrote to you concerning bleaching are doing great! The last layer of eggcrate came off and the corals are full heads without any dead areas, also (and this is the best part,) the upper branches have turned a blue/purple!

Thanks for your help!
(PPS If you ever need a Reef-nut whose trained as a Biochemist at the foundation, let me day job is boring compared to this!)

Date: Fri, 17 Jan 97 08:57
Subject: Re: Shading on the base of Acropora -Reply
>(PPS If you ever need a Reef-nut whose trained as a Biochemist at the >foundation, let me day job is boreing compared to this!)
> >What do you do at your job?

Currently I am working as a chemist in Illinois. (It is very difficult to find work as a Biochemist in my area, although I did work at Abbott Labs as a temp.) While in college I studied Biochemisty and graduated with Honors. During this time I basically took a human gene and placed it in E.coli bacteria. This gene was then mtated and the different sized (based on weight) mutations were screened for activity from this gene. The first half of the project worked heavily with DNA (lots of restriction enzymes and gels...most of my work looked like the evidence you see on court cases involving paternity suites.) The last part of my research worked more with the expressed proteins themselves.

One of the reasons (for me) why corals are so facinating is that the symbiotic relationship with their dinoflagellates must be heavily regulated by emzymes that are still unstudied. Many pharmcutical companies are searching the rain forests while the coral reef is largely ignored. Yet, it has been discovered that Sarcophyton leather corals do produce anti-cancer compounds.

Unfortunately, to get work like this in the private sector requires a PhD and even after so much schooling the pay is still horrible. However, I still enjoy my hobby more than anything else and would like to have this type of work for a living. Through fragmentation/propagation, I may be able to make enough money (or trade) that I can actually begin to break even or possibly even profit from the sale of corals!

I have already incorporated my own company w/o the use of a lawyer (saved Big $$$) and have contacted wholesalers in CA, who route/direct ship corals from Tonga. I already have a few retail pet stores who are interested in purchasing my products. (The combination rocks are a great idea and what I am starting with first.) Most retailers just buy their stock from the local area wholesaler who only has Jakarta corals and even these are poor quality. They really light up when I describe yellow leathers with purple mushrooms all on the same rock!

There is even a quarry/landscape rock Co. in town that has lava rock for just 4-8 cents/lb. I just have one question about the growth of coraline alge on base rock (after I glue a fleck of alge to the rock)....How long does it take in your system to get good growth over the rocks surface?

I have most of my cuttings in a 20gal that originally came from my 55gal. These tanks have been running for about two years. The coraline algae really started it growth spurt in the last six months. I am also setting up a new 75gal for this venture and am worried that the coraline will take too long to start growing.

Besides this...Im ready to go!

Thanks for asking...Its fun talking about this stuff.




small jay

Coralline algae

is the most important thing to have on your combination tank grown live rock. Learn to search the web by completing the lesson on the next page. You can learn as much as you want to know about coralline algae, but the important thing this lesson will teach is new search skills.




Drill two holes in aragonite to give the Decorator Rock a higher value. Be careful to not break the rock by trying to drill faster than the bit can go.

Glue the gold crown soft coral to the rock with the super glue.

Glue the cuttings from green star colony one inch from the gold crown soft coral

Glue the inch pieces of broken Fiji live rock to the aragonite so that they will be exposed to the light. The small rock has to be glued with the coralline touching the aragonite. The coralline will spread onto the other rock.

Place the rock in the bottom of a grow out tank and move it up each week for four weeks. Finish the rock at the top of the reef for four weeks. take the rock to your favorite reef store and trade it for a large Zoanthid colony. Bring one half of the Zoanthid colony to the next class and give to your teacher :) MORE SOON LeRoy

Geothermal Aquaculture Research Foundation, Inc
1321 Warm Springs Ave.