Reef Aquarium Farming News
Online Newsletter for Reef Aquarium Propagation Research

ISSUE # 21 page 3 SEPTEMBER - OCTOBER 1998


"j.s. covington"

I wanted to start off this article by stating that I should have done this years ago...years! I for 10 years have spent my weekends and evenings visiting all the pet stores in my area, and even some not so close. I travel some and vacation often as well. I do photography and it allows me to visit other cities. When I have the time I seek out local Aquariums and Fish stores. When I vacation it's to the Oceans of the world. I can usually be found face down snorkeling (I have never dove, although I intend to one day). Those are separate stories, and enough about me.

I would literally dream of owning just one big all encompassing tank.
I used to draw out plans on what I could build,
even did estimates on what it might cost.

One thing I have always been envious of is that all these places have photographs of great looking tanks, and some not so great (in all fairness). Still I was jealous ...I owned three tanks (a little spoiled I admit, a 90 gal show , a 55 gal, and a 115 DAS tank ... in my defense, I bought all these used (from owners who were moving) yet I was still not content ... I would literally dream of owning just one big all encompassing tank. I used to draw out plans on what I could build, even did estimates on what it might cost. I, being a photographer talked w/ DAS Aquarium, and a local builder on doing trade-outs ... and though they were somewhat interested, nothing materialized as the cost was thought just too high

Years pass ... and the desire for a larger tank was still circling in my head.
so I hit the internet. Persistent (and a nightowl) I searched on.
I finally hit on what I considered to be the "Grail" of my searching. GARF!

Years pass ... and the desire for a larger tank was still circling in my head. I must admit that taking care of three separate tanks was beginning to get old, costly and time consuming. So I set out to find a solution ... so I hit the internet. I found a whole world of info on aquariums and experience from others, yet nothing on building a successful large aquarium. Persistent (and a nightowl) I searched on. I probably have been to each of your readers web site's if it had the word "fish" in it. I finally hit on what I considered to be the "Grail" of my searching. GARF! Answers to a lot of my curiosities were now fact. A huge sigh of relief ... but, I still didn't have a large tank. All I needed was a sign of inspiration! Granted the list of materials, and success of construction were nice too ... And I was off to the races (Hardware store).

I, and I alone would build the tank of my dreams
to all the envy of my aqua-friends!
Who by this time were ready to commit me.

I, and I alone would build the tank of my dreams to all the envy of my aqua-friends! Who by this time were ready to commit me. The first thing I did was print the list of materials and start calling in order to locate everything! The plywood was not so readily available, the glue was unheard of (never did find it), and the silicone was impossible to find in volume, and every glass distributor tried talking me out of building one all together. I consider this was God's way of telling me I'm on the right track ... I was used to crashing waves and this was just one more. I ordered the plywood, I substituted liquid nails(waterproof) for the glue and I called until I found a maker of silicone that makes most of the silicone aquarium builders use, she even laughed at the price stores charge for her product, I bought a case!

I'm set, all I need to do now is find a place to build it. I spent three days cleaning and reorganizing my garage, which, by the way it needed. I had the lumber yard cut my wood for me, so that was taken care of for me ... I placed an order for the glass after dickering w/ the distributor as to which thickness would hold the pressure. I chose 1/2" safety glass ( I have 3 nephews) and sprung for the edge beveling.(see cost list). With my case of Liquid Nails and Silicone ready and went to work.

I followed every detail that GARF had so graciously provided for me. I measured off where each screw should be, and then piloted each hole. I leaned the bottom wood against a work desk and used photo-stands to hold up the back panel until ready to place. I found that this was a godsend. The stands could be lowered and kept level, as I was building this alone. I ran the glue down the edge in an "S" formation and the returned down the same edge going the other way ( so far this appears to be working). I then lowered the wood in place ... I immediately sank in corner screws and then squeegeed of excess glue (yuck!). I used everything I could lift to place on the edge as to weigh down the glue.

I waited 1 hour before starting the side panels. By the end of the day I had built the bulk of what now was to be considered "The Aquarium". Well, that's what my neighbors were now calling it...

I wheeled it back into the garage and waited another
two days before painting again.
I wheeled this, what was now a running joke on my street,
back into the garage.

I let this sit for three days on top of 3/4 "PVC as to let any remaining glue seep w/o sticking to the floor. I must add the reason for waiting for three days is that during this time I had freezing rain and did not want to rush things. After the third day I got a break on the weather so I lifted one edge of "The Aquarium" on a four wheeled dolly and pushed it outside where I began to paint using the 2-part epoxy Home Depot carried. I might add that it comes in dark gray, light gray and black. I chose light gray in order to bounce light around later. The paint is kind of runny so I painted on two coats immediately. The paint dried rather quickly even though it was only 50 degrees outside. I wheeled it back into the garage and waited another two days before painting again. I sanded after the fourth coat and had no need for filler, I attribute this to good plywood. I finished out the two gallon container of paint on my sixth coat. I wheeled this, what was now a running joke on my street, back into the garage.

I let this set for 2 days, mainly because of the outside temperature being around freezing. It was now time to silicone, and what a fun task this was. It reminded me of being a child in play-school again ... This stuff is sticky,very sticky, and smells to high heaven (vinegar) and all in my measly closed up one car garage. Again, due to cold temperatures I remained patient to proceeding with putting in the glass. I might add at this point if you are going to do this pay them to deliver the glass ... I unfortunately did not. I did manage to get it and unpack it alone, but I do not recommend it ... it is very heavy ... very. I applied a very generous portion of silicone to the edges of the tank that the glass was going to be pressed against (again, in the "S" formation). The weight of the glass alone is enough to seal it ... I wait three days. The silicone manufacture says that the smell will disappear when the silicone has cured (much like curing rock). Now I am excited ... and so too the neighbors!

Do I fill it up ... or simply turn it into a huge baby crib?
With no neighbor around I pour a glass of wine,
pull up a chair, and begin the filling up of "The Aquarium".

This is the point where one stumbles over emotions, Do I fill it up ... or simply turn it into a huge baby crib? With no neighbor around I pour a glass of wine, pull up a chair, and begin the filling up of "The Aquarium". I mean to tell you all your senses become real at this point. You think you see water leaks, you hear things, your vision starts questioning straightness and angles ... I should mention that again, the tank is on PVC in order for me to see underneath for possible leaks. And there were none..."Yes!" I couldn't wait to tell someone, but no one cares if you built a trough ... so I kept my excitement to a select few ... who didn't laugh ... well not in front of me anyway. I let this set for three days as well. I had marked the water level just in case ... but sure enough it did not leak..."Yes!"

The excitement of what I had just done was short and faint, as I now had to drain it, then mount it in it' new home ... understand I live in a pier and beam home and I am mounting this into my entry way wall ... In short, I tearing out a wall and building a base that will hold "The Aquarium", rock and water about 4' off the ground. Not a problem! I just have no clue as to how much weight I'm actually talking about. Off to the hardware store I go. Tomorrow would be a big day.

I am very fortunate that I have a few friends in this world ... at this point they are GARF, Johanna Allen, Ed Salas, Matt Sweet and my father RL Covington. This day was to be one of work and no-play. I had asked (con-d) Ed into helping me tear out the sheet-rock and reframe the entry way simply for a hamburger today. My father was simply just kind enough to help me cut and nail-up the sheet rock, he's like that.

Eagerness got the best of me so we worked into the evening. I had measured the base to fit "The Aquarium with less that 1/8 " lee-way, so the base would be additional support for the walls. Smart in doing so I had not made allowances for lifting this monster into place. At the time of placing there were only three of us to lift. We almost dropped it twice, the edges had already cut skin at our elbows ... as I exclaimed out ''boys we aren't gonna drop this, not now!"... And it was in place..."Yes!" We slid it forward w less than 1/8 of an inch to spare ... relief.

This is another point where one stumbles over emotions, Do I fill it up ... or simply turn it into a huge Lizard Palace? With it beginning to rain outside, Ed, his friend Matt ,and I poured something a little stronger that wine, pulled up a chair, and began the filling up of "The Aquarium".

I would like to thank all those that have gone to the time and trouble
to post on the internet their experiences,
and to GARF for the experience.
I should have done this years ago!

I combined the live rock and fish I had from the other tanks. I eventually and sold them to recoup the money I spent building this one. I now use a 40 gallon tank underneath that I built as a wet/dry filter powered by one Little Giant Pump. I also have the Reef Janitors for a 100 gal tank ... love those little critters. There are 3 power heads inside the tank, and one in the wet/dry that powers the protein skimmer that I also built for under 15 bucks. Below are the cost that I incurred on the aquarium only ... I spent another $50 rebuilding the entry way wall & 25 on dinner for ED. I would like to thank all those that have gone to the time and trouble to post on the internet their experiences, and to GARF for the experience. I should have done this years ago!

Actual costs:

The tank is 36x36x94 118.00
The glass is 32.5 x.5x92.5 300.00
One case of Silicone 32.00
One case of Liquid Nails 15.00
One box of 31/2 screws(500) 6.00
One 2 gal two part epoxy paint 32.00
Four sheets of sand paper 3.00
Two Fluorescent Lamp Fixtures 25.00
40 gal tank for wet/dry 50.00
2-Daylight bulbs 10.00
2- Actinic bulbs 40.00
2-House hold timers 16.00
Base wood 4x4's & 2x6's 60.00
3/4 " PVC + connections & valves 50.00
3/4" clear plastic tube 15.00
GARF Reef Janitors (An absolute MUST! )135.00
Total: 907.00**

*Power Heads were already in my possession
*Little Giant was " " " "

* Metal Halide was " " " "

* Air Pump was " " " "

** One should keep in mind that I sold 3 aquariums for a total of $1150.00

As a finishing note I would like to ad that I have only made one change to the plans that GARF supplied, and that is only if you can afford it. I took the liberty to lay down plexiglass on the bottom and back. it gives me some self assurance that rock will not scratch through the paint ... Cost was $40 for 4x8 piece and I just split it into two separate pieces.

We have been asked to publish a complete set of instructions for making AragocreteTM that is easy to print - so here it is.


The Geothermal Aquaculture Research Foundation has been making sand molded live rock for several years. The AragocreteTM and Glue reef project is new way to make reefs from scratch using nothing from the wild ocean. We teach the ZERO IMPACT method of reef keeping. Imagine setting down with an empty aquarium and a clean piece of paper. You can draw any shape of live rock sculpture. You can have sweeping arches and dark caves with multicolored Mushrooms peeking out of them. You can have a forest of Acropora coral branches in many colors growing on top of an elegant overhanging ledge. Your breeding pairs of tank raised marine fish dash into their nests when your guests look into the reef aquarium. They all peak out just in time to hear you proudly say I GREW IT ALL MYSELF, nothing came from the sea.

It is very important that this hobby does as much as possible
to limit the things we need to take from the wild.
If we can produce most of the reef products we consume
there will be less demand to limit collection of
marine products with new laws.

It is very important that this hobby does as much as possible to limit the things we need to take from the wild. If we can produce most of the reef products we consume there will be less demand to limit collection of marine products with new laws. This project can be done in as small scale at home aquaculture project. Making a family reef aquarium with children is one of the great QUALITY TIME projects of all time. The same methods can be used on a much larger scale to produce quality dry base rock for an ocean based live rock farm. Several live rock farmers are now using our method to produce light weight, interesting live rock. Jerry Heslinga is producing this type of rock in Kona, Hawaii. We sent him some of our Idaho made AragocreteTMand he kept it in his system for six months. We shipped the LIVE ROCK back to Idaho and it is now in one of our small polyp stony coral brood stock reef aquariums. Tom Frakes has made some of this type of rock and he has put it on his live rock farm in Florida along with some that we sent him from Idaho. Sea Critters is planning to make this type of rock part of there wonderful line of aquacultured live rocks from Florida.

During the last three years we studied most of the available types of rock that could be used for live rock farming. We have tested tons of these rocks in our laboratory. We have also planted these rocks in the ocean in several countries. AragocreteTMand other cement based rocks grows coralline algae faster than any natural base rock we tested. It is very fun to draw a reef aquarium, and then build the shapes of rock you need to make the design you want. This article will show you how to form many beautiful live rocks that can be as porous and light weight as you want to make them. We have made and sold many tons of the dry base rock to both hobbyists and public aquariums all over the United States. GARF is keeping track of many of these reefs so we can add that data to the information we gather from the dozens of reefs we have started here in Boise, Idaho. We have hundreds of reports in our data bank from all over the world. People who learned to make this type of rock on our FREE ONLINE CORAL FARMING SCHOOL at continue to send us pictures of their live rock.

Everyone at GARF is dedicated to teaching as many people as possible to - SAVE A REEF , GROW YOUR OWN. We also promote worldwide reef farming so the native people can earn a good living that depends on a healthy protected reef environment. People will make the needed changes if the healthy reef can produce a steady source of income now and long into the future. It is important to the future of our hobby that we all support this effort by buying aquacultured reef products anytime we can. Ask your local aquarium dealer to purchase and promote aquacultured reef products. I am receiving more and more e-mail sharing new ways that people are making these rocks. If you think of some new ideas please share them with us so we can get others growing their own reefs. Please e-mail us at and we will answer any questions we can.


We will explain the basics in the first section so you can get started making rocks before you read about the more advanced projects we will teach you to do in the second part of the article .


Carib SeaTM aragonite sand in Styrofoam fish shipping box for making mold.
Carib SeaTM aragonite sand for making AragocreteTM
Portland cement - We use grade #1-2 , it is the most available cement for making concrete
Plastic buckets
Small shovel
Fresh Water for mixing AragocreteTM
Fresh Water for washing equipment

We use Styrofoam fish boxes for all of our AragocreteTMproduction because we want all of our finished product to fit in these boxes when they are ready to ship. We have students make some of the rock. It is human nature to make the AragocreteTMsculptures larger as the day goes on so that you can use up the AragocreteTMmix. When we made the sculptures in large wood boxes. We often found pieces that would have been good for standing up and hanging road signs. Digging up the finished AragocreteTM is the fun part, but it is nice if you can lift them when you get them oncovered.


1. Fill the fish box 1/2 full of Carib SeaTM aragonite sand and dampen with fresh water - the sand needs to be only moist.
2. Dig a hole in the sand that will be the shape of the finished rock.
3. Mix 5 parts Carib SeaTM aragonite sand with 1 part Portland cement.
4. Pour the AragocreteTMinto each hole in the mold.
5. Cover the AragocreteTMwith Carib SeaTM aragonite sand and wait 2 days before removing it.
6. Soak the new sculptures in fresh water for 6 weeks for the easiest cure,
There are faster ways to do this. It is important that you use fresh cement when you do this project. Several times people have sent us e-mails saying that their sculptures did not dry properly. When they tried to remove the AragocreteTMfrom the sand molds it crumbled. In each case we discovered that they had used cement that they had from a job several years ago. Cement powder can absorb water from the air and it will not make quality AragocreteTM.

We will describe several types of live rock that you can make. These shapes can be combined to make many different reefs. We use the three legged reef tables to make the bottom layer and then stack the other rocks on top of the tables. This Small Footprint Reef allows you to have a very open structure that only touches the bottom of the tank in a few places. This allows the sand to be exposed to the water flow or the bare bottom to be siphoned.

BASIC SAND MOLDING LIVE ROCK - Making a nice looking rock

STEP 1. Dig out the sand in your box to form the basic shape you want. Be careful not to expose the bottom of the box or your rock will have an unnatural flat spot. Any holes or caves you can make will add interest to the rock.
STEP 2. Place the AragocreteTMmix into the mold hole and insert any sea shells or rocks you want to use 1/2 way into wet Aragocrete.
STEP 3. Cover the rock with sand - a very natural looking rock is made by using a different sand on the top of the rock. This will look like the rock was formed in the ocean. We use Carib SeaTM Aruba shells for our top layer.
STEP 4. Allow the rock to dry 48 hours and wash it in fresh water. Your rocks will be much stronger if you cure them in cold fresh water for several week.


More misinformation has been published about this simple process by inexperienced beginners than about any other part of this project. We use CaribSea aragonite and cement because this combination cures very easily. If you use other types of gravel or shells then you should test the pH of the aquarium when you add a small piece of your type of rock. Curing concrete is NOT rocket science. We have used fresh water and vinegar to cure thousands of square feet of concrete in Koi ponds for over 30 years. Many of these ponds house fish that cost more than a 100 gallon reef aquarium. Make some rock, take your time curing it, and have fun. Please do not let any beginners who have never even made their first ton of rock scare you away from this simple fun project.

The name AragocreteTMis used to descibe a product that is made using CaribSea aragonite and cement. Our nonprofit foundation allows anyone who makes this recipe to market their product using the trade name AragocreteTM. There are many other ways to make live rock base and it will be exciting to test these products later. As in all of our reports we want to stress that the way we teach people to do things is NOT the only way to do them. We teach ways that work very well all of the time so our students can duplicate our success.

The sand molded rock is allowed to dry in the sand for two days. Keep the sand moist and the final rock will be stronger. Then we cure the new rocks in fresh water for six weeks. This water bath should be changed often. This allows the new rocks to harden and get stronger. We soak our AragocreteTMin geothermal water for several months because we have hot springs and we want our products to be 100 % reef safe. You can spead up the curing by changing the water. After the new rocks are cured in fresh water we soak them in inexpensive white vinager for 3 days. We heat the vinager before we add the rocks. We have not had any problems when we washed the rocks in white vinegar and rinsed them in fresh water. We now soak our test rocks, when we are in a hurry, in a saturate solution of rock salt and water for 3 days after we rinse off the vinegar. You can make a saturate solution by disolving as much rock salt as you can in hot water.


The rock is placed in a grow out system with good light and water flow. We add some coralline algae that we have scraped from the glass in a healthy reef aquarium. The best coralline algae we grow is in the aquariums that have one 40 watt Triton and one 40 watt blue Moon bulb. Too much bright light such as you get from Metal Halide bulbs will slow coralline algae growth. The more types of coralline you add at first the better your chance that you will grow a healthy batch of this desirable algae.

STEP 1. Treat the system water with extra SeaChem Reef Builder and Reef Calcium to start the coralline algae.
STEP 2. Before the rock starts to grow coralline algae you can glue several small cuttings to the rock with super glue.
STEP 3. Allow the live rock to finish growing. Watch for unwanted algae and Aiptasia anemones. We use Copper Band Butterfly fish and Reef JanitorsTM in our grow - out systems to control these pests.
We will explain this part of the project in greater detail later in this article.


This type of rock is very easy to make so we will start with them. We have designed some tables that work really well when people are concerned about placing their rock right on the sand. The tables look very natural once they have animals growing on them. They give the fish more hiding places and places to swim through. It also allows a more stable structure on which to place your heavier corals. One problem I have continually fought is the falling over of live rock. Often the corals become too heavy and won't stay where I put them. The tables are a very good permanent foundation for your reef system.

Place a layer of AragocreteTM on the sand that is about ten inches long and five inches wide. Press this down until it is only one inch thick in most places. Make three balls of AragocreteTM that are about the size of a tennis ball, and roll them in your hands like you are making a clay snake. When they are about an inch thick and six inches long stand each leg up on a corner of your new table top. Add Sand around each leg as you place it to keep the leg from sagging into a lump. We like to put one or two holes in the table top by poking a finger though and then pouring in sand to keep the hole open. Cover the entire table with sand and wait 24 hours before digging it up.

SAND MOLDED CAVES - hand formed and rubber glove caves

Hand formed caves can be any size. They are very natural looking, and they make very good additions to any reef aquarium. You start this project with a ball of AragocreteTM about the size of a soft ball. Place it on a bed of gravel and hollow out a hole in the middle of the rock and pour in some Carib SeaTM aragonite sand. This sand will form the inside of the cave. You can increase the size of the hole by pushing the sand up against the sides until they are quite thin. Add more sand until the rock is full and the sand covers the sides of it. Cover the rock with Carib SeaTM aragonite sand and tap on the side of the box about 20 times with your hands. The vibrations will settle the sand into the AragocreteTM. The sand on the outside of the rock will keep it from sagging while it dries. Let the box set for 24 hours before you remove the rock from the sand. Soak the rocks in white vinegar for 12 hours and rinse them in fresh water before you use them.


This project is going to be fun. I am going to show you how to make some great cave rocks using rubber gloves to make the hollow caves. I have been making these rocks all semester and I enjoy digging them up more than any other type of AragocreteTMlive rock that I have made. Last Summer as we were finishing the 600 lbs. of 'TONGA BRANCHES' and starting the 600 lbs. of Arches I made my first Glove Caves. These rock weigh from 4 lbs. to 7 lbs. and they are 7 inches to 12 inches wide. They are very thin walled with 1 large hole and 3 to 5 small holes. No one who has seen the finished caves in the lab has been able to figure out how we made them.

You start this project by blowing up the rubber glove. You can make some very interesting flat Glove Caves by only blowing the glove up with a small amount of air. We use rubber bands to tie the glove closed, and we have reused several gloves. We make a round pancake shaped base of AragocreteTMin the beach box about 1/2 inch thick and place the inflated glove on it to start each cave. It is important to make this base as thin as possible because the desired final effect is a cave with as thin of walls as possible. We often put broken shells and small aragonite rocks in the beach box before we put in the AragocreteTM for the base. These shells and rocks will then be on the surface of the cave base when it is dug up. We then add some AragocreteTMaround each finger keeping the end of the finger free of AragocreteTM.


CaribSea Aragonite Sand for Beach Box
CaribSea Aragonite gravel for AragocreteTM
# 1 - 2 Portland cement
Several old sea shells to put in base of cave
One rubber glove for each cave

The hardest thing to do in this project is keeping the AragocreteTM you use for the walls of the cave from flowing down into a pile on the base. You can solve this problem by pushing dry gravel from the beach box up against the side of the cave as you build the walls. When you have added enough AragocreteTM to cover the sides of the cave rock it will be 3/4 buried in gravel. We have been leaving a hole about 3 inches wide on the top of the cave. This opening looks natural because you can make the walls very thin around it. These caves make a great place to hide power heads. We use CaribSea Aruba shells on the surface of some caves and it makes them very bright and interesting. The finished rocks look like fossil sea shells have formed them in the ocean.


1. Mix 5 parts - by volume - of CaribSea Aragonite gravel with 1 part Portland cement to make the AragocreteTM
2. Make a thin base of AragocreteTMin the sand by pressing the AragocreteTM with your hand.
3. Place the inflated glove on the base.
4. Put some AragocreteTM around each finger leaving the ends exposed.
5. Build the walls of the cave by adding AragocreteTMand push the sand up around the cave to hold the walls up.
6. Leave a small hole in the top of the cave, and cover the cave with gravel.
7. Let the cave set for 48 hrs.
8. Dig up the cave and wash it.
9. Amaze your friends, and have fun!!

We have been placing small Mushroom rocks inside these caves in our grow - out systems. We will move the rocks to new caves when the Mushrooms start to grow inside the caves. I am certain that there is a market for 4 lb. caves full of purple, blue, and red Mushrooms. I soak all my AragocreteTM Living Sculptures in fresh water for 4 weeks and I have not had any problems with pH. Be sure to soak the rocks in vinegar or cure them in fresh water before adding them to your systems.

We invented the socket rock and reef plug method of invertebrate culture so we could plug the sps corals into a coralline covered rock that would hold it up as it grew. Many sps coral die because they fall onto other corals. This method can prevent that from happening as often. It is very exciting now that we have many finished reef sockets. I remove the reef plug from them and the colony of inverts has grown onto the rock. It is most fun when a sps coral does this. Then you have a cave with coral growing around it. You then move the plug into the next rock.


Then reef plugs are made by drilling several one inch wide tapered holes in a piece of lumber and then filling the hole with AragocreteTM. Soak the board overnight before you make the plugs and they will be easy to remove.


STEP 1. Take the plug you are making the socket hole for and cover it with three layers of plastic. Tie the plastic with a twist tie.
STEP 2. Each socket rock is made by placing one hand full of AragocreteTMon the damp CaribSea gravel.
STEP 3. Insert the covered plug into the wet and then cover the rock with CaribSea Aruba Shell or fine aragonite sand.
STEP 4. Wait one half day and then remove the covered plugs from the firm AragocreteTM socket rock.
STEP 5. Push your finger all the way into the socket hole and finish making a tunnel. Having a hole that goes all the way through the rock allows you to push the reef plug out after the invertebrate has moved on to the socket rock.

We grow the coralline algae on the socket rocks in 300 water tanks with Tritons and Blue Moon bulbs. After the rocks are covered we add the plugs to some. We also sell of the rocks with no plug so the customer can pick their own corals.

We often put 3 or 4 colors of Zoanthids on the same plug so the finished product will sell faster. You can invent any new type of rock using these plans. People like the fact that they can have a reef and be certain that it is tank grown.

I am very interested in any feedback about this project. I have helped several people set up small production sites. This product is very good for the local market because the finished rocks are heavy and they cost extra to ship. You can save the stores the hassle of waiting until 4:00 in the morning for a lost rock shipment.


The standard AragocreteTMmix is one part Portland cement and five parts CaribSeaTMgravel. This basic mix makes very strong and beautiful live rocks. Part of our research here at GARF includes sending Idaho AragocreteTMto live rock farmers in Hawaii, Florida, Mexico, and several other places. We will continue to visit these sites and harvest our Idaho rock. We are bringing this rock to Boise for research. We are also purchasing Aquaculture live rock from as many sources as possible.

We will compare these types of Aquaculture live rocks and report our findings. We have our students in several areas purchase the live rock and other tanks raised reef products at retail. We are doing this so we can learn about the products and services being offered. When we started paying freight on dry rock to places like Koror, Palau I started thinking of ways to make the same rock much lighter.


popcorn - it melts inside the rock before it forms holes
dog food - it swells up and breaks the rock
Top Ramen noodles - it costs too much
dirt clods - it makes the AragocreteTMweak

Tufa gravel - there are some grades from Nevada that float
Lava ash - some good reef safe purple gravel that floats
Plastic sawdust - coralline loves plastic
Plastic scraps - small spirals are best

The last two plastic products are the most promising because they are available in many countries. I will explain how I am using them to make AragocreteTMhere at the Live Rock Lab.


The simple way to use the plastic is to replace 1/4 of the Gravel with the plastic. I add the plastic to the AragocreteTMjust before I pour it into the mold holes. This method leaves much of the plastic on the surface of the live rock for coralline to attach to. The other method I use is the slurry method. I add the plastic to the mix before I add the gravel. I slowly add the water to mix until the plastic, cement and water form a gray slurry. I then add the gravel until the AragocreteTMis ready. This method works best if you need to hide the shape of the plastic scrap. I have one type of plastic that has one inch circles in it.


The best filler I have ever used is made out six parts floating purple lava ash and four parts Lexan drill press spirals. This filler is mixed into AragocreteTMas a replacement for 1/5 of the CaribSeaTM gravel. The way the Plastic is formed into spirals and the way the cells in the Lava hold air makes the finished AragocreteTM about 1/2 as heavy.

Part two

TURNING AragocreteTMINTO LIVE ROCK - a cookbook method for growing coraline algae

The Geothermal Aquaculture Research Foundation in Boise, Idaho has been working on a cookbook method for rapid coralline algae production. This method is just one of the many ways you can produce thick multi-colored coralline in your reef aquariums. This way, using the products from Aquarium Systems, Aquarium Products, and SeaChem, has worked for everyone who has tried it! People from all over the world have been sending me e-mail telling me how well this method works. At GARF we do not ask much from a product - it just has to do what they say it will do every time we use it. We do NOT sell any of the hardware or chemicals we list in this article. We use them because they work.

Coralline algae is one of the most important things to grow on tank raised live rocks. Coralline algae cannot grow in a system until you introduce it by adding live rocks. The more types of Coralline that you introduce the more types you will find growing on your tank raised live rocks. Ask a friend or your reef store if you can help by scraping the front glass on their coralline covered show tank.

Aquacultured Live Sand Activator often has many species of living coralline algae in it. Ask the grower if the brand they sell has been grown in a way that promotes coralline algae. We use Sea Chem Reef PlusTM, Reef CompleteTM, and Reef CalciumTM at twice the regular dose in the reef water twice a week. All of the make up water is treated for one week with Sea Chem Reef AdvantageTM and the next week with Reef Builder. We use one heaping teaspoon of these powders in each gallon of water. Each reef takes about one gallon of make up water each morning. We have used these two dry products and Calcium Hydroxide for several years. We quit using the Calcium Hydroxide for a while. We have been changing back and forth between the two Sea Chem products for about 40 weeks in all of the reefs in our labs. The coralline algae growth has never been better.

We follow up each month with a 10% water change in each system. We always use Ocean PureTM salt mix because it is the research standard worldwide. We want as many others as possible to duplicate and teach our simple methods. If we wanted to keep this process secret for commercial reasons we would just forget to mention how important it is to use Ocean PureTM salt.

During this time we use a Phosphate remover to keep the Phosphate in the water column as low as possible. During this step it is important to have 30 dwarf hermits crabs and 50 mixed snails for each 55 gallons of reef water. They will eat green algae that starts to grow. The hermits will pick at the surface of the rock and appear to the beginner to be eating the coralline algae. After you do the next step you will understand how silly that is. The best thing you can do next is locate a healthy reef aquarium in your city that has coralline algae growing on the glass. This may be at your local store. The owner will owe you a favor if you turned him on to Triton and Blue Moon Bulbs. The reef aquarium may belong to a member of your local marine society.

You will need several new single edge razor blades and a small siphon hose. Scrape the coralline algae off of the front glass and siphon up as much of the chipped coralline algae as possible. When you are finished, discard the dulled razor blades and pour the coralline chips all over your rocks. We turn off the power heads for one hour after we pour in the coralline algae. This rock hard true coralline algae is the type you want to grow. Many of the short red soft encrusting algae that come in on Fiji rock look like coralline to the beginner and they may think their Clibinerius sp. hermits are eating coralline algae. This is not the case as the dulled razor blades prove.

You can hold a small siphon made from an airline below the razor and collect the coralline that you remove. This coralline sediment is then added to your reef tank so it falls on all your aquaculture tank raised live rocks. I am very pleased with how fast coralline spreads if you plant it. The way most people try to grow coralline - by waiting for it to appear - is like tilling your garden and waiting for seeds to fall from the sky. They will fall but they will be Dandelions most of the time. When you plant coralline algae then you will grow coralline algae.

Coralline algae is one of the most important things to grow on tank raised live rocks. Coralline algae cannot grow in a system until you introduce it by adding live rocks or scraped algae. The more types of Coralline that you introduce the more types you will find growing on your tank raised live rocks. In our research lab we have experimented with several different methods to aid the advancement of coralline growth. We have noticed that new coralline algae starts to seed itself in the first month. It usually is found on the bottom base rock where the lighting is not so bright. This may be because all of our tanks are started by adding GARF Grunge, which has an abundant mixture of small pieces of coralline algae. The algae seems to spread up from the live sand activator.

Coralline algae adds color

CORALLINE ALGAE is a very important thing to have growing on your combination tank grown live rock.

Coralline algae prevents other algae from growing
The bright colors add value to tank raised live rock
Coralline covered rocks will seed reef aquariums
Mixed colors of coralline algae are rare in nature
Coralline algae sells the live rock


Use Ocean PureTM
Use 2 - Triton And 1 - Blue Moon 40 watt bulb per 55 gallons
Use a phosphate removing filter
Use carbon
Treat tank with Sea Chem - Reef PlusTM. Reef CompleteTM, and Reef CalciumTM - 2 times usual dose three times a week - These are liquids are added to the reef water.
Use Sea Chem Reef Builder in make up water every other time you add make up water. We use two teaspoons per gallon.
Use Sea Chem Reef Advantage in make up water every other time you add make up water. We use two teaspoons per gallon.
Add lots of types of coralline to start - Just like putting seeds in the garden

Calcium is one of the most important things to add to your live rock growing tanks. Calcium levels in your live rock grow out tanks should be kept above 400 mg/L at a specific gravity of 1.024. We have found that by using SeaChems products we have no trouble keeping both the calcium and alkalinity at the proper levels for rapid coralline growth. This simple method of treating our make-up water also keeps the Strontium and Magnesium level in our grow out tanks high enough for the coralline algae to thrive. We are certain other products will work fine, but these products are inexpensive and they work the best in Boise, Idaho.

You must keep the Phosphate level in the live rock grow out tank very low. Protein skimming is important in the grow out tanks because it controls phosphate. Make-up water can be a source of phosphate. You may need a reverse osmosis or deionization system if your water source is high in Phosphates. Feeding is the most common source of high phosphate levels. We use a phosphate removing filter in tanks that are not producing coralline algae fast enough.

Lighting the live rock grow out tank with 2 Triton 40 watt bulbs to each Blue Moon 40 watt bulb has produced the fastest growth of Coralline algae. We keep the lights on for 14 hours and the Coralline algae grows on every part of the rock that is exposed to the light. We have found many types of coralline algae that thrive in different types of light. Some colors of coralline grow best in the top section of the grow out tanks while others always grow best in the lowest part of the system. The coralline then spreads to all the other rocks in the system. Several colors of Coralline algae can be grown on the same tank raised live rock.


The best way to add value to your product is to grow several types of colored colonial invertebrates on each rock. You can start with very small cuttings if you use super glue. Combination tank grown live rock is a piece of reef safe rock that has two or more invertebrates growing on it. The best combination tank grown live rocks have a heavy growth of coralline algae. Color is the most important single thing that sells reef rocks. The animals that you put on the rocks should be able to live close together. It is best if at least one of these cuttings has bright colors.



We have been using sps corals on our larger AragocreteTMcombination rocks. Our reefs now has over 140 types of sps corals. Last semester we received 54 new corals from Steve Tyree. We have never had any corals with the color that these have. I used several AragocreteTM'Tonga Branches' that I broke in half. I stood the pieces up and connected them by gluing five pieces of dead Acropora rubble rock that came from Belize. The frags have now grown down onto the CORAL TREES and they are being fragged this semester. You can use your imagination to create live rocks that will save you money and save the habitat on the living wild reefs. If we leave the habitat in place the fish and invertabrates we love in our hobby can be harvested in sustained manner. The sustained income from this educated industry may be the most important one thing that will allow the people who live on the reefs to protect their oceans from the land based pollution that is now killing the reefs.

I am going to answer several questions that we have received. The entire subject of AragocreteTMhas generated more e-mail from around the world than anything we have shared.


Q. Can I make live rocks that will filter my reef as well as wild harvested live rock?
A. YES - Aqucultured AragocreteTMlive rock that has been produced in reefs with Aquacultured Live Sand Activator and ocean grown aquaculture rock may filter better than wild live rock that has not been treated well during marketing.

Q. Can I use type 1-2 Portland cement to make AragocreteTM?
A. YES, you can make a very good live rock from #1-2 Portland cement - I mix it a bit more and let it dry longer.

Q. Why do you say to soak the AragocreteTMin vinegar?
A. The acid in vinegar will help reduce the surface pH. of the rocks. We cure all our AragocreteTMrocks in running water or in the ocean. You can use Muriatic acid if you are careful. You also can get some great surface effect with this acid.

Q. What is the most important thing I can remember about this project?
A. Please remember that this is a hobby and HAVE FUN.


The new Aquarium will be constructed in the same manner as a Chambered Nautilus grows. Each section will make the building larger, but the shape of the structure will be the same after each addition.

We are doing the research needed to build the first public aqaurium in the world that will be dedicated to the study of geothermal water and how it can be protected. Many of the nutrients and minerals needed for a healthy ocean come from geothermal sources. Geothermal springs both in the mountains of Idaho and in the deepest parts of the ocean may hold the cure for many diseases. Bacteria from geothermal springs are now being used in new medicines and in modern laboratory methods. The rapid cloning of DNA would not be possible if it were not for some bacteria from Yellow Stone Park.Every year thousands of geothermal springs are dried up because of poor irrigation practices.


This public aquarium will be the only aquarium in the world where you will be able to see cross sections of the many types of thermal springs. These displays will allow study of the habitats and the animals that live in these unique and secret places. Many of the endangered species will be able to be reproduced so they donot become extinct before we even have a chance to name them.


We are proud to announce that we are starting a new project that will allow us to teach at six public aquariums during the next 12 months. We will host weekend seminars on coral propagation and reef rock building. These seminars will be open to the aquarium keepers who work at other public aqauriums in each region. Garf will supply the host aquariums with several dozen free captive raised corals so they can build a display using aquacultured animals. If you work at a public aquarium and you think that this project might fit into your education program please feel free to call us toll free at 1-800-600-6163. There will be no cost for this series of seminars. We have started to data bank corals that many public aquariums have an excess of and we will help them trade these corals with other aquariums who need them and may have too many of some other species.





More later - LeRoy


Use this site to solve your reef aquarium algae problems, and help support our research!!!

Learn how you can grow a wonderful reef aquarium like the one we visit in this JULY 1997 special feature Learn to set up your own fantastic reef aquarium like
Sally Jo's

You can learn how a reef aquarium grows into a mature sps coral reef
Sally Jo's 55 gallon reef is starting to mature into a small polyp stony coral aquarium

We will add more about this aquarium each month


You can support our research and learn more about reef aquariums and wetlands

1997 WINTER - SPRING NEWSLETTER Our foundation is growing - Please visit our Newsletter


Newest information on reef aquarium farming


Learn to grow coralline algae on your reef aquarium live rocks


Learn to grow combination reef aquarium live rocks


Learn about base rock for combination reef aquarium live rocks


Learn about selecting species for combination reef aquarium live rocks


Learn to start an inexpensive reef aquarium

Visit Rachel's 12 week old Bullet Proof Reef Aquarium


Geothermal Aquaculture Research Foundation,Inc. online tour

Learn why we call it Geothermal

Super glue research page

We teach you the Super Glue method of invertebrate propagation

Super Glue evaluation page

Our researchers rate many brands of super glue

Geothermal Aquaculture Research Foundation Feed Back page

E-mail input so we can make these pages better

Natural Algae Control

Reef Janitor Order Page - red leg hermits, snails, grunge.


Research page for Xenia and related soft coral propagation

Learn to propagate xenia. Please enter any data you have about these corals.

Soft Coral Propagation Page

Pictures and details of soft coral propagation

Stony Coral Propagation Page

Pictures and details of small polyp stony corals

Mushroom Anemone Propagation Page

Pictures and details of mushroom propagation

Zoanthid and palythoa Anemone Propagation Page

Pictures and details of Sea mat propagation

Image Page for Zoanthids and Palythoa

Learn to construct a 140 gallon plywood and epoxy reef tank

This is one of our most popular pages. Many people have made their own reef aquarium.

Learn to construct an aquarium stand