Reef Aquarium Farming News
Online Newsletter for Reef Aquarium Propagation Research

ISSUE # 25 FEBRUARY 2000    PAGE 1


All of us here at GARF want to welcome you to CORAL FARMING 2000.

D uring the next 12 months, the staff at GARF will be producing 12 new issues of our popular online newsletter. We decided to divide each issue into two sections, with one section being for the beginning reef farmer, and the other section will feature articles about successful reef farms that we will be visiting during the next year. During this next year we are inviting any interested reef farmers to submit articles for our newsletter. One of the most popular parts of the last 24 newsletters has been the do it yourself section. We will continue to publish many articles about building equipment and tanks for your own coral farm.

For a few minutes we would like to talk about the importance of growing our own corals. During the last 31 years, that I've been in this hobby, I have often felt guilty about introducing new people to the reef hobby. Even though I enjoyed my reef aquariums thoroughly, and I have been very proud to show off what I've been able to grow in captivity, I've often worried about the effect that our hobby will have on the natural reef if it continued to grow unabated.

We live in a world where there are more and more people everyday. During the last decade we've been blessed with an economy where more and more people are joining the middle class. Each year millions of people join the middle-class and millions more have had time to pay off their barbecue grill, I've always been afraid that they would be joining the ranks of marine hobbyists by the millions. In 1987 after 20 years in the marine business I made the decision to quit the Marine hobby forever. I had seen too many things die in aquariums, just to be replaced, because my customers could afford to do it.





At that time I turned all of my attention, large aquariums, and all my effort to growing wetland plants, goldfish, Koi and water lilies. As part of my job during the early 1990's I had the opportunity to sell aquarium stones directly to pet shops across the western United States. During this time I sold many tons of Aragonite. While I was researching the uses for aragonite I had an opportunity to talk to many pet shop owners about my 20 years of experience growing live rocks in Idaho. I started my first Marine tropical fish store in 1972, during the next decade and half I owned and operated two full-service tropical fish stores and one marine only fish store. I'm proud to say that as of 1994 I had never sold one piece of live or dead coral.

In 1994 I had an opportunity to go to Cleveland to attend the marine aquarium conference of North America MACNA No. 6. It was during this conference that I was able to see all of the advancement that had been made in the Marine hobby since I had been in the water gardening business. This was during the period when the harvest of live rock was being phased out in United States. During the next four years we traveled extensively and visited with many people who farmed live rock, and were starting to captive propagate many types of corals.

When I returned to Boise Idaho I was able to convince the board of directors at GARF to dedicate themselves to an eight year research project with of the goal of teaching as many people as possible to propagate their corals. I was convinced that at that time the technology and methods existed to reproduce many of the corals that we now kept in our marine hobby tanks. For the first time I could see way that I could feel secure and happy in introducing new people to our hobby. I have loved my Marine aquariums for so long and they have become such part of my life in the last 35 years that I was thrilled to be able to teach people how they could build zero impact reefs.

GARF has been able to research many ways and develop a few methods that save time and energy, and allow people to develop a home-based business. If you've ever thought about working for yourself, and you have developed a passion for reef aquariums and corals you may think about having this as a full-time or part-time job in the future. The most important thing to remember about CORAL FARMING is that it is farming. Farming, by its very nature is often hard work, full of repetitive, boring, and less than glamorous jobs. Some of the most successful new reef farmers have been able to strike a balance between their day job and their expanding hobby. These advanced hobbyists are able to purchase the equipment and corals needed by marketing and trading the things that they produce in their aquariums.



Sally Jo has written many times, that during the first few years that you are running a coral farm, it is often very important to REMEMBER DON'T QUIT YOUR DAY JOB YET.

I would like to repeat one of my favorite stories; years ago a Chinese student wanted to start a small nursery. He went to the Old Master on the Hill, and asked him, what is the very best time to plant trees? The Old Master thought for minute, had a drink of fresh water and then he ate an orange. He finely told the young student that the very best time to plant trees was 25 years ago. As you might well imagine, this disheartened the young student for a few minutes. But after enjoying the students quandary for a few minutes the Old Master continued with, the second best time to plant trees is today.

The very best time to start your coral farm, is today. Very few of us have had the time and fore-thought to plant our corals 25 years ago, but we can start collecting captive raised brood stock now. If you live in apartment, and you only have one 30-gallon reef aquarium, you can still start your coral Farming today. Acquiring the proper brood stock takes time, and small frags and pieces of coral you plant today will soon be mother colonies. Acquiring the skills needed to be a successful reef farmer takes time, but you can develop those skills by working on your own aquarium.

Two of my good friends are starting coral Farming they're getting extra experienced by helping a gentleman in a wheelchair take care of his large aquarium. Many times you can volunteer at your local tropical fish store. This is a very good way to learn about the business of coral selling, customer relations, and coral purchasing.

One of the very best things that you can do, is to join a local marine aquarium club. Many of the people that you meet at your aquarium club may be interested in trading corals with you. Some aquarium clubs hold auctions, and they often sell captive raised coral cuttings to raise funds for the club's projects.



One of the very best ways to acquire new equipment for your coral farm is to visit garage sales on the weekends. Many people sell their aquariums to move to a new city or when their final tropical fish passes into the Great tropical fish graveyard in the sky. Sometimes you can find entire aquarium set-ups for less than $1 a gallon. In the 1980's when I was doing research project on raising Caulerpa live rocks I put a small ad in the local classified newspaper. The ad simply stated that I was buying aquariums, and I listed my phone number so people could call to talk about aquariums. I had budgeted about $500 to purchase some aquariums, and I had almost spent all my money when a gentleman drove up in a large station wagon. He proceeded to unload several 55 gallon tanks and all the equipment that goes with them.

He then untied a nice wrought iron stand from the luggage rack of the station wagon. After he had taken all of the aquariums that were nested inside of the 55 gal. aquariums, he had a grand total of 13 aquariums, all the equipment and the stand on my front driveway. I had $84 left over and I hoped to be able to purchase the 55 gal. aquarium and wrought iron stand. I told this gentleman that I would like to buy the two pieces, and he started laughing. He told me that he was never going to move those aquariums anywhere, any time again. He sold me the entire batch of aquariums for $84. Look around. Think different. And you may well find things that hold water and can grow corals that you did not plan on using.

I believe that more old-fashioned ideas are circulating in our hobby about lighting than about any other subject that we study. People who think that you have to use Halide lighting to grow corals, have not looked at the data that has been collected for the last four years. I still talk to people who just literally say "do not confuse me with the facts my mind is made up."

Soft corals such as Zoanthids can be grown very well under 40 Watt lighting. Many of the stoney corals develop much better color when they are grown in less light. During the next 12 months we will be talking about lighting and lighting costs extensively. We will be diagramming and showing pictures of coral Farming units that are being built here Idaho and in other states.



The next 12 issues of REEF AQUARIUM FARMING NEWS 2000 will surely have to be a community effort. We are constantly receiving e-mail from people who are farming with our methods around the world, we have farmers in Israel, England, Canada, South Africa, and in several small countries in the South Pacific.

As you start to become a coral farmer and you have your money tied up and your income is on the line, it may become harder and harder to teach newcomers how to farm corals. GARF always respects your privacy and we can completely understand how some coral farms are anxious to develop proprietary methods of growing coral faster and less expensively.

In every industry that we have studied over the last three decades we have seen how companies can cooperate as an industry to develop a larger market than any one company could ever do by them selves. The incredible growth of the Florida tropical fish industry is in part due to the cooperation and comradeship that the professional farmers have amongst themselves. One of the examples that always comes to mind for me are the Idaho potato farmers. It is no accident that even in the middle of the jungle in Palau that I was able to tell two young boys, who could hardly speak any English at all, that I was from Idaho and immediately they both said potatoes.

The Idaho Potato Council along with a collection of farmers from all over the state have built a reputation of Idaho potatoes worldwide. As coral farmers our competition will not be other coral farmers, our main competition will not even be the coral harvesters and importers. We will all compete for the disposable income of thousands and thousands of families. Video games, ski equipment, high-definition color TVs, and all the new toys that are not even on the market yet, will compete for the discretionary income.

GARF believes it is very important that as farmers we educate the public so that they know that they can have a wonderful, educational , and beautiful reef aquarium in their homes without causing any damage either in reality or in their perception to the wild reefs. Because of all of the hundreds of aquariums that I've seen set up with artificial live rock it amazes me when people get online and state flatly that this will never work. It is said , "that a little knowledge is dangerous", though I think this is the case for the saying " keep silent and the world may think you're a fool, speak up and prove it to everyone.



Every one of our many systems that GARF are set up with Aragocrete and cuttings and we post pictures every month to show that the artificial live rock indeed does support an incredible variety of marine life. In the early 90's, when my friends started farming live rock in the ocean, it seemed that the only thing you had to do was rush out into the ocean and drop tons of rocks over board. This may have been the case if you don't take into account the cost of running a boat, hiring divers, or the large number of things that Mother Nature can throw at a rock pile on the bottom of the ocean.

Harvesting rock in the ocean, even rock that you plant yourself, is no easy or inexpensive job. It would have been hard to predict that companies in a rush to rip live rock from the oceans in Fiji would lower the price of wholesale rocks in Los Angeles, California below the actual cost of harvesting and processing your own ocean grown live rock. The same "one tank experts" who preach that you can only have a reef aquarium with Fiji live rock have not been to the wholesalers in California where the rock is stored in dried cardboard boxes often for over a week.

There are people who are importing live rock from the tropics who take proper care of their products. But as the gold rush continues, and companies try to harvest as much rock as possible before proposed bans might take effect, they are dropping the price below a level that honest dealers can compete with. Live rock harvest in the tropics can be a sustainable, ecologically sound practice. As you know GARF is headquartered in Idaho and we have seen the type of damage an extraction industry can cause. Our pristine mountains are full of dredge ponds that contain thousands of tons of cyanide laced sediment. Every year we hear of one of these dams breaking causing this sediment to be washed downstream for hundreds of miles. In our neighboring state of Washington you can drive for a hundred miles along the coast and as far as you can see on both sides of the highway the mountains have been stripped bare by clear-cutting.

GARF is working in several island nations to help people from those countries start small-scale coral farms that are ocean based. There is more damage being done to reefs by sediment that is from Phosphate fertilizer that washes away from farms and finds its way the 400 mi. to the ocean than by all of the hobby harvesting. Last year saw more destruction of reefs than any year recorded. The chemicals in the pollution from land-based agriculture and industry are almost all more active at higher temperatures. We, as a hobby will never be able to solve the problems that affect the world's reefs. But here at GARF we do know that having reef aquariums in public places creates an understanding and love for the ocean in people who have never been to an ocean. I was dead serious when I talked about millions of new hobbyists worldwide who may someday decide they want of reef aquarium because they've seen it in people's homes or at public aquariums or in a fine restaurant. This alone, is enough to make us want to educate people about small-scale reef farming. But there's another reason that we are so anxious to have people join the ranks of coral farmers.

The best brood stock is already in captivity

During the last 20 years, tens of thousands of pieces of the best Mushroom rocks, Green star rocks, and wonderfully colored rare soft corals have been purchased by hobbyists worldwide. Many of these corals are still alive in captivity. It is one of GARF's most important goals to collect, catalog, propagate, and distribute these corals to farmers worldwide. During the next year we will be working with two public aquariums on the East Coast so we can have genetic testing on both the corals and Zooxanthellae algae that lives inside of them. Many research scientists are trying to find out why so many corals on the wild reefs are dying. The Marine aquarium hobby is in an unique position because we have so much time to observe what happens to a reef community that we create in a closed system. GARF will be donating corals this week to a public aquarium that is studying captive raised Zooxanthellae and comparing it to both wild corals and corals that have bleached and recovered in captivity.

Welcome to CORAL FARMING 2000. I'm sure that we will have an exciting, prosperous New Year to start the millennium. Please keep track of what happens in your aquarium, and please share with us the discoveries you surely will make as you start to farm coral.


Zerah Morris

This project was started not only to supplement my income but also to satisfy my own curiosities. My decision to beginning farming was also the result of my dissatisfaction with the quality of livestock available in my area, and the needless destruction of these animals habitat.
GEOTHERMAL AQUACULTURE RESEARCH FOUNDATION In the interest of sharing my experience with other aquarist I have decided to keep a running journal of my cost and progress and send them to you at GARF.

GARF’s amazing wealth of information has allowed me to enter this project with little fear of failure, I hope to give back a little.

I am located in Lawton, OK. My location serves me well because it is centrally located between four major market places. Oklahoma City, OK; Tulsa, OK; Fort Worth, TX; and Dallas, TX; are all within a three hour radius of Lawton, by car. Lawton is also equipped with a small public airport that flies freight daily to these cities. This market, as well as an above average local market of aquarist, provides the target clientele of the project.

After doing much research and market analysis I decided to build a coral farming unit for the propagation of tank-raised corals for the local market. I have been in the reef aquarium hobby for about three years and continue to have an unquenchable craving for knowledge on maintaining the amazing life of the natural reef.

My intention is to build a three tank, stacked farming unit for the initial propagation of star polyps, Zoanthids, Ricordia, and Xenia. These items though available in my area are often poor specimens not exhibiting the variety or beauty of those available from propagation farms such as GARF. The idea of their regular presence in the local market has been met with great enthusiasm. My local dealer often orders, "amazingly brightly colored star polyps, etc." only to receive them and find them all to be muddy brown in color and declining in health from poor handling. There is also no presence of hardier tank raised corals of any variety in this area. These factors led to my decisions on initial brood stock. The first unit will be upgraded to handle a variety of SPS corals upon full maturation and a second unit built to continue initial species production.

The design for my unit is based largely on the unit built for SallyJo with a few modifications to fit my needs and ideas.

The unit is constructed of a 2x6", 2x4" frame of pressure treated lumber, treated with a waterproofing deck stain. The maximum height at back is 64" to provide a frame for the top set of lights. Tank bases were constructed by framing 2’x4’ sheets of 5/8" plywood with 2x4’s.

Each tank base rest on 2x4" braces placed flush with the bottom, at 36" and at 50" respectively.

The tanks are constructed of _" Plexiglas. The bottom tank measures 48"x24"x12", the other two have the same base dimensions but are only 6" deep to maximize light usage by the organisms. Leaving 12" of workspace, and for the light racks above each tank.

The light racks are mounted on the 2x4" cross supports of the frame. Three four-foot VHO lamps, driven by two IceCap 430 ballast, light the top two tanks. This gives approximately 11watts per gallon in the top two tanks. The bottom tank is lit by two, two bulb NO shop lights using two 10000k and two Magnitinic bulbs yielding approximately 4watts per gallon. It will be used as the sump, and contain a plenium for filtration.

Water is circulated from the bottom tank to both upper tanks by two Maxijet 1000’s, and returned by gravity through 1" bulkheads. This bottom tank will be used to grow coralline algae on agrocrete® plugs, and to propagate lower light organisms, using the gravel bowl method. The top two tanks will be used for the rapid grow out of Zoanthids, Ricordia, and Xenia. Each contains two Maxijet 1000’s for water motion.

Many of the brood colonies for the unit will initially be gathered from my existing system, along the way more strains will be added from different sources, especially GARF. The project is designed to mature over the course of several years while maintaining itself financially and hopefully putting a little extra in my pocket while I learn. Eventually I hope for it to become a fulltime business, allowing me to offer superior products at terrific prices to others like myself.

Thank you, GARF and it's members, for the amazing resource you are providing and for the opportunity to attempt to begin to do what I love for a living.

Zerah Morris
Lawton, OK 73507




(7) 2x4x8 pressure treated lumber $20.65

(4) 2x6x8 pressure treated lumber $21.96

(3) 2x4’ 5/8" plywood $20.97

(2) tubes deck adhesive $ 4.38

(1) caulk gun $1.99

(2) gold/zinc wood screw 100/box $ 6.58

(12) 5/16x4" carriage bolts, nuts, etc. $ 5.58

(2) misc. drill bits $ 5.54

sand paper and block $ 9.47

(1) gallon deck stain $19.99

misc. $16.96

Total $134.07


_" Acrylite $236.53

(3) 48"x24"

(2) 48"x12"

(2) 23.5"x12"

(4) 48"x6"

(4) 23.5"x6"

(9) 48"x1"

(1) 21 1/8"x4" (center brace for bottom tank)

(1) clear acrylic cement #4 4oz $ 2.49

(1) thickened clear cement tube $ 1.73

(1) needle squeeze bottle $ 2.77

Total $243.52


(2) IceCap 430 ballast systems w/ $556.00

wiring harness, 6VHO bulbs,

2piece German endcaps, and

acrylic mounting plates.

(2) NO 40watt shop lights $14.95

(2) NO 10000k bulbs $ 36.90

(2) NO Magnitinic bulbs $ 36.90

Total $644.75


(2) 1 inch bulkhead assembly $ 15.95

(1) 8’ _" braided hose $ 6.32

(1) 9’ 1" vinyl tubing $ 11.61

Misc. PVC pipe and fittings $ 5.38

Total $ 39.26



(1) 50# bag crushed coral $ 28.95

(3) 30# bag aragonite $ 63.00

(1) 20# bag live sand $ 29.95

Total 121.90


(1) EboJager 250watt heater $ 15.95

(6) MaxiJet 1000 powerheads $ 104.95

(1) Bactervital Marine $ 12.95

(1) Seachem Reef Builder 1Kg $ 12.95

(1) Seachem Reef Advantage 1Kg $ 17.79

(3) egg crate panels $28.47

(1) roll fiberglass window screen $4.99

(1) bucket Ocean Pure $ 50.00

Total $ 248.05


Grand Total $1431.55


It is important that this information be posted in your farm building if you employ helpers.

We have used this salt for years and we have not had any adverse reaction, but you need to be safe when you employ others.

The Material Safety Data Sheet for Ocean Pure Synthetic sea salt list the top five ingrediants as NACL- common salt, agnesium cloride, calcium chloride, potassium chloride, and sodium sulfate.




Butch Gorsuch


Steps: The most important step is to discover where the bristleworms concentrate. In my experience, I've found them to be in the corners where the water flow is weaker. To discover where the best place to place your trap, you will need a red flashlight and the will to get up in the middle of the night.

To make a red flashlight, cover the lens with red acetate (hobby/craft shop). Another way is to use a simple red balloon. Cut the narrow neck of the balloon off and stretch or roll it over the lens portion of the flashlight. The tighter you stretch the balloon, the thinner the material and stronger the beam of red light.

Before going to bed, plunge the room containing your tank into total darkness. Close the curtains, hide the face of illuminated clocks, etc. After three or four hours, you can approach your tank with the red flashlight. Do not shine the beam straight into the tank. Instead shine it straight down and let the "side" of the light beam enter the tank. There will still be plenty of light to see if ... and where ... your bristleworms like to congregate.

Now that you know where the bristleworms reside, you're ready to trap them.


Now your trap is complete.

The idea of using a "plastic lid" with an "X" came from Mr. Albert Thiel. The concept is bristle worms can push their way through the four tabs of the "X" to get inside, since they are travelling in the same direction as the tabs are bent. When they try to crawl out, the tabs bend back out, thus "shutting" the opening.

As a hint, prepare several pairs of end caps. The preparation as described above will catch medium to small worms. You can catch the bigger worms by first snipping the very tip (half a millimeter) of each tab before bending it down. By having several different pairs of end caps, you can catch different sizes of worms, depending on the"size"of your bristleworm problem.

The trap is now ready to be used.

There are several kinds of baits you can use.

Different baits will have different results.

    I prefer using freeze dried "Jumbo Shrimp" commonly sold in pet stores. It is easy to break into small pieces (pea size), you don't have to visit your local fish market, nor have to freeze it to keep it from spoiling. Break off three or four "pea" size pieces of bait.

  1. Drop the bait into the PVC trap and recap it. Put the trap into your tank vertically and let it fill with water. You can then drop it in the desire spot, or use some type of hook and the loop of the fishing line to place it exactly where you want it.

  2. Then shut your lights off as you normally do. Be sure to close curtains and turn off ANY other lights. The next morning, use a hook to "lasso" the loop of the fishing line and lift the PVC out of your tank. You may wish to use a small bucket to place the trap into, since it will leak water once removed from the tank.

  3. Final step is to remove one of the end caps and see how successful you were the night before. There are several reasons I like the above trap over a few others I have tried. First, the PVC is denser than salt water, so it will naturally sink. You don't have to bury or weigh it down to keep it on the bottom of the tank. Second, it is easy to switch end caps to catch different size worms. The major reason, is that it is easy to place and remove from the tank using a "hook" and the loop of the fishing line. This keeps your arms out of the tank and reduces any stress on the inhabitants.