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LAST ISSUE | HOME | FEBRUARY 2000 ISSUE PAGE 1 | FEBRUARY 2000 ISSUE PAGE 3
MANAGING THE CORAL FARM USING THE PLASTIC RACK METHOD
The first step you need to do when you are making your racks is ripping the plastic sheet in the 3-in. strips. When you are working with the Plexiglas it is best to keep the paper covering on. This keeps the surface of the Plexiglas from being scratched by your tools. The most important part of working with plastic is keeping your blades sharp. If you can it is best to have one blade for plastic and one blade to cut wood and other material.
It is very important to remember that Plexiglas can be very sharp, and there is a special small tool that we use to keep the edges smooth. This tool looks like a 6 in. piece of saw blade with two plastic handles, one side is ground flat with a sharp edge and the other side has bevels shaped like half of a circle. You pull the flat side along the edge of the Plexiglas and scrape the saw cuts smooth. If you do not have a small bench clamp it is easiest have someone help to hold the plastic while you scrape the edges smooth.
Many of the brightly colored Zoanthids that we have in our genetic bank at GARF came from the aquaculture facility in Koror, Palau. These beautiful Zoanthids were grown on cement disks in the ocean.
At GARF we use 440 filtered liquid glue to attach rocks to live rock under water. The easiest way to get the rocks to stay where we want them is to put a bit of glue on the live rock under water with one finger. The GARF reef glue is a thick liquid that is easy to apply by the drop. When you have decided where you want to place the piece of live rock you put two drops of GARF reef glue on your index finger. Reach into reef and rub the wet glue onto the live rock. Put two drops of reef glue on the part of the live rock that you want to attach. Now you can reach into the reef and place the two surfaces together. After you have made good contact between the two glue surfaces rub the rock you are attaching around in small circles for 30 seconds. You will feel a slight tug as a glue starts to harden. As the glue starts to harden move the rock your attaching in smaller circles for a few more seconds. The small rock will now be attached to the life rock under water.
Recent research at GARF supports early observations that Zoanthids are able to extract some minerals from the substrate they are growing on. We have noticed for several years that when we plant Zoanthids on fresh aragonite they grow much better than identical colonies that are growing on inert substrate. When we are growing Zoanthids for brood stock we divide the original colony into small chunks that contain approximately ten polyps. We glue each of these small groups on to a fresh piece of Aragocrete ™ that has been cured in fresh water for 30 days. We glue each of the small groups from one to 3 in. apart, depending on how fast the type of Zoanthid we are working with grows. We then place each of these pieces of Aragocrete ™ in the bottom of the new crop tanks.
|We have learned that many Zoanthids do not need bright light. After a few months, the small groups of Zoanthids will have grown together. After the groups of Zoanthids have blended together and grown over much of the Aragocrete ™, it is time to harvest is Zoanthids. |
This picture shows a great combination that we have found on several imported rocks. We first saw this combination in our reef tanks when yellow polyps moved into Zoanthid colonies. This happened twice in captivity so we were not surprised when we saw it in wild colonies. The yellow Parazoanthids are filter feeders and they do not shade the light loving Zoanthids below them.
Aragocrete ™ makes a very good substrate for these brood stock colonies because it is easy to remove pieces of the rock with a chisel.
One of the aquaculture products that sells very well are combinations Zoanthid rocks. For this project will need several 1 lb. Aragocrete ™ rocks. The very best Zoanthid rocks have a combination of colored Zoanthids growing on the same rock. We often used blue Zoanthids on the same rock with green Zoanthids. It is easy glue these small pieces of the Zoanthid to the Aragocrete ™ with the GARF reef glue.
The Zoanthids have many different growth forms as well as different colors. The smallest Zoanthids are connected to each other by a body material and each polyp is not an individual animal. The larger strains of Zoanthid have longer stocks, and each individual Zoanthid is separate.
When you combine Zoanthids it is important to notice the growth habit, because the taller ones tend to shade out the short ones. The different strains of Zoanthids seem to grow well together, and many times wild collected rocks have a combination of Protopallythoa and mixed Zoanthids.
There are several methods of harvesting Zoanthids from the Brood stock aquariums. The method that you will use will depend on what type of Zoanthid you are growing, how old the Zoanthid colony is, and how soon you plan on marketing the colony rock. The first method that we used to harvest Zoanthids consists of cutting part of the colony off of the rock, and this is most often used on very short Zoanthids. At GARF, we use 1 in. wide wood chisels to remove a small amounts of the underlying rock. This method allows us to glue the pieces of Zoanthid directly to the combination rock.
|When we start the cut on the colony, we hold the colony rock against a hard surface such as a cutting board. We push the wood chisel under the edge of the Zoanthid and we rock the chisel back and forth slightly to create a grinding that removes a small part of the surface of the rock. The pieces that we remove from the colony are then placed in a small bowl of reef water. It is important to remember to not allow these bowls to get cold while you are working. Each colony that we cut Zoanthids from is then placed back in the grow out aquariums. The colors of Zoanthids are kept separate in the bowls of warm water. After we have removed the Zoanthids from several different colonies, we can then glue one piece from each bowl onto each combination rock.|
The next type of Zoanthid that we are going to be working with is a long stem variety that is growing on established larger rocks in our Brood stock aquariums. As these colonies to the Zoanthids start to encroach on neighboring colonies we are able to remove individual Zoanthids with a 12-inch stainless steel tweezers. It is important to test the support of the live rocks, and often by pushing the tweezers toward the bottom of the aquarium while holding as Zoanthid stemmed tightly, we can apply pressure to the base without tipping or disturbing the colony rock. We have noticed that if we are very careful with the tweezers we can remove several Zoanthids and the underlying body at once. Many times the tweezers actually break the stock of the Zoanthid, and both the polyps and the base regrows within several weeks. We divide the collected Zoanthids into two separate bowls of reef water. The individual Zoanthids that have been damaged are placed in a gravel chamber. The Zoanthids that were removed with part of their base stock are taken to the glue up table.
3. We now practice a continual harvest of Protopallythoa by cutting the tops of the polyps off with a sharp pair of stainless steel scissors. We have colonies of many different colors of Protopallythoa that are managed with the continuous harvests. It is very interesting to note that some Protopallythoa grown much larger polyps from the top of a cut off stock. We have observed many times that the remaining stock heals within one week and then starts to grow a polyp. The polyps that were removed into the battles are placed in the gravel chambers. After about one week, the damage polyps attach to gravel, so we can remove the gravel and glue it to the combination rocks.
4. We have also experimented with sewing the individual polyps with a sharp needle and cotton thread. We used the needle to put the thread through the small part of the stock. After we have threaded four or five onto a piece of thread we then wrap the thread around the rock securing the Zoanthids in an upright position.
This method of continually harvesting the polyps allows the other polyps to feed the colony while the cut polyps regrow. After we have harvested one half of the polyps, we allow the colony to heal for one month. We have a colony of bright red Protopallythoa and several times a year we can harvest five nice polyps each day for several weeks.
Zoanthids are one of the very first corals that most people keep. At GARF we have over 25 different colors and types of Zoanthids. One of the most popular products that ypu can sell is the Zoanthid combination rock. Many types of Zoanthids can grow together and the colors often look very good when the Zoanthids are allowed to mix.
These combo rocks can be made larger so they will attract the beginning reef keeper who often wants to fill his new tank with rocks.
I wanted to start 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.
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 exorbitant.
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 night owl) 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 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. 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 lumberyard 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 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 although 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!
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's 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 re-frame the entryway 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 " leeway, 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 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 entryway wall & 25 on dinner for ED. I would like to thank all those who 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!
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
*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 add 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 Plexiglas 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.
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1726 Merrill St.
Boise Idaho 83705