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LAST MONTHS ISSUE | HOME | MARCH ISSUE PAGE 1 | MARCH ISSUE PAGE 2
DOMESTICATING AND PROPAGATING XENIA
COME TO CORAL FARMING 2000
Welcome to page 3 of Reef Aquarium Farming News. This page is dedicated to and celebrates the wonderful Xenia. This soft coral has more forms, colors, and interesting movements than any other family of corals. Xenia has proven to be an excellent aquaculture candidate, because of all the popular corals, only Xenia is so incredibly hard to import from the wild. As a hobby we are very lucky that Xenia strains can be domesticated. It is well documented that each generation of copies produces a stronger clone. Here at GARF we are working on no less than 16 distinct strains of pulsing Xenia and during the next semester we will make a concerted effort to trade for more types.
I want to take a moment to thank all the people who have traded corals with us during last semester. If we have not contacted you about a trade we thank-you and urge you to call 208-344-6163 because there are many people on our call back list. We have been trying to get back to each and every person who has offered to trade but a call to remind us that you have some corals for trade will be greatly appreciated.
We are happy to announce Reef Aquarium Farming Seminar 2000 October 21- 22, 2000. This will be the BIG one! We will cut all kinds of corals and many of the talks will be about marketing. Plan to attend next October and you will be able to meet people from whom you can purchase rare brood stock. Many people who want to purchase corals from you will be waiting to meet you in Boise for an intense course on reef farming. Please call us at 1-800-600-6163 so we can mail you more details SAVE A REEF - GROW YOUR OWN
It is hard to believe how fast a month goes by when playing in ones indoor reef. Winter is gone and spring is here. I find myself fighting between spending time with my reef and wanting to weed and plant my garden. This past month was a roller coaster ride for me. The constant pain of my spine controlled most of my days and I ended up with another surgery this past weekend. I have to smile at myself, because when I was lying on the operating table, I was thinking what it must feel like being a coral. Usually the Doctors put me out before rolling me into the operating room however this time they did not. I could hear vividly everything they were discussing before they finally put me to sleep. It really made me think of what our animals go through before the operation. Lets see lets cut this one here, lets move this one over here, lets use this tool, this guys is touching this guy so we have to give him more room. You get the picture.
All I knew about this pink colored Xenia was that it was a wild animal that came all the way from Fiji. I had dreamed about this Xenia, I had my heart set on the perfect spot to place it in my show tank. I worked out a scheme all night long on how I was going to get a piece of that animal without LeRoy knowing. I did not want to get caught again with my hands in his tank. I knew this to be a very delicate animal and one we wanted to survive but had very little success with. I went into work early the next morning making certain I arrived before LeRoy:)
I went straight to the tank that housed this lovely creature, but I was deeply saddened when I looked into the tank. The animal seemed to be melting away. Polyps were being blown across the tank and the mother colony was nothing but a slimy blob that was dying. I decided right than and there I was not going to let this animal die so quickly I was going to catch some of these polyps and try my luck at keeping it in my tank. For maybe if I love it enough it will live!
Mind you we had tired to glue pieces of our pervious strains with no luck and no one was willing to share their secrets so I had to think fast. It was at about this moment that LeRoy walked into the office, he too must have been thinking about this animal for I saw his heart drop that yet another Xenia had met it's fate at GARF. I did not have the heart at this point to tell him that I had rescued a couple of polyps and had them securely fasten in my show tank. All I heard him say was that we would never get any more Xenia for they just were not meant to be in Boise Idaho.
One of the orignal polyps in LeRoy's 135 one is still allive. The other one was a mystery for a while. I walked into the office and LeRoy was so upset one of his xenias was gone, he was trying to figure out who took it, and of course he had to ask me first for I am usually at fault. I swore up and down that I did not move it or take it. At this point LeRoy was very angry, for he knew it was there yesterday. I went to the source, the tank with the missing xenia. This is when I encountered a decorater crab that wanted to showcase this animal on his back.
After this experience I began to gain the confidence that was needed to learn about this animal and its needs. I found that it needed Iodide and began to use Sea Chem Reef Plus twice a week in my tanks, and even a little more when I was cutting the animals. I would give them a swig to heal the freshly made cuts. I found that the Xenia does not like to be in a tank that has temperatures above 80 degrees. They like some water movement and will grow in any lighting.
I have domesticated them so much that they will actually move to a different place in my tanks by laying down their stock and move among the rocks until they are were they want to be. You can really tell when the Fiji Pom Pom is most happy the polyps provide a constant pulse as if it is catching nutrients from the water. We have noticed that the pulsing polyps act as fiber optics that transmit light to the center of the colony.The next Xenia I was given did not seem to have much of a fighting chance. But I think LeRoy learned by now if the animal stood a chance at all it was better off in my tank or at least in my hands. So I was not up scheming how I was going to get this animal that night. We know this Xenia as the Giant Two Colored Bali Xenia. It is not so much of a pulser, it is a fast grower but it is the hardest to propagate successfully.
We have over 13 different types of Xenia at GARF; they all have their own story and their own needs. Some of these 13 I do not have in my tanks for they grow like crazy and can become a problem in a sps tank. For one must remember, they do grow fast and they will spread like wild fire. Since starting our farm we have found that corals which we call weeds are great for farming but one must keep a handle on their growth for if left alone in a show tank that will be all you would have left in the tank. As with gardening, every garden has a weed, no matter how much you manicure it there always seems to be one more. At this point I am extremely proud of our Xenia collection.
It is a huge commitment to provide the care for so much brood-stock for one step can not be ignored or you will loose the entire crop.
It is this animal however that constantly reminds me what farming is all about. The Xenia can not pull off the netting by themselves nor can they propagate by themselves, nor can they add the proper amounts of Iodide they need or keep the tanks cool enough to survive. A farmer does not just go out on the farm and plant his seed only to forget to water it. A farmer has to keep the weeds down, plan for his next crop and work countless hours to make a living. Some days I go into the office and would love to play in the tanks but I have to pull over 300 pieces of netting off my Xenia. Or I have to sit down and cut all the netting, it reminds me that one most love what they are doing to remain committed to farming these incredible animals. I believe keeping the pH of a tank as stable as possible also helps with the Xenia pulsing.
This animal is also a great indicator about the health of a tank. If an animal is going to show signs that something is wrong with the system this is the first one to give you the signal. This past summer when LeRoy was out of the office for long periods of time I was the soul care giver to the tanks. I can walk by a tank and just look into it and know when all is right and when something is going to be deadly wrong. I walked by one of the garage tanks, the pink creeper Xenia was laying flat on the rock I knew something was wrong. I called LeRoy. If I had not walked by and paid attention all would have been lost in that system.
The power heads had stopped working and were not creating oxygen by moving the water. The stalled Power heads were heating the system. This is just another reason to love and care for these animals. To me there is no prettier animal to be displayed in a reef tank. People always point to them and can not believe their constant movement in the tank.
I have Xenia that I named the Portland Pulser. It received its name when LeRoy and I were teaching at a seminar in Portland. A man came to the meeting with a bag of these animals to trade with us. This Xenia is easy to propagate, it grows fast and it is a constant pulsar. The Portland Pulser is darker in color, it has a yellow stock, it likes light, and it spreads a great deal. I also cut this animal by removing the entire head from the stock. The stock grows a whole new head. This animal has been at GARF about three years and I am proud to report that we are many generations away from the original clone we received.
I love the way these animals reflect in the water surface. You must remember to propagate this animal or it will take over and outgrow almost any animal. It does not sting the sps corals nor do they sting it but you must keep them both in check. This animal attaches itself to the plug within seven days. The netting must be removed on time or the animal will stick to the netting and not the plug.
When removing the netting in seven days you can see two different types of Xenia. They will grow nicely together and will not harm each other. If one was to ask me how many Xenia are too many, I would say you could never have too many. It is always nice at the end of my day after cutting and attaching the Xenia; LeRoy comes to me with an empty bowl and says with a smile on his face do you have any Xenia for the poor. By this time I am so tired of propagating these creatures that there are about three different types of Xenia on the last couple of plugs. I gladly give the rest to LeRoy for his Xenia Bed Filters. I have never forgotten if I had not had that first wild polyp from his tank I would never have come as far nor risked caring for so many different types of Xenia.
I found out through all of my quests for information that Iodide was important. I had heard of people using lugals solution and many of those people ended up crashing their tanks. I found that SeaChem Reef Plus(tm) gave me the ability to not over dose. I am able to sustain a vast amount of Xenia without causing problems to any of its tank mates. One does have to remember to place the SeaChem Reef Plus(tm) in the refrigerator after opening the bottle.
The beautiful creeping Xenia grows flat and spreads over rock so it does need to be cut back for she does grow quite fast. She will outgrow other animals in the tank. This is a great addition to the coral farm project. We have found that the Xenia growing on the glass can be scraped off with a credit card. If it is growing and spreading on rock you can break off a piece of the rock and glue that rock directly on a plug. You can even drop rock with nothing on it in the middle of a growing colony and it will spread unto the rock and be ready for sharing with others in a very short period. We have a couple of strains of this Xenia. Some look very pink and are beautiful. The other creeper Xenia has a yellow tint and it is spreader and a great addition to any reef tank. You can place just about any animal next to this animal just make certain you give this guy room to grow. It is a great addition to tanks that are bigger and have a great deal of space to be filled.
We have a Reef JanitorTM special in place at this time. We are giving away a free Beautiful Pink Creeper Xenia with any janitor order.
In some of the pictures in this article you will see the racks that LeRoy has built to hold the plugs for grow out in our cutting units. LeRoy uses his cuttings as a Xenia filter for his 150-gallon unit. I have a three 40 gallon tank unit - spaced three high. It houses about 1,500 cutting. My system has an Eco sand plenum in the bottom tank; the other two tanks have bare bottoms with just the racks sitting in them. To my surprise the bottom unit with the plenum is growing dozens of Fiji Pom Poms and other Xenia right out the sand. These colonies resulted from a polyp escaping from the netting and attaching to the sand or empty shells on top of the plenum, LeRoy calls this a true Xenia filter. It is in this unit that I grow out all of my brood-stock to take the burden off of my show tanks. I can now focus on growing as many Xenia as the Foundation can use.
I can grow all different types of Xenia in the same unit and as I stated above some of the plugs have more than one on them. I have found that placing some rock up to the racks help the snails and hermits get to all places in the unit and keep the plugs algae free. Each unit holds about 12 racks, has eight 40 watt lights and has generated many babies over the one year of its operation.
When landscaping your reef you can easily place different strains in the same tank and watch them grow almost daily. The Xenia add color and movement, and they are ready for propagation in a very short period of time. If you think the animal does not look healthy look for the cause of the problem right away. We have found not adding enough Iodide to be a problem for the animals. Heat is the main problem! I don't care how you do it, you must not let the tank get over 82 degrees or the animal will look like it is melting. We keep these animals in tanks that have VHO lighting, Power Compacts, Metal Halide lighting, and 40-watt lights.
We have developed nicknames for the many types of Xenia we have in our genetic bank. One came from a coral farm that has a leather feel to it. We fondly named it the clicker. The polyps seem to click open and closed. It does not open as widely as the Pom Pom and has a very slow pulse. This animal is almost the same color as the Pom Pom but does not have the bold polyps that take your breath away. It is not a fast grower but it has a great color. It is one that would be excellent for smaller systems when one is concerned about bio-mass. We propagate this one by cutting the head off the stock and using the bridal veil netting. When placing the netting over the animal make certain polyps are face up. With this animal it is important to get several polyps with each cutting. By making bigger cuttings it seems to attach better and because it is a slower grower it makes it available for customers a little faster. We are working on getting more of these animals available for we do not have a great deal of these on hand at any given time. We have had this animal about two years.
A recent favorite Xenia is the Red Sea Xenia. This guy is another great pulsar and has grown rapidly in my oldest system. When it arrived at the Foundation LeRoy had given up any hope because you could not even see a polyp on the rock. It looked like a small reddish smudge of toothpaste.
I felt LeRoy's disappointment and placed the animal in the miracle tank. It certainly did not take long before you could see it grow and hold its own. Our intern from England could not believe that I could save this animal, and recently wrote about his experience at GARF. He is right I have propagated this animal many times over and allowed LeRoy to place them in other tanks at GARF. One of our biggest goals is to get all of the corals in as many tanks as we can for fear if we had all the eggs in one basket what would happen if we dropped the basket. The fear of owning a Xenia should be set aside. For they are very easy to care for as long as you follow the information shared in this article. We have found that there is a great deal of success working with captive raised animals and we to continue to learn as much as we can about the wild ones.
ANNUAL CORAL FARMING CONFERENCE - Oct 21 and 22
If you haven't already made plans to come to Our Annual Coral Farming Conference in October 2000, I hope you will mark your calendar. Spaces are quickly running out. We have a great list of speakers and we are planning the first ever domesticated - coral show. Judges, who are true Pioneers of this Industry, will be giving ribbons for the best of the best. The date for this event is Oct 21 and 22. The cost for the two-day event is still only $50.00. Saturday will be all day lectures following up with the coral judging. Sunday will be all day workshops at GARF. We are inviting you to look at all of our systems and learn hands on what we do all day at GARF. You can call our office 1-800-600-6163 and speak to our staff for more information. I have one additional request to ask of you. Will you please double check your e-mail address before sending us your letter? It is very frustrating and disappointing when we take the time to write a response to your letter only to find out that we could not send the answer due to improper address.
If you enjoy propagating corals and especially if you've ever thought about making extra money by farming corals you need to attend this year's coral farming 2000. Sally Jo and I were able to take some extra time this spring and summer to research coral farming around the world. Unfortunately we have had to close the foundation to the public for the first time in 14 years so that we could dedicate ourselves to reef farming research. The great news is that we will reopen to the public October 20th, 2000 just in time to greet the wonderful group of speakers and visitors who will be coming to Boise.
Coral farming 2000 is dedicated to accomplishing one of our main goals. For several years Geothermal aquaculture Research Foundation has dedicated an incredible amount of energy time and money so that we can increase the number of reef farmers and do our part to help this industry get off to a good start. During the last five years the demand for captive raised corals has increased dramatically because of education and the growing concern for the world's reefs. The hobbyists have become aware that domesticated corals strains adapt to aquariums much better than wild collected coral strains.
With this combination of the better product - domesticated corals - and the increasing concern for conservation the market for captive raised corals has never been better. Corals farming are not a get rich quick type of business. It is farming and farming takes planning and hard work. One of the most exciting things about doing a research project that lasts eight years is that you are able to build on the things you learn each season. Yes, a coral farming has seasons just like most other types of farming.
A geology professor tempted me to come back to college with an offer I could not refuse; I was able to build two fully equipped laboratories. During the next four years I maintained dozens of captive breeding pairs of Chambered Nautilus in my labs at Boise State University. It was exciting to make early history when I was able to keep chambered Nautilus in close systems for up to three years in Boise, Idaho. At one time I had 14 separate systems housing chambered Nautilus and hundreds of their eggs.
The chambered Nautilus ate fresh prawns every day and each pair ate a lot of prawns because they weighed about 9 pounds. This constant demand for prawns led me into several years of intensive research in to raising giant fresh water prawns in geothermal water. In 1984 after I had been at GARF for three years I was hired to design and build a huge geothermal Angel Fish hatchery inside of a State Penitentiary. When this hatchery was finished it housed 1200-10 gal. Aquariums, 100-300 gallon grow out tanks, and about 60-140 gallon plywood and epoxy aquariums. GARF designed and built three other tropical fish hatcheries during that same period. I was responsible for everything from the original drawings, quarantining brood stock, to the final marketing of the products. During the late 1980's and early 1990's GARF also built several other large fish hatcheries.
I teach aquaculture classes and on the first day of class I write two things on the blackboard. In large block letters I write one question and one statement.
1. What is the most important tool on your new fish farm?
2. You can never make any money growing corals.
The answer to the first question is the telephone and you can never make any money growing corals because it costs money to grow corals, you make money when you sell them.
The name of GARF's seminar CORALS FARMING 2000 could well be changed to CORAL MARKETING 2000 because we will be talking about marketing more than half of the time. We will examine several business models including wholesale, direct retail stores, mail order and Internet. Of course we will also be spending much of the time learning to propagate corals and produce brood stock corals. In 1999 we had people in Boise from five countries and several of these people are coming back to Boise for a second seminar.
If you're planning on doing any coral propagation CORAL FARMING 2000 will be the best $50 that you have ever spent. Please call our office early because although we are having this year's conference at the Airport Holiday Inn the number of attendees will be limited. Please call 1-800-600-6163 because there are many places and things to see in Idaho and like I always say "the trees will be absolutely beautiful in October."
COVER AND INDEX
LAST MONTHS ISSUE | HOME | MARCH ISSUE PAGE 1 | MARCH ISSUE PAGE 2
DOMESTICATING AND PROPAGATING XENIA
COME TO CORAL FARMING 2000