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Please Take A Moment To Read This Nice Letter

Reef Aquarium Farming News
Online Newsletter for Reef Aquarium Propagation Research




Hello, and welcome to the Summer, 2000 issue of our newsletter. We are working on new videos and we will be posting them soon. This issue we are writing about gardening in reef aquariums. The care needed to raise a fine garden is much like the care needed to keep a great reef aquarium. This is one of the most important things you need to understand before you commit to start reef farming. Sally Jo is going to show you how she has set up and maintained some of the most beautiful reef aquariums I have ever seen in my 32 years of keeping marine aquariums.
Thank you for visiting our newsletter!




It is amazing to think that since Sept 24, 1999 I have taken over 30,700 pictures of GARF's reef tanks. I feel that I have yet to take the perfect picture however, I am certain the word count involved with finding words to express my compassion for reef keeping is even more. I am found trying to find the perfect words to describe the immense joy these animals bring to my days.

Last month we had the great pleasure of having Peter Savona from Fiji here in Idaho for an intense 6 day reef farming seminar. Peter is the collector of the best Fiji live rock we have seen. GARF now has joint venture research projects in 5 countries and we are proud to now include Fiji in our group. If you want to talk to Peter about importing high quality life rock please e-mail me at leroy@garf.org.

WE NOW HAVE SOME FUN VIDEOS ABOUT CORAL PROPAGATION AND ARAGOCRETE™ MAKING - Visit and down load these free one-minute videos.


Each month LeRoy give's me a reef topic to write about. I go out and meditate in my garden and try to find the words felt in my heart transform meaning to my brain. Last Feb. 14, 1999 LeRoy put in the first 7 Aragocrete™ rocks in my third reef. He made and posted an animated GIF of their placement on our web site. Today the landscape is barley visible yet it still provides hiding places for my fish and protection for my corals that don't like so much light nor water movement.

I knock on wood each time I boast that this simple set up has not caused me one ounce of trouble. Perhaps I am getting better with each new system or we have developed ways that work with little cash flow and almost no animal loss.

Often we are asked our opinion about fish and a reef tank. I am by no means an expert on this topic but I do feel that every question deserves an honest answer. I prefer the mean, cheap fish, the ones that thrive with my type of set up and live for years, which means long enough for me to name them and care for them long term.

I purchase mostly damsels, clown fish and as the tank matures I pick out two different types of tangs. I love the addition of the Purple Tang and the Red Sea Sail Fin tang. Many types of tangs are the best fish for grazing algae from a tank and they require little care. The two tangs in my tanks together with our janitor mixtures. I find algae to be a forgotten visitor and this allows me the total freedom to enjoy the beauty of my reefs.

It reminds me again of my love for gardening. Often I find myself bending over picking at weeds on the sidewalk when taking a stroll. If not careful, even in my own garden, I get lost seeing a weed instead of the beauty of the flowers. If you think of the fish in your system as the cut flowers of the reef, find fish that fit in with your long-term goals for your tank. Fish can, should and will live for years in a healthy reef system.

You, as the caregiver of your reef, must arm yourself with information. For just because a fish is your favorite color does not mean it is a good captive reef fish.
GEOTHERMAL AQUACULTURE RESEARCH FOUNDATION I learned this the hard way as I learn most everything in life. In Boise ID we are zone 5 on the planting chart, I tried my luck with many other type of zoned plants, some of them lived, some of them did not.

However my desire to keep those plants remained strong. LeRoy then designed me a greenhouse setting for the plants that will not survive the sometime harsh winters. This allows me to branch out so to speak on the variety of plants that I can nurture again in the summer.

My oldest fish is as old as my oldest reef system, she is an over 4 and 1/2 years old blue damsel. She has mothered several batches of baby blue damsels; who seem to feed my corals and many starfish. I have yet to see any of the babies make it through. Now I did state previously that I like damsels, but you must realize that not all of them stay small and colorful, I purchase a gorgeous electric blue damsel. Well he out grew his 55-gallon tank and lost most of his color after year two.
I had to get LeRoy to move him from my middle tank and give him a tank of his own. The funny part is the tank that LeRoy put him in already had another damsel just like this one. It was purchased, just like I did, for his intense color and shortly had outgrown his setting and was gifted to the Foundation for he was causing havoc in the owners reef.

To be quite honest GARF has saved many a fish that had outgrown its setting or was eating someone's corals, or was no longer wanted. It is so important to think long term when thinking fish. For if you make the mistake of getting a fish that later you do not want they are almost impossible to remove from the established tank without tearing the whole tank down. LeRoy uses a one pound test fishing line and a number 28 fly hook. In my youngest tank you can see this remarkable captive raised clown fish. She was friendly from day one and simply loves this soft coral that she hides in and plays with all day long.



The one thing we found disturbing about the growing market for captive raised clown fish, is the continued misconception that they need a wild anemone to keep them happy in their new environment. We have found this captive-raised clown fish to go to several easy to raise captive corals. They seem to love the Sarcophytons, Xenia, Sinularia, and rock flower anemones, this is an important item to remember. For many of the anemones being sold to customers who have captive raised clown fish are coming directly from the wild.

The poor Clown Fish in the wild need these anemones, these anemones can be kept for a period in captivity but stand a better chance of living for hundreds of years in the wild and will keep reproducing in the wild making homes for the wild clown fish. If we take the wild anemone to keep our captive raised clown fish sooner than later the anemones in the wild will not be available to the clown fish and the delicate dance with Mother Nature will again be out of balance.

Please find other animals for your clown fish to play with for they will live and even lay eggs in many of the easy to care for soft corals.

Things to think of before purchasing your fish are how big do they get, what do they eat, and do they get along with the other fish you are planning for your tank. Another comment I have about purchasing fish for your tank is to try and get them in the tank at the same time. I have witnessed many people shedding tears for they planned and save for this special fish that they introduced at a later date that ended up getting all their fish sick and the loss was great. Quarantining them is important; throwing away the water the fish came in is important and please only purchase fish that are caught properly.

 My oldest tank is now at the 4 and 1/2-year stage. I love to place sps corals in this tank and the reef janitors work hard so that I never have to see any signs of algae. We recently had a visitor to GARF from Fiji, he looked at my oldest tank and the first words out of his mouth were, "is there any space for the fish to swim inJ My Gosh there is no reef in the World like this," but the most important gift my tanks gave him was the desire to set up his own tanks once again. For he had lost the compassion for this hobby when he hands on saw the destruction of the wild reef surrounding him.


Out of the over 200 different types of corals found in this reef alone only about four of them came directly from the ocean. I think it is important to note that each of my units run separately and I do not risk placing any coral in them unless they have been quarantined at GARF for TWO WEEKS or more. The risk of running tanks together or risking introducing a plague is far too great of a risk for me to be willing to take. It is safe to say that this tank has mothered thousands of babies. I have six VHO bulbs on this 55-gallon system. I use three 03/s and three 50/50's, placing one blue one white all the way from front to back. The hood I have on this system is custom made by Jay Kanrick, he recently redesigned the tanks to house two computer fans to help keep the tank cooler by blowing out some of the heat. I purchased my lighting from Champion and placed an UV sterilizer on the system when it reached the year old mark.

I change the VHO bulbs very six months. I change two of them at a time and I mark them with the date they where changed. We use the old bulbs to slowly graduate up the the wattage on one of the tanks that was lit with the 40-watt bulbs.

Making changes is scary and I am a firm believer in making the changes gradually, if the tank is bigger then making bigger changes is not so scary but with a 55-gallon tank you need to be careful.

Many times I hear from people after I write my articles they see a picture of a coral and they want it. You must try and understand these corals are in a 55 gallon system and if I propagated them on demand I would no longer have this animal, for they are not allowed to grow too big in my tank; this means that I maintain a weekly bonsai schedule. Most of the cuttings are sent over to LeRoy's care and are grown out in one or more of the 40 separate systems at GARF.


If someone can not go to sleep at night without getting one of these corals we maintain an office wish list. It is important to all of us at GARF to get these corals in as many places as we can, first propagating them and carefully placing them in our holding units and allowing them to grow.

GEOTHERMAL AQUACULTURE RESEARCH FOUNDATION This tank is simply breathtaking, it is not the tank for everyone for I spend a great deal of time caring for it, and trying to keep everyone happy.

Often we are asked to share step by step instructions on reef care. I have made this statement several times, but must state it again 'the most important gift you can give your tank is your time.' Money is not as important, equipment is not as important, time is the savoir for my captive reef. Paying attention to the animal next to each other. If one is touching move it, to a space where it has room to grow. Check every day to make certain no one has fallen over, and if one has pick it up right up and attach it to its own place. Get on a schedule for changing the lights, doing your water changes, checking the airstone or venturi in your skimmer to make certain it is working at full capacity.

If you have an UV sterilizer the bulbs need to be changed. Add the right amount of janitors, making certain to replace them as time goes on, for they will do they job, but they will need to be replenished on a six-month basis. Make certain to keep your tank as stable as possible, keeping salinity at 1.023 - 1.025, and temperature at 78, this is so important when you have the variety of animals that I care for.

Keeping fish healthy and fed is important as well. I feed spiralina flake food to supplement their diet. I make certain all animals are in healthy condition. I am extremely careful as to what animals I cut directly in the tank and which ones I remove to make certain the toxins from the animal when cut causes no harm to the rest of the tank mates. Grow with your animals, move them to a bigger tank or learn how to propagate them and share them with others. Remember as the animal grows so does their needs. Be careful of too much bio-mass for the reef has as much bio-diversity as a rain forest, but bio-mass needs to be monitored carefully.


If you work with chemicals, or place lotion on your hands please wash them carefully before placing hand in the tank. If I were to state what is the most expensive piece of equipment found at GARF it is without argument my HAND. This hand is found on the left side of my body and it has a thumb that is blue in color; the right side has a thumb that is green in color. If you love to garden you will love to play in your reef, and if you rub the two together you can not go wrong. For when working with plants you have to pay close attention to the plant, the leaves they will tell you when you need to feed, the plant will let you know if it needs watering, or if it is getting to much. The plant will bloom repeatedly if you dead head the flowers, or bring forth a new generation if allowed to go to seed.

It is with a deep amount of love, that these plants and animals survive, for on their own with out us they would die. Plants need to be fed, watered, and loved into being the same goes with the reef. The animals need to be fed and cared for. Left on there own for a short period of time they will die in captivity. When you look out at my garden it is easy to see how much it is loved, the same is reflected in my reef. If you follow these simple instructions, and supplement your knowledge by reading all the information found on our web site there is NO REASON IN THIS WORLD YOU can not have a reef of your dreams. We continually share what we are doing at GARF, including what has worked and what has not.


We have mentored with you and your knowledge has enhanced many of our programs. The corals we have donated for cancer research are now stepping in the second phase of testing, it is important to note it takes 220 million dollars to take this candidate all the way through the approval stages. If you want more information on what animals the University of Arizona is working with or what stage the project is at I am sure we will have a rerport atr our October Reef Farming Seminar.

Dr. Lake took time out of his busy schedule last year to share diagrams, and results with all who attended last years seminar. We are hoping he will share more information at this year's conference. It is with great pride that we share GARF with all that attend each year's seminar .


GEOTHERMAL AQUACULTURE RESEARCH FOUNDATION For the last three years we have been doing the research project on the use of mangroves in filters. Many of the mangroves we started growing in 1997 are doing very well. There has been some debate about how effective mangroves are in nutrient removal from reef tanks. We have not proven that mangroves are effective , but the ones we are growing are producing many leaves. These plants are growing in sand so they are not taking the nutrient from the soil.

We have developed Mangrove Planting Rocks to solve several problems. These Aragocrete rocks are very porous and they have holes for water circulation. We plant the Mangrove seeds in bridal veil netting that contains GARF GrungeTM. This netting forms a great planting container because the mangrove roots can grow through the netting.

In 1997 we planted several mangroves seeds in hollow barnacle shells and pieces of Aragocrete that had holes in them. These plants have been very easy to take care of because the hollow planters allow us to move them when we needed a clean the tanks they were in. This year Eddie Postma has made us some beautiful small cave rocks that have several holes in each side of them. Each of these Mangrove Planter Rocks has a round hole in the top. By using bridal veil netting we are able to create a planting pocket of GARF GrungeTM.


You can make your own mangrove planter from our standard Aragocrete mixture. We make the Aragocrete for this project by mixing five parts CaribSea aragonite Gravel and one part Riverside white cement. The Aragocrete mixture should be on the dry side so that when you pick up handful you can make it into a mud ball but it does not stick together.

1. Fill a box 1/2 full of aragonite Gravel that is moist to the touch but not wet.
2. Make a small hole in the Aragocrete gravel that is the size of the mangrove planter you want to make.
3. Put enough Aragocrete mixture in the bottom of the hole so that when you pat it down the layer will be less than 1 in. thick.
4. Placing dry Aragocrete sand on top of the first layer makes the hollow part of the planter. You need to leave parts of the bottom layer free from gravel so the top layer combined with the bottom layer.
5. After you have placed the gravel on the bottom layer you will need to carefully add Aragocrete mixture to create the top layer.
6. Using a stick make a hole in the center of the top layer that goes through to the gravel to create a planting pocket.
7. Fill hole you have created with dry sand before the Aragocrete mixture can flow back together.
8. Cover the planter with aragonite gravel and allow it to dry for at least 24 hours.
9. You need to cure that mangrove planter by soaking it in clean fresh water for at least 4 to 6 weeks.

Red mangrove seeds are very easy to grow and they can be grown in both fresh water and salt water. In nature, red mangroves seeds float on their sides in salt water. When the seeds enter areas of fresh water they start to float with the sharp end pointed down.

We have found that only the bottom few inches of the mangrove seed needs to be under water. We prepare our planter by cutting a square of bridal veil netting to form a pocket inside of the hollow planter.

We then fill this pocket with our GARF GrungeTM live sand activator. Our earlier experiments using barnacle shells and hollow rocks led the us to develop these mangrove planters.

After the mangrove have started to grow the roots will be able to grow through the netting into the gravel surrounding the planter. Each of these planters have several holes around the sides. These holes were formed by having dry gravel between the bottom and top layer of AragocreteTM mixture. Eddie Postma now makes these side holes about 1 in. wide by 1 half-inch tall.


When these mangrove planners are filled with gravel and the seed is inserted they can be moved into a sump that is about 6 in. deep. If your sump is much deeper it is very easy to position the planters on live rocks so they are supported with at least one half of the seed above the water level.

We have had very rapid growth using both natural daylight and florescent daylight 40 W bulbs. If the reef aquarium is situated in a room that receives sunlight the platter rocks can be position on top of the live rocks so that the seed sticks out of the top of the aquarium. You can control the final shape of the mangrove plant.

These planting rocks can be moved from the sump for trimming. Mangrove plants can be made into bonsai trees by trimming the growing tips . We wait until there are several pairs of leaves before we trim the top of the plant. When you trim out the central growth tip of the mangrove several sets of new growth tips will start. Some of our mangrove plants are only about 12 in. tall but they have a large number of leaves.

Do mangroves have to live in saltwater ? NO. Some species have been kept in greenhouses where they grew and flowered regularly when given only fresh water. However best growth occurs where the plants live in brackish sea water.

We have been collecting Mud from many types of mangrove stands during the last two years. The mud from Florida sites is populated with organisms that will add to the genetic bank. We are currently collecting as many filter organisms as possible to use to inoculate Mud filters with life. This approach goes back to our firm believe in the DIVERSITY = STABILITY rule of Biology and Economics.

A teaspoon of mud from an Australian mangrove stand contains more than 10 billion bacteria. These densities are among the highest to be found in marine mud anywhere in the world and are an indication of the immensely high productivity of this coastal forest habitat. We have added new mud collections from two parts of Mexico, Hawaii, and Florida. Each of these collections have added to the population of filter organisms in our systems.



The Mangrove ecosystem traps and cycles various organic materials, chemical elements, and important nutrients. Dissolved substances are used by plankton, bacteria,and fungi. This material, in nature, is deposited over the seabed. Here bacteria densities are almost as high as those in the mangrove mud and they do much the same job, breaking down the litter to be consumed by botom-living fauna.

Mangrove roots act not only as support and physical traps but provide attachment surfaces for various marine organisms. Sponges and Tunicates are very common in many of these areas. Many of these attached organisms filter water through their bodies and, in turn, trap and cycle nutrients. We can use many of the same organisms to filter our farming systems.


Do mangroves have to live in saltwater ? NO. Some species have been kept in greenhouses where they grew and flowered regularly when given only fresh water. However best growth occurs where the plants live in brackish sea water. So how do mangroves thrive in an environment which would kill most other plants'.' The first way many mangroves cope is to stop much of the salt from entering at all by filtering it out at root level. Some species can stop more than 90 per cent of salt in sea water. The leaves of many mangroves have special salt glands which are among the most active salt-secreting systems known.


Roots perform a number of functions for a plant. They support it and they obtain essential nutrients and oxygen.In unstable, sometimes semi-fluid, soil an extensive root system is necessary simply to keep the trees upright. As a result, most mangroves have more living matter below the ground than above it. Mangroves do not seem to grow deep tap roots, probably because of the poor oxygen supply below the surface. There are three types of roots with different functions. Radiating cable roots punctuated by descending anchor roots, provide support. From this framework sprout numerous little nutritive roots which feed on the rich soil just below the surface. The third type of roots collects the oxygen.


The fruits and/or seedlings of all mangrove plants can float, which is, of course, an excellent dispersal mechanism for plants which live in water.


The production of live seedlings (known as vivipary) is very rare in plants other than mangroves and a few seagrass species and the reason for it is unclear. It is possible that the well-developed seedling has a greater chance of surviving, once it has taken root, in a situation where it is likely to be battered by water-bourne objects.


This Red Mangrove is growning many complex roots in the filter substrate. The water quality is higher than when Tim used large skimmers. The sps coral growth is very good. The polyp extention is better than before.

FUTURE RESEARCH Numerous medicines are derived from mangroves. Skin disorders and sores, including leprosy, may be treated with ashes or bark infusions of certain species. Headaches, rheumatism, snakebites, boils, ulcers, diarrhoea, haemorrhages...and many more conditions are traditionally treated with mangrove plants.

We have been testing Mangroves in our reef aquarium filters for two year. These Magroves are growing in large barnacle shells that I purchased at a local pet shop. This group of plants is used to filter 8 - 30 gallon reef aquariums.

This has been the only filter - no skimmer - in these 8 aquariums for the past year. The water quality is very high. We now make some containers like this from AragocreteTM with thin walls and 1/2 inch holes to grow more Mangroves.

All of the nutrient needed to grow these 24 inch trees was removed from the water column. We are certain that the removal of the nutrients has caused a reduction of pest algae in these systems.

mangrove trees
GEOTHERMAL AQUACULTURE RESEARCH FOUNDATION This picture shows the roots that are starting to grow out of the shells.
This colony of red mangroves is very solid and I can move them when I need to.

This is the shell planter we modeled our new Mangrove planters after. We still have this group of trees. I hope you enjoyed this fresh look at some continuing research. We will keep you posted on the progress of this project.

mangrove algae When the shipments of Mangrove seeds first arrive we float pieces of 1/2 inch Styrofoam in the greenhouse tanks. We make 1/4 inch holes in Styrofoam on 2 inch centers.

The seeds are then inserted up into the holes so 1/2 of the seed is above the water. The seeds of red Mangroves are inserted with the larger end down. After the seeds have sprouted they can then be planted in the filters.

We have been adding these seeds to many of our filters. The mangroves are fun to grow and many people ask about them when thay visit our lab. It never fails to amaze them that we grow mangroves in Idaho.

mangrove algae

The Red Mangrove Rhizophora mangle

This Mangrove is probably the most well-known. It typically grows along the water's edge. The red mangrove is easily identified by its tangled, reddish roots called "prop roots." These roots have earned mangroves the title, "walking trees." The mangrove appears to be standing or walking on the surface of the water.

Members of the Rhizophoraceae family (Rhizophora, Bruguiera and Ceriops species have an intriguing method for successfully reproducing themselves. The fertilised seeds do not drop from the plants but begin to germinate, growing out from the base of the fruits to form long spear-shaped stems and roots, called propagules. They may grow in place, attached to the parent tree, for one to three years, reaching lengths of up to one metre, before breaking off from the fruit and falling into the water. These seedlings then travel in an intriguing way. In buoyant sea water they lie horizontally and move quickly. On reaching fresher (brackish) water, however, they turn vertically, roots down and leaf buds up, making it easier for them to lodge in the mud at a suitable, less salty, site. Some species of these floating seedlings (Rhizphora) can survive, in a state of suspended animation, for up to a year in the water. Once lodged in the mud they quickly produce roots and begin to grow.

We float these RED MANGROVES in our reefs until we ship them to our customers for their Mangrove research.

If you want to try some of these plants please call LEONEL OR BRIAN At
1- 800- 600 -6163 for information. You can also e-mail GARF at Email: leroy@garf.org and ask for the Mangrove information.

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Red Leg Hermit Crabs for -- $2.98 each, plus shipping and handling
algae eating snails for -- $2.98 each, plus shipping and handling
live sand activator for -- $5.00 per lb., plus shipping and handling

30 GALLON REEF Forty five reef janitors for only $1.00 each.
-- $45.00, plus shipping and handling
50 GALLON REEF Eighty two reef janitors for only $1.00 each
-- $82.00, plus shipping and handling
100 GALLON REEF One hundred fifty reef janitors for only $1.00 each.
-- $150.00, plus shipping and handling

For us to fill your order, please enter your name, E-mail and phone numbers and we will call you to take down the size of your aquarium so we can help you order the proper mixture of reef janitors and Garf Grunge. We will ask for your mailing address and payment information. Thank you!! Alternatively, you may also print out and either mail or fax your order to 208-344-6189

Many of the rare corals are offered to our members for 2 years before they are put on sale. We will soon have an E-mail list that will list the rarest color forms of sps corals and soft corals such as Xenia and Mushrooms.

You can support our research and learn more about reef aquariums and wetlands
1726 Merrill St.
Boise Idaho 83705

Email: leroy@garf.org




We recieved this nice e-mail about the JanitorsTM and GrungeTM

Delivered-To: algae-garf-LEROY@GARF.ORG
Date: 22 Aug 2000 13:46:02 +0000
From: "Mark DeFrancisco"
To: leroy@garf.org

Hello Leroy,
I just had to write you to thank you for everything that you and your staff have done to help me create such a beautiful reef tank. Let me start by saying that I would never have done business with any internet company in the past. I am very careful about how my money is spent. YOUR BEAUTIFUL PICTURES ON THE WEB SITE CONVINCED ME TO GIVE YOU A TRY. BOY AM I GLAD I DID!

I started out by purchasing some garf grunge and reef janitors. The janitors have completely cleaned my tank and are busy working every day. I had an algae bloom that I could not control, and now, in only a few weeks, it is not only gone, but the tank is spotless!

The grunge is the most beautiful substrate I have ever seen! I have found numerous little corals and sponges growing in my tank, and I am experiencing a coraline algae bloom much faster than thought possible. Also, every experienced reef keeper that has seen my tank wants to know what the heck is that? Being used to seeing plain sand or crushed coral, they are delighted and mystified by the beauty! It has also added a level of stability and overall health to my tank that is amazing!

Next, as you know, I have ordered a few shipments of corals from you. I can't believe how fast they grow, and how beautiful they are! This is of course in addition to the rare species that you offer. Never in a million years could I have found the rare and different corals you have sent me. The pet shop, or reef "experts" would never have most of these beautiful rarities!

As a matter of fact, my local coral supplier has seen my tank and he cannot believe his eyes! He has told me that with over thirty years in the reef aquarium business, never has he seen such a beautiful tank! The "show" tank in his store is very pale by comparison!

I have told him that thanks to some real professionals in Idaho, this type of tank could be a reality for anyone! I am sure he will order from you soon, as he is most jealous of my aquarium, and has to have some for his own!

I will send you some pictures very soon. I am sure that you will agree, this is truly a beautiful, healthy, thriving, 90 gallon reef aquarium. I owe most of it to you and your staff!

From grunge, janitors, magic reef dust, and your help in recommending food and additives, everything I followed from what you have suggested has helped my tank achieve more goals than I ever expected! THANKS AGAIN FOR EVERYTHING! I CANNOT WAIT TO RECEIVE MY NEXT ORDER, VERY SOON!

Mark Defrancisco
Trenton, New Jersey



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