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CHANGES IN MY REEF AQUARIUM AS IT MATURES | REEF PROPAGATION COSTS AND COST TRACKING


Reef Aquarium Farming News
Online Newsletter for Reef Aquarium Propagation Research

ISSUE # 6 page 2 JUNE 1997


reef aquarium reef aquarium reef aquarium reef aquarium reef aquarium reef aquarium reef aquarium reef aquarium reef aquarium reef aquarium reef aquarium reef aquarium

GROW YOUR OWN - SAVE A REEF


CHANGES IN MY REEF AQUARIUM AS IT MATURES

Sally Jo Headlee
As promised I will be sharing information about the progress of my reef tank on a monthly basis. Everyone has heard that a picture speaks a thousand words and these recent pictures of my tank show a lot of new developments. LeRoy has a way of getting people interested in trying new things.

He was forever bringing in new speicmens of sps corals, but letting everyone know that unless their system was established for at least a year they should not attempt adding these delicate animals to there system. You could see people just drooling to try.

THESE PICTURES SHOW HOW THE SPS CORALS ARE GROWING IN THIS 18 MONTH OLD REEF AQUARIUM

I on the other hand heeded LeRoy's advice and waited until my tank was growing coralline algae about the size of a quarter. This took about nine months. I then read several books and magizines, researching the proper lights, water movement, and special needs to keep these animals healthy.

I decided to start small, I went around to all the Foundations reef systems found the one sps coral LeRoy had the most of, cut a tiny piece off and attached it to my live rock. The corals polyps came out almost directly and I felt pretty confident that this new addition was happy in it's new home.

A few days later LeRoy had a special shipment come in that had tiny little frags that he gave to me to try and attach to my live rock in my tank. All of these frags made it and before I knew it LeRoy was coming in my office spreading the risk to my tank so that he didn't have the only animal of that speices in one tank.

Since then I have added over 45 different speices of sps corals and about 8 different genera. As a matter of fact I have taken cuttings of mine and spread the risk back to LeRoy's new tank as well as other hobbiest.

I have found the most important message I can convey to you about raising these animals is to pay close attention to them. For instance their color, their polyp extension, temperatures, and any sign of bleaching.

Believe me as small as some of the frags come in they do grow. After the first month of having the sps corals in my tank I decided to increase my lighting due to wanting to get better color. I then added an extra Maxi-Jet 1000 power head, because when these corals grow they need more current to reach under the branches that are growing. You also have to be careful that other animals are not fighting for the same space or trying to sting your sps corals.

THESE XENIA ARE PRODUCING MANY CUTTINGS EACH MONTH

As your tank becomes older the soft corals take on a life of their own and really grow quite rapidly. So you have to make sure their is enough room and enough light getting to all the inhabitants. I also found that I needed to add additional supplements to compensate for their growth and the needs the snails generate for calcium as their shells need to grow.


THE LEFT PICTURE SHOWS THE NEW SPS CUTTINGS ATTACHED WITH SUPERGLUE. THE RIGHT PICTURE SHOWS HOW THESE CUTTINGS GROW INTO CORAL HEADS IN FOUR MONTHS

My tank is now a year and a half old and to me it no longer looks like a soft coral tank it has taken on the beauty of a reef building coral tank. Some of these sps corals grow much faster than others and if not careful will grow right out of the water. THIS IS THE REASON THAT THE SUPER GLUE METHOD OF ATTACHMENT IS SO IMPORTANT. ! I can just pop off the animal I am moving and attach it to another location in my tank. As my system becomes older I find myself doing this often due to the growth of my corals.

My tank has been setup to test several principles of raising and propagating corals. I choose to grow as many corals in my closed system as I can. I also want to add only animals that I can successfully propagate. Although there are a few exceptions in my tank. I have added a couple of animals to save them from death in certain systems because they where being neglected or were not doing well in a less cared for environment. Out of the 163 different species of animals I have in my system only about 8 of them where ever in the ocean.

THIS PICTURE SHOWS SOME OF THE COLORED
BROODSTOCK THAT GROWS IN THIS REEF

As I have fallen in love with this reef growing experience I have realized that the success rests in paying attention to your animals and the willingness to grow with your corals. Just as we grow we don't fit in the same shoes, or the same clothes, nor do we eat the same, you have to do the same with this growing bio-mass in your closed system.

You know there are several methods available to the hobbiest, and there are even more debates out there on how to do things, but in my humble opinion instead of arguing so much we should be trying new ways, and continue to research, and share our successes as well as our mistakes then and only then can we make this a self sustaining hobby that will grow on everyone.

I had one of my staff members walk into my office a couple weeks ago and he looked at me and said " you know I just read an article in (I won't tell you which magizine) a magizine and everything your doing is everything this author suggested not doing" I looked at my staff member and smiled. It would be a shame not to know that anyone could have this tank and it's beauty on their very first try. My staff member shook his head and said that you really can't argue with your results.

The other thing that I would like to add to this is that the author of that article has been to our Foundation, has specimens from my reef and took several pictures, scratching his head saying "I have never seen polyp extension like that". Daily I thank all the knowledgeable people who came to this hobby before me. I openly thank the people who are spending so much time with these corals today, so that we can be sure that the next generations can share in their beauty. Perhaps some of us can help in the field of medical reasearch where a possible cure for aids, cancer and some of the most life threatening diseases may be found.

THIS IS THE LEFT END OF THE 55 GALLON REEF IN MAY 1997

Just as a side note I would like to say to all of you who have compassion for this hobby please be careful where you purchase your animals. There are some unhealthly corals being shipped and if you do not quarantine your corals before you put them in your system you could possibly wipe out all of what you have strived for. Make sure that you know how to treat any diseases that are out there in the hobby.

If anyone has any comments or questions about my reef I will be more than happy to respond. LeRoy gets all the e-mail so it would be nice to hear from some of you. I was so pleased to have the kindest response to my last article from a young man who is teaching students in a home school setting and has choose to follow the progress of my reef with these young students. I am thinking about having a contest in regards to naming all the different speices of corals in my tank and of course everyone will be a winner!

This 55 gallon tank now has

  • 3 - Maxi-Jet 1000 power heads
  • 4 - VHO 4' lights , 2 - actinic 03 and 2 - AquaSun 50 50
  • 2- 40 watt lights , 1- Blue Moon and 1- Triton
  • 1- Air powered skimmer in sump
  • 1- older 801 powerhead in sump

sallyjo@garf.org

REEF PROPAGATION COSTS AND COST TRACKING

Last months' issue I began discussion of assembling a basic reef propagation system and will continue with this example in this article. I was, am, discussing a small, four tank unit, with an optional stock tank vat. I call this configuration a Production Module.

The four tanks are configured together to allow water circulation between tanks with siphons and a power head to move water from the last in the series to the first tank. My associate, Jow Woods, has modified this, with some of his tanks in a ' in-line' configuration, and uses a canister filter, minus filter, to move water from the last tank to the first. Many modifications are possible, probably as many plus one more, as people doing it.

Keep track of THOSE costs. I suggest that
you simply operate the enterprise as a sole
proprietorship in the first year or two while
you are growing. The business license and tax
number will go a long way in assuring the IRS
that you are not a hobbyist with peculiar pursuits.

I know of dog kennels with yearly expenditures and
incomes in the tens of thousands of dollars that
were disallowed and called hobbys for the lack
of proper documentation towards a business identification.

I call this a four tank unit, but, I see a logical growth to it of at least a fifth tank, plus at least a 150 gal stock tank. Initially, while you are building breeding colonies of your selected species to propagate, one or two tanks will suffice, then, as you begin to accumulate plugs ( per previous GARF articles), other tanks will be needed for growout of not only the plugs, but also the base rocks to mount them on. About the time you add the third tank is the time to add the vat for corraline growth on your base rocks, and, if possible, I would also tie that into the tank system. The time that you save having one place to 'top off' and adjust water quality is well worth the time to put the system into a connected configuration. Another advantage of putting the vat on line is that if it is used for corraline growth, it is also a good place to add the top off water, by the time it is siphoned into the tanks it is beginning to be mixed.

Ref the vats, we can buy from a farm chain here in either a 150 gal oval poly for about $ 109 retail or a 300 gal round poly for under $200 retail.The 150 gal oval poly is the easier size to accomodate into fish rooms and systems. The 300 gal round is about 6' in diameter, which also makes the middle harder to reach. So far I like the 150 gal size. One large pet retailer with multiple stores in Rochester,NY uses them extensively in its holding facility for fresh and saltwater plus feeder fish holding. They NEED TO BE CURED BEFORE USE!!!!!! But, once cured, they are inexpensive and handy. For corraline growout, spray them with white epoxy or something comparable to maximize your light reflection, most all of these tanks are dark gray poly. With a couple of boards they hold two 2 lamp florescent 'shop lites' nicely.

To the four tanks above, eventually add a fifth, to give you -two colony tanks, three plug growout tanks, plus the vat for base rock corraline growth. This is what I call the Basic Production Module. Each tank is set up with a plenum, powerheads for the species being raised, and one large skilter on a colony tank which is my first tank in line. I havenot used other filters. Two light fixtures, one 4-W single lamp strip light and one two lamp standard 'shop light' and two 40W lamps, actinic and tritons from Aquarium Systems, plus 100W heaters. This is the basic equipment.The plug tanks have racks built of eggcrate, excess strips left over from making plenums, fastened with plastic ties. This also gets the plugs and rocks up off the gravel for better water circulation.

WHATS THIS GONNA COST ME?

Glad you asked! Thats the whole point of this exercise, to give you an idea, ball park of what this costs to get going. I have assembled a few figures for your enjoyment in the chart titled REEF PROPAGATION SAMPLE EQUIPMENT BUDGET. The far right column HIGH AVERAGE RETAIL is not as high as some prices I have seen, in some areas or categories, especially the 'Live Rock" figures, but, they are 'ballpark. If, you get one thing out of this chart, and one thing only , let it be this:

GET A GOOD WORKING ARRANGEMENT WITH A RETAILER
THAT YOU TRUST AND CAN WORK WITH!!!!!!!!

REEF PROPAGATION SAMPLE EQIPMENT BUDGET
Basic four tank unit to be added to.
LOW MEDIUM HIGH
wholesale low retail high retail
4 EACH 75 GALLON TANKS - purchased w/ light strips $476.00 $714.00 $925.00
Ocean Pure 2 EA 200 GALLON 60.00 90.00 120.00
ARRAGONITE, 4 EA 50 LBS. - 50 lbs per tank minimum 72.00 108.00 144.00
CRUSHED CORAL 2 EA 50 LBS. - 25 lbs. per tank if desired 30.00 45.00 60.00
4 EA 100W HTRS 48.00 72.00 96.00
4 EA 4' HOODS - purchase at hardware store 48.00 72.00 72.00
8 EA TRITON LAMPS 120.00 160.00 240.00
4 EA ACTINIC BLUE LAMPS 41.00 61.50 61.50
4 POWERHEADS 40.00 60.00 80.00
1 POWERHEAD 15.00 22.50 30.00
HYDROMETER 8.00 12.00 16.00
EGGCRATE & SCREEN - purchase at lumber store 45.00 50.00 50.00
1 BOX LIVE ROCK - varies shop around 150.00 175.00 225.00
STANDS 2 EA (HOLDS 8 DBL) - 20 ea 2"x4" 100.00 100.00 125.00
BALLASTS 4 EA - electric supply store 150.00 300.00 450.00
TOTAL $1,403.00 $2,042.00 $2,721.50

If, that is not posible, get a business license right away and a tax number and get yourself introduced with a distributor or wholesaler. The difference between the Low average total and the high average total on Line 22 is why. This figure can easily be four hundred dollars more then the one shown. Thats another 75 gallon tank, complete on the low average costs. It depends on the places that you buy.

You have a couple of good sales arguements to make to a retailer to buy at wholesale through him, one is your volume, which helps him, and the prospects of being your first customer of your good captive bred reef specimens. But, if you do go this route, dont expect him to 'finance you'. Pay up front for what you buy, treat him as you want to be treated. Eventually, with the best of relations you will want to be able to buy 'direct' on a number of things, that should be your ultimate goal in order to get a real handle on and control of your expenses, it will be a constant battle to hold them down.But, that is what will make the difference on whether this is a paying business for you, or an expensive hobby.

As you begin this process, keep track of your expenditures, write everything down, and be ready in your own mind to set up an appointment with an accountant, BEFORE next years tax filing time. to this goal, get a tax number and business license. Keep track of THOSE costs. I suggest that you simply operate the enterprise as a sole proprietorship in the first year or two while you are growing. The business license and tax number will go a long way in assuring the IRS that you are not a hobbyist with peculiar pursuits. I know of dog kennels with yearly expenditures and incomes in the tens of thousands of dollars that were disallowed and called hobbys for the lack of proper documentation towards a business identification. Cover yourself in these items. A visit to an accountant to set up a simple set of books may well be the best money that you will spend in this enterprise.

GENERAL LEDGER

CAPITAL 10
DATE ITEM DESCRIPTION ACCOUNT DEBIT CREDIT
EXAMPLES
06/01/97 CASH 2000.00
2000.00
TO RECORD DEPOSIT TO BEGIN ENTERPRISE
O6/02/97 EQUIPMENT 5 476.00
CASH 1 476.00
TO RECORD PURCHASE OF 4 75 GALLON TANKS
06/03/97 EQUIPMENT 5 45.00
CASH 1 45.00
TO RECORD PURCHASE OF EGGCRATE FOR PLENUMS
06/28/97 LIVESTOCK 3 150.00
CASH 1 150.00
TO RECORD PURCHASE OF ONE BOX OF LIVE ROCK
10/25/97 CASH 1 300.00
REVENUE 1 300.00
TO RECORD SALE OF CULTURED REEF ROCKS

NOTES:

IF ITEM IS PAID OUT, IT IS A DEBIT, IF YOU RECIEVE INCOME IT IS A CREDIT. WRITE AN EXPLANATION FOR EACH JOURNAL ENTRY.

SET UP YOUR ACCOUNTS JOURNAL WITH SIMPLE NUMERICAL SEQUENCE. EXAMPLE - 1 CASH, 2 DIRECT MATERIAL, 3 LIVESTOCK, 4 UTILITIES, 5 EQUIPMENT, 6 RENT, ECT.

IF ITEM IS NOT COMMONLY USED THERE IS NO NEED TO SET UP A SEPARATE ACOUNT, USE ACCOUNTS FOR COMMON AND REPEATED EXPENSES AND INCOME. This exaple is called double entry, you record an entry for each acount affected. You canb also set your ledger up single entry. Work this out with your accountant first !! SAVE HIM GRAY HAIR.

The GENERAL LEDGER chart is a simple form which you can buy in many different formats to keep track of your expenditures, and , later your income. Record everything!! Go to a good office supply store and see what is there, talk to your accountant, and set up something plausible for you. If, you have a computer, there are a great many inexpensive bookkeeping programs, Quick Books is sometimes found at discount places and is the program of choice I suggest.Keep all of your hard copy receipts by year. Figure mileage monthly at least. prorate your utilities.

You can elect either a single entry form of bookkeeping or double entry. If you have an accountant, ask which is easier for him to pick up on from your records. If you have bookkeeping experience or your spouse does I would go with the double entry, which is really fairly simple. If an item is paid out, the amount goes under a debit and if you sell something, its a credit to cash. If you have a lot of expenditures to a number of regular vendors (not likely) you can set up separate vendor accounts with ID numbers for each account.

Mainly, I would set up some simple categories, cash being one account, equipment another account, livestock another, operating supplies (salt), and you can get the drift here, if, its an occasional or one time entry, then just record it in the general ledger that way. BE SURE TO INCLUDE AN EXPLANATION FOR EACH AND EVERY EXPENDITURE!!!! Next year at tax filing time is not the time to start wondering what the $ 37.97 paid out on March 2 was for. Fed Ex, Air Express and such all goes under shipping. I think you will find yourself with about a dozen regular accounts which when you look at them will give you a pretty clear idea of where your costs have been, and will be. Without knowing what you have spent you will never have any idea of what you are making when the sales start. That seems axiomatic, but, its surprising how many people do business that way. Dont be one. Knowing what you have spent lets you know how much you have made.

Monthly, or whatever period you choose, add up the entries in each account and get an idea of where you are. At the end of the year total the monthly figures. This will not be hard, if, you have kept up with it each month.

The next chart is a simple General Ledger sheet with some examples, please note, the explanations are brief, but, include what is needed, every general ledger entry needs an explanation just as much as it needs an amount. I am not 'pushing' the accounting profession, but, I will say that in helping you to get yourself into a business mode, they can and are your best friends.

My whole point in this is to illustrate that captive propagation of reef animals is not only something that can be done scientifically, but, also can be done in a businesslike manner to provide a reasonable living while we are saving our reefs. If that is to occur then we have to track our costs and expenses.

My expectation is that the Basic Production Module, is just that, the basic unit. My expectation is that the eventual fulltime income requirment will be in the neighborhood of a factor of at least five, possibly six modules. I am planning on the module expansion mode as it gives room to differentiate on each small system for the needs of the various species, some more light, some less, some stronger circulation, some less etc. To date, a salinity of about 1.025 is where I am trying to maintain my water. Others may find higher or lower better, but, in our local tap water that seems to give best results. I maintain temps of about 76 degrees. We donot maintain fish in these tanks.

One point I will mention, on the Sample Equipment Budget, you can substitute selected mushroom rocks for live rocks, and once you have the first tank cycled I wouldnot consider purchase of anymore live rocks, only the rocks with the species you wish to grow. They themselves are live rocks, also, you minimize adding problem species (bristle worms etc) to your tanks. Buy the minimum of live rock you need to begin cycling then keep your purchases to rocks with the target species.We (Joe Woods and I) are concentrating on about six species, with feather or grape caulerpa growing on the rocks with corraline algae. All this on our cast base rocks (ala GARF).

Enjoy, anyone wishing more info, or have comments, email me at :



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CORALLINE ALGAE PROPAGATION Learn to grow coralline algae on your reef aquarium live rocks
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LOW COST BULLET PROOF REEF AQUARIUM Learn to start an inexpensive reef aquarium
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Soft Coral Propagation Page Pictures and details of soft coral propagation
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Mushroom Anemone Propagation Page Pictures and details of mushroom propagation
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CHANGES IN MY REEF AQUARIUM AS IT MATURES | REEF PROPAGATION COSTS AND COST TRACKING



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