Reef Aquarium Farming News
Online Newsletter for Reef Aquarium Propagation Research

1999 FALL UPDATE - OCTOBER 3. 1999

Sally Jo's Recipe For Success

How I started
Gosh it seems just like yesterday that LeRoy sat me down and said your going to learn this stuff. He bought me book after book and I fell asleep many nights dreaming about the ocean and wondering about the magic she possess. Each day I began to ask LeRoy more questions, I felt so intimidated, and even more confused. I watched LeRoy have such fun and compassion with his tanks but I also watched many animals die. Every time a new box came in it was like Christmas. I never witnessed anyone having such compassion for these animals and their care as LeRoy has. I asked many questions and went back to the book before opening my mouth in hopes that I would find the answers within the chapters. I only found that my brain would think up more questions and my heart felt like I was overwhelmed and out of my league. I felt that some of my questions were silly but found that the longer I studied and the more information I attained the more I started to see that many questions I may have never been asked. It did not seem anyone had an answer for my queations. There are still many questions that need to be pursued. So much territory has yet to be explored, I found this exciting.


garf fall 99 update

One would have to know me to understand how deeply I care about life. I was the Director of the Idaho Botanical Garden, which started with nothing but a dream followed by a larger vision. We leased a 50 acre site that was nothing but rocks rubble and weeds, to develop a gift to the people of the State of Idaho. I received some tremendous awards and accomplished great things, but my biggest reward was falling in love with LeRoy. He was kind enough to volunteer his services for our ponds at the Garden and his knowledge was so vast, I would go to him with the wonderful questions the children would ask. For if we do not continue to seek answers to their questions they will begin to stop asking. They tend to think of some of the most important questions and they leave a mark on all of us.


garf fall 99 update

I was always looking for new plant material, designing new gardens and always asking tons of questions. I was a firm believer in if you can count how many plants you have you do not have enough. I also like to expand the envelope so to speak. What plant zone are we?:) Many of the plants would never have been seen in Idaho if everyone stuck to the same chart. I found LeRoy to poses many of the same ideas. He had over 200 species of wetland plants that would never be used in Idaho expect for his willingness to expand the envelope and utilized the natural resource in the backyard of the Foundation which has a Geothermal source.
I love life, I love to learn (I have often been told my brain is like a sponge). I also have the human trait of wanting to be the best at what ever I do. I never what to kill any living plant, animal or breathing being. At some human level I guess it is safe to say if I am willing to take a risk it is not without a great deal of soul searching. I feel having a background in gardening helped my blue thumb success. However I will tell you that I honestly would NEVER have started if LeRoy had not given me an empty tank now almost four years ago. I started with the books, I became so scared and certain this was not a hobby for me. I could never stand by and take something from one environment and cause its demise. Before I had my tank I asked so many questions I am certain that some stores hated to see me come. I have come to realize now that many of the animals they have in some of the pet stores should not be for sale for the hobbyist. I think that we should not purchase those beautiful yellow, orange and red tree shaped sponges. Not only do they not live well in the closed systems they also are so toxic they could wipe out the entire tank. The Sea cucumbers, I call them snakes, can also wipe out the entire tank. So many of the beautiful nudibranchs will never have enough of the food they need to sustain and grow and often they are very toxic when dying. I have seen countless sea horses die and they should not be kept by the novice reef keeper nor are they meant to live in a reef setting such as our systems. Believe me when I say if we do not buy these items the stores will stop selling them.
One of the biggest mistakes I have seen is with hobbyist wanting to save an almost dead animal by taking it home only to introduce tons more problems. I will have to tell on LeRoy for a moment. He recently came home with a prize possession of a big coral on one of our plugs. He was proud of this new addition to our bank, I looked at him in shock for nothing was alive on this animal. I asked him how much he paid for it and he said $40.00. I called the pet store and told them they could not sell anything without LeRoy having his glasses on:). Introducing new fish in an old tank that has named fish in it is another risky adventure I see people take. It is much smarter if you are this kind of person to set up a quarantine tank and once you know the fish is healthy or the coral is safe then you can place it in your system.
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In the plant world I had to learn soil amendments, pruning, planting zones, and so much more. It seemed that the more hours there were in any day the more questions I could come up with. I found the same tug at my heart always leading questions to my brain about this hobby known to all as reef keeping. I began to realize that one would have to acquire a doctorate. in chemistry, gadgets and so much more. The other puzzling thing for me were the books that often refered to copying the ocean and its natural environment yet I soon came to understand that nothing about reef keeping is natural. All we are doing is trying to keep and sustain animals under man made conditions. Over time I have come to realize there are many leading Companies that have put together wonderful products so I do not have to wear all the hats and I can focus on what I really love doing and that is playing in my reefs.

I guess what I am trying to convey to you by saying all of this is that my first tank (the empty tank LeRoy challenge me with) is now famous across the Country. It is mostly an expression of my love for these animals, my will for them to survive, and the willingness to find better and safer ways to maintain a reef system more focused on the animals than on equipment and gadgets. I feel the best teacher I had other than LeRoy was Mother Nature herself. If you really want to learn the true facts the facts that will stick with you visit her. We hope by sharing our systems with you it will encourage more of you to become involved not only from the hobby stand point but more importantly for safeguarding these animals for future generations. If I can do it so can you. I know this fact because I have six systems in my office now, I am in charge of the maintenance of the 40 separate systems at the Foundation. Five years ago I had never touched salt water, let alone known what beauty lay beneath her salty taste.

We have spent countless hours sharing our systems with everyone who will stumble across our Internet site. We share not only text but, pictures as well as the recipe for our success. We know that there are many ways to maintain a reef system, ours is but one way certainly not the only way, but the best way for us! Our only hope for sharing the chapters of information is that if there is somebody out there who felt like me perhaps I can give them the wonderful life changing experience LeRoy gave me. The simple words you can do it is the biggest jump start I can give you. Visit our web site often, e-mail us and please never give up. All of what we have invested personally and financially has always been worth it.
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As an active gardener I learned that each garden is unique. It is an expression of the person involved. I find the same to be true about reef keeping. Each person is different, some want to have a few big animals, I am one who wants one of everything but keeping them small is a challenge. Some focus on color others on texture. So many of the principals used for creating a wonderful garden can be used very successfully with planting you reef. I can honestly say I have NEVER seen an ugly reef tank. I also feel the more time spent with your reef tank the better it will reflect in the animals. It is like planting a garden, if you do not prune the flowers, or dead head them as I call it, the flower will go to seed and late season blooming will be lost. Also if you do not go out and pull the weeds certainly the future for that garden will be all weeds. What is a weed to some is a magical flower to others. Some people love roses, some love Iris, some love day lilies, some ponds, some deserts, I on the other hand love them all. Poor LeRoy, I am certain he wonders when I will ever run out of room for loving so much:) I am one who believes there is always room for one more. My oldest tank has been full for way over a year but I cut and bonsai my reef so there is always room for one more. I have over 200 different types of coral in this little 55 gallon. I lost count and fight each day for maintaining a balance in this system.

Remembering that tanks go through natural cycles is also important. The ocean has different seasons, and different cycles. Knowing that we are all human and we make mistakes is also important but we need to learn from them and go on. Do not let the fear of making the first step of reef keeping keep you from enjoying the beauty of reef keeping. We all had to take the first step and for each of us it has been a different reason or outcome.

This summer my 12 (just turned 13 last week) year old niece Samantha Headlee worked with me every single day. Sam was given more responsibility than most people after reaching the age of 21. I was amazed by her willingness to never give up and her desire to keep the peace. Sam never missed a day and never complained about any task she was assigned. One day she looked at me and said I am going to grow up and be just like you Aunt Sally Jo. It was one of the proudest moments for me this summer. One day a trade arrived at the Foundation she helped me unpack the animal and place it in my newest reef system. We went outside of my office and spent hours packing orders, answering phones and when finish with all tasks at hand went back into the peaceful setting of my office. Her mouth dropped open and she said "I never knew a coral was so big". The trade animal we placed in my tank only hours ago had tripled in size and took up a good third of my tank. This gives you an idea of how much propagating we do:) She is soon to be setting up her own 55 gallon reef tank and I am certain I will learn loads from the questions she will ask. It will be fun learning along with her. I can honestly say that I learn something new each and every single day. I also realize that so much more needs to be learned about these animals.


The trades that some of you have sent in to us are not only great additions to our growing genetic bank but are remarkable animals and are certain to add to our on-going cancer research. With the underlying focus at this time getting DNA testing for each animal and sharing those results with the rest of the World. We have been trying to get this done for a couple of years and hopefully soon we will have found the right funding, machines and staff to accomplish this goal. Each coral morphs differently in tanks, so species identification has been extremely hard. It is our hope with the DNA testing that not only will we be able to accurately ID them but we will also be able to give them a history and origin. Making certain that no animal has to become extinct.

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We know that the wild reefs need our help. I am extremely proud of the steps Idaho has made in many ways to safeguard animals and habitat. Just yesterday Idaho was on National Television in regards to the Peregrine Falcon. No way in this World would that bird have been taken off the Federal Endangered Species List without the help of man. We hope the same for the reefs and the animals that need to be safeguarded. If all that happens is that bans are placed on the wild resources that is not going to be the safeguard for that resource. The reefs are dying not because of the hobby but because of many other man made problems. It is as real as the lost of rain forests. Each day seems to be a battle ground for GARF trying to safeguard animals for years to come. We know more than ever we can not go far without your help. In the same sentence we could never have come this far without it.

Some of the greatest accomplishments I feel GARF has made is by sharing the updates and pictures on our web site. We enjoy sharing pictures and more importantly sharing the animals with others. I recently sent back four corals to the Mike Paletta who gave me these as babies almost four years ago. On the bag I wrote a special note WELCOME HOME! It is a great pleasure trading animals, replacing ones that were lost, and finding good homes for our clones. Some of our propagated animals are well over 20 generations from mom. We have developed ways to have zero impact on the wild reefs and I go to sleep each night knowing we are making a difference, a positive one.

garf fall 99 update
Our wild reefs are fighting a battle the battle we all fight each day of finding the delicate balance in an ecosystem that is being stressed at levels never before witnessed. More of the Worlds reefs were lost last year, than in any other year studied. The causes are many and the damages vast. Each specialist when asked gives their own views and their own reasons. We feel that we are all to be held accountable. Make sure your fish are caught properly. They will stop bombing the reef to trap the fish if we stop buying them. Stop vacationing and visiting golf courses built right next to the ocean. Many of these tropical developments are preying on the tourist they built them for. Stop dumping garbage in our rivers. Once while being interviewed live on the radio the announcer said well Idaho can not be to blame for the pollution in the ocean. If only he spent a day with me and witnessed what is being thrown into our rivers, he would then understand. The loss of the natural wetlands and the warming of the ocean temperatures all play a critical role in the loss of wild reefs. Burning of Rain Forest land brings sediment to the ocean and erosion control plants are lost when forests are removed. A figure is floating out of the mouths of some people that 80% of the fish, corals, and rock that comes from the Worlds reefs goes into the hands of people in the USA. Please help by becoming educated, by rolling up your sleeves, by demanding better methods of collection. Please accept the gift from all of us at GARF by learning zero or low impact reef techniques. We share how to make your very own rock, how to grow your own corals, and we hope to soon pioneer ways of spawning our own corals.

We are very concerned that we are closer to having to face a huge ban on wild animals in the near future. As everyone has an opinion on this subject I feel compelled to share mine. I know with our operation that propagation is important, again thinking in the same lines as gardening when left alone things do get out of balance. I believe that managed care is what is needed for our wild reefs. Safer collection practices and shipping methods will supply better fish to our hobby. Educating the hobby to pass their animals to others, starting new tanks with hand made live rock and never allowing the coral itself to hit a dead end system will make our hobby one we can all be proud of. I am more afraid of accidentally introducing something from the wild that could wipe out our closed systems than I am about the animals coming out of the ocean being the cause for the wild animals demise. The chance of introducing a new source of deadly coral bleaching could damage our closed systems if we are not careful. We know now that bleaching is not caused by one issue. Many issues are the fault in wild bleaching. In our wild reefs it wipes out miles at a time. The other part that really concerns me is the need for DNA testing on these animals. This process becomes even more important when you look at the biomedical uses of these animals. We are now providing animals in the hopes of finding cures for life threatening diseases. If anyone out there wants to help us please contact us!

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I hope to see corals, live rock, and fish on the planes with the cut flowers, dead people and mail. We pay enough money for this and our animals deserve as much space as the cut flowers. I hope to see freight companies that make the customer pay high freight bills but will not guarantee the live arrivals due to product being perishable face higher standards from all of us. I personally fired UPS last month and refuse to allow them to touch our boxes. We have found Airborne to care more, work harder and except responsibility for their mistakes.

We simply can not fight these battles alone, we need your help to make this happen. We need to become team players, educate ourselves and become active in decisions that might arise by committees appointed by the President of the United States over a year ago. If we expect the Government to protect this wild resource and their resources are already limited what will happen. It is the people who need to care, for it is the people who can and will make a different. Please help us be the voice, the solid voice these animals need for the future generations. Do this not only for our children but for the fish, plant and animal life that can not speak for itself. What will happen to the villages that live off of the life that is sustained in the ocean if it dies or if the livelihood they rely on is gone. Many villages do not think of saving for college educations but for the next meal they will feed their family.

If only we could figure out a way for a huge skimmer to filter the ocean (putting back the wetlands, might help), a huge chiller, (I am certain one of you could figure that one out). Mangrove stands cool the water in bays where baby fish and invertabrates are born. We need to stop the destruction of these coastal forests. Managed fish populations, lighting, water changes and all the remarkable tools we have at our finger tips is what the wild reef needs. Perhaps we could produce stronger strains of zooxanthellae to assist our wild animals from bleaching. It is our opinion the idea that will save the wild reefs has not been sparked yet. So keep asking questions, keep scratching your head more importantly keep the ideas flowing and share them with others. Someone out their has the answers and I hope in my lifetime I will witness there practice.


garf fall 99 update

Just like the ocean environment we always need to work on finding a balance for our closed systems. We need to upgrade our lights, our powerheads, the supplements and so on as we add more corals to our systems. I have often wondered how many types of zooxanthellae I have in my systems. Are some of them stronger strains than others. What causes my corals to have such vibrant colors. Some of the corals will come in so brown and within weeks I see color develop. I can send some of my colored propagated animals out to someone else they loose their color, could the answer be found in the supplements we use. What makes the animals grow so fast and recover from the massive propagation I constantly give them, could the answer be just like that found in gardening the more attention you give your plants the more they will grow. What makes the corals become stronger each generation we clone away from mom, could it be we are growing stronger corals by producing new strains. I know any animal that made it to Boise, Idaho was a strong strain. Could the answer be that I just ask too many questions and that I love the animals too much:) I do not think so.
At this time of year everyone is getting ready to send their children back to school. My gosh this summer has gone by so fast. Last year I took my niece cloths shopping for school. I took her to the Mall we spent the entire day there without her buying one item. I then asked her where she wanted to go and she replied K-Mart. It was not long before the shopping cart was full and we finished finding all of her supplies. This year I just took her to K-Mart and without question the cart was full and we were on our way to the next item for the day. This is why I do not change to other supplements, even when someone tries to convince me that theirs is better. It very well could be for them but, I am afraid that I will not change or fix something that is not broken and have seen may tanks crash because of trying the ³newest concept². The other thing I noticed when taking my niece shopping is that the size of shoe is different and the cloths size as well. We constantly need to keep this is mind. The corals are always growing, blocking light from one another, growing faster taking up loads of zooxanthellae, blocking water movement and so on. You must just like your children, just like your garden grow with their needs. I am a BEAR in the morning without my coffee, I think my corals are a bear in the morning without their little touch of my hands. By far the most important coral in my tank is my HANDS ( the wildest one of them all and yet to be propagated ) :)

It is important to put your reef as a priority in your life. You must check it every day. Maintain a maintenance schedule, find someone to care for it when you are gone, and never neglect it. Changing lights, water changes, a strict regimen of adding supplements, adding janitors, looking at all mechanical items is a must for the success of reef keeping. As with all hobbies there comes a time when people loose interest in their systems. This is sad and deadly. We recovered several this summer alone. One should way all the positive and negative components before ever making the commitment to caring for a reef system. It reminds me of the individuals who leave their children or their dogs in a car when it is boiling hot outside to run into the store for just a minute. We as hobbyists can not take those chances. I hate to hear of tank crashes and hope in some small way by sharing GARF with the rest of the World we will save someone that grief. Many of the crashes never have to happen and most happen due to human mistake.

Remembering the reef system is a balancing act, always trying to give it the best possible of conditions. Taking the time to move animals up or down where they seem to do the best. Never being to tired to care or to broke to buy the supplies. Is honestly what it takes to be a World class reef keeper. Being consistent, and buying healthy specimens will also breed success. Making sure to quarantine animals before risking your tank is also important. Make certain your fish were caught properly and be as proud to show off your reef and share it with others as we are. Be willing keep your tank going even through the tough time or the curves life throws at all of us or holding on even at the bumping times. These tanks can not thrive or survive without us. Think about all the animals that are put to sleep each and every year due to human neglect or taking on something we should not have.
garf fall 99 update

We often are asked many questions in regard to farming corals. I first want to say this is not for everyone if it were there would be many. I also want to say that if this is your hobby and that is what you want it to remain then do not take the plunge to the next level. Finding the right people to form your business is the most important step you will ever take. LeRoy and I know first hand the do¹s and dont's of coral farming. The first couple corals you propagate are FUN but when you have done it a thousand times over it looses its fire. Being able to grow and understand what worked last year may not work this year and what did not work last year may work this year. Having a spirit inside of you, one who is not willing to give up and one who can delegate responsibilities is critical. I believe there is tons of room for many farmers but I also know it takes a special person to be one. It makes me think of the crop farmers who have to plow the field, seed the crop, nurture that crop, fight off weeds, insects, and then if all goes well harvest that crop and perhaps not see a profit is a very special individual. We have some very special Farmers who are coming to share their life experiences with all who attend our conference in Oct. This is truly one conference not to miss if you are contemplating going in this direction.

I hope many of you will come to GARF for our fifth annual Coral Farming Seminar. It is on the calendar for October 23rd and 24th. Everyone is to leave Boise with salt water hands, a deeper appreciation for the animals and tons of knowledge on how to sustain them. For making your reservations or for more information please give our staff a call at 800-600-6163.

An ending greeting to Marine Fish Monthly for allowing us a voice in the hobby. On a personal note, four people have been saved from the pain in their spine at Johns Hopkins. It makes each and every second I suffered from pain worth it when I can save others and hope that the word will cover the medical field and save people from unnecessary surgerys and unlimited pain. We never could have reached as many people without you!

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