|In this article we will be discussing the research that we've done during the last four years as we have been making tons of Aragocrete-sand molded live rock. Eddie Postma has set up an Aragocrete making a classroom under a large pine tree above the wetlands at the Geothermal Aquaculture Research Foundation headquarters.
We have been researching the art involved in creating beautiful, lightweight, porous Aragocrete Sculptures. Using very simple tools that are readily available anywhere Eddie has been able to create many different forms of Aragocrete that are useful and decorative in reef aquariums.
The tools that Eddie uses to create his fantastic Aragocrete sculptures include a wheelbarrow, two five-gallon buckets, a shovel, and several different size pieces of wood. During the last four years we have made Aragocrete out of many different mixtures.
In 1984 GARF started this project to develop uses for geothermal water as a way to create small profitable businesses for Idaho farmers. We have expanded our scope to include other business in other places. Using the techniques that Eddie Postma has developed we have been able to train several people to manufacture and sell sand-cast of live rocks.
A DAY AT THE ARAGOCRETE CLASS ROOM
| Our research has been carried out so that we could find the proper combination of materials that are available readily in several different areas where we plan on making large quantities of Aragocrete. GARF has developed a five-year plan that will include teaching Aragocrete making and live rock cultivation to people who live along the coast.|
The Geothermal aquaculture Research Foundation has a very strict rule about teaching ecologically safe methods of reef farming. One of the most important things that we do here at GARF, as we are carrying out our mission, is that we actually operate and develop a marketing program for any products that we want people to learn to grow. Often in the past, research has been done on alternative farming techniques that universities have developed and taught to farmers and native peoples with no regard to potential market or business operations training.
|When Brian and Leonel arrived at the classroom under the pine tree they had much more experience with Aragocrete marketing than with the manufacturing of Aragocrete. They had both worked at GARF during the last two semesters when we have sold several tons of dry Aragocrete on the Internet. Leonel and Brian were responsible for taking the orders, weighing the Aragocrete, and developing methods for shipping the Aragocrete Sculptures so that they arrived without damage. Today they would learn how it makes these wonderful sculptures with such simple tools.
Each batch of Aragocrete is made in a Styrofoam fish box that is 1/2 full of damp CaribSea aragonite Gravel. Several years ago we made all of our Aragocrete in large wooden boxes made from two by twelve lumber. These boxes were 8 ft. long and 4 ft. wide. We noticed that as the students and workers became tired of making Aragocrete Sculptures that the sculptures became larger and larger.
|Making one large sculpture was much easier than making many smaller sculptures. The problem was that many of the sculptures would have been better for standing up next to the road with the sign hanging on them. This tendency to use all the cement that is left to make one large sculpture must be universal because our friend Jerry in Kona noticed the same thing. He named these large Aragocrete sculptures Day Enders. |
Because our final plans call for growing these Aragocrete sculptures in the ocean we decided that all of the rocks that we make would have to fit into Styrofoam fish boxes eventually. These fish boxes are lightweight, strong, waterproof, an easy to move. The Styrofoam insulates the box so the Aragocrete mix days warmer while it is curing
|At the start of each class Eddie gives each student four or five Styrofoam boxes 1/2 full of aragonite gravel that has been dampened with fresh water.
Eddie uses a large wheelbarrow to mix each batch of Aragocrete, and he has resisted all my efforts to purchase a nice new cement mixer. Eddie likes to have complete control over each batch of Aragocrete because he makes only the amount that he needs for the sculptures he has planned.
The Three Cave Tables that Eddie Postma makes are extremely popular because each leg is hollow and there are many holes in the tabletop. People who are setting up large reef aquariums purchase 3 or 4 of these tables to make the base of their reef. You can use three of these reef tables for the base in a 120-gallon reef and only have nine points of contact with the gravel. I often use three reef tables as a base and I then place two reef tables as the next layer. This combination makes a wonderful base for reef because each of the bottom tables have a large space under them, each of the legs have a space inside, and there is a great amount space between the two layers.
THE MATERIALS YOU WILL NEED TO DO THIS PROJECT CONSIST OF:
| || Each of Eddie's Aragocrete Sculptures are a work of art and no one else has figured out how he gets so many holes and spaces in his rocks or how come they are still so structurally sound when he is finished. The rocks that I make do have holes in them but they never look like the wonderful Aragocrete Sculptures that Eddie makes.|
Eddie is a professional sculptor and he does many other types of art including Diamond Willow walking sticks that sell for $600.00 and up. We are very proud to have such a well known Idaho artist as our Aragocrete teacher!
1. One bag of CaribSea Sea floor special grade aragonite sand.
2. One bag of CaribSea Aruba Shell aragonite Gravel.
3. One bag of White cement that is a low alkalinity type of cement.
At GARF we use Riverside white cement that cost about $22 per bag.
4. A small quantity - 2 or 3 cubic feet of plastic sawdust.
At GARF we use Plexiglas and Lexan drill shavings that we get free from a computer manufacturer.
5. One bucket of fresh water for mixing with the cement and one bucket of fresh water for washing your tools.
THE TOOLS YOU'LL NEED FOR THIS PROJECT:
1.Two 5 gal. plastic buckets
2.Two large plastic mixing bowls
3. 1 shovel
4. A wheelbarrow or large plastic mixing tub
5. One small garden shovel
6. Several small sticks of wood
|Making a batch of Aragocrete
The basic recipe that we will use for making this Aragocrete consists of five parts aragonite sand and one part each of white cement and plastic sawdust. Start your first back to Aragocrete by putting five plastic bowls of aragonite sand in your mixing container. Add one bowl of white cement powder and mix the two ingredients together dry. Slowly add a small amount of clean fresh water while stirring. |
You do not want to add enough water to make the mix wet. It is very important that Aragocrete only be wet enough to hold the mix together when you squeeze it in your hand - this is the mud ball test. At this time you can add a small amount of plastic if you want to. The plastic will make the finished rocks light weight and porous. Drilling holes in black plastic pipe can make one of the best types of plastic we have found. You can experiment with the size of hole and the speed of the drill so that you create spirals of plastic. The small spirals will create airspace that will fill with water when the rock is in the reef.
A batch of Aragocrete that is mixed properly will appear too dry when you start working with this product. If your batch holds together when you do the mud ball test it is ready for making Aragocrete.
|MAKING A REEF TABLE
The First sculpture that I will describe is the reef table. The three-legged reef table makes a very stable base and the basic table is easy to make.
1. Dig a 3-in. deep hole in the damp gravel that is 12-in. square.
2. Shape the hole in the gravel so that it makes an irregular pattern.
3. Add enough Aragocrete mix to fill this hole.
4. Place a scoop of gravel in the center of this Aragocrete mix but do not cover the edges.
5. Make a small mud ball out of the Aragocrete mix and roll it in your hands to elongate it like a clay snake.
6. Stand this leg up so that it is in contact with the uncovered Aragocrete on the edge of the sculpture.
7. Pour some dry Aragocrete Gravel around this leg so that it does not slump.
8. Repeat this process to create the other two legs.
9. Carefully use one of your sticks to make a hole in the top of the table. As soon as you have formed this hole pour dry sand into it to keep it from slumping closed.
10. Cover the entire sculpture with more gravel and wait 24 hours before you uncover it.
|MAKING AN ARAGOCRETE ARCH |
Aragocrete Arches are used to create upright structures in the reef aquarium. Arches make great places to attach sps corals. Arches can be made very thin and tall and because of their open shape they allowed great water flow.
1. Starting in the bottom corner of your Styrofoam box scrape out an arch shaped depression in the sand that ends in the other bottom corner.
2. Add enough Aragocrete mix to slightly over fill this depression.
3. Using one of your sticks make several small holes through the Aragocrete. Fill these holes with dry sand.
4. We like to cover our Sculptures with the type of sand or gravel that we have not used to fill the box. Using two different types of gravel makes the finished arch look like it was formed as sediment.
5. You can add seashells by poking them 1/2 way into the Aragocrete mix.
6. Wait one full day before removing your sculpture from the gravel.
The ingredients are probably the easiest part of the entire thing. The simple mixture is two parts low alkalinity white cement, two parts Reef Floor and three parts aragonite or some type of sandy mixture. Next you add the water. The consistency should be similar to oatmeal or wallpaper past, more lumpy than runny.
||Making rock sounds like a chore, but with the right tools and materials it is nothing but fun. Our first experience with rock was under the supervision of expert rock maker Eddy Postma. The five-hour class taught us the basics like ingredients, but what it really boiled down to was creativity and desire. As we sat back and watched the master at work it took no time at all until we were ready to go and start to make some beautiful Aragocrete of our own.
Eddy started the class with a nice arch that turned out great. The arch took about five minutes for Mr. Postma to craft with his trusty trowel. He set up the arch by filling an empty box with a mixture of Aruba shells and CaribSea Sea Floor. The box should be big enough to fit the rock you want to make. However, the texture desired on the outside should be what you use instead of the Aruba shells and the Sea Floor. The next step is to mix your cement.
Now you're ready to make the molds in the box you poured the mix of Sea Floor and Aruba shells into. Remove the majority of the mixture and leave only about a 3.5 to 4 inch layer. Keep the rest though, you'll need is to make the rock hollow. After you have made the mold you want you rock to look like start putting the cement in, remember that this mold will be the front face of the rock. Glob it on around the mold so it's about ¼ to ½ inches thick. Don't smooth it out or your rock will look unnatural.
|If you wish to have a large opening here then start the mold with a ring of cement not a bowl. As you add more layers of mix you need to keep adding the sand/shell mix to the areas where you want the piece to be hollow or to the outside to ensure the structural integrity of your mold. One of Eddie's techniques is when building-up a piece, add sand in a line across the cement to make a hole wherever one is desired. Always when adding sand to the inside and around the cement mix, make sure to leave cement showing that you will be able to attach the next layer of cement to in order to build up. This mistake will ruin a piece in an instant, so be careful. |
As time goes on the cement mix might get a little dry but just add water to keep the oatmeal consistency. To finish a piece you simply need to figure out if you would like an opening on this side or a closed end. Once you have finished the rock, cover completely with the sand and then let sit for about one day, which should be plenty of time for it to be fully hardened.
|When all of your rocks are complete then it is time for them to be cured. Leroy Headlee recommends putting the rocks into a kiddy pool or another container that will hold all of your rock and enough water to cover them. In the kiddy pool you can run a garden hose to the pool and poke an exit hole to water any thing else in your yard. We recommend water change daily or as much as possible (the more the better) for six to eight weeks. If you do not cure the rock it will mess-up the pH levels in your tank, which can be detrimental to the life in your reef.
The best part of making rock is the fact that being exact is not what you want. The sloppier the rock the more natural the appearance of the rock formations. So you don't need to be an artist to be a rock star.
FOR THE LAST 5 YEARS WE HAVE WORKED VERY HARD TO PURCHASE, TRADE, AND SAVE AS MANY TYPES OF CORALS AS WE CAN.
We are having a special on all of the coral cuttings. WHEN YOU PURCHASE 5 AT THE REGULAR PRICE OF $100 WE WILL GIVE YOU TWO FREE CORALS!. If you have any questions please use this form to ask them. WE WILL PHONE YOU AND HELP YOU PICK THE BEST CORALS FOR YOUR REEF AQUARIUM.
We will continue to provide the most current data on reef farming for both education and profit.