Reef Aquarium Farming News
Online Newsletter for Reef Aquarium Propagation Research


Hello, and welcome to this issue of our newsletter. The public aquarium Coral Farming Seminars are becoming more popular than we could have hoped for. WE WILL BE TEACHING IN NEW YORK CITY MAY 15 AND 16. Please call us for information 208-344-6163. This month we have two articles on building low cost coral farming systems in greenhouses. These are the first parts of the new series on building a stage two propagation system. Many of you now have a home based coral farm and you have asked for more information on growing your business.


 Sally Jo Headlee
This article is about our recent Coral Farming Seminar in Washington D.C. at the Smithsonian Museum of natural History. Our next two Seminars will be in Canada at the Western Marine Conference we will also teach at The Vancouver Public Aquarium the same week. We are scheduled to give a seminar May 15 and 16 in New York City at the Aquarium for Conservation.
At GARF there is never a dull moment. I decided that LeRoy had worked so hard this past year that I wanted to make sure that Santa gave him the reward he justly deserves. So I became Santa, did some soul searching, and decided to buy LeRoy a new toy. I called a mail order company to inquire about their Macintosh G3 Power Book lap top computer. I ordered one by phone to be delivered the next day. I wanted to make sure it arrived before we left for the Smithsonian and Johns Hopkins University. I had no idea when we would be back from this trip due to impending surgery on my spine.

Fed Ex showed up with the computer early Wednesday. I hate to keep secrets, it is the hardest challenge for me. I kept bugging LeRoy. Don't you want to know what is in the box? Do you want to open your Christmas present early? He was being so good and brave, he said no. I don't want to spoil Christmas. I left for the office. I told the staff what I purchased for him for Christmas and they pleaded with me to give it to him before we left on this adventure to the Smithsonian. With all of our trips that we have taken LeRoy always remembers to take his digital camera to share our experiences with you on our web site. The problem has always been that he has to be limited by the cameras ability to take only 58 pictures. The computer gives LeRoy the flexibility to download the pictures and then take more.



When I arrived home later that evening I asked him again if he wanted to open his Christmas present early, once again he answered bravely that he wanted to wait until Christmas. I then told him I thought it would be important to open it before we left so that he could enjoy it on this journey to the Smithsonian. We did not know it at the time, but we would also be visiting Aquarium Products, Aquarium Center, and some great home aquariums in Baltimore. Finally he couldn't wait and agreed to open his present that night. I thought his eyes where going to pop out of his head. He could not believe what he saw it that box. Needless to say, LeRoy stayed up all night programming his new toy.

It continually surprises me how each and every time
we set out to teach a new group of individuals
we always seem to learn more than we teach.

We had to get up early the next morning to meet our plane. When the alarm went off LeRoy was already up. I realized then that he had never been to sleep. He could hardly wait to try his new toy. He took pictures from the airplane and downloaded them into to his computer just to make sure it would work. I must say that I am glad that he finally agreed to open his present. He took hundreds of pictures of the journey that we took this past two weeks. It continually surprises me how each and every time we set out to teach a new group of individuals we always seem to learn more than we teach. We are proud to share all of our encounters with you. We hope that by sharing you will in turn share with others. What good is research if one decides to keep secrets. We find that people continue to take what we share and find more ways to accomplish making rock, propagating corals and so much more. It will be fun at the end of the year to reflect back on how far we have come and how much we have learned.

Day one Baltimore We arrived into Baltimore at 4:30 P.M. Merrill Cohen met us at the airport to take us to dinner and to visit with some friends. Dennis and his wife had dinner with all of us. Dennis owns and operates an aquarium store called The Aquarium Center. We decided the trip to Baltimore would never be complete without visiting this pet store. I had heard time and time again from LeRoy that Dennis's store was the best one could hope to see in the World. By no means was I disappointed. I find that sometimes I set expectations to high, but I had no idea that anyone had so much aquatic life in one spot in the World.


I could hardly wait for us to finish dinner I had been waiting to see this store. I do want to put a plug in for the crab cakes that Baltimore is famous for. If you ever get the opportunity to travel to Baltimore please don't miss the opportunity to taste the crab cakes they where wonderful. After our fine dinner we went to visit the store. Believe me it was more, much more, than what was first described to me. Dennis showed us around every nook and cranny in his store. He had just set up 60 new invert tanks, and the store was full of visitors when we walked in the door. I am sure he had over 700 different aquariums running in his store. The sixty new invert tanks were only about two weeks old and held a good selection of animals. Many of the corals from the Soloman Islands have yet to pass through our doors, and are not being propagated much in the hobby.
I then realized that I have a long way to go before I have one of every animal to safe guard for the future of the reefs. Many of his corals were new to me. He had some of the best live rock I have seen. When I asked him where it comes from he described it as yet another source of Florida aquacultured rock. It had many live animals on it, and it must have been shipped close to the time it was collected because it was incredibly alive.

I lost LeRoy for a moment, as I knew I would, he is like a kid in a candy store :) All of a sudden, I hear this voice from a row behind me yelling "Honey come here." I went around the corner and there is Dennis watching LeRoy trying to feed a Chambered Nautilus a crawdad that he had caught by hand in another tank. I saw with my very own eyes that the Chambered Nautilus knew he had found a welcome friend. He honestly ate that crawdad right out of LeRoy's hand.

We could have stayed there for two days and still not have seen everything Dennis has on display in his store and it was full of people. There were many species of inverts we had never seen before and many I wanted to be sure we would not go home without. The live rock was in large holding tanks providing the proper conditions to maintain its fully cured nature. We are sorry to report we never made it back to his store. I had surgery on my spine and we could not visit Dennis nor take home some of the corals. I am sure we will be back and I will need to leave room in a suitcase.

If you are ever in Baltimore I believe that
you should spend a day visiting this store
and if you are lucky like we were perhaps
you will get the red carpet treatment and the grand tour.

We spent all day Friday Dec. 10 at the Hospital. After all of our appointments were completed Merrill Cohen, owner of Aquarium Products, picked us up and took us on a tour of his incredible facility. It is amazing that one man is responsible for bringing to this hobby over 400 different products to make fish keeping fun, rewarding, and successful.

After visiting with Merrill and touring his giant modern facility we decided to find a motel close to the Metro train so that we could find our way to the Smithsonian on our own with little difficulty. What was so surprising was when we left Boise the temperature was around 14 degrees. When we arrived in Baltimore it was around 60 degrees. We felt as if we had found spring again. We slept great that night and decided to start our journey to the Smithsonian mid morning. The sun was shining and motel shuttle took us directly to the Amtrack office. We only had to wait about ten minutes before our train arrived. These trains travel fast and in no time at all we were in Washington D.C. and almost within viewing distance of the Natural History Museum.

We took a taxi from the train station past the Capital building , and it dropped us off at the back door of the Museum. Just inside of the door was a huge six foot tall piece of Yap money. LeRoy stopped and showed me a picture of the Rock Island in Palau that Jerry Heslinga had shown him years before. The people from Yap had cut these huge stone circles in Palau and somehow took them hundreds of miles across open ocean to their homes in Yap. We went up one flight of stairs to the ocean life exhibit of the Smithsonian. I have to admit up front I was so busy these two days that I never had the chance to look through the entire Sea Life Hall exhibits. We walked into the lab and found Donald Barrett (a part time staff member with the Smithsonian) and a few others awaiting our arrival.

Donald Barrett introduced us to the people present and showed us with great pride his amazing collection of Xenia in his eight gallon aquarium. Most people who know me know that I love the Xenia. I think that they are a great addition to any reef system. The Smithsonian's systems had many types of Xenia that we do not have yet at GARF. I also was amazed with how much things had progressed in the short time since we had been there. It had only been seven months since we had last visited the Smithsonian reef tanks.
This first day was really dedicated to those who were in a business, or wanted to be in a business. We started off by asking them what they wanted to learn about. They wanted to learn how to propagate corals as well as how to market them. This was a small group. That is always fun because you can do so much more hands-on. Much more information can be shared. This Saturday seminar started at 1 P.M. and ended at 5 P.M. It is always amazing to me how long LeRoy and I can teach and how fast the hours pass. Also we always learn more each and every time we speak with groups of individuals who love these animals.
During this trip we were happy to find out that our collection of coral species here at GARF is limited. It is exciting to learn that there are many other species out there that we need to safeguard and learn as much as we can about. We also humbly wish to say that the more we visit facilities and ask questions or look at tanks, the more we realize there are so many ways to keep a reef system. It really takes me back to when I was first setting up my reef system. I remember the frustration I felt because there was so much information and so much conflicting material to read. I now see this for what it truly reflects, there are many proper ways to set up a system. So the more you read, and the more you research, the more you see that many methods work.
You are responsible to figure out what focus you have in mind for your system. Is it to raise soft corals, small polyp stony corals, large polyp stony corals or do you want to create a specific ocean environment? Mother Nature is our best teacher all we are doing is trying to duplicate what she has gifted us with. Do an all day field trip to the ocean then take what you have learned and use it in your system.

Here are some questions I think that are important to ask yourself before setting up your system. Am I setting up this system to be a show tank? I am setting up this system to make money and grow corals for profit? How much time do I have to dedicate to the system? How much money do I have to spend and how easy is it to get all the materials I need to give these animals a good home? If you are considering starting any aquatic business, please consider this statement. It is an important one to live by. The secret to having a successful company is giving your customers what they want. They are the ones who control the market, stay involved, and ask them for their advise.

It was wonderful starting out our presentation in front of Don's very healthy eight gallon reef system. We talked about the first thing one needs to understand before taking on the commitment to raise corals for money. We can teach almost anyone to propagate corals, and by doing this we will take some of the burden off of the ocean. However, it is a bigger challenge to make people understand you do not make money by growing corals, you can only make money by selling them. The more you cut them, the more they grow, and the more systems you need. Then you need more time, more room, and then it costs more money.

I can not say it strongly enough, you need to work with someone who understands business. Be as honest with yourself as you can be. If you do not like paying bills, or you do not understand how to run a business, hiring the proper person is one of the most important decision you will have to make. Hire someone to do this who you trust, this frees you up to do the work you love to do, and also takes away the worry of the bills not being paid and the books not being done.

When setting in front of the small system it was fun talking about why we feel it is important to teach methods of propagation. The eight gallon Xenia reef shows that you can do a small system with a wide variety of animals very successfully. Don Barrett who is a staff member of the exhibit at the Smithsonian, spent a great deal of time with this system finding materials that were hard to get. He wanted to find a device to pulse the water in this small system so that he could keep these corals in a small system. Even a small system can be very time consuming, but it can also be very rewarding and beautiful. Don showed us a small inexpensive wave making switch that he used.

We brought all of our propagating tools with us. The Smithsonian donated all the animals for the two day seminar. Having access to these corals provided us the opportunity to teach hands- on how to propagate these animals. It still amazes me how many people only propagate when a problem has occurred in their system. We want people to pass along animals and trade them for others. There are so many great species in our hobby that we feel it is shame when any of them end up in a dead end situation. Please propagate that rare coral and then sell, trade, or give it to someone who will do the same.
We then decided to take the group up stairs where we discussed how GARF has set up our own cutting tanks. We then showed them how we have made trays, plugs and rock. The Smithsonian provided us with many types of Xenia for all the people attending to propagate so everyone had the chance to touch and cut these delicate animals. We showed the different methods used for attachment. We explained that first you need to decide what your goal with each species is. If one wants to have the animals ready for sale in a short period of time then you might make large cuttings.
We cut the entire head of the Xenia off of the stock about halfway down. That Mother colony that is only left with a stock will grow a new head with many polyps. You will see the polyps starting to come out in about two weeks. The head that you cut off the Mother can be cut several ways. One way is to cut it up the stock so each piece has many polyps. Place this fresh cutting on your rock or plug, then place bridal veil netting over the animal. In about 7 to 10 days the new baby will be ready for the netting to come off and in about three weeks the animal will be ready to sell. These cuttings need to be placed in strong water flow.
If you are trying to make as many babies as possible, and are willing to wait a period of time before they are ready for their new home, the method is to go polyp by polyp. We hold a small head of Xenia upside down over a bowl of reef water and cut most of the polyps off. We then suck them up with a turkey baster or the Sea Chem plastic measuring dropper. By folding a piece of bridal veil netting we can cut many two inch circles of netting. We then use the baster to control where you place the polyps on the netting. If any of you have propagated Xenia you realize the very first time how slimy this animal is and how hard it is to catch and place it where you want it. With the polyp by polyp method you can squirt out a few polyps on each piece of netting. We then pick up each plug or rock and place the bridal veil netting over the rock. We use rubber bands to hold the netting in place. They will be ready for the netting to come off in about two weeks.
Speaking from a wife's point of view it is also important to note that when cutting up a Xenia it does stink, so maybe in the kitchen is not the best location. Also do not pull out her expensive sewing scissors or her eighty dollar hair cutting scissors or you will be in as much trouble as LeRoy found himself in.

Some of the Xenia polyps may be attached to the netting and you can glue the netting to a rock. It is important to note the more you cut the Xenia the better they do. I cut the head off of the mother colony inside my tank but all the other cuttings are done outside of the tank. It is hard to guess the amount of toxins released from each cutting so I make sure that most of my cuttings are done outside of the system.

We are working with many types of Xenia some of them are weeds that do not have a stock and multiply so fast you will wonder why you ever placed it in your system. We use a credit card to scrape it off the glass and then cut it in pieces with the netting method. Most the animals that have a stock will not be a weed in your system, you will need to be brave and learn how to propagate this animal or when it becomes too big it will crash. It is also an animal that needs a stable environment with the temperature kept as close to 78 degrees as possible. Iodine additions are a must for the continued growth of this animal. Many of the different types of Xenia propagation we are having 100% success rate with. However the Giant Two Colored Bali Xenia remains the most difficult one to successfully take from cutting to adult. We are working hard on this one in hopes of passing it to other tanks across the USA. This Xenia will grow four inch thick stalks that are very pale cream colored. The huge polyps are very distinct two tone pattern of white and tan. We now have this animal ready to send to the Smithsonian.
After doing many cuttings Donald Barrett showed us some of his methods of attachment as well. We spent most of the rest of the day talking about farming and then the issue that made me want to roll up my sleeves and become involved with the Smithsonian Sea Life Hall. I am so sad to report that this exhibit is going to be removed from the Smithsonian if you and I do not speak up and put all of our efforts to ward saving this vast exhibit. At a time that we need to be educating people about the ocean we must preserve the places that are open to the public and can reach so many people. It is not just an issue of saving the algae scrubber exhibits, nor any one persons research. It is a matter of over 6 million people sharing in the theme this exhibit reflects. It has an incredible educational component and reaches out with the history of the ocean. If nothing is accomplished or the voice is not loud enough these exhibits will be removed in the year 2000.
My heart goes out to the staff involved with this exhibit as well as what will be lost by the removal of the sea life exhibit at the Smithsonian. No one even knows what will happen to it if it is removed. I feel compelled to put a plug in for Donald Barrett, he would be a great addition to the staff of any reef facility. He is very young and has a life time of experiences ahead of him. I left the Smithsonian that night sadden by the information shared. Don has as much love and compassion for the reefs as any of us at GARF do. It was apparent to me that he can not possibly on his own save those exhibits nor did he feel he could win the fight.
It is my hope you will write your Senators and Congressmen letters and try and save this project. It is also my hope that adults and children will visit this site and write letters. Tell someone how much you have learned and how important it is to continue to reach out with this information. We need more education so that our hopes for the future of the ocean is always expressed. As with all things in life no matter how hard one tries to stay away from it Politics are important. We feel it is very important to at least try and save this project. We will be writing our own letters and appealing to all who will listen. I must say when the day was over I was convinced that there has to be some way to speak up for these animals that have such a small voice.

When I asked the question as to what will take its place in the Smithsonian
I could not believe my hears. More stuffed dead animals.
Shouldn't we put more emphasis on what is alive and struggling to stay alive?

We sat in the Amtrack station waiting for our train to take us home. I felt so much for the staff knowing how difficult it must be to go into work each day facing the fact that in less than one year that project will not exist. What a horrible thought to have to wake up and face everyday. We feel compelled to try and find a way to help protect it. When I asked the question as to what will take its place in the Smithsonian I could not believe my hears. More stuffed dead animals. Shouldn't we put more emphasis on what is alive and struggling to stay alive?.

Our ride back to the motel was quite and we were both pretty tired. We spent some time talking about the day and preparing for the next. The enthusiasm people shared with us was unmatched by any seminar we had done thus far. I often think that no one could love corals as much as I do, yet I find many people do and they express this love in so many different ways. I know that the staff at the Smithsonian has dedicated many hours, and I am certain many unpaid hours to give us an incredible display of sea life.

We went to dinner that night with members of the Chesapeake Marine Club. What a great group of people. Their commitment to the hobby is incredible and perhaps in future years they will be hosting one of the major up and coming conferences. It would be a great vacation for anyone to look forward to.

I went to sleep that night trying to figure out ways to take on the challenge of saving the jobs and project of the ocean exhibit at the Smithsonian. We woke up in the morning deciding that we would rent a car to go to the Smithsonian for the second day of lectures which was opened to the general public. It would have been difficult to take our luggage on the train with us and it was raining pretty hard this Sunday. It was quite a task getting a rental car and then trying on our own to find the Smithsonian. We only got lost once and the people in this city were so kind. We actually passed by the White House and you could see every TV station directing its attention on our President's problems. Of course the first thought that came to my mind was running over there and telling them the plight of the Sea Life exhibits at the Smithsonian. Wouldn't it be great to hear about something else every time you turn on your TV and what a broad audience we could reach. I think LeRoy was reading my mind and grabbed my hand and said come on it is time to start we are late. So that idea vanished with the planning for the days adventures but was stored in my brain for later use:).

I was surprised by how many people came to this second day of sharing information. There were at least 40 people. People came from as far away as North Carolina and New York. Since we had completed our trial run for our presentation the day before we felt well prepared for the days events. This seminar was to start at 1 P.M. and run through 5 P.M. It is still hard for me to believe that we have so much to share that we can fill up so much time without a problem.
I went upstairs and checked on the new babies that we had made the day before. Each and every baby made it. We then decided the best spot to give the lecture was in the upper level of the Smithsonian lab. You could tell that the staff of the Smithsonian was well prepared for this event. Donald Barrett had many animals ready for us to use as our example for the hands on demonstration for propagating different types of corals. It was exciting for us to see the Smithsonian Xenia grow out tank.
During our last visit someone had found an original "Ocean Pure " brand marine tank from the 1960s that was still in it's box. We were so surprised to see one of these world famous old systems in brand new condition. Don had set it up as a Xenia brood stock aquarium. It looked like all the different species were happy in this small system and they were not stinging or completing against one another. Working around a huge table in the upper level of the lab we could spread people out so that it made it easier to hear everyone. It was easy to pass items around. It is always fun for us to meet people we have e-mailed back and forth. It is easy to teach coral propagation when we are able to show them what a plug looks like , how we make our cutting trays and so on.
We started off the conference explaining what GARF is and why we work so hard to share information and why we always ask for feedback from others. The more we share the more the hobby grows. As more people learn to propagate corals the list of animals being passed from one individual to another is growing. I asked how many had visited our site and all hands went up. I asked them what it was that they wanted us to cover in regards to material and examples. They reported back that they wanted to see us propagate corals, discuss methods for growing animals and have the chance to see us make some of the famous Aragocrete rocks.
Only a few members from the group worked in a pet store the rest of the group had individual systems. I them gave my famous lecture involved with the decision to start a coral farm. I don't know that I will ever be able to say it loud enough. Think carefully before attempting this. Set your systems up separately, and give the animals the best and proper conditions. Let's teach and share propagated animals with people who demand them in the hobby. How many customers will come back if they see sick fish, dead corals or corals that are half dead or perhaps half alive. Hire knowledgeable staff and you are well on your way to creating your own success. We started by showing them how to propagate the Xenia. The different methods we use to propagate this animal and each and every person was allowed to make baby Xenia. This was the first time for many. I would like to add Donald Barrett did have a great collection of Xenia on display. He had a propagating tank that was set up with many different types of Xenia. My guess is he had at least 10 different types that we do not see in the western part of the country. Once everyone finished making their Xenia baby we went on discussing how to propagate small polyp stony corals and soft corals. We spoke of the animals that we glue and the animals you are better off with using the netting. When making some types of branching soft corals, we just let the cuttings fall in the sand bed. You could hear the gasps when LeRoy made the first cutting and others followed and took their hand at being doctor. They carefully took the mother colony and made a cut and then glued them to rocks.
It was fun taking these people into the other room and showing them the babies we made yesterday. We have many different focuses in our systems at the Foundation. Some are set up to grow corals rapidly, some are used to grow out the new babies. Some of our systems are set up to duplicate the natural ocean to try our hand at breeding and raising the janitors. We have been very successful in raising many species of snails. The hermits we have raised from just hatched to 3 months old. These systems have higher levels of Calcium, natural algae growing to provide nutrients, and no skimmers or fish. We feel it is very important to learn how to grow out all of these animals and then share those results with others.
We shared insight as to why we are teaching people how to make their own rock. We started out by telling them the recipe for making up the mixture. LeRoy explained how important it is to cure the freshly made rock. Many rocks were made there using the instructions that we share on our web site. I have heard back from the Smithsonian since our presentation and all rock turned out great and is in the process of being cured.
We spent another hour answering questions and before we knew it we where told it was time to leave the Smithsonian for it was after 5:30 P.M. The last question passed unto LeRoy and I was "what new research do you think you will be doing a year from now". We smiled at each other and said well one of the big visions is to figure out a way to spawn these corals in captivity. With a bigger dream of producing new, colorful never seen before mushrooms. Although LeRoy and I have discussed this idea it surprised me that no one challenged us or expressed to us that this can't be done. I guess they know that if there is a way, we are going to do everything in our power to find a way, and then share it with others. Many of the attendees came up shook our hands. They expressed how great it was to meet us and see hands on how to be creative in their home reef aquariums. The most important thing for us is to spread the FUN that is involved in this hobby. We strongly feel that by sharing with others so much is gained. By keeping secrets to much is lost.
It was a great drive back to our motel room. LeRoy and I where deep in thought when I heard him say "that was the best speech so far". I tend to want to give the credit to the people who attended. It is because of their input and questions this conference was great. It is always a pleasure meeting more hobbyist who carry the same compassion and commitment for these remarkable animals as we do. This weekend event gave me the strength to fight and conquer what I had to face in the next few days.


Many people do not know how I have suffered for the past three years. I have been in complete unrelenting pain in my neck section of my spine. I was hit by one car four years ago and my doctor performed my first surgery on my spine. I was fine with no limitations and I was reaching far for all the goals we set. It was a year later when I was sitting as a passenger in a parked car that a lady in a big white suburban backed right into me.

We called the police and immediately I was in pain. I knew she had done something terrible to me. Well by her hitting me she broke the fusion. So I ended up having two disc's removed and a plate that is screwed into my spine.

I never was out of pain. I tried everything, even another surgery a year later, it didn't work. I then was talked into having injections in my spinal cord every other day. Steroids and cortisone shots. I finally told LeRoy I can't go through any more series of shots, I felt like I was a sprinkler every time I drank water plus there was no pain relief in the months I allowed this to go on. I tired massage, physical therapy (torture), and everything my doctor told me to do. At the same time many restrictions were placed on the rest of my life. There were very strict rules for what I could do or not do. This was more than depressing. I felt like no one understood how horrible my pain was. You see every morning I get up do my hair, put my make up on and face the day. Many people thought I looked too nice to be in pain.

I could not scuba dive, nor was there any hope I would ever be able to. I could not lift, bend, do anything over head. I loved to garden, play in the ocean, crochet, horseback ride and so much more that was taken away from me. The only way I could enjoy the beauty of the coral reefs was by the ones I found at the Foundation and brought to us by pictures taken by the famous Scott Micheals - underwater photographer. I had a terrible time facing each day. I was on so many pills and each day seemed longer than the next. If I did anything at all I hurt and if I did nothing at all I hurt. I felt like what corals must feel in some reef tanks. Lets try this or lets give it this to see if it gets bigger or colors up. Unlike me corals can not talk, but just like me, if you are not paying attention those animals can suffer. So much of medicine is practicing and so much of what we do in the hobby is the same. What works for one may not work for another. The most important role you play as the nurturer for your corals is to make sure they are OK each and every day. They may not be able to talk but you will be able to tell when they are not happy.

Finally our friends came to our rescue asking us why we don't consider trying to get an appointment at Johns Hopkins Hospital. LeRoy discussed this with me and I decided to speak with my local doctor. He thought it was a great idea. He wrote a letter to Dr. North at Johns Hopkins. I waited and waited to hear something back. I even went into my doctors office and asked my doctor if he had heard anything. I left his office more depressed then when I went in. My doctor told me I probably would just have to live in this pain, he had ran out of answers. I e-mailed our friends in Baltimore told them that I did not have my hopes up for an appointment to see a doctor at Johns Hopkins. Well early the next day the President of the Marine Society in Baltimore Friar Tom Walsh, who works at Johns Hopkins, as a chaplain called our home. He said he just talked to Johns Hopkins Hospital and Doctor North's staff. He asked me to give them a call right away. I could not believe that people cared this much nor understood my pain. I immediately picked up our phone and dialed the number just given to me.

I spoke to John Olin at Johns Hopkins he is the intern involved with working hand and hand with Dr. North. They set up this appointment, gave me renewed strength and told me to not give up hope. They had many ideas of different procedures to make my life better. No one but me was sure I was going to Johns Hopkins and not only was I going to Johns Hopkins, I was not coming back to Boise without being better. I knew I was going to have some surgery.

As I said when I first started writing this article we spent all day on Friday before the seminar taking tests at Johns Hopkins. We broke all the records at this Hospital. We were determined to get some answers and more importantly for us to find some relief. No one could stop us now we knew we were seeing one of the best Neurosurgeons in the country and if there was hope there was no hoop I was not willing to jump through.

As long as I live I will never find the words to thank
all the people involved with these miracles.

On Tuesday I had my first temporary surgery and that Thursday I had the permanent electronic stimulator implanted in my spine. I was placed up on the ninth floor of the hospital and do you know what I could see from the ninth floor. Yes, I could see the top of the Baltimore Public Aquarium where they house the rain forest, you can bet I slept good. As long as I live I will never find the words to thank all the people involved with these miracles. I have NO pain where there has been pain every single day of my life for the past three years!!!! I want to thank Johns Hopkins Hospital, Dr. North, John Olin, Father Tom (the president of the Baltimore marine club), Merrill Cohen who made this suggestion to LeRoy, Terry Adamson (for taking care of my pets while I was away) and my incredible husband who never allowed me to give up. I yelled at him when the pain was too much. I cried many nights when he would lay there awake rubbing my shoulders tell I would fall asleep. He has supported me not only through his love but by giving me my very first reef tank to love and nurture. For in that reef tank I could forget my pain and somehow found the strength to face yet another hour and sometimes a day.

My pain comes back but now I control over it versus it always controlling me. We laugh at this time and say don't let any one tell you that one of the screws in your plate is loose, find the answer to your problem. Mine was not the matter of a screw being loose but the opportunity to find a way to block the pain. This does not fix the problem that I have to live with but it blocks the pain and I can promise anyone I can live with that.!!!!

I hope that through all I have been through that maybe by sharing this side of me, I may touch someone who is also out in this vast world suffering from lifes pains. Do not give up hope! There are caring doctors out there who will do everything they can to make your life better. You have to believe and you must not give up. I believe things happen to all of us for reasons and if my pain was so harsh, for so long to be the voice to other people then that is reason enough. Don't allow your life to be cut short.

Now my staff are concerned for having the old Sally Jo back means lots of work, lots of fun, dreams becoming a reality and the obstacles don't seem to matter as much cause now I can push them away!!

This trip to the Smithsonian and the trip to Johns Hopkins
will forever be the closest to our hearts.
We shared so much learned so much and were touched more
than one could hope for in a lifetime.

This trip to the Smithsonian and the trip to Johns Hopkins will forever be the closest to our hearts. We shared so much learned so much and were touched more than one could hope for in a lifetime.

My mentor Dr. Chris Davidson, came to visit me on Christmas. This man is brilliant, he gave me the gift of life and never has been surprised at what challenge I decided to take on next. We use to joke - guess what - he'd answer I can't imagine what. He long ago has stopped telling me that certain things can not be done. I handed him a copy of the seminar book for the coral farming seminar that took place in Boise. I wanted to show him the Proclamation our Governor did on behalf of the work GARF is doing. He looked at me with his professor look(glasses half way down his nose and eyes looking at me over his glasses) which always makes me smile and said to us "do you know what GARF is spelled backwards"? "It's FRAG":) There is no way to top that comment:)

He doesn't know it yet but for Christmas he is getting one of the newly developed Small reef tanks designed by Aquarium Systems and we will fully stock it for him. These tanks are indeed a great new addition to all other items that are available to the hobbyist. This system comes with everything the only thing it needs are the magic touch and a caring heart to place rock, animals and fish to bring it to life. It is an eight gallon system with power compact lights, filters and everything. It is the perfect gift for the individual who wants to have a reef tank but their funding is limited. It is also the perfect gift for the individual who wants a reef tank but is always having to move. It is small enough to sit on a office desk but, be prepared to get little work done. We hope to see these set up in school libraries, gift shops, and homes. I know in a short period of time Dr. Davidson will be calling me and asking me - guess what. We take great pride in passing the reef bug onto others and I am a witness ,it change lives.

I want to end this by thanking all of you who have kept me in your prayers. I have a slow recovery time meaning I am sentenced to bed for a couple more weeks. It won't be long before I will be back and stronger than I've ever been. I am driving LeRoy nuts doing things I have not been allowed to do for too many years. He has to work hard to find ways to keep me down so that I will heal right, and I am doing my best to be good. This way we can be back on the road to teaching and maybe visiting an aquarium near you. May my miracles touch others, and may their miracles touch more hearts. This is a great NEW YEAR!!!!! I can not be given the years back that I have lost but I can make up for them in the years to come!!!!!

Note from LeRoy,
Because of our recent experience Garf will be donating eighteen of the new Aquarium System Reef Tanks to our local Nursing homes and Hospitals. GARF will purchase these tanks and we will work with our many local Girl Scout and Boy Scout Troops. We feel it is important for young people to visit our senior citizens. Both groups can learn so much from each other. We are now researching a number of merit badges that the scouts can earn while they are doing this community service project. We hope that these aquariums bring some of the joy to others that we feel because of this wonderful hobby.

Please contact at Free reef help line 208-344-6163 Reef Janitors 1-800-600-6163



This series of articles will show you how we constructed a coral grow out system in the new greenhouse that we built on the east side of our wet lab. This is the first of several new greenhouses we will be building this year for coral farming research.

The main tanks in this greenhouse are four plastic fork lift boxes that measure four feet square. The three boxes in this system are about 30 inches deep. The large tanks each have a 400 watt metal halide light. This picture shows the rack that we made to hold the Rubbermaid storage boxes. We will be adding a second rack above this one. Each of these racks of tanks will have VHO bulbs in a plexiglass frame. We will install Actinic VHO bulbs under this rack to light the part of the four plastic fork lift boxes that are covered by the top racks.

We will be moving the 400 watt lights down as soon as we can rebuild the fixtures. These fixtures were salvaged, and we received them free of charge. Everything in this greenhouse has been built to show you the lowest cost method for building a coral farm. The top tanks cost us $9.00 each, and the large bottom tanks cost $50.00 each.  (cont. page 3)


The International Year of the Ocean is over.

We can not tell or put into words how strongly we feel the fight for the ocean
needs to go on stronger than ever if we ever hope to win the fight to bring
healthier conditions to the ocean and protect the reefs for the long term.



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