Growing Broodstock | Making sand molded AragocreteTM live rocks | Developing "mother colonies"

Reef Aquarium Farming News
Online Newsletter for Reef Aquarium Propagation Research

ISSUE # 5 page 1 May 1997

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This month we are going to learn about growing broodstock. This is the first step that is needed for starting a coral farm. You can start this part of the project in the reef aquariums you have now.

We use the propagation methods such as super glue and netting to increase the stock we have in our reefs. When many of the animals are divided they grow faster than the same size animals that are not divided. Each group of reef animals have certain things that you can provide to increase their growth rate.

Bright lighting and clean water are two of the most important things we have control over in our reef aquariums. The time it takes to grow the broodstock colonies is one thing that we do not have direct control over .

I always think of a Chinese quote when I am asked about starting a reef farm. The wise one asked - what was the best time to plant a tree? - The answer was twenty years ago. Then he asked - what was the second best time to plant a tree? - the answer is TODAY.

If you are like us , you did not plant sps corals twenty years ago, but many of us are ready to plant some today.

I am often asked what reef animals are the best investment for future broodstock. I have learned that you can never have too many GREEN - green stars. These green polyps come in many colors of green, but almost everything coming in from the wild has been shades of brown. Almost everyone who buys reef animals has enough BROWN. If you see colonies of bright green Clavularia virdis you can not go wrong if you buy or trade for as many colors as you can afford.

Bright red Mushrooms, deep purple Mushrooms, and all types of blue Mushrooms are always a great investment. I will repeat it again - there are three things that sell reef animals COLOR- COLOR- and COLOR!

The best place to start a reef farm is in the reef you have now, the best time to start a reef farm is today, and the best way to learn how to run a reef farm is to do it.


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Order: Corallimorpharia ( Mushroom false coral )
Family: Actinodiscidae
Actinodiscus ( disk anemones - false coral )

1. The best tanks for production of mushroom rocks are deep tanks with good water quality and medium water flow. We use two Maxi - Jet 1000 power heads in each tank.

2. The best lighting has been florescent bulbs. We have had good production using three 40 watt 4' foot bulbs - two Tritons and one Blue Moon.


3. We use SeaChem Reef Plus at twice the regular dose for good growth and fast attachment.


4. Mushrooms can be grown in the lower corners of the tanks that ar used for growing other animals that require bright light.

5. Use a good carbon in the tanks once every two weeks - We put 4 tablespoons of carbon that has been soaked in fresh water in a nylon bag and hang it in the corner of the reef behind a powerhead for one week. This removes toxins that these animals release to slow the growth of other reef animals.



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Tank raised Green Nephthea originally from Palua


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Tank raised gold crown coral- Sarcophyton glaucum


ORDER Zoanthiniaria [Zoantharia] [Zoanthidea]

(Encrusting anemones)

Family Epizanthidae

Parazoanthus (Yellow polyps)
Epizoanthis ( Brown to red brown colonial polyp disks -
medium tentacles )

Family Zoanthidae

Zoanthus ( small colonial polyps - Green, Red, Brown,
Blue, Purple, yellow and a range of other colors.
Central disk may be contrasting color. Polyps connected at base)
Palythoa ( larger than Zoantus with longer brown
tentacles. May be bright green in center)

These anemones require bright light and strong current. Place these cuttings at the top of the reef aquarium. We have had the best growth in tanks with at least 5 watts per gallon of VHO lighting. Most of our production tanks have 3- 4 foot 40 watt bulbs - Two Tritons and one blue Moon.

These anemones do best when they are fed several times each week. The food that has produced the best growth is made up of blended fish and shrimp meat that has been mixed in SeaChem Reef Plus This red mixture has vitamins and iodide. We use four tablespoons of Reef Complete to one tabespoon food.


1. The best tanks for production of plant rocks are shallow tanks with good water quality and high water flow.
We use 55 gallon tanks with three Maxi-Jet 1000 power heads. A Visi-jet skimmer is used in each tank.
This colony was grown with VHO lighting. Intense light and strong current are two of most important things needed to produce fast grownig Zoanthid colonies. The best colors we have been able to produce in these cuttings are seen in the tanks with several Triton and Blue Moon 40 watt lights.

Many of the larger Zoanthids can eat baby brine shrimp and other foods. These feedings will increase the growth rate of these animals.

The best lighting is florescent bulbs. We have had good production using 2- 40 watt 4' Triton and one 40 watt 4' Blue moon on our 55 gallon test tanks.


SUBCLASS -Alcyonria -Soft Corals
ORDER -Alcyonidae
FAMILY -Xeniidae

This coral can be stimluated to grow and divide rapidly under certain conditions, I have found. One must provide them with intense light (a period of adjustment up to high levels may be required), a very strong current, and daily iodine additions.

xenia picture


1. Keep the Iodine level up by using Sea Chem Reef Plus at twice the regular dose.
2. Keep the reef below 76 degrees.
3. Move the Xenia into as many tanks as possible.
4. Keep cutting and trimming the colonies.


xenia picture

This one year old 55 gallon reef aquarium has over 40 colors of Zoanthids and Palythoas. There are 45 colors of sps corals, 5 species of Xenia, and many soft corals. We make cutings from this tank each week. All of these colonies were started by gluing the starts onto the live rocks underwater.

The blue Zoanthid in the middle of this reef came from Mexico in 1995. It contrasts very well with the many shades of green and brown.

- NEW sps coral method -

We have been gluing many sps corals to live rocks underwater. When a new colony comes into the lab we break off several of the lower branches. We apply gel type super glue to the broken part of the coral. A ball of glue the size of a pencil eraser will hold most frags in place. We pick a spot in one of the show tanks, and quickly push the frag against the live rock. A slight twist to spread the glue on the surface of the live rock helps. Count to 30 and release the frag.

Celebrate Mother's Day with Coral Propagation.

by Tom Miller

Since this is the month we celebrate mother's day, it's high time we discussed developing "mother colonies" for making coral cuttings.

What is the perfect mother colony?

It depends on the coral variety. Mother colonies can be grown in many ways. A good mother colony is a seed stock colony that you can periodically and continually take new coral cuttings from, to produce children if you donít mind (Most mothers know that children rarely do mind, you know.)

It is important to develop some good mother colonies of your most desirable and best selling corals. We will look at making mother colonies of two types of corals in very different ways. Green star polyps (clavularia) are low growing spreading, creeping corals and leather finger corals (sinularia) are upright branching corals. They are both easy keep and grow. They are both good sellers also.

"Don't eat all your seed grain"
Can you imagine an isolated farmer
a hundred or so years ago actually
running into this predicament.
Sounds like he would starve to death.

We need to think of coral farming the
same way: Donít sell your seed stock.

It's easy to sell your cuttings of a fantastic looking coral and end up continually telling anxious buyers or traders that you just ran out of that one, or that the last two you have left are not for sale because they are your only brood stock to make more cuttings from.

When you have a real "hot" coral it's hard to say "no" until youíre down to the last couple of specimens. The solution is simple but sometimes hard to carry out. Keep your hottest mother colonies in a back room and donít let anyone know you have them until you have multiplied them enough to keep a non-depletable supply growing for sale.

This may mean not selling ANY of your most coveted specimens for a few months or more while multiplying them, making mother colonies that you will not sell. You will eventually use your mother colonies to make sellable cuttings from.

Farmers have an old saying: "Don't eat all your seed grain" Can you imagine an isolated farmer a hundred or so years ago actually running into this predicament. Sounds like he would starve to death. We need to think of coral farming the same way: Donít sell your seed stock.

Once youíve gone to the trouble of locating and obtaining a really good speciman of bright true green star polyps, youíve already accomplished the most important part. It doesn't matter how well they grow if they don't "show." You went to the extra trouble and payed extra, after searching high and low to get the very best color. This will pay off many fold when your propagated corals sell much quicker and at a better price.

With this beautiful polyp rock you could make ten, twenty or more cuttings from it every month or two. The polyps grow back across the areas you strip to take cuttings from. You can make that many more cuttings from the same star polyp rock again in a month or so. Only strip about 2/3 of the polyps from the rock. Leave the other third in well spread out thin strips or patches so they can grow back out across the bare portions of rock that you stripped. This rock that you continually cultivate and harvest for cuttings is a valuable mother colony.

The old method is to totally cut up a coral
into smaller cuttings and sell them all.

Making cuttings from cuttings by cultivating
mother colonies is REAL propagation.

This is a lot smarter and more economical than stripping ALL the polyps from the rock and selling the whole lot. Each month you would have to find a new star polyp rock and start over. The old method is to totally cut up a coral into smaller cuttings and sell them all. Making cuttings from cuttings by cultivating mother colonies is REAL propagation.

Now, itís time to get really smart by making a four by four inch flattish rock of dazzling green star polyps for the original mother colony. Use a razor blade to cut strips off of this polyp rock to attach to more four by four inch rocks. This is how we can cultivate new bare rocks into more mother colonies.

Use Super Reef Gel sparingly to attach the cut out patches of skin with polyps to the other two rocks in a similar manner - spread out so they can grow and fill in the bare spaces of rock too. Pieces of star polyp skin with only one or two polyps have a poorer survival rate. Try to cut up pieces of the skin with three to six polyps on each to maximize growth. Under excellent growing conditions these three rocks (the original mother colony and the two propagated new ones) will fill in with solid growth of polyps in about a month.

Star polyps commonly grow new skin across bare rock at about a quarter inch per week when they are at peak performance. Let's say it takes two months to fill in the new mother colonies though. Two months later we can strip 2/3 of the polyps from our three mother colonies and attach them to six more rocks. This gives us nine good mother colonies after four months. At the end of six months you should have 27 mother colonies with solid growth, or more if they grow faster. Now it might be time to start using the mother colonies to make cuttings for sale each time they fill back in.

You should be able to make 10 three inch polyp rocks to sell, from each mother colony every two months. Each of these rocks should start with two or three small clumps of polyps that will grow and fill in a bit over the next two months before they are ready to sell. This would be producing 270 green star polyp rocks for sale every two months. That adds up to 1620 star polyp rocks per year! This number can not be absolutely counted on. The number could be lower, or maybe even higher.

Each of the three inch star polyp rocks starts out with three small, perhaps 3/8 inch wide, clumps of star polyps. By the end of two months each clump could easily spread to well over an inch across, making the polyp rock quite desirable to most hobbyists. They will now swarm you and tell all their friends to come and buy these gorgeous rocks for $21.00 each. But, that's only if you own a store or could sell them at full retail price. $7.00 or a little less is far more likely if you are going to move them wholesale in large quantities. Remember, you'll still have expenses growing these corals so don't count your money yet.

Reef picture
This Sinularia turns green under intense light

The process for making mother colonies for finger leather corals is a bit different and they are slower growing. Once again, get a real pretty variety of sinularia. There are numerous varieties. I'm sure you can find one that either has unique coloring or is very fluffy or with some other desirable characteristics to start your collection of mother colonies.

Cut off all the branches leaving just a quarter inch or so of polyps on the remaining branches. Attach these branches to plugs or more rocks using Super Reef Gel or fishing line to tie them down.

After they attach and get comfortably established, three to four weeks after making cuttings, you can now re-prune branches from each of these new mother colonies to make even more mother colonies. Some people just cut the branches up into inch long segments right from day one and attach them all at once.

Simple, isnít it? Just make sure that you provide good growing conditions. Both star polyps and finger leathers grow best with good water current and bright lighting. After establishing these initial mother colonies, they can now be pruned for cuttings to sell or to make more mother colonies about every three months if growing conditions are good.

The more you subdivide the branches the more total combined growth you will get out of the original mother colony. The original mother colony can also be further divided too. A whole 55-gallon tank full of mother colonies on cement plugs, cement no-bake coral cookies or rocks could be very useful in helping a coral farming project get off the ground. In conclusion, concentrating on producing adequate numbers of mother colonies at first will help you get much higher sustained production later.

Making mother colonies of corals: what a way to celebrate mother's day.

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Making sand molded AragocreteTM live rocks


Two bags Carib SeaTM aragonite gavel - we use one fine and one course
One bag #3 Portland cement


Styrofoam fish shipping boxes
Plastic buckets


ARAGOCRETETM - The mixture of aragonite and cement we make the live rocks with
BEACH BOXES -The sand filled boxes we form the rocks in
MOLD HOLES - The shapes we dig in the wet sand to pour the aragocreteĀ in
DECORATIONS - The rocks and shells we bury in the mold holes that will be on the surface of the live rocks
CURING - Meahods we use to finish the drying process




Carib SeaTM aragonite sand.
#3 portland cement


Mix 6 parts Carib SeaTM aragonite sand with 1 part portland cement.
Let the aragocreteTM set for 24 hours before you take rocks out.
Soak the rocks in white vinagar for 12 hours and rinse them in fresh water before you use them.


We use styrofoam boxes for making our molds, because all of the finished live rocks will eventually be shipped in styrofoam boxes. We have noticed that the students tend to make the live rocks bigger and bigger if they have a chance.

Styrofoam boxes also hold the heat that is generated as the concrete cures. It is best to keep these boxes at room temperature so that the hardened rocks can be removed in 24 hours. After the rocks are removed from the beach boxes the excess aragonite is brushed off and saved.

The rocks are then placed under water for several days to continue curing. Cement becomes strongest when it is allowed to dry slowly. If the rocks are shipped before they are allowed to cure we experience a lot of breakage.

We have been mixing our batches of concrete in a regular size wheelbarrow and we vary the mixture of araganite and CarbiSea Aruba shells so that our live rocks all look different. You can add many differnet types of CaribSea gravel to your aragacrete mixture.

We always mix the aragacrete with clean fresh water. When you are mixing the water and araganite gravel try to get the mixture as dry as possible, while still getting it wet enough to hold together when you squeeze a hand full. The dryer you can make your aragocreteTM mix the stronger your final product will be.

Plese use the form on this page to report any ideas you have on new ways to produce live rocks from concrete.


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