Why I farm the way I do (warning-long!)

Discussion in 'Propagation' started by bookfish, Aug 10, 2009.

  1. bookfish

    bookfish Guest

    I've been 'keeping' corals for around 25 years now (though the early years were more about killing coral than anything else) and I've come up with a farming system that works great for my sps. I wanted to share my system and the thought process that created it with the club and encourage others to think analytically about their farming systems. I also want everyone to feel totally free to copy exactly what I'm doing or adapt any parts of my system for their own use. I strongly believe that we all benefit from a free exchange of information and techniques. Also, as you'll see throughout this post, I'm seeking the lowest impact, cheapest method of achieving the goals. That's just how I am.


    I believe that culturing or farming anything is about removing the growth limiting factors and letting the animal or plant do the rest. So what are the 'enemies' of sps in captivity?

    Inappropriate (inconsistent) lighting/ flow/ water chemistry/ food. These are the basics of sps reefing and frankly, I believe that a well thought out approach and a system designed to meet these needs can guarantee success for anyone wanting to grow these corals. Let's take them one at a time and I'll walk you through how these priorities dictated my design.

    Lighting: I have a bit of background in theater lighting and one thing I learned is that the quality of the reflector used has a huge impact on the amount of light delivered. Bulbs aren't cheap and neither is electricity (even if you get it 'free' like I do, the planet is still paying for its use) so it only makes sense to use the most efficient lighting gear possible. I personally like MH lighting and for the last decade or so I've favored the Lumenarc L-3 reflector. It's highly efficient, has great spread, and is made locally by Pacific Garden Supply in San Rafael. Appropriate lighting also refers to the actual amount of light (wattage) that you're hitting the corals with. Needless to say, different corals come from different depths and require different levels of lighting. Personally I run a 175w on one side of my tank and a 250w on the other so I can choose from as many different light levels as possible. And I replace my bulbs every 9-10 months because if I wait longer I see a definite change in coral growth and color.

    Flow: This is a biggie. The flow that a reefcrest acro wants would rip most LPS right out of their skeletons. The flow that a blasto wants wouldn't strip the mucous off an acro post feeding and it would smother. Sure there probably is a 'compromise' but then that's not ideal for either coral. I have to say that until I had personally experienced the way water flows on a reef, I didn't understand the level of water movement involved. Currently I have an Eheim 1250 ( or was it a 1202, can't remember)as a return from my sump and I have 2 K-7's (3100 gph) and 2 K-5's (1900 gph) for circulation in my 165 gal tank(72"x24"x20"). This provides adequate flow but in all honesty, it still doesn't approach what I experienced in Tonga. Another aspect that people forget is that flow in the main water column is quickly lost once that water hits a rough surface. Live rock, sand and especially acros themselves are all great at breaking up and slowing down currents in the water and actually this is just what those branching acro skeletons have evolved to do. My answer to this problem has been to make everything as smooth and round as possible for my culture system. I only use clear acrylic for racks and all eggrate is permanently banned from being used as racks. And because the average frag plugs used are very unfriendly to flow, I grow corals on 3/16" diam acrylic rods. Also, this allows me to keep the corals away from the racks which has 3 distinct benefits. First, it gets the growing coral up into higher flow zones away from the surface of the rack. Second, it keeps the coral from creating a slow flow zone on the rack around the base which can allow detritus to build up and piss off the coral. And last, it keeps the flat part of the rack open for the snails to get in between the frags and do my cleaning for me!

    Water Chemistry/ Quality: Let's be honest, a closed system can never maintain the same quality of water that a wild reef gets. There's nothing like 2, 100% water changes a day (tides) to maintain water quality so we do the best we can in captivity. I personally do a 20% water change (that's 20% of estimated total system volume, not just the display tank) weekly and some weeks I throw an extra one in just because. I run a skimmer designed for a 300 gallon system on my system (roughly 200 gallons) and I keep carbon around just in case.

    Food: Ok, just look at an sps for a second. Every polyp is a mouth. Those structures are there for a reason. Can you raise most sps on light alone? Probably but why ignore the obvious? I've tried many, many different plankton foods and the 2 I like best are rotifers and Cyclopeeze. I feed about a 1/2 tsp of freeze dried Cyclopeeze every other night and that's in addition to the daily feeding of seaweed and frozen brine. If I had my choice (and I soon will!) I'd feed primarily live rotifers as this got the absolute best growth rates I've ever seen in my corals. A good alternative would be one of the preseved rotifer products like the stuff by Reef Nutrition.

    I'll put some pics up now but would love to hear peoples thoughts cause everything I do is a work in progress. Thx-Jim
     
  2. bookfish

    bookfish Guest

    http://i161.photobucket.com/albums/t210/fishbucket_2007/samplepicsmag241.jpg
     
  3. tuberider

    tuberider Guest

    Good stuff there Jim, still no rock in your prop system correct?
     
  4. tuberider

    tuberider Guest


    Cool a pic for Bryan :D
     
  5. bookfish

    bookfish Guest

    There's rock in the sump and a few of my mother colonies are growing on some LR but I don't like rock in with actual coral if it can be avoided.
     
  6. bookfish

    bookfish Guest

  7. bookfish

    bookfish Guest

    BTW, that rack surface has only been cleaned by snails for the past 4 months!
     
  8. bookfish

    bookfish Guest

    Thanks Jeremy, feel free to make suggestions as always.-Jim
     
  9. bookfish

    bookfish Guest

  10. Gomer

    Gomer Honorary Member

    Very cool Jim. I can definately see the advantage of a frag system like that for SPS, but how about LPS? I don't picture LPS propagating well on those types of rods.
     
  11. tuberider

    tuberider Guest


    Looks like you have it under control ;), my only suggestion is to get a few of my corals in there for backup :D
     
  12. bookfish

    bookfish Guest

    With a few exceptions, you're exactly right. I designed this system for high flow sps. I'm currently working with Boston Aqua Farms on a shroom/softie/ LPS version using the same racks.
     
  13. bookfish

    bookfish Guest

    I'd be happy to back up sps for you. Thanks to the good folks at Seachem I get my water changes sponsored so I'm happy to use that resource to the benefit of our captive club strains.
     
  14. Gomer

    Gomer Honorary Member

    I must say, threads like this make me want to have 2 tanks. Almost pure LPS display tank and pure SPS frag tank.

    The interesting thing about your rod method, is you could easily use a chipping of overgrowth (like what grows over typical frag plugs and onto eggcrate) glued to the top of those small rods and grow away!
     
  15. bookfish

    bookfish Guest

    Yes, but pest control issues would change. One of the advantages of the unnatural acrylic is that it makes any pests visually obvious immediately. I also believe that having the living tissue growing on plastic makes it harder for pests to feel comfortable crawing down a rod, across a smooth acrylic surface and up another acrylic rod in search of food. Luckily I haven't had to test this theory yet!
     
  16. euod

    euod Supporting Member

    I like the candy display.
    What is you water filtration?
    You light duration?
    Is that correct, 24X water flow?
     
  17. bookfish

    bookfish Guest

    Thanks! shall we call them coral pops? LOL
    um, filtration is a bunch of live rock in the sump and a big skimmer
    I haven't done the math on the water flow so IDK really but it's never enough!
    And i run my 175 w from 11 am to 9 pm and my 250w from 1 pm to around 11 pm. The light schedule is a compromise between heat issues (don't want the big bulb warming the house too early in the day) and the fact that I like to do some work in the am before it gets too hot.
     
  18. ryanjiang

    ryanjiang Guest

    Nice system!
    What is the highest temperature these SPS can tolerant? and what is highest temperature for mixed reef and fishes keeping, given that I have pretty good O2 exchange with good flow and a strong skimmer?
     
  19. bookfish

    bookfish Guest

    Thanks!
    My tank has occasionally hit high 80's and I haven't seen any long term damage. Just like you, I put a high value on dissolved oxygen. I think fish tolerance would be species specific and prob even by location. I have to believe a red sea flame angel has a higher tolerance to heat than a Tongan one. If I had a chiller I'd shoot for 76 degrees all the time. HTH.-Jim
     
  20. saltwatersig

    saltwatersig Volunteer

    Jim

    Thats a very impressive frag set up and I definitely see the advantage of keep frags off the frag rack surface.
    Thank you very much for sharing your coral farming skills.

    Sergio
     

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