Growing corals for profit and sustainability can conserve our limited natural resources
As a hobby aquarium and fish keeping is fun and quickly addictive.
As a young boy I was introduced to aquariums by my father. Dad kept two freshwater 20 gallon tanks and many books in a huge bookcase (he had made himself) that covered one entire wall of the family dining room.
I was probably around 8 years old when I remember really taking notice of the fish and aquariums, about that time I was eye level with the tanks sitting about four feet high.
I didn’t participate in the hobby with my dad at that time and it was another 6 years before I began the adventure on my own with a saltwater tank at the age of 15.
I started out with a 20 gallon tank with a under gravel filter, skilter HOB filter/skimmer and ebo jager heater. I kept a few fish and tried to keep corals like green star polyps alive until the summers heat melted it all away. Keeping corals in a hot 1 bedroom apartment that would hit 95F regularly during the summer and stay above 85F for days on end led to more animals lost than was reasonable. I love marine animals and want to care for them optimally and long term, this has always been the case but now I know how!
Corals are animals and a single polyp consists of an entire animal, while a coral colony is exactly that a colony of coral (polyps). When cared for properly and kept in ideal conditions corals will thrive and can outgrow their ocean counterparts at least in the short term (years).
The thousands of variety of corals from around the world are being harvested and shipped to aquariums exporters, in addition the climate change is causing more coral loss than ever before.
I had been a aquarium hobbyist for over 12 years before I began my career as an aquarium professional back in 2002. At that time a found a employer looking to hire a manager to maintain over 100 aquarium service accounts between 2 people. I took that job and began my career in the aquarium service industry, servicing 1000 gallon aquariums for fortune 500 company's CEOs and 20 gallon aquariums in dental offices and everything in between. I lasted almost 18 months at that company before I couldn't do the job being asked of me any longer.
The animals were necessary to keep the service accounts active and happy yet, very little time, money or concern was being directed at the animals husbandry (specifically proper quarantine and regular water testing). As a result the animals did not thrive and most did not survive long with a week long observational quarantine which was the normal work flow for the animals.
After seeing so much death and sick fish I decided I wanted the animals to be the priority not just the customers needs and wants. I knew I would not have it my way at this company and I decided to start my own company from scratch to offer what I believe is the right thing to do ethically for the animals.
After being in business for over 10 years, I now see the corals being imported are often suffering from the same fate. Without quarantine, and going to homes (tanks) with unknown (untested) water quality and into the hands of very inexperienced reef hobbyists all too often, the corals suffer a similar fate as the fish an untimely death.
I have stopped my purchasing of wild collected corals (with a few very specific exceptions) and switched to buying all aquaculture grown animals over two years ago and it feels great!
I now focus on collecting high end SPS and LPS coral from other hobbyists at the trade shows such as Reefapalooza, MACNA, Coral Farmers Market and others.
I purchase from only the best reef aquarium aquaculture company's and my coral farm is growing so fast I have filled up a new 100 gallon grow out tank in less than a year from being 2/3 full a year ago when started.
Lots of information is available online and from local reef aquarium clubs, but I highly suggest you also invest in a few hard cover books that will pay for them self very quickly.
The Reef Aquarium (Vol 1/2/3) by Sprung and Delbeek is the bible of reef aquarium keeping, especially volume 1. Another great book to have is Book of Coral Propagation by Calfo.
There are others but these are a must buy for the coral fanatics.
As you learn more you become more successful and are able to achieve your intended goals. As a aquarium keeper you are the only one responsible for the health and happiness of your animals, so please choose your animals wisely after doing due diligence and proper research as to how to keep the animals (what they eat, which fish are compatible etc.)
In our life time we may see an extinction of animals (including corals) that could put the futures of the animals into the hands of the average hobbyists and the seed banks of these animals being our home aquariums. If we see this as even a possibility we should work hard to conserve these natural resources now, not when they are endangered or extinct.
Conserve what you love and you can share that love with future generations.