Coral Propagation 101

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My search for more corroborating information on coral propagation led me to Anthony Calfo and Steve Tyree, on proper propagation and filtration. From the articles and setups that I have done in the past and have dreamt about, I wanted to come up with a system that allows the user to be productive and simple at the same time.

The first stage to setting up a successful Coral propagation operation is to plan in advanced, and to have available all the necessary equipment needed for propagation. What I am illustrating to you is one proper method to build, propagate, and effectively conserve and share your corals with others in an all in one package, which will allow you to be successful and productive at the same time be within a reasonable budget.

In addition I cannot stress the magnitude of my concern with cross contamination of pasties and pathogens. I will go into depth on the importance of treatment and quarantine methods to protect yourself and your fellow hobbyist before you introduce any incoming corals to your new system.

One big factor that comes into play is weather or not your are seeking to be esthetically pleasing while your are propagating or you if you are just looking to have more of a commercial warehouse style operation, in my case I choose to have a setup that is not only appealing but is very effective also.I chose to go with a 48”X 24”X 8” all glass tank, that will allow me to have the most amount of space for my current living situation, yet still be a harmonious attribute to my furnishings. Using a “Euro-Braced”, black silicone tank, I choose to go with a stain that would match my current interior furnishings as well.

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After applying several coats of stain, I went ahead and let the stand dry thoroughly, and then followed up with a coat of semi gloss all weather protective coat.

This will provide my stand with optimal protection against any wear and tear, which I plan to encounter during my coral propagation operation.

Drilling my tank custom to my needs, using a Diamond Drill Bit, I slowly began to drill my tank at specific locations. I chose to go with a 1 ½” bulk head for my over flow on the bottom right hand corner, and a ½ bulk head for my return on the back pane in the middle. This will allow me to be able to pump sufficient water from my sump to the prop tank, with out any worries of return/overflow ratios and dead spots.

On the return I went ahead and used “Lock Line” return split with a Y connector, so that equal water flow could be dispersed evenly in my tank. While on the over flow, I went ahead and used 1 ½ hard line PVC. After dropping in my Berlin Sump, I placed the tank back on the stand, I spent about 20 minutes cutting and dry fitting every part to make sure that everything would be perfectly situated, then the gluing began.

You will want to make sure that when using the PVC glue you are using it in a well ventilated area, the toxins and chemicals that you can breathe will make you feel as if you just got back from an all-nighter at a Jimmy Hendrix concert.

That wasn’t a recommendation.

If you were to ask an experienced hobbyist how to add substrate to your tank, they would probably know or at least offer some good tips to minimize the actual cycling time and prevent the classic cloud storm which fresh new sand creates.

You want to first start off by having available a couple of 5 gallon buckets to rigorously wash your sand. Live sand is always best, but if not using dried Agronite, will be sufficient once it is washed and seeded with live rock, and a couple of cups of sand from an established tank. The more the better, when it comes to seeding your sand.

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Let the washing begin! With your sand ready to be washed, three or four buckets on hand with clean pre-mixed salt water filled about 1/2 of the way up is going to be the best way to wash your sand. You will need at least 30 gallons of water that you are going to use to wash your sand.

You want to use your hand to stir the sand rigorously; you will notice that the water will be filthy with white sediment, and dust. Dump this dirty salt water into your toilet, then fill again, and repeat. I would do this until when you stir the salt water, the salt water is sediment free. The salt water should be very clean; at this point you know your sand is clean and ready to add to the propagation tank.

With your new propagation setup in place, you can begin to add your freshly washed sand. You should add the sand with minimal water as possible; make sure to dump out all of the water from your washing buckets, before you add the sand.

Once you have all your sand in place, you can then use a couple of trash bags, to lie over the sand, to create a barrier from the sand and water. In doing this, when you fill your aquarium with salt water, this will limit the amount of “Cloudiness”, and your turn around time will be much faster before your up and running.

With the tank is full along with the sump, you can then remove the trash bags, if they haven’t already floated up. You will see that your water has great visibility and clarity. Now that your tank is full, you can begin to add your fresh live rock.

If you decided to go with uncured rock, then you will have to cure your rock, along with your new setup. I personally recommend fresh “Uncured Live Rock”, this rock will have many hitch hikers, and beneficial bacteria, that will offer you the best biological filtration.

Keep in mind you will have to wash your rock in the same manner as stated above. You should now have about 3-5 inches of clean sand; along with a couple of larger pieces of rock in your main tank, and the majority of your rubble rock in your sump, I would pack as much live rock as possible. The more the better! Now that everything is in place it is time to turn the pumps on and let the cycle begin.

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“You now can start feeding your tank. In doing this every other day, this helps the cycle and bacteria build larger and heavier strains of bacteria, because your are feeding it, and not starving your tank for the cycle period. Which if neglected, may cause many beneficial bacteria’s and pathogens to starve out.”

You can add some additives to aid in this process along with adding some Chromis( atripectoralis) which will help the bacteria cycle progress and establish a solid foundation. Before you add your fish, you will need to wait about 2 weeks, and do a sufficient 25% water change and make sure you Ammonia and Nitrite are within range.

You will not want to add any species until your Ammonia and Nitrite are reading 0. During the gestation period and infancy of newly established tanks, a good idea is to hold off on skimming to allow everything to replenish before stripping your water with over skimming.

I recommend up to three months during this period, before adding any SPS corals. In this case two weeks will be sufficient; if you were to use “Cured Live Rock”, and sand.

At this point you can go ahead and turn your skimmer on. During this period of break in, bringing your nutrient levels down at this point is necessary to sustain healthy vibrant SPS corals. I would also go ahead and add various types of snails and invertebrates, to scavenge and clean you rocks and sand.

Also you may want to begin dosing your bacterial filtration, such as Prodibio, Zeovit, or Ultralith (Fauna Marine). I will be demonstrating the Prodibio system, on my particular system, with before and after documentation as well.

Stay tuned as I will be preparing my tank further for propagation, and setting up my calcium reactor step by step.