naive approach to saving corals, preserving genetic resources

Jose Lopez lopez at
Fri Nov 3 16:48:59 EST 2000

We have several experts working with reef aquaria at our institution, and
thus I was given permission to forward the following earlier exchange
regarding this topic to the list.   Please contact Kelly at ORA (below) for
further information on setting up reef aquaria.  I believe this is just the
tip of his knowledge on this subject. Good luck to all hobbyists.  With the
accelerated rate of reef destruction, your efforts cannot hurt. 

Secondly , as Michelle Stuart mentioned, establishing gene or tissue banks
of corals and other marine organisms (somewhat being performed de facto by
all practicing coral biologists who store their tissues in freezers, DMSO
etc.) is one way to avoid a TOTAL loss of diversity in the face of imminent
genetic and biological extinctions  (and then hope for better technological
answers in the future).   This approach is being used for endangered
terrestrial counterparts - 

Ryder OA, McLaren A, Brenner S, Zhang YP, Benirschke K.DNA banks for endangered animal species.Science. 2000 Apr 14;288(5464):275-7.

but can also be applied to threatened marine organisms.  Because of the lack
of time and present funding, few actually know or can predict the value of
threatened organisms, their genomes and gene products may have now or in the

Joe  Lopez, Ph.D.
Assistant Scientist
Division of Biomedical Marine Research
Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution
5600 US 1 North
Ft. Pierce, FL 34946
PH: 561-465-2400, ext 478
F: 561-461-2221

> 	-----Original Message-----
> 	From:	Kelly T. Hunter 
> 	Sent:	Friday, July 07, 2000 3:52 PM
> 	To:	'Vladi Royzman'
> 	I was forwarded your query regarding reef tank set-up.  I will try
> to offer some of my personal insight.  I am sure you understand that there
> are many theories and practices that work to different extents, but mine
> are based on what has worked for me.  I have kept reef aquaria for almost
> ten years now and my start was a little different from most.  I jumped
> right into keeping a reef tank without ever keeping a freshwater or fish
> only system.  I acquired the tank from a friend who was moving and could
> not take it with him.  I started with florescent lights and a wet/dry
> trickle filter.  Within one year I started using a protein skimmer and
> removed all the media from my biological filter(known as the Berlin
> method).  Later I upgraded to a larger system and added metal halides for
> lighting.  I kept a mix of soft corals, large polyp hard corals and
> Tridacna sp. clams.  I quickly caught the small polyped stony(SPS) bug and
> eventually started my focus almost exclusively on those types of corals.
> I have found them to be the most challenging and when properly maintained
> the fastest growing-not to mention the most colorful.  I feel the Berlin
> method is quite possibly the best for these types of animals, because it
> is best suited for maintaining pristine water quality.  With the addition
> of a proper live sand bed and with-in a short time you can avoid water
> changes completely.  I enjoy not having the maintenance of doing water
> changes which affords me a very simple to maintain system.  I clean my
> skimmer once a week and clean the glass of algae, add trace elements that
> are depleted by heavy skimming, and run a high quality carbon every other
> month.  I also use a carbonate reactor which maintains my alkalinity at a
> stable 10-12 dKh only because of the calcium demand that is put on the
> system by the quickly growing corals.  This also maintains a nearly stable
> pH of 8.2-8.4, with fluctuations coordinated with a night time and day
> time photo period cycle.  If you are interested in keeping mainly soft
> corals and a few hard corals I would also recommend the Berlin method,
> with the possibility of running less aggressive skimming.  Surely a system
> setup as the one you described with a refugia, algae scrubber and a sump
> for your heater and skimmer will work fine, but will require substantial
> maintenance.  A refugia, to work to its full potential, should be mounted
> above the tank with the water returning to the main tank via gravity .
> This presents an engineering difficulty, let alone the unsightliness of a
> tank above your main display tank.  I personally would stay away from an
> algal turf scrubber, for a variety of reasons:  First of which, it needs
> dedicated intense illumination in form of an additional metal halide.
> Second, the turf requires regular maintenance in the form of pruning and
> will color your tank water yellow from the by-products that the alga
> release into the water.  Third and probably most important in a home
> aquarium- the surge device that is needed to properly grow the turf is
> loud and rather finicky to keep in proper adjustment, and also produces a
> great deal of salt spray and salt creep which is very problematic and
> unsightly(not to mention that it is prone to cause grief with the lighting
> system that would be required).  In conclusion, I feel that your initial
> ideas will work, but will be more labor intensive then is needed.  I think
> you can be equally successful with running just a simple Berlin method
> system-Live rock, protein skimmer, metal halide lighting and an addition
> of live sand.  I would recommend using Kalkwasser(limewater) for your
> freshwater make-up, to maintain pH/alkalinity and calcium levels; a trace
> element supplement, and iodine for the soft corals.  This is just my idea
> and has worked wonderfully for me for many years and certainly your
> experience could vary.  One point that I have always encouraged with
> clients getting started with a reef tank is to keep it as simple as
> possible.  This is the word that I live by for my personal systems.
Kelly Hunter 
Shipping Manager 
Oceans, Reefs & Aquariums, Inc. 
kthunter at 

x94stuart at wrote:

> HI,
> I am an amature coral lover who had done an extremely small amount of
> research while getting my B.S. in Biology.  On NPR today, I heard that 1/4
> of all corals were dead and that we could lose them all within the next 20
> years.  My first instinct to this was to get as many representatives of as
> many species as possible in a tank in my home so that there is some
> remainder while our oceans heat up.  Is this a horrible thought?  I am not
> a big fan of the tropical fish trade  and I know that it would be very
> easy for me to kill these creatures instead of saving them, but I want to
> It would be nice to be able to map the entire genomes of these guys so
> that in 200 years when things simmer down and our genetic technology sky
> rockets, we could bring these guys back, maybe.
> Anyway, let me know if I am thinking things that are ultimately
> detrimental to corals.
> Michelle Stuart

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