Getting a better idea of the potential for business and the growth rates of the available specimens, I had decided that a full blown operation was really not feasible. The basic equation came down to available square footage on my property. I just did not have enough ground to build a large enough facility to operate solely on propagation. I then decided to build an operation large enough to do research and propagate corals with dedicated systems, but not too large it would engulf all of my time away from the office. Ê
The next step was to design something that would meet my objective while I concurrently began propagating and promoting this operation in advance. My current system consisted of about 500 gallons and 6 tanks. I have two photos here that allow you to see the multi-tier design. I had sectioned these tanks off by reef crest, mid reef, lower reef, back reef, and lagoon.
Each system had a corresponding lighting condition that imitated nature. All of these tanks were plumbed together and pumped out on two lines. One which would flow from the reef crest to the mid reef, then to the lower reef then returns into the sump. The next line would hit the back reef and flow into the lagoon and return into the sump. I was running 5500k over the lagoon, 10k’s over the back reef, 6500k and pc over the reef crest, 14k over the mid reef, and 20k over the sump. In addition I attempted to match the flow rates in each system to simulate nature as well. Each had 2 to 6 power heads on a timer with intervals consistent to tides for that particular zone.
The above photos from a visit Julian Sprung made to my home, actually they are well after the original tier system, and had already been converted to prop tanks. As I mentioned above in tandem to doing research on building and design of this farm I wanted to begin propagating species and acquiring new ones to grow out. The two photos below are of my converted lagoon to a grow out system, as the year 2000 approached I had the basic design for the building done and was ready to begin drawings to submit to the township. The fraging was better than I anticipated, so I started selling them here to local fish stores to subsidize construction of the coral farm.
After months, I had decided to add on to my home and create a comfortable living space that I could raise the corals in and enjoy as a work room. After a detailed cost analysis of brick, concrete, wood, or a leaning aluminum greenhouse kit, I decided to go with a concrete pad, block foundation , and a wood structure with a half gable roof. I had most of my drawings done to submit and had chosen a contractor to put up the structure. Then I had two major side tracks. The first was sales of the props. Pittsburgh is not exactly a Mecca for coral demand and the store owners I had dealt with either had a limited demand or just felt they had more of a profit margin on selling colonies.
I wanted to get a hold on the situation and test the waters of demand on a larger scale, prior to making a large commitment. My interest at heart is research and education. However, I will need to see some return on the investment to maintain the operation so at minimal it’s self sufficient. During this time frame I had been producing an educational web site about coral reefs to exercise my creative and programming capabilities.
I thought what a great mechanism to cover my existing farm within the site, particularly my section on captive systems. Originally this had not been the intent but I was in dire need of a new catalyst to bring the dream of a 2,000 gallon farm to fruition. Needless to say the idea was explosive, I covered the species I’m cultivating with the same look and educational feel as the rest of the site, and to this day I’m not capable with keeping up with demand from the Internet alone.