History of Live Rock

saf1

Valuable Member
View Badges
Joined
Jan 15, 2018
Messages
3,823
Reaction score
5,428
Every time I read threads from TBS I always kick myself for not waiting and using the rock. Then I'm like well, maybe he will clean out the work shop and maybe box up the junk on the floor and I can buy that :) That way I help the business although on a smaller scale and get TBS stuff in my tank.

It is like a win win :) I just need them to do some house cleaning and I'll take the Florida dirt/rubble :D I bet the loose stuff has some good looking mushrooms, rock nems, etc.
 

Victoria M

Valuable Member
View Badges
Joined
Jan 6, 2017
Messages
4,143
Reaction score
14,678
Location
Sylvania, OH
keep them coming. I am enjoying reading about the evolution of LR very much. I remember reading your story, many years ago, I think, about another near miss,. You and your lab had to doggie paddle, after a boat nearly sank. that was you right?
 

VR28man

Well-Known Member
View Badges
Joined
May 16, 2017
Messages
829
Reaction score
644
This Wednesday???!!!!!! Wow! :eek:

either way, q heckuva story. Glad you’re ok, and thanks to the coast guard.

As an aside, you have a rock farm in the Keys too?
 
OP
liverock

liverock

Member
View Badges
Joined
May 6, 2015
Messages
79
Reaction score
182
Location
Florida
More History of live rock!

That Sinking Feeling, Again
Richard Londeree, Owner Tampa Bay Saltwater

As I sit here writing this, it has been seven days since I had a near death experience farming our aquaculture site in The Florida Keys. It was last Thursday, November 12 1998 7:30 am in the morning, the day before friday the thirteenth, that my vessel sank just inside the reef about five miles from land!

The story begins the day before, Wednesday the 11th at 3 am when my alarm clock went off awaking me from deep sleep, and preparation for the 6 hour drive to the Keys. I had my boat already hooked up to the truck in the driveway, with all my tropical fish collecting nets and containers, my diving gear, breakdown tools, spare tires, water in a cooler, fishing rods, and a whole truck full of necessary items needed for a weeks trip to the Keys.

Turning on the coffee pot, brushing the teeth, and a quick shower, Susie, my labrador retriever and I were ready for the long haul down to the rock mine in the everglades to collect some seed rock to place on our aquaculture lease in the Keys.

At the last moment my girlfriend decided not to make this trip a good thing as her job had her tied up for the week, so it was Susie and I on the road at 3:30 am, heading south on interstate 75 toward the rock mine. Coffee thermos in hand, with Jimmy Buffet in the CD player we made about 75 miles per hour and good time down to Bonita Springs, where I always stop at the Waffle House for an early morning breakfast, to get the strength to pick up 2500 pounds of seed rock.

After breakfast and on the road again it is just 25 miles to Naples where US Highway 41 intersects I-75 and begins it"s long trail across the Florida Everglades. I always like this part of the trip as it is though the unspoiled everglades, where animal and bird life abounds, and it is just getting light, providing a beautiful sunrise to the east in front of me, the birds starting to fly, the alligators coming out to capture some sun to heat their cold blooded bodies. Out of coffee by now and fully pumped up to gather the rock, it is just 80 miles across the glades and on to the rock mine.

Arriving at the mine I get the truck, trailer and boat weighed on the scale before roaming around the 1000 acre site, picking the most beautiful seed rock available in the world. Sometimes there is abundant rock to pick from, sometimes it takes all day to collect the load. This was a good day as I had the load in about four hours, beautiful rock, some as small as my hand some weighing 100-200 pounds, for those really large aquariums. Driving across the scale again I see I have just over 2500 pounds on the new boat.

Exiting the mine it is now a two hour drive down to Plantation Key where I stay with my friends Clark and Linda Lou Jones. Getting through Homested and Florida City, you encounter "The Stretch" a 20 mile two lane highway leading into the Keys. The first Key is Key Largo and as I cross the Jewfish Creek drawbridge, you are officially in The Fabulous Florida Keys!

Rounding the last corner before Key Largo I notice the trees and signs are blown down and destroyed, as Tropical storm Mitch had just come a visit the week before. The damage was amazing, homes blown apart, many giant trees down, debris everywhere, many sunk boats in the canals. This was allot of damage compared to Hurricane Georges that brushed the Keys a few weeks before, but did little damage on land, but destroyed the reef with his 100 MPH sustained winds for 12 hours.

Driving along in disbelief I wondered what was left of our aquaculture site, just behind Crocker Reef. It"s only another 20 miles on down to Tavernier and Plantation Key, my destination. It is now early afternoon, and the plan was to get there early enough to be able to launch the boat , get out to our site, deploy the rock, make a dive to arrange it and do some offshore fishing for dinner. Unfortunately the wind was gusting 15-20 knots, and seas were 6-8 feet making it impossible to get out as it was too rough.

I launched the boat, brought it down the canal and tied up behind Clarks house. I noticed the boat was sitting rather low in the water with the load of rock on. This was the first trip for this boat to the Keys as my last vessel had split her hull on a similar trip and was unusable. I had used this boat, a T-Craft two days before in Tampa taking a load of rock out to our aqua
culture site off Tampa, where we have 4 million pounds of live rock under production since 1993. She had preformed well getting right up on top and running well with a load of rock on.

More coming....
 
OP
liverock

liverock

Member
View Badges
Joined
May 6, 2015
Messages
79
Reaction score
182
Location
Florida
This was a real fun day...don't know if I could make the swim today....getting old is tough!

The next morning I was up with Clark, a ballyhoo fisherman, at 5 am, a little coffee and he was off to his boat and me to mine. The weather was a little better, they were calling for 4-6 foot waves inside the reef where our site is. So out the canal, through Florida Bay, down Tavernier Creek where it is about 4.5 miles to the site. The ride was OK until I got to the last marker, the headpin to Tavernier Creek. The seas were quite rough, but I was able to keep her at speed, crashing through the waves, heading out.

My GPS was telling me I was approaching the site, and the seas seemed to be building, but it was like many of the other 74 trips I have made developing this site. Reaching the area I surveyed the situation, deciding where I needed to place the anchor to get me directly over the site. Turning around and heading into the sea to get out front of the site, allowing enough anchor line out to be able to grab the bottom and stay in that spot, I reversed course to allow the anchor to hang, as I did I took a 6 foot wave over the transom.

Unprepared for the intensity and weight of the water on board the boat floundered and I took another wave over the transom. At this point I knew the boat was going down, went up to the bow to grab a life preserver for me and Susie, the boat went down like a rock. I did not have two seconds to simply bend over and grab a vest out of the gunnel, the boat just disappeared into the sea. But the bow was sticking out above the surface about two feet, and I thought to myself, all right she is going to float and I can hang onto the bow until a boat showed up and rescued me and Susie.

Susie was swimming in the six foot seas around and around the boat, as I had managed to grab a rope which was tied to the bow cleat, as all of a sudden my little Igloo cooler popped to the surface with some cans of water in it. I grabbed the cooler and tied the rope to it to have something to hang on too that would float. That was a mistake as I noticed the boat was going down fast I had just seconds to try to get it untied before the boat disappeared under the sea. It was just like the Titanic movie, the bow pointing up in the air, and the whooshing noise made as the air escaped from the cabin windows as she went down. I was able to loosen the knot just as she disappeared under the waves.

So here I am holding onto the bow rope, looking down to the bottom where the boat had settled upside down. Being upside down it made it impossible to dive down and get anything as there was no space between the boat and the bottom of the ocean. I hung onto the rope for about ten minutes, when I decided this was doing me no good as I was just wasting energy hanging on in the rough seas. Susie was doing OK as she is a good swimmer, and was swimming around me.

There was not a boat in sight as it was a rough day, unlike the weekends when there are lots of boats out and rescue would have been easier. Plus when it is that rough you cannot see very well as the waves are so tall. Every now and then a wave would pick me up and I could see the Marker at Davis Reef about a mile from me. Looking the other way I could see land. I decided upon swimming for land which is about five miles from where I was. I had no fins, mask, snorkel, nothing, just shorts and a Tee shirt on. Ever tried to swim in the ocean in six foot waves, with no equipment, not so easy.

I had one advantage though as the tide was coming in and would be high tide around 12 PM. For the first couple of hours Susie and I swam apart, as I was holding onto the cooler to stay afloat, she would swim with me. The current runs down the Keys, not toward shore, so the swim would be parallel to shore not towards it. I could here a diesel boat in the distance pulling lobster traps, but I did not know which way he was going, or I would have grabbed a trap and hung on until he showed up to pull the trap, but I did not like the 50-50 chance of him coming my way, so I kept swimming.

After about three hours in the water Susie was becoming tired and began trying to climb up on me to stay afloat. She weighs 65 pounds, and would try to put her paws around my neck and back paws around my stomach. This did not work as I could not keep her and I afloat with all her extra weight. I looped my arm through the cooler allowing her to put her two front paws on my arm that was looped through the cooler to keep her afloat. This left me with one arm to swim and two feet to kick with. Progress was slow but I was moving faster than the seaweed on the surface which gave me hope.

She soon figured out this plan and did real well hanging onto my arm, but in the process she had scratched and opened many cuts on my back, arms and legs. Well I was swimming in Hawks Channel which has a reputation of having the biggest and meanest sharks in the Keys, the man eating bull shark. I was bleeding like a stuck pig all over my body, the perfect shark bait. Plus there were many giant stinging jellyfish floating everywhere, which I had to avoid as multiple stings can paralyze you.

After about four hours in the water I could see I was making progress towards shore but was nearing Snake Creek which is about six miles south of Tavernier creek where I had come out from. About that time I got hit by a big jellyfish on my left side, the pain was great but the adrenalin was still flowing and I kind of ignored the pain. Susie was getting real bad by now, trying to put all four feet up on my arm to stay afloat. This caused the cooler to open up and flood, spilling the cans of water I had. I had to push Susie off refloat the cooler and save one can of water in case the tide changed and I was pushed offshore into the Gulf Stream. I didn"t want to die of thirst if I could survive the swim. I held one can of water in the hand I had looped through the cooler.

At five hours in the water in those rough seas I was becoming real tired, and would only swim for short periods, holding onto the cooler with both hands, I did not make much progress but could save energy by hanging on with both hands. At this point Susie had white foamy stuff coming out her mouth and she was making desperate noises, looking at me with big scared brown eyes. I was not coming back to shore without my dog and had to keep her afloat to save her life.

At five and one half ours in the water in a pretty desperate situation I asked God for a boat to come by. Looking death in the face you think about a lot of things and find it easy to talk to God. It could not have been ten minutes and I heard a boat motor, but could not see it as the waves were so high. From behind me on the top of a wave I saw a boat coming towards me!!

There they were my rescuers, coming towards me. Susie saw the boat and went for it, as they were approaching me. But as she neared the boat she turned as she did not recognize anyone on the boat and growled at them. They were quickly beside me, I pushed Susie up on the boat, they grabbed my cooler and I climbed up the ladder. Boy it never felt so good to be on a boat!

I had been in the water almost six hours, swam about 6 miles, was bleeding all over but was safe with my dog Susie. The guys on the boat were amazed that we had swam so far in such rough seas, and survived. They had been out lobster diving, the only boat out of Snake Creek, and had caught sight of the blue cooler on their way in. They did not see us until they got real close and realized we were swimming. They said they had not seen any boats all day. We were half a mile from the headline marking the channel of Snake Creek when they picked us up. The Lord was listening and we were saved.

They were kind enough to give us a ride back to my truck at Clark's house on Plantation Key. I hopped in the truck and went to Clark's business, Plantation Fisheries. He had just got back to the dock with his load of fish and said he was glad I did not go out as it was so rough. I told him what had happened, he said he wondered what was up as he had come by the aquaculture site looking for me. We hopped right on his boat and went out looking for my boat. He as a big 30 Island Hopper boat, easily took the six foot seas. I had no GPS to locate the site, as it had gone down with the boat. We looked for about an hour from atop the big tower he has on his boat, but could not find my boat. I was real tired and sore and told him to forget it until the next day , when I would purchase a new GPS to find the site.

Upon return to shore I notified the Coast Guard of the sinking and a Marine Sanctuary officer, Mr. Benny Davis called me for a report. We were to meet the next morning to fill out paperwork and look for the vessel. He showed up the next day with his boat and Clark with his, we went back out to look for the boat. We looked and looked and could not find the boat. It was only 24 hours after it sank, but we could not find it. expanding our search pattern the Sanctuary officer called us on the radio and said "come get her". He had found the boat over 1/2 a mile from where I had sank, still upside down on the bottom.

It was still located on a sand bottom which is good as they officers get real excited if you damage the reef with a sunk boat. Plus there was no fuel spill or slick. I geared up with scuba tanks and went down to look at her. What I saw was a destroyed boat. Just one night underwater and the boat had holes in it, the motor ripped off, no windshield, no nothing. Clark threw me a rope to attach to the bow eye so he could pull it up. He tried and tried but as the boat was upside down it acted as a diving plane and would not come off the bottom. Benny threw me a rope from his vessel, I tied it to a side cleat, he pulled with his boat , and under full tilt power, rolled the boat over underwater.

Clark was then able to pull with his boat and my boat slowly came to the surface. Under full power with his boat Clark kept towing and my boat slowly got higher and higher in the water. I was on Benny"s boat and he got me close to the boat and I jumped into her to pull the plug to allow all the water to run out and float. This process to the whole 6 miles back to shore to get the water and sand out. She floated and we pulled it back to the boat ramp and put her on the trailer.

Needles to say I have been real sore for a week, my arms still hurt, but the cuts are healing up. The vessel is a total loss, thirty thousand dollars down the drain, Susie and I am alive, thank God.

I found a new much bigger boat with a full transom the next day,purchased it , hauled it back to Tampa, got up the next morning a 3am, returned to the Keys for the destroyed boat, and hauled it home yesterday.

Anybody need a slightly used boat??
 
Corals.com
OP
liverock

liverock

Member
View Badges
Joined
May 6, 2015
Messages
79
Reaction score
182
Location
Florida
and now....for a short commercial break.....I am heading down to swim with the great whites in Capetown SA.....back with more story in a couple of weeks!

sea ya
Richard TBS
 
OP
liverock

liverock

Member
View Badges
Joined
May 6, 2015
Messages
79
Reaction score
182
Location
Florida
This was from many years ago....interview for Pet world in Asia

To
Angie Teo
Petworld Magazine (Singapore Representative)


1. What is liverock?

Florida is the home to specialists that harvest marine fish, plants and invertebrates (crabs, shrimp and mollusks) desired by aquarium hobbyists. An important component of marine aquariums is "live rock." Live rock is calcareous rock encrusted with algae's, crustaceans and other living organisms. The rock is an attractive part of the marine aquarium and the difficulty of maintaining aquarium water quality is alleviated with the addition of live rock which naturally balances the aquarist's water chemistry.

2. Why did you choose liverock and not another type of aquaculture?

Live rock aquaculture was brought on by legislation by the Federal Government and the state of Florida. We had been collecting wild live rock since 1983, that is collecting rock which existed naturally in the Gulf of Mexico, on the scattered reef system that make of the alluvial plain in the Gulf off of Florida. In 1989 the State of Florida called the major producers of live rock to the states capitol of Tallahassee for a meeting with the various governmental bodies that regulate marine resources in the state. There we were informed that they did not like the idea of wild harvest of live rock as there was growing pressure on the resource as the technology to keep the rock alive was growing, thus creating more demand in the market place, and many more divers in the water harvesting live rock. At the peak of wild harvest there were about 400 licensed divers collecting rock at an estimated 8 million dollars a year in live rock sales. The harvest of live rock went from just my partner and I to hundreds of divers, diving each day the weather would allow. There seemed to be no end to the demand for live rock. This pressure on the resource was seen by the local fishing fleet as removal of the habitat needed for their targeted species of fish they were fishing for. The traditional fisherman went to the Federal Government and complained that the habitat for marine life was disappearing boatload, by boatload. And truly that is what was happening as the business was so lucrative that soon most of " traditional "fisherman were out collecting live rock rather than fishing, as the paycheck was larger for live rock collected in one day as opposed to a week’s long fishing trip for grouper and snapper. Soon every boat coming into port was so loaded down with rock they were almost sinking. The alarm sounded by a few individuals soon compounded into restrictions on landing live rock harvested in state waters, provoking a court challenge that the industry prevailed upon, but shifted harvest from state to Federal waters <more than nine miles offshore> where rock could be legally harvest and then landed in the State of Florida. The Federal harvest continued until Dec 31 1996, at which point all harvest of live rock in the United States became illegal. But the state and the Federal Government had made allocations for aquaculture of live rock by permit, which they were to issue applicants interested in aquaculture. The reality of it was there were only two people showing an interest in becoming aquaculturists, myself and Mr. Tom Frakes from Aquarium Systems. We were the first company issued a permit, which had been promised to be a six month permitting period, but actually turned into a four year battle in and out of the courts, thousands of phone calls, endless applications, and ulcers, before a threatened 1,000,000 dollar lawsuit against the state of Florida produced the first lease of five acres of the Gulf of Mexico for live rock aquaculture. It was not the fact that the state just did not want aquaculture, but rather there was no permitting process to obtain such a permit as it was a new industry and no avenue to follow existed. It was a long and hard battle which culminated in September of 1993 when we placed our first one million pounds of rock in the Gulf on our five acre lease
.
3. How is TBS' liverock different from others in the market?

Basically there are only two types <besides illegally harvested rock> in the market place today. Rock, which is not really rock at all but living coral skeletons which are harvested in the south Pacific in areas like Tonga and Fiji, and aquacultured rock, which is ancient reef rock which is mined in south Florida and used as seed rock for aquaculture. It is actual ancient reef rock made up of fossilized reef creatures.

4. Why is liverock so popular in your country (in the world) these days?

Live rock is the predominate and most needed part of a reef aquarium as not only does it stabilize and control the chemistry of a reef tank, it is also home to all the tanks inhabitants. Having a reef tank with fish invertebrates and corals, one must provide habitat, as they had in the wild and that is live rock. Without live rock it would be like putting yourself in a jail cell with no furniture, they would have nowhere to live, and no environment to grow in. Think of four bare walls twenty four hours a day, how would you like it? Fish and inverts are the same way, they need an environment to live and grow in and live rock provides this.

5. What would you need to set up a reef tank at home?

It is very easy to have a reef tank, all one needs is good water movement, live sand, live rock, and a protein skimmer. This is the so called, Berlin system, the natural way to set up a reef tank, first done by Lee Ching way back in the early 1960"s and done today many thousands of people worldwide. It really is that easy and described on our web page at www.tampabaysaltwater.com under "The Package" information.

6. Is it a specialized hobby or can anyone, like me, take it up?

We have reef tank customers from six years old to over one hundred. With the advances in reefkeeping knowledge and the simple Berlin style approach, anyone can have a reef tank with minimal maintenance. The is so much good information on the internet that a reef tank is just a "click" away!

7. What do you feed the 'rock'? Over in your artificial reef? And at home?

Live rock requires no food, just good lighting to keep the corals, plants and other life alive. But some of the animals that come on the rock such as anemones will require foods, which are traditionally used in saltwater aquariums.

8. It is dangerous to dive. Why do you still dive? How often do you dive? Who do you usually dive with?

I became a certified diver in 1972 in Sacramento, California. My first dive was at Point Arena in northern California, the water was 52 degrees, I had no booties and my ankles about froze off. From there I dove Monterey Bay in central California, a bit warmer and nicer diving conditions. Because my father was in the Air Force I had the opportunity to dive in many different countries and oceans around the world. This experience gave me a good foundation for my activities later in life. I have been a treasure diver, spear fisherman, boat cleaner, and done about everything else you can do underwater to make a living. Danger in diving is usually created by the diver himself as if one is prepared and safety conscious diving is a safe activity. Now the weather is another story, I have had boats loaded with 5000 pounds of rock on the way out to our aquaculture site in the Keys and had three waterspouts pop up in front of me making the seas go from flat calm conditions to horrendous waves and storms. You can't run from them as you are too heavy to make any headway so you must be prepared to "ride" them out until the weather clears. I also have had the pleasure of swimming to shore <six miles> with my Labrador retriever, my constant companion, after sinking a new boat full of rock on a day I should not have been out on the reef because of bad weather conditions, I was in the water a little more than six hours, in shark infested water, with nothing but a T-shirt and shorts on, swimming toward land, not a fun time and many things learned that day. The story of that sinking is also on our web page if you want the"Whole" story. I dive for live rock every day the weather allows until I can fill our 20,000 gallons of holding tanks at our store in Tampa. Most often I dive alone, well not really as Susie my black Lab is always on the boat, and in the water with me as I dive. She likes to swim around and bite my bubbles as they reach the surface. I have never seen such a water dog in all my life. Diving by yourself is not the smartest thing to do, but business necessitates it as while I am diving my partner is in the shop taking care of sales and shipping. The two of us run the whole operation. I have many thousands of hours underwater collecting marine life since the early 1980"s.

9. Have you had any dangerous encounters at sea? What is the worst weather you have encountered?

I have had so many encounters with very large sharks, that I have become complacent in that area, if one is not stupid, that is carry around speared fish, big sharks leave you alone. You learn by your mistakes, as in the early 1970"s I was spear fishing on Alligator reef in the Keys when a 15 foot hammerhead came after me, well not really me but the fish I had on a stringer tied to me, and that experience will defiantly cure you of spear fishing! The worst weather I have been in, to many to count, there have been times I had to run from hurricanes, caught in vicious lightning storms, skyscraper tall waves, sinking boats, you name it I have been through it in 29 years. Lucky to be alive I guess.

10. Would you be considering starting a new business to bring tourists to visit your underwater world in the future? With glass bottom boats or SCUBA diving gear, maybe? How about starting a fish farm or clam farm or abalone farm on your reefs, perhaps?

We offer collecting trips on our aquaculture sites now. You must be a certified diver with an open water certification, at which point you can go along with us to collect your own marine life and live rock, this can be done in The Keys or here in the Gulf, at either of our sites. We have packages that include hotels and dive trips, for this activity. Each trip is especially designed for the individuals tastes. We have tried to also aquaculture clams on our site, but unfortunately the State has ridged guidelines for clam producers, and you must be in an "approved" area of the Gulf for this activity. Approval is achieved by the State doing water quality tests for the area you wish to lease, and all of these areas are further north of Tampa, in the Big Bend area of Florida where there are many hundreds of clam farms. The state just does not have the money or inclination to send their people to a new area to do water analysis, as the clam farms are traditionally further north of our location. A clam farm would work on our lease area, but would not be legal without the States designating our are to be "approved" waters.

11. People say diving shortens one's life in the sense that the body has to handle intense pressure upon descending to and ascending from the great depths. What is your opinion on this? What special safety conditions would you need to take?

I am now 47 years old after 30 years of diving, I am still in one piece. I used to dive at great depths but now only at one atmosphere<33 feet> as our aquaculture sites are in 20 foot of water. I have been lucky, never have had the bends of other dive related afflictions, although I have felt the presence of nitrogen bubbles in my joints after deep dives year ago, I stay away from deep diving now. As you get older you get smarter, and more concerned about "Tomorrow"

12. What do you wear for diving? Please tell us about the 'Jesus belt'.

Dive attire depends upon the season, in the summer time I wear an old pair of Levi's and T shirt to dive in, but in the winter time the water can go down to 51 degrees and that kind of condition requires a full wetsuit. hood, gloves, and boots to be able to withstand the cold thermoclines in the Gulf. Winter time diving is tough and we usually use doubles, that is two tanks connected together to allow more bottom time so one does not have to surface in the cold weather to put on another tank, as it is much colder out of the water than in it. Double tanks can give you up to and hour and a half underwater, collecting rock.
The "Jesus" belt story goes many years back to my partners first dive in the Gulf of Mexico.
We were very new to the collection of marine life and rock, and it was Marks very first dive with me off of Tarpon Springs. Money was very tight, we had a very old boat and motor and limited equipment. He had to have weight belt, so we used some rope to string the lead weights needed to sink to the bottom on and he tied it around his waist. This was a very dangerous situation as if he had an emergency he would not have been able to get the weights off to surface in a hurry, and so he remarked as he was going over the side of the boat, "If this thing does not work, I’ll be seeing Jesus" I was impressed with his desire at the time as he had never been diving in his life before, but surly had the drive to become a marine life collector.

13. Will you ship your products to this region? Would the liverock be able to take the long journey and thereafter be able to survive in this warm climate? Do we need to do a partial water change every week? And use a chiller? What is your recommendation?

We ship live rock and marine animals very successfully, all over the world. We pack the rock in insulated containers, lined with heavy duty plastic bags. We submerge the rock in ocean water, fill the bag with pure Oxygen, rubber band the tops, and seal the box. This way the rock is shipped underwater with plenty of air to survive up to 48 hours in shipping time to its destination. The far east, Japan, Singapore, are served by the airlines and we ship the rock by air freight. Unfortunately the freight shipping costs are quite high for your part of the world, and sometimes it is not economically feasible to ship the far east as the freight charges, customs fees, taxes and duties can be double or triple the actual cost of the rock itself. Shipping in the United States is very easy as we have so many airlines and destinations served allows us to pack the rock in the evening and have it to its destination early the next day. To cities with direct flights from Tampa, such as Toronto, Canada I take the rock to the airport at 2 PM our time and the customer in Canada has it by 6pm the same day! So the rock is in transit only four hours, which results in it arriving in perfect condition. Our rock is so full of life that it must be shipped underwater to allow the corals and creatures to survive the trip. This is an unusual shipping procedure as all the other rock imported to the United States from the far east is collected by divers, held at a facility, packed in boxes, shipped to Hawaii, then to Los Angeles to a wholesaler, then shipped on to pet shops or the consumer all over the States, in a dry condition. This rock <actually coral skeleton> is out of the water for 5-7 days before it reaches its ultimate destination. Asking any life to survive that long out of the water is a long shot, it would be like asking you to go sit under the water for five days without air, you would not survive. This is where the term "curing or cured rock" comes from. The imported rock is so stressed that it requires it to be retanked for a few weeks to allow the dead organisms to fall off and the rock to come back to life, what little life is left. That is why in the States Fiji rock has so little life, and results in basically just purple rock, with some corallines on it. I have seen some small corals which live through this whole procedure, which is testament to their longevity. The aquacultured rock we ship will also have some die off, as all the life on it, some will not survive in captivity, thus there is a cycling process all live rock goes through, imported or not. We set up customers with reef tanks we sell a Package deal, all the rock, live sand and the animals needed to maintain the tank for you. Let's say you have a 125 gallon tank, that requires 250 pounds of rock and 125 pounds of live sand. We ship the customer in two installments, first half of the rock and all of the sand is sent, the customer puts this in his tank and waits for it to cycle. The cycle period is usually 5-10 days while the rock and live sand condition the water to allow marine life to live. During this period many water changes are needed to control the ammonia levels in the aquarium as high ammonia will kill the rock and sand. Some customers report no ammonia spikes, but this is rare as the norm is ammonia spikes controlled by water changes until the cycle is over. At that point the customer calls us back and we ship the other half of the rock and all the animals. We have found this to be a very effective way of setting up a marine tank with the least amount of hassle and best chance of organisms survival.

14. How long can such rock, live, under aquarium conditions? Is there a need for special lighting?

Under the ideal conditions maintained in a saltwater aquarium live rock and corals should continue to live as long as the aquarium is properly maintained. The corals on our rock are very hardy as the survive the low and high temperatures that occur here in the Gulf. Lighting needed is also influenced by the conditions that exist in the Gulf where the rock is grown. Some days you can see the bottom and other days the visibility can be one inch. This variation in light levels results in low light requirements for the rock. Regular florescent lights, we like the daylight bulbs from Phillips, called the F-40D bulbs readily available here at Home Depot for about $6 each, are the ones we use. Although any other sources of light is ok, like compacts, VHO, Metal halides they are not necessary to keep the rock alive, but will work also

15. What size glass aquarium is required to start off my hobby?

Traditionally the larger the tank the better in saltwater aquariums. This is because the more water volume you have the less likely your tanks inhabitants will be affected by water parameters. Small aquariums can be wiped out by ammonia if let’s say a few fish die and began to decompose if they are not removed from the water column the decomposing organic matter quickly converts to ammonia which is lethal to a saltwater tank. The larger the water volume the less likely the ammonia levels will affect the tank. In a small tank of 10 gallons, by the time you add 20 pounds of rock and 10 pounds of live sand, the water volume left may only be 4-5 gallons, thus fluctuations in water quality is critical in small aquariums. I have a 210 gallon tank at home which has been set up for 5 years, has all the original rock, sand and fish, all I do for maintenance is to add fresh water for evaporation, it is basically maintenance free, as the rock and sand do the filtration and the animals do the cleaning for me, I have not made a water change in four years. This is usually unheard of for a saltwater tank, but using the natural system results in a tank I come home and watch rather than have to mess with all the time.

16. With the 'rock' in my tank, can I also include marine fishes/crustaceans etc? Which fishes will not feed off the rock? Which fishes/crustaceans or other creatures would be good for beginners with liverock in their tanks?

The rock in your tank is the primary ingredient that will allow you to keep whatever you wish in the aquarium. It is a critical part of the equation as without habitat, there can be no long term success with marine organisms. Most all fish will feed of the rock because that is what they do in the wild, and if you recreate what mother nature does, they will act the same in your tank as they do in the wild. Deciding what fish and inverts to keep in a Berlin, natural style aquarium is of personal preference. I suggest you stock with whatever you like and let nature take its course. If you get a particular type of fish that eats off the rock, then so be it as he has to eat, and if he likes to graze the rock, that is Ok with me as I know he is a happy fish feeding as if he would in the wild. You must feed your creatures, and natural foods are the best. Inverts are the same way, if they wish to pick and feed off the rock, that is a good thing for their long term survival.

17. How big is your reef now? You have two sites? How are they different? Do they complement each other in purpose such that after the rock is harvested from the Gulf of Mexico, they are then transferred to the Florida Keys to be cured? What did 2 pieces of the ocean (your reef sites) cost you?

Our first aquaculture site in the Gulf of Mexico is a five acre parcel, located in twenty feet of water off of Tarpon Springs, Florida. Our first deposition of rock was one million pounds, then a year later in 1994 we place three million pounds. We also replace rock on almost every trip that we go collecting. I drive to the Florida everglades, a six hour trip, in my Ford pickup truck with my 24 foot boat behind me on a trailer. There is a rock mine there where I drive around a 1000 acre site picking up just the right rocks for aquaculture. Usually a good trip is about three thousand pounds, of which each is picked up individually, tossed up on the boat, until it is full. Then there is the six hour drive back to Tampa, where we launch the boat at Pat’s Landing <a marina> from there it is a six mile trip out to the lease where we place the rock on the bottom. This way we replace more rock than we are harvesting so we will always have a continuing supply.
Our site in the Florida Keys is a Federally permitted site in Federal waters. It is in about twenty four feet of water behind Davis reef in the upper Keys. The federal Government does not require a lease, but is a Permit that allows aquaculture in the Marine Sanctuary. It is a 1/4 acre site, 125 feet in diameter. The rules are different down there as you cannot use barges full of rock but rather must take the rock out boatload by boatload. The rock must also be lowered to the bottom and place by hand. This makes for a very time consuming and tedious process, but these are the rules in the Marine Sanctuary. The cost of the sites is negligible, but the process of obtaining a lease can take many years which is why there are only two leases in the Gulf. The federal permit in the Keys is the same way, hard to get as the area must be approved by a Marine Sanitary officer, and in recent years are not issuing any more permits.
18. What is curing for?

Previously covered

19. How do you handle sea pollution/troublesome people eg pirates, off your reef projects? Do you have rangers to patrol your waters regularly?

Our lease in state waters is enforced by The Florida Marine Patrol, Coast Guard, and local police marine units as it is a Lease granted by the state, under state laws and is protected by the laws. Possession of wild live rock is a federal crime punishable by 15 years in Federal prison, and to possess aquacultured live rock you must have a state lease or federal permit. Thus it is pretty much self enforced because if you show up at the airport with live rock to ship, and are not a recognized aquaculturist, the air freight personnel will open the box's and call the authorities. This recently happened to an individual in the Keys and he will be going to trial in September facing 15 years in prison, this is usually enough to keep people from dealing in illegal rock.
Mother nature is a different story as we have something called Red Tide here which is a massive algae bloom that depletes the water of Oxygen, killing fish and other marine life. We usually get hit with it somewhere on the coast each year, but this year we were spared the bloom. Other years it has blanketed the site, resulting in some die off, but nothing major.
In the Keys it is another story as we get hit with hurricanes each year and aquaculture there has proved to be a much greater risk than in the Gulf. We have been hit each year in the peak of growing season <the summer> by numerous hurricanes and tropical storms. The rock which was ready for harvest was devastated by the 150 mile an hour winds and thirty foot seas. The rock was sand blasted back to a preplaced condition, just as it was picked up from the mine. This was three years ago and I was very disappointed, but much to my amazement the rock grew back to its pre-storm condition in six months. We currently have about 350,000 pounds under production in the Keys, that is 115 trips from Tampa to the rock mine and on down to the Keys aquaculture site.
20. How much rock have you shipped to your reefs? What kind of rocks are they?

Previously covered

21. What is your $ turnover per year. Or do give us a rough estimate on the pounds/tons of rock sold to your customers since you started in this liverock venture. Where are your products sold to?

We do about a half million dollars a year in sales, but not all of that amount is live rock as we also collect fish, plants, inverts for sale also. We ship rock and animals worldwide, utilizing the airlines and Fed Ex. Fed ex works well for shipments to Europe of light weight animals, as they arrive in two days to the customers door at a cost of about $150.00 freight for up to twenty pounds in weight. Heavier shipments are to costly on Fed Ex and are sent by air freight, overseas.

22. Does your family help you in this amazing venture? Do you have a large number of employees?

Our business has always been in the family as it is just my partner and I that run the whole business. We have a retail store in Tampa which serves as our holding facility for live rock and animals, and we also have a fresh seafood market because we catch so many fish here and in the Keys we decided to open to the public for fresh fish, crabs, lobster, etc. So we are a dual facility, marine life and seafood which we also ship worldwide. I really enjoy fishing and keep the fish market full of fresh fish all the time. We only have one employee and he runs the fish market, other than him Mark and I do it all, besides his girlfriend at home answering the phone and taking orders for us, Mary does a great job.

23. How far do you see worldwide liverock harvesting and its sale, progressing in the future? Would we deplete the oceans by then?

The harvest of live rock in the wild will eventually come to an end as you can only take so much of the reef away before there is no reef left. This happened here in the US and will eventually happen in other locals where live rock is harvested in the wild as pressure from environmental groups in Fiji and Tonga are already gaining strength for a ban on imported live rock in the United States. The ban will not be in the harvesting countries but will be a ban on importing wild rock in to the US, just as what is happening to the ornamental coral trade here. Years ago you could buy coral pieces at a really low cost, now you can hardly find any decorative corals which is a good thing for the worlds living reefs. A ban on imported rock would not be good for our industry though as there is not enough aquacultured rock to go around now, and if rock from Fiji is closed down where will the thousands of pounds harvested there each week come from to support the hobby? We have a hard time filling our orders due to the weather, actual time you can dive, and supply of rock. For this reason we do not serve the wholesale market in this country, as there is simply not enough aquacultured live rock to go around.

24. How long does a reef take to form?

We had a product ready for market about six years after placing the rock in the Gulf. I saw bare white rock back in 1993 turn into a full blown incredible living reef. Where there was nothing but sand before is now home to millions and millions of reef creatures. Plus it has turned into a nursery for juvenile food fish like groupers and snappers. Every little crevice in the rock piles are infested with juvenile fish, it is really incredible to see this take place over the years, so not only is it a benefit to the environment as Eco-friendly rock, we have increased the food fish populations drastically. Yesterday I was on the reef and observed many large grouper and snapper and there are always 400-800 pound resident Jewish on the site. The benefit to the marine environment is incredible.

25. Would you say liverock farming is the best way to save the sea?

Not only liverock farming but all the aquaculture operations, open ocean or closed systems are a step forward in preserving Mother ocean, as we have abused her for generations from dumping garbage to over fishing Her resources, it is nice to see aquaculture in all phases taking place, worldwide. Aquaculture is defiantly the future and is here to stay as you cannot keep taking and taking from the ocean, it must be supplemented by aquaculture.

26. What is your advice for anyone wishing to start liverock cultivation in this region? Can it be done artificially without the sea and pure sea water? Like say, in a huge freshwater lake, reservoir, river or something.

Someone interested in live rock aquaculture must be ready for all the pitfalls associated with a new industry, as there are no books or guides to follow in culturing activities. Aquacuture in the far east would be a great boost to the industry, and is greatly needed, by this industry.
Unfortunately aquaculture of live rock in closed systems <land based> does not work as you need all the animals that are in the oceans water column to land on and populate the surface of the rock. We tried it, you would need facilities that would far out cost the production the product, plus you would not have corals and other animals that occur in the open ocean. Thus it would not be economically feasible to farm rock on land. Imagine the cost of the real estate needed, tanks, pumps, lights, electrical costs, the list goes on and on to compete against an imported product at a much lower cost. It would not and could not be cost effective

27. I remember there were numerous occasions in the past (your history pages) that may have caused anyone to give up on this whole reef building and liverock farming business. But you didn't throw in the towel. You kept on going. What is your secret?
What is your philosophy in life? And what advice would you like to share with our young readers regarding aiming for 'their dreams' and shooting for the stars?

The grief I went through to obtain our permit would have made most people give up, but as a wild rock harvester for years, I jumped at the States offer of a live rock aquaculture lease. I was in the business and wanted to be in the business in the future, and aquaculture was my only option. It took years and years , lawyers, lawsuits, and a case of ulcers to obtain, but it was obtainable, perseverance in any occupation is a recipe for success. If you want to do something put 150% into it and some day you will prevail. It was a long and hard road, I never considered giving up, but there were plenty of times I was really disappointed in the process.
28. How old are you?
47
29. Will you retire and pass the reigns to your family members in future?

I am single with no kids but my partner has three kids, one of which is already certified to dive and helps upon occasion. He also has another son and little girl who will be taking the reins of Tampa Bay Saltwater when we are to old to climb the ladder back in the boat. I still feel like I am 16 years old, love the sea, love to dive, love to fish, I could not envision any other occupation, you just can't imagine the feeling of a good day on the water, a cooler full of fish, a load of rock on board ,the sun setting on the horizon, the dolphins jumping in their glee, as I round the island on the way back to the marina, it’s a tough life, but somebody has to do it!
One of my dreams is to dive in your part of the world, I would love to dive the islands of Singapore, Fiji, Micronesia, Pago Pago, the further away from humans the better!
30. How long have you been in the liferock business?
I collected my first piece of rock in 1984, but had been diving for marine life since the early 1970"s. The history of live rock is on our web page at www.tbsaltwater.com plus pictures of the operation if you wish further information.


Thank you very much for answering these questions. Do contact me anytime should you have any questions about my questions above.

Best Regards

Angie Teo
Petworld Magazine (Singapore Representative)
 

saf1

Valuable Member
View Badges
Joined
Jan 15, 2018
Messages
3,823
Reaction score
5,428
Side note - how did the swim / trip go?

There used to be a dive charter that left from San Fran to the Farralon Islands for divers. I always wanted to go. My Uncle would take me out there on his sail boat. Beautiful day always but never dove it.

The charter stopped and I think the main reason was due to the local landlord or so I hear. It was a Great White. At one of the dive club meetings they had the man who used to collect the urchins in the area. He used to call that same Great White the landlord. His talk was really good and how he said the shark never bothered him but he always knew it was around him while he collected.

Never made a dive there although they do excursions out there for GW cage dives. I'd rather go diving in the area though. Monterey has GW's but I guess the Farralon's don't have as big of a draw or it costs to much round trip to get there only to cancel due to weather maybe. I don't know.
 
OP
liverock

liverock

Member
View Badges
Joined
May 6, 2015
Messages
79
Reaction score
182
Location
Florida
Side note - how did the swim / trip go?

There used to be a dive charter that left from San Fran to the Farralon Islands for divers. I always wanted to go. My Uncle would take me out there on his sail boat. Beautiful day always but never dove it.

The charter stopped and I think the main reason was due to the local landlord or so I hear. It was a Great White. At one of the dive club meetings they had the man who used to collect the urchins in the area. He used to call that same Great White the landlord. His talk was really good and how he said the shark never bothered him but he always knew it was around him while he collected.

Never made a dive there although they do excursions out there for GW cage dives. I'd rather go diving in the area though. Monterey has GW's but I guess the Farralon's don't have as big of a draw or it costs to much round trip to get there only to cancel due to weather maybe. I don't know.


We had weather that day...diving was a no go.....only day of bad weather of course! Africa was a TRIP...just a LONG ways away....four flights and 36 hours to get home....jet lag bad!
 
Top Shelf Aquatics

Rate your current reefing satisfaction level! (CLICK HERE)

  • Very satisfied

    Votes: 181 45.3%
  • Just satisfied

    Votes: 99 24.8%
  • Somewhat satsified

    Votes: 87 21.8%
  • Not satisfied

    Votes: 33 8.3%

Online statistics

Members online
1,780
Guests online
4,336
Total visitors
6,116
Pieces of the Ocean
Top