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Author Archives: Cory Shank

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Cory is one of our Staff Marine Biologists and has been with the company since 1999. He has always had an interest in fish and inverts started soon after his employment began, and laid the path for him to earn his Marine Bio degree From Millersville University just a couple of years ago. Since graduation, Cory has been propagating many different corals including LPS and SPS and maintaining both his own reef aquaria and several at our retail store. His interests besides propagation include snorkeling, environmentalism, travel, and anything relating to reefs and oceans.

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Pulsing Xenia – The Heartbeat of a Reef Aquarium

Pom-Pom Pulsing Xenia is one of my favorite corals. Quite simplistic, in color and shape, but there is something about the pulsing action and the beauty of the polyps that ranks it in my top ten corals. There are a few different types of pulsing Xenia found in the trade, such as the Pom Pom and the Silver varieties.

Considered a pest or a “weed” to some, others find it almost impossible to keep alive. There are plenty of possibilities as to why this is the case, but it always comes down to water quality. It is thought that Xenia cannot take in food like many corals do feeding on zooplankton and phytoplankton, leaving photosynthesis as the main food source. Xenia also has the ability to absorb certain nutrients and organics from the water column when needed. Due to the rate of growth and the ability to absorb organics, some people use Xenia in refugiums with or without macro algae to export excess nutrients. Not a proven miracle worker, but something to brighten up a refugium and do some work at the same time. Not to mention a small income possibility; since Xenia has a difficult time being shipped from supplier to store due to the amount of time being in a bag, the best supplier of Xenia is from local “coral farmers”.

Xeniids, despite their tolerance to not so clean water conditions are very sensitive to lower pH levels, especially when there is a constant fluctuation in levels. This can lead to a lack of pulsing, or even to the disappearance of the colony. Temperature, lack of or too much water flow, low lighting, and even over skimmed and over filtered aquarium can lead to problems.

Pulsing XeniaThe other potential problem with Xenia is it’s ability to take over the aquarium. With an obnoxious growth rate, neighboring corals can quickly become the next object that the Xenia grows on, possibly choking out the individual. In this situation, removing the Xenia becomes the major problem. Simply cutting the Xenia off the coral or rock may do the trick, but it has an uncanny ability to sprout a new colony or colonies from the original piece. A Kalk paste ( a paste of kalkwasser that can be applied to invasive Xenia polyps to kill those encroaching portions) can do the trick, but must be used with extreme caution with nearby corals or with pH levels. Again, to most people this is a good problem, thriving corals can equal profit.

So the next time you are looking for a hardy, unique coral, consider giving Pulsing Xenia a try, in the right application it can really shine.

Reef Trends – The Chalice Coral Craze

Hello, Cory here with a short blog on an interesting new wave in the world of reefing, the new obsession with Chalice corals.  A couple years ago, Chalice Corals were not very popular or in demand type of coral, despite the ease of care and collection. They were offered around the country, at very reasonable prices. This is no longer the case. With the influx of ridiculously colorful specimens in the market, the Chalice Coral craze has begun!

The Chalice Coral’s appearance can be difficult to describe. Chalice corals are part of the Pectiniidae Family, more specifically the Genus Echinophyllia, but Mycedium and Oxypora species can also be considered in the group. Chalice Corals can be very easy to Crazy orange Chalicekeep. They require low to moderate light, with a few species needing a bit more to help bring out some of the intense coloration. Due to the ability of Chalices to adapt to most lighting conditions, you must try to replicate the lighting conditions of the store or person before you, or the coral may change it’s colors completely. After a few weeks to a couple of months, you may have a coral that looks nothing like the one you purchased. Too much and too little water movement can have negative effects, but don’t worry too much. They can be tolerant of most currents as long as they are more turbulent rather than laminar. These corals can be very aggressive, but most lack very long sweeper tentacles, so the space around them can be manipulated. Since thier growth is relatively slow, you don’t have to worry about them encroaching upon your other prize corals. However, always remember over time they may eventually converge with a neighboring coral and the battle will begin. They primarily feed at night, preying upon small, meaty foods such as cyclops and oyster eggs.

For the past year or so, Chalice Corals have become the popular corals to keep, like Acans and Zoanthid polyps before them. Prices per frag range from 15 to 20 dollars for the standard variety. The more uncommon varieties are ranging from 50 to as muchMiami Hurricane Chalice as 300 dollars or more per frag, depending on the size!  One example, the Tyree LE Bumble Gum Monster Chalice can be as much as 250 dollars per ¾ inch frag! Recently, an extremely rare species, coined the My Miami Chalice frag was auctioned for 2000 dollars on eBay. The frag was close to an inch in size. My collection includes two variants at the moment, the Sour Apple and the Christmas Chalice. That Fish Place carries a few varieties such as the Miami Hurricane and the Rainbow Delight (Jason Fox frags)with many others hopefully to come in the future.  Check them out!

Until next time,


A Marine Biologist’s Trip to the Hawaiian Reefs

Cory here. I traveled to the Hawaiian Islands in June of 2008 for my honeymoon, and thought I would take Dave’s lead and tell you all about it. I have always wanted to go to Hawaii and thought that a honeymoon trip would be a perfect reason to do so. There are 8 major islands in the chain, any of which would have been an excellent choice. Since Maui is considered the “honeymooners” island, we decided to go there. We stayed 8 days and 7 nights at the Hyatt Regency Resort and Spa on Maui’s famous Ka’ anapali beach. The Resort was amazing with dozens of shops, restaurants, and even penguins it seemed to have it all. However, Maui had so much more to offer.

There are no longer any active volcanoes on the island of Maui, but the landscape told the story of Maui’s volcanic and violent past. Huge, volcanic mountains, covered with lush rain forests that were dotted with majestic waterfalls. Sadly, our time did not allow us to drive up to the summit of Haleakala. Haleakala is a 10,000 foot mountain with a huge crater. This will definitely be in the plans on my next visit.

I didn’t really come the whole way to Hawaii to see waterfalls, rain forests, or volcanoes. I came to see the aquatic life (and of course, to celebrate my recent nuptuals). My deep fascination for the oceans is always calling and was one of the best reasons for wanting to visit Hawaii. I have to say that 7 days was not enough time to snorkel the island. There are too many aquatic “hot spots” that needed to be investigated and we just ran out of time.

The first day took us to Honolua Bay, located on the Northwestern shore. Who would have thought the first location we visited would be the best! Honolua Bay does not have a sandy beach, only small rocks and pebbles, but we spent most of the time in the water so it didn’t matter. We spent nearly 5 hours in the water and still had to come back a second time to take in all of the amazing fish and coral. I think the most amazing thing I saw that day was a school of Convict Tangs (Acanthurus triostegus). There were over a hundred of them, caring more for the algae that they were eating than how close I was. There were Naso (Naso lituratus) and Orange Shoulder Tangs (Acanthurus olivaceus), Thread fin (Chaetodon auriga), Ornate (Chaetodon ornatissimus), and Yellow Long-nosed (Forcipiger flavissimus) Butterflies, along with dozens of other fish. Wrasses such as the Orange Saddled Wrasse (Thalassoma duperrey) and the Hawaiian Cleaner Wrasse (Labroides phthirophagus) were everywhere. I could go on and on listing the fish I saw, just amazing.

I am a coral junky and was really excited to see some wild colonies. I was however, slightly disappointed in the amount of coral diversity. I knew in the back of my mind that the Hawaiian coral diversity is no match for the fish. Don’t get me wrong, the coral was unlike anything I have seen in the ocean, which has been limited to the coral reefs of the Florida Keys. There were huge colonies of blue Montipora, Yellow Porites, and a large pallet of Pocillopora colonies. There was almost always a Hawkfish inhabiting the Pocillopora colonies, guarding them with ferocity. Huge Black Longspine and Orange Pencil Urchins dotted the reef cape with color and caution. I went through sensory overload on my first day and couldn’t wait for what the second day would bring.

On the second day, we took a boat trip to Molokini Island, which is located about 3 miles off the southwestern side of the island. The Island was formed from volcanic activity millions of years ago, since then erosion has caused one side to wear away, leaving a crescent shaped island. The inner portion is for snorkeling, which is where we went. The outer half has a dramatic drop off of over 250 feet where only divers venture. This is where you can find sharks and other open water fish. However, the inside portion was amazing. We were dropped off in nearly 200 ft deep, calm water, where the visibility allowed us to see the bottom. We were welcomed by dozens of Durgeon Triggers and Blue Jaw Triggers. Once on the reef, there was so much to explore, huge colonies of stony corals. There were large eels, Yellow tangs, a school of Adult Naso Tangs, and a fight between three Achilles Tangs. From Molokini, we took a short boat ride to an area called Turtle Town where they guaranteed us to see Sea Turtles. Sure enough within 5 minutes of being in the water, the first turtle was spotted. It was an amazing experience, and one that I will never forget.

The entire visit did not involve us and the water, one day was spent traveling the road to Hana. This is a very slow, winding drive through the eastern coastline of Maui. Along the way are lush, tropical plants, dozens of waterfalls and pools. I was amazed by the Rainbow Eucalyptus trees and the black sand beach. The trip took the better part of the day, but was well worth every minute. The photos in the blog are only a sampling of those we have to remember the trip.

Everywhere we went on Hawaii was amazing, from the coral reefs to the rain forests, and even the resort. We fell in love with Hawaii and plan to return very soon.

Check out the rest of the picture’s at our Facebook page here, and be sure to comment :).

Caribbean Fish and the Gulf Stream

Cory here. The invasion of the Volitan Lionfish (Pterois volitans) has many concerned for the future of fish populations in the Caribbean and off the waters of Florida. The lionfish are swallowing native baby fish at an incredible rate, leading experts to believe this will begin to thin fish populations. Along with commercial fishing, the future is beginning to look bleak. The lionfish have spread throughout the eastern waters of Florida and are even being found along the shore of New York and Long Island. Wreck divers off of the North and South Carolina waters are finding an abundance of Lionfish. How can this be, a warm water fish in the cold waters of the Mid Atlantic and New England Coasts?

The answer is the Gulf Stream. The Gulf Stream is a current that starts in the Gulf of Mexico, flowing around Florida and up the East Coast of the United States. The current begins to flow further off shore of New England, passing the Southeastern shores of Newfoundland and out into the Atlantic Ocean. The current transports warm water from the Caribbean, the whole way to Europe. The Gulf Stream has a large impact on coastal temperatures not only along the east coast, but in Europe.  Along with the warm water are tropical fish, which also make the trip along the Atlantic coastline.

There have been Spot-fin Butterflies (Chaetodon ocellatus), juvenile Blue Angels (Holacanthus bermudensis), and even small Barracuda spotted by divers off the coast of Rhode Island. In the north, during the fall, divers and snorkelers go in search for tropical species for personal and public aquariums. The sad part of this all is tropical fish caught in the stream will inevitably die as they are carried into cooler waters. Some of the best fishing from North Carolina and northward can be found off shore in the Gulf Stream where water temperatures can be close to 20 degrees higher just 150 to 200 miles offshore. Here Tuna, Wahoo, and Mahi can be found throughout most of the year. The clarity is just as amazing as the temperature difference, going from no visibility to over 100 feet in just 50 miles or so.

Typically, large or adult specimens are not found far from their native waters, because they can swim against the current, which averages around 4 MPH. Normally, juvenile fish or larvae are found due to immaturity, or the inability to fight the push of the current. The biggest question yet is how do these fish make it to the coastal waters of New England, which is 200 to 400 miles away from the Gulf Stream? The logical reasoning at this point is that they are carried toward the coast in small warm water eddies that break off the main current.  Otherwise, the juvenile fish would have to swim hundreds a miles away from warm water into the colder water to only die a month or two later.

The Future of Live Rock for Aquarium Systems

Cory here. Live rock is an important piece to the reef tank puzzle, without it the aquarium never seems to be complete. It is amazing to see what one can do with some rock and an aquarium. Whether a massive 1000 gallon reef or a 5 gallon nano tank, live rock plays the role of beauty and necessity. When starting a marine aquarium, a quick stop to the local fish store (That Fish Place of course :)) will give a wide selection of live rock types; from the majestic Tonga Fusion to the typical Fiji, live rock is always available in all shapes and sizes.

The luxury of having five or more varieties of live rock any given day may be coming to an end. The creation of cultured live rock in Fiji has led a few to believe that since we can make live rock, we can save the reefs by stopping the collection of “wild” live rock. Cultured Fiji rock is very simply, concrete and sand molded into rocks, placed in the ocean for a couple of years, then harvested as live rock. The idea is to start culturing rock in places like Fiji and Tonga, eliminating the need to harvest rock from the reefs. There are plenty of arguments for and against the creation of cultured rock. The immediate problem is the ban of rock coming into the United States. The rock from Tonga (Fusion, Branch, Slab, etc.) has been banned completely starting this past August 4th. There are no signs of this ban being lifted. On top of this, the number of pounds of Fiji Rock allowed for importation for 2009, has been decreased substantially from this past year.

The idea to phase out the import of wild live rock within the next 5 years is hard to stomach, but might be well on its way to becoming reality. There is still very little known about the situation as a whole, but what everyone must understand is that with each coming year, live rock may be harder to come by, especially the varieties that everyone is used to. My concern is, with the continued demand for fresh live rock and the available supply diminishing, the price per pound of live rock will begin to rise and continue until it becomes unaffordable. The future of the live rock industry is now in the hands of those with legislative power; hopefully a decision is made with the consumer in mind.