Monday, July 20, 2009

Aquaculture in Bali Part 2

Hello everyone. Before we get on our topic for the day, lets talk a little about the incident that rocked Indonesia last Friday. I woke up and was getting ready to go visit the US embassy when I learned of the two bombs that had gone off earlier in the morning at US hotels. Of course whoever did it was for sure targeting US and our friends. Seven innocent people died that Friday morning. Some were locals and some were foreigners, like me, working in this beautiful island nation. They all leave behind painful loved ones who are probably still in disbelief. I just can't think about what if it was me or my wife that died on that Friday morning.

My condolences to the families of the deceased ones. Proves that nothing in life is a guarantee and it can end at any moment. Best thing to do is to enjoy life everyday as it was going to be your last - forgive the ones that did you wrong, and move forward - that is my philosophy in life.
One day I will share with you an incident that changed my outlook in life.

Ok let's get into our topic for the day, aquacultured corals. Actually the correct term is maricultured, where the object is grown out in the sea. Aquacultured refers to things grown in a captive environment, like our aquariums. But for our purposes, we will just refer any corals grown in the wild or in our fish tanks as "aquacultured".

After being shocked with all the bleached corals in East Java, we headed back to Bali. Hopped on the ferry again and in an hour, ended up in Northern Bali. This area has the deeperwater acros. The fishermen specialize in growing these species. Acros such as gomezis, loripes, granulosas, lokanis, elegans, desalwiis, hoeksemais, horridas, true echinatas, etc.. are all cultivated here. My suppliers are all familiar with what I like, so I was anxious to see the goods. Just so you know, if you don't work closely with the fishermen, they will end up growing mostly common yellow or green corals for you. They really don't know the species that well and yellow and greens are readily available as broodstock. For any other exporters, this is exceptable. But for us, because our customers are the most demanding, I must get the best species and colors - basically very little or no yellows or greens.

By the time we checked into a hotel, it was late already. I took this photo of bats flying in and out of this palm tree near the waters edge at the hotel. Pretty cool as I didn't think my camera could pick up anything at night like this.

The next morning, I checked out the hotel in more detail. It was the first time staying at a hotel in Northern Bali. I usually stay in East Java side when staying over night. The beach was nice. Not much sand, but black large river rocks dominated the coastline.

Cool little place to hang out and drink coffee!

Check out the nice view of Bali mountains.

The pool with a little guy taking a leak!

And this is the dining area. It's not the Hilton, but heck it only cost $10 a night! Definitely perfect for backpackers and budget travelers.

This was kind of cool. This was one of the entrances to the beach!

"And I was kung fu fighting.....!"

After a quick free breakfast of eggs and toast, we were off. We met up with my supplier/aquaculture fisherman at his house. Then it is a 10 minute walk to the beach where a boat was waiting. Not the nice big boat you see here, but a little skinny one, as you will see in the video. Oh yah forgot to mention I managed to upload one of the videos on youtube! Took me ten tries but succeeded. It is a three minute video of as we were leaving the shore. It is nice, as you can see the nice scenery of Northern Bali. You can view the video at the bottom.

The tide was coming in and the water was muddy, and my feet sank deep into the mud as we walked to our waiting boat.

We got to our first spot and the fishermen brought up this little cool freshly mounted acro. This appears to be an Acropora insignis, but grows up like a stag. Insignis species usually grow up corymbose shaped or plate like. Strange coral and looks like the coral known as the "Ultimate stag" in the US. It is light purple blue with green corallites, very nice.

Here it is again out of the water. Corals don't look good when it is out of the water!

One of my favorites from Northern Bali, Acropora horrida!

When the yellow polyps open up on this purple based acro, it is just stunning!

Here is that "Ultimate stag" again. But this one is about a year old. From this, they will take cuttings and make smaller pieces.

Just to give you an idea of how big an acropora can grow in the wild, here it is. The one on the left is just few weeks old. The big one is only a year old. Too bad we can't get these kind of growths in our aquariums.

Some aquaculture bases ready to be mounted.

This is a view from the top level of this caramba. This floating platform was used before to grow out groupers. Now it is defunct and my fisherman grows corals around it.

A patch of corals crowding below the caramba.

One of the fishermen collecting samples.

Another view from the upper level of the floating platform. You can see other carambas. Northern Bali is a perfect place to grow corals, seaweed, fish,lobsters, etc...

And here is what I was waiting for. A true echinata! The colors are green based with bluish - purplish tips. I saw these pieces 6 months ago and they were half the size, talk about fast growth! I asked the guys to make smaller pieces from these, as these are too big and too brittle to ship.

A closeup view of the corallites of the echinata. Typical small bottle brush corallites signifies this acropora as the highly desired echinata species. Wonder what colors it would turn into under 20k's?


Ok guys that is it for today. One thing that was really disappointing was the bleaching just did not effect the wild corals. My fisherman lost most of his entire stock of aquaculture and broodstock. The three species of acros above was what he had left. These didn't get damaged too badly as they were grown deeper down. Normally I pick up the gomezis, hoeksemais, planas, and other specialty ones from him. We will be investing into a caramba for my fisherman to grow the corals out in the deeper section of the reef.

As for the terrorist bombings, I believe Indonesia will find the perpetrators behind the heinous act. The sad thing is that the two suicide guys who blew their heads off for the sake of killing others were probably taught that they would go to heaven or something, if they did this "righteous", as they would interpret it, deed. I really don't understand the radial teachings of Islam.

Nothing to cheer about these sad days here in Indo.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Aquaculture in Bali Part 1 - coral bleaching!

Hello everyone. So I have returned from a trip to East Java and Northern Bali for aquacultures. Before spending a night in a Northern Bali, I made a quick visit across the channel to East Java to see what they had to offer.

Upon entering my first supplier in East Java, I noticed the guys were working on racks for aquaculture. It was pretty interesting how they came up with this idea of making concrete racks to grow the corals. I've seen all sorts of ideas but this one was a first of its kind. A "mold" is made out of wood in the shape of a table first. It is simply nailed together to temporarily hold its shape.

Then steel rebarbs are laid into place to hold the concrete together.

This mold is now ready for the concrete.

After the concrete dries, the wooden frame is taken apart and voila! Rope is weaved into place to hold the corals. Cheap and virtually indestructible. Also heavy enough to withstand storms and heavy currents. I can just imagine this structure would create a haven for all kinds of fish and inverts!

I turned to check out the corals. One of the first thing in the concrete vats was this large mertensi anemone clinging to the side. From the looks of it, it had been there for a while. Looked bleached and no one wanted to buy it. I picked it up to see if it would recover in our better system. For those of you that don't know, mertensi carpets are not common around Indo waters. On the average, I only see one specimen a month - and that is including West Java to Sulawesi! Gigantea and Hadonis are more common, but a red hadoni is super rare.

Some baskets were floating with fish inside. I was like, hey I remember these beauties. I used to sell quite lots of them back in my Tropical Paradise retail days. These are solarensis wrasses!

Bags of maroon clown pairs were everywhere. They were being kept in plastic bags. Most of the suppliers don't have adequate holding tanks for fish. So most of the time, they are simply kept in plastic bags and water changed daily to keep them up to a week, until they get sent to the exporters. It is no wonder the survivability of the fish are not so good. But this is just the way it is. The same thing goes on in the Philippines, as I have talked with my divers in Tonga about this problem. For those of you that don't know, I brought in divers from PI to do training in Tonga before.

After checking out the fish, these bright colored acros caught my attention. Wow! I was shocked and disturbed by what I saw. Bleached acros! I have never seen this kind of bleaching before in Indo. Reminded me of acros that were being kept in aquariums under the zeo-vite system. I have seen dark full colored acros turn into these bright hi lighted colors in a matter of months using the zeo-vite system in aquariums. I never like the bleached look of the super colored corals, simply because they are not healthy.

Before I came up, I heard some people talk about corals bleaching in this area but didn't put too much thinking into it. Just thought that the corals stressed during transport and bleached (common thing to happen). For those of you that don't know what bleaching is, is when a coral becomes stressed under not so favorable conditions (usually in the wild it is water temperature rising too high), and the coral expels some of its zooxanthellea. Under proper conditions, the coral can recover but usually ends up bleaching to white and die.

And to make things even worse, these poor super stressed corals were being collected by the hundreds to meet the sky rocketing demand for the "super colored acros". The supplier had orders of hundreds from the exporters. I was amazed how people didn't know that these corals were not healthy. I can understand the suppliers, fishermen, and even exporters not knowing, but what is the excuse for the responsible reefers in the hobby that is driving up the demand?

I returned from the trip and did some research. It turned out that the demand was coming from Asian countries like Taiwan and Hong Kong! I talked to my friend in Hong Kong and he verified that the bleached acros were all over the place and people were going nuts over them. I just don't understand. If I was to send these bleached acros to my customers in the US, for sure I would get yelled at!

After checking out some corals in East Java, we headed back to Northern Bali. There we spent the night in a cheap hotel and in the morning, went out to look for aquacultures. After talking to my supplier, I got confirmation on the bleaching of the corals. Just as I suspected, for unknown reasons, recently the waters around Northern Bali have become very warm. And actually my poor fisherman/acro grower/supplier lost most of his stock!!! All he had was some very deepwater stuff that survived the warming. The rest of his corals BLEACHED to hi lighted colors and eventually died. So now he is in the process of starting over. What was interesting was that the corals grown very deep down didn't get effected that much by the rise of the water temperature. So probably the water still stayed cooled enough deeper down. I advised the fisherman to move his grow out area to deeper part of the reef where there is more current, so the water is not so stagnant. If water does not move, it tends to become warmer faster.

I shot some videos from the trip (very cool) and I have been trying to upload on youtube but internet connection is just too slow and not consistent. Still I will try. I even took video of me picking corals in shallow water in Serangan Island, Bali - just too cool! But for now, check out some pictures of bleached corals that are hot on the market in Asia:(

This stag used to be dark blue. I admit I don't like this particular species as it turns brown if you look at it funny! That is how sensitive this acropora is. Unfortunately, this coral dominates in the aquaculture field as it looks very nice in the wild. But even some of my professional acro customers have asked me to avoid these when I'm doing their order - and I don't blame them. There are species of acros (like many from Southpacific) that are virtually impossible to keep colored. They eventually turn to green or brown.

This is a purple morph of the same coral. The dark purple bleached to this light purple. Note some of the branches still are darker in color. These are the healthier pieces of the coral.

A bleached hydnophora species. Fishermen and suppliers can't tell the difference between this lps and an acropora. This coral used to be bright dark green.

A red tabling millepora that turned into bright pink. Note the edges are more bleached.

A green/orange millepora that bleached into this strange color.

Here is one that is on its last legs. This one went from dark green to light green to almost white. Next phase is rtn from the bottom up and die!

This encrusting montipora is almost dead. I can't believe the fishermen would actually collect this. But hey I guess there is demand somewhere.

Even bleached euphyllias are popular!

Another acro ready to die. You can tell it was green before. Now it is turning white!

Poor bleached montipora undata!

Some of the better pieces from the batch. These were collected deeper down and thus still have most of its original colors. See the large green millepora on the left? Well, I picked up that piece with its bright bleached edges. The coral is actually green and orange. The tips appeared to be orange. But sure enough, after keeping it in our system, the edges turned back to its orginal colony color! Cool, yah but not good as time went along it turned brown. Even we don't have a sophisticated system good enough (not yet anyways) to keep sps's for long term. But we are planning to build one as soon as we make some money!

And finally a healthy acropora - a beautiful tabling solitaryensis. Don't let the picture fool you. This is an amazing coral under 20k's! This one came from a different part of the reef where the bleaching did not occur.


Ok guys that is it for today. Something strange about the bleaching of these corals. From talking to the fishermen, certain patches of reefs have these ultra colored corals. If the whole area got too warm (water temperature rising), shouldn't the entire reef be effected? There must be other factors involved such as currents or pollution or something else.

It sounds like global warming is the main problem, and it is literally knocking on our doors. As responsible reefers it is our duty to do whatever we can to stop the climate change. From now on, I will be paying more attention to this global problem.


Friday, July 3, 2009

Aquarama 2009!

Hello everyone. It has been a long time since I last posted. So much things have happened and I got tied up with too many loose ends. I apologize for the long delay. But now I finally I have some time to devote to my blog. The last time I posted was in Singapore, on the eve of the 2009 Aquarama trade show. Here are some highlights from that show.

Reefdepot, (a high end LFS in Singapore) with conjunction with a friend (Ace) had invited me to present my corals at the show. They had prepared a 100 gallon tank to display my corals. It was a perfect opportunity to showcase my corals and introduce them to the Singapore reefers!

Reefdepot is the main distributor of Giesemann lighting products in Singapore. The booth was sponsored by them and had two representatives there.

Reefdepot guys showcasing some new Deltec skimmers. Like I said before, the Reefdepot guys are into high end equipment!

Authorized dealer for Bubble king too!

Various Giesemann lighting systems on display, and on sale!

Spare Red Dragon pumps anyone?

So this was one of the popular displays. A little Red Dragon pump running silent but working like a giant 2 horsepower Baldor!

And here is our display. The tank is a Giesemann and so are the lights. The artificial rockwork in the background was also provided by Giesemann.

A close up of some of my corals. Check out the rare green-blue base pumpkin eyed Acanthastrea echinata on the right - way cool!

My flyer on top of the display tank designed by my friend Ace. Pretty good for having only a few days to make one and business cards - thanks Ace!

And here is Ace, my friend and customer. Actually he was the first to introduce my corals to the Singapore reefers. Now he has closed down his retail shop and does mostly design and setups of high end reef tanks. He is a new concept kind of a guy, and is extremely talented in designing out systems. He was the one behind the famous reef tank with three plasma tv's that stole the show at the 2005 Aquarama. I actually stayed until closing time to get a peek at how the tv's were put into the aquarium. I'll post some pictures and some of his other works at a later post.

Ace's company is called Halequin Marine and he can be contacted at Actually it is Ace that put this whole thing together with me and Reefdepot guys. The demand for my corals was such a big hit though, that Reefdepot will soon be carrying my corals in Singapore!

Another vendor sharing our booth was marketing these wave makers. Made in the USA and awesome!

Couple of tanks to show how the VorTech works. The corals were actually swaying left to right with this magical wavemaker!

I didn't notice any Korean vendors back in the 2005 show, but this time around, a whole block was dedicated to the kimchee loving (including me) guys!

Many of the Korean vendors were into airstones, but these particular guys were actually breeding ornamental marine fish! They are located in the Jeju Island, an island off of Southern Korea.

Ah, a vendor that we are all familiar with - JBJ. From chillers to "nano cubes", these Chinese made products are really popular in the USA.

Another high end product vendor - Tropic Marin!

Clipper machines! Wish we had one here in Indo. I'll take the one in the background, the manual one. I can see the mechanical ones rusting out and being useless under the humid conditions of Indo.

Lot of books and magazines for sale!

Not sure what brand these were, but it seems like many skimmers look like the ever so popular Euroreefs!

Asian made LED - actinic combos! These weren't around when I was into retailing. Wonder how they work? Sure is bright enough though!

Some beautiful white polka dotted freshwater stingrays!

I think these are called "Motoros" and are highly illegal in the states. But they are gorgeous!

An Asian arowana breeder specializing in white morphs!

I remember back at the 2005 show, where a white silver arowana was so special and desired. But now, I see Asian arowanas in white! Note these are not the albino type with pink eyes.

So this was strange. Goldfish swimming around with nemo!

Couldn't quite figure out what the vendor was selling, but they seemed to have a magic formula to keep fresh and saltwater fish swimming together!

This vendor was presenting all kinds of water treatments. From bacteria to ammonia removers to medications, they had a whole line of goods. Funny thing is that the company has been around for a long time, making mostly products for pond keeping though. They are a US company, now marketing their products in Asia! Many interests, especially from exporters here in Indo are wanting these products. The problem is that there is a law that prohibits any chemical or liquid products entering Indonesia from other countries.

I picked up some samples and will be experimenting with them. One particular product that caught my attention is the ammonia remover. I will be trying this product with friends in Bali to see if we can lower doas on fish.

Fish competition is always a big draw to these kind of shows.

From discus to flowerhorns to arowanas to bettas to goldfish to guppies - the best looking guys from the species are represented here.

Here is my favorite freshwater fish - the Asian arowana - also known as the Dragon fish! Small specimens can still sell for thousands in the US. They are still banned, and don't really know why. All other countries have lifted the ban on these beautiful "Feng Shui" fish!

A reef tank competition!

This display is simple and open, but probably could have gotten more brownie points if it had some fish.

I liked the layout on this tank the best. Plenty of space for fish to swim around, but again no fish!

Ah yes finally some fish! The school of yellow tangs contrast with the corals and rockwork well.

If I was the judge, this tank would have won first place. I've been in sections of the reef where the corals literally were growing on top of each other, like this one. Plus the fact that it was dominated by acros and it was presented by a friend:)

This tank was interesting. Whoever set it up had in mind to present a message. Too small to read so I have typed it out below:

Lions in the ocean?
Invasion of its species!
Oh look how they are reproducing!
Now they're even in US Coastal waters!
Florida was where it all started.
It seems they're spreading fast!
So we should really stop releasing them!
Hold on to your lionfish!

Some friends from Aquarama. To my left is Bob Fenner, founder of wet web media. I met bob several years ago when me and the local reef club sponsored him to do a talk. He is like a walking fish and coral encyclopedia! To my right is the famous Leng Sy. He is famous for his montipora capricornis, known as the Leng Sy cap. He is known for his company, Ecosystems and products like miracle mud. Now he is going to be super famous for his new magazine! It is called Reeflife, and I had the privilege to check out the first issue. Beautiful pictures from Scott Michaels! One more thing, Julian Sprung was also here at the show, doing a presentation. I tried to track him down after wards and say hello but couldn't find him:( Oh well, maybe I'll see him at MACNA this year.

And here is another famous guy, at least in Asia he is! This is ChingChai, the founder of the Siam Reef Club, in Thailand. He is an avid reefer and his dedication to the hobby is well noted from all over Asia. His tank was featured on Reef Central's tank of the month, last year May. He is into sps, and I will be looking for some nice rare pieces to go into his magnificent tank! Great job on spreading the reef hobby in Thailand ChingChai. He has invited me to come visit him, and I will in the future!

Wow what a surprise! I have been talking to these guys for a while through e-mail about how to import in corals from Indo. And all of a sudden they show up at Aquarama! They didn't know I was going to be here and I didn't know they were coming. It was a pleasant surprise. What a bunch of nice dedicated reefers these guys were. They have an LFS promoting the hobby in the Philipines! Go check out their website. It was weird, these guys were talking to me like I was some sort of a celebrity or something. But it was great meeting you guys - Justin, Edwin, Randell, Raymond, and Wiley, keep in touch and I will go visit you guys one day!

It was a strange coincidence meeting up with this old chap from Australia. His name is Gary and he is a diver/collector/exporter. I didn't know it but it turned out we have a mutual friend in the US. Gary supplies to a friend of mine. So in no time we were talking like old buddies! Gary had come to Aquarama to get customers in Asia. I know his products are top knotch. If anyone is interested in great Aussie corals, outside of the United States, contact me at joylucktp2000 and I will give you Gary's contact. I have some pictures that he gave me and I will ask permission to post them on my blog. One day, I hope to visit Gary as well and go coral collecting with him!


Ok guys that is it for this topic. Again I like to thank Ace, Nelson (Reefdepot), and Giesemann for letting me present my corals at Aquarama 2009. It was fun and a great experience. Maybe we can get together next year for Interzoo ha! ha!

I'm heading out to Bali in the morning for hunting for aquacultures. I will go back to posting regularly, I promise!

Also I took some videos at the show, but can't seem to upload. The internet connection is so bad that it keeps going in and out. Oh well, it looks like I will be sharing lots of videos when I get back to the US.


Aquaculture Northern Bali

November Corals Collection Part. 1

November Corals Collection Part. 2

Aquaculture - November Shipment

Coral Showcase - September 2008 Inventory

Holding Facility's Corals Collection Showcase 2007