Coral Farming


New member

Upon recommendation I am posting my question in this area for response.

I live in Richmond Hill, Ontario, Canada and am interested in starting a viable business doing coral farming for commercial consumption. Starting small and growing out I will be looking at resale of all propogated coral to the LFS and then over time widen the distribution circle as far as it is reasonably safe to avoid the destruction of coral through shipping.

I started with the assumption that governments and/or research facilities would have programs in place (for Canada) to encourage this type of business as a way to (1) raise awareness of the damage to the oceans (although other issues exist I'm sure that one proponant of the reef degredation is due to a greater or lesser degree from wild harvesting for commerical trade) and (2) to focus attention on captive breeding as a primary supply to the retail level, vs shipping from harvest stations around the world.

I keep thinking that the model should be that coral farmers are granted from the government/research facilities the right to import certain corals which are faced with extreme abuse in the wild, and which corals have a reasonable to excellent expectation for coral farming adaption.

I can find nothing on this as it relates to the Canadian geo/political landscape.

I would like to determine the following:

(1) Build a viable coral farming business to supply the Canadian market place
(2) To develop agreements for the strick importing of certain corals for the expressed intention of coral farming
(3) Form alliances with US and other markets to facilitate the sharing of coral farming information/strategies/government management
(4) Determine if any grants exist in the Canadian market place to support this endeavor
(5) Chart the geographic dispursement of coral imported into Canada, become the recipient of any coral found to be illegally imported at the border and chart the demand for corals.

This is a hint of what I am trying to do, and I suspect some have traveled the same or similiar path before me.

I would appreciate any advice, insight or directions that can be provided as I research this angle of the marine hobby.

Time and attention is appreciated,

Michael Huggett
Cheers, Michael

Very good to hear from you, my friend. Like many others indeed, I agree with your premise and sentiment sincerely.

You have a realistic prospect and purpose and I belive that you can easily reach your goals. There are a growing number of aquarists worldwide that have accomplished this and it is a matter of time before aquacultured stocks carve their niche out of the trade.

You have many good questions whch cannot be answered in the brief body of an e-mail, of course.

Let me suggest several things.

I am eager to help any/all travel down the same path (and forge a better way!) that I and my friends and collegues have. You can e-mail me personally, and fell welcome to call me at the phone number listed on the title page of my first coral propagation book.

I would also strongly encourage you to attend big North American industry trade shows to network and gather information to form a solid business plan (which it sounds like you readily acknowledge is necessary and have begun). Various conferences will serve digfferent purposes for you from academic to aquaristic. In fact, if you make the time to attend the MACNA conference this year in Indiana by the club, we can chat at great length then too. The MACNA meeting will be held in Indiana in September which is just a couple hours from the Canadien border (it may be less than 2 hours due South from Detroit... just guessing)

Pet Business and Pet Supplies Marleting/Pet Age magazines are trade journals from which you can get demographics upon which to base your projections.

PIJAC also has much trade information if you join then (a good industry lobbyist/organization).

So much for you to reasearch! But a very noble and enjoyable journey.

I need just a couple weeks before we can sit down and chat at great length. I just finished my new book and need a little time to navigate it through the bindery process and make preparations for its release. Please do call again after pursuing some of the leads above.

With kind regards, Anthony
Given Ontarios's current hydro rates and the colder weather up there, your basic overhead would put you at a great disadvantage against guys operating out of their garages or even back-yards in California, Florida, etc...
Given Ontarios's current hydro rates and the colder weather ...

At $.07 per KWh ( $.046 US) I think we have a slight advantage over the folks in California when it comes to power.

Also, given CITES and that coral movement across borders is likely to become more restrictive not less, I suspect that at some point it will be worth while growing your own.

I'll post whatever I discover, or feel free to email me directly at if you would like to be kept informed.

One thing I am interested in is purchasing a old farm in the local area (seems to be more then a few going onto the market these days), and build vats into the ground with a sump built into a modernized shed (insulated) where I can manage the water quality/testing etc.

The covers of the vats would be made from material that allows the sun light to enter.

Issues like, what is the ideal dimension of the vats, how far below the frost line do I have to go to ensure steady earth level insulation, will the sun provide enouph light given the depth I have to go in all seasons, what kind of temp fluctuation will exist as we move from season to season, will well water be sufficient and the quality reasonable given it's placement in a farmed area should I be concerned with animal waste buildup in the surrounding areas.

The best answers come from doing some experiments in the local areas, however that all costs money.

Thanks for everyone's feedback, I look forward to more feedback.

Anthony, I will be looking you and your colleagues up at some point, once the business plan proves that this is a financially worthwhile effort. I'm prepared to put everything I have into, but it also has to feed the family etc. etc. etc.

Hello all,
I was very happy to discover this post. I have been talking with my Fiancee and freinds about this same type of venture for a few months now. I have been doing a lot of reading and trying to get as familiar with this process as well. I intend to set up my basement to begin the process intitially and as things (money and knowledge) produce, build from that point. I would be very interested in conferences regarding this venture and any good books, or web sites. I will do the same with any discoveries I come accross. As we probably all know it seems to be an endless education in this hobby. Reef Central has been a huge asset in information and experience sharing. Best wishes to all pursuing this objective, it is very refreshing to see others concerned with the bigger picture of this hobby or should I say addiction.

In your experience, after the construction of the greenhouse, what was the most expensive overhead cost? Some of the items I am thinking about are electricity (pumps, fans), gas (for heating in the winter), and insurance. Insurance is a weird one to toss in there, but I consider a secruity system an insurance expense. Anyhow, I was wondering what were the most costly items you had to deal with when you were running a coral farm. It would give us in the planning process something to think about.
Climate control is one of the most significant expenses you will encounter. In a commercial endeavor you can/must rule out any individual devices like electric heaters or chillers. It would be suicide to profits in almost any circumstance.

Water temps will be controlled by ambient temperatures. For those of us farming in a snow belt, cooling (even in dog days of summer) is no trouble at all. Heating in the winter is the big expense (gas for most). For folks in humid warm climates the reverse is true, of course, and they have to use all convential means of cooling (ridge vents, evaporative cooling, etc) plus consider desicating agents, geothermal cooling dynamics and other alternate cooling systems.

The ideal climate for coral farming is a temperate dry climate. Even if overcast (slightly better if so). Occasionally cloudy skies over shallow culturing pools is still plenty of light for most corals to grow. Hence the success of pioneer Dick Perrin in Michigan and myself in Pittsburgh PA.

For all, having a glazing that admits maximum light including UV is still recommended. We simply need to tweak admited light seasonally with various shade clothes. They are dirt cheap and can be purchased in any imaginable incremeent of light reduction by %.

Don't forget to write you business plan too ;) Critical for a realistic projection of expenses even if you are not gearing for profits.

Kind regards,

Oops! And another thing :p...

Be sure to build the largest possible vessels for your purpose (although not at the expense of mixing species in culture).

Large volumes of water will act as stable heat sinks. Its common sense once we think about it.

Large enough systems will resist the changes of day/night temps especially if you have very strong arir circulation in your GH (air movement is crucial).

Thus... a 50F night and a 90day is no problem for keeping large pools stable (say 75-80F) with very little support from heat/cooling aspects.


Hi Anthony I was just reading this thread also and I saw that cahuggetm was asking about Canadian grants and such. I am in the US, have you ever heard of these types of grants being issued here for start up businesses with a real purpose :D Thanks for your help.
Grants for inland coral farming are not plentiful :p And I am not aware of a specific operation that has received significant monies for commercial endeavors. It is a lot easier if you are research based and/or the product of your work helps big industry.

Just an industry rumor, but I recall that the GARF folks have familiarity with government funding/making a living off of "research" (not corals though... wetlands)... yes, something to do with wetlands management. Truly second hand info (from Mike Paletta)... but perhaps Leroy or Sally Joe can be of better service here.

The problem in the US as it pertains to coral-farming specifically is that it has so little precedent. Its hard for the Gov to categorize it just yet... as agricultural as I think it is :p

Best regards,

Grants for inland coral farming are not plentiful

That is what I was thinking but I had to ask since it was brought up. Research would be nice but will they allow you to 'make a living' from it or does it have to be non profit? I guess 'making a living' is probably open to interpretation but it would still be a fun job to grow corals.

I was reading another thread I think in this forum and I believe you said that 400 watt and 1000 watt lamps are overkill and that 175 watt MH bulbs would be plenty for grow out tanks. How many square feet would one 175 watt bulb cover with intense lighting. I am more interested in LPS and softies right now but I guess more light would be better for an SPS only tank. I was thinking of upgrading my personal tank to a 400 watt MH over a 60gal but not if I dont need to do so. I was also thinking someday to setup a few grow out tanks and having 1000 watt bulbs over them to maximize growth :D All dreams for now tho...
Its hard to say generically which light will go how far over an undetermined space/depth of water. So much about lamp choices depend on water depth, water clarity and most importantly the species kept. I hate to be so vague, my friend, but the question cannot fairly be answered even by saying soft coral or LPS. For example, Xenia umbellata below 24" of water in a tank that does not run ozone or get weekly carbon changes may not fare well at all under 175 watt halides (unlikely in fact). Yet Xenia elongata will thrive.

I've written an article about this very situation/dilemma on (and in Todays Fishkeeping UK).

The gist of it is that choosing lights before choosing exact species of coral is inappropriate. We really must decide on our corals and the depth of water they will be ket at first.

Nonetheless, I will say that outside of hardcore clam and sps only tanks, I am quite comfortable with 175 watt halides over 24-30" water for most popular corals kept.