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Up Close: Drs. Foster and Smith's Aquaculture Coral Facility

Drs. Foster & Smith Educational Staff
Up Close: Aquacultured Corals 
Up Close: Drs. Foster and Smith's Aquaculture Coral Facility 
Up Close: Kevin Kohen discusses How Finds the Best Aquatic Life 
Dr. Race Foster and director Kevin Kohen discuss Drs. Foster & Smith's New Aquaculture Coral Facility
Drs. Foster & Smith's
New Aquaculture Coral Facility

Q: I understand you're building a coral farm in Wisconsin. What exactly is a coral farm?Aquacultured corals - A variety of aquacultured coral

Kevin Kohen: "A coral farm is a facility designed and developed to propagate - or grow - live coral. Parent colonies are maintained and continue to grow in this facility, and the branches of these colonies are propagated by fragmentation. The fragments - or 'frags' - are then affixed to a mount or base where they are grown out. As the frags grow, they will attach themselves and encrust onto the base structure and start to develop several branches. After reaching a sellable size of around 2-3" they are removed and sold to aquarists. These frags, when properly cared for, will grow into beautiful corals that resemble the parent colony, and a beautiful reef aquarium will be achieved that will be enjoyed and admired for years to come.

"The parent coral, or brood stock, in our facility regenerates and produces new frags, making the coral farm a self-sustaining and reliable source for corals for any aquarist wishing to add this unique feature to their home aquarium."

Q: Why build an aquaculture facility when wild-harvested corals are available?

Dr. Race FosterDr. Race Foster: "We believe that providing and promoting aquacultured species is the right thing to do. As home reef aquariums increase in popularity, we feel it's our social responsibility to do what we can to help reduce the pressure on the world's coral reefs. Every coral fragment we can grow in our own facility is one less taken from a natural reef. By providing an environmentally friendly alternative, we're trying to do our part to meet the growing demand for corals, while minimizing the impact the hobby has on our precious coral reefs."

Kevin Kohen: "I've been involved in the aquatic life industry for many years and the demand for aquacultured species has never been greater. And it's growing. Enthusiasts and even new hobbyists are willing to spend a little more for farmed aquatic life because they know they share in the responsibility for the future of the hobby and our environment."

Q: The Midwest isn't the first place one expects to find a coral farm...

Dr. Foster: "Perhaps not, but when you think about it, it makes perfect sense. First of all, with today's technology, we can virtually replicate a marine environment suited for coral growth. Second, as a company that has built its reputation for over 20 years on a foundation of knowledge and expertise, we're going to extend that level of medical-grade care to include what other coral vendors might simply consider 'a hobby.' In fact, marine aquarium keeping is both a science and an art. Our entire staff of Veterinarians, aquatic experts, and technicians who reside here in Rhinelander Wisconsin, will provide hands on expertise in the husbandry, disease prevention, and overall care of all the aquatic life in our facility. Water conditions, lighting, water movement, nutrition... years of research and testing have contributed to our understanding of the marine environment.

"Add to that the incredible advances in today's sophisticated equipment that is designed around this vast body of knowledge, and the reality is that an aquaculture facility could exist anywhere. So, why not Wisconsin?"

Kevin Kohen: "I might add that the Midwest is home to the fastest growing communities of aquarium hobbyists, but up until now we've had to depend on suppliers in California, Florida, or overseas for our supply.

"Our new facility's centralized location means corals will spend less time out of their natural environment enroute to our customers' homes, resulting in faster acclimation of the frags, quicker growth, and overall better health."

Q: What can you tell us about the facility itself? Director Kevin Kohen

Kevin Kohen: "Well, it's going to be truly state-of-the-art with rows of saltwater holding 'raceways' and the most sophisticated technology in lighting, filtration, water movement, and quarantine systems. The room itself will have exceptional ventilation in order to maintain the proper levels of oxygen while decreasing humidity with the use of a sealed Air Exchanger System. Every aspect of the operation will be tightly controlled and aquatic experts will monitor the conditions of the tanks, as well as the corals themselves throughout every day."

Dr. Foster: "We're making a considerable investment in this facility to ensure our corals are the healthiest specimens available in the industry. Our goal is to grow the best corals anyone has ever seen, which we hope will help accelerate the demand for aquacultured corals and further lessen demand for their wild-harvested cousins."

Q: What types of corals are you going to focus on growing?

Dr. Foster: "Of the many types of corals available to the hobbyist, we will focus our efforts on species that adapt well to a closed environment."

Kevin Kohen: "We have already been growing some of the most outstanding species of corals for the last few years in our Rhinelander facility that we plan to use as our broodstock or mother colonies. These include species of Acropora, Montipora, Seriatopora, as well as numerous types of soft and polyp corals. The majority of the corals we currently have in our Rhinelander facility have been grown out for several generations. These corals are some of the most vibrant and fastest growing species in the US. We will complement these corals with species hand-selected at some of the largest importers in the U.S. All corals acquired from importers will be quarantined and monitored for several months. We will assess not only their health but also their ability to adapt well to artificial lighting in a closed system before we make the decision to use them in the propagation process. Each frag we remove for propagation will be adhered to a solid base structure that hobbyists can mount easily in their home aquariums. Mounting and growing corals out in this manner, allowing them to adhere, encrust and grow onto their base structure minimizes the risk of pathogens attacking the corals. Each frag will also be monitored closely and expertly cared for so that it, too, can grow and ultimately become a source for frags we can then offer to hobbyists."

Q: Will hobbyists notice any difference between wild and farmed corals?

Dr. Race Foster Dr. Foster: "Definitely ... for the better. Aquacultured corals are easier to acclimate to home reef aquariums, faster growing, and more responsive to artificial lighting and other environmental conditions."

Kevin Kohen: "There are several differences between the two. Farmed corals are more resistant to coloration shift. Wild harvested corals normally change coloration when moved into a closed system. The vibrant colored corals will normally loose color during transit and during the adjustment process when adapting to the new environment. Farmed corals that are grown and maintained in a closed system under artificial lighting normally hold their coloration during transit and acclimation to their new environment. This means that the coloration of the corals you see available is what you will receive when maintained properly. Furthermore and most importantly Drs. Foster & Smith farmed corals will be free of any pests and diseases due to our strict quarantine, monitoring, and treatment methods that will be employed in this new venture."

Read more about our Aquaculture Facility.

Dr. Race Foster
A member of the Michigan and Wisconsin Veterinary Medical Associations, Dr. Foster is the co-author of four books on pet health, and is a strong advocate for aquatic health awareness in veterinary academic curriculums nationwide.

Kevin Kohen, BS Director and Coral Facility Operations Manager Kevin Kohen has helped pioneer important research studies in water chemistry management, filtration technologies, fish diseases, and acclimation techniques to safeguard the health of a wide range of aquatic species. Kevin designed Drs. Foster & Smith's state-of-the-art Aquaculture Facility and is actively involved in the husbandry and propagation of all of the aquatic life cared for there.

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