Monday, May 5, 2008

Underwater Garden

For Mike Suchy, aquarist at the N.C. Aquarium at Fort Fisher, gardening is a passion. His love for growing things and strong interest in coral reefs spawned a new project: a coral propagation and holding system within the aquarium.

By snipping fragments of existing coral, mounting it on small disks, and submerging it under water with a light source, Suchy has begun to “grow” coral. “It’s much like taking a cutting from a plant and potting it to grow more,” says Suchy. Growth rates vary depending on variety, but tend to be slow, sometimes only a few inches per year. Temperature, pH, and salinity are kept constant. A moving light hangs above the tank. “A moving light source is more natural and light is of paramount importance to corals,” explains Suchy. Reef-building corals contain symbiotic algae within their tissues that convert light energy into a food source, which helps provide sustenance for the coral colony.

Mike Suchy has a degree in biology from University of Nebraska. He has been at the NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher for 15 years.

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