In early 1969 I started a retail salt water concession in an established tropical fish store in San Francisco. The owner did not have the confidence and resources to offer marine fish or inverts to his customers.

The store had a 3000 gallon salt water aquarium behind the counter. It housed a 5 year old Pterois volitans. This lion fish was about 13″ and ate several gold fish a day. That tank was off-limits to me. The tank used natural seawater from Steinhart Public Aquarium. The water was always yellow and suffered from low pH. When water changes were performed, copper sulfate medication was added to control parasites that came with the natural sea water. Two more examples of why to avoid using seawater in a closed system.I was offered 12 display tanks, each 10 gallons, and 2 more display tanks, each 70 gallons. These tanks had under gravel filters, and single fluorescent lights. I was also offered the use of a 150 gallon tank, ‘in the back room’. This tank was equipped with one air stone.

I started by purchasing small amounts of live stock from So. Calif. and Florida wholesalers. Within a few weeks it was apparent that I needed additional tank space for display and for quarantine to make the project viable.

I dug deep, purchased and set up 6 tanks, each 55 gallons and 4 tanks, each 25 gallons. These were display/selling aquariums. They were fitted with power undergravel filters and multiple florescent lighting. In the back room, I set up an additional assortment of used tanks that offered an additional 300 gallons. I had a total of 1140 gallons.

Within a year, we were No. 1 in the SF Bay Area. I was importing directly from the Philippines, Indian Ocean, Red Sea, Caribbean. I was making massive and frequent water changes using natural sea water. I was always adding copper sulfate to control parasites and baking soda to temporarily raise (not maintain) pH. I was always one step ahead of a disaster.

My Business as a Wholesaler

In early 1971 I opened a full time importing and wholesale marine fish business. It utilized 24 custom designed and filtered aquaria that totaled 3000 gallons. Tanks were placed three high. Lighting was multiple florescent lamps.

Instant Ocean®, Eco-Sea™ Rila, lobster salt and hW were tested. All exhibited varying degrees of pH problems and limitations. None withstood the rigors of a heavily populated (aquarium) environment.

Making Synthetic Sea Salts

In March 1971 made synthetic sea water for use at my importing facility. Dozens of formulations, from simple blends of 5 salts, to complex multi-stage mixtures of 26+ salts were in print. The learning bug bit me! I wanted to know, what was the difference between all these preparations?

Over 16 different variations of synthetic sea water formulations were tested. One formula worked better than the others. However, it too had limitations regarding pH buffering and lacked the ability to support delicate unicellular alga, among other restrictions. That was the four part Frankfurt Public Aquarium Formula.

Breeding Marine Fish

I was keeping several adult pairs of Amp. percula and Amp. ocellaris. The entire facility was run using four different modified versions of the FPAF formula.

On June 01, 1971 clownfish eggs were seen on an aquarium heater. The eggs were observed as they developed and hatched. Spawning occurred three times a month. Each spawn was larger than the last. I modified the ‘sea water’ formulations in many systems during the spawning of several pairs of clownfish.

I now had a synthetic sea water formula that held up under the rigors of heavy duty bio-loading associated with importing. The formula allowed marine fish to reproduce. Now, I wanted to see if the formula would allow the rearing of larva.

You know the story…. Marine fish reproduced and bred through several generations. Above are photos of second generation marine fish. The salt water formula I developed was named …
dual phase formula

More on this story and breeding marine fish in the next issue.