Why Do I Do This?

It’s pretty common to get an odd look when meeting someone for the first time and telling them what I do for a living.   “You’re a what?”  Is the response 99% of the time.  Coral farmer just isn’t something you hear very often.   The next question is usually why?   It’s not an easy answer but I may as well put it in writing.

Some 25 years ago I walked into a pet store and walked through their saltwater displays.  In one of the tanks was a row of these crazy looking “things.”   This was the mid 90’s so it was mostly shades of green with some browns thrown in for posterity.  I asked an employee what I was looking at and he explained they were corals for reef tanks.   He then said it was pretty difficult to do and you need a large aquarium.   Challenge accepted.  I had a 20 gallon tank and determination.     

I went home made every single mistake that could be made, but never gave up on it.   About a year later I was successfully keeping corals alive with a 4 bulb T8 fluorescent fixture and a big hang on filter in my 20 gallon.   That was it, I was hooked.

Fast forward to 2002 and I had just graduated college and moved to Florida to work on a second degree.   Needing a job I applied at the local saltwater specialty store and was hired.   That store really propelled my reefing forward.   I had the privilege of working with some amazing people with a wealth of knowledge.  That store also changed my life forever.   I had a customer that would come see me every saturday.  I taught her how to set up and keep a nano reef.   At this time, reefs under 20 gallons were very uncommon and considered expert only territory.    Through determination and a willingness to learn, she had a beautiful tank.   We’ll be married 13 years this September.  She takes all those pretty photos on this site and is the glue that keeps Chaos together.

Back then since I was keeping smaller tanks I would always scan underneath the racks at work for tiny pieces of colonies that had broken off and the manager would discount them for me.   My best friend worked there, and I remarked multiple times that we should sell these pieces of frags at a discount.   He would laugh and tell me no one is going to pay $15 for a 2 inch piece of coral.   Eventually I brushed off the idea to get a “real” job after graduation and stepped away from the aquarium business for about 14 years.   Corporate life eventually got the better of me and it was my wife that pushed me to quit and do something that makes me happy.   Watching coral grow makes me happy.

2016 Rolled around and I became friends with a guy named Brad that was also addicted to reef keeping.   One day we were talking and he remarked about wanting to open a farm.   I had finally met someone as crazy as myself with the same vision.   We jumped in head first.   January of 2018 we opened for business and we haven’t stopped since.

It definitely isn’t all roses.   Too many people assume that because we do what we do that we don’t have the same issues that hobbyists experience.   Those people could not be more wrong.  Not only do we constantly battle all the same stuff, but it’s magnified 10 fold in a commercial system.   Fragging, selling coral, handling coral, bringing in new coral, it all takes a toll on the fragile ecosystem that is a reef tank.   Afterall, even though they’re working tanks, it’s still a reef tank at the end of the day.   Farming coral is an absolute grind.  It’s 7 days a week.  Maintaining excellent customer service is a 24 hour a day job.   We’ll never get rich doing this.    So why?  Why do I do it?   Watching coral grow makes me happy.  Watching you grow the coral I grew makes me even happier.   Thanks for growing our coral.


The Chaos Aquaculture Difference

I get asked a lot how we do what we do, and what makes us different.   The answer to that isn’t any single reason, it’s the amalgamation of many different strengths from different people. 

Our one common bond is our love of coral and reef tanks.  Regardless of the amount of amazing corals that pass through our hands, we still stop short and marvel at them all.   Coral feeding still captivates us.   Seeing new growth is fuel to our fire.   

Reefing experiences aside, our professional backgrounds have helped propel Chaos forward and put us on the map.   With a combined 40 years experience founding, running, and growing various businesses, we were able to take all that we learned separately and apply it to the coral trade.    The most important aspect of business we’ve learned over the years has been customer service.   We pride ourselves on taking care of our clients and strive to be known as the best in the business in that regard.

We also started Chaos very differently than most other farms start.  The majority of coral vendors start as hobbyists in a small frag tank with a few corals that they’ve had luck with.    Others simply start with a little magnetic frag rack on their main display.    That’s pretty much the opposite of the way Chaos goes about things.    We started by renting a warehouse and putting 1,400 gallons of frag space in.    Then we loaded it with the best equipment the market had to offer.    Our entire farm runs on Ecotech Marine lights, pumps, and wave makers.    Vertex skimmers keep the water clean, and BRS reactors polish it.    RODI I handled with by a custom built AquaFX unit.    Chaos came strong out of the gate and we’re here to stay.     

As cliche as it sounds, at the end of the day it’s team work that makes the dream work.   That’s how we get it done at Chaos Aquaculture.     

-Mike Tavares

-President, Chaos Aquaculture LLC

-Reef Dork since ’94