Ray (Cruz) Arias started in the hobby in the early 1990’s as many of us had with freshwater and progressed over the years through freshwater planted aquariums, fish only, to fish only with live rock and eventually to reef keeping.
In early 1996, Cruz began his dive into the reefing hobby and started his serious involvement with captive ecosystems, ecology, and environmental conservation.
During the early years for him, there were diverse ways to practical reef keeping, at that point, how to keep corals and fish alive, which was a challenge with the rudimentary technology and the lack of understanding.
Though biology was not his major in college, Cruz was very interested in marine biology and marine ecosystems. He ended up taking elective courses in conjunction with his major classes in electrical and control systems engineering at California Polytechnic University at Pomona.
At the turn of Y2K, Cruz was taking elective classes and studying under Biologists Dr. Nelson and Dr. Resnick at the University of California, at Riverside and at the USC Wrigley Marine Science Center in Catalina, California. It was through the environmental conservation movement during this time, that he met Dr. Leng Sy, of the University of California, at Irvine, and the proprietor of EcoSystem Aquarium, and a few other prominent figures in today’s conservation efforts and organizations.
During this time in reefing, the Berlin Method was the “mechanical” way of reef keeping and was preferred by the hobby because it was mechanically controlled, but required constant upkeep and mechanical maintenance. This was also where stores were able to SELL equipment for huge profits without really being able to control parameters without affecting the balance of the overall system.
Leng mentored many students and hobbyists, including Cruz, establishing the concept of harmonization of Mother Nature’s ability to create a balanced environment even in a captive ecosystem; “success made easy” in aquatic husbandry.
The intertidal zone’s natural filtration, which included macro-algae, micro-algae, mollusks, filter feeders, detritus eating organisms, such as copepods, amphipods, bristle worms and other annelids, including marine nematodes, and even smaller, the aerobic and anaerobic bacteria colonies found in this zone’s substrate, create a balanced aeration and break down of organics which allows for a complete organisms food chain, with minimal man-made mechanical filtration.
This methodology was passed down to Cruz; utilizing what Mother Nature has perfected and harvesting her childrens’ abilities to create a healthier and more easily sustainable environment. The concept of the environment as a whole extends far inland beyond the reefs and the shores, and naturalistic balance is what creates a successful captive biotope.
After a few years of being mentored and perfecting the “balance” using the EcoSystems method with the Live Refugium Substrate (Miracle Mud), Leng surprised Cruz with a few corals to inherit a few treasures that he had kept in his systems, of which was a pale bottom shelf frag of the purple rim montipora, he had at the time as well as a few other pruned coral frags such as the samoan blue staghorn and a break-off of the orange capricornis, all of which were rare in those days. Cruz was asked not to disclose that he had received these.
Since then, Cruz attempted to propagate the gifted corals, attempting to recreate the environment, lighting, water movement, on a budget. It was difficult without the facility and the resources to maintain the growth and coloration. Under sub-PAR lighting, other than halides, it was extremely difficult. The corals stayed alive, but he knew that they were not thriving. They grew slowly, over the next few years, under the water chemistry we had at that time, powerheads for water movement and rudimentary halide lighting. Cruz had given a few frags to his close hobbyist friends and tried to impart the knowledge of reefing to them and seed the corals that were given to him.
In 2005, Cruz, like many hobbyists that have learned from mistakes made over the years, made an especially big mistake, one of which nearly wiped out his reef as his alkalinity dropped near the crash point of 6dKH and brought up the alkalinity too quickly because he panicked.
Over the next few years, Cruz continued his career as an Electrical Engineer doing automation work for the big casinos and met with Brett and Wade with Acrylic Tank Manufacturer. Cruz took part in much of the building automation and hvac automation of many landmark casinos on the strip and extended his passion of aquatics to the automation of Mandalay Bay’s Shark Reef Aquarium. After the depression in the economy in 2009, and the nearing of the final construction of the City Center, Cruz was offered a position in Kankakee, Illinois with an International Bio-Pharmaceutical.
So in the fall of 2010, after completion and close-out of projects in Sin City, Cruz packed up and headed east to his new destination. And of course, his aquariums and corals.
During the next 5 years, Cruz had teamed up with many local reefers which included Bill Donovan, with ReefLEDLights.com, Mark Bustami, of Sixth Element Systems, Justin Leoni and Mike McGowan, of ReefGrow, and Julian Hechavarria, of Elegant Corals, and many others in the Chicagoland Area. During this time frame he had also been recruited as the Lead Electrical Engineer and COE representative for Kankakee, working for the world’s largest chemical company in the world.
Using all the knowledge and experience he had gained over the years beginning with Leng, the Naturalistic Filtration Zone, reading up on White Papers on Steve Tyree’s Tri-Zonal and Cryptic Zone, Live Filtration systems, and Sanjay Joshi’s Metal Hailde Spectrum Analysis, Cruz decided to create the perfect environment to the best of his abilities as a hobbyist.
In the winter of 2010, Cruz setup his aquarium system, in Tinley Park, the way he was taught and started the journey of recreating the ideal environment for his reef inhabitants.
He began working with his friends at ReefGrow to really stabilize water chemistry and simulate natural sea water, as humanly possible. Justin worked with Cruz to get the correct ionic balance to ensure the optimum ionic levels including potassium bromide and borate salts.
In paralleled effort, Cruz worked with ReefLEDLights.com and Sixth Element Systems (SES) and co-designed the lighting system that he has, being able to emulate and simulate the vital wavelengths of any 400W halide light (10,000K to 20,000K) with the ability to generate stunning coloration as the famed T-8s and the current T-5s, and the energy efficiency and controllability of the high end LED fixtures on the market today.
Cruz was so engrossed in keeping his corals alive and re-creating the environment that Leng had instilled in him that the years just flew by. He never got caught up in the fancy names of the retail coral market. He was content on growing out his corals that he had inherited over the years.
There were a couple of frags of the purple-rim montipora, given to close family and friends of his.
In the fall of 2014, Cruz came across a frag that was being sold as the Original purple-rim montipora, but it was different… it carried Leng’s name, but it WAS NOT the same, coloration or physiology. So he went online to see why, and to his surprise, it was stated that the Leng Sy Purple Rim Montipora was listed as lost to the hobby in 2003. Cruz was also shocked to see various other corals being sold online as the original, but it MUST have been a mistake. To the trained eye, the difference are very clear in structure, form, color, and density.
At the end of March 2015, Cruz contacted Steve and Leng and sent them these images taken with his Samsung S5 stock camera and no filter under 14K lighting spectrum to accurately represent the last surviving colony.
3 inch true percula wanted to photo bomb this shot.
Soft rounded edges lit under “late afternoon” simulation by the SIRIUS XTC fixture. Note the teal polyp development on the OUTSIDE of the bowl and the extended purple edged rim.
Another shot of the inner whorls and shelves of the Leng Sy Purple Rim Montipora.
The teal polyps can be seen on the outer bowl as well as the characteristic purple rim under the leading edge extending approximately ¾ inch to 1 ½ inch around the outer rim of the bowl.
Another tight whorl formation that exemplifies the steep vertical funnel formation.
Currently, Cruz entrusted his reef system with the first generation seed colony to the capable hands of Julian H. of Elegant Corals, in Lawndale, IL. The Leng Sy Purple Rim Montipora made its short trip from Tinley Park to Lawndale on April 1, 2015.
Under actinics, the pastel-purple rim and pastel teal-green base, glows with the opacity of photo protective pigmentation; this displays the high PAR lighting requirement for this exotic species.
The inner whorl shelf with definitive spires was fragged to Steve Tyree with ReefFarmers for cataloguing one of the hobby’s most disputed, most coveted, and most controversial coral in reefing history.
The colony before, during and after the generous 5 inch wide, inner whorl, top shelf frag for Steve Tyree and the ReefFarmers group.
Super-nodes are apparent on the side profile shot of the frag to be sent to Steve Tyree by Hung Vo and Julian Hechavarria on Wednesday evening for Thursday, April 9th, 2015 delivery to Abilene, TX.
This is the correct orientation of spire development. Note the thick plate formation at the base of this frag and the fractured super-node whose development consists of multiple spires at inception which as they increase in girth grow into each other creating the ridged super-nodes.
Photo taken under “actinic/UV” growth spectrum programming by the SIRIUS XTC Light Fixture.
The First Generation Mother Colony showing the frag removed and the pronounced super-nodes and spires, as characteristic of this montipora species. (Orientation of spires were not developed in orientation)
Another Top Right Side Profile of the Tyree Frag exemplifying the characteristic super-node growth and purple rim and green-teal luminescence under T5 actinics. Here it is in the frag tank healing at the Elegant-Corals grow out facility.
The mother colony in the established 120 gallon grow out tank with other rare sps and lps corals at the Elegant-Corals facility. Here under 20K Radiums, soon to be replaced by the SIRIUS XTC lamps by Sixth Element Systems.
Water Chemistry Parameters by ReefGrow:
Mg - 1295 ppm
Ca - 416 ppm
K - 390 ppm
HCO3 - 145 ppm
Br - 66 ppm
H2BO3 – 27 ppm
Sr - 13 ppm
F - 1 ppm
Buffer Capacity consists of HCO3 and H2BO3 equaling 172 ppm or 9.63 dKH
Lighting by Sixth Element Systems:
Two SIRIUS XTC Lights
Light cycle duration: 14 hours
Refugium Lights by Sixth Element Systems:
Three SIRIUS Pico optimized for macro algae growth
Refugium by EcoSystem Aquarium:
Miracle Mud Susbstrate (1.5 inch deep)
Macro algae (Grape Caulerpa screen separated Chaetomorpha)