What do you do to keep costs low?

What do you do to keep costs low?

Postby BaboonScience » Mon Nov 22, 2010 4:55 pm

This post is inspired by a post by midnight angel in another thread. Since it covers everyone, not just business, it probably belongs somewhere else but it really stings those that are trying to start or maintain a breeding business the most.

Costs of maintaining a breeding operation are prohibitive for a variety of reasons. Electricity, salt replacement, acquisition of broodstock, food, and the machinery are all costly. Clearly, few of the companies that support our efforts offer any sort of relief. If you can't afford to buy salt by the pallet, you will pay significantly more, for instance.

The question is, what can we do to help keep these efforts running. What do you all do to help lower your costs.
Personally, I run as many tanks as possible off of the same pump. I make my own food for both broodstock and growout. I culture my own algae and larval foods. I run lower wattage light wherever possible. I run a huge refugium to keep water as fresh as possible, minimizing my salt habit.

Just wanted to get the ball rolling and thanks to MA for getting my mind on this one.
John
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Re: What do you do to keep costs low?

Postby jeff@zina.com » Mon Nov 22, 2010 5:04 pm

Look at every single piece of the operation and think about how it could be cheaper. Rubbermaid(TM) tubs versus glass tanks. Daylight versus artificial. Natural heating (Move out of snow country). Buy in bulk. Shorten time to market. Make your own salt. Reduce water changes so you need less salt. Build everything yourself.

Oh, and take out that second mortgage while the rates are low... :)

Jeff
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Re: What do you do to keep costs low?

Postby spawner » Mon Nov 22, 2010 7:10 pm

I've found that inefficiency due to poor set ups or planning cost far more than appropriate equipment to get the job done. I think that people often value their time for far less than it should be.
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Re: What do you do to keep costs low?

Postby BaboonScience » Mon Nov 22, 2010 9:16 pm

Thanks Jeff.
That is a good start. It probably would not hurt to restart the "make your own salt" thread.
I already live fairly far south. I am considering the loan while rates are low. :lol:

Andy.
What I am saying is that times are very tight. Money for equipment and "doing it right" are often in short supply. I think that a healthy discussion of ways to safely save that precious resource, money, is called for. We have a community that is attempting to do what was seen as impossible not so many years ago. Often, the methods and equipment used (store bought) was the brain child of someone that built it from a few bucks of parts from the local hardware store. Innovation.

John
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Re: What do you do to keep costs low?

Postby spawner » Mon Nov 22, 2010 9:35 pm

John,

What I'm suggesting is that often we spend time doing and no time thinking about what we are doing and if its is the most efficient, effective. Seems people often are worried about saving a few pennies and spend dollars or hours doing it. Sort of think about this like driving across down to save .02 on a gallon of gas. Its a fine line to ensure you actually saving money and not wasting it an time.
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Re: What do you do to keep costs low?

Postby team ctenophor » Mon Nov 22, 2010 11:04 pm

couldn't agree more with spawner.

You see this all the time, people skimp on check valves, unions, proper insullation of fish room, stressing out pumps due to poor design.

Without a solid base, our systems wont stand up to the test of time. think of it like a larvae, feed it poorely as a juvenile, and it may die at a leter point, or not survive meta.

but I degress.

Recently I have been setting up new systems. At home depot I spent $26.17 and bought a led bulb which uses 13 watts, and the clamp on fixture. Together, these are enough to completely light my 47 gallon tall, and support rigourous plant growth (freshwater) I use these on many tanks now.

I have also ordered one of those ebay 225 led fixtures for $37. it will be used for my larvae tank, as it is a 50/50 spectrum. It gets put down because it wont grow coral, but works great for fish.

I used to buy the small bottles of ammonia removers for $9. They last a few months. I finaly went out and ordered some chloram X and This stuff will save me a bundle!

I'm sure I could think of more, but it all goes back to spending a little more in the begining to do it right, VS. doing it cheap and ineffective and spending more in the long run.

Tommy
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Re: What do you do to keep costs low?

Postby FuEl » Tue Nov 23, 2010 11:53 am

Could'nt agree more. Equipments like UVs cannot be scrimped upon, you need to do the system right from the start. If not you'll end up frustrated trying to solve issues later on.

I only found out that the only thing that should be worked upon is electrical consumption. Try to use more efficient pumps, larger piping that does'nt restrict the flow and using energy efficient protein skimmers.
I love Artemac!
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Re: What do you do to keep costs low?

Postby KathyL » Tue Nov 23, 2010 9:59 pm

Or no protein skimmers at all. How long have I been doing this? 4 years? Still don't need a skimmer, but I do a lot of water changes.

I've been able pretty much to keep it simple. Electrical outlets in the ceiling with GFCI on each line. Safety counts: $500. 100micron sock over bioballs, and the bioballs were a gift. UV on growout, but one of my growout UV's broke some time ago, with no apparant effect. I do tend to neglect them. I like the Quiet one pumps I've been using. They are energy efficient. So are the maxijet powerheads. I use those for a variety of things. I bought a bunch from a guy who was taking them out of his reef tank, and replacing them with something else. They were cheap. The new compact fluorescent bulbs are getting brighter and with more choices than they used to have. Since I don't grow corals, I don't need lots of watts. Heaters are my most energy consumptive things. I don't know how to get around that…. I like the screw in ball valves, so I can replace them if they quit on me. I've acquired a bunch of tanks rather cheaply from stores going out of business (sadly). All my sumps are elevated off the concrete floor of the basement, so they are a bit insulated in winter. I do spend a bunch on plumbing and salt. I'm still on my first purchase of chloram-X!

Business has been rather miserable lately. Three of my stores closed, one declines to pay my price, and is going for the uggly fish. The rest buy less often. Actually there is one store that is very upscale, and they buy a lot of fish from me. It's a new store, and I hope they can keep going. I hope they all can keep going. It has not been a great economic climate for luxury hobby items like fish. I am hearing about signs that the economy is improving. I keep trying to think positively. I'm glad I don't depend on fish for a living.
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Re: What do you do to keep costs low?

Postby BaboonScience » Wed Nov 24, 2010 1:01 am

So, so far I hear that there is really no way around spending those big bucks up front. Good news that the interest rates are so low. :lol:

Thanks for the "buy in quantity" suggestions. That should help those that know ahead of time exactly what they need for specific projects. I think that cost/benefit ratios are important.

Kathy, Wow! Thanks for that insight. I have to say that heaters are my one real cost as well. I have tried to keep those costs down by using several controllers set at sequentially lower temperatures so that I only use all of the wattage on those really cold nights. Not sure if that really works out yet or not. For me, that is not nearly as cold as it would be where you live but still quite a drain. And I do think that the skimmer allows me to minimize the salt expense but the cost to benefit ratio is probably fairly even.

Aeration is another point where I went big to keep overall costs down. Rather than several diaphragm pumps working constantly, I recently went to a piston style pump and a large air cylinder. It requires a good deal of electricity when it is on but that is 2 minutes out of every thirty and drives all of my algae, zooplankton and larval systems. The air tank is set at 40 - 70 psi and the air supply is set at 5 psi.

John
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Re: What do you do to keep costs low?

Postby onsan » Wed Nov 24, 2010 2:12 am

to that extent, why not insulate tanks or tubs with styrofoam or similar if you need to heat the water? probably surprise many how much of a difference basic insulation and lids would do to minimise heating costs.

i make my own food, cheaper and i believe a much better quality, shown in both colour and growth.

i rely more now on bacteria to culture rots, cheaper than instant algae concentrates and easier than maintaining live algae blooms, all i use is a carbon source (sugar) and an airstone.
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Re: What do you do to keep costs low?

Postby PaulG » Wed Nov 24, 2010 2:59 am

BaboonScience wrote:
Aeration is another point where I went big to keep overall costs down. Rather than several diaphragm pumps working constantly, I recently went to a piston style pump and a large air cylinder. It requires a good deal of electricity when it is on but that is 2 minutes out of every thirty and drives all of my algae, zooplankton and larval systems. The air tank is set at 40 - 70 psi and the air supply is set at 5 psi.


John,

Some more information of the system your using if you please? details on the pump & where you sourced teh air cylinder from?
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Re: What do you do to keep costs low?

Postby jeff@zina.com » Wed Nov 24, 2010 8:46 am

BaboonScience wrote:Thanks for the "buy in quantity" suggestions. That should help those that know ahead of time exactly what they need for specific projects.


And if you can't use the entire bulk buy, split it. There are always hobbyists looking for a good deal. For instance, I can buy salt in bulk through a local fish store at a great price. I just can't use it in those amounts (yet). But I can buy it and sell half to other local reefers and get the bulk cost for half as much. The same is often true for frozen goods for me.

A second part to this is to order through your LFS when possible to save shipping costs. I can get a mated pair of ORA Snowflakes from any number of online sources at reasonable prices. My LFS will order them for about $15 more than the online sources, but I save the $50 or so in shipping.

Join local clubs. They often have discounts from sponsors. Become a member of the larger forums for the hobby side, they also have discounts. And shop the Black Friday/Cyber Monday sales. :)

Jeff
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Re: What do you do to keep costs low?

Postby aomont » Wed Nov 24, 2010 9:17 am

PaulG wrote:
BaboonScience wrote:Aeration is another point where I went big to keep overall costs down. Rather than several diaphragm pumps working constantly, I recently went to a piston style pump and a large air cylinder. It requires a good deal of electricity when it is on but that is 2 minutes out of every thirty and drives all of my algae, zooplankton and larval systems. The air tank is set at 40 - 70 psi and the air supply is set at 5 psi.

John,
Some more information of the system your using if you please? details on the pump & where you sourced teh air cylinder from?

+1 !

Which pump and how do you control the air supply that well ?

onsan wrote:i rely more now on bacteria to culture rots, cheaper than instant algae concentrates and easier than maintaining live algae blooms, all i use is a carbon source (sugar) and an airstone.

Also interested in knowing more about your method, onsan !
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Re: What do you do to keep costs low?

Postby Midnight Angel » Wed Nov 24, 2010 11:27 pm

Well since I am part of the inspiration for this thread I thought I would chime in. :wink: We never were set up right here so I have to agree with Andy as usual. We didn't set out to make money (like so many hobbyist breeders) so we never set things up right from the start. And you have to plan ahead and invest from the start. So that is why we never made money fwiw. And so we were thinking about redoing things here and turning my fish room into a hatchery but I would rather not these days for a few reasons. First we are too busy with the aquarium servicing business. And like Kathy we are seeing fish stores close left and right. And the ones that are left are not doing well. So the last thing I want to do is invest more money into fish. But I think if you are serious about it you have to do it right from the start like Andy said. Just my 2 cents.


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Re: What do you do to keep costs low?

Postby onsan » Thu Nov 25, 2010 12:50 am

two methods i use for bacteria cultures...

1. L.rhamnosus cultured in aerated ASW, I add a 1/4 teaspoon of sugar to 2L of water, and as i don't have the means to make a proper balanced bacterial culture media i add a mens multi-vitamin and omega 3 fish oil, mix it up and add a couple of drops... don't know if this makes any real difference, culture fires up on it's own without it. google L.rhamnosus and clownfish for more info on why this strain.

2. random bacteria from my DT, I take 2L from the DT, add 1/4 teaspoon of sugar and aerate. i do this in batch cultures to feed the rotifer culture.

really simple and basic, but very effective and costs not much more than the sugar you add, can't get much cheaper than that.

blooms are a pale milky white.

blooms come up overnight so it's a quick easy system to maintain.
you can also bloom them up and put them in the fridge so that when you go away and have a stand-in they can just take it out, bring to room temp and feed.

easy as.
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Re: What do you do to keep costs low?

Postby jeff@zina.com » Thu Nov 25, 2010 10:02 am

Midnight Angel wrote:And like Kathy we are seeing fish stores close left and right. And the ones that are left are not doing well.


The economy is changing the game, not causing stores to go out of business. Locally, we're seeing more stores losing the high-end, but maintenance is picking up for many. The problem becomes that the basic trade stock, clown fish for example, are so plentiful they are cheap to buy wholesale. Cheaper than a small operation can profit from. But corals are still profitable for smaller aquaculture shops, especially if you hit the frag swaps that hobbyist groups have. Unfortunately, you really have to start preparing now for what the hot item will be two years from now, without a clue of what it may be.

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Re: What do you do to keep costs low?

Postby team ctenophor » Thu Nov 25, 2010 12:24 pm

How nutritious is the bacteria? What are you able to feed it to, clownfish, or stuff thats more difficult?
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Re: What do you do to keep costs low?

Postby onsan » Thu Nov 25, 2010 7:47 pm

http://glassbox-design.com/2010/study-f ... clownfish/
http://ajpregu.physiology.org/cgi/conte ... 298/2/R359
http://content.karger.com/produktedb/pr ... 89&typ=pdf

google... l.rhamnosus clownfish ... or... l.rhamnosus fish larvae diet ... it'll give you plenty of links.

i've only bred occies so can't give any info on other species. worked well growth was on par if not better, rots go berkers on it.

i would think a co-culture of both l.rhamnosus and algae fed to rots would be the ultimate, nutrition-wise, ensures a varied and more complete diet for the larvae.
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Re: What do you do to keep costs low?

Postby BaboonScience » Sat Nov 27, 2010 1:31 pm

Paul and Anderson
Thanks to the inquiry about my air supply.
I have started a new thread to discuss that and hopefully get some input.
viewtopic.php?f=233&t=8352

Hope that helps.

On another note, I do realize the difference between inexpensive and cheap. With the industry going the way it is, I believe that we need to be discussing ways to keep people in the business. While realizing that the startup costs are relatively high, there are ways to ease the strain, hopefully. I would give those that are interested some incentive to push the envelope. Remember that innovation is part of the theme here.
John
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Re: What do you do to keep costs low?

Postby KathyL » Sun Nov 28, 2010 10:16 am

onsan wrote:http://glassbox-design.com/2010/study-finds-probiotics-boost-size-in-captive-bred-juvenile-clownfish/
http://ajpregu.physiology.org/cgi/conte ... 298/2/R359
http://content.karger.com/produktedb/pr ... 89&typ=pdf

google... l.rhamnosus clownfish ... or... l.rhamnosus fish larvae diet ... it'll give you plenty of links.

i've only bred occies so can't give any info on other species. worked well growth was on par if not better, rots go berkers on it.

i would think a co-culture of both l.rhamnosus and algae fed to rots would be the ultimate, nutrition-wise, ensures a varied and more complete diet for the larvae.


I think this is interesting. They compared their lactobacilus treatment to a diet of rots and algamac. Their time to meta was not as good as I routinely get, and I don't get mouth deformities with any regularity. I am not doubting their results, but I wonder if algamac is as good as the rotifer enrichment that Reed puts out.

It seems odd to me that a bacteria from mammals would be so nutritious to fish. It's very interesting. Perhaps a new thread?
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Re: What do you do to keep costs low?

Postby Scottt » Sun Nov 28, 2010 11:33 am

I've been setting up a new fish room, again, and wanted to share a couple things we did to keep costs down.
-LED rope lights http://www.usledsupply.com/shop/12v-whi ... strip.html
They cost more up front, but only use ~1.5watts per foot, rather than the 8ish watts/foot of flourescent tubes. They should cut down on the monthly electric bill. Lighting has always been one of my biggest electrical users.
-Gas Heaters. Electric heaters are so temperamental, and expensive to run. So instead, I got a natural gas hotwater heater, temperature controllers, circulator pumps, and pex. I've used this design before with great success. A nice way to cost effectively heat the tanks. (we heat the air with wood, water with natural gas)

I'd like to learn how to use less salt though. Any tips on water-refurbishing?
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Re: What do you do to keep costs low?

Postby BaboonScience » Sun Nov 28, 2010 12:28 pm

Scottt wrote: -Gas Heaters. Electric heaters are so temperamental, and expensive to run. So instead, I got a natural gas hotwater heater, temperature controllers, circulator pumps, and pex. I've used this design before with great success. A nice way to cost effectively heat the tanks. (we heat the air with wood, water with natural gas)

Scott
We already heat our air with a wood heater that is over 100 years old and still going strong. Gas furnace for emergency backup. We use the fan for air circulation. Nice to see someone else returning to the basics.

Your water heater interests me. Can you give some information on how you put that together? Also, how do you regulate the temperature?
Thanks
John
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Re: What do you do to keep costs low?

Postby rsman » Sun Nov 28, 2010 1:54 pm

Scottt wrote:I'd like to learn how to use less salt though. Any tips on water-refurbishing?

last tip im giving out today, remove the water treat it, put it back in a batch style process.
GONE!!!
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Re: What do you do to keep costs low?

Postby Clownfish75 » Mon Nov 29, 2010 7:55 am

I manage electricity consumption as much as i can, and try to deal with water parameters as best i can for low elec use.

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Re: What do you do to keep costs low?

Postby Brenda » Thu Dec 02, 2010 11:16 pm

Great thread!

To same money I run my lighting on my reef tanks during non peak hours. I also try to buy in bulk when things are on sale.
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