Anthony Calfo Interview!!!

Hello AquaNerd community. We have once again brought you an informative interview with another well known aquarium hobbyist. This time around we are speaking with Anthony Calfo.

Anthony has authored several articles, given public demonstrations and speeches, and has published various books including the Book of Coral Propagation and co-authored Reef Invertebrates with Bob Fenner. Additionally, Anthony has published C…The Journal of Aquatic Science, Travel, and Adventure. Mr. Calfo has also operated various coral farms and greenhouses throughout his career and once had the Marine Systems and Husbandry Forum on the Marine Depot Forum.

But let’s get on to the interview…

I would like to start by saying thank you for taking the time to answer my questions and lending some of your expertise to AquaNerd and the rest of the reefkeeping community. I am a huge fan of yours. I have the book of coral propagation (which is a very useful tool by the way) and all of your posters framed and on the walls in my “office” in my apartment. They are great visual resources.

AquaNerd: Hey Anthony, it’s been quite a while since I’ve seen you at the MARSHreef meeting you spoke at, what’s been keeping you busy?
Anthony Calfo: I keep busy, indeed, my friend. I am finishing a new greenhouse for reef species culture, collaborating on another with a close industry friend, carrying the ball still with my reef magazine – C… the Journal – and maintaining travel for hobby mentoring/events. After I tidy that up, I’d like to finish layout for a Syngnathid/seahorse book that I have been working on.

AquaNerd: What caused you to get into this hobby? How old were you?
Anthony Calfo: I must have been around 9 or 10 years old when a science teacher helped me get my first aquarium started… a cichlid tank, like the one in our classroom, that fascinated me.

AquaNerd: Who (or what) has been your biggest inspiration? Who has been your biggest supporter?
Anthony Calfo: Martin Moe has been the biggest influence on me by far. He is brilliant, funny, humble and simply contributed more to aquarium science and aquaculture than most any other. On a personal level, Bob Fenner has been a tremendous mentor and father figure to me as I came up in the hobby. His contributions to the pet industry via his website ( have been extraordinary. I also dearly appreciate the sustained efforts of Dr. Bruce Carlson to bridge the gap between public aquarium and private aquarium enthusiasts.

AquaNerd: What is your “career” and what possessed you to pursue one that is so closely tied to the aquarium industry?
Anthony Calfo: My principal means of employment have been as a commercial coral farmer and as a content provider. I’ve worked at most every level of the industry in marine ornamentals however since a very early age. Nowadays it is my photography that is a staple income and a blessing (for such rewarding work). I’m also enjoying a good career consulting governments and individuals on farming marine ornamental species. All of this when I have the time to get away fro my personanl coral farming projects :).

AquaNerd: Can you tell me a little about the coral farm you used to run?
Anthony Calfo: My first coral farm was a greenhouse with a fluctuating volume of about 5000 – 8000 gallons of seawater. I was a youngster at the time and simply had a dream to make a living in aquaculture and also to try to do a small part to relieve pressure on wild stocks via self-sustaining activities for our hobby. I kept a range of species including soft and stony corals, of course, but also breeding fishes, snails and other invertebrates.

AquaNerd: How many books/articles have you written, and which is your favorite or most helpful?

Anthony Calfo: Hmmm… three published books, several waiting published books, nine reef journals, many dozens of articles… and well over 20,000 posts on reef forums sharing with fellow hobbyists.

AquaNerd: What topic do you just love to talk about, more than all others?

Anthony Calfo: Hobby efforts to become self-sustaining. It has been THE crucial issue for many years now and is becoming ever more imperative if we are going to survive the impending legislation that will restrict if not halt the collection of wild reef species.

AquaNerd: What is your absolute favorite fish, coral, or invertebrate?

Anthony Calfo: Very tough to say… I love them all 🙂 Special favorites include anemones and seahorses. Also seagrasses.

AquaNerd: What is your favorite aspect of the hobby?

Anthony Calfo: The fact that our aquariums are complex and beautiful learning centers that teach children and adults alike about conservation, animal husbandry, biology, physics and so much more.

AquaNerd: What are your thoughts on aquarium filtration? Which one is your favorite/most effective? (I know you are a huge advocate of water changes, as am I)

Anthony Calfo: I like simple and natural methods, indeed, by far versus heavily tech supported strategies. For me, that means oversized aquaria when possible, understocked as well, and large frequent water changes for small and large tanks alike. Dilution is the solution to pollution, as they say. It facilitates superb growth, health and vigor in closed aquarium systems.

AquaNerd: What is your take on “trend” corals (like acans or zoas) that fetch hundreds of dollars per mouth/polyp/inch?

Anthony Calfo: I have a strong disdain for the misguided and/or nefarious traders of coral calling specimens “rare” or ‘limited edition” when said folks have no right to be giving out such labels. You can read more about my position on this topic, if I may say so, in a an article I wrote for Reefkeeping magazine at called “Reef Trendy.”

AquaNerd: What has been your favorite and/or most useful piece of reefkeeping equipment?

Anthony Calfo: Ozonizers rank high for me. It is the single most effective piece of equipment that most aquarists could apply to see overnight improvements in their aquarium systems. Used properly, with carbon and an ORP controller, it can do wonders for health and wellness for aquarim specimens.

AquaNerd: Where all do you or have you traveled, and what effect does this take on your personal aquariums?

Anthony Calfo: My fishroom and greenhouse are fairly simple, somewhat automated (water changes) and generally designed to sustain my extended travel schedule. As per my earlier comments, I like oversized, understocked displays. With automatic waer changes… there are few things that require attention while I am away. Fortunately, I do have full time help when I am traveling, so I am doubly insured you could say. As for my travels, I have been around the globe several times over and through both hemispheres. I reckon I’ve flown the better part of a half million miles by air in the last decade alone. Too many to name here, but one of my favorite destinations for uniqueness, adventure and overall was Sri Lanka. Its a beautiful land with beautiful people despite the ravages of civil war. Africa (coasts and inland) is also magical to me.

AquaNerd: When not living and breathing aquariums, what other hobbies or activities do you partake of?

Anthony Calfo: I’m an avid gardener. I love old fashioned gardens particularly. My special love is roses. I keep several dozen in large beds that I dote on 🙂

AquaNerd: What is a good/best source to learn about aquariums and corals?

Anthony Calfo: I consider local reef clubs and MACNA, the national marine aquarim conference, to be the best places to get the greatest concentration of the most accurate and current information. Every good aquarist should make the effort to participate – sharing and learning – in reef club activities.

AquaNerd: What advice do you have for aspiring reefkeepers?

Anthony Calfo: Understand how precious the species we keep really are. The reefs are not a limitless resource and if we want to be able to continue to enjoy our hobby after legislation takes most wild sources of livestock away, we simply must become self-sustaining. We must support each other in buying and growing aquacultured specimens. In a phrase… live more gently on the planet.

AquaNerd: Well I must say that I probably will have a few more questions for you down the road. Your interview was extremely informative and has helped me open my eyes to a few things. Thanks a lot for your advice and contribution to the hobby…and the presentation and fragging demonstration you gave for the Marine Aquarium and Reef Society of Houston ( was awesome. I hope to get you back to Houston one day to talk about more stuff with my local club. Best of luck with everything and thanks again.
Anthony Calfo: Thank you, my friend. It was an honor for me to chat and share with you. With kindest regards, Anthony

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