Mini Reefs improve water quality

By Siesta Sand Staff Writer

The proposed use of mini reefs to help quickly and easily improve water quality in the Siesta canals was the message delivered by Phil Chiocchio, of the Sarasota Bay Fisheries Forum, delivered at the December 5th  SKA monthly meeting.

The canals were built to sell houses, not to provide an eco-friendly habitat for sea life, water in Siesta canals is unhealthy. The water needs aeration, more flow, and filtration. Adding aeration and flow are larger projects. However, filtration can be accomplished quickly by individuals installing mini reefs under an existing boat dock.

Sandy Gilbert, of Solutions to Avoid Red Tide (START), explained that these mini-reefs filter 30,000 gallons of water per day and soon become a haven for crabs, oysters, and fish. They are affordable (approximately $300), long-lasting, and low maintenance. Besides improving water quality in the canals, filtration helps in the fight to avoid red tide. Currently, the City of Sarasota allows these installations.

Sarasota County and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection has confirmed that there’s no permit required, no permitting fee and no ordinance against the use of the mini-reefs, according to Catherine Luckner, president of the Siesta Key Association.

There are now 4,000 mini reefs installed under docks all over Florida from The Keys to Jacksonville. START is helping the manufacturer, Ocean Habitats, Inc, to introduce them here on the Suncoast. Mini reefs measure 24″ x 24″ x 36″ deep and are made with a durable polypropylene frame with four holding shelves that support marine life that filter excess nutrients in up to 30,000 gallons of seawater every day.

Each mini reef can support hundreds of fish, crabs and shrimp each year and will start to develop a complete ecosystem starting as soon as it enters the water. Dozens of different fish have been found utilizing these underwater reefs. 

In addition to providing habitat for water-filtering sea life and fish, mini reefs improve water clarity around the dock for a radius of 12-15 feet.

The units are installed under-docks, floats below surface, and are virtually maintenance free. The holding lines need to be checked every so often and after storms to be sure the lines aren’t tangled. The units are built to survive heavy weather and last decades. If you need assistance in handling your mini reefs, you can contact Ocean Habitats for maintenance service.

“The Bay Island area of Siesta Key has a great opportunity to become a wonderful demonstration project for the region and all the neighboring islands,” said Chiocchio.

START offers special discount to non-profits

START is launching a special sales promotion on under dock mini reefs for waterside residents on the Suncoast. The units fit under your dock and provide habitat for sea life that filter excess nutrients from the water and attract a wide variety of fish.

The regular retail price for mini reefs is $297 per unit, plus $21 tax and $125 for installation. With the START 10 Special Non-Profit Discount, the cost is only $297 with no tax and free professional installation. That’s a saving of $146 or 33% per unit. Also, half or $148.50 of the $297 START 10 Special Non-Profit Discount price is also tax deductible as a donation to Ocean Habitats, Inc.

To order a mini reef with the START Special Non-Profit Discount contact colleen@start1.org or call (941) 951-3400.