RSS A closer look at the design and applications of Modular Artificial Reef concept

MASA Admin

8 May 2007
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In April we wrote about Alex Goad and his award winning Modular Artificial Reef (MARS) design. The more we read about MARS and the not for profit design studio Reef Design Lab we got thinking about the applications to marine aquariums and the use of this design in the wild.

It would seem Australian designer Alex Goad has taken a page from the aquarist handbook and created what he calls a Modular Artificial Reef Structure (MARS) from slip-cast ceramic. Goad explains he used ceramic as it’s composition is similar to corals which in turn promoted new growth. As aquarist we have tried all sorts of new ways to attach our frags, but overall ceramic plugs remains the first choice of many reefers. His design incorporates small divots and crevices in the structure for organisms to attach and hide.

A video posted to his VIMEO channel shows Goad installing the MARS blocks and how they are connected together to build out a larger customizable reef. We couldn’t help but notice these still images of two MARS blocks being tested out in an aquarium, complete with zoanthids attached to a common square (ceramic) aquarium frag plug. We think it would be very cool to see these in a smaller aquarium size so we could start playing with MARS at home.  

By creating these smaller connectable blocks, the structure can be deployed by divers in the ocean without the use of heavy machinery, barges or cranes. This alone can help lower the cost of reef restoration in the wild as the cost in logistics and deployment can be a significant hurdle, especially if your reef is off the beaten path, and you don’t have access to anything more than a simple motor boat.

In our tanks we have been using live rock and ceramics to “build” reefs, while in the wild new coral grows up over existing coral skeleton and rocks. When reefs are damaged, either by destructive dynamite fishing or natural events like storms, it can be very difficult for new corals to settle and grow. The reefs quickly lose complexity and life. MARS can be easily installed bringing new life back to the reef.

The Reef Design Lab website also has several unique reef units which go well beyond the award winning MARS. 3D printed reefs, floating / hanging reefs and living reef walls are among some of the innovative ideas. We especially like the Scuba habitat concept, Goad describes them as “underwater playgrounds for marine life as well as divers” and we love the idea of getting divers closed to coral reefs and learning about corals and conservation through diving.

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