System and method for aquaculture of marine life-forms: Live corals make a stunning addition to marine aquariums, but harvesting mature coral from the wild threatens rare reef ecosystems. Coral cultivation or aquaculture could help, especially in the U.S., where hobbyists buy approximately 80 percent of the live coral sold in the world. The challenges to culturing corals include generating the kind of multidirectional, strong currents created by waves and tides, which are necessary for reef organisms to thrive. Karen Spartz, who owns an aquaculture business in Indiana, came up with a solution.

Patent no. 8,267,045 describes a system that mimics a marine environment through water chemistry, temperature and the use of natural light to grow a host of organisms, among them sea stars, anemones, fish and corals. Many of these techniques are common solutions in the aquaculture business, but Spartz added a large rotating tray. The wheel-shaped tray is buoyed by floats and balanced by the distribution of individual domesticated corals. A single pump moves water through a refugium—a subtank separated from, but sharing water with, the main tank—containing macro­algae that filter and clean the water. Well-placed outlets funnel the water back to the main tank and spin the tray, giving riding organisms a constant current. “The corals like turbulence,” she says.

Spartz's patent also proposes a variation: a tray rigged with sails and propelled by a fan. The wind-powered setup could be used to culture organisms such as sea horses and nudibranchs, which do not tolerate direct water flow, says David Baker, an assistant professor of biological sciences at the University of Hong Kong.