Mini Artificial Reef at Your Dock

Ocean Habitats, Inc. has developed an artificial habitat system that is called a “Mini Reef ” which establishes a micro ecosystem of aquatic life under existing boat docks. The mini reef mimics the environment that is normally found in the prop root system of mangrove trees. This natural environment was long ago removed from area waters when large scale coastal development took place in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Where once there were mangrove forests there are now man-made canal systems with seawalls and boat docks. This man-made world is designed to limit the amount of growth that takes place on in order to slow the rate of decay of all surfaces.

On May 18th, 2016, Ocean Habitats, Inc. with funding from the City of Marco Island, installed 25 mini reef habitat systems in a test canal on Marco Island. Since this installation, numerous residents have also purchased mini reefs so that now there are over 100 installed units in the canals of Marco Island. Each one of these mini reefs is developing its own ecosystem of life. First, small shrimp and baby fish use the structure as a safe place to avoid predators, but soon other residents move in. Over 150 different filter feeders like sea squirts and oysters grow on the mini reef and spend their days eating the green plankton out of the water passing by. A fully developed mini reef can on average clean all the plankton out of 30,000 gallons of seawater.

Currently, all the mini reefs on the island are filtering over 3.1 million gallons of water every single day. The waste products from these filter feeders is a food source for small marine animals, which in turn are food for those same baby shrimp, crabs and fish which started using the mini reef for protection. A mini food chain is set up which brings larger fish around a dock with a mini reef looking for a meal. Over the course of a year, residents with these mini reefs report seeing young goliath groupers, barracuda, snapper and many more fish species visiting and sometimes taking up residence under their dock. To date, over 50 types of fish have been seen in or around the mini reefs as well as blue and stone crabs.

The goal of Ocean Habitats is to bring to life the canals of Marco Island and other coastal cities like it. It wants to restore some of the wildlife that has been lost to development and help improve the water quality in the canals of the island. If you would like to bring your dock to life, contact Ocean Habitats through its website or call the executive director David Wolff directly at 218-841-5932 to schedule the installation of your mini reef. A portion of the $250 cost is tax deductible as Ocean Habitats is a 501(c)(3) recognized non-profit.