This story was originally published in October of 2009 and it is well worthy of another go-around.
Live Bottles for use in Mini Reef aquariums used to be as common as normal output fluorescents, bristle worm traps and dolomite. It was absolutely commonplace to see at least one or two live bottles in the reef displays of aquarium stores in the early to mid 90’s: they’d be overgrown with coralline algae, yellow polyps or green star polyps often with a bicolor or midas blenny poking it’s head out of it’s glass house. We’re not quite sure why the Live Bottles stopped flowing to retailers but we are tickled to learn that Atlantic Reef Aquaculture has picked up the ball on creating live bottles again and they are running with it a truly artful direction.
This idea of recreating live bottles is the brainchild of Dave Lackland who for many years was the lead aquaculturist for Mote Marine Lab and a pioneer in growing Atlantic Stony corals in captive aquariums. Not only is Dave growing corals on bottles, he has been collecting and using unique, antique-style poison and pill bottles for the project and they have beauty and inherent value even before they get the artul aquaculture treatment at ARA.
We are very pleased to present to you Dave Lackland’s own account of his Aquacultured Art project from start to finish and we want to thank him for his write up and huge gallery of Live Bottle pictures he was so kind to share with us. Step aside frag plugs and ceramic discs because the idea of a reef life covered miniature blue bottle as a stand alone mini bommie is just about the cutest aquascaping design concept to hit the scene in a long time. The full story begins after the break.
Inspired by the live bottles of the days of old, and by encrusted bottles found on dive excursions, (usually a screw-top Budweiser bottle covered in Fire-Coral at best). I wanted to create live art that would stand alone in the aquaria as it’s own centerpiece, a functional habitat for blennies and gobies, a mini patch reef,.. something cool and different for a (reef) tank ..as an alternative to a simple coral specimen on a cement or ceramic plug.
I have been collecting miniature antique bottles for a few years now, (for this purpose), yet did not want to begin creating/growing them until I had enough to actually produce hundreds. I started out mounting the corals to the bottles with glue just like a frag plug or any other standard substrate, yet even tough they would encrust, the whole thing could/would slide right off the bottle/s after months, (and square inches) of laminar growth. I began “scoring” them with a diamond tipped hole saw and now once a small area of laminar encrustation is established, you would be hard-pressed to pry the coral from the bottle.
I am currently culturing over 100 antique poison/miniature bottles all within the 2-8″ range. They majority of the bottles are antique “Bromo-Seltzer” bottles from Baltimore Maryland. I have discovered through my own searching for cobalt blue antique bottles, that Baltimore Maryland had a large glass factory that produced predominantly cobalt blue glass from the late 1800’s through the early 1900’s.