Keith Berkelhamer – Founder & Chief Reefologist, ReefBum, LLC

About The Company

The goal of my company is to help hobbyists create the reef tank of their dreams. That’s it. And to do that I am focusing on three main areas: CultivationEducation and Inspiration. On the cultivation side the objective is to provide SPS collectors with rare and premium aqua-cultured SPS frags farmed straight from my display tank. My blog will be utilized for the educational piece to share knowledge I have accumulated over the years, providing a roadmap for success. Finally, vivid photos, HD videos and a Live HD webcam will bring things to life virtually and serve as sources of inspiration.

How I Became a ReefBum

When I was growing up my father kept large saltwater fish only tanks. This was back when coral reef tanks were not a viable option for hobbyists. I fondly remember accompanying him to fish stores to check out and purchase fish for his tank. My mom essentially tolerated the hobby so she let my dad do his thing, although she would protest every now and then about wanting to get her living room back.

 

One day my dad had this great idea to go out and buy a ribbon eel. Eels have a reputation as escape artists so my dad did his due diligence and “eel proofed” the tank. Despite my dad’s best efforts, that eel found some way to get out of the tank and ended up dead on the living room floor. Of course it was discovered by my poor mom, who nearly jumped through the ceiling. That eel also traumatized my sister since it took a few days to find…..she was petrified that it would crawl into her bed while it was MIA.

 

Not to be deterred, my father tried again with a beautiful chocolate brown Zebra Moray eel. That eel escaped as well and was found on the floor, stiff and covered with dog hair. He plunked it back into the tank and it somehow survived and went on to live a long and healthy life.

 

Zebra Moray Eel

Zebra Moray Eel

 

Those episode almost ended my father’s fish keeping days but he was able to assure my mom that all livestock would remain in the tank. Unfortunately, some fish in that tank went carpet surfing as well so my mom bit her upper lip and let him keep the tank. She could see he had a passion and that passion, or maybe it was an obsession, was passed along to me.

 

My first fish tank was a two gallon aquarium I purchased to house a gold fish. My future wife and I visited the San Gennaro festival, New York City’s oldest and largest street fair that runs for two weeks in Little Italy, and proceeded to eat, drink and be merry. Along the way I was encouraged to play one of those carnival games in which you try and throw a ping pong ball into a gold fish bowl to win a gold fish.

 

I had no desire to win and keep a gold fish but I caved to pressure from my future wife to play. Hey, these games are rigged and nobody ever wins….right? Wrong. I won that gold fish at some ungodly hour that night and early the next morning I awoke and realized I had to go out and find it a suitable home. I didn’t know anything about keeping a gold fish but I found a pet shop that sold me the two gallon tank, some supplies and gave me advice on what to do. Well, that fish didn’t survive too long but at that point I was hooked.

 

Next up was a 29 gallon fresh water tank in which I kept live plants, Congo Tetras plus other miscellaneous fish. I was intrigued by the beauty of these live plants and how they grew and made the tank look so natural. It was like art. This was back in the early nineties and at that point certain advancements had made it much easier to keep reef tanks in the home. I was intrigued and bought a bunch of books to read up on how to keep this type of tank.

 

I ended up buying a 90 gallon tank and have been a “ReefBum” to this day. And the best part is that my wife has never found anything on our living room floor. I think our dogs have beat her to the punch!

 

A ReefBum in Vermont

Welcome to Vermont!

Welcome to Vermont!

 

I have been keeping reef tanks for about twenty years so it is safe to say that I have a love affair with the activity. It is in my blood. A couple of years ago I took a break and broke down my last 225 gallon tank right before Hurricane Sandy hit the New York tri-state area.

 

It was fortunate timing since my full-house back-up generator went on the fritz and left me and my family without power for six days. Things do happen for a reason and I truly believe the reef gods were looking over my shoulder and guiding me with divine intervention to take that sabbatical. It also had something to do with another passion of mine: skiing. More on that in just a bit.

 

It was really strange not to have a tank. The house was too quiet without the hum of the equipment and the splashing of the turbulent water in the tank. Something just seemed off. I couldn’t totally keep away as I continued to visit aquarium shops and lurk on reef tank discussion boards such as Reef Central, Reef2Reef and Manhattan Reefs. I knew I would be back.

 

Ok, getting back to skiing. My family and I had a place in Vermont and during the winters we would make the pilgrimage up there on weekends…..a lot. I always did my tank maintenance on weekends so the constant trips began to impact my ability and desire to keep up with the demands of the tank. My corporate job and 4 hour round trip commute to New York City (yes, 4 hours every day!) made it nearly impossible to do my tank chores during the week. So the ski house won out.

 

Well, some events this past fall led my wife and I to make Vermont our permanent home and reignited my desire to get back into the reefkeeping game and create a business. I began to plan my next piece of reef art with the goal of cultivating premium SPS frags, sharing my educational experiences via a blog and inspiring other hobbyists along the way with photos and videos. And I plan to do a little skiing as well 🙂 A ReefBum in Vermont was born!