Not a substitute for training but a supplement to training.

© 1995/1996/1997/1998/1999/2000/2001/2002/2006/2007
Reef Ball Foundation Inc.
All Rights Reserved.

Trademark, Patent Protection and Copyright Notice:

Combo Ball, Goliath Booster Ring, Goliath Ball, Super Ball, Ultra Ball, Reef Ball, Pallet Ball, Bay Ball, Mini-Bay Ball, Lo Pro Ball, Oyster Ball, Model Ball and RBDG Logo are trademarks of Reef Ball Foundation Inc., construction techniques, and swiss cheese hole patterns are Patented or Patent Pending.  All sizes of Reef Balls are copyrighted 1994 (Reg. No. TXu 630-706) which is recognized internationally except in Iran. This manual was first published 7/4/95 and has been updated most recently on October 16, 2007


Reef Ball mold systems are designed to create stable artificial reef modules that have variable sizes, shapes, hole sizes, hole patterns, hole shapes, surface textures and weights. Molds are also designed to accommodate a variety of concrete mix designs. There are many styles which may not be covered in this manual so please contact your trainer if you are interested in one of these methods of using your molds.Our research has concluded that variety is one important factor in creating a reef with good species diversity. Although your goals may be different, the Reef Ball Foundation Inc. measures the success of our reefs by the number of species and their density that use Reef Ball reefs versus the number of species and their density that use the natural reefs in the same environment. Although learning how to use the mold to consistently produce usable modules is easy, it is an art and takes practice to perfect the techniques that produce unique and interesting modules.  It takes even more training to become very efficient at making Reef Balls, such as in the case of an Authorized Reef Ball contractor where many time saving techniques are allowed which we don’t suggest for regular mold users due to the more technical nature and higher level of error potential.   However, even „failures” are not usually no that bad and can often be used as reef material. As long as the bottom base of concrete remains intact, modules produced by our molds will still have the same stable characteristics as „perfect” modules. First, learn to perfect the basic casting techniques. Remember that concrete is like a cake mix. One must have a good recipe, mix the batter correctly, bake at the right temperature and cool the cake properly in order to make a nice cake. Short cuts can sometimes still make an edible cake, but too many changes can doom one to disaster. The same is true for Reef Balls. Also remember SAFETY first.

At the Reef Ball Foundation Inc., we have now made more than 1/2 a million Reef Balls in over 3,500 projects…and there are nearly as many ways to build a Reef Ball.  So please understand that there are many ways to use your molds, up to 9 different styles are possible with a Reef Ball mold.  Just ask and we can help guide you to use them in ways that best meet the goals of your project….We strongly recommend initial on-site training for all of our clients…so we better understand exactly the goals and conditions you are working with to offer you the best possible advise.



  • Circular saw
  • Power drill with 5/8 inch bit
  • 1 1/4″ inch flat wood blade bit (for countersinking)
  • Screwdriver (power recommended)
  • Philips oval head deck screws (1 3/4)
  • 3/4″ Plywood
  • 4X6 boards (sometimes optional)
  • 2X4 boards (sometimes optional)
  • Spray paint (3 colors)
  • 1/4″ bit (to mark mold fitted to base)
  • Plumbers Straps (to secure pins to base-optional)
  • Small box of drywall screws (to secure plumbers strap to base)


  • 1/4″ Drill bit (for attachment adapter assembly)
  • Phillips screwdriver


  • Thick Rubber or Nitril Gloves (for concrete)
  • Work gloves
  • Rubber mallet(s)
  • Plastic wedge (to break out finished modules if left in the mold too long)-optional
  • Sugar & fine mist sprayer (Garden sprayer or air powered paint sprayer is the fastest)
  • Flathead screwdriver (battery power driven, especially if you have Pallet, Reef, Ultra or Super molds due to the larger number of polyform side bladders that have air added or removed by a screw cap)
  • Submersible Thermometer (if using concrete waste)
  • Air compressor or scuba tank with adapter to allow for controlled filling of air bladders.
  • Trowel to direct the concrete into the mold
  • Hammer (Good quality hammers make things much faster, steel shaft is best)
  • Vacuum pump (A shopvac or “stinger”  fitted with air line hosing with the intake blocked works well).
  • Extra Adva Flow (in cast the concrete in the truck is too thick)
  • 5 gallon buckets (for moving concrete around)
  • Wheel Barrel (for moving larger amounts of concrete around
  • Duct Tape (to temporarily patch unused holes)
  • Newspaper (to plug a leaking mold)
  • Extra Polyform Screw Caps (to replace lost or damaged ones)
  • Concrete mixer and associated tools (if mixing by hand)


  • Abrasion resistant lifting straps (available from Reef Innovations) [Optional but helpful when lifting equipment is used or for larger operations where normal straps would wear out from the tough Reef Ball concrete] You will need 2 straps for floating deployments if your equipment (such as a crane) is doing to place the Reef Balls directly into the water
  • Hooks, shackles, chains, grab hooks or other fittings for your moving equipment (often a front end loader or crane).


  • Knife
  • BCD inflator tip
  • Extra rope
  • Dive gear (optional)
  • Extra buoys
  • Flathead screwdriver
  • Anchor (optional)
  • Extra 1000 lb pillow lift bags (Subslave  is a good brand) (optional for smaller units, required for breakwater or very heavy Reef Balls, Ultra Balls or Super Balls)


  • “Wanger” (see image below available in Google Sketch-up as a free model) or „Pelican” Release hook
  • Lifting sling  & chain
  • Leather gloves
  • Hydraulic Crane (optional, don’t use geared cranes except on very calm seas)


  • Needle value (to inflate tether balls)
  • 1 1/4″ Paddle bit (to redrill tether ball holes)
  • 3 1/2″ hole saw, (to redrill A-0 holes)
  • 1″ Drill bit to redrill hold down bar holes
  • 3/4″ drill bit to redrill side flange holes
  • 1 can WD-40 to lubricate metal parts and keep them from rusting
  • Razor knife (to open boxes, etc.)
  • Hacksaw blade…to fine cut fiberglass when reshaping
  • Magnum 44 perm marker, to mark holes for re-drilling
  • Roll of Hi-Vis string (to set up tethered bleed pins, also useful for deployment layouts)
  • Fiberglass resin & activator  (for mold repair work)
  • Glass roving or cloth (for mold repair work)
  • Sandpaper & drill (for mold repair work)
  • Power washer (or car wash) (or sand blasting equipment) (to periodically clean mold shells)

For Coral Transplant or Propagation
(Please refer to A Step by Step Guide to Reef Restoration Manual for any coral work)

Antibacterial Soap: RBF Coral Team members must wash their hands between each unique coral colony they touch with an antibacterial soap.  However, not all sites have fresh water facilities to get a clean rinse so team members often use surgery rated products that offer a clean rinse.  An example is LAGASSE, INC.’s “Antibacterial Lotion Soap” Contains 0.3% Chloroxylenol (PCMX), a broad-spectrum degerming agent and offers gentle cleansing with a clean rinse.

Alcohol-based or waterless hand cleaners can also be used, but they don’t work well to remove some coral slimes…particularly oily type slimes.  Generally they can be used between handling different colonies of the same species but it is best to use a soap based product when changing species types.

Battery Cleaning Brush or Plug Hole Wire Brush: A small wire brush used to clean the inside of a coral adapter plug hole if the artificial reef module has been deployed more than a few days before planting a plug.

Bolt Cutters: Bolt cutters are used to fragment thick corals such as Elkhorn, pillar corals and for extracting propagation “tears” from brain corals.

Bone Breaker: A tool used by surgeons to cut bone during surgery that is used in the fragging process.  It is particularly well adapted to the thicker trunks of finger corals.

RBF Coral Antiseptic Dip:  To reduce rapid tissue necrosis and other bacterial infections that can occur due to the fragging wound, hard corals are dipped in an antiseptic solution just before plugging.  The RBF version is a veterinary strength betadine or Lugol’s  solution.  It is possible to use over the counter strengths but the amount needed will change the salinity of the dip and this must be adjusted with artificial sea salt (available at any marine aquarium store).  Doing so will require a hydrometer (specific gravity meter) or refractometer.  Do not use fresh water to mix RBF Antiseptic dip.  RBF Antiseptic dip must be diluted in fresh seawater, Additionally it must be kept at the same temperature as the sea, and may need to be buffered to the same pH as the natural seawater if maintained longer than 2 hours.   Salinity must also be similar to seawater, but this will not be a problem if mixed with seawater at the rate of 1 teaspoon per 8 ounces of seawater that is the normal dosing rate for an average growth rate coral.  Very slow growing hard corals are dosed at a lower rate, Acropora and other fast growing corals may need a slightly higher dosage rate.  Soft corals are not usually treated.  The only part of the coral colony that should be exposed to the dip is the fragmentation injury site. This will be clearly visible as exposed white coral skeleton.  Proper treatment will stain the white skeleton to a slightly yellow color.  If a yellow color does not show up after dipping, it is possible the corals have been over handled and the protective slime coating generated during the handling has migrated over the exposed skeleton.  It is not necessary to remove this slime to apply the dip because the slime itself is somewhat protective against RTN but advise all coral handlers to reduce the coral stress levels.  Ideally, corals should only be exposed to air one time during the entire process (when they are set into the rapid setting coral plug cement).  Typically, over-slimed corals can be tracked back to careless fragmenting…a procedure that must be carried out delicately to reduce coral stress.

NOTE: Fire Corals and Soft Corals should NEVER be dipped in iodine solution.

RBF Coral Epoxy Putty: A two part epoxy stick with a specific viscosity that allows for easy underwater mixing, yet stiff enough to hold coral plug in place until it hardens.  RBF coral epoxy putty comes in a 10-minute and a 30-minute setting formulation.  10-Minute is better for larger fragments that are prone to dislodging during wave surges but requires more frequent mixing and is therefore less efficient and prone to waste.  30-minute formulation is standard.  If you choose a non-RBF brand, be sure to test that they are not toxic to corals.  (Testing can be done in a marine reef tank).  (Do not use Devcon branded epoxy for that reason.)  If the brand you choose is too thick, it will be very time consuming and difficult to mix underwater.  If it is too thin, it will not hold the plugs in place.  If it is too sticky, it will be difficult to remove from your hands.  If not sticky enough, it will not bond well.  Expect some staining of your dive suit and dive gear whatever brand you choose.

RBF Coral Tool Kit: An orange colored tool kit that contains items such as fragmentation tools (bone cutter, wire cutter, wire stripper, bolt cutter, hack saw, etc.), latex gloves, RBF Coral Antiseptic Dip, RBF Coral Epoxy Putty, RBF Plug Cement w/ADVA Flow,  mixing sticks, container for mixing plug cement, medicine cups, container for water/ADVA Flow mixture, submersible thermometer,  container for antiseptic dip, oil free sun block, antibacterial soap,  battery brush, hand brush, plug twine,  dissolved oxygen (DO) test kit and other misc. items that may be required for coral propagation table operation.

Coral Curing and Planting Tray:

A wooden tray designed to hold plugs during curing under the coral propagation table and doubles as a carrying tray when inserted into a plastic laundry basket or egg crate for planters.  Embedded dive weights make the tray negatively buoyant. (diagram below)

Coral Propagation Table:

Either a beach based (as show above) or floating platform (as shown below) used for fragging, plugging and plug curing. A complete 3-d engineering plan can be obtained without cost by downloading Google’s free Sketchup ( then right clicking on the second icon from the right to “get model” and search for keyword “Coral Propagation Table.”  An umbrella or tarp is necessary to shield coral fragments from sunburn.  Careful attention should be made to ensure table stability in waves.  We have made a wide variety of variations to accommodate individual project needs.  It is important to consider the number of coral propagations you plan, the conditions at the work site, and the number of people that will be working before designing your table.  A good table increases the comfort for human workers and makes higher volume outputs easier but it can take longer to build and be more expensive.  A small table workspace can be made just about anywhere but may be uncomfortable and slow for production.  If you are just demonstrating the technology for a school, that might be sufficient.  If you plan to do tens of thousand of plugs.,.go high tech with all the bells and whistles.  Cup holders are nice!

Coral Reference Books:

The Coral Team uses Reef Coral Identification by Paul Humann and Ned Deloach as a standard reference for the Caribbean and Corals of Australia and the Indo-Pacific by J.E.N. Veron for the Pacific.  If you have deeper pockets, Veron has a 3 volume Corals of the World series.  Typically, the team will supplement with local reference books depending upon location. Standard Coral Team culture is to use the common name first, followed by the scientific name second, if known.  This helps everyone to learn the scientific names and does not embarrass those still learning.

Disaster Nursery Supplies: After storms, ship groundings, anchor drops and other disasters, there is often a significant amount of damaged corals and no practical way to re-attach them.  In these cases, concerned divers can create a medium term disaster nursery to preserve the coral genetics impacted by the disaster.  These nurseries must be able to keep the corals alive long enough to build and deploy the chosen artificial substrate and to activate a Coral Team.  A Disaster Nursery is designed hold coral up to about one year.  The nursery is a very simple welded steel frame with “chicken” wire across the upper surfaces.  The shape is usually triangular so that it can be tossed over a boat and will always lands upright.  Deployment is best over a sandy, non-live bottom because you may need to anchor the nursery if it will be needed for more than a few weeks.  Screw anchors available at hardware stores for anchoring sheds can be used on sandy bottoms and screw into the seafloor easily.

Try to collect enough fragmentable coral for 3 plugs from each adult coral colony that is impacted.  If possible, create 3 separate nurseries, duplicating the original effort in case a storm or other unforeseen accident occurs on one of the nurseries.  If possible, use digital still photography and a monitoring frame to record the donor colony and the fragable coral saved.  Attach the coral to the chicken wire using zip ties or wire.  Make sure each colony does not touch a surrounding colony, and allow for growth depending upon the length of expected nursery stay.  Look for the healthiest coral tissues possible and do not nursery any diseased corals.  You can use the area under and around the nursery to store smaller adult colonies that need to be re-attached by hydrostatic methods such as softball or smaller brain corals.

Dissolved Oxygen (DO) Test Kit: Lamotte makes one of the most easy to use DO kits and it typically can be found for under US$50.  Be sure to follow instructions carefully to get an accurate measurement.  A  dissolved oxygen test is used to  confirm DO levels are over  4.5 mg/l in which case it is safe to conduct coral fragmenting and coral table operations.

Fire Coral Mitt: Fire corals (Millapora) are sometimes desirable to propagate due to the types of fish that use them for protection.  Simple latex gloves can tear when performing hand fragmentation (fragmentation without a fragmentation too).  The Reef Ball Coral Team occasionally uses a special silicon mitt for this task.   Typically, Reef Balls are planted monolithically with fire corals and only a few plugs are required because most fire corals grow and spread very fast.  In a calm sea, just laying a few fire coral fragments on a Reef Ball may be enough to get them started even without plugging.

Hand Brush: A hand wire brush is used to clean the area adjacent to the coral adapter plug whole before planting on an artificial reef module that has been deployed for more than a few days.  This provides space for the coral to base and attach itself to the artificial substrate.

Hacksaw: Sometimes compression tools cannot be used and a hacksaw is needed for fragmenting.  A hacksaw can also be used to make a scar line so that compression cutting follows the line.

Hydrometer or Specific Gravity Meter:

A hydrometer is an inexpensive way to approximate salinity or the amount of salt dissolved in seawater. You can get one at any saltwater marine aquarium store.  It can be used to check the salinity of the Antiseptic dip if you are not using veterinary strength solutions.  It can also be useful if you are working where freshwater runoff can affect the conditions at your nurseries or coral propagation table.

Monitoring Frame: A PVC camera guide marked with metric and English scales.  Used to position the camera over coral plugs to take standardized monitoring photos.  Advanced users will add movable “luggage tags” with numbers or letters to encode variables such as artificial reef module identifier, date, or coral colony identifier.  Length of rod varies by camera used.  Length should be adjusted with camera in wide-angle (non-zoomed) position.  When taking monitoring photos make sure camera is in the same position.  Most monitors prefer a frame that is neutral or slightly negatively buoyant.  Gravel can be put inside the frame for this purpose.  Frame should have small holes drilled into it for water to flow in and out.

Oil Free Sun Block: RBF Coral Team members are required to protect themselves from sunburn.  Loss of a team member function due to sunburn can disrupt typically tight project timelines.  However, most sun care products contain oil that can contaminate the coral propagation table.  Therefore, Team members are required to use Oil Free Sun Blockers (typically in spray formats that make frequent applications easier).  A commonly used brand is Neutrogena Healthy Defense Oil-Free Sun block Spray, SPF 30 or higher.

RBF Plug Cement: A mixture of hydrostatic cement and microsilica and optional proprietary ingredients used for plugging. Here’s the label on the bucket:

RBF Disk & Plug Mix

  • · Makes Disks or Plugs for use with the

Special holes created in your Reef Balls

by the coral attachment adaptors

  • · Can also be used to attach plaques, scientific
    markers, etc. to Reef Balls.
  • · Can be used for in situ coral resetting (Hydrostatic Method)
  • · Contains WR Grace Force 10,000
  • · Sets in 3 minutes
    · Can be used for one step creation of a plug  with a live coral fragment embedded in the mix.
Warning! Skin and eye irritant. May contain silicon dioxide, silica fume, very finely ground Portland cement, crushed coralline algae, calcium hydroxide, sugar and/or Adva Flow.  Your skin may be sensitive to cement.  Wearing rubber gloves is recommended.  Avoid contact with eyes or prolonged contact with skin.  In case of contact, flush thoroughly with water.  For eyes, flush with clean water for at least 15 minutes and get prompt medical attention. Keep out of reach of children. Warning! Contains silica fumes and silicon dioxide, do not breath dust. Prolonged exposure to silicon dust can lead to siliceous of the lungs.  We recommend wearing a dust mask when working with silica fumes or this product. Eye protection is also recommended.

For use at an RBF Coral Table to embed corals, use mixing instructions from your table boss for the specific type of coral you are working with.For making plugs for non-embedded attachment of corals::  Add 3 drops of  W. R. Grace ADVA FLOW high range water reducer and super-plastisizer (contained within the package in a 1 oz bottle) to 3 oz by volume of product.  Prepare your disk or plug mold (4 disks or 2 plugs) and then add with 1 oz of water.  Mix rapidly and completely and pour IMMEADIATELY into your disk or plug molds.    De-mold in 3 minutes and place in fresh water for curing overnight before attaching hard or soft corals.

Attaching Corals to Disks or Plugs that CANNOT be embedded:Disks prepared with this product can be used as a base to attach hard and soft corals with a variety of methods.  These include RBF Super Glue Gel, Bridal Veil method (fleshy soft corals), monofilament method, and others.  For all these attachment methods, allow coral to grow out over the plug for a natural attachment in a protected area before attaching plug or disk to your Reef Ball.

Refractometer: A refractometer is a more sophisticated way than indirect specific gravity meters to measure exact salinity or the amount of salt dissolved in seawater. They don’t suffer from different reading in different temperature ranges either. They are available from professional environmental monitoring suppliers.  It can be used to check the salinity of the Antiseptic dip if you are not using veterinary strength  iodine solutions.  It can also be useful if you are working were freshwater runoff can affect the conditions at your nurseries or coral propagation table.  A refractometer is very useful for Red Mangrove projects because salinity must be closely monitored.  Simply put a drop on the lens of the water you want to sample and look into the scope for the reading.  Note: Must be calibrated with distilled water before use.

Secchi Disk: An 8 inch disk with alternating black and white quadrants used to determine a standard visibility in water.

Markings or knots on the rope normally signify distance.  The disk is lowered into the water until it disappears and the depth recorded, then raised until it re-appears and the depth recorded.  The two depths are averaged and this becomes the Secchi visibility.   Usually, the color of the water is also noted.

Submersible Thermometer A thermometer is used to check the temperature of the antiseptic dip and to check the nurseries & coral table plug curing areas.  The thermometer is also used to take ambient water temperatures to make sure temperatures don’t exceed 30C (86 degrees Fahrenheit) which is the point were fragmentation and plugging activities need to be stopped unless a Dissolved Oxygen test can be conducted to confirm DO levels are over 4.5 mg/l (in which case it is possible to continue).  If a DO test kit is not available, a rule of thumb is that If it is windy and there is good circulation it will probably be okay, if it is calm or poor circulation it is likely dangerous to proceed.  In fact, on calm days or in low circulation environments DO testing should begin at 28 C or 81 degrees Fahrenheit.

Sugar: Sugar acts to slow down the setting speed of concrete (retarder) and it can be used in cases where the fast setting plug cement goes off too quickly.  Sugar water is used on concrete artificial reef molds to create a rough surface texture with exposed aggregates that encourages natural settlement of larval corals  (the surface must be rinsed with water immediately after de-molding to gain this effect).

Waterproof Papers and Field Books: Coral Team members often need waterproof paper for underwater monitoring forms and field books for recording data.  You will find these and other specialty field items like sand grain distribution sorters, refractometers, and survey equipment at

Wire Cutters: A tool used for fragging, typically for small finger corals.

Wire Strippers: A tool used during the fragging process for woody-stemmed soft corals (gorgonians).  This tool is used to strip back the flesh at the base of a propagated stem exposing enough of the woody stem to be embedded in the plug for a firm attachment.  Care must be taken to hold the soft coral broadly so that there is no crush injury.  Automatic wire strippers can be used on some soft coral types to avoid this potential injury.


Comply with all OSHA and all other regulations. You’ll need at a minimum safety glasses, rubber gloves, hard hat, lung protection, steel toed shoes, protective clothing, and a first aid kit.


We suggest the following extra parts as a „SAVE A REEF BALL KIT” Note that all molds systems sold after June 2002 have mold spare parts (bolded) automatically included.

  • Screw Caps
  • Tether Balls
  • Side Polyforms (A-0’s)
  • Hollow Pins/PVC Collar
  • Wedges
  • Washers
  • Pins (5&3 inch)
  • Plates
  • Internal Bladders
  • Duct Tape
  • Ball of string
  • Fine mist sprayer (Garden pump up type is best)
  • Some old newspapers or empty concrete sacks (used to plug holes where concrete is leaking in case of a forgotten pin or base that is wearing out).

The following diagram will help you identify parts and part names.

(Newest systems have mold size appropriate square plates)

materials(apendix1)_files <–Click here for photos of parts


What is Concrete Slump

Concrete slump is a measure of how thick the concrete is.  Imagine a cone used to mark highways that is 15 inches tall is filled with concrete.  Place this on the ground and remove the cone….the number of inches that the concrete „slumps down” is the „Slump”…so a 9 inch slump is very liquidly where a 2 inch slump is almost clay like.  Testing with a slump cone is one way to determine if you have the right slump for pouring your molds…but with experience you will know from how the concrete looks and pours into your molds.

Molds can be used with any concrete mix that meets these basic requirements:

  • Type II Portland Cement (only “marine grade” type II should be used or add an additional 10 pounds of microsilica per yard of concrete)
  • 5-7 Inch Slump (Super & Golieth Sized Molds), 6-8 inch slump (Ultra Ball) 7-9 inch slump (Pallet Ball and all smaller sizes)  (Use ADVA flow 140 [6 ounces per 100 lbs of Portland cement] or ADVA flow 120 [3.5 ounces per 100 pounds of Portland cement]. To create the slump, NOT water).    If ADVA is not available,  a high range water reducer and plastisizer can be used but results….in particular biological results may vary. If you don’t use Adva, add a commercial air entrainer to achieve 4% +or- 2% of air entrainment.  ADVA is used to maintain a high water/cement ratio for stronger concrete that does not contain too much water and ADVA aids in getting a complete concrete reaction so the pH of your Reef Ball is better for coral, oyster, and other fouling community growth.  Adva also adds about 4% air entrainment which aids in microsuface texturing of your Reef Ball.
  • Microsilca, any densified brand will do (see appendix K for list of available compatible brands).
  • Sand, any sand type is permissible but it should be salt free (often called washed sand).
  • Any size aggregate will do, but pea gravel/smaller aggregate is recommended for easy casting for Bay Ball and smaller units. (over 1 inch may make casting very difficult in the smaller sized molds).

-Aggregate/Slump Adjustment

1) If Aggregate used is round and smooth, subtract 1 inch from recommended slumps
2) If Aggregate is larger than pea gravel, but less than 1 inch add 1/2 inch to the recommended slumps
3) If aggregate is 1 inch (or larger), add 1 inch to recommended slumps
4) If aggregate is square or mixed in sizes and jagged, add 1 inch to the recommended slumps
5) If final slump is higher than the recommended range for Super Ball or larger sized mold pouring, pour the larger balls in two stages with 30 minutes between pouring to avoid a cold joint but to allow for less upward pressure on the center bladder caused by high slump mixes.  Use caution with Ultra sized Reef Balls with high slump mixes as the center bladder might rise and make an Ultra Ball with a very heavy bottom and thin top.

  • Limestone aggregate is best for coral settlement, granite or river rock has a higher density for projects where maximum stability is desired.
  • Harder aggregates are better for non-coral rich waters (they make stronger concrete)
  • PSI (compressive strength measured in pounds per square inch) at the time of use of at least:

Super/Ultra/Reef Ball

Pallet Ball

Bay Ball and all smaller sizes

Floating Deployment

6,500+ 6,000+ 5,000+

Barge Deployment

6,000+ 4,500+ 4,000+

To remove from mold

750+ 750+ 750+

To lift from base

1,500+ 1,200+ 1,000+


  • These recommended strength requirements assume standard weight modules.

In general, the less Portland Cement used the better the pH will be, so if you can get away with a lower PSI concrete mix design and not experience breakage it is better for coral settlement.  However you should always maximize microsilca use and minimize concrete use to get the desired PSI. Microsilca can double the strength of any PSI mix design.

The concrete MAY NOT use any of the following:

  • Fly Ash, unless it is proven non-toxic and without elements that are biologically active
  • Any accelerator or mix design where it is possible to demold without breakage before 4 hours.  7 Hours or more is recommended to demolding and the concrete should still be soft to develop a good surface texture.  Slower setting concrete yields a lower final pH and is better for biology.  Concrete mixes that set up faster than 4 hours will ruin the molds and inflatable parts much faster due to the high heat buildup of faster setting mixes. NOTE: Authorized contractors, only,  may demold in 2-3 hours if molds are attended and the accelerator or mix used is a „High Early” type.  Modules must be cooled by water as soon as they are demolded and cured in a plastic wrap for at least 24 hours. This method will lead to additional mold wear and tear.
  • Surface Retarders except for table grade white or brown sugar and water is approved as a surface retarder.
  • Silicone Sprays (the propellant can damage the tether balls and the silicone can prevent certain types of marine life settlement)
  • Admixtures that contain toxins or biologically active elements (including iron and fertilizers)
  • Rebar, except for use in ocean environments where iron is not considered biologically active (abundant) [Fiberglass rebar CAN BE used.  Bamboo, palm fronds (stem part), and other organic re-enforcement MAY be used) ]
  • Form oil or release agents/waxes, unless proven to be non-toxic and biodegradable before deployment and then only for features such as anchors and not for mold shells.  Use Lard for releasing agents for build in anchors or other non-biologically exposes surfaces if needed.
  • ANY OTHER PRODUCTS THAT CONTAIN PLASTICS OR PETROLEUM PRODUCTS (Failure to avoid plastics and petroleum can be considered a violation of the MARPOL act)

The mix design could use the following:

  • Optionally, Non-Calcium chloride accelerator or W.R. Grace Daracell (added during cold weather or to speed up de-molding but not to speed up demolding earlier than 4 hours, (NOTE: Authorized Contractors may demold in as little as 2 hours with High Early accelerators.  To avoid too much mold damage, remove molds as quickly as possible, the Reef Ball must then be water cooled to slow down the cement reaction and wrapped in plastic for at least 24 hours.  Expect extra mold wear and tear, especially for inflatable parts).  Don’t add accelerators until JUST before casting.
  • W.R. Grace’s ADVA Flow 120 or 140 (121 in Europe or other numbers possible indicating concentration and length of retarding effect due to local temperature) is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED (ADVA gives good fluidity to the concrete making casting easy, adds the correct amount of air entrainment without another admixture, and give a better final pH value)
  • If ADVA is not available and another high range water reducer is used, you will need an air entrainers or Darex II by W.R. Grace (Add to achieve 4% +-2% air entrainment)
  • A coat of saturated sugar water sprayed from a fine mist sprayer ( as a surface retarder and form release agent)
  • Microsilica (A.K.A. densified silica fumes) or W.R. Grace’s Force 10,000 (see note below)

A special note on the pH of concrete and microsilica:

Most concrete will come out of the mold with a pH of 12-16. Over time, in a fresh water bath or when exposed to rain, the pH will begin to fall. The pH of the ocean is between 8.3 and 8.4 and many marine species will not take up residence on the modules until the pH at the surface of the reef balls is at or near of the pH of the surrounding environment. This is particularly true for hard corals that are very pH sensitive in their larval stages. The use of microsilica at a MAXIMUM of 30% to the weight of the Portland cement used will bring the pH of reef balls submerged in an open oceanic system within range for nearly immediate settlement by corals (at 30% most calcium hydroxide will be reacted and the permeability of concrete is very low). However, 30% is not cost effective and through extensive testing, we have found that 10% is the most practical in terms of a cost/benefit ratio.  Less than 30% by weight to Portland will still give a marked decrease in surface pH and is highly desirable. We recommend 50 pounds per yard to be used for deployments where hard corals are targeted for recruitment. When microsilica is not used, and you intend to place your modules in waters that support hard corals, several months in the rain or several weeks in a fresh water bath are suggested to increase coral growth…this will at least reduce the amount of unreacted calcium hydroxide which creates very high pH but it will not increase the permeability of your concrete. . Microsilica also has a strength benefit. Fifty pounds of Microsilica per yard of concrete will generally double the PSI of the starting mix. Anytime you use more than 50 pounds of Microsilica per yard of concrete, you should add fibers to the mix to avoid micro cracking that is common to high microsilica concrete mixes because it makes concrete shrink when curing.

pH and Microsilica….a Scientific Explanation;

The scientific explanation of why microsilica gives a better pH for coral settlement is a bit complex.  There are two factors at work.  1st, when concrete reacts, it forms cement (pH of about 12) and a left over byproduct, calcium hydroxide (pH of about 14-16+).  Microsilica directly reacts with calcium hydroxide to form a second kind of „glue” which is why microsilca concrete is stronger than regular concrete.  This gets your concrete to a much lower pH to start with.

However, Microsilica doe not change the pH of the concrete, per say, but rather affects the permeability of concrete which affects the rate at which negative ions (pH is a measurement of ion concentration) leach from concrete.  Therefore, in a closed system microsilica would only delay reaching a pH equilibrium of the concrete, whereas in an open oceanic system, the delay results in lower pH at the surface of the concrete where corals settle.

It has been scientifically documented (<–click here for report) that settlement by marine life is closer to natural settlement rates on Microsilica concrete compared to regular concrete.

Some clients resist the use of microsilica because it can increase the price of a yard of concrete by as much as $20-30. However, there are a few other benefits that should be considered before making the decision not to use microsilica. First is the durability and abrasion resistance of concrete. Salt water ions are hard on concrete and over time will degrade concrete. Microsilica reduces the permeability of the concrete and helps it resist ionic attack. Microsilica also increases the abrasion resistance of concrete. For this reason, microsilica increases the expected life of the reef. With a full dose of 50 or more pounds per yard, one can expect the modules to last well over five centuries (engineering life) even in waters where hard corals do not exist to build up the modules (hard corals help the modules to develop natural abrasion resistance). With 25 pounds per yard, once can still expect durability to last over 2 centuries. With 10 pounds per yard, one could expect about 100 or more years. Without microsilica the durability of concrete can decrease in just 20-40 (5-15 for Type I concrete) years. Another important consideration is breakage. Heavy equipment and rough barge deployments (including dropping modules on top of each other) can break modules. The more microsilica used, the more resistance to breakage your modules will have. (This is more important with Reef Balls than other concrete structures that contain rebar for breakage resistance.) Given the time and effort it takes to build a reef, a small investment in microsilica can really payoff in terms of the number of modules that make it to the site intact.

Freshwater applications do not benefit as much from the reduced pH since freshwater reefs function mainly as fish shelters or current reduction devices rather than the basis for a food chain. However, algae and other life that attaches to freshwater reefs may still be important and the other benefits of microsilica certainly make it worth considering.


In Nov. of 1995, Reef Ball supervised the construction of 15 artistic sculptures to be used underwater along with 7 Bay Balls (two with sculptures but into the top of the bay balls).  Reef Ball supervised the first 6 sculpture and the 7 Bay Balls, then we left the remaining 8 sculptures to be built by artists.  In Aug. of 2002, we monitored the site.  The 7 Bay Balls and first 6 sculptures all had 100% hard coral cover and were in perfect shape, the remaining 8 sculptures built after we left had all collapsed with only rubble on the ground.  What happened?  They stopped using Micro silica and the other Reef Ball admixtures to save money.  The total project budget, using all volunteers was $50,000…1/2 the sculptures were lost within just a few years to save maybe $500 in concrete admixtures…get the point?


Many of our clients use EOD (End of Day) waste to construct Reef Balls as a way of saving money on concrete, and as a way of using a material that would otherwise go to our landfills. Since the year 2000, this practice has been declining because concrete companies are getting more efficient at recycling and avoiding waste.  If you are lucky enough to have some available, here are some general guidelines for EOD waste:

  • Do not accept concrete that has a temperature of over 115 degrees Fahrenheit. This means it is too old and will not develop the strength that is needed. Hot concrete also makes it difficult to achieve a 9 inch slump.
  • Make sure the starting mix was at least 3,500 PSI. -Always add microsilica (we recommend at least 50 pounds per yard) unless microsilica was already in the starting mix. This is because EOD waste may not have a complete concrete reaction that can push pH levels to 14 or higher.
  • Consider the addition of extra Portland if the mix has a slump of more than 4 inches without a superplastisizer or high range water reducer. Often, EOD waste has be watered down at the original pouring site and this will reduce the ending strength unless you add Portland to absorb the extra water. Portland cement can also be added to low PSI mix designs for extra strength.
  • Add superplastisizer (Adva Flow 120) until you get a 9 inch slump.
  • You may need to let EOD waste cure a bit longer than purchased concrete to make sure the minimum strengths for removal from the base are met.


Your molds need to be set up since they will be disassembled for shipping. The first pour is usually accompanied by a Reef Ball trainer, but in the event one is not present note the following:

1) New molds have a wax left on them from the fiberglass manufacturing process; therefore the sugar water will not stick as well the first few uses.  We recommend two coats of sugar water on the mold surfaces (allowing the first one to dry) before the first castings.

2) New molds will often make some cracking noises during the first few uses…this is normal as the flanges break in…they are designed with some spring to help them last longer in the field.

3) Inflate all inflatable before first use and check for leaks.  We cannot replace defective inflatable parts once they have been used in concrete be careful when opening the boxes with the Polyform buoys so your box cutter does not slice the buoys.

The molds do not come with the base needed for use (shipping costs would be prohibitive). So your first task will be the assembly of a plywood, steel or concrete base. (Also See Appendix For Concrete or Steel Bottoms)


A base can be constructed of plywood, steel, or concrete, but plywood is often used because it is portable, relatively inexpensive, and can be made with readily available materials and tools.

We recommend the use of form-oiled plywood that is designed for building concrete forms and will not stick to the concrete (sometimes referred to as Marine Grade Plywood). Additionally, the oil inside the plywood resists weathering so your base will last for hundreds of castings. (If form oiled plywood is not available, then we recommend that you seal regular plywood with vegetable oil, lard, or other non-toxic paint or finish.)

The first step is to build a flat surface of the following dimensions:

Super/Ultra/Reef Ball Pallet Ball Bay Ball, Mini-Bay, Lo Pro or Oyster
8 feet Square 5 Feet, 6 Inches Square or 8 feet Square 4 Feet Square

Since plywood is usually available in 4 feet by 8 feet sections,  Bay Ball and smaller molds bases surfaces by cutting a single sheet of 3/4 inch form oiled plywood in the appropriate size. However, Pallet Ball and larger molds need overlapping sheets (double thick) and using deck screws to join them. We recommend 3/4 inch plywood but close metric sized will also work.  Pins heads will require countersinking on the bottom layer of plywood and will be “sandwiched” in place.  Therefore if you plan to use more than one base for each mold, don’t forget to order additional pins.


These diagrams on the next few pages are one (very old) example of a way to build bases for uneven surfaces…note some of the ” and ‘ markings are reversed by accident.  We HIGHLY recommend that you wait for your trainers to build bases as redoing them is time consuming and sometimes a waste of materials.


(View: Upside Down Aerial)


(View: Upside Down Aerial)


The plans shown are suggested requirements to be able to construct a full range of Reef Ball sizes…in general if you are building heavier than normal Reef Balls you can get away with LESS WELL BUILT BASES, and if you are building lighter than normal reef balls you will need MORE WELL BUILT BASES (NOTE: THIS IS COUNTER INTUITIVE BUT IT IS BECAUSE LIGHT BALLS REQUIRE MORE AIR IN THE CENTER BLADDER THAT PUTS MORE PRESSURE ON THE BASES), and for long term projects these are often exceeded. Also note that higher slump concretes put more pressure on the bases than lower slump concretes.

These diagrams show various bases and will help you visualize how to make bottoms. If you find yourself standing on the edges, you can also re-enforce the overhanging plywood ledges with left over lumber. This is helpful on the larger Reef Ball where it is sometimes easier to work inside the mold from the platform. If you use 1/2 inch plywood, the re-enforcements are required for strength. (Bricks or cinder blocks can be used for temporary re-enforcement.)

After you have finished constructing the bases, look carefully for exposed nails, screws or splinters on the surface of your base. They can puncture the center bladder.   We do not recommend the use of nails, as they tend to work their way up and can damage the center bladders.

After you have constructed your base, you will need to put your mold together so it can be placed on top of your base to determine where to drill the holes for the pins. (NOTE: If you are „sandwiching” in the short pins, you will have to mark the holes for the pins and drill before you finish assembling your bases)


(View: Upside Down Plan View)


Depending upon the size of your mold, there are up to 3 different side balls that must be attached, A-0, A-1 Polyforms and tether balls. Tether balls fit the 1 1/4 inch holes drilled into the sides of the fiberglass mold panels. Start from the inside of the mold and push the pin (bolt) attached to the tether ball through the hole. From the outside of the mold, pull the tether until the knob with a hole in it is sticking out of the hole. Put the pin through the hole in the knob and the tether is locked in place.

If you want to remove a tether ball to make a more solid wall, or if you are waiting on a replacement for one that has broken, just place duct tape over the hole on the inside and the outside. (Yes, that will really hold the liquid concrete in.) Polyforms need to be attached to the side panels.  Polyform A-0s and A-1s fit the larger 3-1/2 inch holes, and the A-1s fit the 6 inch holes in the mold panels. To attach a Polyform, insert the top of an inflated Polyform (not over inflated, just with enough air to take the folds out of the ball) from the inside to the outside of the mold. Place a PVC collar around the knob from the outside of the mold and insert a hollow tube pin through the hole in the knob. It is helpful to have someone pushing on the Polyform from the inside to make insertion of the pin easy. A screwdriver for leverage and a hammer to tap the hollow tube pin is helpful.


Tether balls are inflated with a needle valve and an air compressor.
For mold use, the tethers should be at „normal” inflation levels.   Tethers should be soft enough to grab with one hand and you should be able to squeeze the ball with one hand to make an indention. This will insure an easy removal from the module.

If your mold has Polyform side balls, you don’t need to worry about ease of removal because they are deflated before the mold panels are removed.

Polyform A-0s & A-1s are inflated (to about 8-13 inches for the A-0, 13-16 inches for A-1s ) by unscrewing the screw caps and adding air by a compressor. The side Polyform balls have a one way valve in them so that they stay inflated even before you put the screw cap back on them. (However, always put the screw caps back on before casting because even a small leak can ruin the hole and perhaps trap the Polyform in the concrete.) Near the bottom of the molds, you’ll want to inflate them a bit more to make sure the hole they create goes all the way through the module’s wall. HOWEVER, ONCE YOU OVER INFLATE A POLYFORM, IT WILL DEVELOP A „MEMORY” AND WILL TEND TO INFLATE TO THE LARGER SIZE FROM THEN ON. If you want a large hole, you can put as much as 10% more air than normal to make them up to 14 inches across. Remember that it’s a one way trip, so be sure that’s what you want. WARNING: IF YOU ATTEMPT TO INFLATE A-0s TOO MUCH, THE VALVE MAY EXPLODE BACK AT YOU LIKE A BULLET. IT IS POSSIBLE TO GET MORE THAN 10 INCHES, BUT SAFETY PRECAUTIONS SHOULD BE TAKEN.

In order to let air out of the Polyform A-0s or A-1s,  just insert the blunt deflation pins that come with your molds
(Don’t use sharp objects as they can damage the one-way valve).

If you somehow manage to get a hole in one of your center bladders, Polyform does make a patch kit but it is doubtful (especially with Reef Ball or larger molds) that you will be able to use it again for center bladder casting…still it may be saved for marine bouy use..  If you need to get a patch kit, you should be able to find one in any local marine store that carries Polyform buoys. If you need to find the closest distributor to you, then call Polyform directly at (800) 423-0664. All of the folks out there in Kent, Washington are friendly and can help.  We have also had some luck using Marine 5200 adhesive…any marine store should have it. Clean the hole well then scratch the surface with a knife.  Then put one coat of 5200 on the hole with the ball deflated, wait 7 days, then inflate only to shape (not much pressure) and put a second coat.  Wait 7 more days before using in your mold.  They make a version of 5200 (Red) that sets up in a few hours…we have not tried that yet but it’s probably a good bet if you are in a hurry to get back into production.  We also usually put some Vaseline over the last layer of adhesive so that in the mold the concrete does not pull on it if you are going to try to re-use the bladder in a mold.

Note: A sales pitch for Polyform…In our development days we tried nearly everything possible for our center bladders. We even had custom lift bags designed to look like a space capsule. But, everything we tried failed. The lift bags leaked at all of the seams. We tried other buoys and they split at the seams every time. Then we found Polyform. Without a doubt, they make the toughest buoys on the planet. If you ever need a buoy for any purpose, then we highly recommend Polyform. (And by the way, they didn’t pay us anything or give us any special discounts to say this…really.)


The first step after the side balls are attached is to pin your molds together. New molds are marked so that if you line up the „A” from one panel with the „A” from the second panel, and so on, then your molds will be together correctly. If they are used and the markings have faded, don’t fret–it’s easy to figure it out since the holes will only line up one way. Assemble the molds on a flat surface, preferably the new mold base you just built. Put a washer on EACH side of the 3 inch pins and the insert the steel wedge on the left side of the flange (right side if you’re left handed).  Without washers on both sides, it is very possible to tear right through the fiberglass flange during a pour. Don’t tap the wedge in with a hammer until you get the entire mold together. (If you do, then the last flange may be difficult to get together without the help of another person because the mold is designed to have some spring on it for easy removal from the concrete.) Now, go back and tap each wedge down so the flanges are firmly together. (If you ever use a mold vibrator or have to tap the molds excessively with a rubber mallet to get the concrete in, then be sure and re-tap these pins afterwards because vibrations can work them loose.  But note we DO NOT recommend mold vibrators)


Now set your mold on the base and center it up. You will need to drill holes in the middle of the oval hole in the hold down plates when they are spaced evenly and positioned tightly against the bottom of the mold overlapping completely the bottom mold flange.. Each mold size will require a different number of plates per fiberglass panel. The number of plates needed is as follows:

Super/Ultra/Reef Ball

Pallet Ball

Bay Ball

4 (4″) plates per panel 3 (4″) plates per panel 2 (4″) plates per panel
(16 plates total) (9 plates total) (6 plates total)


3 Triangular Plates per panel 2 Triangular  Plates per panel 1 Triangular  Plate per panel
(12 Triangular  plates total) (6 Triangular  plates total) (3 Triangular  plates total)

NOTE: Triangular  plates are heavier, but require a bit less labor.  Determine which style you have before drilling your bases.  Also, note with weaker bases you may need more plates, with stronger bases you might be able to slide by with less plates.

Mark your drill locations with a pen to be evenly spaced around the mold. Watch out for cross beams underneath your surface where you can’t drill. Make sure you can reach your hand underneath your base to insert a 3 inch pin from the bottom after you drill. Put a plate over the marked location and make sure plywood is underneath the entire plate (do not let it overhang the plywood). DO NOT MOVE THE MOLD OFF OF THE BASE OR EVEN TURN IT YET. (You have to mark the position on the base with paint in a later step before it can be moved.) Now drill with a 1/4″ inch bit midway in the oval shaped base plate hole to allow for minor adjustment later.  After you finish all the holes from the top, turn your base over and use the 1/4″ hole to countersink about 1/4″ deep the same size as the washer that fits the 3″ pin (1″). Next, turn the base back over and redrill the 1/4″ inch hole with a 5/8″ drill bit.  Do not work the bit around a little bit to make the pins easy to insert, you want a snug fit. (Note: for single sheet bases, you can just drill the 5/8″ hole directly in the middle of the ovals in the plates…make sure the plates are flush against the mold overlapping the entire mold seam and don’t wallow out your 5/8″ hole so the pins fit tight.)

NOTE: If you don’t need to share the pins with additional bases, we have found it is easiest to secure the pins permanently to the base….use some plumbers strapping on the bottom of the base or wooden patches to lock the pin into the base.  Make sure it is strong enough so that if someone happens to step on a pin sticking through the base it does not fall down into the base.


Next, secure your mold to the base by putting a hold down plate on each 3 inch pin that you insert from the bottom of the base so that it is sticking up from your base. Depending on the thickness of your bottom (i.e. if you used 1/2 inch plywood), you may need to make some „square washer spacers.” Just take some leftover plywood and cut it in into 3 inch square pieces. Then drill a 5/8 inch hole in the center. Slip the spacer over the 5 inch pin before you put it up through your base and the plate slot for the plate wedge will line up above the plate so you can get a snug fitting plate. You can make minor adjustments with the supplied washers.  Always make sure there is at least one washer on the bottom of each pin to keep it from pulling through the plywood.

Put a wedge without a washer in the pin and tap it in tight. You may need to stand on the bottom flange in order to get the wedge in. (The bottom flanges are designed with spring built in too for a good seal.) Keep the wedge facing sideways so you can undo it with a hammer when you take the mold apart after casting. Your mold and base are now „fitted,” and the last step is to mark the position the molds should be placed on the base for future uses. Just take a can of spray paint, and mark a line from the base to the mold panel (don’t be afraid to paint the mold, it’s just a concrete mold that will look like a gray concrete stain soon enough anyway…If your press coordinator wants a pretty picture, you better let them take it now). We like to use a different color for each side for easy mold set up. (We never did like looking for those stenciled „A” and „B” markings anyway.) Just use what works best for you to know where to place your mold on your base.


The paint markings will fade over time with concrete use.  They need to be redone on a regular basis.  It is important to mark the molds in a way that the concrete cannot fade them so that molds can be repositioned accurately for future painting. So, take a 1/4″ drill and drill a hole in the bottom flange on panel one with a hole in your base right beside this, got to panel #2 and drill two holes in the flange and the base and so on….now your molds are marked in a way that concrete will not affect them.  You can do the same thing for A A , B B, and C C to make putting the molds together after a long time easy.


Now, you may optionally trim your base along the trim lines shown in the base construction graphics. Make sure the hold down plates are in place when you do this step to avoid trimming too closely. This step does three things. First, it lightens the weight of your bases. This makes them easier to move around if necessary. Second, trimming the plywood puts less stress on the edges if people try to stand on the base while working with the molds. And third, you don’t hurt your ankles and legs by running into sharp pointed edges.

Setting up your Attachment Adapter Plugs

Reef Ball mold systems now come standard with attachment adapter plugs.

They are basically rubber stoppers screwed into your molds to make an indentation for underwater attachment of corals, signs, markers, or other objects that need to be added to your Reef Balls once they are underwater.  Even if you don’t plan on using them underwater…do it anyway because it costs you nothing and someone might want to add something to your Reef Balls in the future.  You can put them in different places on every mold, but avoid placing them at an angle to demolding which will cause them to fall off when you demold.  If one falls off during the first demolding, move its location.  They are designed to pull free from the screw if too much pressure from the demolding process is exerted.   To attach them to your mold you must first prepare the rubber stopper by drilling a 1/4″ hole into the center of the rubber stopper.  Next, break of the self taping tip of the placed dry wall screws and screw the drywall screw into the rubber stopper.  Finally, drill a 3/8″ hole in your mold where you want the rubber stopper to be placed then use the included screws to screw from the outside of the mold into the drywall adapter in the rubber stopper.


Now mix up a solution of 1 cup sugar with a quart of warm or hot water. Put it in a spray bottle capable of making a fine mist. (We suggest a tight fitting cap to keep ants away.) Mist the inside of your mold but there is no need to mist the the side balls or center bladder.  Make sure you get 100% coverage on all the inside fiberglass.  This is easiest when the molds are apart.

[A garden style sprayer or air powered paint sprayer works fastest….another tip is to bend the end of the garden sprayer into a U shape so that you don’t miss the underside of the fiberglass below the side balls and built in „Chickens”]

A nice, even,  coat everywhere will keep your new Reef Ball from sticking to the mold and will give your Reef Ball a nice looking surface. Try to put the sugar water on in time to let it dry. You may need to add sugar again if it rains hard before you cast.


Next, put several shovels full of sand in the bottom of the mold.

1st, push a little sand around the edge of the mold where the plywood base meets the mold to help seal it from liquid concrete leaking.

2nd, make irregular mounds, often connected to the side wall for habitat for lobster, starfish, crabs and other ledge and bottom dwellers….you can do more and more in larger and larger sized molds.  In Reefs and larger, the patterns should be quite extensive.

3rd Make sure there are at least 3-4 places near the edge of the mold where you can still see plywood.  This makes sure your modules come out at full height. Visualize these low spots as „legs” for your reef ball and make sure they will allow the unit to site evenly on the ocean floor.


The Super Ball used a Polyform A-7 the Ultra and Reef Ball uses a Polyform A-6; the Pallet Ball uses an A-5;  the Bay Ball uses an A-4, the Mini-Bay Ball uses an A-3, the Lo Pro Ball uses and A-2 and the Oyster Ball uses an A-0). Look just below the neck of the bladder to find this number. Make sure you are using the right size bladder for the mold.

(Hold down bar)

Put the hold down bar through the hole in the top of the center bladder (a short bar for the Bay Ball or a long bar for the Reef and Pallet Ball). Make sure the bladder is deflated before you try to insert it. Put it into the mold, from the top, and position the hold down bar through the hold down bar holes.  (After you have set your molds up for a while, you may find it easier to put the center bladder in before you pin the last panel together. This way you don’t have to deflate the bladder all the way to insert it. If you use this method, make sure you put the sand in the mold first before you insert the bladder.)

Another tip, especially for the larger units is the lay the hold down bar flat across the top of the mold but not in the holes when you first start inflating it…when it is round, drop it down into the holes…this way, it is easy to make sure the bladder is centered in your mold.


Chickens are bricks, smooth stones, or even poured concrete blocks that are placed in the top of the mold to make the Reef Balls have whatever thickness you like in the top walls. They take stress off of the hold down bar because the center bladder will have a tremendous amount of upward force on it when it tries to „float” in the liquidly concrete. THEY ARE REQUIRED FOR ALL POURS UNLESS YOUR MOLDS HAVE BUILT IN CHICKENS, OR THE BLADDER WILL RISE SO MUCH THAT YOU WILL NOT BE ABLE TO GET ANY MORE CONCRETE INTO THE MOLD. IT IS ALSO LIKELY THAT YOU WILL BREAK THE HOLD DOWN BAR AND INCUR POSSIBLE INJURY–DON’T FORGET YOUR CHICKENS!

Note: Most new Reef Balls (Except the Bay Ball) have „built in” chickens, if your molds have knobs at the top of each mold piece, then you don’t need chickens, however you can still add them if you want an even thicker top wall. Below is a mold with a built in chicken (see the knob?)

You need:

Super/Ultra/Reef Ball Pallet Ball Bay Ball & smaller sizes
Usually not needed.
4 Chickens
Usually not needed.

3 Chickens

2-3 Chickens


Our authorized contractors have also had success using 3/4″ pvc pipes in the smaller sized units as removable chickens…ask your trainer about this option if you want to use it.



Now is the time to play. Get out your texture balls or whatever else you are going to use to make interesting holes. Here is a list of some things we have tried, just remember to use non-toxic stuff and to keep a list of what you put in each mold so that you don’t forget to find the items. Note: This is necessary for any latex product because turtles try to eat things like balloons (They think balloons are jelly fish) and it can kill them!

Texture balls, Boat fenders, Inflatable pet toys, Peppermint sticks or candies (Go easy, they make a bigger hole than their size), Dog food, Sand inside a brown paper bag (Great for lobster holes at the bottom of the mold), Blow up snake toy (Great for Moray Eel holes), Rubber door mats on the mold walls (Makes neat looking textures–like brain coral), Basketballs, footballs, beach balls etc. Balloons (Only helium grade and then only in the top–too deep and they will collapse), Surgeon’s gloves (blown up and tied off, also only near the top), Wooden board (pinned between two side balls then removed with a hammer) makes a great plaque holder. Use your own creativity!

Here are some specific ideas for biology:

Octopus Dens:  Make a 1″ hole in your mold about 6 inches from the base.  Get a wooden „dowel” (Often found at boat shops to plug leaks or make your own) and plug up your hole leaving wood sticking inside your mold.  Get a GLASS soda bottle and fill it with water and then stick it onto your Dowel…make sure the mouth of the bottle is very close to the mold surface.  Also, make sure it is in a location where the bottle will be fully covered in concrete (not touching a side ball).  When you demold, take out the dowel before removing the sides.  This will make a perfect hole for a female octopus to lay her eggs.  You will know you are successful if when you dive your reef you see crab shells and other shells in front of the hole from where she has been eating.

Lobster Holes: Use sand in the bottom of your mold making mounds that touch the mold side and go back about 6 inches then turn to the right or left for another 6 inches…this makes caves in your reef ball that lobsters love.

Thick/solid Bases: Put a brick (6-8 inches thick) in the center of the bottom of your mold…this will keep the center bladder from going all the way down.  This makes a solid bottom (good for areas where settlement is an issue) and then you can amplify your sand in bottom work to get even more complex bottom shapes.

NOTE: Be careful when placing too many extra holes in your Reef Balls for what we call „SHEAR LINES.” If you make a continuous line of holes around the mold, then the top will simply fall off when you open your mold. In our early days, before the side balls were attached to the molds, this was our worst nightmare. Now, you just have to think about the placement of your extra „toys.” Also, avoid placing „toys” in the „structure arms” of the Pallet Ball and the newest Reef Ball molds. „Structure arms” are the humps near the top of the mold that are intended to give the Pallet and Reef Balls extra resistance to anchor strikes and barge style abuses.


First, do a visual check to make sure all side balls are attached, inflated and sealed; that sand is in the bottom of your mold; that all hold down plates are secured and side flange pins are tight. Did you remember your surface retarder (sugar water)? Did you remember your chickens? Is the hold down bar in place? Okay, before you put air in the bladder, turn it so the inflation hole is not directly under the hold down bar. (This is important for both the Pallet and Reef Ball bladders since the hole would naturally line up with the bar–just twist the bladder a few inches to one side BEFORE you put air in the bladder.) As the bladder is inflated, you can move the side balls around a bit to get just the hole pattern you are looking for. Sometimes you can pull two side balls together to make an interconnecting hole that fish love. You can even pull three close side balls together for one large hole (great for large fish). As you inflate the center bladder, put in your „toys” so they stay pinned between the center bladder and the walls of the mold. Just before the center bladder is full, slide in your chickens. If you are working alone, some people

(This center bladder is UNDERINFLATED)

put a tie wrap around the chickens and secure them to the top pin in the molds (this must be done as you pin the mold together). Alternately, just rest your chickens on top of a side ball. Make sure your chickens do not stick out above the hole in the top of the mold or removing the center bladder could be difficult. As soon as your chickens are pinned to the walls, but can still be wiggled just a bit, then your bladder is full. For the Bay Ball, your chickens should be about as thick as a standard brick on its thin side (About 2 inches). For the Pallet Ball, your chickens should be about as thick as a standard brick on its thick side. (About 3 1/2 inches.) For the Reef Ball, your chickens should be about as thick as two standard bricks on their thin side (About 4 inches). In general, use a thicker chicken when the concrete is less than recommended strength, and thinner chickens when you are using stronger than specified concrete. (If you are using large aggregate sizes, then stick with thicker chickens.)


Before you order the concrete truck, you should arrange the molds on the staging area so that it is easy for the trucks to come in and pour. Line all of the molds that you have up in one or two rows from the largest to the smallest. (This way the truck can just ease forward after finishing a mold, and if you run out of concrete it won’t be as likely to be an incomplete pour with the smallest molds last.) Don’t forget to turn your molds so that a forklift can pick them up easily if needed. It’s also helpful to locate the molds near a source of water and electricity…bathrooms are nice too.  Make sure the concrete truck driver is on the same side as the molds being poured for maximum efficiency.


When you order your concrete, you must not only give them a specification sheet (attached as Appendix C or call W.R. Grace), but you must tell them how much concrete you want. Here’s the rule of thumb for standard sized modules: For each Bay Ball add 1/8 th of a yard of concrete. For each Pallet Ball add .4 of a yard of concrete. For each Reef Ball add 8/10ths of a yard of concrete for Ultras add .9 for Supers add 1.4. If it’s your first time, you might error on the high side. Remember, you can influence the amount of concrete your molds require, so your actual usage may be up to 30% less or up to 50% more.

Metric Hint: Go to under technical specifications to get the measurements in Metric.


Before you pour, make sure you are wearing safety glasses, rubber gloves, old clothes and a hard hat; have a rubber mallet or two handy, and have a plastic trowel available to direct the concrete flow. The first step is to talk with the driver of the concrete truck to work out a set of hand signals about when to start the flow of concrete, when to stop the flow, when to move to the next mold and what signal to use for raising and lowering the concrete trough. Just a few minutes of conversation, especially with a new driver, can save a big mess. Make sure the concrete mix has a 7-9 inch slump (for smaller molds) and 5-7 inches for Super or Ultra Molds…do this. by having the driver put the first bit of concrete in a bucket rather than the mold. If the concrete does not flow quickly and easily to your satisfaction, have the driver add more Superplastisizer (Adva Flow). Never let a truck come for delivery of concrete without extra Superplastisizer (Adva Flow) on hand or keep some on site for yourself. (If you put thick concrete in the top of your mold without checking, it may clog the mold and make it impossible to continue the pour.) Now, have the trough positioned about 2 inches above the knob sticking out from the center bladder. (Never allow the trough to touch the mold, or to be so high above the mold that you get splashed in the face with wet concrete. Remember that the trough will sink about an inch and a half by the weight of the concrete when the pouring begins). Aim at the knob so that you can use the plastic trowel to direct the concrete flow around all sides of the bladder. Signal your driver to begin the flow…slow at first…then faster as you see the concrete flowing well. Don’t let all the concrete flow to one side or the center bladder will shift and you will have uneven sides. Just before the mold is full, stop the flow and gently tap on the hold down bar with your rubber mallet (DO NOT BEAT ON THE MOLDS WITH ANYTHING OTHER THAN A RUBBER MALLET, OR YOU MAY DAMAGE THE MOLD) to help the concrete settle. If you see or hear voids in the mold (a hollow sound when tapped with the mallet), just tap on the mold at that point. You don’t need to „over tap” the concrete because the irregularity of concrete that is not fully tapped into the mold makes very interesting textures and holes that are excellent for reef life. With experience you will get the concrete mix just right and not even need to tap the mold at all…this is actually ideal for the molds and the biology of Reef Balls and should be your goal.

After tapping, add a little more concrete (up to the level of your chickens or about 6 inches below the hold down bar), and then move to the next mold. After all of the pours are complete, go back and re-tap the molds to make sure that the concrete leaves a large hole around the top part of the bladder.

(This mold is filled up correctly, but make sure you can still get to the deflation valve on the center bladder)

This makes removal of the bladder easy. If excess concrete covers the bladder, remove it or push it up the walls to create a little extra height in the modules. Make sure the inflation hole is clear so it is easy to get to once the concrete hardens. This is a good time to check the screw cap in the center bladder to make sure that air is not leaking from the inflation valve now that pressure is on the bladder. A little bit of dish washing detergent and water on the valve will show any leaks as bubbles. Now, get out the garden hose and rinse the concrete that spilled out of the mold. This is much easier than cleaning off hardened concrete the next day–trust us. NOTE: Most concrete trucks carry a hose and water on board, and, if you are nice, they will usually let you use it.

When pouring, you may hear a few „popping” sounds. This is normal, especially with new molds. Inspect your molds often, and if you suspect weak spots are developing in older molds, then just hand lay up a fiberglass patch to the outside of the molds.

Do you still have concrete left over? If so, you can deflate a center bladder a bit and add more concrete to make heavier modules if you are using a barge deployment style. You can also make small forms for your chickens and make chickens for your next casting. (We make our chickens with a piece of string hanging out so that we can tie our chickens to the top pin when we put our molds together. This way it does not take two hands to inflate the bladder and hold the chickens in place.) It’s always a good idea to have the driver pour a bucket or two of leftover concrete for you in case you find a void in the mold that needs filling after the truck has left.

Another idea is to create „Reef Forms”…just make molds in your sand pile to make small reef features that can be added to the inside of your Reef Balls for added complexity.


Curing time varies greatly depending on the concrete mix, wall thickness, outside temperatures and use of accelerators. Ask your concrete supplier for recommended hardening times. In general, about 7-12 hours is required when no accelerators are used and temperatures are at least 70 degree Fahrenheit. With accelerators and warm days, as little as 3-4 hours is possible (we say possible, but it takes some skill). In cold climates, 24 or more hours may be required. If you are using accelerators, or if the weather is very hot (over 90 degrees or your molds are in direct sunlight), then we recommend letting a two second burst of air out of the center bladder at about 2-6 hours after the pour. (When the concrete reaction begins and the molds begin to generate excess heat.) This is because the center bladders get hot and the air in the bladders tries to expand. This can cause cracks in the concrete near the mold seams–especially with high microsilica mixes.

If you attempt to open the molds with minimal setting times, you may wish to take the pins off the side balls to accomplish a more gentle demolding.  This costs set up time but can allow earlier demolding)  In general, the earlier you can demold without breaking your balls, the easier it is to demold and the longer your molds will last.


Look at the concrete at the top of the mold. Is it hard, and not crumbly when you break off a piece and squeeze it? Feel the mold. If it is still very hot, it’s probably too soon. If everything looks good, then the first step is to deflate the center bladder. Deflate it  so that there is no pressure on the side walls or side balls, or you may break your reef ball when opening it. We use a wet/dry shop vacuum with the vacuum hole closed off and standard pneumatic air lines fitted in its place to make deflation of the center bladders fast in commercial production.  (Reef Ball Tool Kits come with Stinger Vacuums) You can also deflate by hand or even by standing on the bladder.  (However, once you gain a little experience, you can leave just a little bit of pressure on the side walls so the molds will pop open themselves when the side pins are removed. But don’t try this until you have made at least five good castings.) Look inside at the concrete…still look firm? Good. (Don’t be fooled by the sugar’s effect on the surface which may still appear like uncured cement.)

Next, remove the hold down plates by tapping out the wedges. (It’s good practice to put them in a plastic bucket as soon as you remove them. Regardless, about every 10th use, apply a coat of WD-40 or other protective lubricant to reduce rusting and corrosion.) Next, remove the pins from all of the tether balls (after you have had experience, it is normal to leave tethers pinned because they flatten out so much that they pop out of the concrete with ease) and remove the screw caps from the Polyform side balls.
Insert a blunt pin in the hole to let the air out.

If you forget this step, then the mold panels will not come free from your module. Now remove the side pins, washers and wedges and put them in your plastic bucket for WD-40 treatment. Work around the mold in the same direction and remove the panels as you go. To remove the panel, gently pull on the mold. If it does not easily break free, use a plastic wedge or screwdriver and tap it with the rubber mallet between the mold seams (side flanges). Slowly pull away the panel, making sure to feed the tether ball pins through their respective holes. You may have to stick your hand around the mold to free up stubborn Polyform side balls, especially ones that did not have too much air in them. The key is to be gentle so that you don’t damage the side balls or the green concrete. Once all of the panels are removed, you may begin to remove the remaining tethers from the concrete module. Put the pin back into the knob and pull on the pin rather than the knob to remove the tether. Tapping on the edges of the holes with a rubber mallet will help open up the holes for stubborn tethers.

If you demold early enough, this won’t be an issue and all the side balls will stay attached to the mold for quick re-setting times.


(Above foreground shows proper texture after sugar water is applyed and the ball is rinsed directly after demolding.  Background shows balls just about to be rinsed)

Now, take a garden hose and rinse the module down with water. As you rinse, the sugar water allows the top layer of concrete to be removed, exposing the underlying rocks in the concrete. Be creative and sign your name if you like–(after all, you are the one saving the ocean). Any surface that you don’t rinse will be hard in about a week, so you can experiment with stamping or shaping the surface any way you like. Don’t forget to remove any „toys” you placed in your mold. A hammer will help you get hard to retrieve „toys” out of the concrete.


You should let the module continue to harden as long as possible while still on the base before removal to reduce the chance of breaking the modules. (Concrete will continue to develop strength as long as the humidity is above 80%. So, it’s a good idea to cover the module with plastic if it’s not raining outside. Alternately, you can wet the module down with water every few hours to get quick strength.) Many of our customers build two bases for every mold–that way you can go ahead and set your mold up on the next base as you de-mold the first modules. This gives the modules an extra cycle before they are moved off of the base. Extra bases are a necessity if you are using accelerated mixes and expect a 3-4 hour turnover rate. They are also required in colder environments for rapid turnover.


For Reef Balls, we recommend at least a 4 inch wide sling and a large forklift or back loader to pick the Reef Ball up from above.

(Not the easiest way, but a useful techique if your lifting straps are too short to make a double loop).

Whatever you use, make sure the equipment can handle6000+ plus for the Super Ball, 5000 lbs+ for the Ultra Ball,  4,000+ pounds for the Reef Ball, 2,500+ pounds for the Pallet Ball and 600+ pounds for the Bay Ball. NOTE: A sling is almost three times as strong if it is attached at two points (both forks) rather than just a single point. Always use the bottom most holes for the sling (on any sized module). For Pallet Balls, a standard forklift can get under the module, or four people can even lift up the bottom, turn the unit on its side and roll it across the field. Three or four people can lift a Bay Ball and move it around too. It’s easiest to lift up the base until the Bay Ball slides off before you move it. This way you are not fighting the concrete that sticks to your base. Whatever you do, never get underneath a module being moved AT ANY TIME.

Never pick up a module by the holes in the top of the unit or breakage and possible falling concrete hazards will occur!

Store your modules where they will be exposed to at least 80% humidity. A plastic tarp, sprinkler system or pond is excellent during storage. Black plastic in the sun can create a „forced cure” environment and can greatly reduce the curing time needed before deployment…this is highly recommended.  At least leave them in the weather for the occasional rain. Avoid direct sunlight that can dry them out and stop the curing process unless you have plastic around them.  You can cure them in saltwater too, but try to to cure them were barnacles and other high pH resistant animals can not colonize and keep future coral off the Reef Ball.


Most of our clients undertake some form of monitoring program to assess the success of their reefs. This is the main reason to add identification numbers to your modules. Other clients like to add things like their name, a company logo, or even a dedication to a loved one. Many techniques are available to mark your Reef Balls, but here are a few very simple ways that work:

–Purchase a concrete stamping engraver set. Just pick out the letters and punch in your message with a hammer. A light coat of anti-fouling paint will help keep marine life a bay so you can read your message. We have arranged a special deal on engraver sets for our clients through Ziegler Tools Inc. Just call and ask for Jerry Shackelford and he’ll help you. The most often ordered sets are as follows:

3/8 Numbers Set, #08091 for $19.13 3/8 Alpha Set, #08271 for $57.38 1/2 Numbers Set, #09091 for $28.38 1/2 Alpha Set, # 09271 for $85.17

These prices reflect a 25% discount that Ziegler Tools Inc. is offering to Reef Ball customers. The contact information is as follows:

Ziegler Tools Inc. ATTN: Jerry Shackelford 711 Marietta Street, NW Atlanta, GA 30381 U.S.A.

From Georgia call (800) 282-5111 From Zone 1 call (800) 241-4555 or call (404) 892-7117

–Have a plaque made up and attach it before deployment. A concrete drill bit will make suitable mounting holes. Be sure to use stainless steel bolts. (Brass plaques don’t need anti-fouling paint.)

–Engrave (use your stamper) the hollow PVC pipe used as a chicken to make the module show up on sonar. (Use anti-fouling paint.)

–Spell a message with your fingers (wear a glove) in the top part of the mold while the cement is wet (it won’t last long, but if you are lucky your message will appear with a different assemblage of marine life than the surrounding cement). A sharper message can be made about 4 hours after pouring by using a screwdriver to scratch in your message.

–Use a rubber mold in the Reef Ball mold to put a logo (like in the picture below) or other large message on every module that you produce. Rubber molds are available from Increte Systems at (800)-752-4626. Ask for Mike Richey. They charge about $150-$200 for the first „master” and $10-15 for each rubber plate afterwards. These folks can also make complete mold inserts with any texture or logo you desire, but they may cost a few thousand dollars for the master. You can also make them yourself by carving the image in a block of wax (you can get at any hobby store) then pour 2 part urethane rubber into the wax mold to make your insert.  Attach this to the inside of your mold and it will come out like the picture below.

–Add markers via the Attachment Adapter System

Whatever you try, it is helpful to scientists if you include the date of casting, the date of deployment, special material composition (microsilica for example), and a contact name and number. ID numbers and an associated log of all the facts you can gather are also extremely beneficial. Remember, even if you never plan to study your reef, others might. After all, Reef Balls are the first standard design for artificial reefs being built world-wide on a large scale basis, and they will be around for centuries for future scientists to study.

We also recommend that you take a standard concrete cylinder with each concrete pour so you can check quality control later if you have any breakage or problems.  Contact your local cement company for procedures used to document and test concrete.

Layer Cake Reef Balls And Other Styles

You can use your molds to make a large variety of Reef Ball styles.  The most popular style is our Standard style like you learned how to make in this manual.  The second most popular style is Layer Cakes as seen above.  There are also styles called Stalactites, Stalagmites, Hybrids, Sea Grass (requires an additional base component), Lobster Ball, Conch Ball, Predator excluded, and many others. Most of these are a variation of the Layer Cake style of casting.

Layer Cake castings involves putting alternate layers of sand, rock and concrete into your mold. Unfortunately, learning to build these advanced styles is more of an art, than a science and there is really no way to teach the technique in a manual.  It’s definitely the poster child for “hands on learning.”  Therefore, ask your trainer to teach you how to create these other styles if you are interested in using them.  Do not all of the non-standard style Reef Balls can’t be floated like a standard style reef ball.  They are also not as stable as Reef Balls and should not be used in shallow water without anchors.  They are heavier than standard Reef Balls so they will take more concrete and may require stronger lifting equipment.


There are many ways to deploy our modules. Some use floating deployments; some use a barge with the center bladders in place; some just throw modules over the side and let them land where they may.

Barge Deployments

We have learned that the ending position has much to do with the starting position for barge deployments.

(Correct water entry for free falling deployment)

For the maximum percentage to land „bottom down” use a  “Wagner” or „Pelican Release Hook” and lower the unit slightly into the water before releasing. or for 100% upright  lower all the way to the bottom before releasing or if you add a fully inflated center bladder you get 100% bottom down each time.
Look closely at the above photo and you will see one method to lower balls all the way to the seafloor and then to have them release.  Release is accomplished by pulling on the smaller rope which is attached to the pull rod and buoy.  The buoy is to float the pull rod back to the surface.  The main lifting strap has a loop in the end into which the pull rod is inserted…gravity and pressure holds it in place.  When on the bottom, gravity and pressure is removed so it is easy to pull the rod out of the loop and thus both lines are returned to the surface.  A Wanger automatically released the Reef Balls when the Reef Ball touchs the bottom and was specifically designed for Reef Balls.   Wangers can be purchased from Sea Search of Virginia.

Josh Looney
3515 Huette Drive
Norfolk, Virginia 23518
Bus: 757 480-1980
Fax 757-480-9671

Cell (Josh) 757 871-9760
Home 757 480-0005
Little Creek Marina 757 362 3600

How you deploy from a barge will largely depend on what type of equipment is on the barge.

Cranes: Best to lower the units to the bottom if you have enough cable.  Spreader bars can allow for multiple units to be deployed in specific patterns.  Common patterns are linear and star.

Front end Loaders: Best to use a Pelican Hook setup and lower the units over the side of the barge until the bottom of the Reef Ball is just touching the water then do the quick release with the Pelican.

No Equipment: Come-a-longs or round PVC pipes/pilings as rollers can be used to offload.  You will typically get a higher percentage of balls the don’t land upright with this method unless you leave a partially inflated center bladder in each unit to be retrieved by divers later.  You can also upright balls on their side with divers using lift bags.

Winches: Same as Front End Loaders.

Call us with specifics about your deployment and we can offer suggestions based on our experiences with whatever equipment you have available.


Floating deployments require modules with higher strengths to make sure modules do not break during transportation and end up in the wrong place. The units must also be made with thin walls if you want them to float easily. At their standard weights, the modules should just barely float. If your units are over the standard weights, an additional buoy or two tied to the bottom of the unit for extra floatation will help. (This may be required in fresh water since the specific gravity of fresh water does not provide as much lifting forces.) Tow your units with heavy line to avoid line breaks. Keep the units in close to the boat when maneuvering around the docks and out the channels until in open waters. Always have a surface buoy marking the towed units so that passing boats will not accidentally run into the modules. When you arrive in open waters, tow them away from the boat to avoid propeller wash drag. You will save gas by towing the units slowly (about 2 knots). They take exponentially more power to go faster, and they take about the same amount of power if you are towing one or ten. Don’t attempt floating deployments when seas are above 2-3 feet, in poor visibility conditions or if a storm is brewing. You must tow them further than the depth of the water, or use a quick release knot on the boat so that if a bladder were to somehow deflate, the line would not break the cleat on the boat. When using divers, deflate the bladder until the unit is almost ready to sink over the intended site. Some clients like to anchor the floating units first, then sink them to insure proper placement. Climb onto the unit to make it go down a few feet and then the water pressure will continue to make the bladder smaller so the unit will sink. DO NOT HANG ON TO A BALL WHILE IT IS DESCENDING. The accelerating speed is not one that Scuba divers are used to, and ear damage may occur. Wait until the unit is on the bottom before moving it. DO NOT EVER GET BELOW A FLOATING UNIT. Once on the bottom, remove your fins (and attach them to your BC–never part with your fins underwater), and then pick up the ball and move it to the desired location. Another way to move the unit is with standard lift bags. Once the units are in position, continue deflating the center bladder. Push, using feet or arms on the bladder from the side as it deflates to make sure the bladder does not form a „mushroom” shape. This shape makes removal difficult.

Another way to deploy the unit without divers is to attach a second bladder (of the same size as the internal bladder) to the top of the internal bladder. Then simply remove the cap from the inflation hole of the internal bladder and the unit will remain on the surface until the internal bladder is deflated and removed by the force of the unit pulling down. The unit will descend to the ocean floor without a bladder in it. Because the Reef Ball is already bottom down, this method has a high percentage of perfectly landed modules.

For long hauls, or when it is desired to tow several units at once, we recommend that you space the balls with 2 by 4 boards that are eight feet long with a hole drilled about 4 inches from each end. Tie your towing ropes through the 2 by 4’s, but don’t put the stress on the wood. You can still bring the units in close for maneuvering by „folding” them with lines on your furthermost units. Once at sea, let them out for faster towing. Covering each ball with a tarp, or using a long tarp attached to the tow line with floats on each side and a weight in the back will reduce drag to increase the maximum towing speed. With these techniques it is possible to get up to a five knot towing speed, but 3-4 is more efficient. Just as captaining a boat requires thought, so do floating deployments…be careful and think!

DEPLOYMENT REPORTING-Reef Ball Foundation Grant Participants

Reef Ball Foundation grants specify that you must report to the Reef Ball Group how many modules you deploy and when you deploy them. Reef Ball Foundation contracts also call for at least two videos or photo monitoring events per year for 3 years (or other types of monitoring when video work is not practical). Don’t forget to send us this information, or you may be charged for the fees that were waived in exchange for the monitoring and reports.  We encourage all of our clients, even the non-grant recipients to send us any monitoring reports for our files and posting to our websites.  It is only by a sharing of information that we call all learn how to better build reefs.


A question often asked by our clients is how to space the balls on the ocean floor. The answer is…IT DEPENDS. First, ask yourself, why are you building a reef? Fishing? Scuba Diving? Environmental Enhancement? Breakwaters? Lobstering? To Restore A Damaged Reef? Obviously, we recommend that the first step is to look at the natural reefs in the area and to try to mimic them. Mother nature often knows best. This is a long topic which scientists are just beginning to study.  Remember, however, the more varied the reef, the more likely you will achieve our goal of species diversity.

One thing we have observed is that humans like to see things well organized (i.e. patterns) whereas fish don’t care.  What seems to be important to fish and marine life is the DENSITY of the deployment over a given area.  This can depend on what is near the site (i.e. other reefs, sand flats, estuary systems, etc.). Dr. Bill Lindberg at the University of Florida has done some good work on density in relation to Gag Grouper.  He is a good resource for fielding questions about density.

Another observation we have is that clusters tend to offer additional habitat for fish in that they use the area between the reef balls just like the inside of the Reef Balls.

So, our best recommendation is to determine what density is appropriate for your area then to randomly deploy clusters of Reef Balls until that density is met.  Clusters range from 3-100 units typically.  Even here, we suggest random cluster sizes.

Anchoring Systems:


There are several methods used to anchor Reef Balls when they are used in high-energy areas in less than 20 feet of water.  First, note that you probably don’t need anchors if you are deploying deeper than 20-30 feet.  And you may not need anchors in less than 20 feet depending upon the bottom type (sand or soft bottoms are more stable than hard bottom when it comes to movement) and wave climate.  Contact us for a recommendation to anchor or not to anchor and we will help you make an intelligent choice.

If you choose to anchor your Reef Balls, there are a variety of methods.  Double helix screw anchors are good choice for sand bottoms subsidence is not an issue.  They can be embedded in your Reef Balls before casting by covering the anchor head with a paper bag full of sand and coating the shaft with sugar water letting the anchor eye stick out of your mold seams (pre drilled) at about a 45 degree angle.  Call us for details.

Fiberglass rebar anchors inexpensive and are often used on hard bottoms (short) or firm bottoms (longer).. Fiberglass rebar anchors are particularly good at resisting shear forces but not so good for uplifting forces. To use fiberglass rebar as an anchor, PVC pipes are embedded into the Reef Balls and a pneumatic drill is used to drill the bottom then the fiberglass rebar is then dropped into the hole (hard bottom) or the rebar is hammered in (soft bottoms) once the Reef Balls

There were a variety of anchoring methods used, and in many cases, combinations of the methods are used.  Before any new method is used it should be tested in the field for anchoring ability.

Anchoring Cones

These system is used when deploying in sand or soft to semi-firm bottoms and prevents horizontal movement (or “walking) of Reef Balls in high wave climates   The four anchoring cones on the above Goliath Sized Reef Ball were cast monolithically when the Reef Ball was made and are designed to slowly settle over a period of months  into the seabed.  After settlement, the cones will prevent lateral movement of the Reef Ball during storms.

Anchoring With Rock ‘Cones’ for Layer Cake Style Reef Balls

‘Layer Cake’ Reef Balls were cast upside down, so instead of using anchoring cones, once can use selected natural rocks about the size and shape of the anchoring cones.  The concept is similar, the units settle by themselves over time or they are assisted by jet pump that provides additional stability from lateral movement and overturning.

Anchoring Spikes

In areas where the bottom was ‘hard packed’ (so hard that it was difficult for rebar  to be driven in by a sledge hammer) pre-cast spikes with #5 fiberglass re-enforcement can be cast into the Reef Ball bottoms.  Engineering pressure tests indicated the size of the spikes needed to be self penetrating by the weight of the units when installed.  These spikes provide resistance to lateral movement.

Above is a picture is the base of a Reef Ball with specific adaptations for use in a sea grass bed.  This is an advanced anchoring technique that takes into account keeping the sea grass below the Reef Ball alive so call us if you plan on deploying over seagrass beds.

Battered Anchoring Pilings

In areas where the sand was ‘soft’  and subsidence(sinking of Reef Balls into the seabed)  is an issue battered pilings are used.  Three or four piles in a ‘tripod’  or square pattern are jetted in until they reached the hard bottom below the soft sand.  During installation, the crews first jet to the bottom with a 4 inch pipe to determine the exact depth.  Next they would insert a pile of the appropriate length and use the smaller 1/2 inch PVC pipe precast into the pile to jet it to the bottom.  Three pieces of #3 fiberglass rebar were added to each precast piling for strength. Pilings can be made in lengths ranging from 3 feet to 8 feet.  When there is no hard bottom below, the same technique is used but the pilings are called “friction” piles and the diameter of the pilings must be changed to match the friction characteristics of the seafloor.  This requires engineering tests of the sea floor, contact us for details.

Anchoring With Battered Fiberglass Rebar

In areas where there is very firm or hard bottom,  3-4 pieces of battered #5 fiberglass rebar can be drilled or driven into the seabed. Holes for both the fiberglass rebar and the piling anchoring system are cast into every Reef Ball made to provide multiple anchoring points.

Many clients ask us how to anchor their Reef Balls. First, it should be understood that Reef Balls were designed so that they would NOT require anchors. In most cases, the weight distribution and hydrodynamics of the modules will keep them in place through even the worst storms. Five reef ball reefs have been hit with heavy tropical storms that were strong enough to rip a heavily anchored airplane into two pieces and to move 14 ton concrete blocks across the bottom. To date, there has never been a Reef Ball, Pallet Ball or Bay Ball that has been reported to have moved. One of the Reef Ball reefs hit by tropical storm Gordon was located in under ten feet of water, and it

showed no movement. Reef Balls have also been proven in breakwater applications. However, any object in the ocean can move under extreme conditions. If you feel that your reef needs anchoring, we have developed several techniques to make it easy. To make attachment points, just use a 1/2 inch stainless steel I-bolt with a large washer attached to the end, and place it between the side flanges about 6 inches above the bottom of the mold. You may need to drill a hole right at the flange joints for large bolts. Leave the circle in the I-bolt sticking out of the flange. You can add as many of these attachment points as you need for anchors.

Now, you just need to select an anchor and attach it to the I-bolt. We suggest the use of stainless steel airplane cabling to connect the anchor to the I-bolt. House trailer tie down anchors are inexpensive, but may only last 10-20 years. Double helix anchors are available that have a much greater holding strength, but they also cost more.

Another trick is to wrap a house trailer tie down anchor (just the bottom screw part) in a paper bag with sand in it. Coat the shaft with several layers of sugar water, letting each layer dry. Position the anchor in the mold just like the I-bolt at a 45 degree angle leaving a foot or more sticking out of the flange. After casting, flush the shaft with a garden hose to make sure it breaks free from the concrete. On the ocean floor, just tap the shaft into the sand. Then screw it in tight.


Your molds should require very little maintenance. Once in a while, take them to a car wash or use a pressure washer to blast the concrete off of them. A good coat of car wax on the outside helps seal them from weather and keeps concrete from sticking to the outside of the mold.  If you keep the metal parts well coated with oil, they should last for years. Once in a while, the fiberglass panels will need a re-enforcement along a seam or at a bolt hole, (especially if your molds are used often or are left in direct sunlight for long periods of time). Just go to a fiberglass supplier to get some fiberglass resin, roving or cloth, a paintbrush, rubber gloves and some acetone for clean up. First, sand down the area to be patched. Always patch to the outside of the mold (the inside will have too much concrete residue to let the fiberglass stick). Then, add the activator to the resin as indicated on the container. Dip the roving or cloth (cut it first to fit the area you are strengthening) in the mixture and lay it over the area to be patched. Wear a good mask, latex gloves and old clothes. Use the paintbrush to put the cloth in place with a dabbing like action. Work the cloth or roving with the paintbrush until it is clear and smooth. After it hardens, sand it down and re-drill any holes you covered up. Any body shop can do the work for you if you don’t like working in fiberglass (and we don’t blame you…we hate it too).


Your mold systems come with support from us. Just call or fax us at any time for a prompt response to your questions.  IF possible, direct inquires to our e-mail ( Otherwise, our phone number is 941-720-7549 or fax 425-963-4119


Reef Balls used to create submerged breakwaters require special casting techniques.

1) Bottoms must be much thicker; 6-8 inch bricks must be placed in the bottom of the molds to create an idea weight distribution to avoid over turning in waves.

2) Holes must be made for potential anchoring, even if not planned.  2 holes per side panel are required.  One should be 8 inches above the mold seam and have PVC pipe with an inside diameter of at least 5/8″ at a 70 degree angle ending at the mold base and protected from filling with concrete by sand.   The second should be made with a 4” diameter PVC pipe, which must be removed two hours after casting also at a 70 degree angle.  This one requires a specially drilled hole, ask your trainer for details.

For the smaller hole, The PVC can be removed after the concrete is firmed up but not cured and reused if desired or it can be left in the mold and cut flush.

4) Only Pallet, Reef, Ultra, Super Balls, Golieth or Combo Balls should be used for breakwaters in open ocean wave climates.

5) Holes should be opened up as much as possible to allow for better flow through.



Step 1: INSERT TETHER BALLS Insert the tether balls into each of the three mold sections. Do this by first pushing the pin attached to the tethers through the holes in the mold from the inside. Pull on the pin and the string will bring the tether ball attachment hole to the outside of the mold. Then push the pin through the attachment hole on the tether. Place the green tether balls on the lower six holes and the yellow or orange tethers in the top six holes. (The green tethers should not be pumped up with air as much as the yellow or orange tethers so that they are easier to remove from the finished Bay Ball.)

Step 2: ASSEMBLE THE MOLD SHELLS Place 3 fiberglass shells together on top of the plywood base. Make sure they are in the correct order. Place pins in the side flange with the pinhead sticking out of the right side of the flange (the side with built in washers). Place a washer on the left side of the flange then insert the wedge. Put all the pins, washers and wedges in all the side flanges–then use a hammer to tap them into place.

Step 3: FIX SHELL TO PLYWOOD BOTTOM Spin the pinned Bay Ball shell around on the plywood bottom until it is lined up properly (the six holes in the bottom should all be about 1/2 an inch from the bottom lip of the mold). Insert the six remaining pins from the bottom (with the head of the pin underneath the plywood bottom). Place a hold down plate (looks like a big square plate with a hole in the middle) on top of the pins and overlap on the mold bottom flange. Then insert the wedges into the pins and tap them into place with a hammer.

Optional Step: CREATING A LOBSTER HOME To make a lobster hole, take a paper grocery bag and put about three quarts of sand in it. Roll it up like a „cigar,” and bend the „cigar” slightly. Place it in the bottom of the mold with one end of the „cigar” touching the shell. When the ball is finished, use a garden hose to remove the paper and sand.

Step 4: INFLATING THE CENTER BLADDER Place the deflated central bladder into the center of the mold with the hold down bar secured by the two holes in the top lip of the mold. Inflate the center bladder until it is just touching all of the tether balls. Place three half bricks that is two or three inches thick about six inches down from the top lip along each mold seam line. (We call these spacers „chickens.” That is a term used for items used to space rebar away from concrete forms before the concrete is poured.) Hold the bricks or stones (the chickens) in place while you continue inflating the center bladder until the chickens are locked in by the bladder. Now you have just the right amount of air in the center bladder to make the top of the Bay Ball be three inches thick. (You can use chickens with different thicknesses to control the thickness of the walls at the top of your Bay Balls.)

Optional Step: MAKING TEXTURE HOLES You can add „texture” balls to the mold at the same time you put the chickens in the mold. Try to place them where the bladder locks them into the side walls of the mold with the inflation hole being pressed against the mold wall. This way they are easier to take out of the finished Bay Ball by deflating them a little bit.

Step 5: QUALITY CHECK -Use the hammer to tap in all the wedges one more time to make sure the are tight -Look into the mold –Are the chickens locked in, but not so much that you can’t wiggle them a little? –If you can’t wiggle them, let a little air out of the central bladder. –Are there clear pathways for the concrete to flow easily into the mold? –If not, remove the texture balls that block the path. –Are all twelve (count them) tether balls in the mold? –OOPS…start over at step 1. –Is the hold down bar sticking out evenly from both holes? –If not, center it with a hammer. –Are all six hold down plates (two per side) in place and pinned? –If not, deflate the center bladder…go to step 4. –Is the mold where you want it for pouring, and it is level? –If not, four people can move it now.

Step 6: MIXING THE CONCRETE Check list: Make sure you have the following before mixing concrete -(8) sixty pound bags of ready mix concrete (required) -(1) one hundred pound bag of Portland cement (highly recommended) -two ounces of non-toxic air entrainment (optional) -one cups of non-toxic super plastisizer-ADVA FLOW (required) -one pound of non-toxic strengthening fibers (optional) -5 pounds of Force 10,000 (A.K.A. Microsilica or Condensed Silica Fumes) (required) -Access to fresh water hose (smart, water is heavy) -Concrete mixer or at least a large container for mixing with shovels and hoes.

OKAY…Now you are ready to make a Bay Ball!


Turn on the mixer and add five gallons of water to the bucket. -Put in five pounds of Force 10,000 (Microsilica) –Be careful, it is light and will blow away easily. Don’t breathe the stuff! -Once the water looks like black swamp water with no lumps, proceed. -Put in the bags of concrete, one at a time. Add water as needed to make the mix flow. -Once the mix is totally wet and has the consistency of a thick paste, proceed. -Add the Portland cement until the mix is very stiff and barely wet. You should now have the consistency of almost a putty. Do not be tempted to add too much water as this will weaken your Bay Ball considerably. Give the mixer at least 3-5 minutes to make this well mixed without dry spots in the concrete. -Add two ounces of non-toxic air entrainment (Skip if you have Adva flow, use if you have another brand of superplastisize). Be careful as this stuff will stain your shirt. You will notice that the concrete looks like it flows a little better as the tiny air bubbles act like a lubricant. These air bubbles will not only make it easier to pour your Bay Ball, but they will also make tiny holes in the concrete surfaces that corals can attach to and begin to form a new reef. Let this mix for another 3-5 minutes (longer if you have time), so lots of air bubbles will form (you can’t see them but they are there). -Now for the magic. Your mix should still be way too stiff to pour into the Bay Ball. If not, you have added too much water and should fix the situation with more Portland or bagged concrete. The mix should be as thick as you can make it without dry spots. Now, add the non-toxic super plastisizer. You might want to move the position of the bucket up a little so the concrete does not spill when it gets runny. PRESTO, your mix should look like soup. If it is perfect, you will see the rocks in the gravel just barely floating on the surface when the mixer is stopped. It’s too runny if the rocks all go to the bottom. It needs more non-toxic super plastisizer if it is still too thick to pour easily from a bucket into the mold. In concrete terms, you want a 7-9 inch slump. This means if you put the concrete in a highway cone, then the cone on the ground, that the concrete would „slump” down 7-9 inches once the cone was removed.

Step 7: POURING THE CONCRETE Transfer the concrete to buckets and dump them into the mold. If the first bucket does not go down well, crank up the mixer, add more non-toxic super plastisizer, and then try again. Sometimes it is helpful to gently tap on the hold down bar with a hammer. This vibration will help the concrete to settle into the mold. You can even lift up the mold a few inches and drop it to accomplish the same thing. Try to pour the concrete evenly on each side of the center bladder. Be sure to avoid getting concrete on the hose connector used to inflate the center bladder. Fill the mold up to the level of the „chickens,” but don’t overfill or it may be difficult to remove the center bladder. Wear gloves when touching concrete, or rinse your hands immediately after touching concrete so your fingers do not end up looking like your grandmother’s. Push the concrete at the top away from the center bladder and toward the sides of the mold to make a nice looking Bay Ball top. After the concrete is a few hours old, you can even scratch in a message for the fish at the top.

Step 8: CLEANING UP Now rinse down the outside of the mold with the hose. Try not to get any water inside of the mold. Rinse out the buckets and concrete mixer thoroughly. It’s easy to remove wet concrete, but if you wait till it hardens…

Step 9: BLEEDING THE CENTER BLADDER After about 2-6 hours, less in the hot sun or more in the shade, the mold will start to get hot as the concrete sets. Touch the side of the mold and feel the heat. When it is very warm to the touch, let just a little bit of air out of the center bladder. About a 1-2 second burst should do. This relieves the pressure that the center bladder is building up because its air is getting too hot and trying to expand. This step is optional for night pours and other cool days, but becomes critical if you have the mold sitting out in the heat of the day or in direct sun.

Step 10: HATCHING A BAY BALL The concrete should have had at least 12 hours to set….up to 48 hours if you have the patience. FIRST, DEFLATE THE CENTER BLADDER. If you don’t do this, your ball could explode into messy chunks of concrete rubble. Next, remove the bottom plates and side pins. Make sure the pins, washers, wedges and square plates are in a bucket. Give them a light coat of WD-40. Then, pull the center hold down bar out of the holes in the mold. NEXT, REMOVE ALL OF THE PINS SECURING THE TETHER BALLS TO THE MOLD. If you forget to do this, you will damage the tethers. Now, pull on the fiberglass shells to remove them gently from the Bay Ball. If they are difficult, place a large flathead screwdriver between the seams of the shells and gently tap the screwdriver with a hammer. If you had to do this, it’s time to wax your molds again. (Use the special mold release wax provided with your system to wax the inside surfaces of the mold.) Now you should begin removing the tether balls. Put the pin back in the balls and use the pin as a handle to GENTLY pull them out of the holes. If they are stuck, use the hammer to break away the concrete around the tether balls. If you end up with a stubborn one, leave it in. It will deflate itself from the pressure when you place your Bay Ball in the ocean. Then it can be easily retrieved. Don’t forget to remove all of the texture balls and lobster holes. Count them so you don’t leave one in by mistake. You can shape the holes and the top entrance with a hammer if you want more open holes. Be gentle with the hammer so that you don’t end up cracking your masterpiece. When you are finished opening and shaping, lift up one side off of the bottom plywood and gently slide the Bay Ball off. This takes at least three people, or two monsters. Now, clean up your mess and coat all of the other metal parts with WD-40.

Step 10B: Curing Your Bay Ball When concrete is newly poured, it does not have all of the strength it will ultimately need. Concrete continues to get stronger and stronger as long as it does not dry out. You can either place a plastic tarp around your Bay Ball and rinse it with the hose every couple of days, or you can put the Bay Ball in the water to continue curing. Either way, you should wait at least three days before further handling to avoid breakage. Be sure to store the Bay Ball where it doesn’t get in the way, but where it is still easy to get to the boat for deployment.

APPENDIX B: Coral Transplant Training Manuals/Client Written Training Manuals

Please email us at and request the “Step By Step Guild to Reef Restoration” and we will email you a copy of our in-depth guide to coral propagation and planting on Reef Balls.  (Note: the manual is a large PDF file, make sure you provide us with an email address that can accept files larger than 10 MB.



1.01 Section Includes

A. Concrete proportioning and products to be used to secure concrete, which when hardened will produce a required strength, permeability, and resistance to weathering in a reef environment.

1.04 References

A. ACI-211.191-Standard Practice for Selecting Proportions for Normal, Heavyweight, and Mass Concrete.
B. ASTM C 260- Standard Specifications for Air-Entraining Admixtures for Concrete.
C. ASTM-C 1116 Type III- Standard Specifications for Fiber Reinforced Concrete or Shotcrete.
D. ACI – 305R -91- Hot Weather Concreting.
E. ACI – 306R -88- Cold Weather Concreting.
F. ACI – 308- Standard Practice for Curing Concrete.
G. ASTM C 618-Fly Ash For Use As A Mineral Admixture in Portland Cement Concrete.
H. ASTM C 494-92- Standard Specifications for Chemical Admixtures for Concrete.
I. ASTM C 1202-91- Electrical Indication of Concrete’s Ability to Resist Chloride Ion Penetration.
J. ASTM C 33- Concrete Aggregates.
K. ASTM C 94- Ready Mix Concrete.
L. ASTM C 150-Portland Cement.
M. ACI 304- Recommended Practice For Measuring, Mixing, Transporting and Placing concrete.
N. ASTM C 39 (Standard Specifications For Compressive Testing)
O. ASTM C-1240-93 (Standard Specifications for Silica Fume Concrete)


2.01 Portland Cement: Shall be Type II and conform to ASTM C-150

2.02 Fly Ash: Shall meet requirements of ASTM C-618, Type F. And must be proven to be non-toxic as defined by the Army Corps of Engineers General Artificial Reef Permits. Fly Ash is not permitted in the State of Georgia and in most Atlantic States. (In October, 1991, The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission adopted a resolution that opposes the use of fly ash in artificial reefs other than for experimental applications until the Army Corps of Engineers develop and adopt guidelines and standards for use.)

2.03 Water: Shall be potable and free from deleterious substances and shall not contain more that 1000 parts per million of chlorides or sulfates and shall not contain more than 5 parts per million of lead, copper or zinc salts and shall not contain more than 10 parts per million of phosphates.

2.04 Fine Aggregate: Shall be in compliance with ASTM C-33.

2.05 Coarse Aggregate: Shall be in compliance with ASTM C-33 #8 (pea gravel). (Up to 1 inch aggregate can be substituted with permission from the mold user.) Limestone aggregate is preferred if the finished modules are to be used in tropical waters.

2.06 Concrete Admixtures: Shall be in compliance with ASTM C-494.

2.07 Required Additives: The following additives shall be used in all concrete mix designs when producing the Reef Ball Development Group’s product line:

A. High Range Water Reducer: Shall be ADVA Flow 120 or 140.

B. Silica Fume: Shall be Force 10,000 Densified in Concrete Ready Bags as manf. by W.R. Grace. (ASTM C-1240-93) or any of the permitted equivalent silica fume Brands as defined in the training manual Appendix K

C. Air-Entrainer: ONLY IF ADVA is not used: Shall be Darex II as manf. by W.R. Grace (ASTM C-260)

2.08 Optional Additives: The following additives may be used in concrete mix designs when producing Reef Ball Development’s product line.

A. Fibers. Shall be either Microfibers as manf. by W.R. Grace, or Fibermesh Fibers (1 1/2 inches or longer) as manf. by Fibermesh. Either product can be in ready bags.

B. Accelerators:  Any Non- Calcium Chloride or Daracell as manf. by W.R. Grace may be used. (ASTM C-494 Type C or E)

C. Retarders: Shall be in compliance with ASTM-C-494-Type D as in Daratard 17 manf. by W.R. Grace

2.09 Prohibited Admixtures: All other admixtures are prohibited. Other admixtures can be submitted for approval by the Reef Ball Foundation Inc. Services Division by sending enough sample to produce five yards of concrete, the current MSDS, and chemical composition (which will be kept confidential by RBDG Ltd.) A testing fee of $2,500 must accompany the sample. Temporary approval will be granted or denied within 10 days based on chemical composition, but final approval may take up to 3 months since samples must be introduced in a controlled aquarium environment to assess impacts on marine and freshwater species.

PART III Concrete Proportioning:

A. General: The intent of the following proportions is to secure concrete of homogeneous structure which will have required strength and resistance to weathering.

B. Proportions:

One Cubic Yard

One Cubic Meter

Cement: 600 lbs. (Min.) 356 kg
Aggregate: 1800 lbs. 1068 kg
Sand: 1160 lbs 688 kg
Water: 240 1bs. (Max.) 142 kg
Force 10K: 50 lbs 30 kg
Grace Microfibers .25 bag .3 bag
*Adva Flow 120 or

Adva Flow 140

3.5-5 ounces per 100 lbs cement
6-10 ounces per 100 lbs cement

*NOTE: Adjust Adva dosage as needed to obtain workable, placeable mix (170-250mm / 7-10 inch slump), and to achieve .40 w/c ratio.

Micro Fibers: 0-3# (Max.) as needed to reduce micro cracking 1# (Min.) especially recommended if Silica Fume exceeds 50# or in situations where the sun will heat one side of your mold unevenly causing expansion of inflatable bladders on that side and stressing the concrete as it sets up.

Micro-synthetic Fiber Notes

Expressly formulated to address early age cracking problems, Fibermesh® or WR Grace micro-synthetic fibers prevent 80-100% of all cracks in the plastic state – precisely when most cracks occur. During the plastic settlement phase, the fibers create a three-dimensional support network that resists the downward pull of gravity, thus keeping aggregates in suspension and promoting uniform bleeding. This network increases the tensile strain capacity of concrete during the plastic shrinkage phase as well.

Accelerator: As needed to achieve de-molding no sooner than: 3-4 hours for heavy duty molds (All Polyform side balls) 6-7 hours for standard molds (Molds with any tether balls)

NOTE: Silica Fume or Force 10K shall be dosed at a 10# minimum in Bay Balls and Pallet Balls while Ultra & Reef Balls shall require a minimum of 25#. All molds must use at least 50# for floating deployments. All mold sizes must use at least 50# for use in tropical waters unless special curing procedures are followed.* This product is being specified not only for strength, but also to reduce pH to spur coral growth, to reduce calcium hydroxide, and to increase sulfate resistance. It is a non-toxic pozzalan.

* Special curing procedures for tropical waters without 50# of Silica Fume per yard should include storage in a fresh water or high humidity environment  for a minimum of 60 days or less with higher temperatures, or until the surface pH of the modules is below 9.5 pH when placed in seawater.

NOTE: End of day concrete may be used, but follow these additional requirements.

-Do not use concrete that has a temperature of over 100 degrees Fahrenheit -The original mix must have been at least 3,500 PSI -50# of added microsilica or more is required unless microsilica at that dose was already in the starting mix -Add additional Portland if needed to achieve a .4 w/c ratio. Take into account water added on site -Advise mold user to allow extra time for curing to achieve minimum de-molding strength. -Mold or module user must be notified that EOD waste was used.

NOTE: Fly Ash, when permitted, may be used as a substitution for cement up to a maximum replacement of 15% and as an additional substitute for microsilica at 30% to 40% of cementitious material. (Call RBDG for details.)

Part IV Concrete Testing Requirements:

A. Compressive strengths shall be tested in accordance with ASTM C 39. Compressive strengths shall reach a minimum of the following table at the time of use of at least:

Super/Ultra/Reef Ball

Pallet Ball

Bay Ball and all smaller sizes

Floating Deployment

8,500+ 7,000+ 6,000+

Barge Deployment

7,000+ 5,500+ 4,000+

To remove from mold

750+ 750+ 750+

To lift from base

1,500+ 1,200+ 1,000+

B. Permeability of concrete shall be tested in accordance with ASTM C 1202-91. Coulomb requirement shall be 2500 coulombs or less at 90 days. End of day waste shall be 3000 coulombs or less at 90 days.


Minimum Standards for RBDG Authorized Contractors

1) All deployments made by authorized contractors must have at least 90% of modules upright and intact or they must supply free deployed replacement to purchaser. This is REGARDLESS of what the customer says is acceptable.

2) All new construction after Jan. 1, 1998 must use ADVA Flow superplastisizer rather than WRD-19, Reduce the amount of air entrainment by 35-50% so that entrainment remains at 6% +/- 2%. (This will not impact your costs).

2a) All new construction after July 2002 must have Attachment Adapter Plug system installed and at least 50% of the recommended number of attachement adapters for the particular sized Reef Ball must be usable.

3) All Reef Balls must be constructed with a „wavy” bottom formed by adding sand in the mold before inserting center bladder.

4) The rinsing of the outside layer of concrete is not optional to expose the surface texture due to the pH rise on the surface of the poorly set concrete. (If rinsing is impractical, use a non-oil based biodegradable mold-releasing compound instead of sugar water. Increase air entrainment to 8% and do not tap the concrete into the mold heavily to create as much „honeycombing” as you can.)

5) The following are MINIMUM guidelines for microsilica use, primarily for pH reduction. Again, these are REGARDLESS of what the customer says is acceptable.

Hard Coraled Waters (Florida border & south on East Coast, Hernando County and south on Gulf.) (Anywhere near the Flower Gardens of Texas, anywhere near Grey’s Reef in SC)

Deployed less than 45 days from casting = 50 lbs/yard
Deployed > 45 days < 90 days from casting = 45 lbs/yard
Deployed > 91 days < 120 days from casting = 40 lbs/yard
Deployed > 121 days < 150 days from casting = 35 lbs/yard
Deployed > 151 days < 180 days from casting = 30 lbs/yard
Deployed > 181 days < 210 days from casting = 25 lbs/yard
Deployed > 211 days < 240 days from casting = 20 lbs/yard
Deployed > 240 from casting = 15 lbs/yard

Temperate / Cool Waters (North of above & all of West Coast)

Deployed less than 29 days from casting = 50 lbs/yard
Deployed > 30 days < 90 days from casting = 30 lbs/yard
Deployed > 91 days < 120 days from casting = 25 lbs/yard
Deployed > 121 days < 150 days from casting = 20 lbs/yard
Deployed > 151 days < 180 days from casting = 15 lbs/yard
Deployed > 181 days < 210 days from casting = 10 lbs/yard
Deployed > 211 days < 240 days from casting = 5 lbs/yard
Deployed > 240 from casting = not required

6) End of day waste still requires full 50 lbs/yard of Mircosilica regardless of location/time

7) All other proprietary standards, including an approved mix design must be upheld.


Bottoms can be constructed from plate steel, other metals, or even poured concrete. Because you cannot remove the pins from these bottoms, you must have flared triangle hold down plates rather than our standard square plates. They pin further away from the mold (7 inches rather than 2-3 inches) so the bottoms must be slightly larger than their plywood counterparts. Because the flared triangle hold down plates are larger, you need one less per side panel than the standard plates. Additionally, short pins rather than long pins can be used since you will not need the same thickness as with wood. The pins can be welded to the steel bottoms or cast into the concrete bottoms.

Be sure to set your mold up and mark the pin holes properly so that the pins line up well with the molds. About 1/2 space from the mold wall to the bottom flange should be left on all sides.

Make sure you take precautions to avoid concrete sticking to the bottom material you select. Wax, sand, or sugar water all work well.


Appendix I: Reef Ball Tool Kits

Reef Ball now offers tool kits for about $500…they include everything below not in brackets [ ] with the assumption that you will have the bracketed items on site.  This is a good checklist to go by before your trainers arrive even if you don’t order a kit.

Reef Ball Tool Kit-Included or [Supplied by client on Site]

1 Rubber Mallet [Additional Rubber Mallets]

1 Hammer-steel shaft [Additional Hammers]


[2 flat head shovel, 1 spade]

1 Rubber or Nitrile Glove (For Concrete work) [Additional regular work gloves]

1 Phillips #2 Screwdriver

1 Flathead #2 Short Shaft Screwdriver [short screwdriver for diver]

2 drill bits  1/4″,  5/8″,

3 Paddle Bits, 3/4″, 1″, 1 1/4″

[1 3 1/2″ Hole Saw]

1 18 ft Lift Strap (6000 lbs) with abrasion resistance

2 5 foot 3/8″ chains

2 grab hooks (6000 lbs)

[Additional 18 ft lift Straps, 2 slip hooks, 2 3/8″ shackles]

Small Box Drywall Screws

Box #8 Deck Screws 1 3/4″

2 Rolls Plumbers Straps

[Additional Rolls of Plumbers Straps]

1 Roll Duct Tape

1 Can WD-40 or other lubricant spray

1 Air Blower nipple with 3-4 inch nozzle

1 Scuba Air inflator fitting

1 Hack Saw blade

1 Magnum 44 perm. marker (or equivalent)

1 Pkg needle valves

1 razor knife

1 Garden Sprayer

1 Battery Powered Drill

1 package assorted bits (Philips or flathead)

[Dewalt or professional grade Battery Powered Drill]

[Electric or Pneumatic Drill]

[Electric or Pneumatic circular saw]

[Shop Vac and air hose and fittings]

air hose and fittings for [shop vac or stinger]

16 oz. Adva 120

10 Polyform Screw Caps

Roll of Hi-Vis string

Plastic Wedge

[3 cans colored spray paint]

[Thermometer (if using concrete waste)]

[Air compressor or Scuba tank and hoses]

[Water source and hoses]

[Wood for bases]

sugar (10 lbs or more)

2 5 gallon buckets

[electric drill with 1/2″ chuck if using 3″1/2′ hole saw]

[Other safety equipment, i.e. eye protection, steel toed shoes, first aid kit, eye wash kit, etc)

Appendix J: Adding Built-in Anti-settlement (anti-subsidence) Characteristics to Reef Balls

Refer to this PDF File for the latest update on this base design

Appendix K: Permissible Brands of Microsilica


Brand Name



Axim Concrete
Technologies, Inc.8282 Middlebranch Rd.
Middlebranch, OH 44652

P/S Code 6502-01

CATEXOL SF-D Densified Elkem Materials,
Alloy, WV

Elkem Materials
P.O. BOX 266
Pittsburgh, PA  15230

P/S Code 6643-01

EMS-970 S

EMS-970 DA

Slurry- 52%


Elkem Materials,
Alloy, WV

Euclid Chemical
19218 Redwood Rd.
Cleveland, OH  44110-2799

P/S Code 6511-01

EUCON MSA Densified Elkem Materials,
Alloy, WV

W.R. Grace & Co.
Ms. Denise Preston
62 Whittemore Ave.
Cambridge, MA 02140-1692

P/S Code 6517-01

FORCE 10,000 Densified


Norchem Concrete
Hauppauge, NY

Elkem Materials
Alloy, WV

Hydration Kontrol
Daniel J. Hollman
4443 U.S. 27 South
Alexandria, KY 41001

P/S Code 6521-01





Elkem Materials
Alloy, WV

Master Builders, Inc.
Francis McNeal
23700 Chagrin Blvd.
Cleveland, OH 44122-5554

P/S Code 6528-01





Norchem Concrete Prod.
Hauppauge, NY

RussTech, Inc.
Gary Russell
11208 Decimal Drive
Louisville, KY  40299

P/S Code 6546-01



Elkem Materials
Alloy, WV

Sika Corp.
201 Polita Ave.
Lyndhurst, NJ  07071

P/S Code 6548-01





Slurry 45% +2%

Slurry 52.5%+/-

Elkem Materials
Alloy, WV

Norchem Concrete
Hauppauge, NY

In general, any brand of microsilca is acceptable as long as the label indicates that it is DENSIFIED.  There are only two manufacturers of silica fume worldwide so all the DENSIFIED forms are essentially the same…go for the best price!  Silica Fume is cheaper in Canada and Europe than in the USA.

Appendix L: W.R. Grace Worldwide Locations (as of June 2006)

Canada W. R. Grace & Co.

42 Fabre Street
Valleyfield, Quebec, Canada J6S 4K7
Fax: (514)373-7327

Grace Performance Chemicals

294 Clements Road West
Ajax, Ontario, Canada L1S 3C6
Fax: (905)683-5947


Grace N.V.
Grace Davison – Benelux Sales Office
H. Heymanplein 232
B-9100 Sint-Niklaas
+32 3 766 3433
Fax: +32 3 766 4443

Denmark W. R. Grace A/S

Generatorvej 8 D
DK-2730 Herlev, Denmark
Fax: (45)
Darex Container Products
Grace Construction Products

England W. R. Grace Ltd.

628 Ajax Avenue, Slough
Berkshire, United Kingdom SL1 4DG
Fax: 44(1753)63.7702
Darex Container Products
Grace Construction Products

Grace Davison

Oakpark Business Centre
Alington Road
Little Barford, St. Neots
Cambridgeshire, United Kingdom PE19 6WL
Fax: 44(1480)32.4433
Grace Davison

France W. R. Grace S.A.

33 Route de Gallardon
F-28234 Epernon Cédex, France
+33(2) 37 18 87 62
Fax: +33(2) 37 18 86 84
Darex Container Products
Grace Construction Products
Grace Davison

Germany Grace Darex GmbH

Erlengang 31
D-22844 Norderstedt
Phone: +49 40 52601 104
Fax: +49 40 52601 190
Darex Container Products


In der Hollerhecke 1
D-67545 Worms
Phone: +49 (0) 62 41 – 403 00
Fax: +49 (0) 62 41 – 403 211
Grace Davison

Grace Bauprodukte GmbH

Pyrmonter Straße 56
D-32676 Lügde
Phone: +49 5281 7704 0
Fax: +49 5281 7704 99
Grace Construction Products

Greece Grace Hellas E.P.E.

20 Lagoumitzi St., GR-17671 Kallithea
Athens, Greece
Fax: 30(1)92.35.993
Darex Container Products

Ireland Grace Construction Products (Ireland) Ltd.

Unit 200, Holly Road
Western Industrial Estate, Naas Road
Dublin 12, Ireland
Fax: 353(1)4569.604

Italy W. R. Grace Italiana S.p.A.

Via Trento 7
I-20017 Passirana di Rho (Milano), Italy
Fax: 39(2)93537.555
Darex Container Products
Grace Construction Products
Grace Davison

Poland GRACE Sp. z o.o.

ul. Szczepanowskiego 10/2
60-541 Poznan, Poland
+48 (61) 8432174, 8411948
Fax: +48 (61) 8432175
Grace Construction Products
Grace Davison

Russia W. R. Grace LLC

Ulitsa Smolnaya 24D, 8th Fl N
125445 Moscow, Russian Federation
Fax: 7(501)795.01.00
Darex Container Products
Grace Davison

Spain Grace, S.A.

Riera de Fonollar 12
E-08830 Sant Boi de Llobregat
Barcelona, Spain
Fax: 34(93)635.11.11
Darex Container Products
Grace Construction Products
Grace Davison

Sweden Grace AB

Berga Allé 1
SE-254 52 Helsingborg, Sweden
Fax: 46(42)16.78.05
Grace Construction Products
Grace Davison


South Africa W. R. Grace Africa (Pty.) Ltd.

Corner of Mill & Iscor Streets
Bellville 7530, Cape Town, South Africa
Fax: 27(21)951-7022
Darex Container Products

W. R. Grace Africa (Pty.) Ltd.

64 Rigger Rd.
Spartan, Kempton Pk. 1619,
Johannesburg, South Africa
Fax: 27(11)394-1186
Grace Construction Products
Grace Davison

Latin America

Argentina Grace Argentina S.A.

Primera Junta 550
(1878) Quilmes
Prov Buenos Aires, Argentina
Fax: 54-11-4-229.5306
Darex Container Products
Grace Construction Products
Grace Davison

Brazil Grace Brasil Ltda

Av Mofarrej 619, Vila Leopoldina
São Paulo 05311-902, Brazil
Fax: 55(11)3649.2783
Darex Container Products
Grace Construction Products
Grace Davison

Chile Grace Quimica Compania Limitada

Lago Riñihue 02176
Av. Lo Espejo – San Bernardo
Santiago, Chile
Fax: 56(2)484-2392 / 484-2394
Darex Container Products
Grace Davison

Colombia Grace Colombia S.A.

Calle 17 #69-18
Bogotá DE, Colombia
Fax: 57(1)411-09-62
Darex Container Products
Grace Davison

Mexico W. R. Grace Holdings, S.A. de C.V.

Calle Ocho, #710
Fraccionamiento Industrial
Toluca, Estado de México, México
Fax: 52(72)79-3825
Darex Container Products
Grace Construction Products

W. R. Grace Holdings, S.A. de C.V.

Axis Tower
Prolongacion Paseo de la Reforma #61
Piso 10, Col. Paseo de las Lomas, Santa Fe,
Delegacion Alvaro Obregon, CP 01210
México City, México
Fax: 52(5)258-5604
Darex Container Products
Grace Davison

Peru W. R. Grace & Co. – SUCURSAL

Av Michael Faraday 671
Lima 3, ATE, Peru
Fax: 51(1)326-3189
Darex Container Products
Grace Construction Products
Grace Davison

Venezuela Grace Venezuela S.A.

Prol Ave Michelena con Calle Norte-Sur 3
Zona Industrial Municipal
Valencia 2003, Venezuela
Fax: 58(41)33-35-16
Darex Container Products
Grace Construction Products
Grace Davison


Australia Grace Australia Pty. Ltd.

1126 Sydney Road
Fawkner, Victoria 3060, Australia
Fax: 61(3)9357-3013
Darex Container Products
Grace Construction Products
Grace Davison

China W. R. Grace (HK) Ltd.

10/F AXA Centre
151 Gloucester Road
Wanchai, Hong Kong
Fax: (852)2811-2661
Darex Container Products
Grace Construction Products
Grace Davison

Grace China Ltd.

30 Hong He Road
Minhang Economic Zone
Shanghai, P.R.C.
Fax: 86(21)6430-0425
Darex Container Products
Grace Construction Products

India W. R. Grace & Co. (India)

420, 3A Cross, 3rd Block
16th Main Koramangala
Bangalore 560 034, India
Fax: 91(80)553-4500
Darex Container Products

Indonesia P.T. Grace Specialty Chemicals Indonesia

Cikarang Ind. Estate, Kav C-32
Cikarang, Bekasi 17530, Indonesia
Fax: 62(21)893-4315
Darex Container Products
Grace Construction Products

Japan Grace Japan K. K.

100, Kaneda
Atsugi-shi, 243, Japan
Fax: 81(462)24-9254
Darex Container Products
Grace Construction Products

Grace Japan K. K.

Tomita Bldg, 9F, 2-5, Ushijima-cho
Nishi-ku, Nagoya 451, Japan
Fax: 81(52)586-9616
Davison Chemicals

Korea Grace Korea Inc.

70-1, NamDong Industrial Complex, 639
KoJan-Dong, NamDong-Ku
InCheon (405-310) Korea
Fax: 82(32)816-9199
Grace Construction Products
Darex Container Products

Grace Korea Inc.

HanMi Plaza 501, 925-3
OSan-Dong, OSan-Si
KyoungKi-Do (447-010)Korea
Fax: 82(31)376-3585
Grace Davison

Malaysia W. R. Grace Specialty Chemicals (Malaysia) Sdn. Bhd.

Lot 114 & 115, Gebeng Ind. Estate
26080 Kuantan
Pahang Darul Makmur, W. Malaysia
Fax: 60(9)583-6642
Grace Davison

W. R. Grace (Malaysia) Sdn. Bhd.

7, Lorong 1
Off Jalan Balakong
43200 Cheras Jaya
Selangor Darul Ehsan, Malaysia
Fax: 60(3)904-7322
Grace Construction Products

New Zealand Grace New Zealand Limited

Prosser Street
Elsdon, Porirua, New Zealand
Fax: 64(4)237-9905
Darex Container Products
Grace Construction Products

Philippines W. R. Grace (Philippines) Inc.

Silangang Canlubang Industrial Park
Canlubang, Calamba
Laguna, Philippines
Fax: 63(49)549-7778
Darex Container Products
Grace Construction Products

Singapore W. R. Grace (Singapore) Pte. Ltd.

501 Orchard Rd, #07-02 Wheelock Pl
Singapore 238880
Fax: (65)737-5826
Darex Container Products
Grace Construction Products

W. R. Grace (Singapore) Pte. Ltd.

501 Orchard Rd, #07-2A Wheelock Pl
Singapore 238880
Fax: (65)737-5826
Grace Davison

Taiwan W. R. Grace Taiwan Inc.

# 38, Pei-Yuan Rd.,
Chung-Li Industry Pk.,
Taoyuan, Taiwan
Fax: 886(3)461-5463
Darex Container Products
Grace Construction Products

Thailand W. R. Grace (Thailand) Limited

253/2 Bangpoo Industrial Estate
Sukhumvit Road, km 34
Samutprakan 10280, Thailand
Fax: 66(2)709-3522-3
Darex Container Products

W. R. Grace (Thailand) Limited

Wong Wai Wit Bldg
2/F #889 Srinakarin-Teparuk Rd
Amphur Muang, Samutprakan 10270, Thailand
Fax: 66(2)748-7341
Grace Construction Products
Grace Davison

Vietnam W. R. Grace (HK) Ltd.

Unit 1001, Harbor View Tower
35 Nguyen Hue Boulevard, 1st District
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Fax: (84)(8)8214-792
Darex Container Products

Appendix M: Fiberglass Rebar Suppliers

Other Fiberglass Rebar Suppliers

We don’t recommend any specific vender nor warrant the quality of their products…this is a list we found on the internet to help folks find the rebar locally.

Listing of FRP Rebar Manufacturers

Dow Chemical – Fulcrum Company
Building 3, #4
312 Washington Street
Wellesley Hills, MA 02481
CONTACT: David Vanderpool
PHONE: 781-431-6439
FAX: 800-409-4144

Hughes Brothers, Inc.
210 N. 13th Street
Seward, NE  68434
CONTACT: Doug Gremel
PHONE: 402-646-6211or 800-869-0359
FAX: 402-643-2149

Kodiak Fiberglass Rebar, Inc.
1517 Columbia St.
Liberty, TX  77575
CONTACT: Leroy Heston
PHONE: 936-334-0183
FAX: 936-334-8880

Pultrall, ADS Composites Group
1191, Rue Huppe’
Thetford Mines, Quebec G6G 7Y6
CONTACT: Sam Steere
PH/FX: 972-818-1993

Copyright ©1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2006 Reef Ball Foundation, Inc. all rights reserved. See brochure page footer for information on patents, copyrights, trademarks and service marks referenced, but not indicated, on this page.


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