Glen’s a gardener in an exotic world of colour

Glen Gardiner who imports coral from sustainable reefs in Australia.Picture: James Bass

Glen Gardiner who imports coral from sustainable reefs in Australia.Picture: James Bass - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2015

Hi-tech gadgetry is helping to nurture some of the most exotic and rare tropical corals the world has ever seen.

Glen Gardiner who imports coral from sustainable reefs in Australia.Picture: James Bass

Glen Gardiner who imports coral from sustainable reefs in Australia.Picture: James Bass - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2015

Plucked from the sunny Australian surf, a rainbow of specimens are settling into bubbling tanks in Caister.

For Glen Gardiner is believed to be Norfolk's only coral gardener having turned his passion for the underwater animals into a thriving business.

The 46-year-old is fascinated by the colourful creatures and imports only the finest examples from sustainable and properly managed reefs in Australia.

Tending to the delicate life-forms is a complex science that involves precise attention to light-cycles and water quality that has to be just right.

Glen Gardiner who imports coral from sustainable reefs in Australia.Picture: James Bass

Glen Gardiner who imports coral from sustainable reefs in Australia.Picture: James Bass - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2015


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And since setting up East Coast Corals from his back garden just over a year ago he has garnered clients from across the UK and hopes to expand.

But aside from the commercial aspect he wants to educate people about how best to keep coral, while preserving stocks in the wild, and creating interest.

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'To be able to have these beautiful coral is brilliant. They are absolutely awesome,' he said.

'I am not a religious man but to think these things exist in all these beautiful colours is absolutely unbelievable.

Glen Gardiner who imports coral from sustainable reefs in Australia.Picture: James Bass

Glen Gardiner who imports coral from sustainable reefs in Australia.Picture: James Bass - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2015

'It is not a matter of coming in and just making money. These are my babies. Some of these were the first in the UK of that type so for me to have them is a real thrill, and selling them on is always hard. I spend a lot of time with them, hand feeding and checking on them. They become part of your life.

'I put my all into it and they give me a lot of pleasure. But people have got to do their homework, that is the priority in keeping them alive.'

Buyers he said are looking for unusual coral and slow-growing types in a world where colour is everything.

Some are so bright and intense they seem almost artificial, while others are valued for their natural movement as they sway with the current.

With individuals sometimes commanding hundreds of pounds there is no limit to what people are prepared to spend on their fish tanks he said - having lavished at least £60,000 on his own hobby over the years, and visited a London millionaire who had spent £250,000 on his.

He hopes the business will allow him to spend more time at home with his wife Sarah, and three-year-old daughter Eloise who travels with him around the country looking at fish.

Having already made contacts as an enthusiast the switch to wholesale trading was relatively easy with contacts building through Facebook along with his reputation for high-end coral.

Buying varieties that he likes he lavishes the kind of care and attention on them that most people reserve for their fluffy pets like cats and dogs.

When his offshore work in stores takes him away from his family it is almost as difficult saying goodbye to his pampered polyps amid fears they will succumb to a dreaded bleaching or disease, he said.

'They are beautiful and I love looking after them. The idea is to start this off and see how it goes and maybe expand to a unit. At the moment it is just working right.'

Mr Gardiner became hooked on fish in his 20s creating his own 700 gallon tank which is now having to be dismantled to make more room for Eloise and her toys.

He also breeds clown fish.

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