Student dives into underwater ecosystems


Though Joseph Bonar may look like the typical high school senior, beyond the surface lurks an interest in marine life that has led to some rather interesting hobbies – his most recent, collecting, breeding and even selling coral.

His passion all developed a few years back, when a diving trip brought him under the sea to explore life underwater up close.

Bonar’s fascination with this unique ecosystem soon led him to take a job working for Aquarium Depot in Citrus Heights, though it turned out to be more than a job – it was a learning experience, which only continued to cultivate his own interest in aquatic life.

“Working at an aquarium was pretty fun. It wasn’t like most jobs where you stand around in one place,” Bonar said. “In the aquarium, you have to keep walking. I would have to clean the aquariums, maintain the salinity of the water so that gave me a lot of knowledge that I was missing out on.”

Bonar found himself with an endless host of opportunities to work closely with the marine life and develop a better understanding of the support system necessary to maintain a functioning aquarium.

Soon, Bonar began taking his work home when his job inspired him to start his own aquarium.

Bonar utilized the knowledge he had gained from his job to pursue his passion on his own time by setting up the aquarium, starting with a freshwater set-up and later switching to a saltwater one to work with the marine life that better suited his interests.

Eventually, as Bonar continued working, his interests shifted and, though he was originally invested in working at the aquarium to better his understanding of how to take care of his clownfish. As time went on, he found himself equally fascinated by the unique business of breeding and taking care of coral.

“I learned that corals are actually animals, and I also learned about maintaining salinity,” Bonar said. “It’s not as straightforward as you may think. I learned that if you want to keep a saltwater tank, maintenance is the key. Just do frequent water changes.”

Currently, Bonar breeds various types of coral, with a focus on zoanthids and mushroom coral, due to their fast growth rate and easy maintenance.
Bonar must stay patient, as it typically takes around six months for the coral he breeds to double in size.

Bonar hopes to enter a new level for those who are on the market for rare corals by continuing to explore and potentially sell more variations of that type of coral in the future, as it’s worth can vary depending on the type.

“One could be the size of a quarter which could be ten dollars,” Bonar said. “However one could be the size of a fingernail and go up to $600.”

Joseph Bonar’s brother, Marc Bonar, believes that Joseph has found a lasting passion for himself in the field of marine biology, and he should continue to pursue his interests in marine life in the future.

“He should just keep on doing it because he seems very interested about it and could make some money off of that,” Marc said.