Rod’s Food is one of the most well known names in high quality marine cuisine for our reefs, but the man behind the brand is far less visible. Rod Buehler, the founder and creator of Rod’s Food, has been in the hobby since when information still came from books and liverock had to be ordered out of magazines. Rod’s reefing addiction began in 1990 when he was still working full time as a mason. While doing a remodel, someone suggested a fish tank as a room divider, and the seed of Rod’s new salty business had been planted. As Rod continued working as a self-employed mason contractor, he began seriously keeping marine fish and corals while living in rural Illinois. Inspired by books such as Martin Moe’s “The Marine Aquarium Reference” and Sprung and Delbeek’s “The Reef Aquarium,” he soon realized the important part nutrition plays in keeping healthy reefs and decided to start making his own food.
In 1997, Rod became one of the first people to successfully breed and raise Banggai Cardinalfish. This was also the year he attended his first MACNA (Chicago), an annual event that he has continued to be an ever-growing part of along with countless other shows and frag swaps around the country. In 1998, Rod opened a coral farm and mail order shop out of his basement, and started shipping his tank-raised Banggai cardinals and SPS corals all over the US. Over the next five years, Rod worked for DT’s plankton farm, A Splash of Life (now Zero Edge Aquariums), and began raising many species of clownfish. In total, Rod bred nine different species of clowns including but not limited to ephippium, clarkii, skunks, ocellaris, and of course, his famous Rod’s Onyx perculas. Then in 2003, Rod’s Reef was officially born, and three years later Rod made the decision to go commercial with his already sought-after homemade blend of reef food. Rod’s Food has continued to grow rapidly, but the reef component of the business has decreased proportionately to accommodate this constant expansion. Momma Onyx, the unforgettable percula clownfish responsible for producing countless babies that still populate our reefs today, lived for eighteen productive years with her mate, until one day she just disappeared into the reef never to be seen again. Her male mate soon assumed the female role and is still spawning in the tanks of our good friend Tom Kucala.
Rod was nominated for MASNA’s Aquarist of the Year Award in 2014 for no shortage of reasons. Some of Rod’s accomplishments and contributions to the hobby include his prolific rearing of clownfish and Banggai cardinals, innovative DIY skills (e.g. surges, turf scrubber, and many other reef gadgets), his naturalistic breeding setups, long-term success with maintaining notoriously difficult anemones, and most recognizably, his Rod’s Food. Rod is in the process of expanding his marine line of thirteen products to encompass freshwater as well, and will be releasing at least one such food blend this year. He also promises to set up what is sure to be an epic reef at his home in the cornfields of Dekalb this year, but he is still in need of a bit more coaxing (aka demanding) from the reefing community.