Extremely Diverse Biome w/o Possible Hitchhikers

BRS

DocRose

Active Member
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
View Badges
Joined
Jun 20, 2021
Messages
409
Reaction score
323
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
Location
Redford, MI
Looking for ideas on the best way to get an extremely robust and diverse biome in a new aquarium. New aquarium was started with a 50/50 mix of live sand and dry sand, and dry (marco) rock. Dr. Tims Fishless Cycle process was also used.

So how can we increase our biodiversity (other than just the bottled nitrifying bacteria) without running the risk of introducing hitchhikers by using pieces of established live rock from some other system.

EDIT - And if it's just not possible (without using some established rock), then what are some of the best known sources for hitchhiker free live rock? And please don't suggest other local reefers and LFS. In my experience local reefers lie about being pest free...and LFS is just as risky. You won't see the pests in the fish tanks (because they're usually dosing copper), and in the tanks with corals/inverts/macro algae/live rock the pests could be hidden because the lights are ramped up all the way during business hours.
 

Dan_P

2500 Club Member
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
View Badges
Joined
Sep 21, 2018
Messages
4,046
Reaction score
4,403
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
Looking for ideas on the best way to get an extremely robust and diverse biome in a new aquarium. New aquarium was started with a 50/50 mix of live sand and dry sand, and dry (marco) rock. Dr. Tims Fishless Cycle process was also used.

So how can we increase our biodiversity (other than just the bottled nitrifying bacteria) without running the risk of introducing hitchhikers by using pieces of established live rock from some other system.

EDIT - And if it's just not possible (without using some established rock), then what are some of the best known sources for hitchhiker free live rock? And please don't suggest other local reefers and LFS. In my experience local reefers lie about being pest free...and LFS is just as risky. You won't see the pests in the fish tanks (because they're usually dosing copper), and in the tanks with corals/inverts/macro algae/live rock the pests could be hidden because the lights are ramped up all the way during business hours.

Can rock be quarantined for a few months so that you could discover the hitchhikers and let some snails remove algae?
 
Join the movement!

WheatToast

2500 Club Member
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
View Badges
Joined
Jul 18, 2021
Messages
2,853
Reaction score
3,222
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
Location
Bay Area
Looking for ideas on the best way to get an extremely robust and diverse biome in a new aquarium. New aquarium was started with a 50/50 mix of live sand and dry sand, and dry (marco) rock. Dr. Tims Fishless Cycle process was also used.

So how can we increase our biodiversity (other than just the bottled nitrifying bacteria) without running the risk of introducing hitchhikers by using pieces of established live rock from some other system.

EDIT - And if it's just not possible (without using some established rock), then what are some of the best known sources for hitchhiker free live rock? And please don't suggest other local reefers and LFS. In my experience local reefers lie about being pest free...and LFS is just as risky. You won't see the pests in the fish tanks (because they're usually dosing copper), and in the tanks with corals/inverts/macro algae/live rock the pests could be hidden because the lights are ramped up all the way during business hours.
Pests are going to be difficult to completely avoid on the most biodiverse of live rock. As for established rock, after spending extended time in captivity, the biodiversity on these rocks is going to be quite limited. If you want to avoid the pests, I would try a combination of live substrates, such as mud or sand, from the ocean.

Personally, the biodiversity (on both the micro and macro scale) of live rock makes it worth it to obtain (despite how annoying pests can be to combat).

Various Sources:
Tampa Bay Saltwater (Live rock, Live sand)
Gulf Live Rock (Live rock, Live sand)
KP Aquatics (Live rock)
Salty Bottom Reef Company (Live rock, Live sand)
Live Rock N Reef (Live rock, Live sand)
GARF STORE (Live sand)
Indo-Pacific Sea Farms (Live sand, Live mud)
Gulf Specimen Marine Laboratory (Live sand)
FloridaPets (Live sand, Live mud)
Aquaforest (Live mud)
Addictive Reef Keeping (Live rock, Live sand)
Unique Corals (Live rock)
eBay (Live rock, Live sand, Live mud)
And many more...

I’m not sure how “live” CaribSea Ocean Direct is.

@MaxTremors
 
Last edited:

undermind

Active Member
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
View Badges
Joined
Oct 17, 2018
Messages
390
Reaction score
529
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
KP Aquatics 100%

"Hitchhikers" and "pests" are completely overblown in my opinion. I'd take the worst pest from any oceanic live rock over any of the common problems that often come from tanks started with 100% dry rock (dinos, etc). There is really no ocean pest that I can think of that can't be handled pretty easily.

The only tank I've had ongoing problems with was the one tank I didn't start with true live rock. And all for the purpose of "avoiding pests". The hitchhikers term has mainly been normalized by those that have come into the hobby within the last 10 years or so. Prior to that, there wasn't a lot of talk or worry about it, even though legit live rock was what everyone used.

In terms of "certified" live rock, you can get that from Aquabiomics, with a letter of certification to be free of things like vibrio. But that is rubble, and there is a waiting list.

KP Aquatics comes from the keys instead of the gulf, like some other ocean aged rock, and is much less likely to have a mantis or aiptasia IME. In fact, I think aiptasia pretty much never come in on that rock. I've ordered KP Aquatics rock many times for new tanks, and to add biome diversity like you're planning, many times. I've dipped in hypersaline water to get the "hitchhikers" out before, but I don't even think it's really necessary. The worst thing in that rock are the hairy crabs. I'm yet to get a mantis (although I know lots of people do) but I think some people also might mistake pistol shrimp for mantis. There are lots of pistol shrimp in every order I've gotten, which are harmless.
 

beesnreefs

Active Member
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
View Badges
Joined
Sep 23, 2020
Messages
395
Reaction score
360
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
Location
Firestone
Pests are going to be difficult to completely avoid on the most biodiverse of live rock. As for established rock, after spending extended time in captivity, the biodiversity on these rocks is going to be quite limited. If you want to avoid the pests, I would try a combination of live substrates, such as mud or sand, from the ocean.

Personally, the biodiversity (on both the micro and macro scale) of live rock makes it worth it to obtain (despite how annoying pests can be to combat).

Sources:
Tampa Bay Saltwater (Live rock, Live sand)
Gulf Live Rock (Live rock, Live sand)
KP Aquatics (Live rock)
Salty Bottom Reef Company (Live rock, Live sand)
Live Rock N Reef (Live rock, Live sand)
GARF STORE (Live sand)
Indo-Pacific Sea Farms (Live sand, Live mud)
Gulf Specimen Marine Laboratory (Live sand)
FloridaPets (Live sand, Live mud)
Aquaforest (Live mud)
Addictive Reef Keeping (Live rock, Live sand)
Unique Corals (Live rock)
eBay (Live rock, Live sand, Live mud)
And many more...

I’m not sure how “live” CaribSea Ocean Direct is.

@MaxTremors
This is an incredibly awesome post (all those links!) and deserves more than one “like”. Well done @WheatToast!

FWIW, the recent BRS video on the biome “experiment” Ryan ran suggested that, according to @AquaBiomics testing, both CaribSea Ocean Direct Sand and Aquaforest Life Source mud are very good sources for beneficial bacteria.

That said, nothing beats real ocean live rock.
 
www.dinkinsaquaticgardens.com

beesnreefs

Active Member
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
View Badges
Joined
Sep 23, 2020
Messages
395
Reaction score
360
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
Location
Firestone
KP Aquatics 100%

"Hitchhikers" and "pests" are completely overblown in my opinion. I'd take the worst pest from any oceanic live rock over any of the common problems that often come from tanks started with 100% dry rock (dinos, etc). There is really no ocean pest that I can think of that can't be handled pretty easily.

The only tank I've had ongoing problems with was the one tank I didn't start with true live rock. And all for the purpose of "avoiding pests". The hitchhikers term has mainly been normalized by those that have come into the hobby within the last 10 years or so. Prior to that, there wasn't a lot of talk or worry about it, even though legit live rock was what everyone used.

In terms of "certified" live rock, you can get that from Aquabiomics, with a letter of certification to be free of things like vibrio. But that is rubble, and there is a waiting list.

KP Aquatics comes from the keys instead of the gulf, like some other ocean aged rock, and is much less likely to have a mantis or aiptasia IME. In fact, I think aiptasia pretty much never come in on that rock. I've ordered KP Aquatics rock many times for new tanks, and to add biome diversity like you're planning, many times. I've dipped in hypersaline water to get the "hitchhikers" out before, but I don't even think it's really necessary. The worst thing in that rock are the hairy crabs. I'm yet to get a mantis (although I know lots of people do) but I think some people also might mistake pistol shrimp for mantis. There are lots of pistol shrimp in every order I've gotten, which are harmless.
Do you have experience with both their “starter” and premium live rock? Have you noticed any difference in hitchhikers between them?
 
OP
DocRose

DocRose

Active Member
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
View Badges
Joined
Jun 20, 2021
Messages
409
Reaction score
323
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
Location
Redford, MI
Sorry... I should have mentioned it in the OP. This is not our first system. So we're not looking for feedback/opinions about whether the risk of pests is worth it. We've decided we don't want to deal with them...period. So as much as opinions are appreciated, they fall on deaf ears on that topic.
 

WheatToast

2500 Club Member
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
View Badges
Joined
Jul 18, 2021
Messages
2,853
Reaction score
3,222
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
Location
Bay Area
This is an incredibly awesome post (all those links!) and deserves more than one “like”. Well done @WheatToast!
Thank you so much!
FWIW, the recent BRS video on the biome “experiment” Ryan ran suggested that, according to @AquaBiomics testing, both CaribSea Ocean Direct Sand and Aquaforest Life Source mud are very good sources for beneficial bacteria.
Interesting! I’ll definitely watch that video.
 
AS

undermind

Active Member
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
View Badges
Joined
Oct 17, 2018
Messages
390
Reaction score
529
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
And please don't suggest other local reefers and LFS. In my experience local reefers lie about being pest free...and LFS is just as risky.
BTW, I totally agree here. As time goes by, I become more and more wary of stuff from other reefers and LFS's. These are becoming the scariest sources of rock of all in my opinion. Imagine all the stuff that the big "live rock tub" sees go in and out of it – as it brings in rock from who know's where, and gets mixed with local reefer's rock, who's torn down their tank – probably because it was infested with aiptasia, lol

@WheatToast provided a fantastic list of sources, and I've used many of them myself.

I'd take my chances with most of the sources on that list over the pest bin at the LFS or from people "getting rid of rock"
 

beesnreefs

Active Member
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
View Badges
Joined
Sep 23, 2020
Messages
395
Reaction score
360
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
Location
Firestone
Sorry... I should have mentioned it in the OP. This is not our first system. So we're not looking for feedback/opinions about whether the risk of pests is worth it. We've decided we don't want to deal with them...period. So as much as opinions are appreciated, they fall on deaf ears on that topic.
I’m also trying to limit nuisance hitchhikers whole building a strong biome. Here’s how I intend to do it based both on experience and what I’ve discovered by research:

- starting with a custom built dry Marco rock scape
- will have a substrate of Ocean Direct live sand, 2-3 inches deep
- after cycling I’ll be adding Indo Pacific Sea Farms mud and live sand activator. I’ll likely get bristle worms with this but I consider them beneficial, not a pest
- finally, I’ll add 10-15 pounds of KP Aquatics starter live rock to the sump. I’ll likely put the rock on a hyper-saline solution (as they suggest) to knock any bad guys off and decide who I want to keep and who gets tossed. Again, I’m not very worried about bad pests there for two reasons…I heat their rock very rarely has truly bad hitchhikers and, since I’m putting it in the sump, I’m fairly confident I can keep anything bad sequestered from the display

I anticipate this building a very strong microbiome in my system.
 
OP
DocRose

DocRose

Active Member
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
View Badges
Joined
Jun 20, 2021
Messages
409
Reaction score
323
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
Location
Redford, MI
Can rock be quarantined for a few months so that you could discover the hitchhikers and let some snails remove algae?
That (at the moment) is our plan. As you said though, they'd have to be QT'd for months just to be absolutely sure nothing comes in...and as far as adding snails to the QT, I'd feel bad if something DID come in on the rock...then whatever snails are in that tank are no longer viable to put into the DT, because they'll likely bring some hikers with them.
KP Aquatics 100%
My issue with KP is that while they guarantee to be aiptasia free...they mention possible macro algae being on the rock. Now I know you can avoid the macro getting into the DT by just putting the rock in the sump and letting the biome make its way up to the DT, while leaving the macro behind; but again, I'd rather not run the risk of introducing it at all.
 
Nutramar Foods

ABQ_CHRIS

Active Member
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
View Badges
Joined
Jun 15, 2022
Messages
427
Reaction score
1,312
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
Location
Albuquerque
Pests are going to be difficult to completely avoid on the most biodiverse of live rock. As for established rock, after spending extended time in captivity, the biodiversity on these rocks is going to be quite limited. If you want to avoid the pests, I would try a combination of live substrates, such as mud or sand, from the ocean.

Personally, the biodiversity (on both the micro and macro scale) of live rock makes it worth it to obtain (despite how annoying pests can be to combat).

Various Sources:
Tampa Bay Saltwater (Live rock, Live sand)
Gulf Live Rock (Live rock, Live sand)
KP Aquatics (Live rock)
Salty Bottom Reef Company (Live rock, Live sand)
Live Rock N Reef (Live rock, Live sand)
GARF STORE (Live sand)
Indo-Pacific Sea Farms (Live sand, Live mud)
Gulf Specimen Marine Laboratory (Live sand)
FloridaPets (Live sand, Live mud)
Aquaforest (Live mud)
Addictive Reef Keeping (Live rock, Live sand)
Unique Corals (Live rock)
eBay (Live rock, Live sand, Live mud)
And many more...

I’m not sure how “live” CaribSea Ocean Direct is.

@MaxTremors
Excellent list! Must have taken some time. Much appreciated.
 

undermind

Active Member
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
View Badges
Joined
Oct 17, 2018
Messages
390
Reaction score
529
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
Sorry... I should have mentioned it in the OP. This is not our first system. So we're not looking for feedback/opinions about whether the risk of pests is worth it. We've decided we don't want to deal with them...period. So as much as opinions are appreciated, they fall on deaf ears on that topic.
then what are some of the best known sources for hitchhiker free live rock?
OK I'm a little confused here. I'm not sure if you're looking for live rock or not. Because it kind of sounded like you were

Hmm, how can I suggest live rock without actually suggesting live rock? hah

  • ipsf.com. They have lots of things that come from the hawaiian shore that isn't rock.
  • aquabiomics reef rubble that's certified as I mentioned.
  • Life source by Aquaforest
  • Miracle Mud
  • Live sand from any of the providers on the @WheatToast list
 
OP
DocRose

DocRose

Active Member
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
View Badges
Joined
Jun 20, 2021
Messages
409
Reaction score
323
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
Location
Redford, MI
Pests are going to be difficult to completely avoid on the most biodiverse of live rock. As for established rock, after spending extended time in captivity, the biodiversity on these rocks is going to be quite limited. If you want to avoid the pests, I would try a combination of live substrates, such as mud or sand, from the ocean.

Personally, the biodiversity (on both the micro and macro scale) of live rock makes it worth it to obtain (despite how annoying pests can be to combat).

Various Sources:
Tampa Bay Saltwater (Live rock, Live sand)
Gulf Live Rock (Live rock, Live sand)
KP Aquatics (Live rock)
Salty Bottom Reef Company (Live rock, Live sand)
Live Rock N Reef (Live rock, Live sand)
GARF STORE (Live sand)
Indo-Pacific Sea Farms (Live sand, Live mud)
Gulf Specimen Marine Laboratory (Live sand)
FloridaPets (Live sand, Live mud)
Aquaforest (Live mud)
Addictive Reef Keeping (Live rock, Live sand)
Unique Corals (Live rock)
eBay (Live rock, Live sand, Live mud)
And many more...

I’m not sure how “live” CaribSea Ocean Direct is.

@MaxTremors
Awesome! Thanks for the list. I plan to pull one of the rocks in my tank out (since it got completely covered by sand anyway). So once I remove it and it leaves a void, I'll have room to put some more sand in. I'll take a look at these!
 
Top Shelf Aquatics

beesnreefs

Active Member
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
View Badges
Joined
Sep 23, 2020
Messages
395
Reaction score
360
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
Location
Firestone
Thank you so much!

Interesting! I’ll definitely watch that video.
593A3480-9B32-4AD1-BA16-DC0F502BCE7F.png

Screen shot of the part he talks about it, about 40 minute mark.

Four weeks in, tanks seeded with AF Life Source mud had a biome score in the 70th percentile, while tanks seeded with Ocean Direct were in the 57th percentile. Of note, this was actually “better” than live rock
 
OP
DocRose

DocRose

Active Member
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
View Badges
Joined
Jun 20, 2021
Messages
409
Reaction score
323
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
Location
Redford, MI
OK I'm a little confused here. I'm not sure if you're looking for live rock or not. Because it kind of sounded like you were

Hmm, how can I suggest live rock without actually suggesting live rock? hah

  • ipsf.com. They have lots of things that come from the hawaiian shore that isn't rock.
  • aquabiomics reef rubble that's certified as I mentioned.
  • Life source by Aquaforest
  • Miracle Mud
  • Live sand from any of the providers on the @WheatToast list
The initial question is, "Is it possible to introduce a diverse biome to a new tank, without using live rock?" The secondary question is, "If not, what are some of the best known sources of pest free (as much as possible) live rock?" My statement about "So we're not looking for feedback/opinions about whether the risk of pests is worth it." was simply to make sure this thread doesn't devolve into a debate on whether or not people should worry about pests or just deal with them when they get them. I've seen that debate far too many times and I just wanted to keep this on track.

Your suggestions and @WheatToast list are much appreciated! :beaming-face-with-smiling-eyes:
 

Dan_P

2500 Club Member
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
View Badges
Joined
Sep 21, 2018
Messages
4,046
Reaction score
4,403
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
That (at the moment) is our plan. As you said though, they'd have to be QT'd for months just to be absolutely sure nothing comes in...and as far as adding snails to the QT, I'd feel bad if something DID come in on the rock...then whatever snails are in that tank are no longer viable to put into the DT, because they'll likely bring some hikers with them.

My issue with KP is that while they guarantee to be aiptasia free...they mention possible macro algae being on the rock. Now I know you can avoid the macro getting into the DT by just putting the rock in the sump and letting the biome make its way up to the DT, while leaving the macro behind; but again, I'd rather not run the risk of introducing it at all.
Give the snails to the LFS
 

undermind

Active Member
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
View Badges
Joined
Oct 17, 2018
Messages
390
Reaction score
529
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
The initial question is, "Is it possible to introduce a diverse biome to a new tank, without using live rock?" The secondary question is, "If not, what are some of the best known sources of pest free (as much as possible) live rock?" My statement about "So we're not looking for feedback/opinions about whether the risk of pests is worth it." was simply to make sure this thread doesn't devolve into a debate on whether or not people should worry about pests or just deal with them when they get them. I've seen that debate far too many times and I just wanted to keep this on track.
Well I assume your comment about opinions falling on deaf ears was referencing me, since I'm the only person to say that hitchhikers are overblown. And while I did get into that topic, there was certainly valuable information in that same post.

The confusion for me I guess is the "pest free" live rock. My feeling is that you're only going to be open to live rock if you're open to pests. But you're not open to pests.
 

undermind

Active Member
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
View Badges
Joined
Oct 17, 2018
Messages
390
Reaction score
529
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
Do you have experience with both their “starter” and premium live rock? Have you noticed any difference in hitchhikers between them?
I always do the premium rock but I discussed the starter rock with Philipp on a call recently and he confirmed that the starter rock certainly has the beneficial bacteria if that's what you're after.

I would also imagine that the premium rock is going to have more hitchhikers on it in general. There is more time in the ocean, and it's kept with more exposure to light (imagine the topmost layer in a rock pile).

Starter rock is certainly a good choice if it's destined for the sump.
 
NY
Top