Getting back into the hobby - thoughts on local stores (any decent local live rock)?

eschaton

Member
View Badges
Joined
Oct 27, 2019
Messages
76
Reaction score
73
Hey all,

I took a six year or so hiatus from the hobby after I had my son, as I figured two small kids, a reef, and a full-time job would be hard to balance. Now I'm in the "negotiation" process with my wife regarding a new tank regarding size and placement - something that has been going on for years but finally has an end in sight.

Anyway, I'm pretty sure I'm going to buy an Waterbox online once things are settled, which brings me to stocking and such. I have been leaning towards buying Tampa Bay Saltwater live rock once the tank is up and running. But I'd like to buy some high-quality live rock from a LFS - if there is any. I'm really interested in the "ecosystem in a tank" part of reefkeeping, meaning I'm looking for rock that's packed with hitchhikers and lots of life, not just a purple filtration system/landscaping for corals.

Yesterday I stopped by Aqua World and Elmers, which are the two closest stores to me, since I live in the city. I wasn't impressed by the rock selection at either store (though Elmers had a better livestock selection). They only had a small amount of rock, and aside from some purple coraline (I think) it just looked like dead rock. The rock at Aqua World even still had some newspaper stuck to it from being shipped, leading me to think it hadn't been fully cured.

Years back, all of my live rock was bought at a Burton's Total Pet in Kirwan Heights. It was pretty great quality stuff. No nitrate spike at all when I put it in the tank. I got lots of pods, small sponges, stomatella snails, micro brittle stars, asterina starfish, etc. Thats really what I'm looking for.

Thanks.
 
Last edited:
Earn WWC Rewards Points

bigdrew

Active Member
View Badges
Joined
Feb 11, 2019
Messages
160
Reaction score
214
I went with some old, completely dried out rock. I got it for free. I was happy with the price and wanted the exact opposite of what you are describing. Sorry, I can’t help you with an idea on local selection. I never even attempted to look at local options.

However, when I started out in this hobby 10 years ago, I also remember local stores carrying some pretty diverse stuff. The Seahorse out on route 8 had great live rock, which is where I got most of my stuff back then.
 

JaimeAdams

Valuable Member
View Badges
Joined
Aug 22, 2015
Messages
3,304
Reaction score
4,377
Location
Pittsburgh, PA
Most stores don't want to infect peoples tanks with hitch hikers. At The Reef Gallery where I work we cure dry rock to sell as live rock. It won't spike any nutrients in your tank, but you won't get the hitch hikers that you are after unlike most people. Also a lot of stuff that you might think is coraline could also just be the artificially colored Real Reef Rock name branded man made rock. You want some conditioned rock with sponges and maybe a mushroom or two and some asterinas I'd be more than happy to sell you rock out of my neglected home tank :D Honestly for what you want though I think that the Tampa Bay Rock might be your best bet for mystery creatures.
 

python73

Member
View Badges
Joined
Dec 29, 2017
Messages
28
Reaction score
11
You aren't going to find a LFS with the rock product you are looking for. For the reasons Jaime gave, plus stores not wanting to deal with curing live rock. The vast majority of people involved in the hobby equate live rock with reef tank which means corals. In the long run, you will have the LEAST problems with your coral reef tank if you start with dead/clean rock.

That said, I really like LIVE live rock. I've done a box of TBS rock and their sand before and loved all the critters. Assuming you do a thorough job AND you are prepared to deal with cycling (really prepared, not just half assing it) you will be rewarded with a crazy amount of life. It will all be Carribean-ish life... but still very cool. There are three known BAD hitchhikers though, that need dealt with if you hope to ever have fish in there. 1 - meat eating snails 2 - mantis shrimp (if you are lucky) 3 - crabs. If you don't get all the snails out they WILL kill each and every snail you ever try to put in the tank. They are monsters. Mantis shrimp are a known entity. Make them their own home. Crabs will all be future monsters. It will take you half a year to get them all if you even can. They are great at hiding, and you may have to trap them. But all three of these things are something you can deal with if you are prepared.

I've always wanted to get nice raw pacific rock, but that's really not a thing so far as I'm aware. Too long in transit and the transshippers tend to power wash it off to get rid of macro stuff anyway.

One last thing of note. Your list of critters included a lot of things you can easily get from a bag of chaeto off a fellow reefer, or some sand, or trading a piece of rock or two. Or buying a couple pieces of rock from different tanks. My tanks are less than a year old and I have a good population of both normal pods, plus brittle stars, chitons, ball sponge, etc. Life finds a way. Good luck!
 

Bruce60

Member
View Badges
Joined
Oct 28, 2018
Messages
63
Reaction score
84
Location
Bloomsburg, PA
I currently live in rural north central PA, far from any LFS. When I was in Pittsburgh this past spring, I did stop at both places you mentioned. They seemed acceptable...nothing special. There are much better places in eastern PA, but that's way too far from you. Not sure if there are any options west in Ohio you might check out.

With two prior tanks I did purchase "the package" from Tampa Bay Saltwater. It was everything that python73 stated. It was different to go to the cargo area of the airport to pick up the boxes. You need to follow TBS's recommended process and be ready to perform large water changes at the right time. I only ended up with a couple of the gorilla crabs. Took a bit to catch them, but once I did I put them in the refugium section of the sump where they lived without causing too much trouble (I dislike killing living creatures if it can be at all avoided). Best wishes!
 
OP
E

eschaton

Member
View Badges
Joined
Oct 27, 2019
Messages
76
Reaction score
73
Thanks guys. I plan to "go it slow" when it comes to the tank, because watching live rock mature for six months to a year is part of the pleasure for me, so there's plenty of time to fish out "problematic" hitchhikers and relegate them to the sump. I don't plan to introduce much during this time period, except for "booster packs" from places like Indo-Pacific Sea Farms to help round out the tank ecosystem. And hopefully getting some starter cultures (like chaeto balls) from other local reefers.

In the past, the only seriously bad hitchhikers I had were red planaria, and salifert took care of those. Things like aiptasia, digitate hydroids, etc were all pretty dang easy to take care of with a watchful eye and kalk paste.
 

Do you run TWO return pumps for redundancy and to be safe? (check all that apply)

  • Yes I run two return pumps..

    Votes: 123 21.9%
  • No it's a waste..

    Votes: 65 11.6%
  • No but I would like to..

    Votes: 134 23.9%
  • No but I have a spare return pump...

    Votes: 269 48.0%

Online statistics

Members online
2,379
Guests online
4,871
Total visitors
7,250
Mode Aquariums
Top