How to keep most life on KP rocks?

Miami Reef

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Sponges, tucnicates, and the filter feeders,

How do you keep them alive long term?

Here’s an example of a KP rock. I think the red sponges look neat. I should be getting some of these rocks tomorrow.

11AAA881-A64C-4398-B5F0-8E190C7EE5FA.jpeg
 
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ISpeakForTheSeas

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I've been looking at this myself, and the answer seems largely to be an unknown at this point (at least for the NPS species). That said there are a few general tips which I've seen that may be helpful (the advice is sponge oriented, but it should apply well to tunicates and pretty well to other NPS organisms too).

As mentioned above, offer a wide variety of differently sized tiny foods - a bunch of phytoplankton species, pods, rots, PNS ProBio and/or YelloSno, TDO Chromaboost Type A pellets; those sorts of things. Filter feeders can be a bit tricky as you need to provide not only properly sized food (which is difficult to figure out), but also food that meets their nutritional needs (also not necessarily a simple task since sponges and the like are not always very expressive of when things are going poorly). Basically, until you figure out what each species needs, I'd recommend a shotgun approach (offering tons of different foods and hoping one of them works).

You'll probably end up needing to dose silica for the sponges to use for growth at some point (Randy has some great write-ups on this).

If you do some reading on sponge keeping here on R2R, you'll probably find pretty quickly that most people recommend low lighting low flow for sponges (exceptions for photosynthetic sponges), but the truth is this also depends on the sponge species. The most common photosynthetic sponges in the hobby are the photosynthetic plating sponges (like you can find/buy on LiveAquaria's site), but there are quite a few other sponges that are photosynthetic too (such as Aplysina cauliformis, for example), and these would benefit from high lighting. Similarly, some species of sponge do best in very high flow areas, including high flow areas with laminar flow (a lot of people talk about random flow on the site, which would be called turbulent flow, as they're trying to get the water moving basically randomly throughout the tank - laminar flow is just a continuous flow that doesn't change, so the water keeps going the same direction nonstop and there's nothing random about it). If you're not sure if the sponge is photosynthetic or not, you can try starting it in one lighting (such as low lighting), see how it does and then compare it to a different lighting (moderate or high) and figure out its needs from that. Same with the flow. Light will probably be the most important part for photosynthetic species and the food/flow the most important for NPS species - you'll need to feed these either directly or by adding it to the flow that hits the sponge to feed it indirectly.

Filter feeders generally require a lot of feedings each day (basically the more the better), so some sort of automated feeding system would probably be helpful.

Also, just something to be aware of, sponges and the like generally encourage different bacterial growth that tends to favor algae over corals - it shouldn't be a big issue, but it's something to keep in mind, as it could potentially encourage nuisance algae.

Don't get too discouraged if you lose a few (or even a lot) of them, as some sponges do well in some tanks but not in others for no discernible reason, and some some sponges travel well while other sponges don't. Plus, sometimes a sponge will basically disintegrate into a ton of tiny pieces and look like it's dying, but it'll then proceed to grow and live on afterwards. Similarly, some sponges grow invasively while others grow incredibly slowly, so a lot of keeping these guys at this point really just depends on the luck of the draw (so to speak).

That's all I can think of for now. Hope it helps!

Edit: just to add, it's probably safest to start low light/flow and move up, rather than starting high and moving lower.
 
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JGT

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Sponges, tucnicates, and the filter feeders,

How do you keep them alive long term?

Here’s an example of a KP rock. I think the red sponges look neat. I should be getting some of these rocks tomorrow.

11AAA881-A64C-4398-B5F0-8E190C7EE5FA.jpeg
Actually very simple, dose phyto. I have around 300 pounds of KP live rock that came with all the goodies. Ever since I started dosing phyto, what was there has started to grow and thrive, not to mention all the new things that have stated to grow that weren’t there before.
 

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I had a very small tunicate, definitely non-photosynthetic, for a couple of years. It grew slowly, but did grow. No special feeding, just hidden in the back corner of my pico tank. My LFS has some sort of tiny, orange, colonial-style tunicate in their invert tanks, and it spreads around pretty happily. Again, no extra care. Now and then you get lucky and find a species that seems to do well in aquaria.

(Mine died after I had to remove its entire rock into quarantine due to some issues with toxic palys on the rock. The LFS has had theirs for years, as far as I know.)
 
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Got an order of KP live rock last month, and I agree with @ISpeakForTheSeas on just about everything. My sponges melted under my hybrid lights (200 par), so it's really important to do low lighting for those. Most of the other stuff has done well, including the ruby mithrax, mantis and pistols that hitchhiked :)
 

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Be prepared to lose a bunch of sponges. Once they are exposed to air, they die in a few days. The air gets trapped in their pores and this is fatal. As for feeding, I stir the substrate of my tank to get the micro organisms into the water column. Mine are doing well with this method. I have several in one tank that are a few years old and a blue in another tank that is about ten years old.
 
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I think most of the lighting should be in the mid to lower end - I think the mariculture sites are 10-20m deep and plenty of things will be growing on what was an underside. Feeding planktonic food will help, including live phyto, but replicating their home environment entirely is a monumental task, so I would say just be sure that you are still feeding them before you stock with other things. There has been some discussion of dosing small amounts of silicates to help the sponges in particular, but I don't know if it's something you want to do.

Otherwise, the thing that will do the most to keep them alive: minimize shipping time. A couple days in wet newspaper will keep some stuff, but a lot of dieoff. Overnight shipping is better, especially if in water, but you still will loose some. My best results by far have been with air freight shipping in water, where the rock was shipped in the morning and picked up by me at the airport in the evening - lots of live shrimp and crabs that were less likely to make an overnight or longer, especially with minimal water.

The less dieoff you have, the less cycle you will get. If your rock is very fresh and you can do a large water change or two in the first few days - or if the amount of rock is small for your tank volume - you will be able to prevent the things lost in transit from taking too many more organisms with them. The 'soft cycle' approach is definitely king if you're trying to keep the life on it.
 

JoJosReef

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As stated previously, keep the rocks wet. When I got my TBS rocks, I had someone dripping saltwater over them whilst figuring out where the rocks (which were shipped in water) were going in the scape.

Many of them died. The black sponges in particular receded quickly. But other sponges and tunicates on the underside and sides of the rocks took off, and previously unseen ones sprang up.

In a 10g nano I feed Reef Nutrition oyster feast (350uL), RN dead phyto (100uL), RN R.O.E. eggs (350uL), RN mysis feast (350uL) and TDO pellets (small/medium). For the sponges and tunicates, I think the phyto and oyster eggs are the most important, and blasting the rocks (which I should do more).

Good luck! I think they are a great part of our mini oceans!
 

Dan_P

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I've been looking at this myself, and the answer seems largely to be an unknown at this point (at least for the NPS species). That said there are a few general tips which I've seen that may be helpful (the advice is sponge oriented, but it should apply well to tunicates and pretty well to other NPS organisms too).

As mentioned above, offer a wide variety of differently sized tiny foods - a bunch of phytoplankton species, pods, rots, PNS ProBio and/or YelloSno, TDO Chromaboost Type A pellets; those sorts of things. Filter feeders can be a bit tricky as you need to provide not only properly sized food (which is difficult to figure out), but also food that meets their nutritional needs (also not necessarily a simple task since sponges and the like are not always very expressive of when things are going poorly). Basically, until you figure out what each species needs, I'd recommend a shotgun approach (offering tons of different foods and hoping one of them works).

You'll probably end up needing to dose silica for the sponges to use for growth at some point (Randy has some great write-ups on this).

If you do some reading on sponge keeping here on R2R, you'll probably find pretty quickly that most people recommend low lighting low flow for sponges (exceptions for photosynthetic sponges), but the truth is this also depends on the sponge species. The most common photosynthetic sponges in the hobby are the photosynthetic plating sponges (like you can find/buy on LiveAquaria's site), but there are quite a few other sponges that are photosynthetic too (such as Aplysina cauliformis, for example), and these would benefit from high lighting. Similarly, some species of sponge do best in very high flow areas, including high flow areas with laminar flow (a lot of people talk about random flow on the site, which would be called turbulent flow, as they're trying to get the water moving basically randomly throughout the tank - laminar flow is just a continuous flow that doesn't change, so the water keeps going the same direction nonstop and there's nothing random about it). If you're not sure if the sponge is photosynthetic or not, you can try starting it in one lighting (such as low lighting), see how it does and then compare it to a different lighting (moderate or high) and figure out its needs from that. Same with the flow. Light will probably be the most important part for photosynthetic species and the food/flow the most important for NPS species - you'll need to feed these either directly or by adding it to the flow that hits the sponge to feed it indirectly.

Filter feeders generally require a lot of feedings each day (basically the more the better), so some sort of automated feeding system would probably be helpful.

Also, just something to be aware of, sponges and the like generally encourage different bacterial growth that tends to favor algae over corals - it shouldn't be a big issue, but it's something to keep in mind, as it could potentially encourage nuisance algae.

Don't get too discouraged if you lose a few (or even a lot) of them, as some sponges do well in some tanks but not in others for no discernible reason, and some some sponges travel well while other sponges don't. Plus, sometimes a sponge will basically disintegrate into a ton of tiny pieces and look like it's dying, but it'll then proceed to grow and live on afterwards. Similarly, some sponges grow invasively while others grow incredibly slowly, so a lot of keeping these guys at this point really just depends on the luck of the draw (so to speak).

That's all I can think of for now. Hope it helps!

Edit: just to add, it's probably safest to start low light/flow and move up, rather than starting high and moving lower.
One piece of anecdotal data. My fish, 15 Mexican turbo and xenia system (4 years old) never showed any sign of fan worm nor pineapple sponge growth until I started dosing ChaetoGro to improve the heath of my Ulva scrubber. Within a month or so, the sponge and little fan worm population exploded and continues to thrive (newly added rock or microscope slides become covered). Another thing that proliferated is what looks like a bacteria biofilm. It has grown in size and thickness My guess is that tlhat system was depleted in trace elements. I further assume the bacteria benefited from the trace element addition.
 
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ISpeakForTheSeas

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One piece of anecdotal data. My fish, 15 Mexican turbo and xenia system (4 years old) never showed any sign of fan worm nor pineapple sponge growth until I started dosing ChaetoGro to improve the heath of my Ulva scrubber. Within a month or so, the sponge and little fan worm population exploded and continues to thrive (newly added rock or microscope slides become covered). Another thing that proliferated is what looks like a bacteria biofilm. It has grown in size and thickness My guess is that tlhat system was depleted in trace elements. I further assume the bacteria benefited from the trace element addition.
Yeah, generally speaking healthier algae = healthier sponges and healthier sponges = healthier algae. From what I’ve read, they basically feed off of each other to outcompete corals by changing the microbiome (alluded to in my comment above), so adding depleted elements to boost algae growth would likely promote sponge growth too.
 

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You may be surprised by how much of it stays alive with you doing nothing.

I don't think you mentioned whether you're doing the overnight shipped underwater, but I assume so. The premium rock always ships underwater regardless of UPS overnight or air freight.

I've done both KPA rock and other rock from other companies operating out of the gulf (KPA is not matured in the gulf). The KPA rock has been a completely different experience as it basically never came out of the water. I pulled it out of the bags and put it right in my new tank. There was no cycle and I had SPS coral in there on day 4.

As far as I know, I've lost none of the life that came on the rock. And the stuff that's there is not just alive, it's thriving. There are some corals there that are growing and multiplying. The sponges are also multiplying. New corals are appearing that I didn't put there. It's quite incredible. There's so much thriving life on the rock that I haven't even put fish in that 10g nano. That tank gets mainly Oyster Feast and occasionally R.O.E. (both from Reef Nutrition).

I've ordered KPA rock multiple times for multiple tanks, and this has always been my experience. My fave are the bright yellow sponges.

I have not had the same success with other Florida aquaculture rock that I've bought in the past that wasn't shipped underwater and had to be cured. A lot of the life died off during curing and others perished over time.

Another thing that may be worth noting is that the KPA site is in the keys and not in the gulf like the other aquaculture operations, and does have a different ecosystem. I've heard the the KPA rock is generally a lot better with things like aiptasia. And just speculating here, but perhaps the corals I'm seeing thrive in my tanks are better suited for reef tanks than some of the gulf stuff. But not sure.
 

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I've had my KP rock for about 18 months now, it was shipped submerged in water. I have more bright sponges and other life now than I started with. The rock also came with 6 or 7 upside down clams/bivalves that seem to be thriving.

Not really sure what to attribute the success to, but some possibilities.

I dont run any filter socks or mats or anything and I skim pretty dry. My water is absolutely swarming with tiny "things" at night. I assume this is good food for filter feeders.

I carbon dose off and on. The increased bacteria load may be keeping them fed and happy as well.

I dosed phyto for a while but have since stopped. I didn't notice much difference either way.

I think getting the rock shipped in water is super important.
 
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@Dan_P

I love you, man! My tank has appeared to be in a famine. No algae is growing. The tank/rocks looked dry and dull. My herbivore inverts were dying from starvation (I can’t spot feed since I have a group of tangs which always destroy the nori).

I dosed some cheato gro a few days ago and I see the tank glass getting covered. Diatom growth is booming (I dosed a lot of silicates and I HARDLY got diatom growth a few weeks ago).

Now the goal is to pick up the KP rocks and dosed cheato gro on a weekly basis. I was relying on occasional water changes to supply trace elements which was such a fail lol.
 

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@Dan_P

I love you, man! My tank has appeared to be in a famine. No algae is growing. The tank/rocks looked dry and dull. My herbivore inverts were dying from starvation (I can’t spot feed since I have a group of tangs which always destroy the nori).

I dosed some cheato gro a few days ago and I see the tank glass getting covered. Diatom growth is booming (I dosed a lot of silicates and I HARDLY got diatom growth a few weeks ago).

Now the goal is to pick up the KP rocks and dosed cheato gro on a weekly basis. I was relying on occasional water changes to supply trace elements which was such a fail lol.
Hope things continue to work out. Good luck!
 
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Miami Reef

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I further assume the bacteria benefited from the trace element addition.
Hmm. My tank looks considerably more cloudy than before. I run UV, but the bulbs are almost a year old. I’m thinking of changing them.
 
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I've had my KP rock for about 18 months now, it was shipped submerged in water. I have more bright sponges and other life now than I started with. The rock also came with 6 or 7 upside down clams/bivalves that seem to be thriving.

Not really sure what to attribute the success to, but some possibilities.

I dont run any filter socks or mats or anything and I skim pretty dry. My water is absolutely swarming with tiny "things" at night. I assume this is good food for filter feeders.

I carbon dose off and on. The increased bacteria load may be keeping them fed and happy as well.

I dosed phyto for a while but have since stopped. I didn't notice much difference either way.

I think getting the rock shipped in water is super important.
[/

The key is in proper handling of living rock. From harvest site to the customer’s tank, it should be cared for like a fish/invert...which always ship submerged.

The key is in proper handling of living rock. From harvest site to the customer’s tank, it should be cared for like a fish/invert...which always ship submerged.
 

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Hmm. My tank looks considerably more cloudy than before. I run UV, but the bulbs are almost a year old. I’m thinking of changing them.
You could do that or you might let it ride and see if it clears on its own. Won’t the coral benefit from this banquet?
 
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