LIVE ROCK RULES: Should the rule for live rock be changed.....again?

Are most hobbyists using enough live rock these days?

  • Yes

    Votes: 127 24.0%
  • No

    Votes: 184 34.7%
  • Not sure

    Votes: 208 39.2%
  • Other (please explain)

    Votes: 11 2.1%

  • Total voters
    530

revhtree

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A long time ago in a galaxy far far away people believed the more live rock you had the better! Some said 2lbs per gallon, some said 1lb per gallon was the ticket and some said pack as much as you can get in your tank! That led to some very interesting...ahem....aquascapes. Rock pile is a better descriptor of them! :p But over the years the hobby has trended away from those rules and you now see tanks with less and less live rock. Filtration has gotten better so many believe less is now more when it comes to rock. But have we trended too far away from live rock? Is it just me or are there more and more algae horror stories? Let's talk about it today!

1. Are most hobbyists using enough live rock these days and what are your thoughts?

2. Do you have any "rules" for live rock when it comes to your reef tank?



@Ricardo Prata's beautifully minimalist aquascaped tank!

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Cell

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I think the proof is in the pudding. If the livestock is healthy, then the amount of liverock is sufficient. The problem with "x" lbs per gallon, is that different rock has different density. Pukani, for instance, is much lighter than fiji, so 10 lbs of pukani fills a lot more space than 10 lbs of fiji.
 
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revhtree

revhtree

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I think the proof is in the pudding. If the livestock is healthy, then the amount of liverock is sufficient. The problem with "x" lbs per gallon, is that different rock has different density. Pukani, for instance, is much lighter than fiji, so 10 lbs of pukani fills a lot more space than 10 lbs of fiji.
Good points!
 

ahiggins

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I don’t necessarily distinguish between live and dry when looking at amounts. Really the only differences are in that first year (in my experience).
I’ve always been the type to stockpile rock lol so my thought is the more the better as long as flow isn’t impeded. Again, density plays a big part, but I’m a fan of heavily rocked tanks.
 

Humblefish

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Is lack of biodiversity a problem?

I setup my first true reef tank sometime in the 1980s, and used all live rock to do it. (We didn't even realize back then that "dry rock" was an option.) Anyway, I put the LR in my tank, and of course there was die-off, but I think it cured in a few weeks. I knew it was safe to add fish/corals once the water completely cleared, and I could see all the little critters emerging from the rocks: Tiny starfish, amphipods, chitons, isopods, nudibranchs, spaghetti worms, bristle worms, stomatella snails, etc. etc. I also knew the rock contained tons of microfauna that I couldn't see, but I did notice tiny bivalves, bryozoan, sponges, cucumbers, feather dusters, hydroids, barnacles, tunicates, etc. growing all over the rocks.

I'm sure I also got some bad hitchhikers in the live rock, but I don't seem to remember those. (I would have definitely remembered a mantis shrimp. :p) But guess what else I don't remember? HAVING TO GO THROUGH THE UGLIES!!! In fact, the first time I ever saw diatoms & dinos was after setting up a tank using all dry rock. I also never quarantined back in the day, and other than Ich coming & going I never really had any fish disease problems. Hmmmm. Could some of these little critters actually be predators of tomonts and microscopic parasites in general?

I once attended a presentation by Tony Vargas (author of "The Coral Reef Aquarium") where he discussed the "European way" of setting up a tank. He uses all live rock, but sets it out of water (on cardboard) for a few hours so all of the "bad hitchhikers" crawl out. The rock is then placed in the aquarium, but is just left to sit & circulate for 3-4 months before adding any fish or corals. (No lights.) You still have to ghost feed, but the reasoning is that this time allows all the little critters/microfauna living in the rocks to propagate without being eaten by the fish. So when you finally do flip on the lights and start adding livestock, this mass biodiversity takes care of many of the problems (like nuisance algae) we commonly encounter in the first year a tank is setup. The tank is already stable, and you don't get "the uglies" because the tiny animals prevent nutrients from ever building up in the first place. And we all know getting a tank off to a good start is one way to ensure it's long term success. I've never tried this approach myself, but it makes all the sense in the world to me. :)

So how does a sterile tank with dry rock ever achieve biodiversity? I suppose some gets added every time we add chaeto or a coral frag (but only whatever the coral dip doesn't kill). But it takes YEARS to build up to a meaningful level doing it this way. Using all live rock isn't considered practical/environmentally friendly these days (plus the added cost), so what can you do to add biodiversity to your tank? I can think of a few options:
  1. Buy some live rock (or even just 1 piece) to mix in with your dry rock. (I'm not saying to buy from here, but this is what I'm talking about: https://gulfliverock.com/premium-deco-live-rock)
  2. Buy some mature rock, macroalgae and/or sand from another hobbyist with a healthy, established aquarium.
  3. Buy a "reef pack" to add diversity (example here) and/or macroalgae (example here) from a trusted source. Basically, look for critters labeled here as good: https://www.lionfishlair.com/hitchhikers-guide/
Ideally, you would want to add any of the above while still cycling (or at least 6 weeks before adding fish due to parasite tomonts). Fortunately, most of the aforementioned critters are tolerant of ammonia. Even if all you can get is 1 or 2 small rocks, the biodiversity should quickly propagate to the rest of the tank.
 

DeniseAndy

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AT first I read this wrong as I was thinking how it is more common for people to start with dry rock. Now, way back in my 29g I had live rock. Had an invader take out many fish, then changed. In my 210g I started with dry rock and the first two years are tough for algae and diatoms and dinos and cyano. I am now adding live rock (after a long qt process).

However, not the thread intent. So, for me, I like tons of live rock because it is more space for the little bugs to grow. Now, that does not mean the display has to have it all. My displays are pretty minimal, but my sump if full.
Is it necessary to have 2lbs per gallon or whatever the stat is (never actually gave any thought)? No, density has tons to do with the rock. What inhabitants you are keeping has a ton to do with quantity or lack there of rock.

But, sometimes we have to give an estimate to new reef keepers to help them out. So, we have to come up with some number as we do with clean up crews. Which again, I have no idea what it is standard.
 

robmiller2

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With the amazing advances in the industry, how efficient filtration has become, and with media such as the bio bricks with its abundance of surface area to occupy the bacteria live rock has gotten to a minimal state. I like how some people make the minimalist aquascapes, much more pleasing to look at than the "piles of rock".
 

andrewkw

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I would agree if the tank is successful then they are using enough rock BUT that also means fish living a long time. Some of these crazy aquascape minimalist tanks look amazing but where the heck do the fish hide? Where do they sleep? While my tank is somewhat lightly stocked even when I've had more fish in the past, I like to at least provide enough spots all fish can be out of sight should they desire.

Also for me it's live rock ie from the ocean or bust, but you can't get quality live rock anymore so I don't know what I'm going to do when I finally get a dream sized reef tank.

I'm not going to say dry rock or fake rock doesn't work, obviously it does, but it's not for me personally.
 

fishface NJ

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It really a "generic recommendation"... I've seen from 1-2lbs on average thrown out there...this was before the man made rock. The 1lb per was old school calculation on wet natural rock

For example if you used pukani/fiji rock in the tank, which is very very porous and has many openings and crevices, and you would only need 23 lbs in a 40 cube to feel like you had plenty of rock... rock density really throws this number off....Man made rock is so very heavy compared to what was natural years ago. So if using man made that 1lb calulation would have to increase due to the rock not being as porous.

Its really about surface area, anaerobic area, etc... which is impossibly to measure/quantify here and varies differently based on rock density/porosity,etc...you could use products like Marinepure in place of some rocks

So basically don't concern yourself with that number...But in general "more" should be better but that also means less water volume, potential for more stagnant areas,etc..

Go with what you like visually for the most part...if it not enough porosity then add Marinepure to the sump
 

Lostreefin

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I am dealing with my 2nd year of dry rock syndrome, won't do that again. Totally agree about years ago adding lots of live rock and having a much smoother start.
I can't believe there aren't more entrepreneurs making light, porous rock, and sinking it. I have learned my lesson and would absolutely buy decent rock from the ocean, and I know there are a few places, but we need more imo.
 

ApoIsland

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I think the answer lies with how the rest of your filtration is setup. I got annoyed with the skimmer 8 years ago so have been running my tanks with zero filtration other than live rock since then. Water change once per 4-6 weeks. Sometimes less. I don’t think there is any way I could run a filterless 120g mixed reef with 3-4 tangs, a CBB, and between 4-6 other fish without loading the display and sump with live rock.

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BlazinNano

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I honestly think there is no real answer for this. You can use a lot less live rock when you have a refugium, oversized skimmer, reactors, etc. You are replacing the live rock with equipment like @revhtree states with how filtration has changed. Now if you dont want to have all that equipment or dont have the space or money for it then you need to have more rock.
 
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ReefGeezer

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I voted "IDK". It seems all the old school thinking disappeared at the same rate as the availability of high quality live rock. I believe that live rock has benefits, but could not make a substantive argument for using it.

I read about the biodiversity that live rock fosters. I want to believe that is important. I also know from experience that small populations of the varied organisms that are imported with live rock may not be able to survive and propagate in the aquarium. I've also had to deal with the down-side of using live rock.

So I started my current tank with dry rock... bleached, acid bathed, and soaked in LC to rid it of organic debris and phosphate. It worked. I do think the maturity process was delayed though. I still have the old school "Pile-O-Rock" look to my aquascape that is probably about .75 lbs/gallon. Now that the tank has matured, and the rock is basically live rock, nitrate deficiency is a problem. I guess I don't need that much. As many are now using only small islands of rock, it is evident that not as much is required and/or there are other ways to manage nitrogen compounds that are just as effective.

So, I guess I don't know, but I'm now thinking that much less rock is required that we once thought. In addition, I am questioning the benefits of using the live rock available today instead of dry rock.
 

Thespammailaccount

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A long time ago in a galaxy far far away people believed the more live rock you had the better! Some said 2lbs per gallon, some said 1lb per gallon was the ticket and some said pack as much as you can get in your tank! That led to some very interesting...ahem....aquascapes. Rock pile is a better descriptor of them! :p But over the years the hobby has trended away from those rules and you now see tanks with less and less live rock. Filtration has gotten better so many believe less is now more when it comes to rock. But have we trended too far away from live rock? Is it just me or are there more and more algae horror stories? Let's talk about it today!

1. Are most hobbyists using enough live rock these days and what are your thoughts?

2. Do you have any "rules" for live rock when it comes to your reef tank?



@Ricardo Prata's beautifully minimalist aquascaped tank!

Untitled-1 copy.jpg
He has rock somewhere in the sump
 
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