Living Rocks: What makes the best rock for live rock? Let's discuss!

Woud you rather start a tank with dry rock or live rock from the ocean?

  • Dry Rock

    Votes: 225 41.4%
  • Live Rock

    Votes: 179 32.9%
  • Combo of both

    Votes: 130 23.9%
  • Other (please explain)

    Votes: 10 1.8%

  • Total voters
    544

revhtree

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(sticking with the live rock theme from yesterday)

LIVING ROCKS?

Obviously rocks do not live and what defines rock as living is the living bacteria that it hosts as well as all the cool critters that we like to spy out at night with our flashlights. :p Once "dry rock" becomes "living rock" then it provides several different types of advantages for use in a saltwater aquarium. It helps with filtration, it gives fish and critters places to hide, it looks good, it processes waste, helps with water chemistry by helping maintain pH and more. So when choosing rock, whether live yet or not, it's important to choose the rock that will benefit your aquarium the most. Let's talk about that today!

1. What makes the best rock for live rock and why do you say so?

2. What type of rock do you currently have in your saltwater reef aquarium?



Photo from @MarcoRocks
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andrewkw

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we like to spy out at night with our flashlights.
I don't think people do this anymore. They want either ghost white or painted purple for the most part. To be fair their other options are mostly limited. Gone are the days of sifting through big bins for that perfect piece. Worried you might get stung by a random worm or something else.

Occasionally you'd hear about people finding hitchhiker fish, or there was a very popular thread about a hitchhiker octopus. Sponges of all different colours and shapes. Other random things. Stometellas and other free cleanup crews. I know I still have a healthy population and the last time I purchased live rock was around 2008. A few aiptasia and other pests seem to have ruined the appeal for whatever reason. I did get hydroids from live rock then but 12+ years later it still hasn't taken over or ruined any of my tanks. That and the regulations involving live rock, despite the fact in many places it's used in construction.

Most of my live rock is from Fiji and Tonga. Unfortunately I don't have any tonga branch but some big pieces I got when I first started my 112 gallon reef in 2006. In late 2005 I started a nano and got a very small amount of Haitian lettuce rock. I still remember the awe of my very first reef store visit seeing 5000+ lbs of rock spread across all the coral vats. It was a brand new store that had nothing but the rock. The owner helped me section off a 2 foot by 1 foot area to build my first aquascape for my first 15g nano tank. Taking it home and hoping to see a worm pop out or identifying random pods was very exciting.

The one real legitimate benefit to dry rock is it can greatly improve aquascapes. You can do most of this with live rock too but if you want to spend days or weeks doing it then it pretty much has to be dry.
 

jda

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Unfortunately, options are limited now, but there is no substitute for live rock. You can only get cultured from either Fiji or the Gulf.

Bacteria in a bottle is not diversity and does not do the same thing as live rock. Dry rock can never become diverse unless you introduce that stuff into your tank.

Sponges, cryptic sponges, worms, all kinds of pods, starfish and all kinds of other unidentified microbes are super important. A trip to IPSF can get some of this if people start with dry rock, but then you have to wait many months for them to take hold.

You never used to see people losing so many algae, dino or diatom battles when real live rock was used. Real live rock was also devoid of bound phosphate. Also, saw fewer fish diseases - it amazes me that people do not want parasites or pests and start with dry rock not know that they are creating an idea sterile breeding ground for ich and other fish parasites when the ich has to fight for it's life in a truly biodiverse tank.

I have a mix going back to the 1990s from Great Barrier Reef to Marshall Island (the best), Fiji, Tonga, etc. The stuff is porous, lightweight and beautiful.
 

muzikalmatt

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My only experience is with live rock and while I've had to deal with some unwanted hitchhikers (aiptasia, trash palys, etc) the good hitchhikers have greatly outweighed the bad. I have all sorts of sponges, micro brittle stars, stomatella snails, collonista snails, chitons, asterina starfish, pods, etc that all contribute to the biodiversity in the tank. In addition, the tank cycled in about a week and I haven't had to deal with any bad algae outbreaks. Given that this was my first reef tank, I'm glad I went this route as it's forced me to learn about all of the different inhabitants as I discovered them. I may go the dry rock route with my next build as I understand true live rock is harder to come by these days. I also want to diversify my knowledge in the hobby and see how things progress differently when starting with true dry rock.
 

jlanger

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Live rock every day, all day.

I rebooted my 120gal with dry rock (Tonga shelf) and it took two years before the system settled in and corals started to do well. I "seeded" the dry rock with various bottled bacterias and live copepods multiple times before I finally ordered some live rock from TBS and placed that rock in my sump. It was after adding the live rock when the dry rock started to be colonized by the microfauna present in the live rock and supported coralline algae growth and corals.

I really miss the old days when we could source live rock from Fiji, Marshall Islands, Tonga, Vanuatu and other Pacific islands. Those rocks were covered in calcareous algae, sponges, pods and micro-inverts and bacteria that just isn't present in a bottle. All of those beneficial organisms are worth much more than taking the time to pick out the pests that could be found in the rock.
 
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ScottR

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I was lucky to score some indo rock years ago. I’ve kept them in multiple tanks and they keep following me. I got them covered in coralline. Was fortunate enough to not get many pests except for a gorilla crab. But I credit these rocks with keeping my SPS thriving. Whatever lives deep these helps to keep me afloat

—- on a side note, I see many people buying and selling “live rock”. Many times this is just dry rock they had in their tank for some time. Live rock can have many definitions. But to me, live rock is rock that is well established, should come from the ocean or a good system, have coralline encrusting and also have good bacterial colonies.
 

waynel

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I'm right now into my third week of starting up my 125gallon with liverock from tbsaltwater. I first used them back in 2008/2009, and loved the diversity of stuff (hitchhikers, etc) that came with the rock, so glad they're still around now. It's been smooth so far, only lost a sponge, and I've got some free cleanup crew that hitched along, bristle worms, baby starfish, blue leg crabs, snails, snail eggs on my back glass already. I'll be getting the rest of the cleanup crew package shipped this week, weather permitting. I haven't had any aiptasia yet that I've found. I wouldn't want to try this with dry rock. I'm one of those that likes to use a flashlight at night to see what comes out.
 

jack_aubry

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Started my tank with life rock from the gulf. Deffinatly got some things I didn't want, but with the exception of calurpa nothing that I counldn't manage. Having fully established life rock probably saved me from countless problems. Plus just watching and identifying everything that came in on the rock was a lot of fun.
 

Brew12

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I will use a combination of both for my next system. I will use dry rock to create my aquascape just the way I want it. Then I will add as much live rock as possible into my sump to seed the system with all the useful diversity I can aquire.
 

sp1187

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Other.
Two part putty and pvc.
you can create what you envision easier (one reefers opinion).
no drilling for fiber glass rods. no chiseling rocks hoping they break exactly as you want. (not a knock on what you are doing)
the only live rock in my tank are small pieces I bought that had something attached to it I wanted (mushrooms, nems, etc).

bio-diversity? add what you want. first thing to hit my tank were spaghetti worms, bristle worms, pods and asterina stars.
sponges, feather dusters, other worms and brittle stars have come in on frags.
 
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footgal

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I’m 100% live rock all the way. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean ocean for me. My friend has a 20+ year old monster tank and allowed me to put some rocks in the sump for a year. So I bought the cheaper dry rocks then stuck them in that sump for a year and now they’re in my tank! Hitchhikers were stomatella snails and brittle stars with a few asterina. So I got all the benefits and none of the baddies! I definitely this is the ultimate awesome route but I get not everyone has this luxury.
 

SMSREEF

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I used dry on my new tank because I could create a cool aquascape with EMarco cement.

It has only been problem after problem due to the lack of diversity. Dino’s and now chrysophyte.

In my experience bacteria in bottles don’t help other than the initial cycle. And are a poor replacement for real live rock from the ocean.

If I was to do it all over again, which I may very soon, I would use all live rock from KP or the Gulf.

for now I am transferring all my live from my nano over and will be adding 10 more pounds of live. Hopefully this helps.
 

fish farmer

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I believe the best live rock in my limited experience was RAW uncured Fiji which is what my first tank started with. I also tried some Florida gulf aquacultured, I didn't like some of the red macroalgaes that came on it. I had one that was very difficult to control.

I currently have some very old Fiji, aquacultured gulf, haitian and dry marco.

If I had to do it all over again it would be a mix of dry for aquascaping and a few pieces of aquacultured gulf and possibly aquacultured Fiji.
 

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My personal opinion when it comes to live rock is that it should be as "live" as possible. If I could, I would go to the ocean and pull some chunks out and throw them in my tank; hitchhikers and all. There are so many things that come on ocean cultured rock that is a really good idea to have, but often overlooked. I think all those little weird invertebrates that come off of rock like this are awesome and should make more appearances in people's aquariums.
When it comes to my aquarium, I unfortunately don't have such rock. Mine is decent though. It came with some little sponges, limpets, and chitons. I would prefer to get some rock from TBS... but... I'm broke and already have a lot of rock. :(
 

Bill Bolton

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Live rock, from the South Pacific or I wont even set up a reef. My tanks have always been set up using live, straight from the collectors. As the tank cycles and matures, I have found stars, worms, crabs, clams, acros, stylos, mantis, and even octopus on 2 occasions. I tried to set up a 29 gallon cube using dry.... and I hated it so much I sold it within 6 months. So boring, no surprises... just sterile.
I am fortunate that I still have a bunch of rock in storage, and I have a few connections in the collector biz that can still get me real live rock.... just waiting to move into a house to set up my next, (and last), reef.
 

ChadmRoman

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Carib sea life rock imo the best.
Buying different shapes, sizes, shelves, and arches makes for easy aquascaping.
Easy to cycle
It’s color
Worth the money and I personally won’t ever use anything else.
 

va4444

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People use less rock now a days because there is lot of different bio media now. But the word enough is the tricky part of the question. I can use alot of bio media and have less rock but it will still be enough. I have alot of rock myself n could take some out n easily still have enough. I wonder how many people have tried no rock n lots of ceramic bio media, and how it worked out for them. I might experiment with a 10 gallonn a couple fish to see how it works like six months down the road.
 

chaoticreefer

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I believe the best live rock in my limited experience was RAW uncured Fiji which is what my first tank started with. I also tried some Florida gulf aquacultured, I didn't like some of the red macroalgaes that came on it. I had one that was very difficult to control.

I currently have some very old Fiji, aquacultured gulf, haitian and dry marco.

If I had to do it all over again it would be a mix of dry for aquascaping and a few pieces of aquacultured gulf and possibly aquacultured Fiji.

Oh man....I loved raw Fiji live rock when I bought it back in 1999. I bought 2 boxes of it, my only regret was my 100g tank was in my bedroom, imagine cycling 100g tank worth of live rock, back in the days where a wall of rock was popular. Needless to say I had to sleep on the couch few nights. No, I wasn't married, it was the smell that forced me out of my bedroom. While there was a lot of die off but it was full of life. You name it, foot long bristle worms, few types of stars, snails, different colors of sponges, different algae and pods. Only pest I had was a mantis shrimp in which killed my favorite cleaner shrimp on night one (RIP Sammy) before I realized it was in my tank. :( I got him out of there next day!!

Never thought about it but yeah....it's true I had a lot less problems when I had that rock. I made a mistake of getting out of the hobby because I needed a break because I was working 6 days a week and my only day off I was doing tank maintenances. Not too long (few months) after that the great recession came and took care of the 6 days week work schedule. Started back few years later with dry rock, one problem after another.
 

Robinson

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When I setup my initial nano tank, went all man made dry rock. I keep struggling for two years with barely any SPS growth, cyano, dino, algae blooms,etc. When I upgraded my tank I decided to go live rock like I did in the old days. This time was Haiti live rock, two years now from the start of this tank and everything is doing well. No dinos, no algae blooms, no random fish dead and good water stability. Dont get me wrong, a lot of people have success with dry rock but is not for me and never will.
 
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Is your current reef tank the BEST reef aquarium you've ever had?

  • Yes

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  • No

    Votes: 20 15.2%
  • It's a tie

    Votes: 5 3.8%
  • Other (please explain)

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