• For a Limited Time the R2R Partner Membership is NOW OPEN! Get some cool swag and chances to win part of over $20,000 in prizes! Click here for more details

observations of an old salt

Snoopdog

Well-Known Member
View Badges
Joined
Apr 23, 2018
Messages
507
Reaction score
381
Location
Mobile, AL
Been in the hobby for 15 years and I gotta spill my guts on this. So many algae filled white rock tanks out there these days. I mean picture after picture of unhealthy looking tanks. Whats up with this trend on starting a sterile dry rock tank?

Why are people so afraid of "pests"? I think the reason pests take hold and reach plague proportions is due to the lack of biodiversity found in these sterilized tanks. I mean I have vermitid snails and red planaria in my reef but they have found a balance in my ecosystem. I have to look hard just to find one flatworm and often times can't. I don't qt fish but my oldest is 12 years. I have so many unnamed critters and bristle worms yet my corals don't get eaten. I have algaes in my tank that can't compete against my Coraline. I relish the moments I discover a new critter in my tank, I certainly don't panic.

If you're new to the hobby just know that there is another way to start a reef that works. You can have a tank that is beautiful from day one. You don't have to go the dry rock route. Look at LIVErock as the single greatest investment in your reefs success.

I hope that a trend will start in the direction of farmed ocean rock. More biodiversity in reefs is needed. No longer will newbies wait for a year or longer for an established tank. No longer will the majority of tanks be a mixture of white, brown, and a handful of tiny unhappy frags.
I was just having this discussion. I am a rather old salt myself, been out of the hobby for over 10 years. I just got back into this week and holy hell I am floored at the sterile tanks. I picked up my new one and just saw no life on the rocks. My local supply guy stared at me strange when I mentioned this to him. He told me for every good thing that comes in on seeded live rock there is something bad, that starting a sterile tank is the way to do it. I have a hard time believing that. My entire fun existence of a reefer back in the day was staring into my tank and going "what the heck is that? Where did that come from?"
 
Last edited:
OP
Jrain904

Jrain904

Well-Known Member
View Badges
Joined
Dec 3, 2017
Messages
716
Reaction score
915
Location
DUUUUVAL
I was just having this discussion. I am a rather old salt myself, been out of the hobby for over 10 years. I just got back into this week and holy hell I am floored at the sterile tanks. I picked up my new one and just saw no life on the rocks. My local supply guy stared at me strange when I mentioned this to him. He told me for every good thing that comes in on seeded live rock there is something bad, that starting a sterile tank is the way to do it. I have a hard time believing that. My entire fun existence of a reefer back in the day was staring into my tank and going "what the heck is that? Where did that come from?"
You can still get the good stuff
 

EMeyer

Valuable Member
View Badges
Joined
Jan 23, 2016
Messages
1,040
Reaction score
1,557
I think its interesting to consider why things are the way they are, rather than just argue over competing preferences.

Why are we in a position where live rock (=dead coral skeletons with a natural community of marine microorganisms living in it), which is clearly established to be the best way to start a reef tank, so hard to come by? Its not rare -- this material is hugely abundant in nature - it is literally everywhere in tropical regions of the global ocean.

There are a few important reasons.
1. Over-zealous and mis-applied environmental regulations.
a) Importing: under current regulations, importing of live rock counts the same (for permits) as importing corals. So why would an importer spend money importing heavy live rocks when they could import corals that sell for much more per pound?
This is obviously an error in the regulations. Rocks don't require the same level of regulatory protection as corals.
b) Collection: the fact that live rock collection in the Caribbean is banned outright is simply not justifiable. Collecting rocks didnt contribute to killing Caribbean reefs, and prohibiting rock collection won't do a thing to encourage their recovery. The establishment and growth of reefs is simply not limited by the availability of rock, full stop.

2. Profitability for large-scale companies. Because of the issues discussed above, real live rock is hard to come by. Still, its available. So why do so few wholesalers import it and offer it for sale?

Theres a lot more dry rock than live rock. So a company that promotes dry rock can sell a lot of it, and grow into a large national chain. While the growth of a company that promotes live rock will be limited.

The large company then produces a bunch of youtube videos promoting starting tanks with dry rock and voila -- its 2020 and we have large numbers of reefers thinking dry rock is a preferable way to start a new tank.
 
Corals.com

AlexKintner

Community Member
View Badges
Joined
May 6, 2019
Messages
81
Reaction score
190
Location
Clearwater,FL
I'm not sure the cost argument holds up when you look at the entire process.

Considering the cost of curing/cycling dry rock and the addition of cycling bacteria you're already approaching the cost of TBS or other Gulf live rock.

Now add in some optional stuff like foundation rock, shelf rock, dry rock cement, coralline-in-a-bottle etc... and I'm not sure you've saved anything.

That said, my next build will most likely be 50/50 mix of Marco and TBS. I'd like to be able to build some structures with the dry rock and add the biodiversity of the live stuff.
 

Reefer1978

Valuable Member
View Badges
Joined
Sep 22, 2014
Messages
2,136
Reaction score
1,651
Location
New Jersey
This is my personal experience only, but I think Dinoflagellates took a lot of people out of the hobby, and instilled some fear. Some are still struggling a bit for a few years. IMHO bigger issue is running systems with 0 nutrients, then clean rock/sand. I personally start with clean rock, but I let it sit there for months cycling, not expecting to add coral and have a beautiful setup within a week.
 

Snoopdog

Well-Known Member
View Badges
Joined
Apr 23, 2018
Messages
507
Reaction score
381
Location
Mobile, AL
I also noticed one more thing in my travels this week. Is everyone running more blue lighting than before? I do not remember my lighting being this blue 10 years ago. The defaults on my Red Sea Reefer is way more blue than I am used to, or maybe the tint of blue is off? Sure I can change it but before I do I want to find out why this new thing is happening.
 
OP
Jrain904

Jrain904

Well-Known Member
View Badges
Joined
Dec 3, 2017
Messages
716
Reaction score
915
Location
DUUUUVAL
I also noticed one more thing in my travels this week. Is everyone running more blue lighting than before? I do not remember my lighting being this blue 10 years ago. The defaults on my Red Sea Reefer is way more blue than I am used to, or maybe the tint of blue is off? Sure I can change it but before I do I want to find out why this new thing is happening.
Ppl are way into the "psychedelic" fluorescent coral colors these days that they do everything they can to make them "pop". I still prefer 14k lighting over this straight actinic stuff.
 

Vette67

Reefing since 1997
View Badges
Joined
Mar 1, 2017
Messages
598
Reaction score
1,631
Location
North Olmsted, Ohio
How about this for thinking outside of the box a bit for those afraid of hitchhikers. To avoid them, take a piece of ocean live rock or two and place them into a filter sock. Tie up the end real good so that nothing can get out and place it in a position where it gets some flow. The microbes (bacteria, archaea, etc.) are so tiny that they can easily pass through a typical filter sock designed to catch detritus and will then populate the reef tank, but nasties will be stuck inside the sock. Once the inoculation is completed (a week or two should do it, but more time won't hurt), one can remove the sock and pass the live rock on to another aquarist or sell to a LFS.
I don't think that is an entirely bad idea, but I think you are still missing out by putting the rock in a filter sock. The micro diversity is important, but I think macro diversity is equally important. And don't mistake my comments for thinking I'm advocating for taking no safety measures. If I bought some TBS rock, I would put it in a bucket for a week or 2 and try to entice the gorilla crabs and mantis shrimp out with a piece of raw fish. But I will just use my sump as an example. I replaced my 18 year old sump about 6 months ago, and installed a Rubbermaid 150 gallon sump. In that time, and like I stated in my original post, I literally have countless thousands of tube worms that started growing on the wall of my sump. In addition to that are the countless thousands of what I think are pineapple sponges (not sure exactly). Each one of these individual animals is a filter feeder. As they grow, they are exporting nutrients from my system and filtering my water. I did not intentionally add these to my system. They obviously hitchhiked on my live rock. I'm no chemist, but I can't see how this isn't a net benefit to my system as a whole. Just look up cryptic zones. But I would hate to miss out on this part of the diversity equation by adding rock that was stuck in a filter sock. It's hard to get a clear picture, but this is about a 1 foot section of my 150 gallon sump. See if you can count the sponges and tube worms. Each one of those white dots is a tiny tube worm, except one is a limpet.
IMG_6499[1].JPG
 

HeyJay

Active Member
View Badges
Joined
Sep 18, 2018
Messages
216
Reaction score
267
Ppl are way into the "psychedelic" fluorescent coral colors these days that they do everything they can to make them "pop". I still prefer 14k lighting over this straight actinic stuff.
Phoenix 14k or Radium 20k MH bulbs were the best. Sometimes I want to go back, but LEDs are just so much more efficient and infinitely controlable.
 
OP
Jrain904

Jrain904

Well-Known Member
View Badges
Joined
Dec 3, 2017
Messages
716
Reaction score
915
Location
DUUUUVAL
Phoenix 14k or Radium 20k MH bulbs were the best. Sometimes I want to go back, but LEDs are just so much more efficient and infinitely controlable.
Loved the 14k Phoenix. I too have considered going back but don't want to deal with the heat. I have radion now and it does not compare to a 14k Phoenix in the looks and growth dept ime.
 

Sisterlimonpot

Valuable Member
View Badges
Joined
Jul 15, 2009
Messages
1,826
Reaction score
4,340
Location
Litchfield Park
There is so much going on in this thread that it's confusing even the OP.

It's funny that when we reminisce, we only remember the positive and forget the negative.

True live rock (or if you want to play the semantic game "mericultured") was great for bio diversity. We took the good with the bad, because there was no other way. Pesky micro fauna was a trade off for a robust diverse bacteria culture. The hobby as a whole didn't realize that bacteria was a big piece of the puzzle. We are now starting to realize that we lost the diverse bacteria cultures when we started using dry rock.

The hobby took a turn and suggested that in order to avoid all those pesky creatures let's use dead rock instead. But we failed to consider what else we were losing by doing that. Flash forward to today and we see tank after tank battling dinos and taking 18 months to see real coral growth.

Come to find out by starting with sterile rock we unwittingly lost all the necessary bacteria that makes up a successful tank. Now our tanks don't have the healthy bacteria to dominate the bad, so we get the ugly stages.

But the question to the OP and those that are eating the 'member berries is, "Is taking a huge step backwards the right way to go?"

Why can't we have the best of both worlds? Start with dead rock and then seed the tank with true culturing bacteria. And I'm not talking about bacteria in a bottle, none of that cultures inside a tank, in order to get the benefits from bacteria in a bottle you have to continue to dose it.

Why can't someone bottle live bacteria that only needs one shot to the tank and it starts to multiply? And to be clear, I'm not talking about nitrifying bacteria.

The fear with starting with dry rock is not having that diversity or eventually getting a single dominant mono culture that promotes a dino outbreak. We need a robust culture of diverse bacteria and NOT have the pest that come from ocean live rock. Stepping back is not the answer. Moving forward we need to understanding what a tank with biodiverse bacteria looks like and then be able to easily replicate it.
 
OP
Jrain904

Jrain904

Well-Known Member
View Badges
Joined
Dec 3, 2017
Messages
716
Reaction score
915
Location
DUUUUVAL
There is so much going on in this thread that it's confusing even the OP.

It's funny that when we reminisce, we only remember the positive and forget the negative.

True live rock (or if you want to play the semantic game "mericultured") was great for bio diversity. We took the good with the bad, because there was no other way. Pesky micro fauna was a trade off for a robust diverse bacteria culture. The hobby as a whole didn't realize that bacteria was a big piece of the puzzle. We are now starting to realize that we lost the diverse bacteria cultures when we started using dry rock.

The hobby took a turn and suggested that in order to avoid all those pesky creatures let's use dead rock instead. But we failed to consider what else we were losing by doing that. Flash forward to today and we see tank after tank battling dinos and taking 18 months to see real coral growth.

Come to find out by starting with sterile rock we unwittingly lost all the necessary bacteria that makes up a successful tank. Now our tanks don't have the healthy bacteria to dominate the bad, so we get the ugly stages.

But the question to the OP and those that are eating the 'member berries is, "Is taking a huge step backwards the right way to go?"

Why can't we have the best of both worlds? Start with dead rock and then seed the tank with true culturing bacteria. And I'm not talking about bacteria in a bottle, none of that cultures inside a tank, in order to get the benefits from bacteria in a bottle you have to continue to dose it.

Why can't someone bottle live bacteria that only needs one shot to the tank and it starts to multiply? And to be clear, I'm not talking about nitrifying bacteria.

The fear with starting with dry rock is not having that diversity or eventually getting a single dominant mono culture that promotes a dino outbreak. We need a robust culture of diverse bacteria and NOT have the pest that come from ocean live rock. Stepping back is not the answer. Moving forward we need to understanding what a tank with biodiverse bacteria looks like and then be able to easily replicate it.
If you think the diversity we are referring to is just bacteria then i don't think you really understand.
 

tvan

Active Member
View Badges
Joined
Jun 10, 2020
Messages
234
Reaction score
409
Location
Ozarks
LOL, read the archives over at reef central. Same issues, same posted problems.. No nitrates, No phosphates, watts X gallons was the go to answer. Best part of live rock died under newspaper. Coral didn't have these funny names.. Over priced gear. And just as many reef tanks failed
 

Nano sapiens

Valuable Member
View Badges
Joined
Apr 25, 2010
Messages
1,234
Reaction score
1,377
Location
Northern California
I don't think that is an entirely bad idea, but I think you are still missing out by putting the rock in a filter sock. The micro diversity is important, but I think macro diversity is equally important. And don't mistake my comments for thinking I'm advocating for taking no safety measures. If I bought some TBS rock, I would put it in a bucket for a week or 2 and try to entice the gorilla crabs and mantis shrimp out with a piece of raw fish. But I will just use my sump as an example. I replaced my 18 year old sump about 6 months ago, and installed a Rubbermaid 150 gallon sump. In that time, and like I stated in my original post, I literally have countless thousands of tube worms that started growing on the wall of my sump. In addition to that are the countless thousands of what I think are pineapple sponges (not sure exactly). Each one of these individual animals is a filter feeder. As they grow, they are exporting nutrients from my system and filtering my water. I did not intentionally add these to my system. They obviously hitchhiked on my live rock. I'm no chemist, but I can't see how this isn't a net benefit to my system as a whole. Just look up cryptic zones. But I would hate to miss out on this part of the diversity equation by adding rock that was stuck in a filter sock. It's hard to get a clear picture, but this is about a 1 foot section of my 150 gallon sump. See if you can count the sponges and tube worms. Each one of those white dots is a tiny tube worm, except one is a limpet.
IMG_6499[1].JPG
All true. I've used true live rock for all the reasons that you state and dealt with any 'nasties' that came in with it.

The 'rock in a sock' idea is just a simple way for people who are totally averse to dealing with pests to add microorganisms to their sterile dry rock set ups. As I mentioned at the end of my post, they'd of course be loosing out on some of the bio diversity. For some, this would probably be an acceptable compromise.
 
https://www.omegasea.net/

What is a good measure of success in this hobby? Choose all that apply!

  • Tank Grown Coral Colonies

    Votes: 189 74.1%
  • Colorful Corals

    Votes: 147 57.6%
  • In Tank Coral Reproducing

    Votes: 119 46.7%
  • Coraline Algae

    Votes: 109 42.7%
  • Established Tank Time

    Votes: 87 34.1%
  • Healthy Fish

    Votes: 173 67.8%
  • In Tank Fish Breeding

    Votes: 85 33.3%
  • Other (please explain in thread)

    Votes: 17 6.7%

Online statistics

Members online
2,297
Guests online
5,191
Total visitors
7,488
Cultivated Reef
Top