What is Boat Rock?

This article was originally written in 2005-6 when boat rock was new, and still in the closet, mostly to explain the situation since live rock sellers were not being forthright and transparent about the product they were selling. It was the first public article of its kind telling the story of what changed with Fiji live rock.

Now many know the usually poor quality cheap rock they see is boat rock. The boaters put the air-freighters out of business. They won. But still many sell boated Fiji live rock without clearly stating what it is, and boat rock is not the same as air-freighted live rock. That is why we think the customer has a right to know.

So, here is the nearly-original 2006 expose'...

Have you seen those super low prices on live rock lately? Do you think the suppliers must have been taking advantage of you before if it's cheaper now? Think again my friends! Welcome to boat rock. The majority of live rock from the Pacific, which almost all comes through Los Angeles, California, is now being brought in by boat. That's right, boated to the U.S. from Fiji, and formerly from Tonga, and a load from the Marshall Islands was once boated here. I'll bet a big flock of birds was following that boat across the sea!

International air freight is tremendously expensive. Most of the cost of a box of live rock is freight, not rock. International air freight usually costs 3+ dollars per pound, if you're getting volume discounts, as opposed to domestic air freight which runs 75-cents to a dollar or so per pound.

So the big boys thought there was a little money out there they didn't have their hands on, and decided there must be a way to get it. Their solution: Boat the rock here rather than air freight it, saving way over a dollar a pound, if not nearer two, and keep the difference, except a quarter to keep their rock looking cheaper. Boat freight is about .20 cents/pound.

There are many live rock sellers in L.A. (wholesalers and retailers) selling this rock now. It has been on the market for months. Have you heard of it? Is anyone telling live rock buyers this? Would you want to know how your live rock got here? Yes, of course you would! Why? Because there is a difference in how LIVE rock is that has been air freighted in directly from the islands and rock that has been in a sea container and box for weeks or months.

I suspect there is little LIVE about live rock that has been boated here. At the LEAST, it takes WEEKS out of the water to get here. Why aren't the big guys advertising this new method of getting rock here? I haven't heard a single breath of "check out our new rock, it was BOATED here." It is at the very least deceitful, scamming the consumer, unless you tell them, which is how it is often sold at the retail level. I find it disgusting when sellers can't be honest to the buyer, the customer, so am compelled to tell you about it. I would bet anything that you could not find anyone selling it, that would admit it to you! Otherwise, I would suggest asking! (reminder: that was in 2006, and some today will tell the truth, but many to most don't, It is just called Fiji live rock, just like, and as if it was air-freighted live rock).

The sad thing is that many unsuspecting hobbyists buy this instead of real fresh live rock, or an expensive filter, and are not getting what they expected. They then get out of the hobby, because they got dead rock. Good ain't cheap, and cheap ain't good. You will always get what you paid for. The cheapest anything is never the best anything. This is especially true when you are buying live rock, or for that matter livestock of any kind.

Would it be of benefit if you, the hobbyist, knew absolutely positively if your rock was boated or air freighted in? YES !! So, where is MACNA, those guys allegedly on your side to insure you get the stuff that has been handled properly, and you are thoroughly informed of how? I don't see them taking up this issue. It's been out there on the market for over a year now.

If you want to boat rock in, fine; but, you MUST tell the people what they are buying. It is no different than the automobiles that will be sold to unsuspecting buyers that were once flooded. What spores will sprout or what will grow out of rock that has been out of the water for many weeks? That's why they're not telling you! It is only bacterially active, after a long hard cure, so will serve that purpose.

The purple coralline will come back eventually, and it has that starter culture of bacteria in it. Don't expect the old feather duster farm like air-freighted Fiji of yesteryear. It's fine for base rock, but it ought to be way cheaper. The cheapest rock is unfortunately what many are looking for. The Fiji live rock has plummeted in quality, and that will affect the success of your tank, its inhabitants, and your enjoyment.

We will never sell boated rock that came over in a shipping container WITHOUT TELLING YOU IT WAS BOAT ROCK. For over a decade we have chosen to only sell the real deal ... fresh live rock that has been air freighted in. Most of the time our live rock is less than 48 hours from island to you. Our customers tell us they get live crabs, urchins, cucumbers, macros, feather dusters sprouting, a myriad of life, and some have said they even got live sponges, anemones, and clams over the years! That's how quickly our rock gets here. That's what real deal live rock is my friends ... covered in life, not death. It smells like the ocean at low tide, or a tide pool. Not a cesspool.


August 2012
by birdfish

2006 rant over, boy was I mad, huh? In the end the Fiji live rock shippers were the ones that sacrificed the fantastic quality of what Fiji live rock was. So much for quality first!

Though we've always had it available to us we have never sold boat rock. But nowadays it seems many people just can't afford good fresh air-freighted live rock. And many locations have shut down live rock exports since the time this article was written, such as Tonga and the Marshalls, leaving many fewer choices, with the exception of beautiful Manado and Vanuatu, for instance.

Also international air-freight costs have gone up, so the price of fresh air-freighted live rock has gone up as well. So, we are for the first time going to offer boat rock. We can't believe it either.     It is good for base rock if you have a big tank to build up a foundation we would suggest covering with a layer of real fresh air-freighted live rock. Or if you are on a tight budget, it can acceptably serve the purpose, if you get the 'high' grade available which is chosen for good shapes. We still won't touch the cheap grade which is what most seem to have, poor shapes.

the real deal

L.A. Harbor
The Los Angeles Harbor

An abundance of boat traffic in the busy L.A. Harbor makes obtaining government import clearances (Fish & Wildlife Dept. and U.S. Customs documentation) for shipments a tedious operation. Live rock shipments can sit in wait for several weeks.

F-18 F-18

Our live rock is sped to you using the most modern technology available to man ... jet engines!

Here are some boats leaving the Marshall Islands   

Marshall Islands Vintage Boats

We're not sure which boats they use ... we're still looking ...

Three-masted Schooner

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