Rock Weights

This is a question we are sometimes asked:
"How is my rock weighed? My airbill says xxx lbs.?"

So, for those of you who may wonder about this, here is some information regarding live rock weights.

First and foremost, your airbill is not a legal weight. It is an estimate which the average margin of error is 20 pounds. That means some are right, and some are off by 40 pounds ... some even more. We'll get to why in a bit.

The rock you buy is weighed on the island of origin. Tonga rock is weighed in Tonga. Fiji in Fiji, etc. What it weighs at LA or NY is immaterial. The rock loses weight on the journey, just as you would. Water left inside the rock evaporates during transit and no shipment will weigh the same at LAX as at the site of departure, much less another leg down the line when you get it.

This said, the most important thing you should know is that when it comes to live rock, foreign weights are greater than domestic weights. This is because your local fish store drains the rock as little as possible before claiming an official weight to charge you, but airfreight can have no moisture or water on the box when it leaves LAX. Our live rock is drained overnight before weighing and packing the boxes. The difference is that 70 pounds of foreign weight live rock is 80-90 pounds of domestic local fish store live rock. We have never once had a customer say it looks like less than the store weight, as the difference is significant.

A hundred pounds of rock can easily hold ten pounds of water. At your local store it does. Ours does not. One U.S. gallon of water weighs 8.6 pounds. Our overnight draining for international shipping loses the extra water weight you would pay for at your store.

When the freight is dropped off at LAX, it is put on a pallet, which is then scaled and a 40 lb. standard deduction is taken for the pallet. We have trained our guys to grab the light pallets (20 or 30 lbs.) so shipments over 100 lbs. get a 10-20 lb. free ride on their freight weight. We did this to help you, the customer. Unfortunately, some of you think the airbill is a legal weight and that we make up the weights. We do not.

We can prove an original invoice showing our billing weights are exactly what we are billed. In fifteen years, we have never had an issue with our supplier putting their thumbs on the scale. Fiji rock boxes, for example, will all be exact, every time. They are packed to weigh a predetermined amount. Tonga, on the other hand, varies ten pounds or so per box, so we have to wait for the invoice for your boxes to know your exact weight, and then either bill or refund any balances due.

These invoices and paperwork (U.S. Customs and Fish & Wildlife) are a matter of public record usually about 120 days after the shipment, though your specific boxes and weights will be on our invoice from the point of origin, which we can send right away if need be.

We don't play games with weight. Our suppliers don't play games with weights. There must be lots of easier ways to steal money, if that was your goal, than to do what we do!

If your shipment is under 100 lbs. the light pallet doesn't affect you, because you just pay the minimum charge. Though we've had, for instance, 35 lb. boxes of Marshall Islands live rock say 25 lbs. on the airbill because of the 10 lbs. pallet difference.

On all Marshall Islands live rock, the weight will be written on top of the box by them over there. Virtually all Tonga live rock boxes have the weight written in KILOS (x 2.2 = lbs.) on top of the box. Fiji live rock boxes do not have weights written on them because they are all packed to a predetermined fixed weight, with all boxes being the same, all the time. So, with Tonga and the Marshalls, it's written on the box overseas by the supplier.

So that's how your official rock weight is determined, and how the airline weight is determined. Any airline will tell you the official registered legal weights by the importers are the accurate one to go by, versus their own, which they know is a "soft" weight. Sometimes they do actually align like the planets and match, but that is more the exception than the rule!


Example Airline Shipping Label

(Sample domestic airline label)
This particular shipment was 242 lbs.

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