Hyper-saline Baths ~ We Don't Recommend Them

First just to refresh, used as a prefix, hyper– means more, and hypo– means less. Hyper–saline is super salty, hypo–saline is reduced salinity, for the sake of this article, are in relation to normal seawater.

While there are some websites out there promoting hyper-saline baths as a required element upon receiving live rock (supposedly to rid it of unwanted hitchhikers), we do not recommend it. I can't help but wonder how the hyper-saline water can tell the unwanted hitchhikers from the wanted ones! Most suggest putting the rock in something that is about or almost nearly twice as salty as the ocean for a short period of time. The alleged payoff is that you will chase out the dreaded evil mantis shrimp or bristle worm with it.

The first flaw in a widespread, blanket recommendation of this sort of drastic prophylactic treatment is that lots of live rock doesn't have these ("evil") things and therefore doesn't need it. You will just be stressing everything, and very possibly killing some things, needlessly.

What we're talking about is a chemical or solution poisoning. An overdose. Something that would kill most fish pretty quickly.

If you do something that makes a mantis shrimp or bristle worm cringe, what do you think is happening to microscopic spores of things that you WANT to live and grow out of your live rock after it cures? Stunning, if not killing them, are very real possibilities. I think hyper-saline treatments are like the old saying of "throwing the baby out with the bath water." You will do more harm than good to a million spores or microscopic organisms than the good you think you are doing over getting rid of one item.

The second issue is that much live rock from the Pacific is transported by boat now (our live rock is ONLY air-freighted in). Why would such rock ("boat rock") need a super-saline bath? It would seem that a month or more out of the water would have been sufficient. To recommend a treatment for all rock without considering (actually knowing) the source and care (or lack thereof) of the rock on the journey is not a responsible recommendation. The websites promoting this usually do not specify if it is just their rock that needs this ... and as a result, some hobbyists take this as it being for all rock all the time. This is not the case.

I think much of this started with Florida rock, because it is shipped in water, and these "pests" are often in it, alive and well. It is shipped in water because it has corals and stuff on it, legally, because it is aquacultured. And, because you are only paying domestic air freight costs. So if you buy Florida live rock it might be good advice. It usually ends there.

NO Pacific Ocean rock is shipped in water because the international air freight costs are too high. And, because as a rule, there are not live corals and such on it (by law). And please don't ask for water, they don't care how much money you have, it will not ever be packed in water.     We are lucky to get them to put the rocks in a box for us! Nature of the beast. You can't change it.

I would estimate, based on years of thorough examination and reports from customers, 99%+ of our rock does not have these unwanted worms or shrimp. The overwhelming majority of any that might have been there, die or leave in the cleaning and packing process at the islands, or during the 48-72 hours transit time from the islands to you. They generally leave the rock looking for water at some point on the way. We very rarely hear of one dead in the bottom of the box. Once in a blue moon someone gets one live. The last one I know of got us a thank you note from the lucky happy recipient, and I am not kidding! They loved their little red mantis shrimp. It is however quite the exception.

Remember, during the curing process you will have weeks to spot anything unwanted long before you get your tank going. You should check your rock at night (both early and late) when the tank or room is dark, with a flashlight as part of your inspection process while curing is ongoing.

If you think you have an unwanted shrimp or worm in a piece of rock and really can't sleep over it, try catching it by baiting it with food after dark. Move the rocks to one side, put the food on the other so you have a shot at it with a net before it can bolt. Neither should be grabbed bare-handed, unless you like the pain and agony of defeat, and late night trips to the ER.  

There is another method that can work. After the rock has mostly cured and things have recovered from shipping try putting the suspect rock on a piece of plastic eggcrate over a bucket half full of saltwater with an airstone in it. The popping air bubbles should be just below the rock. Usually within a day or two the animals will leave the rock diving into the water to get wet, and of course will be unable to get back to the rock. This is far less risky than hyper-salinity treatments for the majority of desired life forms on your rock, and just as efficient a method of getting an unwanted shrimp or worm out, without the risk of damage to the other precious, valuable life forms on the rock. You can mist the live rock with saltwater lightly while waiting for ejection if it gets too dry.

So anyway, our rock does not need a hyper-saline bath treatment and we do not recommend them. We consider it a waste of your time, effort, energy, and money to do it with live rock from us. It may be possible that others' live rock does need it, but it's not our place to say that. Always follow the seller's instructions for their rock. There are ways to get rid of potential pests without chemical overdosing.

~ birdfish

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