Live Rock FAQ

General questions ...

How much live rock do I need to have?

This depends on what your intent is with your tank ... is it going to be a full-blown solid reef wall tank, or is it going to be a system mostly for fish? If you're making it an open airy fish system, you can get away with around a pound per gallon of water just for filtration and decorative aesthetic purposes, but even at that you may want 1.5 to 2 pounds per gallon for a more solid wall type effect.

If it's going to be a reef tank ... then you're going to want about 1.5 pounds per gallon as a starting point. You may well end up with 2 or 3 lbs. per gallon for a solid reef wall. Most live rock that has recently been available (except the premium types like Vanuatu or Manado) is somewhat heavy. You can start with less, and cherry pick a few pieces later.

Can I mix more than one kind of live rock?

Yes. They won't hurt each other, and it is a good way to get more biodiversity. Each area has different stuff on the rock. When ordering our live rock, remember that it's shipped in box-lots only, you can't mix types in one box.

What is the best cheapest live rock?

Boat rock is the cheapest, but it is not the best. It will work for bacteria, and purple coralline, if you can find the kind with the good shapes. Actually, the premium types like Vanuatu and Manado are cheaper than most other types offered, such as Florida live rock, as they are internally open and airy, full of nooks and crannies, so less weight is more rock than you think. You will need 50% more FL rock for instance to equal the 100 lbs. of Vanuatu or Manado live rock.

Why doesn't the live rock in my store look like the live rock here on this webpage?

The most commonly seen live rock is boat rock from Fiji, usually recognizable by its fairly cement-like gray color, and often poor shapes. The live rock we offer is air-freighted and fresh.

What if I already have live sand in my system?

You may be able to get away with less live rock; but, visually, you'll still want 1-1.5 lbs. of rock per gallon of water for decorative purposes. It won't hurt the sand, in fact the sand will help it cure faster. The rock will add life to the sand as well.

If there's any rubble in the box, what do I do with it?

If there is some rubble at the bottom of the box, spread it around your tank or put it in your sump. Salvage every possible gram of it, as it's highly bioactive! Just be careful as a dead bristle worm might not be obvious when grabbing a handful of it, gloves are a good idea.

After my live rock has cured and I've put it in my system, how long should I wait before adding fish? What about corals?

After it's cured, you're good to go ... ammonia is zero, nitrates very low. It's always best to introduce only a couple of fish at first, the same goes with corals, unless you have a large tank. Start slowly and give each time before adding more. With the freshest live rock curing can be as quick as two weeks. A tang is a good starter hardy fish, as is say lawnmower blenny. Soft corals are the easiest to start with if you are learning; leathers, mushrooms, zoanthids, and LPS (large polyp stony), hard corals like brains, plates, etc.

Curing questions ...

Can I cure it in my tank, it's a new setup?

Yes, if you are starting from scratch you can cure it in your tank. It may smell a little for a week, which is why many use the Rubbermaid tub in the garage, or outside if safe from rain and raccoons. But if you have an existing running system with fish and corals, then, "NO" ... it can't be cured in the tank.

What if I don't have a skimmer?

Watch for a yellow tint in the water, indicating high ammonia. You'll need to do more water changes if you aren't using a skimmer. With a high-grade skimmer and carbon filtration, it may be possible to cure your live rock without water changes. But, without both of these, you'll need to do some water changes ... have some water mixed and ready ahead of time so it's there when you need it. A white saucer held 6" under water will tell you if it is yellow.

How often do I change the water while I'm curing?

That will depend on whether or not you are skimming and-or carbon-filtering your ammonia out of your curing vessel. You'll probably need to change half of it the second or third day. You may possibly need to change half again the second or third day after that. Takes tests, watch it, and smell it to determine if and when water changes are necessarily. If it looks or smells bad, do a partial water change. The nose knows. The salt is the cheap part of this, so be willing to toss a bit of bad water to keep it clean while curing. The solution to pollution is dilution. Keeping it clean will affect what grows out of it in 2, 4, and 6 months.

How will I know when it's fully cured?

Ammonia reading will show zero. When curing, nitrate or ammonia tests will show low at first day, maybe two, but start climbing quickly, getting very high in about a week, then slowly fall to zero.

Will it hurt the live rock if I use a carbon filter?

It won't hurt the rock during curing, but we don't advise using carbon all of the time afterward. It can remove important trace elements.

Does the live rock need light when curing?

NO, not during the first week or two. The ammonia battle will take precedent over lighting at first. Plus you don't want to start algae growing before you can have grazers on it.

So the first week it's best to just let ambient light hit it. After a week or two, pending ammonia and nitrates starting to drop, a little bit of fluorescent light won't hurt. A 4-hour ... maybe tops ... photo-period to start. For instance, after the first week or so start with a couple hours of just blue (actinic) light. Then after a few days, an hour blue period, 2 hr. white period, 1 hr. blue period, as all lighting regimens should be. Ease it slowly into a photoperiod.

It's not advised to "hit it" with halide for a month. And have a tang and some turbo snails on it when you do. At that, only a couple of hours a day for a week or two. Slowly increase it over the second month. Remember to get some snails on it as soon as you start lighting it up.

So, light is okay after the initial first two weeks, but not the same amount as acroporas or clams. Some people burn their rock by giving too much light too soon. Do not give more than four hours of light during curing and that is fluorescent, VHO, compact fluorescent or actinic and-or 50-50's, but not 10-20 K's (halides) during curing.

What should I look for as far as "critters" before putting my rock in the water to cure?

We almost never have any reports of bristle worms or mantis shrimp, which can be abundant in Florida live rock. Usually, the time out of the water during transit will kill them. Look for "soft spots" ... sometimes there are places that look like rock, but are actually sponge ... chip that off to clean it off as much as possible. Anything might be in a cranny, crack or crevice. We've had live clams, anemones, corals, urchins, sea stars, and cucumbers make the trip, besides any manner of crab or crustacean (these are rocks from the ocean). And most would be considered a prize, so take good care of your rock while curing, you don't know what you may be saving.   smile

Questions to not ask us ...  smile

"I had a 200,000k light an inch over the water on a five gallon tank ... what do you think went wrong?"

We hope our LIVE ROCK FAQ has helped you with some questions you may have had ... if you have a question that is not mentioned on this page, please e-mail it to us!

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