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Saltwater Aquarium Live Rock

October 18th, 2008 · 2 Comments

    The most daunting task for a beginner saltwater aquarium owner is choosing the right live rock to use in their aquarium.  There are many different choices between the origin of the live rock, the size, porosity and price.  Many beginning reef keepers are confused by the concept of using live reef rock as filtration for the marine aquarium and for may aquarists the concept is still shrouded in mystery.

So what is live rock anyway? 

  Live rock is merely rock that is collected in a natural reef or aquacultured from “seeded” rock in a plot in the ocean.  Fiji Live rockThis rock is generally dead coral skeletons that have broken off there mother colonies in storms or other natural and unnatural events.  If this broken colony cannot support itself from the mother colony then it slowly dies and leaves behind a coral skeleton. This coral skeleton over time will become part of the reef and will become a host for beneficial nitrifying bacteria, other corals and anything else that wishes to inhabit it.  Aquacultured Live rock is usually porous rock collected from a land area and is dropped in the ocean.  Over time this aquacultured rock will become home to many different types of organisms and beneficial bacteria, this rock is usually collected after several months to a year and is sold to reefers world wide.  Although it can be debated, aquacultured live rock is generally less porous then its natural counterpart and therefore more heavier.

How does the bacteria help my saltwater aquarium?

  Live rock as I mentioned above is porous therefor creating deep holes in the rocks structure.  These holes are home to nitrifying bacteria that create natural filtration for the saltwater aquarium.  This nitrifying bacteria breaks down ammonia into nitrites and then breaks it down further into nitrate.  The “die-off” from bacteria, plants and animals from shipping and exposure from air create a nitrite cycle. Once the live rock is placed into the aquarium the bacteria will start to regrow and will convert the present ammonia and nitrite.

The many types of live rock.

  Naturally collect reef rock comes mainly from the southern pacific, places such as marshal islands, Tonga and Fiji currently prevail as live rock providers although the Caribbean is making a stronger presence in the live rock arena.  There are many names for live rock grades and shapes.  Tonga is known for its shelf, branch and ultra grade live rock, each name describes its characteristics.  Ultra grade Tonga is generally live rock that has a very good amount of organisms and coralline algae on it.  Branching Tonga live rock is just that, it looks like branches.  Shelf live rock is merely slabs of rock that look similar to slate slabs.  To better know your live rock it helps to know the corals that are indigenous to the area that the rock is found in, after all these corals made the rock to begin with.

 How do I choose the right rock for my saltwater aquarium?

  While some people will tell you that one live rock is better then another it simply is not true.  All live rock are created equal with the exception of the shipper.  Choosing the right live rock for your aquarium is merely a matter of taste and preference.  for instance I prefer to have Fiji rock in my aquarium, I prefer the softball sized rock over all others because of its ease to move around and to create little niches for my fish to hide in.  I have seen many beautiful Tonga branch aquariums and stunning saltwater displays with Tonga branch.   But my preference for Fiji live rock has not stopped me from purchasing marshal island and Tonga branch pieces,  after all bio-diversity is a key element for any reef aquarium.


              What are Hitchhikers?

  Hitchhikers is a term coined by reefkeepers referring to live organisms other then bacteria, that arrive on the rock once it has been received by the reefkeeper.  These hitchhikers can be just about anything that lived in the area where the live rock has been collected and can be good or bad.  Some common hitchhikers can be worms such as bristleworms, peanut worms and spaghetti worms.  You could also get crabs, corals, and fish as hitchhikers while these may be a little bit more uncommon and they may not live through the shipping and cycling process they are definitely eye openers for the reefkeeper. 

Tags: aquarium · Bristleworm · caribean live rock · corals · Fiji Live rock · Filtration · Fish · Hitchikers · Live rock · marshal island · nitrite cycle · Reef Rocks · Reef tank Pictures · reefkeeping · Salt water tanks · Saltwater · Saltwater Fish · Saltwater reef aquarium · Tonga branch · Tonga slab · Uncategorized

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 admin // Oct 27, 2008 at 8:41 pm

    Thank you Patrice!

    You have a very nice site as well.

  • 2 Ava // Dec 1, 2008 at 4:22 am

    I’m actually having a debate with myself about what kind of live rock I want for my new tank. How do I get in contact with you for further questions?

    By the way, great post! Quite helpful and informative.