I am sitting in my favorite place at my store. It’s in front of the 150 gallon where three of the very first captive bred Yellow tangs live. I get lots of inspiration for my writing and such sitting here. I love being with my fish. The tank is filled with live rock and its structured in such a way that there are plenty of hiding spots for the fish to swim through and frolic. There is one particular place that our clown fish pair like to hang out and that place is where they frequently lay their eggs. Even as I write this the male is getting the rock ready for another clutch. He is swimming upside down as he cleans. It is both cute and it is also breath taking.
This week is all about rock. A lot of people think that live rock is just there for looks to mimic the ocean. Live rock is my favorite piece of a saltwater setup. I run some of my tanks with just live rock and a sponge filter. What gets me so excited about it? It’s the most important piece of filtration in your tank. I have solved so many of peoples issues just by adding some live rock. I have learned my lesson over the past years that live rock rules.
Lets talk about the different types of rock-
Dry rock- this is rock that has no biological goodness to it at all. Its dry and has never seen the ocean. Sometimes its man made and painted to look good to you and sometimes its bright white. I have a few issues with this rock. If you start your tank with this and only this for rock your going to be in for a long “break in” period. It does not serve as natural filtration because there is no good bacteria yet. Yes, It will eventually be live. I think this trend we have created of starting with only dry rock is one of the things that makes people think that owning a saltwater tank is hard or “impossible”. I am not against white dry rock as long as you also have live rock.
So what do we mean by “live rock”? Live rock is rock that has been in saltwater long enough to have the good bacteria needed to sustain life in your aquarium. Take a look at your rock, It should be covered with holes (very porous), if you have live rock (like I just described) then you have millions of good bacteria inside those holes and that keep your tank balanced to support life.
I have some awesome customers who have had some catastrophic issues with their saltwater aquarium. They had a lot of bad advice come their way which is so common these days it makes my head spin. We are working on the problem and have come to the conclusion that, among a few other things they need more live rock. A few weeks back we talked about a family that had issues with their fish and it was a lack of live rock that we fixed and everything is fine now (Here is a link to their story). https://colchesterpet.com/2019/08/02/our-fish-can-speak-to-us/
If you are going to go the dry rock route then you should also have some live rock mixed in to balance the aquarium. It is recommended to have one pound of live rock per gallon. I like to say that it’s a minimum requirement. In my opinion you cant have to much rock unless the fish cant swim around.
So lets say that you have a smaller aquarium and cant fit a ton of rock into it. Or maybe you saw the minimalist look online and want to mimic that. If you do not want a pound per gallon of rock inside your aquarium there is another option. Manmade ceramic balls (or cubes or blocks) that are very porus and can do the same job as live rock. But don’t forget that it will still need time to establish a bunch of good bacteria to balance out your tank. We like to use Matrix from Seachem, it’s a great product that works. There are many others out there as well.
As you can see, there are many things you should know about the rock in your aquarium. Here is a video where we talk more about live rock.