What Is Live Rock and How Does It Benefit My Aquarium?

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If you are looking for a natural way to filter the water in your marine aquarium, while adding to the overall natural beauty of your setup, consider installing live rock into your aquarium’s ecosystem.

What is Live Rock?

Unlike the name suggests, live rock isn’t actually alive, but the creatures that make the porous rock their homes are very definitely alive. When large ocean storms strike tropical reefs in places such as the Caribbean or the South Pacific, small parts of the reef are broken off by the action of the waves. These pieces of semi-fossil reef, along with all the organisms living inside and on this reef material, are collected for the salt water marine aquarium trade. Among the organisms which may be present with the rock are algae, salt water worms, bacteria, sponges and corals.

What Are the Benefits of Using Live Rock in Your Aquarium?

The key reason for installing live rock in your saltwater aquarium is the rock’s ability to help filter your water naturally and process wastes produced by all the other organisms in the aquarium. Because it is very porous, there is space for both anaerobic (bacteria that does not need oxygen to survive) and aerobic (bacteria that needs oxygen for survival) bacteria.

Both bacteria types process the raw ammonia of the fish waste, along with leftover fish food, and convert these wastes into first, nitrite, and then, nitrate. After nitrate is formed, the anaerobic bacteria take over exclusively and convert the nitrate into nitrogen, a harmless gas that is released from the water into the air. When enough rock is added to a saltwater aquarium, the end result is a much cleaner environment for your marine fish.

Besides adding to the natural ecosystem of your aquarium, there are other benefits to introducing fiji or other types of rock to your aquarium. First, the live rock adds to the beauty of your aquarium. While watching the different organisms around the rock, you can almost feel that you’re snorkeling in the warm waters of the Caribbean. Also, if you want to add corals to a reef aquarium, it gives you an adequate base for cementing the corals. Finally, your fish and other creatures living in your aquarium can use the organisms growing in and on the rock as food, and the rock itself can become shelter for them.

What Should You Know About Live Rock Before Buying?

The rule of thumb is to buy enough to match both your aquarium system’s size and situation. If your saltwater aquarium contains only fish, one pound of live rock or more per gallon of water is a good idea. If you own a marine reef aquarium, you will need at least two pounds per gallon of water.

Another factor to consider when purchasing live rock is whether or not it has been treated in order to remove marine animals in the rock, which can die en route and making your water foul with decomposition. If the rock’s been strongly treated, you may not have all the marine life you need to act as the biological filter you want. If possible, use live rock that hasn’t been overly treated and is as fresh as possible.

A critical factor for filtration is the steady movement of water over and through the rock. If you have an abundance of marine animals living in your live rock, their movement as they go about their lives provides enough water movement for the biological filter to work. A large population of small organisms can give your rock more water movement capabilities that a few larger organisms, such as the movement of a large colony of small marine worms versus a few larger marine worms. Without steady water movement, the pores of the rock become choked with algae, which aren’t enough by themselves to filter your water, and their death can actually increase the load of organic material your aquarium already has with the presence of other marine organisms.

IF paying $5 or more per pound, take a hard look at its surface. It really should appear to be alive with the movement of multitudes of organisms. If you see lots of plants and animals moving on the outside of the live rock, chances are good that the organisms you need inside the rock are also in place. We suggest or lower cost live rock which will become more live over time.

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