Saltwater Live Rock – What is It?

Saltwater Live Rock for Newbies

Saltwater Live Rock, used in aquariums, is a piece of an oceanic coral reef that has broken off, often by acts of nature such as hurricanes or tidal waves. The natural organisms that still live in the fragments give the rock its name, including marine worms, tiny crabs, other crustaceans, and numerous strains of “good” bacteria.

When first purchased, the rock may appear dull in color, and not appear “alive” at all. Over time, however, the rock can become a beautiful and multicolored tank centerpiece. This is due to the fact that the rock works as a biological filter.

Saltwater live rock is very porous, and the small holes contain two types of bacteria: those that require oxygen (aerobic) and those that don’t (anaerobic). These bacterium then break down fish food and fish waste into nitrates, helping the natural nitrogen cycle that is necessary for any healthy saltwater tank.

The rock also has many other benefits for a tank. It can provide homes and hiding places for smaller fish. It can even be a food source, as many fish like to nibble on the algae growing on the rock. Saltwater live rocks tend to make an aquarium look more natural as well.

There are two main types of saltwater live rock: cured and un-cured. Cured (sometimes called pre-cured) is generally more expensive. Cured rock comes from retailers, and they keep the rocks from a few weeks to months, removing dead organisms and storing them in well established tanks. They are more expensive because the buyer has a greater chance of success with cured rock that is already growing organisms, and even though the rock may need to be slightly cured again, it’s not as messy and odorous at the first curing. Uncured rock is less expensive, but hasn’t been established yet, so the buyer will have to scrub it, as well as purchase all the materials for the curing process. Many buyers use this method to save money, but must be aware that they may not have as many organisms survive on an un-established rock.

Some of the most popular types of saltwater live rock are Base, Caribbean, Gulf Pacific and Atlantic. It’s a good idea to research the different types of available rock before deciding on what is best for a specific tank. When it comes to purchasing saltwater live rock, the buyer has many options online. However, shipping may be expensive, especially if the rock in imported from an exotic location. It’s a good idea to check locally with pet or aquarium stores, so that you can select your own rock, talk directly to the owners about the source of their rocks and how they were cured, and also save shipping expenses. If you do need to order online, make sure the company is trustworthy, and that they abide by environmentally conscious methods of collecting their rocks.