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Fish Tank Forum • View topic - Live Rock and its purpose in the salt water aquarium
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Live Rock and its purpose in the salt water aquarium

New to saltwater or still thinking of moving onto it.

Live Rock and its purpose in the salt water aquarium

Postby Mick » Sat Apr 03, 2010 1:26 pm

Live Rock is often misunderstood as being pieces of rock that are actually alive in their own right. The term “Live Rock” actually refers to the millions of organisms that inhabit the rock so basically it is rock that supports life. Live Rock actually consists of fossilised skeletons of corals that have over a period if time died off and formed the calcareous rock that is the foundation of all reef systems in the world. As the reefs develop the rock at the bottom is often deprived of light so as new Live Rock develops at the top of the reef the lower levels die off and this rock then becomes lifeless and is known as base rock. This is often replicated in salt water aquariums by adding ocean rock underneath the Live Rock to create a larger reef or by using similar rock that serves no purpose as regards filtering the water inside the aquarium. It is available in different types and the higher quality rock can fetch a good price as harvesting laws tighten around the world,this is beneficial to the reefs as it prevents plundering the rock for quick profits which results in the reefs suffering. The normal method of harvesting is to collect the rock that has broken away from the reef and is resting on the sea bed but nowadays the natural evolution of Live Rock is replicated by leaving porous rock in the sea and letting it seed itself over time. The main disadvantage of using aquacultured rock is that it tends to be denser than natural Live Rock thus reducing the surface area available for bacteria.

The purpose of Live Rock in the Salt Water Aquarium
Basically Live Rock is the heart of the salt water aquarium. It performs the biological filtration of the water as it passes through, Live Rock is very porous and capable of housing large colonies of beneficial bacteria. It actually has a larger surface area than most media used in modern filtration methods. Using Live Rock as the sole filtration in the salt water aquarium is known as the “Berlin Method” of filtering the water. Using other filters can reduce the effectiveness of the rock as they take away the food source that the bacteria depend on to multiply and form their colonies.

Types of Live Rock
Uncured- this is Live Rock that has recently been harvested from the ocean, It will contain a lot of organic matter that will die off rapidly. When using this rock the salt water aquarium will need to go through a full cycling process as this rock is not capable of filtering the tank to support marine fish when it is first introduced.
Cured Live Rock- Cured Live Rock has been I an established tank or at a Live Rock supplier for a period of time long enough for the organic matter to die off and this rock should be capable of filtering the aquarium water without the tank cycling again. As the cycling process for the rock can take weeks this si a lot more expensive than uncured rock.
Base Rock- this is Live Rock that has died off. There are no living organisms present and it is used for placement at the bottom of the reef. It should seed itself after time but cannot be used for filtration when it is first added to the aquarium.
Premium grade rock-This is the most expensive rock that you can purchase, not only is it fully cured but it will have other life present on it or in it. There may be coral polyps growing on it or crustaceans living in it. Expensive but ideal for a quick start in a reef aquarium.
Aquacultured rock- This is tuffa rock or similar that has been left in the ocean for a couple of years to allow organisms to colonise it. It is not of the same grade as natural Live Rock but it will filtrate the water when cured.

Areas where Live Rock is collected
Fiji- this is a very lightweight rock and extremely porous. Due to these qualities a smaller aount in the aquarium will act as efficiently as other grades of Live Rock.
Caribbean- A much denser rock, more of this is required to filter the aquarium, at least 1 kg per 2 gallons of water.
Tonga- this is available in two forms, branched or deep water. The branched variety is long and as the name reflects, branches out like a tree. This rock is as porous as Fiji rock and can be more expensive.

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Mick
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