Hot Tips: Live Rock Selection Tips
A selection of useful tidbits of information for the aquarist. Readers are encouraged to send their tips to firstname.lastname@example.org or to post them to our Hot Tips sticky in the Reefs.org General Reefkeeping Discussion forum for possible publication. Next month's Hot Tip theme will be "Plumbing Tips".
Live Rock Selection Tips
I've typcially purchased my live rock uncured. I've cured it in the display tank it was going to end up in and I've cured it in a separate tank with a skimmer and lighting and that is the best way to go in my opinion.
The key to getting good rock in my opinion is to communicate with the individuals involved. It is amazing what you can find out with a simple phone call.
I think the best way to get the rock is to leave it in transport as short of time as possible. Typically the rock will arrive at the LA wholesalers only 1 or 2 shipments each week. You want to communicate with your retail outlet to make sure that you order the rock on the day the rock will get to the wholesaler. That way the rock is not sitting around in boxes for several days. You will need to be flexible if you want to buy your rock this way because live rock is a low priority on the shipping list and gets bumped periodically at the source location (vacationers bags seem to have priority over live rock for most airlines) and once it makes it to the wholesalers and is drop shipped to you, you will typically need to pick it up at the airport for the best shipping rates.
Several retail outlets will spend the time and effort getting the rock fresh and sell you the rock after it is already cured. You need to communicate with them to determine exactly how they cure the rock and verify that they are getting the rock as fresh as possible to start with to avoid massive die offs.
I've also purchased florida aquacultured rock and it has some really great hitchhikers but alot of the sponges and stuff die off in your tank pretty quickly and the rock is very dense.
That would be the last point to make in selecting live rock. I would put Fiji rock as the standard. It is typically nicely shaped with lots of holes and caves in the rock. The Florida aquacultured rock is much denser than the Fiji rock and it will take about 50 lbs of Florida rock to fill up the same amount of tank space as 25 or 30 lbs of Fiji rock. Marshall Island rock and the Kaelini rock is even lighter than the Fiji rock with more holes and caves and it may only take 20 lbs of Marshall or Kaelini rock to fill up the same space as 25 lbs of Fiji rock. Not as much of a difference as there is with the Florida aquacultured rock but still there is typically enough of a difference to justify the difference in the price per lb. I know the Kaelini rock that I got in a 60 lb box was about the same size box as the Fiji rock I got in an 88 lb box. I paid more per pound for the Kaelini rock but actually paid less for the entire box of rock that was basically the same volume.
Oh well, That's my take on live rock selection. Like anything in reefkeeping there are alot of opinions on the matter and a lot of people will say that company X has the best rock or company Y has the best rock. A lot of that depends on how you have it shipped and cured.
-- Nathan Paden ("npaden")
If you decide to get rock local, and are adding it to a stocked tank, fish ,corals, make sure it is fully cured by giving it the smell test. If it's fully cured it should not have any detectable rotting stench.
I prefer to cure rock in a seperate tub from the main tank. Most of what's on the rock will perish, sponges, soft corals, algae, etc, which will lead to unwanted fuel for hair algae. I would rather cure it in another container and clean it well before adding it to the main tank.
-- "t gallo"
When selecting pieces of rock for a small tank, choose many smaller pieces, rather than a few big chunks. When I set up my first tank (15H) I picked out the best looking pieces not thinking about aquascaping. When I set up my tank it looked like I had two pieces of rock sitting ont he sand bed. Not aquascaped at all.
When I bought rock for my next tank 10 gallon. I chose smaller more interesting pieces. It made the aquascaping easier, and it looked a lot better.
I second buying uncured (not even pre-cured) and curing it yourself. I can proudly say that my rock looks much better than any at the LFSs (lots of coraline and life). The fact that was also cheaper is a bonus.
Finally, rocks from different sources look differently. Some stores would let you mix and match rock types (e.g. premium aquatics). I love the variety.
I would reccomend that you purchase half or one quarter of the suggested lbs. per gallon, unless your planning on stocking your tank with only frags. Remember that most corals you buy are already attached to rocks. There's nothing worse than taking out rock you paid $10/lb for and having to put it in your sump to make room for your new coral.