Dry vs Live Rock For Reef Tanks

Dry rock or live rock?  Arches or islands? For many reefers the researching, planning and building their aquascape is one of the highlights of setting up a new tank.  And just like literally everything else in the reefing hobby, the key is to be patient.  This means taking time to research and plan before committing to a final aquascape.

So why do you need rockwork in your reef tank?  Rock serves three main functions in a saltwater aquarium.  First, it provides a place for mounting corals.  Your rockwork forms the backbone of your tank so make sure that your final aquascape has plenty of flat ledges for mounting corals.  Second, rockwork provides habitats for the residents of your aquarium.  Ledges, caves and overhangs all provide shelter and hiding places for fish and invertebrates.  Lastly and probably the most important, rocks provide important biological filtration for the tank.  Beneficial bacteria will colonize the rockwork and help to convert harmful ammonia into nitrites and finally nitrates.  A good rule of thumb is .75-1 pounds of rock per gallon, although this can vary depending on whether or not a tank contains a sandbed.

The first thing that needs to be decided is whether you are going to use live rock or dry rock.  Here at Reef Casa we very only recommend that hobbyists start their tank with dry rock for a number of very compelling reasons.  First, dry rock is eco friendly, it comes from old dried out underground reefs so choosing our foundation dry  rock reduces stress on natural reef environments.  Because dry rock is not taken directly from the ocean you can be guaranteed that it will not come with any unwanted pests or hitchhikers, which is almost guaranteed to be a problem with live rock.  Dry rock is also way less expensive than live rock and is much easier to find.  With our turbo cycle bacteria, foundation dry rock because live in no time.

There are infinite ways to set up the rockwork and aquscaping is where your creative reefing side will come out. Generally there are no rules when it comes to scaping. You want to create a structure that you find visually appealing. You can always go online for inspiration.

Your imagination truly is the limit.

Once you have chosen the style of aquascape you wish to create it is time to start building.  Begin by creating a template of your tank on the floor or a table and start to experiment with different shapes.  Don’t forget to consider the depth of your tank as well.  If you are planning on keeping SPS corals avoid creating rockwork that is much higher than half the height of the tank to allow for growth.  Try to avoid the temptation to “fill up” the tank with rockwork, the corals will take care of that over time!  Sometimes it is necessary to use a hammer and chisel to break up larger pieces of rock.  The key is to take your time, look at the aquascape from all angles and be sure that you are totally happy with it before placing it in the tank.

The final step is to transfer your aquascape vision from the table to the tank.  Generally, it is a good idea to place the rockwork in the tank before adding sand to prevent fish and inverts from undermining the rockwork and causing it to fall over.  After giving your rocks a quick rinse it’s time to start placing.  Be very careful when transferring the rockwork to the tank since you don’t want to chip or scratch the glass.  Also, make sure that you have enough room around all sides of the aquascape to allow for glass cleaning.  Depending on the style of aquascape, you may want to bind the rocks together with Reef Casa Rock Epoxy.  After assembling the rockwork in your tank it is time to….. wait.  Spend a couple of days looking at the aquascape in your tank to make sure you like it.  It is much easier to make changes before adding sand and water.  Here at Reef Casa we truly want everyone to love their tank so if you have any questions about aquascaping please reach out to us and we will be happy to help.  Happy Reefing!