Live rock is not itself actually alive, but rather it is filled with a huge variety of micro and macro organisms that are beneficial for aquarium care. These organisms live below the surface of the rock and may not become visible to the eye until after the rock has been settled into its aquarium for weeks or months, or the organisms may not become visible at all. Live rock functions as a large biological filter, giving a great deal of surface area for bacteria to grow. In addition to acting as a biological filter, it provides a very natural appearance, as well as plenty of hiding places for fish and invertebrates to find a feeling of safety and security. Live rock also gives a place for corals to grow if the aquarium is set up as a reef aquarium. So rock is not only decorative, it is also very functional.
Live Rock Collection, Cleaning, Curing
The harvesting and collection of live rock has become quite regulated over the past several years, with multiple countries working in conjunction with one another to limit harvest areas and amounts able to be collected in a year. In addition, a variety of companies are working on ways to cost effectively produce a man-made live rock which is then cultured in shallow lagoons to become coralline encrusted and filled with micro-organisms. Once rock is collected, it is cleaned using a variety of methods. The idea is to remove as much loose material as possible from the rock that may die off during transportation. Some collection sites use a high pressure saltwater spray to clean the rock off, while other collection sites may use wire brushes to clean the rock. The rock PetSolutions sells is considered semi-cured, because it has been partially cleaned up and cured, but it does need to go through final curing before being added to your aquarium. PetSolutions offers a guide for curing live rock – the guide is also included in all live rock purchases.
Live Rock Transportation
Rock is transported into the United States after collection via a couple different methods, depending on the grade of the rock. Super and Ultra Premium rocks, which are high-end with the most amount of life and growth on them, are shipped via air, which is very expensive, but it keeps this rock the freshest. Some other more economical rock types are shipped via container on a ship, which takes quite a while to get into the United States. Surprisingly though, the rock bounces back once it is placed in the home aquarium and will easily take on the characteristics of the more expensive rock when it is mixed in with higher end rock. This is why less expensive rock is often called base rock, as it is used to fill in space and usually goes beneath a box or two of the very high-end and more attractive rock. Over time, it all blends together and you won’t be able to tell the difference between the two. This process of growth can take a year or two.
Curing the rock when you get it home
Our rock is semi cured, which means it has been mostly cleaned, removing things that would die off and cause the biggest mess on the rock prior to shipping. However, once it reaches your home additional curing is still required. Most reef builders use a clean trash can or large utility plastic tub as a container to cure the rock in, and a strong pump or power head to circulate the water. The addition of a heater is also helpful. Plenty of salt mix should be on hand, as a couple of full water changes will be required during the curing process. Please see our rock curing & acclimation guide in the reference center for complete instructions on curing your new rock.
Setting up the rock in your aquarium
When it comes to placing the rock in your aquarium, it is time to use your creativity. Think of the rock as needing to be stable so it does not collapse as well as set up in such a way to provide areas for the fish to swim through and around the rock. Those areas will allow water current to move through and around the rock, which prevents having “dead zones” of no water movement where debris can collect and cause problems in the aquarium. A nice open rock structure with caves and arches set up, that is stable and allows water flow and fish movement is really a fantastic thing to see in a well thought out aquarium design. It can make or break the “wow” factor you are trying to accomplish for your showpiece. Take your time, plan out the layout, and do not be afraid to change it a couple of times before you add fish to the aquarium. This initial setup phase of your rock can be some of the most fun, enjoy it!