When it comes to marine aquariums, you have a few choices for filtration. I prefer to use live rock for many different reasons. I have been asked many times why I prefer live rock over other types of filtration, so I thought I would take some time list the pros and cons of using live rock to help other decide if they would like to us live rock in their aquarium.
Benefits of Live Rock
Below is what I have found to be the benefits of using live rock based on my experiences and what I have learned from others
1) I have found live rock to be superior biological filtration through being able to host very large quantities of both nitrifying and denitrifying bacteria. The better the quality of live rock, the more bacteria you can have which helps to maintain better water quality.
2) When using good quality live rock, it will already have a large amount of nitrifying and denitrifying bacteria already on it. This will greatly cut down the time it takes to cycle a tank, down to mere days in some cases.
3) Using live rock helps to stabilize the water chemistry in your aquarium. As the rock is made of the calcified skeletons of dead corals, the rock will leach calcium into the water which is a important part of maintaining a stable pH.
4) You can get live rock with a wide range of interesting marine life, otherwise commonly referred to as hitch hikers. This can include critters like pods or snails and even some corals (in rare cases) or some interesting forms of macro algae. It can be both exciting and interesting to watch this live develop on your rocks over time
5) Live rock will give your aquarium a more natural look. As a great number of marine fish are still wild caught, his can help fish adapt to aquarium life a lot quicker as it will appear somewhat similar to their natural environment.
6) When stacked correctly, live rock can provide natural looking hiding spots for your fish and critters. This can somewhat simulate what fish would naturally find in their environment which brings out their natural behaviors. Many fish also require hiding spots to go to in order to make them feel safer and help to minimize stress.
7) Live rock provides a home for the smaller little critters, like pods, which are a natural part of a marine ecosystem as well as a live food source for a wide range of fish. This can also include other critters such as brittle worms that can be a valued part of the ecosystem.
8) Live rock provides many different spots with different amounts of flow and lighting allowing you a suitable spots to home a wider range of corals when using your live rock as a base to attach your corals to
9) Most marine fish need natural looking hiding spots to go and feel safe and secure in their aquarium home. Porperly stacked live rock will provide can provide natural looking hiding spots your fish will need
Drawbacks of Live Rock
Just as there are two sides to every coin, there are some drawbacks to using live rock.
1) The first one that comes to my mind is the cost. Setting up an aquarium using nothing but live rock is the most expensive approach to providing biological filtration that you can find. This can be minimized by using a combination of live and dry rock, but it will still be expensive.
2) The second is that not all of the hitch hikers that can hide in live are good. You can have hitch hitchers that will cause more harm than good to your aquarium. This can be avoided through curing your live rock outside of your tank before using it.
3) You cannot add live rock to an existing aquarium without causing at least a very small ammonia spike. As soon as the live rock is exposed to air, there will be at least some amount of die-off which adds ammonia to the tank. The longer the rock is exposed to the air, the more die-off you will get. The only way to avoid this is to cure the newly purchased live rock before adding it to an existing tank, and taking precautions to minimize the time the rock is exposed to the air when moving it into your aquarium.
4) There has been concerns about the potential over-harvesting of live rock from the ocean’s reefs creating a threat to the long-term survivability of our natural reefs. Although many governments and international organizations have been taking steps to address this concern, there are also actions the average hobbyist can take to help as well. Purchasing dry rock harvested from ancient dried-out reef beds that are now inland, along with purchasing aquacultured live rock will both go a long way to help preserve our natural reefs. I have personally purchased dry rock harvested from in-land sea bed and got some very great quality rock.
I hope you find this helpful if you are trying to decide if you want live rock or not in your aquarium. If you would like more information on how to cure live rock, please use the below link to find the thread on how to cure live rock on our forum.
If you have any questions about any of the above, please start a thread on our forum. If you are not already a member, you will need to sign up first. Please use the below link
In J. Charles Delbeek’s article Your First Reef Aquarium