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Building a loose rock reef

Posted 08/01/2017 at 08:42 AM by Sk8r

'loose rock' reef
I'm not into gluing rock unless I just want to make a bigger rock.
I build a reef that's easy to unbuild and rebuild---there are reasons that come along.

How I do it.
I lay down a layer of eggcrate lighting grid to prevent point load on the bottom glass, I place several ugly and large rocks to use as pillars to support the rest, I add my sand---which leaves the tops of the pillar rocks exposed. I then set a bowl in the sand and start adding water---the bowl prevents the water stream digging a hole. I of course remove it after a certain point.
Then I start laying in the rock---which is best done underwater, because some rocks are real light, and others aren't, and this becomes particularly clear underwater. Early in the learning curve, I've seen structures outright collapse after adding water. No. Build underwater: then you know how the rocks are 'feeling.'
Having laid down my basement 'pillar rocks,' I bridge them with the next layer of fairly large rocks, creating caves under the 'bridges.' I set the new rocks where I want them and wiggle them until their shapey-bits interlock enough to say they'll stay, and only when I'm SURE nothing is tippy, I go for another layer, working always to create gaps (caves) under rocks bridging from one base rock to another. And saving the lightest rocks for the top level.
This lets me mount, say, a hammer with a stony stem simply by lifting one rock a little and trapping the dead-stony stem, so the coral stays put. You may also save some rubble in your sump, to glue to the base of a small or an unwieldy frag to make it easier to seat atop your rockwork.

There are a few occasions when you have to unbuild a reef (moving a tank, removing a particularly troublesome fish---never buy a ghost eel for a reef) and the ability to do so without great disruption is really nice.

Learning how to balance and build unglued is also a learning curve, but you have time. Just be real careful not to drop a heavy rock on your bottom and not to build something tall and wobbly that can crash down into your side glass. Slow and steady, wiggle and test---don't build higher until the current level is steady.
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  1. New Comment
    RussC's Avatar
    Very good suggestions, Sk8r. I'll run with that.
    Posted 08/04/2017 at 10:50 AM by RussC RussC is offline

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