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Sk8r 02/05/2017 01:12 PM

Preparing Rock
 
Preparing Rock
There are several sources for rock: ideally it should be limestone or old coral, and have a LOT of holes, like swiss cheese: this offers more surface area. You need about 2 pounds of this sort of rock per gallon of tank–but this is tricky: not all rock weighs alike. Look at the rockwork in pix on this site and get a good idea how many pieces of what size you need. Also—use ro/di or at least ro water—filtered water that has 0 mineral content: you’ll use that for your tank on setup, and there’s no good gained by soaking your rock in water that’s already caryring a lot of what you don’t want.

1) Rock from another tank. If it is still fresh and not been out of water for more than 24 hours, it’ll probably be fine. You will have instant importation of various marine life—I got a load for a 50 gallon tank, and counted 52 species that survived a cycle, including a bit of bubble coral, xenia, and of course the obligatory aiptasia (pest anemone) and some asterinas (mini-starfish that are not a problem in an sps or lps tank: soft coral tanks may want to pick those out.) You take your chances on this sort of rock, but if it’s been in a successful tank, good things will outnumber the bad. If the donor is merely breaking down a successful tank in a house move, it’s your bonanza of life. If the donor went out in a tank crash or was overrun with something nasty, definitely move to step 2.
2) live-but-barely rock suffered in shipping or came from a troubled tank. THIS I would ‘tub’ in the dark in 80 degree 1.024 salinity agitated salt water for two months before use. This will pretty well kill off nastiness and leave you with brown bare rock. You can use a Rubbermaid Brute trash can or something with a garbage can liner, and just give it a heater and a fairly strong pump. Eheims are good small workhorses and can later serve as a salt mixing pump or water-change pump. Or you can use what will be your sump skimmer: just let it do this job. However—if your skimmer isn’t really moving the water, you need a more potent pump. You don’t want dead spots in the circulation. Do water changes weekly and also test your water to be sure it’s staying at 1.024. Test for phosphate a day after water change and if you’re getting a reading despite the water changes, you might as well start running GFO in a reactor right now. The water changes will ordinarily be enough.
3. Dry rock. You CAN put it all into the tank and wait 12 weeks for a cycle, but I don’t recommend it. Use process 2. Tub it with at least one actual live rock you’ve bought from a store or gotten from a friend. Two months in the warm salty circulation will turn it into live rock. Now—WHY? Because dry rock may contain other elements like phosphates, and the long soak will let this soak out, while it also picks up a load of bacteria from that small live rock you bought. Can bacteria-in-a-bottle speed this process? Probably a bit, but part of what you’re doing with dry rock is letting water seep deep, deep, deep into the rock—along with bacteria, which are tiny enough to get there---and nothing hurries a rock soaking. Crack open a rock that’s been in a river or an ocean—and you won’t find it dry and dusty inside. That’s part of the process you’re replicating here. Dry rock is sometimes a source for phosphate. Be sure not to use metal-bearing rock like volcanic stuff, etc: salt water and metals don't play nice. Limestone is safe. Holes are good. One big massive no-holes rock is not as efficient as a number of smaller ones.
4. Man-made rock: yes, it works fine. Put it through the same process, water changes, et al. Test for phosphate. And just keep going.

Next, your sand: I’ve never personally used live sand. I use CaribSea aragonite medium grain (the very fine sand may look pretty, but it blows about and irritates fish and kills corals). Washing this sand for a hundred gallon tank involves two five gallon buckets, a garden hose, and an all day operation, before you are rid of the milky white dust that comes with this sand. Wash about four cups at a time. And just keep running water until the sand is clean. It is a nasty, cold, wet number of hours. Yes. It is. My total sympathies.

Getting started is kind of boring and frustrating, having your nice tank and babysitting a bin of rock, but use this time to read and research and plan. You can also start washing your sand. ;)

Ron Reefman 02/05/2017 02:22 PM

Having rock that is full of holes because it is better for surface area for good bacteria to breed is a very good thing. And in the set up of new tanks that I've done, I always assumed (not a good thing) that there would be good holes where I could stick frag plugs. And that has never turned out to be the case for me. I've been close, but never enough.

So I'm going to redo my now 6 month old 125g DT because I feel like half my tank is wasted space behind the rock island. I had the bright idea (well... I think it's bright) to drill 3/8th inch holes in the surface of rocks I intend to be exposed for coral placement. I started drilling some holes and found that having frag plugs just drop almost snugly in works really well, at least dry and on my workbench! I had some rock that does have a lot of natural holes but when I tried to test fit a frag plug it really didn't fit well, if at all. So I did a little drilling of the natural holes as well and now the frag plugs fit way better.

I figure after 6 months the holes I don't use will have something in them. Maybe coraline, or micro stars, or who knows what! It's just an idea and I'll show what I did and the results in my build thread as I move forward.

Sk8r 02/05/2017 02:33 PM

really good idea. I tend to stick reef putty into the almost-fits holes and stick the plug in---but this reckons without my dascyllus 3 stripe damsel, who will grab a piece and try to carry it off: if I don't wedge it really well, he'll free it. He's pretty, but he's a brat.

rtparty 02/05/2017 02:34 PM

If I put 2 pounds of rock per gallon, I would have zero room for anything. I bet my new 50 gallon won't even contain 15 pounds of rock.

Sk8r 02/05/2017 02:41 PM

Depends on the rock. We have one rock in our freshwater that probably weighs 40 lbs on its own. it would be horrid for saltwater. Some of my dead coral has a negligible weight, light as a feather unless wet. The main thing is surface area---and porosity [micro-holes]. That is a FAR more reliable guide re the efficacy of the rock. The same way that human lungs, if truly flattened, would cover a football field, your rock needs to provide a lot of porosity.

Somebody is bound to ask about the artificial expanded aluminum/ceramic blocks. I have one of these: I have run a PolyFilter strip to test for free aluminum and it is safe. It is also porous as a sponge. I would, because you need the sort of bacteria that lives deep in the dark, go for a block of this stuff rather than the small pieces. OTOH, it would not look very good in your typical tank, and while a sump can get flow through it, the typical in-tank situation, not so much. I also did not experience a nitrate reduction by using it (and I had a problem). I got the nitrate way down real fast, after using everything from ceramic rock to carbon dosing and several absorbent mediums---by getting a much better skimmer. Nitrate sank like a stone. Rock---can only do so much. Sometimes it needs help.

rtparty 02/05/2017 02:47 PM

Oh mine does. Pukani and Fiji mix. Then a couple liters of Matrix as well. At this point, I say use how much rock you want. There are so many ways to add surface area or increase bacteria.

Fish finder 02/05/2017 05:00 PM

Thank you, this helped me a lot with my upcoming rock cleaning

Green Chromis 02/06/2017 07:58 AM

:fish1: Hi Sk8r, you have written quite a few good articles including this one, but their are a couple things in this article that I would like to discuss with you. First, when you seed dead rock with a piece of live rock, the dead rock does not become a piece of live rock, yes the bacteria from the live rock will spread to the dead rock, but there is so much more to a piece of high quality live rock then just the bacteria, all the micro and macro fauna, and flora on the live rock will not populate the dead rock, unless the live rock is allowed to live in a good ight source with the dead rock, and then it will take a very long time for the dead rock to be covered like the live rock, if you cover it, and due not use a good light source, most of the life on the live rock will die. One other thing, 2lbs of rock per gallon is way to much rock, especially with the dead rock people want to use, and all this super porous rock, makes for a big detritus trap, even with a massive amount of flow in your system. when diving on the reefs of South Florida and the Caribbean, the rocks I see are not nearly as porous as the dead rock most people use, that are mined from land and put in the ocean to seed. Again, another good article, keep up the good work. :fish1:

[Indeed, you stress a good point: all quality live rock gives you so many critters---and curing the rock (incidentally killing most life) is not a step to take with good, critter-covered good live rock, IMHO---see my bit about all the life that existed on mine from another tank. I just wince when I see someone has gotten really good stuff and proceeds to kill it off. I like the surprises, myself: sponges, barnacles, critters of all sorts. If you have a friend with a tank, get him to tuck a nice rock into his sump a number of weeks in advance of your startup, and that can be your 'live rock' for helping dead rock toward viability. ---sk8r]

niladride 02/06/2017 08:44 AM

Really nice article Sk8r as usual.

BTW, I am also using a marine pure block and it is working great, its really really porous and the surface area is huge to house the bacteria.

It claims to remove nitrates as well, I am not too sure though, I have algae problems anyway.

[I had horrendous nitrate from a power-out incident and the block didn't help to any observable degree. Algae comes from phosphate. You might try a product call No3Po4X, aka NoPoX, which is pretty good at handling both.---sk8r

Spiffy 02/06/2017 11:08 AM

Would adding a light to the "tub" to encourage algae growth be a bad idea?

Sk8r 02/06/2017 12:17 PM

Algae grows because of phosphate in the water or rock--nothing else likes phosphate. And it's one reason you always use ro/di water for your saltwater mix, so you don't have some coming in from tapwater. To discourage algae growth, keep the light out and run GFO to sop up the phosphate.

niladride 02/07/2017 03:16 AM

^

I will try the GFO method for sure. But is it cost effective?

Sk8r 02/07/2017 05:41 PM

GFO is not cheap. Neither is NoPoX. They CAN deal with the phosphate: GFO is phosphate-specific. NoPoX gets both nitrate and phosphate, and both work---but NoPoX requires a skimmer, which most rock-tubs don't have. A GFO doesn't need a skimmer.

niladride 02/08/2017 03:41 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by niladride (Post 24947091)
Really nice article Sk8r as usual.

BTW, I am also using a marine pure block and it is working great, its really really porous and the surface area is huge to house the bacteria.

It claims to remove nitrates as well, I am not too sure though, I have algae problems anyway.

[I had horrendous nitrate from a power-out incident and the block didn't help to any observable degree. Algae comes from phosphate. You might try a product call No3Po4X, aka NoPoX, which is pretty good at handling both.---sk8r


I will give it a try for now I guess, lets see how long the cure works. Thanks once more.

:)

Julius Chen 02/20/2017 10:23 AM

Re "Be sure not using metal bearing stuff like volcanic thing", is rock from volcanic ash ok to use? I just bought 15 lbs of volcanic ash rocks that look like shelf plates from my local reef store. They have been cycling with my other 50lbs of dry rocks for over 2 weeks now. Should I be concerned of metal leaching?


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Sk8r 02/20/2017 12:32 PM

THere's a product called PolyFilter. Snip off a square of that and put it in the water. If it turns red, it's iron in the water; if blue, copper, etc. If it stays white, no metals. The good news is, it also binds what it identifies.

wadester27 03/03/2017 07:58 PM

live or dead rock
 
am i able to uplaod pics on here

wadester27 03/03/2017 08:07 PM

i have some 2 or 3 yr old dry coral . do i need to do anything to it before i use it

Goldmund 03/08/2017 11:16 AM

I'm in the (lengthy) process of converting a 120g freshwater tank into my new reef tank. My first tank a few years ago I started with dry rock, and let it cure/cycle in the tank for a few months. Later I added a few pieces of live rock and that turned out to be a huge mistake, as I got hit with a massive aiptasia and bryopsis infestation. (pic attached, it wasn't pretty)

https://c1.staticflickr.com/1/771/30...bb81945e_c.jpg

I really want to avoid that on this tank, so I'm being probably extra cautious and could use some advice. Early December I bought 140lb of dry rock. I soaked it in bleach solution for a few days, let it dry out, then soaked in rodi water for a week. I let it dry out again, then stuck it in a brute can with new saltwater and a mag pump to keep it circulating and warm. It's been sitting in that brute for about 11 weeks now.

Should I start feeding ammonia now and let it cycle while in the brute? Leave it alone and wait till it's in the tank? I'm still a few weeks away from having the tank empty and in place, so really wondering what my next move should be.

Wagonpitt 04/24/2017 04:11 PM

I bought some rock that i want to add to my already running tank. The rock was out of water the day befor i bought it and has been sitting dry in my garage for 2 days. Im guessing if i put it in my tank now all the ded stuff will give me amonia spike then nitrates so i dont want to do that but also dont want/ need to wait 2 months because i dont need it to be Liverock. is there an alternate route for me

Dale_M 04/25/2017 05:49 PM

Would you recommend getting real live rock to a beginner?
I do mean live, as in Tampa Bay Saltwater's live rock, fresh out of the ocean.
I live in the Tampa Bay area and it would be easy to purchase from them.
I realize that there will be plenty of micro and macro life on these rocks and the potential for pests and I am just wondering if it would be too overwhelming to a beginner?

Wagonpitt 04/25/2017 09:25 PM

I used about 80lbs live rock when i set up my 90g and that allowed me to have ALMOST no cycle. thats just my experience though and im still very new to the hobby myself so i would wait for someone whos more experienced answer.

Sk8r 04/30/2017 10:42 AM

Pests can be dealt with if you seek advice from experienced reefers. Two varieties of worm (hermodice carunculata and eunicid) are a problem. Most crabs are problems. The rest of the life tends to be good. Your problems usually show up hunting food somewhere during the several weeks of cycle, and can be bottle-trapped and moved to the sump (where they're safe) or disposed of.

Pond Boy 05/01/2017 05:09 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Dale_M (Post 25061227)
Would you recommend getting real live rock to a beginner?
I do mean live, as in Tampa Bay Saltwater's live rock, fresh out of the ocean.
I live in the Tampa Bay area and it would be easy to purchase from them.
I realize that there will be plenty of micro and macro life on these rocks and the potential for pests and I am just wondering if it would be too overwhelming to a beginner?

Why not? Do some research set up your tank I say you will be just fine. I wish I had a source close to me I would love some fresh LR..

Razorback reef 06/12/2017 12:38 AM

Tonga branch is very dense and would require 2 lbs per gallon. On the other end of the spectrum, Fiji pukani is very porous and sufficient surface area can be achieved by using less than 1 lb per gallon.

I like to compensate by using medium sized aragonite sand which has more surface area than the rock itself.


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