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Live Rock - The Perfect Biological Filter PDF Print E-mail

What is live rock? How can rock be alive?

Live rock is rock from the oceans reefs that has living organisms living upon it and with in it. Properly cured Live Rock is probably the ideal filtering method for saltwater aquarium.

We highly recommend live rock for any type of saltwater aquarium even if there's only aquarium containing fish. Most organisms that live in the live rock are either microorganisms or burrowing organisms such as worms and small snails and stars.

On the outside of the live rock can be anything from sponges and tunicates, anemones in corals and the reason that live rock is such a great filtering mechanism is because of the bacteria that live on the rock and within it be in each piece of live rock. There are just several different types of bacteria.

Three Zones in Live Rock

Oxygen Zone

The first zone is the outside of the rock or any surface in the aquarium that comes in contact with the saltwater. It has a type of bacteria that lives on the outer surface of the rock in the presence of oxygen. On the outer part of the rock, you have bacteria that will take the original waste product of the fish, which is in the form of ammonia and convert this ammonia into Nitrite (NOT Nitrate!) Ammonia is very very toxic to marinelife and there should never be a measurable amount of it in your tank after it is cycled.

Low Oxygen Zone

The second zone has the bacteria that live within the rock where the oxygen level is reduced below normal levels. The oxygen level is not zero, but it is much less then on the surface. This is called the anoxic (low oxygen) zone .

No Oxygen Zone

And finally in the third zone, you have the areas deep within the rock where there is virtually no oxygen at all. This is called the anaerobic zone.

Each of the zones have different bacteria living in them that perform different functions.

Deeper within the rock is a zone where there is little or no oxygen. You will have a bacteria that will take the nitrite and convert it to nitrate. Nitrate reduction only occurs deep within the rock, and very slowly. Some rocks are not large enough and may not experience this. Nitrate is much less toxic than nitrite so your goal is not necessarily to reduce it to zero. You just want to keep it low. Live rock is great because is offers a complete biological cycle of converting the toxic ammonia waste into toxic Nitrite and then toxic Nitrite into relatively non-toxic Nitrate. Fortunately live rock is one thing that can do all three conversions by itself, naturally.

How much Live Rock do you need?

The amount of live rock you have will determine how much of the waste in your system is converted to a fairly harmless nitrate. But of course there are other means that our making this occur also. The bacteria themselves will normally colonize any rocking and wearing over a period of time. Of course it's best to start out with live rock that already has the bacteria present but even with new live rock is a very important to cycle it. Make sure that the live rock is cured and doesn't bring decaying organisms with it that will release ammonia into the system.

Cycling live rock means you remove as much of the organisms as possible on the outside of the live rock. Sponges etc, that die off will simply contribute to the organic loading of the tank, and so it's very important if you buy uncured live rock that should cycle it yourself. This just involves putting it in a separate aquarium over time after removing any debris that's dying off, and monitoring the water quality periodcially. You will see that over time the ammonia level will go to zero See the section on Cycling for more details on how to cycle your aquarium.

Try to buy already Cured Live Rock

If you do order live rock from a pet store, try to specify that it is already cured. That way you'll be able to cycle your tank much quicker. If you do use uncured live rock, once the live rock is in your system, and you have the completed the cycling of it I think it's very important to do it fairly massive water change. More than 50% is the minimum. This will reduce the nitrate level within your system and remove a lot of the crud that came with the live rock and at that point, you live rock should be a fully functioning system to chemically reduce the pollution in your tank from harmless to non-harmless items. The water change will also greatly reduce the chances of you getting a hair algae bloom.

We think the use of live rock is one of the most important components of a successful reef tank and would recommend it to anyone who keeps any sort of saltwater aquarium. If you do buy live rock online, be sure to keep it as cool as possible until it reaches your aquarium. Pick it up from the airport as soon as possible, because the higher heat will tend to kill the organisms and the bacteria.

It will be shipped "dry" which means its not under water but still wet. Most corals can actually be shipped this way, although we ship ours in water.

 
 

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