Live rock

A Reef in a Rubbermaid? Why its Important to Keep Live Rock Alive

Is it possible to keep live rock and have a captive reef in a Rubbermaid tub? Yes, maybe and no 🙂 It all depends on the types of critters. About ten months ago I was faced with a dilemma. I had about 20-25 pounds of Haitian live rock I needed to remove from my 75 gallon frag tank, but I did not have a spare tank. One option was to buy a cheap tank to house the rock. Another was to use a spare Rubbermaid tub. I went with the zero cost option.

My Rubbermaid Reef Tank

I placed the rock in the Rubbermaid and added established saltwater from my 200 gallon reef tank system. A spare power head was used to keep the water circulating. The Rubbermaid is 37 gallons in total but only a third is filled with water… probably 12 gallons of saltwater. On rare occasions I remove a gallon of water and replace it with established water from my tank. I also add RO/DI water 1X a week to replace water lost due to evaporation.

The power head is the only piece of equipment being used for this “tank”. There is no heater, skimmer or light, although some residual light bleeds in from the frag tank a few feet away. Amazingly, large populations of Aptasia and bubble algae are proliferating in the Rubbermaid. The rock did have these pests when I placed them in the tub but they have definitely grown and spread.


Key Parameters

I was curious about the water parameters so I conducted some tests. The results confirmed I had a decent environment to maintain a crude reef.

  • Salinity: 1.026 sg
  • Nitrate: 50 ppm
  • Phosphate: .35 ppm
  • Alkalinity: 7.3 dKh
  • Calcium: 410 ppm
  • Magnesium: 1380 ppm

Do I advocate the use of a Rubbermaid to start and maintain a reef tank? No. My intent here is to suggest a cheap option to keep live rock alive. Live rock is a great form of biological filtration and it would be a waste to remove it from a tank and let it dry out.

Why not keep it alive and use it for another tank down the road? Or pass it along to another reef keeper? Today many reefers start tanks with dry rock and have all sorts of issues due to its lack of biodiversity. It happened to me. Years ago live rock was plentiful but today it is hard to find. Don’t kill this precious commodity if you don’t have to…. break out a Rubbermaid 🙂

Additional Resources

If you would like some help with a new tank build, including help designing a custom aquarium, or help re-configuring your current setup then you can visit this page for more information. And if you are looking to add some equipment, I do sell GHL, Pax Bellum, Reef Octopus Calcium and Kalk Reactors and Royal Exclusiv products, including Dreamboxes, which is the equipment I use and recommend. I also sell Reef Brite metal halide and LED fixtures as well as Maxspect & IceCap Gyres.

As for additional insights and information, please explore my many other reef tank and SPS related articles as well as my YouTube channel. For an even deeper dive into reef tank care you can check out my Reef Keeping Master Class. This online course is an immersive and one of a kind educational tool designed to help reef aquarium hobbyists build and maintain a beautiful SPS reef tank. The course is a series of video presentations with some supplemental video from my YouTube channel. There are also quizzes to help students retain and understand the information presented in the course.

Need some frags…..I can help with that as well 🙂 Please visit my SPS Frag store to see what is available.

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