This is Part #8 in a series of blog posts about my 225 gallon peninsula tank build.
For years I had always started my reef tanks with live rock and had great success. Live rock comes with a good population of bacteria and you can cycle a tank pretty quickly.
However, about 5 years ago I decided to give it a go with dry rock. With dry rock you can take your time sculpting cool and unique aquascapes and the likelihood of importing pests is much lower versus live rock. Live rock has also been much harder to find during the last few years.
Bad Experience With Dry Rock
Well, to say the least, my lone experience with dry rock was a disaster. I had one problem after another, including dinoflagellates, a bacterial bloom and cyanobacteria. And I just couldn’t grow SPS like I had before. Geez, I had never had any of these issues in my other tanks started with live rock so it was very frustrating.
So when I thought about dry rock vs. live rock for my new peninsula tank, the choice seemed clear. I know many folks have success with SPS in dry rock only tanks but in my view it takes a lot of time before SPS can thrive in a tank started with only dry rock. And I truly believe the lack of biodiversity in dry rock is a key factor.
Anyway, I did find a couple of viable options for live rock and settled on KP Aquatics since I had heard some good things about them from fellow reefers. They aquaculture live rock in the Florida Keys and can deliver it overnight.
They talked me into paying some extra bucks to have it delivered in water versus wet newspaper. Apparently, the survival rate for the bacteria, coralline algae and other creepy crawlers was much better versus the newspaper option.
My only hesitation was that some bad hitch hikers would come along for the ride. But I was told they could be forced out of the rock by dipping it in fresh salt water with a very high specific gravity (1.035 to 1.040). Anyway, I was digging this in-water option. I ordered 100 lbs of rock for 8$ a pound and paid about $200 for shipping. Overall, it came out to $10 a pound, not terrible.
Full of Life
I discovered a ton of life crawling on the rock, including a bunch of brittle starfish and some crabs. As recommended, I rinsed each piece in fresh saltwater and then dipped them again in saltwater with a high specific gravity. This caused a number of other critters to pop out of the rock, including more brittle starfish, crabs, some pistol shrimp and a mantis shrimp.
I held onto the reef safe stowaways such as the brittle starfish and dropped of the non-reef safe crew at a LFS.
Overall, I could not be more pleased with the quality of this rock. There was a ton of biodiversity, beautiful coralline algae and even sponges. It was also very porous, a good thing since there was more surface area for the bacteria.
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.