The marine aquarium hobby has come a long way.

Back in the day, the only option for rock for a saltwater fish or reef aquarium was to use rock taken straight from the ocean, which people called live rock.

Fast-forward to today and now many different types of aquarium rock are available to saltwater hobbyists, each with their own advantages and disadvantages.

Some of the more popular options include Dry Live Rock, man-made rock like CaribSea Life Rock and even dry rock quarried on land, like AquaMaxx's Eco-Rock.

Let's take a closer look at each type of rock, what makes them unique and what the pros & cons are to help make it a bit easier when it comes time to choose rock for your next build.

Fiji's Best Live Rock

This "old school" live rock is collected from Indo-Pacific oceans, shipped via expedited service to a U.S. distributor and then delivered to your doorstep.

Much of the beneficial bacteria is preserved to help cycle your new aquarium. Some die-off is going to occur during transit, so this rock should be cured for a month before placing it into an established aquarium. Live rock is great because it is so natural-looking and porous.

In addition to the beneficial bacteria, it is not uncommon for hitchhikers to catch a ride on your new rock and make themselves at home in your aquarium. The drawback is that you may get both good and bad hitchhikers. In addition, paying the extra cost for expedited shipping drives up the price a bit.

AquaMaxx Dry Live Rock

AquaMaxx dry live rock is also collected from the ocean, but it is fully dried before it is shipped to the states.

Dry live rock has become one of the most popular rock options in recent years. One of the chief advantages is that you don't have to pay extra for expedited shipping to get it to you. There is no longer life on the rock due to the drying process. However, dry live rock should still be cured before placing it into your marine/reef aquarium.

Dry live rock usually costs 30-40% less than comparable live rock. These savings can be substantial depending on the size of the aquarium you are aquascaping. Another reason hobbyists choose dry live rock is because they don't have to worry about unwanted hitchhikers entering their tank, like undesirable corals, algae or anemones.

There are several types of dry live rock available, which makes it easy to mix-and-match and create elaborate pillars, sturdy shelves, interesting overhangs and cool caves.

CarbiSea Life Rock

We admit it. We were skeptical of how well this man-made, "painted" rock would look in a reef aquarium. For some of the longtime hobbyists on our staff, the idea of an artificial rock that has been colored to look as if it's covered in coralline algae just seemed strange.

Even after taking it out of the box for the first time, we weren't convinced. The purple coloring looked a bit... unnatural.

However, after aquascaping the 80 gallon aquarium in our lunch room with Life Rock, we were finally convinced. Here we are, several months later... and we're still surprised by how fantastic it looks! It's so nice not having to wait the usual 8-12 months for purple coralline algae to start growing. Our lunch room reef tank has looked mature and established since day one!

Once we began adorning our Life Rock aquascape with corals frags and colonies, it looked just as beautiful and natural as live rock from the ocean. Another cool benefit of CaribSea Life Rock is that it is infused with bacterial spores, which helps speed up the cycling process. You also don't have to worry about pesky hitchhikers, like aiptasia, or any environmental impact since the rock is not take from our oceans.

AquaMaxx Eco-Rock

Another great option to consider if you like the idea of using an eco-friendly, pest-free rock in your saltwater aquarium is AquaMaxx Eco-Rock.

This aragonite-based rock is quarried on land where a coral reef used to exist about a hundred thousand years ago. Rock from this fossilized coral reef are great for aquarium use because they are very porous, which is ideal for biological filtration.

Since this is a dry rock, it will not come with any life on it so it will take a while for coralline algae to begin growing. The flip side is that you don't have to worry about hitchhikers from accidentally entering your tank.

Since it is both economical and eco-friendly, AquaMaxx Eco-Rock has remained a best-seller and customer favorite since it was first introduced two years ago.

Which Rock is Right for You?

With so many cool options available to marine and reef hobbyists nowadays, finding the right aquarium rock has never been easier.

If you're looking for a deal, AquaMaxx Eco-Rock is a great choice. If you want to replicate the look of a real ocean reef, Fiji's Best Live Rock is probably more up your alley. For an eco-friendly solution that has the desirable purple look hobbyists crave, CaribSea Life Rock is the way to go. Or, if you want a hitchhiker-free rock with unusual shapes and textures to build the perfect undersea playground for your pets, dry live rock may be the building blocks you need. Be sure to check out our branch and shelf pieces plus customer favorite, Pukani!

If you have any questions about aquarium rock, please contact us for honest advice from real hobbyists. Until next time ... take care and happy reef keeping.