News of Fiji's ban on exportation of corals and live rock came as a surprise to aquarium industry experts both in Fiji and around the world.

Fisheries Minister Semi Koroilavesau said the ban is aimed at protecting the seas and preserving coral reef tourism in the Fiji Islands. Walt Smith International (WSI), which has captive breeding and collection operations in Fiji was forced to lay off 75 percent of their staff due to the ban.

"Our business is a lot more than coral and rock export," said WSI manager David Barrick. "But the coral and rock export is what supports our coral farming and our man-made rock—without that we can't stand alone."

While we don't know what the outcome of this ban will be, we support reef conservation and captive breeding programs for fish, corals, and rock. That's why we're excited about two new "man-made" live rock replacements that can make building a reef much easier: Two Little Fishies STAX and CaribSea Life Rock Shapes!

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Both products are "dry rock" meaning they contain no marine life of any kind. Shipments of wild-harvested live rock can sometimes be tricky. Organisms that don't survive in transit decay when placed in your aquarium. You can sometimes experience an ammonia spike, odors, cloudy water, and skimmer over-load.

With dry rock you're starting fresh. No decay and no unwanted "hitchhikers" like Aiptasia, red bugs, and flatworms. Dry rock does require a break-in period. Not for decay. For overgrowth by coralline algae, beneficial bacteria, corals and other desirable marine life! The other great thing about these two new dry rock products is their cool shapes. When reef-harvested live rock was widely available, each location type had a unique shape that could be used to build a variety of reef designs. Not so much lately. These new dry rock materials are made in interesting shapes, bringing new possibilities for reef-building.

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CaribSea Life Rock Shapes

Life Rock Shapes is a continuation of the popular CaribSea Life Rock line of dry rock. CaribSea's Life Rock Shapes are made from mined aragonite bonded together with a reef-safe polymer, forming arches and caves. Free of cement, the rocks are porous and support beneficial bacteria for ammonia and nitrate control. The natural aragonite has a colored coating that mimics coralline algae but will eventually become colonized by living reef organisms. The Life Rock is infused with dormant bacteria that will help a new tank become biologically balanced. Each 20-pound box includes three arches and two cave/tunnels. Life Rock Shapes can be combined with other Life Rocks to build virtually any reef design you can imagine.

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Two Little Fishies STAX Rock

Two Little Fishies STAX dry rock takes a different approach. STAX rock is natural oolitic limestone rock mined in Key Largo, Florida. It is completely natural and contains no artificial binders. The porous structure supports natural nitrate control and colonization by coralline algae, corals and other reef life. But that's not all! The rocks are slightly shaved on the bottom and top, allowing for easy stacking in the aquarium.

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The flat areas act as level attachment points, making it easy to build an intricate reef base. Two Little Fishies recommends using AquaStik or CorAffix to glue the rock structure together. The flat attachment areas make it possible to glue-up amazing "gravity defying" rock structures that will gradually become covered with coralline algae. They're especially great for building a customized reef in nano tanks. Marine Depot currently carries STAX in 5 lb. and 20 lb. boxes.

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We've used dry rock in our own tanks many times and like what we see. Many Marine Depot customers have started up nano and full-scale reef tanks using Life Rock and STAX and report excellent reef-building results.

Here's what we like about STAX and Life Rock:

  • It's lighter than reef-harvested rock
  • Dry rock is less costly to ship
  • No temperature or shipping-delay worries
  • The rocks are adaptable to any size reef aquarium
  • No decay or water quality issues
  • Introduces no unwanted hitchhikers
  • Becomes covered with corals, coralline algae and other reef life
  • No costly importation fees or inspection delays
  • Causes no harm to natural reefs
  • Helps the reef hobby by eliminating pressure on reef resources

If you’re starting a new reef tank or want to expand an existing aquarium, be sure to check out Life Rock and STAX dry rock products. They're low cost, easy to use, and blend in to any reef design!