Top 5 Questions on Dry Live Rock for Reef Aquariums

Sample of Rock Types

Every reef tank has a couple things in common and one of them is live rock used for the aquascape and a place to mount corals. Dry rock has become extremely popular because of its pest free and ultra-affordable. Reef Saver Dry Live Rock comes super clean and is easy to create some awesome aquascapes with. There are other types of rock like Pukani, Fiji, and Tonga but they are much harder to find these days, but they each have their own characteristics, but overall all live rock is going to be treated the same. It is common to have questions, especially if you are just starting into the reefing hobby, but we are hoping to answer some of the more common questions about dry live rock today.

Will dry rock ever become live rock?

The main thing that makes rock “live” is the population of live bacteria which filters your tank for you. This type of bacteria will populate on its own, and in fact, there's nothing you can do to prevent this from happening. Once there's a food source like broken down fish food, the nitrifying bacteria will begin inhabiting the rock immediately. You can speed this process up with booster products like Dr. Tims One and Only or live sand, particularly the ocean direct brand which is naturally occurring bacteria. In the end, almost anything you put into your aquarium's water will become live in the matter of just a few short weeks.

Branch Rock

Does dry rock really ensure a pest free aquarium?

No, but it severely limits the chances of introducing something that you do not want right away. Live rock is likely the single most significant source to the broadest variety of unwanted pests. It is possible to entirely avoid a vast majority of these by using a rock which has been dried completely. If you are really careful and inspect and quarantine your corals, snails, crabs, fish, and all other living creatures before placing them into your aquarium, you could avoid the common pests.

Does it take longer to cycle the tank when using dry rock?

It can take a couple of weeks longer to cycle the live rock, but this can be compensated for with the use of live sand or bacterial booster products. The thing is bacteria proliferates rapidly, 25 turns into 50, then 50 turns into 50,000 and before you know it you have billions of microscopic bacteria breaking down ammonia and nitrite. Many reefers will use a snail shell or patch of coralline algae from an already established aquarium to add bacteria strains and other beneficial creatures that can help speed up the cycling process.

air rock

Will coralline algae grow on dry rock?

Absolutely, as long as you add an initial source like a bit that comes in on the bottom of a coral or on a single piece of live rock from an established tank that you trust. You can speed the process up a bit by scraping it off a rock allowing it to spread around quicker. Every tank is different and some people may see coralline growth in a couple short weeks where other reefers have reported a year or more before coralline algae starts to grow. Keep in mind that the best way to get coralline algae to grow in any tank is to maintain the proper calcium and alkalinity levels, and always to keep it submerged. We have found large water changes to stunt the growth of coralline algae when doing substantial water changes or other maintenance that requires the algae to be exposed to air.

Is caring for the rock any different than with live rock?

Not really, the dry Fiji and Pukani rocks come from the exact same places as the live versions. Both will have some organic material that should be broken down before adding the rock to the tank. The organics will break down into nutrients like phosphate and nitrate this is commonly misinterpreted as the rock leaching nutrients when it isn't the rock itself doing this it's just the organics, like dead or dying algae and sponges on the surface. Since none of us want to start a brand new tank with excess nutrients, it is wise to cure new rock, wet or dry. More or less this is just removing as much material as you can by hand or hose and soaking it in heated saltwater with good flow and no light for a month or two. It is likely that bacterial booster products will help speed this process up, but the best bet is just to give the rock a few short weeks and let nature take its course. The one rock we would say can skip the curing process would be Reef Saver, but curing the rock will give much better results than uncured rock added directly to an aquarium.