What Is Live Rock

What Is Live Rock

Many people who plan to get a new saltwater fish tank wonder, “what is live rock?” Live rock is generally made up of coral, carbon, and ocean floor rock. The rock isn’t actually alive. Instead, the rock is called live rock because of the tiny marine life living on and inside of it.

It is typically retrieved from the ocean and seas but people are starting to manufacture it themselves to help with conservation efforts and prevent further damage to coral reefs.

Why put Live Rock in Aquariums

Live rocks are an important part of a saltwater aquarium, and there are many benefits to live rock in your tank:


Live rock works as a natural filtration system. Live rock has small marine life on it that will eat what would otherwise be considered waste. Some of the popular tiny marine life include crabs and worms.

It also turns waste into nitrate and then turns the nitrate into nitrate gas that will escape from your aquarium naturally. Of course, aquariums with an excessive amount of waste may need additional cleaning.

Live rock is a better filter than just about any store-bought filter you can purchase. It’s natural and acts like a filtration system in the ocean as well.


Depending on what fish and animals you have in your aquarium, the live rock can provide a place for your animals to live and play. They also offer protection and can even work as a place for a fish to keep her babies.

Saltwater fish have a live rock for them to enjoy in the wild. This is their natural habitat and without it, they might not know where to live.

Natural Beauty

Live rock can be quite attractive, and it can add a great appearance to your aquarium. It also gives it an authentic ocean look.

Keep in mind that your live rock might change color when you first place it into your aquarium. This would be due to taking it from its natural environment and moving it. They tend to get a little darker after being placed into their new tank.

Types of Live Rock

Bali Alor Live Rock

Bali Alor live rock provides some of the greatest variety when it comes to color and variety. You can find green, pink, purple, red, and yellow. They are the rocks broken off by storms and other natural events.

Caribbean Reef Live Rock

One of the greatest benefits of Caribbean reef live rock is that it’s entirely natural. This can help the ecosystem in your tank.

Fiji Live Rock

Fiji live rock is the most popular live rock. It’s generally air-shipped (much better quality and more expensive) instead of shipped by boat, but either one is possible. All Fiji live rock must be cured. Fiji live rock is generally only purple.

Aqua-cultured Live Rock

While there are many benefits of live rock for your saltwater aquarium, many people don’t want to break up the natural coral in our oceans. For this reason, many people choose to go with aqua-cultured live rock. Aqua-cultured live rock is made from materials inside of the earth and grown. Many of these rocks don’t require any curing. This is the most economically friendly option.
The United States buys more live rock than any other country. In order to appease demand, some people use dynamite or other destructive methods to get the live rock to sell.

How to Cure Live Rock

Live rock accumulates decaying and dead material. This material can be damaging to your aquarium by putting toxins into the water. Curing is removing this decaying material from the rock. You do this before you even place the rock into your aquarium.

If you’re not sure if your live rock needs to be cured, use your nose! If it smells rotten, it needs to be cured. This happens when the rock is out of the water for too long, so you usually don’t have to cure local live rock. However, rock that has traveled a far distance will almost always require curing.

If you need to know how to cure live rock, first you will need to gather the necessary items. You’ll need 30 gallon container, an aquarium heater, aquarium powerhead, and a saltwater ammonia test kit. All of these things can be picked up at your local pet store. In fact, some pet stores will have curing kits available for sale with everything you need.

Next, place your live rock in the container and fill it above the rock with saltwater. Be sure that the entire rock is well covered. Program the heater to 80 degrees. Add the powerhead so that the water can move around like it needs to. Cover the container and wait! Change the water after about two weeks.

You should check the water about twice a week. When the ammonia is at 0 ppm, then you are done! You are then free to place the live rock in your aquarium.

How Much Live Rock Per Gallon

How much live rock that you place in your tank per gallon depends greatly on the type of live rock you decide to put into your aquarium. Usually, you only need about 1 – 1.5 pounds of rock per gallon but some types like Fiji live rock would require more.

Talk to a professional to buy the correct amount of live rock in your particular aquarium. Be sure to know exactly how big your tank will be and what marine life you will have in it.

How to Stack Live Rock

It’s important to arrange your live rock in your tank properly. Keep the rocks away from the edges of the aquarium so the water can move around the tank more naturally. The fish and other marine life will be able to move around more easily, too.

You’ll want to stack the rocks with enough open spaces to allow your fish places to hide and also to swim through. By following these simple rules, the water should have proper circulation, and the fish should be happy.

How to Clean Live Rock

Just like any other living space, aquariums require regular cleaning and maintenance. This includes the live rock inside of it. Cleaning the rocks depends on what type of aquarium you have. A simple aquarium with only fish will require a siphoning tool to clean out the excess waste.

However, reef tanks require more intense cleaning than that. In fact, in most cases, the siphoning tool can pick up tiny critters and smaller gravel that are beneficial to the ecosystem. For these tanks, use your fingers or a tool of your choice to stir up the bottom of the tank and allow the waste to be picked up by the filter.

To specifically clean the live rock, simply use a powerhead to remove any of the stubborn waste that is sticking to the rock.

There are certain ways to help prevent an excessive amount of cleaning, though. First, don’t overfeed your fish. The excess food can end up clouding your aquarium and throw your nutrients out of balance.

You also want to plan properly and get the perfect amount of live rock for your environment and place the live rock strategically. If you do this, you will still have to clean your aquarium, but you won’t have to do it as often.


If you’ve decided that you want to bring a piece the planet’s stunning marine life home with you, you will have a beauty that is rarely matched by pictures. It is important to learn everything you can so that you can preserve the piece of nature. Live rock is an important part of the ecosystem so you want to get the right amount. If you decided to go with an option from the ocean, be sure to cure it properly, too.

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