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Rock aquascapes are some of the most breathtaking displays you can get in any fish tank. They are not too complicated to put together but create a spectacle to behold, more so in show aquarium.
Even so, it can be a little tasking, sometimes even complicated, for aquascapers with not much knowledge or know-how.
First, there are hundreds (if not thousands) of rock displays to choose from crafted by seasoned hobbyists overtime. Of course, you will also need to consider the size and shape of your take, plus how much weight it can take.
Then there is the dilemma of choosing between live and artificial rocks, how to stark them, and even attach other aquascapes on your formation.
For these and other reasons, I’ve prepared this post to help both new and seasoned aquarists understand all aspects of aquascaping with rocks (both live and the not very live ones).
Aquascaping With Live Rocks
Quite often, aquarium owners prefer to use live rock in their aquascapes because of the deeper textures and dramatic curves, plus they bring added value to marine tanks.
They act as the main nitrification base (filter) in saltwater and reef aquarium and also provide your inhabitants with safe hiding spaces.
Live rock is highly valued in the aquarium trade. It introduces a diverse array of bacteria, algae, and inverts to your closed marine environment and also function as a superior biological filter hosting both aerobic and anaerobic nitrifying bacteria. Wikipedia
That said, please note that live rock is not actually alive, but instead made of aragonite skeletons of long-dead coral and calcareous ocean organisms.
When taken from the sea (or pet store), it is encrusted with algae and inhabited by marine organisms on and inside the crevices hence the name live rock.
As you will see below, before adding live rock into your fish tank, you first need to fully cure it, then stark loosely inside the aquarium.
How Do You Aquascape an Aquarium with Live Rock
The very first thing to do is to set up your fish tank and make sure everything is running smoothly, including your filters, heaters, light, and that whole shebang.
Once you have everything in place, you can add your live rock into the tank, but make sure it’s fully cured.
Live rock curing is the process of removing dead and decaying matter from on and within the rock’s crevices. Failure to cure means the organism releasing waste into your tank and turning your water chemistry (and quality) up-side-down.
You can choose to run the curing process inside your display tank if it does not have any fish or inverts or in a separate container such as a Rubbermaid trash can (see how to cure live rock here).
The live rock curing process, which initiates the nitrogen cycle in saltwater tanks, typically takes 4 to 5 weeks. During this time, you must also perform weekly 25 percent water changes.
Step two involves adding and starking your live rock. Depending on the size of your fish tank, you can even choose to add several rock varieties. Variations in color and shapes usually add to the aesthetic appeal of an aquarium.
How to Stack Live Rock in Your Aquarium
In their natural habitat, reef-dwelling fish are used to an environment full of nooks, crannies, and crevices, and it is your duty as an aquarist to ensure your pets enjoy the same setting in a closed system.
Even so, you do not want to stark the rocks too high or too wide inside your tank such that it looks cramped up. Adequate open spaces are crucial both for aesthetics and to allow your fishes room to swim and explore.
As a general rule, it’s recommended to add between 0.5 and 1.5 lbs of live rock for every gallon of water you have in your aquarium. Any variance within this range will depend on the type, shape, and weight of the rock(s) you choose.
Also, make sure you place your live rocks right-side-up with areas of most color strategically placed towards the light and in the most conspicuous part of your aquarium.
This will help improve your tank’s beauty and also allow colorful coralline algae, which requires illumination from bright light thrive.
When it comes to the display arrangement, how you decorate is really up to you. Some people prefer sparsely placed items, a rock here and another in the corner, while others like to adorn each and every inch of their tank.
This means you do not have to necessarily follow one pattern or trend. You can even experiment with more than one arrangement. Personally, I like getting inspiration from Pinterest.
Flipping through photos of your favorite aquarist will definitely give some inspiration and set you in the right direction. But remember not to duplicate the whole idea, especially if the dimensions of your fish tank are skewed towards the lesser size of aquariums.
How Much Rock Should You Have in Your Aquarium
Everything held constant each gallon of water in your fish tank can handle 0.5 to 1.5 pounds of rock, though the precise number will depend on the size and weight of the pieces you plan to use.
Mowever, several other things come to play away from the arrangement. Most importantly, you need to determine how much pressure the walls and base of your fish tank can handle.
You also need to take into account the weight specifications of your aquarium stand.
Of course, if your glass walls or base already have a strain (hairline crack), you do not want too many rocks in there.
The fish you are keeping will determine how crucial rocks are as well. Like I stated above, most reef-dwelling fish prefer an environment with plenty of nooks and crannies on live rock. Whereas, some tropical species such as African cichlids just need rock formations, even if not live or tightly packed.
Can You Use Live Rock in A Freshwater Aquarium
The use of live rocks in freshwater aquariums is not all too common. Probably because they are more costly than artificial rocks and are naturally suited for marine environments.
However, that is not to say you cannot add them to your freshwater tank, but you’ll need to keep a few things in mind.
First, if you want the microorganisms that come with naturally sourced live rock from the ocean to survive, adding them in a freshwater tank might not be the best idea.
Second, live rocks from the sea are formed by old skeletons of marine organisms such as coral, which have more mineral content (aragonite: Calcium Carbonate) than artificial rocks.
Essentially, the calcium carbonate will dissolve overtime raising and buffering your aquarium’s ph.
So, if you have to add live rock in your freshwater tank, I recommend trying this in tanks with tropical fishes that prefer things on the harder-alkaline side, such as African cichlids.
So long story short, live rock is a freshwater tank won’t do any harm, but it will also not have any of the benefits it add to a marine tank, apart from the aesthetics, of course, plus beneficial bacteria will have more room to grow in.
Thats all for now!
Happy fish 🐠🦐 keeping.