Mr. Saltwater Tank

Buy it Dead, not alive

As I’ve been helping people setup their new tanks, I’ve been advising people to buy dead rock vs. live rock (LR) for their new setups. People have been asking me why I say “buy it dead” so I thought I’d put it out there for the general audience.

The simple answer is selection – you get to decide what critters you want in your tank and which ones you don’t. Live rock is great in that it comes covered with nitrifying bacteria -i.e. bacteria that converts ammonia (fish poop an pee) to nitrites and then to nitrates. However, it also comes with lots of stuff you might not see and you don’t get to decide if you want it or not. For example, a lot of members have gotten LR that has aptasia and even majanos anemone on it. Majanos can overrun a reef tank in literally days if not tended to quickly. Even if you remove the ones you see, there could be several more that you don’t see hidden in the LR that will eventually spawn new babies that will end up in your tank.

Then there are the bothersome creatures that you might not be able to see – zoa/montipora eating nudibranches, or even the feared Kraken worm that grow up to 4′ in length and eat corals for dinner. (Not kidding, here is a link to some pics of a guy who pulled one out of his tank). You won’t know these pests are in your tank until you start seeing corals disappear or bleaching which no reef keeper ever wants to see. These pests are even harder to get out because you can’t always see them as they are very small and some only come out at night. Or in the case of the Kraken worm, you have to tear apart your whole tank to get to them.

With dead rock, what you see is what you get – no critters, no pests. I advise people to buy the rock that’s been out in the sun for long enough that it’s bleach white. No chance of cling-ons except maybe the backyard ant (would die in your tank quickly). No nuisance algae/anemones/worms/freaky crawly things. On top of that, you get to watch your tank mature as the rock will change from white to brown/green/purple as beneficial bacteria and algae grow.

So “buy it dead” and avoid the headaches of tracking down nuisance pests in your tank.

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