Buying Live Rock for Your Marine Aquarium: Some Pointers

live rock and coral fish aquarium

It's better to buy from a local fish store or wholesaler whenever feasible, because they usually have it in stock, cured and ready to go, and you can see it before you buy. Here are some buying tips, including what to look for and what questions to ask.

Tips for Buying From a Local Fish Store

  • If you are not able to have a separate set up for , buy it cured.
  • Don't allow yourself to be talked into purchasing mass quantities that you cannot handle. Only buy what you really need, and remember, don't overload your system.
  • Inspect the rock visually, as well as smell it. If any growth on it appears to be dying off or any detection of a foul odor is present, it is wise not to buy it, as it is probably still curing and may present you with problems you don't need.
  • Inspect the live rock for any unwanted pests or hitchhikers, such as and .
  • How long have they been curing the live rock in their system? What geographic location did the rock come from? (e.g. Indo-Pacific, Caribbean, etc.?)
  • What supplemental additives have they been using in their system, if any, while curing the live rock?
  • If you run across a "must-have rock" that may not be ready, understand that and accept the responsibility and possible consequences of complications that may arise if you choose to buy it.

Buying Online

If you don't have a good dependable local source for live rock, you may have to mail order it, which might take up to 24 hours. When we contacted Richard Londeree of Tampa Bay Saltwater about how they ship their live rock, he said:

"Unlike other shippers, we transport our rock submerged, as long as the buyer realizes that the freight will be more expensive, but the rock will arrive in a ready-to-use state. Simply open the bucket, gently shake the rock before dropping it in the water to remove any air pockets, and set it in the tank. This is how we send top-quality rock since the corals have a higher survival rate. Decorator living rock is also best sent underwater because it has just as much life as corals, but without the corals. The base rock can be transported dry, however we cannot accept a shipment time of 36 hours. We'd look into other delivery options. It may take many days to arrive, unlike transhipped Fiji rock. Rock may be mailed and received within 24 hours in the United States, Canada, and Europe. When it comes to whether or not rock has to be cured, the shipping time is crucial."

Consider shipping responsibly. Yes, you'll spend a bit more for shipping, but it's a tiny thing to pay for healthy live rock that you can immediately put into your tank once it comes. Your mail-order live rock source should be respectable, capable of shipping your live rock safely, and provide you with recommendations or instructions for introducing it into your aquarium. Know what you're getting and ask plenty of questions!

Tips for Buying From an Online Supplier

  • Exactly what kind of live rock will you be receiving? You'll find live rock labeled with names like cured, seeded, procured, fully cured and cycled, which usually means it can be placed directly into the main aquarium with minimal concern, but only under certain Guidelines. Names like uncured, fresh and transhipped usually means that it is live rock that should not be placed directly into the main aquarium, and you should fully cure it first.
  • Depending on the type of rock, someĀ are denser (heavier) than others and much less porous, and some will have ample live growth on them, while others may have minimal growth.
  • Once again, don't allow yourself to be talked into purchasing mass quantities that you cannot handle. Only buy what you really need, and remember, don't overload your system.
  • How does the supplier pack their live rock for shipping?
  • How does the supplier ship their live rock? Remember, transit time is one of the most important points. The longer the transit time, the more that die-off levels increase.
  • Where is the supplier physically located? Choosing a mail order store that is relatively close to your geographic location can cut down on transit time.
  • Does the supplier have a guarantee? Does it protect you against possible complications that may arise from shipping, i.e. lost, delayed, or damaged orders?
  • If you have never done business with a particular mail-order supplier before, get input from other aquarists if they have. This can be accomplished through emails, message boards, and chat rooms. Were they pleased with product, service, quality, etc., and would they do business with them again?

What if you don't want to spend or have a lot of money to buy live rock? That's easy. Just make your own.

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