Years ago I tried to start a reef tank with dry rock and I had a terrible experience. It was one problem after another, including dinoflagellates, cyanobacteria and a bacterial bloom. I just couldn’t grow SPS like I had done so with live rock and I vowed to never use dry rock again. The issues stemmed from a lack of biodiversity and microfauna with the dry rock. Additionally, I probably did not dose enough bacteria to build up the biological bed.
With my most recent tank build I had a very quick cycle using live rock from KP Aquatics. The tank has had a couple of hiccups but so far the SPS are thriving. So why would I switch back to dry rock for a reboot of my 187 gallon tank? One reason is to have a more open aquascape and be able to plant and grow out more SPS.
Creating Interesting Aquascapes with CaribSea Life Rock
With dry rock you can take time sculpting interesting and unique structures out of the water. The rock can be put together with one or more bonding agents such as super glue, two-part epoxy or mortar. Acrylic or fiberglass rods can also be used to create even more extraordinary aquascapes.
A fellow reefkeeper had put together a really cool aquascape using CaribSea Life Rock. He primarily used arches to sculpt an open aquascape with a lot of ledges for frags. A LFS in nearby New Hampshire sold the rock so I decided to take a road trip from my home in Vermont to see it first hand. When I arrived I found the rock submersed in water in a holding tank with other rock. Life Rock does come with some bacteria on it so this particular batch probably had extra bacteria since it was being conditioned in sea water.
I liked the look and shape of the arches so the plan was to buy about 90 lbs. For a brief moment I thought about keeping the rock wet to preserve the colonized bacteria. But I ended up sticking with my original plan to sculpt something unique and decided to dry the rock out and glue some together. Two-part epoxy, Paleo-Bond Jurassic Gel 4540 Reef Adhesive and Insta-set Super Glue Accelerator were all used for the project. The arches locked together very nicely so I didn’t need a lot of the bonding agents.
Minimizing Detritus Buildup
For the first layer of rock the feet of the arches were placed on the bottom of the tank to create some space underneath the rock. This was done to allow for more flow below the rocks and to minimize the buildup of detritus. I ended up creating a wide open aquascape with three different islands of rock. Once the glue cured I drilled a bunch of 1/4″ holes in the rock with some diamond coated drill bits. The holes would make it much easier to securely attach frags and to mount frags at interesting angles. In total I drilled approximately fifty holes.
Once the aquascape was finished I put it in a 100 gallon Rubbermaid stock tank with mature tank water from my 187 gallon tank (the water was added gradually over a couple of weeks). The plan is to keep the rock in the Rubbermaid with a heater and some power heads for three months to give bacteria time to colonize the rocks. Brightwell’s MicroBacter7 will be added daily to help augment the bacteria population. Ten percent weekly water changes with mature tank water will be done as well.
Overall, I hope to avoid my prior issues with dry rock with this comprehensive conditioning process. Will I become a dry rock convert? Time will tell.
If you would like some help with a new tank build, including help designing a custom aquarium, or help re-configuring your current setup then you can visit this page for more information. And if you are looking to add some equipment, I do sell GHL, Pax Bellum, Reef Octopus Calcium and Kalk Reactors and Royal Exclusiv products, including Dreamboxes, which is the equipment I use and recommend. I also sell Reef Brite metal halide and LED fixtures as well as Maxspect & IceCap Gyres.
As for additional insights and information, please explore my many other reef tank and SPS related articles as well as my YouTube channel. For an even deeper dive into reef tank care you can check out my Reef Keeping Master Class. This online course is an immersive and one of a kind educational tool designed to help reef aquarium hobbyists build and maintain a beautiful SPS reef tank. The course is a series of video presentations with some supplemental video from my YouTube channel. There are also quizzes to help students retain and understand the information presented in the course.
Need some frags…..I can help with that as well 🙂 Please visit my SPS Frag store to see what is available.