Considering that it serves as both aquascape material and biofilter medium, it’s safe to say that live rock is pretty important. We want it to look and “behave” as naturally as possible. Really, truly “live” rock can only be as good as the Dry base rock you build it on. For reef aquaria, the best substructure is the one that corals grow on in the wild: Natural base rock.
Natural base rock is composed primarily of calcium carbonate skeletons that previous stony coral residents left behind. In fact, coral reefs are pretty much made up entirely of base rock, with a relatively thin layer of living corals over the surface. Because of its many little pockets and miniscule pores, freshly deposited material can host many ecologically beneficial organisms ranging from nitrifying and denitrifying bacteria to microcrustaceans such as copepods.
In terms of appearance, ease-of-use and ecological friendliness, it’s hard to beat AlgaeBarn’s dry base rock. This premium natural reef rock is sustainably extracted in Florida. As evident from their composition and their distinctive striations, these deposits were once part of a large ancient coral reef.
Dry Base Rock: Aquarium Use
For most aquarists, top-notch base rock is irregularly shaped (rather than round cobbles) and low-density (that is, highly porous). The closer you look at it, the more little pits and crannies and tunnels you see. It’s pretty difficult to recreate the real thing. Yet there is good reason to do so, as alternatives to wild-collected reef rock help reduce ecological disturbance in sensitive coral reef habitats.
A very attractive alternative is AlgaeBarn’s dry base rock. It is available in three sizes, with each piece being unique. This stuff looks real, the shapes are cool and it’s extremely easy to work with. You either can add this rock to your existing reef structure or build a totally new hardscape. And its benefits aren’t just functional or aesthetic.
Dry base rock gives you more control over the ecological development of your reef structure. Firstly, it is devoid of organisms that can die and foul the water. This means no stinky, nasty “curing” period to wait out. Base rock develops into beautiful “live” rock as exposed surfaces become colonized by various desirable crustose algae and sessile invertebrates. Just as importantly, because it is dry and sterile, it poses to risk of introducing unwanted hitchhikers (such as Aiptasia or hair algae).
This rock scapes to form intricate structures rather than just boring stacks. Its highly irregular shape is attractive and permits good water circulation. Its high porosity allows for a rich microbial community. In fact, using Fritz TurboStart 900 and an ammonia source, you can turn this product into fully cycled live rock in as little as five days! Add live anaerobic photoheterotrophic bacteria (i.e. PNS Probio™) at this time for reliable removal of nitrates and dissolved organics.
Generally, base rock is used to establish a system biologically before more heavily colonized premium rock is added. This allows to system to cycle fully before introducing more sensitive live rock organisms (such as sponges). When starting exclusively with dry base rock, this process can (and should) be carried out in the dark as to halt algal blooms.
How much is enough? Never seems to be enough rock in practice, right? For that reason, we would recommend acquiring slightly more than the estimated required amount. We recommend around 1 pound of rock per 1 gallon of display tank aquarium volume. This will give you some extra options as you scape, and also leave a piece or two to toss in the sump or refugium. Because it is completely chemically inert, it never needs to be replaced.
Finally, this material is incredibly simple to work with. It is amorphous rather than chunky. You can break it up or even drill it as you please. Just rinse it and it’s ready to use! With AlgaeBarn’s dry reef rock, there is no need for curing (thank goodness) nor any need to quarantine for pests or parasites.
The Obvious Choice
When comparing dry reef rock to other materials, it’s always good to start by pointing out that this rock is extracted in an environmentally responsible manner: from an ancient, dried-up coral reef (AlgaeBarn will not carry any rock that mined from a living reef).
But reef aquarists very often have additional considerations such as cost and appearance. In terms of cost, you can’t go wrong shipping dry! Sure does help that this material is so porous and lightweight. And for those purists who demand authenticity, you may rest assured that it is a totally natural material with a naturally beautiful look.
But talk about a much smoother ride when establishing a new system! With dry rock, you escape the headaches caused by hitchhiking pests or water fouling caused by die-off; it might take nothing more than a single Aiptasia to make you wish that you’d started dry. Using quality bacterial inoculants, you can have the rock and whole system cycled in very short time with no messes. Its many little cracks and crevasses offer refuge to tiny beneficial animals such as copepods. Highly versatile, it can be used effectively to create an awesome frame for your final, mature reef display!
Jason Hempel says
I used your new tank set up with my 40 Fallon reef. First time I have ever done dry rock and sand. Went great thanks
It was not that long ago that lfs would only recommend live rock in a marine system
Benjamin Hosaflook says
I’d only ever use dry rock. I don’t like risking getting pests and nasty critters in my tank!
John Burke says
I used Marco dry rock on my last project and it is fantastic
NICOLE KAY GROFF says
Terrence Henderson says
Great read for a alternate rock. So much cheap my take longer to cycle but worth in the end.
William Wahl says
Love how everything is clean and no pests!
That’s the best part no pest!
Chas Johnson says
I want free pods.
Derrick Cox says
I want free pods more lol
Magnus Nick says
I like pukani.
Kris Kasarda says
I started with live rock in first tank, but used dry rock on upgrades.
Hank Hough says
I should have used dry base rock. I bought live rock from my LFS and it came with vermetid snails that survived the dip. Now I am constantly fighting these things.
Brian Ruffini says
Ive always started my tanks with dry rock. Wouldnt use anything else
Victoria Brewer says
Some of my rock was dry rock that came out of my dad’s tank 20 years ago
Steve Baring says
Nice to not have to worry about pests.
John LeBlanc Jr. says
dry rock for the win. No pests. And i love the pods!
COLE JORDAN says
Love using dry rock to start
Carol Mauch says
Responsible rock with less baggage!
I have been thinking about doing this… I do love the idea of pest free!
I have added dry rock to my existing tank and I know everything colors up and comes alive
Garrett Dykes says
After using dry rock Ill probably never go back to live unless its from a well established tank that i know.
Stefan Najbicz says
You can know that you won’t get unwanted hitchhikers.
I used dry rock to start my 90 gal tank a year ago. So far so good.
Kathryn Ertl says
I am still hooked on live rock, there are so many amazing creatures hiding in it.
Nicholas Pettit says
Always better to have dry rock to avoid risk of pests. Nothing worse then starting with a problem.
Emily Long says
Dry rock is a great way to start a tank.
I started off with dry rock. I have heard too many issues with hitchhikers.
Corie Helms says
I started my tank with dry rock, though it took longer to cycle, I know my rock is pest free.
Richard Quickley says
Good to know
James G says
Dry rocks Never have pests, enough said!!!
I used dry rock for my startup didn’t want to risk bringing anything in before even starting!
Foster L White Jr says
I have done this in the past. I have a friend that is in the midst of getting things together. As with the other I am forwarding this along.
Allen Penner says
Ive always started my tanks with dry rock. Wouldnt use anything else
Dry rock is the way to go
Micah M Workman says
How much of a difference does this make
Ricardo Munoz says
Absolutely love yalls products.
Stacey Pope says
Excited about my dry rock!
Good tips. I will probably go this route next time.
Jennifer Mumbower says
I wish I would have used dry rock. Live and learn!
Leony Sanchez says
I got a great deal at Aquashella from AlgaeBarn
James Higgins says
I used a mix of dry and live
Stephanie Prall says
Great info, thanks!
Compy Ginorio says
Back in the days we use live rocks to start and landscape our tanks. But all my recently built I been using dry rock. Much safer less hitchhiking pests. And withing few month time, seeding beneficial bacteria, amphipods, coppods, and different types of beneficial worms it will became more than alive. Ready and looking like right out of the ocean.
Much safer to use dry rock.
Travis oglesbee says
How instant my tank. No pests
Michael W says
Dry rock seems like a good idea, but will miss the nice surprises that can come with traditional live rock.
Bill Ceruzzi says
Dry rock is the best.
Robert Parker says
All rock is dead, its rock lol
Dry rock is definitely the best way for aquarium set up for your first tank. The biodiversity of wet rock is great but you WILL get unwanted items too. Adding your own small frags and inverts is best. Then just add some loose rock to the back if first tank to begin seeding for next tank.
I used dry rock for my set up and have been so happy with the results.
Matt Kalender says
Better safe than sorry.
Josh Hiltabiddle says
Can’t wait to get my pods and phyto!
I’ve always started with responsibly sourced dry rock, and then seed it with rubble from an established tank
Malachi Inabnit says
Thank you for the info! I had no idea how many response there are to use dry rock.
Izaac Ubelhor says
Didnt use dry rock, thought it would be nice to get a variety of micro fauna. Ended up getting a gorilla crab, aiptasia, and vermetid snails for no additional cost!
Unfortunately I used some rock that had aptasia on it
Jereny Butwina says
I just used pristine dry rock n got ur refugium pack to help kick it off n fritz turbo start 900
Leslie Pustilnik says
I started one tank with live rock and one with mostly dry. I was happier with the mostly dry rock process.
William Smithee says
I started my current aquarium with dry rock. I’m still going through the ugly phase. Hopefully, things will get better soon.
Rhonda Swetnam says
I have always used dry base rock and have never regretted it!
Bryan Pierre says
I used caribea sea no issues
Jonathan Pinero says
I used dry rock and save me a bunch of headaches highly recommend dry rock.
This info is very descriptive and helpful
Elmer Nicomedez says
I still find myself wanting live rock, if I can find a source that does not hurt the reefs. No pest is a great goal but to my reality, all things have their place. I took things slow at the early stages of my tank and have come out successful. I have found the more involved you are with maintaining the tank with minimal interference to the natural order of the tank will produce a tank that will love you back.
Both good and bad, no pests (esp aptasia) but a lot of good tank clean up animals such as small brittle stars, copepods and bacteria can come with. As long as it’s environmentally responsible, either is a good choice
Nicole Radice says
I used dry rock, it’s cheaper and no risk of hitch hikers
Dennis Wu says
I’m looking forward to adding biodiversity to my LR with your products as well!
I am new to saltwater/marine tanks. I have used live rock on my first built but I am going to use dry rock on my second built
Ben Wehmann says
The only problem I had with dry base rock is how long it takes to color up
Christopher Burns says
loved watching the rock go thru the stages of becoming live
Judi A Knight-Mitzel says
Its been aprox 10 yrs since i had a SW tank and this time around I started with dry rock to prevent bringing in unwanted “extras”. I am in the process of setting up a refuge and hoping to eventually have lots of copepods naturally reproducing.
One question I have: With using 1 lb per gal, in a 32 g biocube, we tried building “up” more. But it seems as though so many corals prefer sand bed or lower area…. With limited “floor” space, how do people work around this?
Justin Grove says
Take all the pods
Absolutely fascinating information. I hope to try this on my next tank set up!
At least you don’t get pests
Aquatic showcases says
I started with Dry Base Rock…No Regrets!!
Have started reef tanks with dry rock for my last 4 tanks and have had great success! It takes longer to get a well established tank in my opinion but avoids a lot of unwanted pests.
I love the carib sea shapes plus you don’t have to worry about everything drying out while you spape it the way you want and killing everything that makes it live leaving you with alot of amonia