The information contained in this document is provided by, Stan & Debbie Hauter, more of their great articles can be found at www.About.com. Stan and Debbie are considered authorities on the subject matter of Live Rock and many other areas of interest to the aquarists and the tropical fish and aquarium industries.

This information is comprehensive and completely relevant to your use of Live Rock. We encourage you to read this prior to installation to determine what steps will be the best steps in your particular situation.

Q. What is Live Rock?
A. Live Rock is pieces of dead coral skeletons which have been harvested from coral reef areas. In the wild, Live Rock harbors both flora and fauna as well as beneficial (biological) bacteria. In an aquarium, if properly cured, Live Rock will continue to house both flora, fauna and bacteria.

Q. What is Base Rock?
A. . Base rock is Live Rock (pieces of dead coral skeletons) without the biological growth on it and is therefore less expensive. Some base rock is quarried and comes from ancient reefs which are no longer anywhere near the ocean. In reef tanks, many aquarists place the less expensive base rock under their Live Rock and let nature populate it with growth which spreads from the Live Rock.


Q. Where does Live Rock come from?
A. Live Rock is found in the reef areas of the oceans. Currently, most Live Rock used in the aquarium trade is harvested from the either the Caribbean or the Indo-Pacific areas. While it is illegal to harvest Live Rock in Hawaii, base rock is being quarried on the island of Oahu


Q. What is curing?
A. Curing is the process of containing harvested Live Rock and allowing the dead and dying biological material which did not survive collection and shipping to decay. The dead material is then removed, leaving the surviving biological material on the rock. The curing process produces a great amount of toxins (ammonia, nitrite and nitrate) which are harmful to saltwater aquariums and their occupants. There are several methods for curing Live Rock.


Q. Why cure Live Rock?
A. Curing allows the normal process of biological digestion to take place outside of the aquarium. Placing uncured Live Rock in an aquarium will produce toxins which are harmful to life in the aquarium.


Q. Will curing kill the desirable organisms on the Live Rock?
A. Most of the more fragile organisms will die off during the curing process. However, if properly cured, many invertebrates (i.e. Amphipods and Copepods) and corals will survive and, with proper care, flourish in the aquarium.


Q. happens if Live Rock is not properly (completely) cured?
A. If not properly cured, the rock will continue to produce ammonia when placed in the aquarium. This ammonia is toxic and will harm tank occupants as well as cause the biological filter to go back into the cycling process.
A number of aquarists choose to utilize the curing process to cycle their new tanks with Live Rock.


Q. How do you know when Live Rock is cured?
A. When the contained Live Rock no longer produces ammonia it is considered to be cured.


Q. Is all Live Rock the same?
A. Live Rock harvested from different areas of the oceans have different characteristics. Since Live Rock comes from dead corals, the shape, texture and porosity of the Live Rock will reflect the corals which were endemic to the area at the time the rock was formed. Live Rock will contain flora, fauna and Coralline algae which is endemic to the area from which it is harvested.


How To Preclean Live Rock Before Using It

When uncured and even "so-called" cured Live Rock is first placed into an established saltwater system, is being cured or used to cycle a new aquarium with, some degree from light to heavy die-off of the organisms that reside on and inside the rocks will occur. The build-up of this dead or dying organic matter creates ammonia, so to help lessen excessive ammonia spiking problems, as well as shorten the curing time of the Live Rock, here is a simple way to preclean the rocks before using them.

Difficulty : Easy
Time Required : Varies

Here's How:

  • Before you begin this procedure, you need to have something ready to put the rocks into once they are cleaned. This can be either a separate rock curing setup or an aquarium.

  • Now, the simplest way to preclean Live Rock is to fill a large bucket or container with saltwater, take each piece of rock and swish it around in the water. This helps to get rid of some of the organisms that may be embedded inside the porous rock, break loose any organisms that may be dead or dying off, as well as remove sediment that may be present.
    Although this method is a good one, taking the time to "thoroughly" preclean the rocks is much more beneficial. Here's How:

  • Fill a clean, plastic spray bottle with saltwater. This will be used to spritz the rocks with to keep them moist during this procedure.

  • Fill a large plastic bucket or other type container with some saltwater and set it aside. (This will be used later to dip the rocks in after you have cleaned each one.)

  • To be on the safe side and protect your hands, put on a pair of gloves of some kind.

  • Lay the Live Rock out a plastic tarp, or other piece of suitable plastic.

  • Inspect the rocks for any undesirable animals, such as bristleworms, mantis shrimp, crabs, aiptasia anemones, and so on, and remove them.

  • Inspect the rocks for any dead or dying organisms that may be turning black or have a whitish film to them, and remove them. This pertains to algae, and sessile (attached) invertebrates, such as sponges, soft corals, tube worms, and so on.

  • After each piece of rock is inspected and cleaned, dip it into the bucket or container of saltwater you set aside earlier, swish it around to remove any loose debris, and then put it into the curing set up you prepared before starting this procedure.

  • Now let it cure. Note by Live Rock, Inc. DON’T BE IN A HURRY. YOU HAVE GOTTEN THIS FAR AND THE WORK IS DONE.
What You Need:

Live Rock
Prepared rock curing set up.
Clean, plastic spray bottle.
Saltwater.
A large piece of plastic, or newspaper
A pair of gloves.
Tweezers, or other items for removing things from the rocks.
Large bucket or plastic container


How To Cure Live Rock in a Separate Curing Set Up

The breakdown of the organisms that reside on uncured and even cured Live Rock contributes to the accumulation of excess organic matter in any saltwater aquarium system. In turn this will cause a build-up or spike in ammonia, which you do not want. To help avoid this and other problems that can arise, here is a standard method for curing Live Rock BEFORE placing it into an established or a newly set up aquarium for use. It's easy to do, beneficial, and takes just a few items to set it all up.

Difficulty : Easy

Time Required : Varies

Here's How:

  • Any type of plastic container or an aquarium that is suitable in size to fit the amount of Live Rock you have to cure can be used for this project.

  • Fill the curing container to a suitable level from the top with the saltwater. If you did not make-up and mix saltwater ahead of time in a separate container, you can do it right inside the curing container itself.

  • Insert and run a heater set to the desired temperature.

  • up and run a water/powerhead pump in the water for circulation and oxygenation.

  • If Allow the water to adjust to the set heater temperature, and check the pH level. Make adjustments if needed.

  • Once the saltwater is ready, turn off the heater and water pump, remove and save about 1/2 of the water in the container. This is done because the water level will rise when the rocks are placed into the container.

  • Before placing the Live Rock into the curing container you have set up, is best to pre-clean the rocks first. By taking the time to do this, it will help speed-up the curing time.

  • After each piece of rock is pre-cleaned, place it into the curing container.

  • When all the rocks are in the curing container, refill it to a suitable level from the top using the saved saltwater, and then turn the heater and water pump back on.

  • Now let it cure. This means doing nothing else but occasionally siphoning out dead or dying organic matter that has settled on the bottom, and topping off the water when needed. There is no set time frame for this process to run its course. Because many variables apply here, such as the quality of the Live Rock, the amount of growth that may die off in the process, how uncured or cured it was when you started, and so on, it may take only a few days, or say a month.

  • So how do you know when the Live Rock is "cured"? While curing is taking place you can periodically test the ammonia level, as well as for the appearance of nitrite. When these tests' result in zero readings, it's ready. However, the simplest way to tell is by smell. The curing process can be a very smelly one, so when the water no longer exudes an odor, viola, it should be done!
Tips:
  • To help avoid unwanted algae blooms that may occur during the Live Rock curing process, lighting is not used.

  • Because curing Live Rock can often be a rather smelly process, if at all possible you may want to cure it in an area where any odor that may result will not present a problem, such as in a garage or basement. However, be sure it is a place where the room temperature can be regulated, especially if doing this during winter.=

  • If it is impractical for you to cure Live Rock in a separate curing set up, it can be cured in the main aquarium before you start aquascaping the tank

  • Whether you purchased cured or uncured Live Rock, it can be placed directly into the aquarium for use if you choose to do so. However, if you do this and opt to bypass the curing process, it is strongly recommended to at least preclean the rocks first.
What You Need:

Curing Container
Live Rocks
Saltwater
Heater
Water/Powerhead Pump
Siphoning Tool/Piece of Hose
Ammonia Test Kit
Nitrite Test Kit
Patience!

If you have not yet purchased Live Rock you are going to put in your aquarium, now is the time to buy and prepare it for use, which can be done in several ways:


Option 1) The standard method is to fully cure Live Rock is in a separate curing setup.

Option 2 ) If you intend to "cycle" the aquarium with Live Rock, are adding it to an established system, or just don't want to wait, of course you can opt to bypass the rock curing process altogether and put the Live Rock directly into the aquarium and start aquascaping. However, if you do so it is recommended to "at least" take the time to do any one of the following things first!
  • • Preclean the rocks before placing them into the aquarium.

    • Preclean the rocks, and allow a few days curing time in a separate curing setup.

    • Preclean the rocks and place them into the aquarium, BUT allow the rocks to fully cure or at least give it a few days curing time in this way first, before you aquascape the tank.
How To Cure Live Rock in a New Saltwater Aquarium

Curing Live Rock in a separate curing setup is the best way to handle it before placing it into a new saltwater system you are just starting. Unfortunately this is not always practical for everyone, as you may not have the extra room or equipment to do so. If the only container you have to work with to cure Live Rock in is the tank you are setting up as your main aquarium, here is a simple way to cure it inside the aquarium, preferably before you add substrate and start aquascaping the rocks.

Difficulty : Easy
Time Required : Varies

Here's How:

If the aquarium already has saltwater in it, and/or the system is set up and running, first turn off all the equipment, remove any devices that may get in the way, and take out and save about 1/2 of the saltwater in the tank. (The reason for this is that the water level will rise when the rocks are put into the tank.)

If the aquarium is empty, you can either fill it about 1/2 full with prepared saltwater, or mix the saltwater solution in the tank if you need to, then remove about 1/2 of the saltwater when it is ready for use.

Preclean the rocks, place them into the aquarium, and top-off the water level if needed. Only turn on the heater(s), and water/powerhead pump for oxygenation and circulation.

Let the rocks cure! This means you DO NOT add live sand or other substrate, livestock, or anything else until the curing process is complete. So how do you know when it is "cured"?

You can test for ammonia and nitrite, and when you get zero readings, the process has reached completion. Often you can also tell by smelling the water. If there is no odor to the water, it usually means the process is done.

While the rocks are curing, periodically siphon out any accumulated organic matter off the bottom of the tank, top-off the water level when needed, and keep an eye out and remove any unwanted animals or organisms that may have been missed when the rocks where precleaned.

Once the curing process is complete, siphon out any debris off the bottom of the tank, and do a substantial water change.

Tips:
  • This procedure is best done using a bare tank. Why? Because when die-off occurs, the dead or dying organic matter that creates ammonia can more easily be removed as it accumulates, which in turn helps to shorten the rock curing or cycling time. This also prevents excess organic matter from building up in the substrate, which can lead to high nitrate and problems with brown diatom and other type algae blooms during and after the aquarium cycling process.

  • Of course you can opt to bypass curing the Live Rock altogether, but it is suggested to consider allowing the rocks to cure for at least a few days in this way, before adding the substrate and aquascaping the rocks.

  • If you decide not to first cure the rocks, but intend to add the substrate and Live Rock to cycle the aquarium with, it is recommended to at least take the time to preclean the rocks before using them. This will help to eliminate some of the build-up of organic matter that will result from die-off, and you can inspect the rocks for any undesirable critters that may be present and remove them.

  • You should consider raising the rocks up off the bottom of the tank for this procedure. It will provide more water circulation underneath and around the rocks, and makes it much easier to siphon out the dead or dying organic matter that can build-up during the curing process.
What You Need:

A Set Up Saltwater Aquarium
Live Rocks
Ammonia Test Kit
Nitrite Test Kit

These common sense instructions when properly followed will give you the best chance of completing your rock installation with the least amount of complication. It is now up to you the aquarium owner to follow these instructions or your instincts to have the best possible transition of Live Rock or Dry Rock into your aquarium.

Live Rock Inc. and LiveRockUSA understand that patience and following instruction is very important in this process. It is up to you alone to complete the curing and installation process. Live Rock Inc. cannot accept any responsibility for any loss suffered as your installation is completely out of our control. We are here for you to answer any questions you may have at any time.