Live rock is a wonderful bio-filtration media. The shapes of the individual rocks are attractive and very useful in the construction of an ‘open’ reef structure. There is a disadvantage however, and that is cost.
Though different types of live rock vary in weight, this weight causes transportation to be expensive. In addition, the rock is usually transported uncured, and further cost is added for the curing process (curing is where organisms that are dead are dying are cleared from the live rock so that pollution will not occur).
Another downside to live rock is the collection itself. Hopefully collection is done responsibly and only rubble and other loose rock is collected, and nothing is prised from the reef itself. There are companies that are creating live rock in the wild by leaving non-reef rocks in the sea near a wild reef until the rock is seeded. This has to be applauded, but the cost of transportation is still there.
There is a way that hobbyists can get around the high cost of natural live rock and that is to make it themselves. There are two ways to do this.
The first way involves the purchase of live rock from the retailer. However, the quantity is ¼ to ½ of what would have been purchased if the aquarium were to be furnished with all natural live rock. When the live rock goes into the aquarium, the shortfall is made up with inert porous ordinary rock. Given time, this inert rock will become live – bacteria will take up residence and other marine life will also do the same. It is a very satisfying process but is slow and that certain virtue is required – patience. 6 months plus is the time scale being looked at. If the aquarist is to use live rock as the sole bio-filtration method, for a period care is needed to make sure there is sufficient bio capacity for the livestock. It could be that if the aquarist is concerned about the size of the bio load a canister filter could be incorporated to assist for a while. When the canister filter becomes redundant it can be used for mechanical filtration.
The second way is to make the rocks themselves. This is not as difficult, or perhaps as silly, as it could sound. For this method a link is provided so that the idea can be investigated:
When at the website, expand the ‘How To Pages’ on the left hand side list (click on the + sign). Then click on ‘Aragonite’ or ‘Aragocrete’. A list will appear and a selection can be made.
It would really be good to view a healthy, vibrant fully stocked captive reef and be able to say ‘I made that, entirely, A to Z.’