The term "live rock" is often misunderstood by beginning saltwater aquarium owners. The rock itself is not alive. Instead, it houses thousands of tiny marine organisms that are alive. The rock, which is made form calcium carbonate, the remnants of dead coral, provides the perfect place for these new organisms to grow and thrive. Live rock makes a wonderful decoration in your aquarium, but it actually serves a much more important purpose.
Live rock is the main biologic filter in a saltwater aquarium. This means the organisms it houses are responsible for keeping the water quality clean. The ammonia, nitrate, and phosphate in your aquarium, which can kill your fish, are all consumed by the bacteria, algae, and other organisms in the live rock. This makes live rock a crucial addition to the healthy saltwater tank.
Adding Live Rock
Before you add the live rock to your aquarium, it must be cured, because some of the organisms on the rock will die during the transportation process, and these dead bodies will pollute your tank. You can tell that the rock needs to be cured by its smell. If it smells bad, it needs to be cured. Keep in mind that some live rocks are cured before they are sold, but always check before adding the rock to the tank. To cure live rock, place it in an unlit, heated, filtered aquarium for one month, after stripping the rock of any dead or dying organisms. Then, put the rock in your aquarium. You know the rock has fully cured when it does not smell rotten.
Live Rock Care
Live rock does not require any specialized care. However, you do want to avoid too much light exposure, as this can stress the microorganisms. Keep your tank on a 12-hour light schedule, and add iodine and calcium to the tank. Other than that, simply keep an eye on the water quality, and enjoy the beauty of your aquarium.