Live Rock Or Artificial Decorations Which Is Your Best?

There are two different looks and ways to set up your aquarium. The current trend is to setup new saltwater aquariums using Live Rock (LR). The other option is to decorate with dead corals or man-made decorations which can be removed easily for cleaning. So you will need to decide if you prefer the pristine, colorful look of artificial plants and corals, or if you want the natural look of the ocean.

The natural look of Live Rock is the main reason people choose to use it. While it is aesthetically a great move, using natural rock also offers many healthful benefits for the fish. Whichever your budget can stand, both methods offer some of the same benefits. Though algae grows on Live Rock (as it does on artificial decorations) it is more natural-looking and aesthetically pleasing when growing on Live Rock as opposed to plastic, silk or resin decorations. Live Rock, unlike its artificial counterpart, does not need to be removed for cleaning. There are also fish and invertebrates that feed on algae, benefiting the fish and keeping algae under control. Live Rock is usually very porous, with plenty of surface area allowing beneficial bacteria to colonize and break down waste. The rock can also be stacked to provide hiding places for both fish and invertebrates.

One key to success with saltwater aquariums is to keep the inhabitants as relaxed as possible. Whether you choose dead corals and artificial decor to decorate or Live Rock, you can create a comfortable environment for your fish.

Initially, your aquarium will be pristine and beautiful. Then, as algae grow on the substrate and decor, the aquarium begins to appear dirty. In order to keep your aquarium looking beautiful, the decorations will need to be removed and cleaned. During this process, fish and invertebrates will be disturbed because they use the decorations to setup territories. When the decorations are put back in the aquarium the struggle for territories begins again.

As you can see, Live Rock has many advantages over artificial decor; but what exactly is Live Rock? As its name suggests, it is rock with living organisms (animals, plants, alga, bacteria, etc.) attached to and growing on and in it. Live Rock is collected from oceans in different parts of the world, from sites in tropical areas such as Fiji, Marshall Islands, Tonga, Bali, Indo-Pacific, etc. Most is named for the area in which it is collected.

Your New Saltwater Aquarium will give you confidence to create your own underwater masterpiece.  Whether you choose artificial decorations or Live Rock, following this guide will help you create immediate success.

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How To Set Up A Saltwater Aquarium With Live Rock

Keeping saltwater fish is a great hobby. Starting out with the fight equipment and information is essential to your success!

  1. Choose Your Aquarium – Start with an aquarium of at least 29 gallons. The larger the aquarium the more stable the environment.
  2. Placing The Aquarium – Choose a location that is out of direct sunlight and away from heating or cooling ducts as well as doorways leading to the outside. Make certain you have an electrical outlet near the aquarium. Finally, choose a room where you spend a lot of time and where you can sit down and enjoy your aquarium.
  3. Leveling Your Aquarium – Use a beam level to level your aquarium. Use shims under the stand at floor level. Once shims are placed under the stand and the tank reads level you are ready to begin filling your aquarium.
  4. Preparing The Aquarium – Using a soft cloth or damp paper towel, wipe down the inside of the aquarium to remove dirt and dust. NEVER use soap or household cleaning agents in or on your aquarium.
  5. Adding Background – The background is attached to the outside back of the aquarium to hide the filter and electrical cords. It adds depth to your tank and creates a pleasing setting.
  6. Adding Filtration – There are several types of filters that can be used with a saltwater live rock with fish aquarium. The most commonly used is a power filter that hangs on the back of the aquarium. Since power filters are the most common and inexpensive filters used we will use a power filter in these steps. If you are using another type of filter, please follow the manufacturer’s directions. Each brand of power filter is slightly different but here are general procedures: Hang the filter on the back of the aquarium. Place the intake tube into the designated slot and place filter media in according manufacturer’s instructions. Do not plug the filter in at this time.
  7. Install Protein Skimmer – Protein skimmers physically remove dissolved organic compounds and other substances from aquarium water. Place the hang-on protein skimmer on the opposite side of the aquarium from the power filter. Do not plug it in at this time!
  8. Install a Power Strip – It is always a safe idea to mount a power strip under the cabinet. Laying a power strip on the floor behind an aquarium stand is risky as there is then the chance that water could spill on it.
  9. Adding Live Rock – Live rock is, as its name suggests, rock with living organisms attached to it.  Use 1 to 2 pounds of “cured” live rock per gallon of aquarium water. Stack rock in a sturdy fashion, yet loosely enough to keep water flowing through it. Leave ½ to ¾ of your substrate open (without rock covering it) to allow healthy water changes.
  10.  Adding Substrate – Aragonite is a beneficial substrate that slowly dissolves and releases buffers to help keep the pH at an ideal level. Add enough substrate to create a 1″ thick layer. Pour aragonite into an open spot on the floor of the aquarium. Then spread it evenly on the bottom of the aquarium.
  11. The Heater – Use a submersible heaters which allows you to set to a specific temperature. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to set and attach your heater. Do not plug the heater in at this point. Set the temperature between 80° and 82°F for the first 4 to 6 weeks (until a biological foundation is established.) Once your aquarium is cycled set the temperature to between 74° and 78°F. Add a thermometer to your aquarium to ensure heater is working properly.
  12. The Power head - Power heads help circulate water and increase the current in the aquarium. They keep water flowing through the live rock. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to attach the power head to your aquarium.
  13.  Adding Water – Most pet and aquarium stores sell a purified premixed saltwater. To ensure your salt level is correct use a hydrometer to test specific gravity and make sure it reads between 1.020 and 1.024. Now add a water conditioner. Test pH and make sure it is between 8.0 and 8.4.  Pour water slowly onto one of the live rocks close to the bottom of the aquarium. Fill the aquarium until the water level is just above the bottom of the aquarium’s frame.
  14. Starting The Equipment – Using a hang on power filter fill the filter compartment with at least a half a cup of water. Plug the filter into an electrical outlet. Water will be drawn up the intake tube and spill back into the aquarium. Now plug in the protein skimmer and the heater.
  15. Placing The Top and Light – Place the strip light on the glass tops, plug it in and turn on the light. The lights should stay on between 6 to 10 hours each day.

Your aquarium is completely setup. Now take a little time to learn a about water quality before you pick up your fish. Saltwater aquariums is a learning journey.  Take your time and enjoy.

To get detail information on setting up a marine or saltwater aquarium, water quality, choosing fish and more visit Your New Saltwater Aquarium

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Stacking Live Rock – Aquascaping Your Aquarium

Aquascaping is decorating an aquarium with plants and rocks to produce a natural or pleasing effect. In a saltwater fish or reef tank you can set rock in piles or you can duplicate rockwork scenes found in the ocean. There are methods to stacking rock to create usable environments for fish and corals.

There are many personal preferences and opinions on how to aquascape with live rock. Some place the rock flat across the bottom of the tank mimicking reef flat zones such as barrier reefs, atolls, fringes, or patch reefs. Others pile up rock in the center of their aquarium like an island mimicking outer reef edges like reef crests also known as shallow or upper reef slopes.

Another option is to stack rock high in the back of the aquarium simulating reef walls also known as fore-reef slopes or deep reef slopes. This style is aesthetically pleasing, allowing the creation of large and/or small caverns for fish to swim through. It is a versatile stacking method providing cliffs and areas on which to stack live corals with regard to specific needs. Corals requiring low light can be placed under a ridge while high light corals can be placed on top. Another benefit to stacking rock in this fashion is that you can spread corals out so that they do not touch each other. Amazingly some corals can sting each other, so if you have aggressive corals you are now able to separate them.

Choose a wide variety of pieces of live rock up to 1 ½ lb. per gallon of water. Separate the pieces into three groups:

Leg pieces (shaped like chair legs or cylinders), longer than they are wide these are used as legs to lift the main portion of the live rock off the bottom of the tank. These pieces should not be so wide as to take up a lot of area on the bottom of the aquarium.

Flat pieces (shaped like platters or plates), are great for bridges, whether parallel or at an incline to provide slopes in the tank. These pieces lie across leg pieces connecting to other pieces creating the look of a reef cliff.

Bulk pieces (large, wide, round-ish pieces sometimes having arms extending from them or curved in crazy directions), make aquascaping creative. Use them as mid-level leg pieces creating 2nd level bridges, or for facial or frontal pieces providing bulk (or reality) to edging and slopes. Or use them as top bridge pieces so that their roundness can provide depth to the aquarium as well as reality to the height (like it’s actually the top of a ridge).

Adding substrate first and placing live rock on top can make structures unstable. Some fish like to burrow and make tunnels and this can cause the rock to tumble.

Stack rock in a sturdy fashion, yet loosely enough to keep water flowing through it. Also leave ½ to ¾ of your substrate open (without rock covering it). In shallow sand beds, less than ½” thick, leaving the substrate open allows for healthy water changes that pull out dirt, organics and other waste products. If you stack the rock flat across the bottom of the tank or in the island fashion it may be difficult to extract waste from the substrate.

Whichever style of rock formation you choose here are a few rules to follow:

· Try to keep as much of the substrate open as possible.

· Make sure the rocks are stable. Consider using Aquarium epoxy

· Build caves to allow fish to feel relaxed.

· Use the rocks to hide filter parts, heaters and to create a more natural look.

Have fun with decorating, and give yourself lots of shelves to place corals later if you choose. Remember, nothing is set in stone so you can always make changes!

For more expert advice on setting up a marine or saltwater aquarium, water quality and great saltwater starter fish visit Your New Saltwater Aquarium

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