The important role of live rock and sand in a marine aquarium is something that most beginner aquarists really dont understand
So here it is for you guys in black and white!
Writing all the content for my ebook “Ultimate Secrets To Saltwater Fish and Invertebrates” really reminded me of the huge benefits of live rock and sand. Basically for you to recreate a small slice of the ocean in your home, you need a myriad of beneficial micro-organisms and tiny invertebrates that are a crucial to the cycling of the ocean eco-system. This is the reason why early saltwater aquariums (like in the 60’s or something!) ended up having all the marine life dying; especially corals, which people began thinking could simply not survive in captivity. The problem was the lack of these important organisms found in live rock or live sand.
And right there is where live rock and sand (basically sand with micro-organisms and invertebrates living in it, can be used with live rock as well) come in, you see live rock is taken from rubble zones of ocean reefs it is very porous and in these pores live micro-organisms and tiny invertebrates that break down the waste products created by the life-cycles in the ocean. So essentially to breakdown the waste products in your aquarium, it only makes sense that you would require the assistance of such organisms. So live rock and sand is fundamentally the biological filtration agent of the oceans (and your aquarium). Additional to biological filtration, live rock also gives your marine life a place to hide and looks natural and appealing in an aquarium. The encrusting macro-algaes that grow over live rock also further filter the water by taking out nitrates and phosphates and adding oxygen.
But wait! before you go hurling chunks of live rock and handfuls of sand into your aquarium, this stuff needs to be cured before it comes into contact with your marine life (or else the decomposition process can harm your marine life and throw out your water quality by adding ammonia and debris). Curing initiates the nitrogen cycle and takes about 5 weeks to do it properly, you want to initiate the nitrogen cycle so the micro-organisms break down the waste products of your marine life which if left unchecked will build up to toxic levels. During this process you will want to change the water about once a week, replacing 25% at a time. A good rule of thumb is to use 1.5 pounds of rock for every gallon of water. Remember to check with the seller of the live rock to see whether the curing has already been done, if you have to do it yourself it may seem like a lot of effort but it is well worth it. Your marine aquarium will be a much more healthy and efficient eco-system which a lot less toxic nitrates in the water.
To finish, Live rock and/or Live sand are not essential for a saltwater aquarium equipped with commercially available biological filtration. But in my opinion the huge amounts of benefits these natural substrates provide make them a no brainer for stable, good quality water and a natural looking aquarium.
For more information on live rock and sand, check out “Ultimate Secrets To Saltwater Fish and Invertebrates”.