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Curing Live Rock

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How to Cure Live Rock

How to cure you Live Aquarium Rock by OCReef

Why Cure Live Rock?

Live rock must be properly cured to create a healthy marine environment. The bio-diversity found on all transported live rock undergo some degree of natural die-off, especially delicate or damaged fauna and flora. As these encrusting organisms go through this process, they produce a large amount of waste materials. Without proper curing, pollutants and toxic compounds such as ammonia are released into the water and compromise the health of your entire aquarium system. Whether pre-cured or uncured, it is crucial to never introduce any live rock to an established aquarium containing fish, corals, or other marine animals unless it has been properly cured. Curing living rock varies with your aquarium application; it can take between (2-4 weeks).

Why should I use Live Rock?

Live rock comes from tropical ocean regions around the world; its porous and open structure allows the rock to host a wide array of beneficial bacteria, and micro-organisms, as well as provide a stable base for coral growth. Simply put, "Live Rock creates a natural home for you, your fish and invertebrates.

Curing your Live Rock

Curing un-cured rock may be done inside a large plastic container/bin or inside the newly set up aquarium. We recommend using as large of a water container as you possibly can, however curing the rock inside the new aquarium is best overall; in this manner 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, which can lead to high nitrate and problems with brown diatom and other type algae blooms during and after the aquarium cycling process. It's not recommended to have any substrate inside the tank, during the curing process, as nutrients absorbed into the substrates will continue to elevate, and possibly extend the curing time.

Equipment necessary to cure the rock properly are as follows:

  • Protein Skimmer: A protein skimmer will remove organic waste from the aquarium before it can break down into ammonia.
  • Powerhead Pumps: Run a couple of powerheads, for water circulation. You want strong circulation, so the more the better.
  • Heater: The bacteria and micro-organisms found on the rock should be kept in the same temperature range as your fish and corals. Recommended is 78-80° F.
  • Lights: If the rock is being cured inside of an aquarium, we recommend no more than (4-5 hours) a day, this is to help reduce the occurrence of nuisance algae.
Don't forget! Do your water changes as needed. More than likely large water changes of 20-30% will be needed every few days, however water changes will be needed at least once a week during the curing process. Siphon off all dead debris that you find and pull off any dead sponges, plants, etc. We do not recommend scrubbing the rock, unless you see obvious dead spots on the rock itself. During this time, we advise carefully observing the rock for any signs of nuisance hitchhikers such as large bristle worms, crabs and mantis shrimp. It's much easier to catch and remove them at this stage, then later on in your carefully arranged show tank!

Helpful Tips for Controlling Unwanted Pests:

Submerse the new rock into a bucket filled with saltwater with a specific gravity of 1.035 to 1.040 for one minute. Any invertebrates including mantis shrimp, bristle worms, and crabs will quickly evacuate from the rock and into the bucket of water.

Remove the live rock from the bucket and sort through the invertebrates in the bucket. Determine those you want to add to your system and discard unwanted pests. Bristle worms still attached to the rock can be removed with a pair of needle-nosed pliers or tweezers. This technique can be used to remove unwanted pests before or after curing your newly arrived live rock.

Test the Water

Throughout the curing process you will want to test frequently for ammonia and nitrites. You will know that the live rock has cured once there are no further ammonia spikes and your nitrite levels start dropping rapidly to zero. You can also do the "sniff" test, cured live rock should smell fresh and odorless, if there is any decaying decomposition odors then the rock will need to cure longer.

If you closely monitor and control the elements and steps mentioned above, during the (2-4 week) curing period and run the lights, coralline algae, plants, polyps, copepods, and other organisms will begin to take shape and thrive in and around your new live rock.

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