There are a couple of different choices for outfitting a saltwater aquarium: cured live rock and aquacultured live coral. By no means do you have to limit yourself to one or the other, but these are the two major additions to a saltwater fishtank that can turn a plain old fishtank into a symbiotic ecosystem.
So what is the difference between the two? First things first: you must make certain that both cured live rock and live coral were farm-raised, rather than plucked from the wild. This is what you’ll find at Coral Reef Farms. It has been shown that snorkelers can severely damage a coral reef system just by touching the reef. Imagine, then, what could happen if pieces of the coral and rock were ripped away. At Coral Reef Farms, all our live rock and coral are grown in a separate habitat.
Furthermore, live rock and coral taken from a reef can be rife with bacteria and other parasites that can compromise the longevity of your saltwater fishtank. At the same time, some bacteria can be helpful. Just as there is good and bad bacteria in the human body, there can be good and bad bacteria in live rock. Cured live rock ensures that the live rock will only contain bacteria that are beneficial to marine aquarium life. Good bacteria can act as a water filter.
These microscopic organisms are what make the live rock “Live.” Live rock is not a living system like corral. Coral itself grows as it gets older—with the right conditions. Think of live rock like a cave that houses a number of different organisms. Some crustaceans and other life may be stuck to the rock but the rock itself is not alive. This is the main difference between cured live rock and farm-raised coral.
Live rock may, in fact, be dead coral. In the ocean, live rock may consist of coral that has broken away from the reef and stopped growing—other organisms then move in and make the rock their home. In a farm-raised environment, live rock “growers” control just which organisms and bacteria grow in the rock.
A problem arises because people think live rock is safe for the taking. After all, you are not disturbing a coral reef by taking a rock from the ocean floor. Still, you are disturbing a delicate ecosystem that may just disturb the ecosystem of your fishtank. As such, you will be much better served to purchase live rock that has been cultivated in a controlled environment.
The purpose of live rock is two fold. Live rock is both ornamental and introduces good bacteria and microscopic animal life which can improve the quality of the water. It’s like a living, breathing water filter—affecting the amount of nitrates, alkalinity, ammonia, and other factors that affect the health of the water. Our cured live rock is 100 percent safe to use right away.