Claire Corlett

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Natural curing live rock for a saltwater fish tank | Reef FAQs

Natural curing live rock for a saltwater fish tank | Reef FAQs

(upbeat music) – Today on BRStv Reef FAQs we answer, ‘How do I cure live rock naturally?’ (up-tempo music) Hi, I’m Ryan, your host of BRStv Reef FAQs is all about quick, straight to the point answers to those questions
reefers ask all the time. Today, we answer a pretty common question. How do I cure live rock naturally? Meaning no harsh chemicals or acids. First, there is a difference
between curing and cycling, and they are commonly confused. Cycling is all about populating
the surface of the rock with bacteria, which will filter the tank. Curing is the process of
getting undesirable organics. Like, dead algae, dead
sponges, microfauna, and other undesirable pollutants off the surface of the rock. And getting it ready for
a saltwater reek tank. Well, in some cases cycling and curing can be done at the same time. Today’s focus is directly
focused on curing rock. The three main methods; natural,
bleach, and acid curing. Today is focused on the natural cure, and we’ll answer three
direct questions today. What is a natural cure? When is it appropriate to cure rock? And then how to do it? A natural live rock cure is
about what it sounds like, done naturally by dropping
some rock in a bin, most often without light, and waiting for the organics to decay. Over time the dead algae and other desirable organics in the rock will fall off and breakdown. Essentially leaving only organic-free, fairly clean rock behind. This natural method is
certainly the easiest method of cleaning rock and getting it ready for starting your reef tank. And done right a natural cure can also speed up the cycle time later. So, when is a natural cure
like this appropriate? Well, that largely depends on the type of rock that you’re using. With four major categories. Actual wet live rock. Dry rock from the ocean. Mined dry rock. And man made dry rock. I have direct advice
for each type of rock. If you spent the money
to buy wet live rock, which is increasingly rare
and expensive these days. You probably did it because
you want the natural bacteria; coralline algae, microfauna, sponges, and other organisms
which come on the rock. Some of which will make the
transition to your tank, and some of which will die. In this case, curing the rock would mean intention to let some of that die off. In this case, let’s say a
vast majority of reefers will not cure wet live rock because they don’t want to lose the coralline algae coverage and some of the other
potential life in the rock. When there’s no food source or light. So, the big question is
can you cure wet live rock with a light and food source additions? Well, I guess you can but at that point you are more or less
just running a reef tank at that point, or cycling
tank, and not strictly curing. That said, some reefers will absolutely buy wet live rock and cure it in heated, circulated water but no light. Many organisms will not
survive that process, but it’s arguably one of the most stable ways to start a reef tank with the appropriate
bacterial culture started. No detectable organics
or related pollutants and minimal pests. That said, my suggestion for most reefers who paid for wet live
rock and probably want the desirable elements like
coralline algae coverage. Unless there’s tons of obvious die-off that needs to be dealt with, Just skip the curing in the rock and move on to cycling the tank, and let it stabilize before adding coral. In that case, your organic
organisms that don’t make it will break down the actual tank and then have to be removed via
filtration or water changes. But you can also benefit
from utilitarian fish and cleanup crews during that time, but you will keep most of the
life that you paid for alive. Next up, if you picked up dry live rock that originally came from
the ocean or used rock from other tanks that’s
been allowed to dry out. I would call curing mission critical. Rock from the ocean or
previously used rock has all kinds of dead organics on it which if not removed
will yellow the water, smell terrible, and absolutely add unnecessary nitrate and phosphate. None of which is a good
way to start a new tank. So, in this case I’d
absolutely cure the rock to eliminate the organics and get the tank off to the right start. Next, dry mined rock is by far the most common rock used these days because it’s cheap, clean,
and readily available. The most common option being
Marco’s Reef Saver rock. This rock is basically
a million year old reef Made of calcium carbonate and it has all these cool holes created in it by low pH aquifers in the ground. In all of our tests we’ve never been able to detect any
organics, or any nitrates, or phosphate source in this type of rock. So, I would not bother with a
prolonged natural cure time, because it’s probably a waste of time. However, I would soak
the rock a week or so in freshwater just to loosen
up any debris and clean it. But that’s about as much
effort as most people will put into mined rock
like Marco’s Reef Saver. The last one is man made artificial rocks like those used for the BRS160. The most popular at the
moment being real reef rock. These rocks are increasingly popular because they start purple and look like an established
tank much quicker. With most of the artificial rocks I’d recommend soaking the rocks for a prolong period time to make sure anything from the manufacturing
process is long gone. However, in the case of real reef rock they’ve clearly state it’s been allowed to cure in freshwater
for a minimum of 12 weeks before being transferred
into the saltwater bins for another 12 to 16 weeks,
before being packaged. In the case of real reef, again, I wouldn’t be concerned about organics and curing might just be
a bucket of salt water, and giving each piece a good swish before putting it in the tank. Okay, so you heard all of that and decided a natural
rock cure is worthwhile and most notably because you’re using dry ocean based rock or used
dry rock from a previous tank. Or because you’re using wet live rock and willing to allow some of the desirable organisms to die-off. In exchange for arguably
the most stable form of rock you can start a reef tank with. So, how do you do it? The process is remarkably simple. You’re just going to soak the rock for four to 12 weeks in
salt water with no light. Until all the organics breakdown. That said, we have some solid tips on where to do it and how
to speed that process up. The process can be done in
almost any reef safe container. Ranging from the aquarium itself. To a Rubbermaid BRUTE trashcan. To something like a horse trough. It might also be a good time
to do a bit of a double duty, and get a large open top water container. Which after the curing process can be used to mix and store salt water. The only real important part is to find a way to black out your container with a lid or any kind
of thick black plastic. Like plastic sheeting
from a hardware store. Just try to keep the plastic
out of the water itself. I say complete blackout
because we want to eliminate as many photosynthetic
algae and bacterial pests related to new tanks as possible. That said, it’s important
that the container isn’t hermetically sealed. We need some amount of gas exchange with the surrounding room. Filled the container
with saltwater and rock, and that’s about all there is to it. The process should be
completely done within 12 weeks and then ready for your tank. That said, there are three main ways to speed that up and make
it closer to four weeks. First, add flow or some
type of circulation with an inexpensive power head. Well circulated water
will promote the bacteria to rapidly multiply faster
and break down the organics. And just do a better job as well as flush away the already
broken down material. Next, is heat the water
to 78 degrees or so, which is near where you’ve
likely keep the tank. Bacteria just reproduce
and populate the tank much faster at higher temps. Maintaining higher
temperatures during the cure will drastically decrease the total time. Lastly, you don’t need to wait for the populations to build on their own. You can add the bacteria yourself and even boost a specific
strain for the intended purpose. For instance, many reefers
use DrTim’s One and Only, as well as MicroBacter
7 to cycle the tank. However, more appropriate for curing is more aggressive
strains of bacteria like DrTim’s Waste-Away or MicroBacter Clean, which is more aggressive
scavenging bacteria. In the case of MicroBacter Clean it literally says microbial
culture and enzyme blend designed to clean surfaces of live rock. I believe MicroBacter Clean
is also dormant bacteria, which is more stable and less susceptible to shipping and weather
conditions than live versions. Identifying the right
tool for the right job and using it will absolutely
show in the results. In this case, well
circulated, heated saltwater with a bacterial boost
specific to its intended use will not only show in how well the natural curing process works but also how fast the process plays out. The only other thing I’d suggest is running a bag of activated carbon. This process of breaking down organics can stink pretty bad,
and a few books of carbon can completely solve that. So, I’d do that as well. So, when is a rock curing done for sure? Well, the best way is to test either when nitrates or
phosphates stops rising. If you want to be 100% sure
do a 100% water change, and then make sure they stay zero. So, that wraps up today’s question, but we have a great BRStv
Investigates episode on the best method of curing live rock. If you want to see some data. And we also have a quick video on how much rock you need for your tank. And you can also click that tab to learn how to get up to $500 bucks in free reefing gear, order
refunds, and free carts are just one of the
preferred reefer perks.

20 comments on “Natural curing live rock for a saltwater fish tank | Reef FAQs

  1. Have some old rock from an Aquarium years ago, has been sitting outside for years not sure if any weed killer or pest control had been sprayed on it , with this method take care of that as well?

  2. Would you please tell me what the purple and the green soft corals are in the upper right section of the tank behind Ryan.

  3. Never tried Marcos rock but other mined dry rocks have been known to leach significant amounts of phosphate. I gave mine vinegar and bleach baths and they still put out phosphate. I've been curing them in fresh and now salt water for 2 months and they still leach phosphate after numerous 100% water changes. 😵

  4. No need to waste salt cure your rocks in fresh water. The only downside is the rock will still need to go through a cycle.

  5. Guys, can this be done outside during the summer? Temps in the yard might get to 100 degrees. What do you think? I would too off evaporated water weekly or more often if needed but being that it's covered (not tight) it should keep it to minimum.

  6. I am researching to be ready when I begin my build and I am a little confused… I keep reading about how if you buy live rock you could end up with pests and diseases so a lot of people don't go that route but also people want live rock to have the benefits of rock already established. My question is; is it possible to get live rock and quarantine it so that the pests/diseases die off yet the good organisms stay alive? (sort of like when you buy a fish/coral and you quarantine it prior to adding to the tank). Thanks, I love your videos!! You guys put out top notch videos and I know I am getting good information when I watch.

  7. My tank broke 4 days ago and I transferred all my rocks to a trashcan with heater, filter, and powerhead. The water already smells terrible, reading 2-3 ppm ammonia, even after 2 50% water changes. My new red sea 750 tank comes in 4 days… do I need to start over? I was hoping to put the rock directly in the new tank along with my livestock (currently in another container)… but I'm guessing I need to cure it first? I would hate to lose out on that 6 year old bio-filter 🙁

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