4 Best Cheap Reef Rocks For Saltwater Tanks

cheap reef rock saltwater tanks

Reef rocks can be very expensive and if you have a large saltwater tank, it can be costly just to get started.

There is a huge price difference when comparing live rock and dry rock.

Live rock can cost 4-5X more to purchase and there are some positives and negatives to using live rock.

If you are on a budget, buying dry rock will save you money and has some advantages.

There are many different types of reef rocks to choose from and certain ones are better than others.

Marine Depot and Amazon are great place to look for dry rock as there are plenty of options and price ranges to suit your needs.

In this article, I will show you 4 of the best options for reef rocks that won’t break the bank.

I have personally used each of these items and will show you my reviews with the pros and cons of each.

  1. Caribsea Liferock
  2. Caribsea South Sea Baserock
  3. AquaMaxx Dry Marco Rocks
  4. Caribsea Liferock Shapes

#1. Caribsea Liferock

Caribsea Liferock is my number 1 choice for a few reasons. It is very popular and natural looking. One of the most important qualities to look for when choosing reef rock is its porocity.

Caribsea Liferock has 50% void space and is very porous. This will provide plenty of space to house billions of water-purifying bacteria. I’m also a huge fan of the purple color on the rocks. This gives it a natural Coraline algae look which in my opinion looks great.

This rock is clean and is 97% calcium carbonate with minor and trace elements such as strontium, magnesium, and barium. This is pure aragonite-bearing rock.

LifeRock is infused with bacteria which results in a reduction of traditional cycling times.

Main points:

  • 50% void space
  • Different sizes available
  • Natural look
  • Easy to aquascape
  • No need for curing rock

Actual customer reviews from Amazon:

“Great rock, healthy, beautiful coloration, very carefully packed and shipped…hardly any broken pieces!”

“Packed really well. The rock looks amazing and I was given a great selection of shapes and sizes. The rock is very light and is nice and porous. I highly recommend it.”

Pros:

  • Great quality for the cost
  • Very porous
  • Easy to stack and aquascape
  • Natural-looking
  • Infused with bacteria

Cons:

  • Some complaints of broken pieces
  • Purple color can fade over time

Check out today’s price of the Caribsea Liferock on Amazon here.

#2. Caribsea South Sea Baserock

The Caribsea baserock is different from the Liferock for a few reasons but the main one being it’s appearance. It is not purple. This is a white rock and although you don’t get to see the natural Coraline algae look right away, this rock will grow Coraline over time and it will look great.

Read: 5 Best cheap reef LED lighting on Amazon

You can use this rock right away without curing. It is one of the best rocks for making large aquascapes. The pieces are a nice size and can easily be broken up if you need to.

If you are looking for a rock to provide a solid foundation to build on, the South Sea baserock is a perfect choice. You can easily add shelf rock or branch rock onto it forming really nice aquascape designs.

Main Points:

  • Many different sizes and shapes available
  • Great rock for Coraline algae to grow
  • No curing required
  • Great rock to use as baserock

Actual customer reviews from Amazon:

Excellent lightweight pourous rock. I have used this rock for two previous reef builds. Over 3 years of being in the tank with corals and coralline growth, the rock is still stable. It does not dissolve or crumble.

I work at an Aquarium store and I have to say I am so far super impressed with this rock shipment. It was an EXCELLENT price for dry rock.

Pros:

  • Easy to work with
  • Great price
  • Easy to drill for aquascaping

Cons:

  • Dusty and can cloud water

Check out today’s price of the Caribsea South Sea baserock on Amazon here.

#3. AquaMaxx Marco Rock

This eco-friendly rock is 100% natural and is cleaned and dry to ensure no hitchhikers and pests enter your tank. It will also not leach any contaminants into your water. It is not a man-made rock and is guaranteed to be reef safe.

The AquaMaxx Eco-rock is very porous and can be added into your tank right away. It does not affect the nitrogen cycle so you can add it into a brand new tank or a well established system.

This is a calcium carbonate limestone-structured aragonite dry rock which is great for fish-only tanks or reef tanks.

Main Points:

  • Guaranteed to not leach pests or algae into your tank
  • Very porous allowing for plenty of surface area to grow bacteria
  • Excellent for aquascaping and adding coral frags to the rock
  • Eco-friendly
  • Available in 3 different box sizes
  • Allows for hiding places for fish and invertebrates

Actual customer reviews from Marine Depot:

“I wanted to setup a tank using dry rock to avoid hitchhikers and the high cost of live rock – this stuff is perfect when you are on a budget and filled up my Evo 15.5 perfecly.”

“The box of rock i received is very very porous no small pieces just some dust at the bottom of the box. Came out of the ground in florida no critters no hitchhikers a clean fresh start and over time it will get seeded with pink coraline from a snail shell or a aquacultured coral etc.. its awesome”

Pros:

  • More volume per pound
  • Stackable
  • Great price

Cons:

  • A few complaints of too many smaller pieces being shipped
aquamaxx dry marco rock

#4. Caribsea Liferock Shapes

The Caribsea Liferock shapes is very similar to the Liferock mentioned earlier. The biggest difference is this rock is shaped in various forms to create unique and realistic ocean environments.

Every box of this rock will be different but expect to receive a combination of arches, caves, and tunnels. Keep in mind there is no way to guarantee a specific type in each box. One box may have an arch piece while another box doesn’t.

The Liferock shape rocks are infused with living, spored bacteria. It is very porous and superb for hosting beneficial bacteria.

Main Points:

  • 50% void space
  • Different shapes and sizes available
  • Natural look
  • Easy to stack and aquascape
  • No need for curing rock

Actual customer reviews from Marine Depot:

“Impressed with the The shapes I got and it was 4 lbs more then I ordered which was great!” 

“I swear by Carib sea live rock and these shapes makes it easy to make cool aquascapes!”

Marine Depot Aquarium Supplies

Pros:

  • Great quality for the cost
  • Very porous
  • Unique shapes
  • Natural-looking
  • Infused with bacteria

Cons:

  • The only concern is not getting the exact pieces you want in the box.

David

David has been keeping saltwater tanks for over 15 years. Learning and writing about all things related to saltwater aquariums is a passion and there is so much to learn and enjoy.

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