Best Dry Rock For Reef Tanks
This is the ultimate guide to the best dry rock for reef tanks.
If you are starting up a new saltwater reef tank, you might be thinking about buying some dry rock for aquascaping. Over the years, I have set up new tanks using dry rock and live rock. There are some pros and cons to using both which I will explain.
It’s important to note that not all dry rock is the same. They can be different sizes and shapes, different weights, some are more porous than others, and there will be price differences between the types. Some rocks are better than others when it comes to building an aquascape in the tank.
You will want to choose your rock wisely for a number of reasons. Consider the following:
- How many pounds of rock do you need?
- Are you looking to build a base or stacking?
- Do you need a flat shelf shaped rock?
- Are you looking for branching rock?
- What is your budget?
- Are you looking for a specific type or color?
- How porous is the rock?
Dry rock vs Live rock – what should you use?
When starting a new saltwater tank, you will have a decision to make. Should you use dry rock or live rock? There are advantages and disadvantages to both.
If I have the option of using live rock, that’s what I normally choose. It really is a personal preference. But if you don’t have that option, then using dry rock is fine too.
Benefits of using live rock:
- Great way to cycle a new tank fast
- Mature and natural look
- Some rock will come with Coraline algae which many people love
- Beneficial marine life in the rock
- Avoid the nuisance algae stage
The biggest issue with using live rock to start a new tank is that it’s possible to introduce pests and other nuisance hitchhikers into the tank. This is a very common problem people have with using live rock.
Hitchhikers like Aptasia or Majano is common and really cause a huge problem in your tank. You don’t want to start a new tank with this issue right off the bat. Unwanted shrimps, crabs, and other critters can be a nightmare in your tank.
I recently purchased a piece of live rock from a store that had a coral I wanted. I didn’t realize the rock had Aptasia on it which spread like crazy in my tank. I was able to get rid of it but it was a huge hassle that I never want to experience again!
Other unwanted organisms can hide in rock that is porous leading to many problems. If these organisms start to die off during transport and you put this rock into the tank, they will continue to decompose causing an Ammonia spike.
Another con for using live rock is the price. Live rock is usually more 4-5 times more expensive than dry rock.
It’s important to know where the rock is coming from and ensure that it is healthy rock before you use it.
Benefits of using dry rock:
- No hitchhikers introduced to the tank (way less chance of it)
- Quite a bit cheaper than live rock
- Lighter weight
- Start your tank fresh with peace of mind
- Enjoy watching the rock mature into live rock
One of the biggest cons of using dry rock to start a saltwater tank is it will take a long time to cycle the tank. New tank syndrome, algae outbreaks, leaching of phosphate, are things that are possible and even most likely.
If you decide to use dry rock to set up your tank, here are some great options:
Nature’s Ocean 12-Inch Coral Base Rocks for Aquarium, 40-Pound – Available on Amazon here.
ARC Reef Dry Base Rock with Coralline Algae Bonus Rock for Saltwater Aquariums, 45 lbs. – Available on Amazon here.
Caribsea Rock Shelf, 40-Pound – Available on Amazon here.
CaribSea Aquatics South Seas Base Rock Shelf, 40-Pound – Available on Amazon here.
ARC Reef All New! Reef Stacker Dry Rock, All in 1 Aquascaping Kit for Saltwater Aquariums, 10 lbs – Available on Amazon here.
Best dry rock for aquascaping
If you are like me, I am constantly aquascaping my tanks. Seems like I’m never happy with how the rockwork is or perhaps I get bored with it and need a change. Some rock is better than others for aquascaping depending on what you want to use it for.
The nice thing about buying dry rock is you can buy it easily online or at the reef shops either in bulk or individual pieces. Most people like to see live rock in person before purchasing, but dry rock is easy to buy online now and you will save a few bucks at the same time.
Dry rock is great for stacking and they fit together like puzzle pieces. It’s quite a bit lighter than live rock, therefore, easier to move around the tank. The rock will come in several sizes and weights. You can choose the best ones for your tank.
Base rock is great for starting a base at the bottom and you can pile formations on top. Shelf rock is great for making shelves and longer ledges. Branch rock is very natural looking and when put in between rocks it looks great.
Any of the mentioned rocks in this article are great options for aquascaping with dry rocks. Caribsea has some great options for arches and branch dry rock.
How many pounds of rock do you need?
There is a rule of thumb in the hobby that says you should have 1 or 2 pounds of rock for every gallon of water. This is not a requirement but a recommendation. You should consider your tank’s dimensions and put the amount of rock in your tank that you like and will be beneficial for the tank. Remember eventually your dry rock will become live. Live rock is the lifeline of saltwater reef tanks and it’s main source of filtration.
How porous is the rock?
Not all rocks are going to be the same with respect to how porous it is. This is something you need to consider. The more porous the rock is the better it will be for bacteria and microorganisms.