One of the biggest problems for most hobbyists when incorporating live rock into their display is figuring out how much live rock needs to be used. In the â€œold daysâ€, it was thought that you needed up to a “few pounds of rock per gallon” to help â€œfilterâ€ the water . In our desire to get our hands on one of those new-fangled reef systems, we heeded the expert advice of the time and loaded our aquariums with huge quantities of live rock.
After â€œpreppingâ€ your significant other, family, or roommates about the wonderfulÂ process that was about to unfold in your own living room, you excitedly ordered your â€œrequiredâ€ 400 pounds of live rock from your Florida-based supplier. In just a few days, UPS would deliver that stinky, wet box of Florida â€œroadfillâ€ (letâ€™s be honest, that;â€™s all most of that crap was!), complete with the â€œPlease keep warm- Live Tropical Fishâ€ stickers on the sides (that always made me scratch my head!). If you were lucky, there might just be some genuine marine life, such as an Aiptasia anemone orÂ some Valonia â€œBubble Algaeâ€ clinging to life on the putrid, dirty rock. After the requisite â€œcuringâ€ process, it was then time to get that stuff into the aquarium!
How do you fit 400 pounds of rock into a 100 gallon, 60- inch-long aquarium? You guessed it- you STACK it in a big pile to formâ€¦a ROCK WALL! Â Thatâ€™s rightâ€¦the rock wall– that hideous, unimaginative aggregation ofÂ live rock, running end-to-end across the aquarium, from top to bottom. You knew you arrived when couldnâ€™t see anything but rock in the aquarium! A real reef in your own living room!Â Never mind the fact that you couldnâ€™t get a fish net into the tank, or that you had to abandon in place any powerheads that failed because you couldnâ€™t get your hand in the aquarium to retrieve them.
Unfortunately, the 1980â€™s (a decade of great music, wacky hair, hideous fashion, and unabashed decadence) seems to be alive and well in the reef hobby today. In almost every club that I visit around the country, I run into example after example of the rock wall. Sure, sometimes the rock is festooned with colorful corals or invertebrates, and sometimes there are lots of cool fishes swimming around (as well as they can, anyways), but it all looks the same to meâ€¦endless rock andÂ no variety.
I have to borrow words from President Ronald Reagan, spoken at the Berlin Wall back in 1982: â€œâ€¦tear down this wall!â€ Much as the President pleaded with the leader of the then-Soviet Union, I admonish you to recognize that itâ€™s a new century and that we have to embrace new aquascaping possibilities: TEAR DOWN THE WALL!!!!
Besides, think of the liabilities of clinging to this outmoded hobby icon of a bygone era: When that â€œdesignerâ€ Â â€ Acropora expensiva”frag that you just forked out 95 bucks for gets knocked over by your Sixline Wrasse and falls behind the rock wall, you know that youâ€™ll never see it againâ€¦At least until you wise up and tear down that wall of rock. How can you get a siphon down there to do water changes? (You DO make water changes, right? Yeahâ€¦thought so). Circulation? What’s that? Ok, you get the ideaâ€¦Enough of the rock wall already!
So how much rock DO you need? I get this question as often as Sanjay (Joshi) gets asked â€œWhatâ€™s the best metal halide bulb?â€ In my unbiased opinion, you need only enough to complete the aquascape that you are envisoning, and thatâ€™s about it. Nothing more, nothing less.
Now itâ€™s time to put my money where my mouth is, and give you some alternatives to the wretched rock wall. In future installments, we’ll take a look at some rock configurations that you can use to send the rock wall back in to the dim recesses of hobby history where it belongs!
Off my soapbox for now…