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Live Rock and Live Sand

Live rock serves as a platform for coral and invertebrates and provides a surface for beneficial bacteria to live. Live sand is brimming with useful bacteria as well as different types of worms and crustaceans eaten by many fish. Live rock and sand are beneficial and aesthetically pleasing additions to your aquatic system. Both the live rock and live sand will need to undergo an acclimation/curing process before being placed in a tank with fish, invertebrates or coral. Cultured live rock typically does not need to go through the acclimation/curing process. Live rock benefits from the addition of trace elements, strontium, calcium and iodine.

Needed Supplies:

You will need the following to complete the acclimation/curing process:

  • Nylon bristle brush
  • Large and small buckets
  • Up to a 30 gallon plastic container, with or without drains
  • Air stone or power head
  • Measuring equipment
  • Water heater

The Steps - Live Rock:

There are many processes for finishing the curing process for live rock. The following are our recommendations, one for an established tank containing fish, invertebrates and/or coral, and another for a new aquatic system with no aquatic life in it. Please ensure you use the appropriate process for your aquatic system.

Curing live rock for the new aquatic system containing no aquatic life:

  • Set up your new aquatic system according to the manufacturer's instructions. Set the salinity to 1.023-1.025 and temperature to 72-78°F.
  • Using a small bucket of saltwater, rinse each piece of live rock. Ensure that loose organic matter is rinsed away.
  • Arrange the live rock pieces in the new aquarium. It will be helpful to keep the lighting system off during the curing process to reduce algae growth.
  • A 50% water change will need to be done on a weekly basis during the process. Ensure that you siphon out organic matter and debris that may gather at the bottom of the tank. Using the nylon brush you may need to scrub the rock to remove any build up of dead material.
  • Check the ammonia and nitrite levels weekly until both reach zero. At this time, perform another 50% water change and then wait 24 hours.
  • Check the pH and adjust as needed to achieve the appropriate level of 8.1-8.4.

Most aquariums will cycle within a 2-4 week time period with this process.

Curing live rock for the aquatic system that contains aquatic life:

It is very important that you do not place your new live rock into an established tank before completing these steps.

  • Place the live rock in a large plastic container. It will be helpful to have drains added to the bottom of the container for efficient draining and water changes.
  • Immerse the live rock in a saltwater mixture with a specific gravity of 1.021-1.025. Keep the temperature near 80°F to aid in die off. Keep the container in a dimly lit area to prevent algae growth.
  • A 100% water change done twice weekly will be needed. Scrub the live rock with a nylon brush to remove any build up of dead material.

Most live rock will be fully cured within 1-3 weeks and can then be safely added to your aquarium.

The Steps – Live Sand: Acclimation process for live sand:

  • Fill a bucket half way with the newly arrived live sand.
  • Fill the bucket with saltwater until it is 2/3 full with water and sand. Slowly stir the sand in the bucket.
  • Discard dirty water and place the live sand back into the shipping bag.
  • Immerse the bag into the bottom of the aquarium and slowly dispense the sand into the aquarium.

Allow the sand to settle for about an hour and then change/rinse the filter.

Important Details: Be patient and don't rush the acclimation process. Stable water quality, water temperature, pH levels and specific gravity are critical to the acclimation/curing process of live rock and sand. It is essential to acclimate live rock and live sand to a specific gravity of 1.021-1.026. If you are unsure of your water quality or pH levels, Petco stores provide free water testing.

Once the acclimation/curing process is complete, maintenance for you live rock or live sand is easy.

Developed with and approved by a qualified veterinarian.