How to cure live rock from your marine aquarium.
Before you receive your new live rock we recommend you prepare your curing station. Below is a list of items you should have before you begin curing your new live rock: RO/DI water, Salt Mix, Hydrometer or Refractometer, Power head(s), protein skimmer (optional but recommended), high quality ammonia test kit, nitrite test kit, curing containers (trash cans or storage bins for curing your rock, aquarium thermometer, heater. Note: it is also possible to cure your rock in the aquarium as long as it is a new tank setup. Don’t add uncured rock to an established aquarium. Setup-Recommended Parameters: Temperature should be kept between 71-75 degrees F. The Salinity should be kept between 1.020-1.022 during the curing of your live rock. Add power head(s) into your container to help keep the water oxygenated.
I also recommend the use of a protein skimmer to remove waste/die off. This will help speed up the cuffing process along with regular partial water changes. Live Rock Arrival: Once your live rock arrives you should inspect each piece before you place it in the curing containers. Using a blunt knife, screwdriver or similar instrument; remove any visible sponges and unwanted algae. To protect your hands from any potential harm it is a good idea to wear protective clean gloves. Sometimes hydrozoans, bryozoans and other nasty critters are present on live rocks that can cause noticeable pain or irritation.
Sponges can regenerate from the smallest spores so don’t worry about removing them. They can fowl the water and slow down the curing of your live rock by a week or more. Once the rock has been removed of sponges dip the rocks several times in a small container filled with RO/DI salt water (salinity 1.020-1.022) and then place them one by one in your curing containers or new aquarium. Over the next several days monitor the nitrite level, ammonia level and protein skimmer output. It will be necessary to clean the skimmer often during the curing process. After a couple of days you will need to do a 15-20% water change with new RO/DI water (same parameters as above). Repeat every few days after the initial water change and keep track of the ammonia and nitrite levels. Once the ammonia levels drop to zero, your rock is ready to support other living organisms.
You have now created more ammonia eating bacteria than ammonia being created. Aquascaping your live rock: If you have used the container method now it’s time to transplant your cured rock into its new home. Take time and be careful lowering the rocks individually into your aquarium. If you decide to go with a bare bottom tank many aquarists are using starboard (white plastic cutting board material) to protect the bottom of the aquarium against rock slides and dropped rocks that could ruin your day and your pocketbook or wallet. When aquascaping it may take a couple of days before you get the look are striving for.
Take your time and remember this is a patient hobby. Corals and fish grow relatively slow compared to. Take your time, READ and ask questions from knowledgeable, experienced, successful reef keepers. There are more opinions than answers in reef keeping and there are a lot of different ways to build your slice of the reef so be careful where you go for aid. Go slow, be patient and always quarantine your new additions before you put them in your display. If it needs to be wet to stay alive, quarantine it first. A lot of aquarists role the dice and add fish, coral and other reef inhabitants straight to their display without quarantining them first. Don’t play Russian roulette with your aquarium inhabitants. Your reef inhabitants and your bank account will be thankful for it. Bottom line, don’t dive in unprepared and be patient. Aquariums should be stress relieves not stress incubators.