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Live Rock vs Dry Rock in Saltwater Tank

After months of savings and research, you have finally decided to buy a beautiful aquarium. This tank will soon be home to your favorite fish species.

You have decided the filtration system you will use and also the food that you will feed the fishes.

But have you decided how you will decorate your tank?

If you have freshwater tank then you have various types of substrates to choose from. Also, you must add a few live plants as not only will that add color but your fishes will love them too.

However, if you have a reef tank then the most important decorations for you are rocks.

Let us now get to learn about these reef-tank friendly rocks in detail.

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What Type Of Rocks Can You Use In Your Reef Tank?

Video: “What you may not have known about live rock”

When decorating a reef or saltwater tank you need to give immense importance to the kind of decorative items you select. As the saltwater environment is quite delicate you need to be cautious about keeping the right water chemistry and salinity levels.

Also, you have to keep in mind all the organisms that live in your aquarium – even those that you cannot possibly see.

Rocks, without a doubt, will serve as the most important decorations for your tank, as it does to any other saltwater aquarium.

They will add visual interest and dimension to your aquarium. Rocks will offer a nice place to your fish and invertebrates to hide. And of course, it will be a surface on which various helpful bacteria and other microorganisms will grow and live.

The two most popular rocks for any reef tanks are dry rock and live rock. We shall soon go through a live rock vs dry rock comparison but before that let us get to learn about both these rocks in detail.

Live Rocks

Video: “Things to consider when buying live rock”

When you first heard the term ‘live rock’, surely you must have found it weird and thought, how can rocks live?

Well, rocks do not live, not the way the term may make you think. This term actually refers to the microscopic minute life that lives in and on the rock.

The actual rock is basically an accumulation of calcium carbonate, coral skeletons, and various other materials. But, it even is home to living organisms.

Why do People Add Live Rocks To Their Reef Tank?

1. Serves as a natural biological filter

When live rocks are collected and cured, a lot of marine life that it contains dies. However, a big part of the beneficial anaerobic and aerobic nitrifying bacteria still manages to survive.

Once you place these rocks in your aquarium, these colonies begin growing and start serving as a natural biological filter.

Live rocks offer a far better surface area for the beneficial bacteria to thrive than any other artificial surface can.

2.Helps maintain pH levels

Anyone who ever has owned a reef tank will say how important it is to maintain the right pH levels. This helps ensure that the corals, algae, and other organisms enjoy a proper water quality.

If you add live rocks to your tank, it will prove greatly helpful in maintaining the pH levels. And, it will even serve as a regular source of calcium that will keep those levels stabilized.

Many people use calcium reactors with the help of which calcium-rich media is released. If you have chosen live rocks for your reef tank then it can supplement a reactor. In some cases, you may not need a reactor at all.

3. Contributes to the beauty of the tank

The addition of live rocks to a saltwater tank serves as a beautiful natural decoration. When various coralline algae start building their homes in these live rocks, their look will start changing. This will make your tank look astounding.

Furthermore, live rock even offers depth to an aquarium. When placed in the right way it can create various shelves or levels, while still maintain their natural look.

4. Offers hiding spaces

Not only corals and algae benefit when you add live rocks to your tank. It even is beneficial to the fishes as it offers them shelter and hiding spots.

As it breaks up your tank’s water column it can prove helpful to your fishes in establishing territories. Pods and other smaller inhabitants will use the live rock for cover.

Even friendly worms can grow and live in your tank when you introduce live rocks in them.

Different Types of Live Rocks

Fiji Live Rock

This is the most common type of live rock available for a reef aquarium. They are lightweight and porous.

These rocks are likely to vary in appearance from one supplier to another. Their price can vary depending on whether they are air-shipped or boat shipped. Fiji rocks need curing.

Pukani Live Rock

This rock comes from Fiji and is competitively new. It is lightweight and porous and needs curing.

Pukani Rock is popular for leaching phosphates back into the aquarium. When there is an increased level of phosphates in a tank it can help combat nuisance causing algae like hair algae, with ease.

Aquacultured Live Rock

Aquacultured rocks are extremely environmentally -friendly. They are sourced from within the earth, and placed in the ocean wherein it grows new life within and on it.

Different farms will offer Aquacultured rocks in different density, shape, and size. But, you should opt for the one that is very porous, interestingly shaped, and low in density.

Pros and Cons of Live Rock


  • Serves as a natural filtration system.
  • Adds beauty to your tank.
  • Serves as a shelter and hiding spots for fishes.


  • Is quite expensive.
  • May contain pests like anemones and bristle worms.

Dry Rocks

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Before heading to the live rock vs dry rock comparison we need to know more about the dry rocks as well. Dry rocks basically are live rocks that have been treated. They have been cleaned and dried before they are sold.

Thus, dry rock does not look as attractive as the live ones do. This, however, will change over time when algae begin growing on these rocks.

Why do People Add Dry Rocks To Their Reef Tank?

1. They are cheaper

Dry rocks are cheaper and thus of course preferred by many. It is easier for the suppliers to get hold of dry rocks, and it even weighs less as it has been cleaned and dried.

These factors contribute to it being inexpensive.

2. Customers enjoy transparency

When opting for dry rocks customers enjoy more transparency or so to say they know precisely what they are opting for.

There is no need to worry about adding any harmful and unknown organisms in the tank as the rocks are already cleaned.

3. Watching the rocks come back to life looks beautiful

The best part about opting for dry rocks is watching them come to life.

Tiny organisms, healthy bacteria, algae, and more will start colonizing your dry rock with time. Watching this beautiful transformation is an experience in itself.

4. They offer great water circulation

Dry rocks are porous and easy to shape and usually form into beautiful structures.

These structures have an unusual shape and this contributes to great water circulation.

Different Types of Dry Rocks

Video: “Dry live rock. Pukani, Fiji and Reef Saver rock for aquariums”


This is the most common type of dry rock with lots of surface area.

Fiji rocks have a rough surface with lots of crevices. These offer enough space for corals, for house beneficial bacteria, and also are ideal hiding places for fishes.

Real Reef Rock

This is a completely eco-friendly rock, is grown in greenhouses, and is man-made. It contains trace elements and calcium carbonate which is beneficial for reef tanks.

These rocks are covered in stunning shades of pink and purple.

Reef Saver Rock

This rock is obtained from the ground. Usually, they are already treated and in fact, are among the cleanest rocks that you will come across.

They can be stacked easily and look amazing.

Pros and Cons of Dry Rock


  • They are inexpensive.
  • Since they are already cleaned there is no fear of introducing unwanted organisms in the tank.
  • They are easier to aquascape


  • They do not look as attractive as live rocks
  • They do not have any beneficial bacteria attached to them.

Live Rock vs Dry Rock in Saltwater Tank

What makes them similar?

  • Both these rocks will make your tank look beautiful.
  • Both will serve as shelters for your fishes.
  • Both dry rock and live rock will be homes to beneficial bacteria.

How are they different?

Live rock has life already growing in and on it, and this makes the tank look beautiful. On the other hand, dry rocks are cleaned before they reach you. Life will grow on them too, but that will happen gradually.

Another difference between dry and live rock is their price. Live rocks are pretty expensive but the dry ones are easier to get, weigh less, and thus comparatively cheaper.

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To conclude this live rock vs dry rock comparison it will be fair to say that both of them are equally good.

Dry rocks are anyway nothing but live rocks that have been cleaned and dried. Which one you should select among these is just a matter of personal preference.

Both the rocks will make your tank look beautiful and both will house beneficial bacteria. Also, both will serve as shelter and hiding places for your reef tank fishes. Yes, there is a difference in their price and a difference in the way they look when you first get them.

Perhaps, these factors can help you decide to select the ideal one for your tank.

Aaron Boyd
Aaron Boyd

Hello, I’m Aaron Boyd, the proud owner and author behind Aqua Movement. I hope my article was able to answer your questions. If you want to learn more about me, click the home icon above.

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