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The Future of Live Rock for Aquarium Systems

Cory here. Live rock is an important piece to the reef tank puzzle, without it the aquarium never seems to be complete. It is amazing to see what one can do with some rock and an aquarium. Whether a massive 1000 gallon reef or a 5 gallon nano tank, live rock plays the role of beauty and necessity. When starting a marine aquarium, a quick stop to the local fish store (That Fish Place of course :)) will give a wide selection of live rock types; from the majestic Tonga Fusion to the typical Fiji, live rock is always available in all shapes and sizes.

The luxury of having five or more varieties of live rock any given day may be coming to an end. The creation of cultured live rock in Fiji has led a few to believe that since we can make live rock, we can save the reefs by stopping the collection of “wild” live rock. Cultured Fiji rock is very simply, concrete and sand molded into rocks, placed in the ocean for a couple of years, then harvested as live rock. The idea is to start culturing rock in places like Fiji and Tonga, eliminating the need to harvest rock from the reefs. There are plenty of arguments for and against the creation of cultured rock. The immediate problem is the ban of rock coming into the United States. The rock from Tonga (Fusion, Branch, Slab, etc.) has been banned completely starting this past August 4th. There are no signs of this ban being lifted. On top of this, the number of pounds of Fiji Rock allowed for importation for 2009, has been decreased substantially from this past year.

The idea to phase out the import of wild live rock within the next 5 years is hard to stomach, but might be well on its way to becoming reality. There is still very little known about the situation as a whole, but what everyone must understand is that with each coming year, live rock may be harder to come by, especially the varieties that everyone is used to. My concern is, with the continued demand for fresh live rock and the available supply diminishing, the price per pound of live rock will begin to rise and continue until it becomes unaffordable. The future of the live rock industry is now in the hands of those with legislative power; hopefully a decision is made with the consumer in mind.

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About Cory Shank

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Cory is one of our Staff Marine Biologists and has been with the company since 1999. He has always had an interest in fish and inverts started soon after his employment began, and laid the path for him to earn his Marine Bio degree From Millersville University just a couple of years ago. Since graduation, Cory has been propagating many different corals including LPS and SPS and maintaining both his own reef aquaria and several at our retail store. His interests besides propagation include snorkeling, environmentalism, travel, and anything relating to reefs and oceans.