Live rock makes a great addition to any aquarium, enhancing the aesthetic
appeal with a natural look, while offering benefits to certain organisms.
They often house a variety of life forms, ranging from microscopic plants
and animals to larger algae and invertebrates including sponges, feather
duster worms, microcrustaceans and a long list of others.
Under the proper conditions, the organisms thrive and contribute to the
overall health of the entire system by performing specific tasks and
functions. Coralline algae and macro-algae are very useful in controlling
the growth of nutrient depleting, unsightly algae. Sponges and feather
dusters filter out organic materials, keeping the aquarium cleaner and
Live rock and the aforementioned company create a symbiotic relationship
within the aquarium. However, there are a number of organisms that may also
crash the party. Three types of these potentially problematic inhabitants
are listed below.
Bristle worms are oftentimes beneficial to the tank; they keep the tank
clean by feeding on detritus and dead organisms. However, an abundant food
supply can result in a fast growing population, which may lead to potential
attacks on crustaceans, corals, and anemones. They can become unpleasant in
appearance as they grow in size. Improved water flow, aggressive skimming,
and nutrient control keep their population in check by minimizing their
Aiptasia acts as an aquarium weed; in certain conditions, a single animal
can produce more than 60 offspring per day. Not only do they thrive on
excess food, they can reproduce where other, more beneficial species
cannot. Once established, ridding your tank of these pests can be
difficult. The Copper-banded Butterfly fish is the least-taxing method for
long-term control. The flip side to housing this Butterfly fish is they
also feed on other invertebrates, such as feather duster worms. Peppermint
shrimp are also used to keep aiptasia anemone populations under control.
If small fish begin disappearing from your tank, the mantis shrimp is a
likely culprit. They are also known to eat mollusks and other
invertebrates. This problem should be taken care of as soon as possible.
Though difficult to do, the best way to rid these predators is to trap
them, either by using a fish trap or by waiting until they crawl into a
rock and then removing the rock.
To prevent these problems, properly cure your live rock before adding it to
the aquarium. During the curing process, examine your live rock carefully
and remove unwanted organisms; once properly cured, the key to a thriving
live rock habitat is to maintain proper water conditions. It is also
important to not allow water conditions to deteriorate. Nutrient-rich water
will cause these problem organisms to grow rapidly.
The diversity of live rock and its beneficial inhabitants not only provides
aesthetic benefits but, more importantly, contributes to the overall health
and success of your marine aquarium.