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AquaBiomics

New study on the effects of live rock on the microbial community of a reef tank

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AquaBiomics

Hi everyone,

 

I recently conducted an experiment documenting the effects of live rock on the microbes in a newly established aquarium. The article is on another forum (R2R) but I think it may be interesting for this community too. After all, the six identical tanks I built for this experiment were 20 gallon nano reef tanks!

 

The major conclusions:

Quote
  • High-quality live rock promotes the rapid establishment of a microbial community like established reef tanks.
  • Dry rock does not develop such a community on its own in a similar time frame.
  • Live rock is not all the same, but differs in both microbial communities and biological filtration.
  • Live rock quality is not just a question of microbial diversity, but also community composition (not just how many types, but also which types).

The full article is here

https://www.reef2reef.com/ams/establishing-a-healthy-microbiome-in-a-new-aquarium-using-live-rock.742/

I'll be curious to hear what you think! Does this match your experience using live rock? 

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Tired

Oh yeah, this is one of those "water is wet" studies. It's fairly obvious, but it's nice to have it confirmed, and to have numbers and data on it. Would really like to see a larger sample size, though.

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squamptonbc

I always figured this. Back when real live rock from the ocean was obtainable easily, I always had less issues overall, and using dry rock led to more issues and never got the same level of diversity.

 

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AquaBiomics

Its funny, about half of the responses from the community overall have been "this is obvious", while the other half have been more in line with "This is nonsense, live rock is a myth" 🙂

 

I didnt get into the hobby until good live rock was very hard to find so I didnt have years of experience to guide me... but I couldnt ignore these data. 

 

Anyone know where to buy good, *porous* live rock? The aquacultured stuff in the Gulf is appealing except for the brick-like rock itself. Would love to find some genuine coral rubble, anyone know a supplier still selling it?

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mcarroll
On 12/14/2019 at 10:10 AM, AquaBiomics said:

while the other half have been more in line with "This is nonsense, live rock is a myth"

Shining a light on this half could possibly be the best part of your post.

 

Being around folks who know nothing about live rock (or worse, folks who are scared of it) makes me feel like I'm falling....back into the 1970's version of our hobby.

 

The early days of my saltwater aquarium

(That's @Paul B, not me.  But that IS the 1970's.  Welcome back!)

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mitten_reef
On 12/14/2019 at 10:10 AM, AquaBiomics said:

Its funny, about half of the responses from the community overall have been "this is obvious", while the other half have been more in line with "This is nonsense, live rock is a myth" 🙂

 

I didnt get into the hobby until good live rock was very hard to find so I didnt have years of experience to guide me... but I couldnt ignore these data. 

 

Anyone know where to buy good, *porous* live rock? The aquacultured stuff in the Gulf is appealing except for the brick-like rock itself. Would love to find some genuine coral rubble, anyone know a supplier still selling it?

Buy the good porous dead rocks, then order some mariculture live rocks. Throw them in the same bin/tank to get the good bacteria to propagate over. That’s the best way you could do it now. Then every couple of years add/swap in more mariculture rocks to reestablish diversity.  I’m basically paraphrasing @metrokat’s method on live rocks here. 

Alternatively, introduce rocks from different LFS live rock bins every so often. Diff LFS have different sources for their corals, so different groups of beneficial bacteria will come along with those, i.e. they’ll all have diff composition of bacteria. 

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metrokat

Maricultured fresh rock straight from the ocean is my preferred go - to. 

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Tired

If someone's really worried about pests, a handful of live rock rubble would be easy to inspect for pests and would introduce plenty of bacteria. It'd take longer to cycle a tank with that and dry, versus all live rock, and it would provide less biodiversity. Less risk of something you don't want turning up, though. And the beneficial critters can always be introduced from another tank, bristleworms and micro brittles and the like.

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Nano sapiens
On Saturday, December 14, 2019 at 7:10 AM, AquaBiomics said:

Its funny, about half of the responses from the community overall have been "this is obvious", while the other half have been more in line with "This is nonsense, live rock is a myth" 🙂

 

I didnt get into the hobby until good live rock was very hard to find so I didnt have years of experience to guide me... but I couldnt ignore these data. 

 

Anyone know where to buy good, *porous* live rock? The aquacultured stuff in the Gulf is appealing except for the brick-like rock itself. Would love to find some genuine coral rubble, anyone know a supplier still selling it?

Part of the confusion perhaps stems from the fact that one can set up a successful salt water aquarium without live rock or live sand.  My first mid 70s SW tank was started with ceramic rings, activated carbon, dead coral skeletons and dry sand and did quite well for years, but it certainly wasn't a reef aquarium!  The limited bacterial component would have come from the natural salt water, organisms added and food.  As long as we had nitrification/dentrification, we were happy campers (it was a simpler time) :smilie:

 

These early systems were always in the 'ugly stage'.  Brown and green micro alga had be scrubbed and bleached from the decor every week or two, even with frequent water changes.  It's quite clear now that the lack of microbial diversity was the main issue.

 

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AquaBiomics
16 hours ago, Nano sapiens said:

Part of the confusion perhaps stems from the fact that one can set up a successful salt water aquarium without live rock or live sand.  My first mid 70s SW tank was started with ceramic rings, activated carbon, dead coral skeletons and dry sand and did quite well for years, but it certainly wasn't a reef aquarium!  The limited bacterial component would have come from the natural salt water, organisms added and food.  As long as we had nitrification/dentrification, we were happy campers (it was a simpler time) :smilie:

 

These early systems were always in the 'ugly stage'.  Brown and green micro alga had be scrubbed and bleached from the decor every week or two, even with frequent water changes.  It's quite clear now that the lack of microbial diversity was the main issue.

 

Yeah, you make a good point. Most of us aren't running controlled experiments in our aquariums. We set them up one way, based on advice we are given or read, and they all work at some level, right? I mean, we keep fish, inverts, even corals alive and conclude that whatever we did to set up the tank "worked". I see this especially in newer hobbyists who don't have the benefit of your experience trying different ways of setting up a tank. 

 

Without anything to compare it to, it's hard to know... what would it have looked like if we'd started with live rock instead? Or skipped adding that bottle of bacteria? Or added a different kind? etc. 

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Nano sapiens
1 hour ago, AquaBiomics said:

Yeah, you make a good point. Most of us aren't running controlled experiments in our aquariums. We set them up one way, based on advice we are given or read, and they all work at some level, right? I mean, we keep fish, inverts, even corals alive and conclude that whatever we did to set up the tank "worked". I see this especially in newer hobbyists who don't have the benefit of your experience trying different ways of setting up a tank. 

 

Without anything to compare it to, it's hard to know... what would it have looked like if we'd started with live rock instead? Or skipped adding that bottle of bacteria? Or added a different kind? etc. 

True, whether a reef tank is truly successful (in the sense that all elements work together to produce an 'optimal' result) will always be in the eye of the reef keeper and subject to the scrutiny of his/her peers at a certain period in time. 

 

I think most would agree that the ultimate benchmark is a healthy reef in nature and the desire to emulate it (as much as possible in the confines of a glass box) is what drives much of this hobby forward.

 

 

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Bailyfox
On 12/14/2019 at 10:10 AM, AquaBiomics said:

Its funny, about half of the responses from the community overall have been "this is obvious", while the other half have been more in line with "This is nonsense, live rock is a myth" 🙂

 

I didnt get into the hobby until good live rock was very hard to find so I didnt have years of experience to guide me... but I couldnt ignore these data. 

 

Anyone know where to buy good, *porous* live rock? The aquacultured stuff in the Gulf is appealing except for the brick-like rock itself. Would love to find some genuine coral rubble, anyone know a supplier still selling it?

 I've heard good things about Tampa bay saltwaters liverock.

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