Aquascaping with Rock

Fish-only aquariums can be aquascaped either with live rock, dry rock, coral skeletons, or a combination of all three. Add these items before the substrate, so they will sit securely on the bottom of the tank. Also, rocks, live or dead, look more natural if partially buried.

Place a flat rock across two rocks of similar height and you've made the simplest kind of shelter for a saltwater fish. Reef fish are generally territorial, and their need for "personal space" becomes more pronounced in the confines of an aquarium. Therefore, you should provide a suitably large hiding place for each fish you plan to stock.

Besides incorporating caves and ledges into the backbone structure of your artificial reef, you can add natural enclosures such as seashells of an appropriate size. Take care to secure all tank decorations. If you build a cave, for example, make sure the supporting pieces are sitting securely on the bottom, and that the arrangement is stable. Burrowing fish can undermine rocks and cause them to tumble. Fish or invertebrates can be crushed by such a "tank-alanche" and a large rock can crack the tank if it falls. Avoid balancing larger rocks upon smaller ones. Place larger pieces on the bottom. Individual rocks should sit as they would in a natural setting, with the broadest portion of the rock down. Flat rocks serving as the roof of a cave or as an overhang must rest securely on at least three contact points of their supporting stones. Such an arrangement affords maximum stability. Try to create a natural, random arrangement, avoiding a stack that looks like a brick wall, while still keeping a stable structure. Ambitious arrangements will need securing.

102 Saltwater Aquarium Models

102 Saltwater Aquarium Models

Rock work can be stabilized by various means. Underwater epoxy cement, which sets even when submerged, works well to hold small rocks in position. Joints between larger pieces require reinforcing. Using a masonry bit, drill a hole in each piece and insert a length of plastic pipe to connect them like Tinkertoys, then apply cement. To drill live rock, hold it in a towel moistened with seawater while you work. Dead corals and rock should be well wetted before drilling to reduce the production of dust. Be sure to wear protective goggles and gloves. Use plastic cable ties to hold pieces in place while the cement sets. You can use the same technique to attach dead coral skeletons to a rock base, which looks a lot more natural than setting the coral on the bottom directly.

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