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Live Rock Comes With Live Animals

Rating: 10 votes, 5.00 average.
I bought some pet r...I mean live rock on Friday!

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I actually said "pet rock" when describing live rock to a friend today. Most of my aquascape is base rock from Marco Rocks, and I purchased several small pieces of live rock from a local store to seed the tank with yummy bacteria.

The live rock on the right side will eventually fill the gap near the center of the aquascape, but I have it in the open sand and close to the glass so I can keep it under observation. I found some Aiptasia on it, so I did the first sensible thing that popped into my head: I set it on fire. I don't smoke, but I have several lighters for camping. I took the rock out of the water for a few minutes, burned off the Aiptasia, spot washed off the burn mark, then placed it back into the tank. We'll see if it's enough, so I'm keeping a close eye on all the rocks. Too bad my quarantine setup isn't ready to go yet.

Other than that, I am amazed at the life that came with such small pieces of rock! I am not sure if all of them will survive since there isn't much overall biological activity in the tank to support them. Since my goal is for an Indo-Pacific tank, I don't know if I can be sure where any of these animal freebies are from. For now, I am happy what that I have representatives from at least six phyla:

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One of our closest invertebrate relatives. There are lots of tiny brittle stars in the rocks, and within 24 hours several already moved into the base rock. They're definitely nocturnal.

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I found one tiny Asterina, and since I'm not sure if this is the "weedy" kind, I moved it into the hang-on back filter chamber. I may decide to get rid of it entirely.

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Feather-dusters! I'm ecstatic that the live rocks came with annelids (segmented worms)! I was hoping for a brittle worm, but these really small worms do suffice. On the left is a sabellid feather-duster worm (parchment-like tube), and the tiny one on the right is a appears to be a spirorbid feather-duster (calcium-based tube, coiled).

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I believe these are hydroids of some kind, but they are definitely cnidarians (jellyfish, corals, anemones, etc.). These are really small, so several days passed before I realized I was staring at polyps.

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Sponges are on most of the small pieces of live rock. I won't be surprised if they become the first casualties since they were exposed to air during the short drive home. Air exposure can be fatal to sponges.

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Several goodies in this photo. First off, coralline algae, so hooray! My rocks came with several really short strands of Chaetomorpha such as the one near the center of the photo. On the very top of the rock there is a small piece of unidentified algae. On the left and right side, there are two unidentified white polyps. I don't know if they are anemone, coral or something else, but so far they haven't had any kind of activity that would help identify them. Update: The white polyps might be bleached Discosoma with a shrunken disc, or bleached zoanthids without the tentacles.

I could not take a picture of it, but I found some kind of small. It looked like a cowry snail, but it disappeared. I've read from "Reef Invertebrates" (Calfo & Fenner) that most cowries are not considered reef aquarium safe, so I'll try to capture it before I can decide what to do. Whatever it was, it was definitely nocturnal. Update: The snail appears to be a peppermint snail.

A small crustacean made a quick appearance, so I don't have a picture of it either. I think it was an amphipod.

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The reflectors on my AquaticLife T5HO 2x24 are nothing elaborate, but they seem to be bouncing plenty of light.

Unfortunately, my filter is carving a crater in the sand on the left side of the tank. I ordered a smaller impeller for the AquaClear, so that should lower the flow.

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Updated 11-16-2010 at 12:48 AM by gerbilbox

New Additions , ‎ Tank - Full Summary


  1. Midnight's Avatar
    Wow, nice post with lots of details
  2. Alaska_Phil's Avatar
    Wow! looks like you got some nice live rock. And you've obviously done a lot or research too.
    When I set up my nano a few years back, I found out I might be moving just after I added the live rock. As a result I waited 3 months before adding anything else except a couple snails. The result was that all those little critters multiplied like mad with no predation.
  3. Mits's Avatar
    You may be surprised with the sponges survival. I upgraded to my new tank over the summer, and discovered this amazing bright pink sponge that had been growing under the side of a rock that I couldn't see for a couple years. I had some polyps on the rock that I had already planned to remove by taking them out and chiseling them off of the rock, and couldn't avoid air exposure when making the transfer anyway. I had always been told that air exposure will kill any sponge, so I left the rock out for over an hour while working with it because I thought the sponge wouldn't make it. I put it in the new tank expecting to see it wither away, and here I am a few months later watching it spread and grow even further.
  4. gerbilbox's Avatar
    @Alaska_Phil: That's good to hear that they can still thrive when there's nothing else in the tank.

    @Mits: I am hoping for your luck! There are intertidal sponges that are adapted to regular air exposure from low tides.

    The snail I found turned out to be a peppermint snail, so I updated the post as well as making a correction on one of the feather-duster worms. I think the white polyps may either be bleached zoanthids or discosoma (with shrunken discs). I discovered a few more critters today, including a digitate hydroid colony, spionid worms, and possibly two tiny Pseudocorynactis (anemone-like corallimorphs).
  5. Alaska_Phil's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by gerbilbox
    @Alaska_Phil: That's good to hear that they can still thrive when there's nothing else in the tank.
    I should note that during that time I was putting a tiny pinch of flakes in the tank 2 or 3 times a week to keep everything fed. I think I used a little phyto as well.