Advice for Allergic Pet Owners
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Stacking Live Rock - Aquascaping Your Aquarium
By Laurren Schmoyer

Aquascaping is decorating an aquarium with plants and rocks to produce a natural or pleasing effect. In a saltwater fish or reef tank you can set rock in piles or you can duplicate rockwork scenes found in the ocean. There are methods to stacking rock to create usable environments for fish and corals.

There are many personal preferences and opinions on how to aquascape with live rock. Some place the rock flat across the bottom of the tank mimicking reef flat zones such as barrier reefs, atolls, fringes, or patch reefs. Others pile up rock in the center of their aquarium like an island mimicking outer reef edges like reef crests also known as shallow or upper reef slopes.

Another option is to stack rock high in the back of the aquarium simulating reef walls also known as fore-reef slopes or deep reef slopes. This style is aesthetically pleasing, allowing the creation of large and/or small caverns for fish to swim through. It is a versatile stacking method providing cliffs and areas on which to stack live corals with regard to specific needs. Corals requiring low light can be placed under a ridge while high light corals can be placed on top. Another benefit to stacking rock in this fashion is that you can spread corals out so that they do not touch each other. Amazingly some corals can sting each other, so if you have aggressive corals you are now able to separate them.

Choose a wide variety of pieces of live rock up to 1 ½ lb. per gallon of water. Separate the pieces into three groups:

Leg pieces (shaped like chair legs or cylinders), longer than they are wide these are used as legs to lift the main portion of the live rock off the bottom of the tank. These pieces should not be so wide as to take up a lot of area on the bottom of the aquarium.

Flat pieces (shaped like platters or plates), are great for bridges, whether parallel or at an incline to provide slopes in the tank. These pieces lie across leg pieces connecting to other pieces creating the look of a reef cliff.

Bulk pieces (large, wide, round-ish pieces sometimes having arms extending from them or curved in crazy directions), make aquascaping creative. Use them as mid-level leg pieces creating 2nd level bridges, or for facial or frontal pieces providing bulk (or reality) to edging and slopes. Or use them as top bridge pieces so that their roundness can provide depth to the aquarium as well as reality to the height (like it's actually the top of a ridge).

Adding substrate first and placing live rock on top can make structures unstable. Some fish like to burrow and make tunnels and this can cause the rock to tumble.

Stack rock in a sturdy fashion, yet loosely enough to keep water flowing through it. Also leave ½ to ¾ of your substrate open (without rock covering it). In shallow sand beds, less than ½" thick, leaving the substrate open allows for healthy water changes that pull out dirt, organics and other waste products. If you stack the rock flat across the bottom of the tank or in the island fashion it may be difficult to extract waste from the substrate.

Whichever style of rock formation you choose here are a few rules to follow:

· Try to keep as much of the substrate open as possible.

· Make sure the rocks are stable. Consider using Aquarium epoxy

· Build caves to allow fish to feel relaxed.

· Use the rocks to hide filter parts, heaters and to create a more natural look.

Have fun with decorating, and give yourself lots of shelves to place corals later if you choose. Remember, nothing is set in stone so you can always make changes!

Laurren Schmoyer is the founder and CEO of Aquamain's Fish World and Aquatic Experts. Aquamain's is one of the largest aquarium stores on the east coast. Laurren has written several guides to help new hobbyists get started in the right direction.

For more expert advice on setting up a marine or saltwater aquarium, water quality and great saltwater starter fish visit http://www.aquaticexperts.com/saltwaterexperts/index.htm

Laurren Schmoyer began working in a pet store when he was 13 years old. He graduated from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro ...

Dedicated to your aquatic success.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Laurren_Schmoyer

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