How to Use PVC to Attach Live Rock in an Aquarium

Written by susan roberts
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Live rock is a critical component for the health and beauty of a saltwater aquarium. The live rock provides biological filtration and an environment for aquarium inhabitants. From an aesthetics perspective, live rock provides the foundation for displaying corals, which overall is called an aquascape. A common recommendation for including live rock in a saltwater aquascape is two or more pounds of live rock per gallon of water. If you use PVC structures as the base for building up your aquascape, you can cut that recommendation down to one-plus pounds per gallon. The idea is to build an underlying structure, or box, made of PVC that you can rest the rock on instead of stacking rock on itself.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

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Things you need

  • Paper
  • Pencil
  • Tape measure
  • 1/2- or 3/4-inch PVC, schedule 80 (grey) or schedule 40 (white)
  • Matching PVC fittings
  • Saw
  • Drill and bit
  • Rubber mallet
  • Zip ties, optional
  • Waterproof glue or epoxy, optional

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  1. 1

    Draw a rough map of the layout for your aquascape that matches the dimensions of your tank. The layout should include the PVC box or boxes that you will use as base for building up your live rock. The layout should also roughly include the size and shape of the live rock that you have.

  2. 2

    Measure the lengths of PVC pipe you need to create your boxes.

  3. 3

    Use the saw to cut the PVC to the required lengths for the sides and top of the PVC boxes.

  4. 4

    Use the drill to drill holes in the tops and bottoms of the PVC pipes. This allows water to flow through the pipes, preventing detritus from getting trapped inside the pipes.

  5. 5

    Create the PVC boxes by connecting the pipes and fittings. You can glue the pipes and fittings together. You can also simply use a rubber mallet to ensure the structure fits tight, while still leaving the structure somewhat flexible to disassemble for future designs.

  6. 6

    Place the PVC boxes in the tank. Depending on your layout, you may only initially place one PVC box, iterating through this step and the next one.

  7. 7

    Build-up your live rock on top of and around the PVC structure. In some places, the rock may not be very stable. In these instances, use a waterproof glue or expoxy to attach the rock to the PVC or to other rock. You can also drill a hole in the rock and use zip ties to attach it. Once you start building your aquascape, you may also find that a piece of live rock isn't quite the right size or shape. In these instances, you can use a small chisel to delicately chisel the rock to the proper size.

Tips and warnings

  • In general, build-up your live rock all around the PVC box so that it isn't visible.
  • If you are placing a very large piece of live rock on top of the PVC box, you may need to reinforce the box with cross supports.

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