How to Build Aquarium Live Rock & Caves

Written by sarah goodwin-nguyen
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How to Build Aquarium Live Rock & Caves
In nature, reefs are filled with nooks, caves and crannies. (coral reef 21 image by Christian Schoettler from

There term "live rock" is something of a misnomer. It is simply rocks that have been harvested from the ocean for use in saltwater squariums. The microrganisms that live on and inside the rock are what give it its name. Building a live rock wall with caves in your saltwater aquarium gives fish a place to hide, which makes them feel more confident. Caves occur naturally when the aquarist takes care not to fit the rocks of his or her rock walls together too tightly. Securing the rocks prevents the caves from collapsing and harming fish, corals and equipment.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Seawater
  • Plastic egg crate
  • Rock drill
  • PVC pipe
  • Aquarium-safe epoxy

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  1. 1

    Make a plan. Deciding on the design of your live rock wall with caves will save you from needing to take apart and reassemble your work later. Reef Sources reminds aquarists to create zones with differing current and lighting parameters; high, medium, and low current, bright, moderate, and low light to accommodate different corals.

  2. 2

    Fill your tank halfway with seawater of the same temperature in which you have been holding your live rock.

  3. 3

    Assemble the large seamounts that will be the main pieces of your aquascape. Secure large rocks by drilling holes in the rocks, then stick PVC pipes through the holes to fasten the rocks together.

  4. 4

    Secure smaller rock pieces using an aquarium-safe epoxy.

Tips and warnings

  • John Cunningham of Aquarists Online recommends building your reef on top of plastic egg crate, allowing water to circulate underneath the rock.
  • Do not fit your rocks together too tightly. This will create desirable nooks, crannies, tunnels and caves.
  • Remember, live rock must stay wet at all times.
  • Rocks must be cured before placing them in your aquarium.

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