When setting up a marine aquarium one of the trickiest, most frustrating and ultimately most neglected things is when you get to the stage where you are ready to aquascape your marine aquarium.
Your goal when planning to aquascape your marine aquarium is to create a structure which allows for the best biological filtration possible, provides a natural environment for the inhabitants and is pleasing to the eye.
Let's face it all the rock which you purchase is of different shapes and size and they never seem to fit together just as you would like. Also when you do find pieces which appear to fit together to give you the design which you would like it is never stable enough.
When starting a marine aquarium reef tank or keeping a tank of marine fish one of the choices you need to make is how you will be filtering your aquarium. One of the most popular methods of primary filtration is live rock. As this is the primary method then it is essential that the marine aquarium be aquascaped to allow for the most effective biological filtration possible.
When using live rock as a marine aquarium filter one of the biggest things you need to remember is to build the structure so that it is open. Building a structure which is open in design allows for a few things. It provides the fish with necessary hiding places, allows the water to move in and around the rock so that the bacteria within the rock can filter the water effectively and also allows for any detritus build up on the rocks to be 'washed' away into the water column where it can be processed by the mechanical filtration.
Before choosing your live rock it is best to attempt to visualise the design you would like, then when you are choosing your live rock you can select pieces which will make up your planned design. For example do you hope to create a design which has lots of over hangs, pillars and crests, caves for not light loving creatures etc? If you are not sure of the design you would like why not take a look at some pictures of a natural reef, find an area which you like the look of and try to emulate it.
Picturing and then implementing a rock structure is a step which is quite often neglected. Due to this the most common rock structure seen in marine aquariums is that of a wall of rock upon which corals are placed. Unfortunately this type of structure, although easy to implement in a marine aquarium does not emulate a rock structure as it can be found in nature.
At the time when you are in a position to aquascape your marine aquarium you can either rest your base rock directly onto the floor itself, build feet out of underwater epoxy to raise the rock off the floor or build a structure to raise the rock off the floor. The latter is becoming more popular as it allows for more water volume as well as more movement in and around the rock work.
You can utilise the rock which does not have as much coralline algae on it as the base rock and use the more attractive coralline covered rock as the show rock or if you decided to you could purchase rock which is names as base rock. A good thing to check is also which the upper side is and which the lower side of the rock is. The side with the coralline on is normally the upper side and should be pointed towards the light; the lower side will have less coralline on and probably a few sponges etc and should be pointed down.
Attaching rocks together can be accomplished using various methods. You can use tie wraps to tie them together as long as there are holes in the rocks to pass the wrap through. You can also use underwater epoxy to effectively glue then together or you can simply balance them on top of each other.
Whichever method you choose it is essential to ensure that the rock structure you create is both open and balanced. You do not want to create a structure which is not balanced and the rockwork falls over and either traps a fish or even worse the rockwork falls over and cracks your aquarium. It is also recommended to leave a gap between the rocks and the sides of the aquarium. If you do not leave a gap then you will have issues later on trying to glean the glass.
Learning to aquascape your marine aquarium is not just restricted to rocks though. Aquascaping could also include corals in the definition. Corals require different amounts of lights and water movement to thrive. Your rock structure should allow for places where these corals can be placed or attached therefore you should also build your rock structure around what you hope to keep in your aquarium.
With patience and a little creativity you can create some fantastic designs. Ledges, caverns, recesses, overhangs, pillars etc can all be created as long as you have the correct rock work which can be attached together.
When it is time to aquascape your marine aquarium try to enjoy it and in no time at all you will have a structure which will be the envy of all your aquarist friends.
Peter Cunningham combined with his father have been keeping salt water aquarium's for nearly 35 years. Their website Salt Water Aquarium provides a wealth of resources for learning how to start and maintain salt water aquariums.