Advice wanted for cycling and curing dry rock for nano reef.


New member
I am back in the hobby after over a decade

I purchased a 20g cube and 165W LED light for a budget reef build. My focus is the fish and inverts but would like to try growing a few hardy corals as well. I will be using RO water and weekly water changes of 10%. No protein skimmer and no sump.

I have a few questions on some recommended methods to have a healthy cycle and avoid the nasty stuff from becoming a problem or prolong the cycle process.

Things to know:
- I am open to a live rock bare bottom setup or a few inches of sand for the fish and inverts.
- A local guy sold me all of his dry rock for $45 and included a 40lb bag of seafloor sand and crushed coral. The coral still had a zip tie so I don't think it's been used. I am weary on reusing the sand and if I did use it, I would rinse it very well and pour off the excess water each time. It would also only be mixed as it's pretty fine stuff. Since I did not want to use the crushed coral, I went ahead and sifted the entire bag through a colander that did not allow any grains larger than 3.5mm through. So I was left with about a .5-3.5mm grain sand. You can see what I ended up with in the photo and I think it could work well with a little sand added in. Let me know if you disagree.
- I do not own a RO filter but will be buying the water by the gallon for water changes.
- I do not have access to any live rock or live sand, unless I go buy them from expensive LFS.
- I am building an aquascape from the dry rock and want to pre-soak/cure it before use. Binding materials used are super glue and expanding foam made for outdoor ponds, no cement to cure.
- The tank is currently dry as I am waiting on the rock to be ready
- I have bottled bacteria to assist in the cycle in either the tub or aquarium, once the rocks soak in saltwater and I can then do some ghost feedings.
- I will keep the lights off when the rock is cycling in either the tub or tank.

Soak the aquascape in fresh tap water for a week with a heater and a powerhead. My goal is to get any dead matter or other things like dust off the rocks, to be drained off at the end. The aquascape will then be ready for saltwater.

Option 1: I let it continue to soak in the tub, using saltwater made from safe tap water, using normal conditions (temp, water movement) and daily ghost feedings. The benefit of using the tub could be that all of that water can be dumped down the drain after a 1-2 months or however long it goes. I can leave the filter media inside the tub during this time.

Option 2: I let the aquascape cycle inside of the aquarium, along with the sand mix and filter media in its place, etc. Water is made from RO water.

Option 3: The same as option 2 but with the addition of a chunk of live rock from the LFS (pray for no bad hitchhikers) and opt for 20lbs of live sand from the start.

Hopefully this was easy to follow and thanks for any suggestions. I would prefer to avoid crazy blooms and a prolonged cycle.





Cloning Around
Staff member
RC Mod
Premium Member
Any of the options would work, IMO. Personally, I'd do Option #3 because I like the biodiversity provided by "real" live rock.