Cooking Live Rock....

LarryW

Premium Member
Ok, so it's been a few years, but I am starting to plan for my new tank. We moved from maryland in 05, and I broke down my 58 just before we moved. fast forward to 07, and the finance committe has approved a new tank build. So far it appears it will be a 120G Oceanic Tech Tank (48x24x25) with all the other goodies. So I browse back to my fav. reef community, and I see posts about cooking liverock. So my question is, what exactly do I need to do to cook my liverock, Do I need to do it, and does it differ from cycling my rock in a container with a heater, power heads, and a light. my plan was to get a large rubbermaid trash can, 60g+ Industrial grade, add my fresh SW, partly cured LR, and then the heater and powerheads, put the light over the top, and let it sit in the garage (this would be in the spring) for a month or so to let it cycle. over the month check params. do 20% water changes, and then once all is clear and the cycle is over, move all of the rock and sw into the 120, then fill the tank and sump with fresh SW. check params for a week or two, and then start purchasing a cleanup crew, and a fish or two over the next month. Does this sound good. I would prefer not to cycle the tank in the living room if i can avoid it. I once had my 72 bowfront with a fluval (first tank setup) have it's return line pop off the back of the tank and against the wall. it proceded to drain 50 gallons onto the basement carpeted floor. yeah that was a nice call from the wife... :D anyway my basement smelled like a pier for a month afterwards, so i need to avoid that smell as much as possible.
 

dkh0331

Es gibt keinen ersatz
Premium Member
Here is SeanT's rock cooking recipe -

Here is the process.

The purpose of "cooking" your rocks is to have the bacteria consume all (or as much) organic material and PO4 stored on, and in, the rock as possible.
The first step to this is commitment.
You have to be willing to remove your rock from the tank.
It doesn't have to be all at once, but I feel if you are going to do this do it all. In stages if that is easier but make sure that all of it gets done.
The new environment you are creating for your rock is to take it from an algal driven to a bacterial driven system.
In order to do this, the rock needs to be in total darkness to retard and eventually kill the algae's on the rock and to give the bacteria time to do the job.
So basically you need tubs to hold the rock.
Equipment needed.
1. Dedication.
2. Tubs to cook rock in. And an equal amount of tubs to hold the rock during waterchanges.
3. A few powerheads.
4. Plenty of buckets.
5. A smug feeling of superiority that you are taking it to "the next level."
6. Saltwater, enough made up to follow the instructions below and to replenish your tank after removing rocks.

Here are the steps:
1. Get into your head and accept the fact you will be making lots of salt water if you aren't lucky enough to have access to filtered NSW.
2. Explain to significant other what is going on so they don't flip out. This process can take up to 2 months. Prepare them in advance so he/she can mark it on the calendar and that they won't nag about it until that date arrives.
3. Setup a tub(s) where the rock is to be cooked. Garages are great for this.
4. Make up enough water to fill tub(s) about halfway and around 5-7 buckets about 60% full.
5. Remove all the rock you want to cook at this stage. (The rock can be removed piece by piece until you are done.) I suggest shutting off the circulation beforehand to minimize dust storms.
6. Take the first piece of rock and dunk it, swish it, very, very well in the first bucket. Then do it again in the 2nd bucket, then the third.
7. Place rock in the tub.
8. Repeat steps 6 & 7 to every piece of rock you want to cook at this time. The reason I suggested 5-7 buckets of water will be evident quickly...as the water quickly turns brown.
9. Place powerhead(s) in the tub and plug in. Position at least one powerhead so that it agitates the surface of the water pretty well. This is to keep the water oxygenated. You can use an air pump for additional oxygenation if you wish. Only one powerhead per tub is needed. Remember the powerheads main responsibility is the oxygenation of the water.
10. Cover the tub. Remember, we want TOTAL darkness.
11. Empty out buckets, restart circulation on main tank.
12. Wait.
13. During the first couple of weeks it is recommended to do a swishing and dunking of the rocks twice a week.
What this entails is to make up enough water to fill up those buckets and the tub the rock is in.
First, lay out your empty tub(s) and fill buckets the same as before.
Then, uncover tub with the rock in it. Take a rock and swish it in the tub it's in to knock any easy to get off junk.
Then, swish it thru the 3 buckets again, and place in the empty tub..
Repeat for all your rocks.
Then empty the tub that all the rocks were cooking in, take it outside and rinse it out with a hose.
Place tub back where it was, fill with new saltwater, add rocks and powerheads, and cover.
Wait again until the next water change.
You will be utterly amazed at how much sand, silt, detritus is at the bottom of the tub and every bucket. It is amazing.
At times the stench was so strong I gagged.

How it works:
Some FAQ's.
When re-introducing the rock to my tank, a month or two from now, should I do that in parts to help minimize any cycling effect(s)...if there are any?
I never have. Really after a very short while, the ammonium cycle has been established. That's not what you're worry about though, it's the stored phosphates and that you have to wait it out.
When they are producing very little detritus - you'll know - then I would use them all at once.
Would running Carbon filtration and/or a PO4 reducing media help/hurry/hinder the process?
I wouldn't fool with it. You don't want the detritus to sit there long enough to rot, release water soluble P again. You want to take it out while it's still locked up in that bacterial detritus.
I would say that 85% of my exposed rock had Bryopsis (hair algae) covering it.
There isn't a single visible strand on any rocks my tank now.
Remember, the key is patience. Let this process run its course.
And a few last minute tidbits I remembered.
Your coralline will die back, recede etc.
My thoughts on this are GREAT!
Now my rock is more porous for additional pods, mysids, worms etc.
Coralline will grow back.
Throughout this process the sponges, and pods on my rock have not died off.
Every time I do a water change they are there and plentiful.
Remember, once you place your rock back into your tank you will need a specialized cleanup crew.


David
Graduate of SeanT's rock cooking school.
 

LarryW

Premium Member
thanks that really lays out the process.

So If I cook new live rock with this process, once it's done, should I add any of the water into the display tank if this is a new tank? or can I add the cooked LR to a tank with 100% fresh SW, and not experience a cycle in the display tank?
 

dkh0331

Es gibt keinen ersatz
Premium Member
After I finished cooking my rock, they went into a tank with all new SW. Never experienced a cycle. I put a cleanup crew in as soon as possible and started putting fish in a couple of weeks later.
 

vessxpress1

Premium Member
That's a good write up and what I'm going by. You certainly don't want light on your rock if you want to cook them. All light will do is fuel bad algae whic you don't want. In a seperate container with just rock, you have the luxury of closing it off with no light with just a PH and a heater. The bacteria don't need light to do their job. Rinsing all the rock once a week is important the first couple of weeks. I used most of my rock for nearly 5 years and it had a ton of bryopsis growing on it. A LOT of junk came off of it at the first rinse. I've done the process 3 times now in the last month and a half and the last time, the buckets were still pretty dirty. The water in the tub has been changed 100%, 3 times but my nitrates are still back at 10 ppm in there.

Here's a thread I've been posting to with some pics of the cooking process, pages 4 and 5:
http://www.reefcentral.com/forums/s...ight=Bryopsis is a bad BAD algae&pagenumber=1

And here's a couple tips I've learned. Depending on what type of coraline algae you have, it may not all die off. Mine grows in the shade but gets burned off by the light, so the coraline is taking off on this rock in the cook tub. I add 2-part and Mg to it occasionally to help with this.

When you go to make up your 5 gal. buckets of rinse water, I've found it convenient and helpful to fill up the first bucket with water from the tub. Try not to disturb things in there to much so as to keep it as clean as possible.
Save the newly mixed SW buckets for last. You're going to change out 100% of the tub water anyway so you may as well use it in the initial rinse bucket. The first bucket in line gets filthy very fast so it really doesn't matter. When it gets real bad, dump it, and fill it up with water from the tub again. It saves you a little salt too.
 

dvmsn

New member
I don't want to be controversial, but there are many who do not endorse this process. I won't divert this thread by going into the pros and cons. I would strongly recommend that you read a bunch of threads before you go fully into this. Apologies if you already have.
 

LarryW

Premium Member
excellent, thanks guys, I will plan on Cooking the LR per the directions above. No lights, heat and PH, and plenty of water..

I haven't started anything yet, still planning....
 

alan214

Premium Member
<a href=showthread.php?s=&postid=9257570#post9257570 target=_blank>Originally posted</a> by LarryW
thanks that really lays out the process.

So If I cook new live rock with this process, once it's done, should I add any of the water into the display tank if this is a new tank? or can I add the cooked LR to a tank with 100% fresh SW, and not experience a cycle in the display tank?

Going back to your original question, no you don't even need to cook your liverock unless you have some Bryopsis, hair algae, etc. problems.

You also mentioned adding some partially cured liverock. Is that some additional liverock that you don't have yet?

If you're adding cured LR to your existing LR, there should be no need to worry about cycling it in the new tank. The cycle will be very minimal and not have the eau-de-pier aroma.

I agree with a previous poster that you don't want to cook your LR unless it's necessary. There is some die off of coralline and other life which will obviously grow back but why endure that if you don't have to?
 

vessxpress1

Premium Member
I'd just keep the temp normal. Cooking doesn't mean make the water 90 degrees. You still need oxygen and some of it still needs to live. I'd just try to keep the water around normal tank temps.

Alan's probably right. You could have some die off from losing the light so if you're not having a problem with algae, it may not be worth it. I've added new pieces of LR here and there with no problems.

dvmsn: I've never read any cons to this. I would like to know what they are if you've read some. My tank was trashed with bryopsis algae. It was a last resort deal for me. I had to do something or give it up. I know this isn't the case for everyone and may not be in this situation.
 

LarryW

Premium Member
<a href=showthread.php?s=&postid=9258008#post9258008 target=_blank>Originally posted</a> by alan214
Going back to your original question, no you don't even need to cook your liverock unless you have some Bryopsis, hair algae, etc. problems.

You also mentioned adding some partially cured liverock. Is that some additional liverock that you don't have yet?

If you're adding cured LR to your existing LR, there should be no need to worry about cycling it in the new tank. The cycle will be very minimal and not have the eau-de-pier aroma.

I agree with a previous poster that you don't want to cook your LR unless it's necessary. There is some die off of coralline and other life which will obviously grow back but why endure that if you don't have to?


ok so that is what I was wondering. This is a brand new setup, with no existing LR. All the LR will be bought new. Either cured or Partly cured, I though about uncured, but I don't want to take that chance. My concern is adding the partly cured to fresh SW in the display and causing the pier smell. If I can cycle the LR in a tub first, then add the LR and water into the display tank then that would be better.
 

alan214

Premium Member
<a href=showthread.php?s=&postid=9258142#post9258142 target=_blank>Originally posted</a> by LarryW
ok so that is what I was wondering. This is a brand new setup, with no existing LR. All the LR will be bought new. Either cured or Partly cured, I though about uncured, but I don't want to take that chance. My concern is adding the partly cured to fresh SW in the display and causing the pier smell. If I can cycle the LR in a tub first, then add the LR and water into the display tank then that would be better.

You should be able to do that. If the new rock is cured, there is no real need to cook it although the process is not drastically different if you're curing it in a tub first.

Will you have any sand in your new tank? If so, you could just go ahead and put the new LR in the the tank and then add your sand. Again, the cycle involved in that scenario should be very minimal and there should not be any overpowering odor.
 

Chymos45

New member
I didn't mean to imply "cooking" in the literal sense by increasing the temp, but rather accelerating the die-off/cycling of the algae by having the temp a little lower or higher than our optimum 76-80.

Also, would it be better to dunk and swish the individual rock pieces in RO/DI water (without any salt at all)? This would save on the salt and also make a small effort to minimize any undesirable hitchhikers.
 

LarryW

Premium Member
ok, so it sounds like I should just dip the pieces first after purchase to get any nastys out, then add to the tank an let it cycle in the tank. man it's been a while....
 

alan214

Premium Member
<a href=showthread.php?s=&postid=9258183#post9258183 target=_blank>Originally posted</a> by Chymos45
I didn't mean to imply "cooking" in the literal sense by increasing the temp, but rather accelerating the die-off/cycling of the algae by having the temp a little lower or higher than our optimum 76-80.

Also, would it be better to dunk and swish the individual rock pieces in RO/DI water (without any salt at all)? This would save on the salt and also make a small effort to minimize any undesirable hitchhikers.

Right, I understood that.

Swishing the LR in RO/DI is just fine. No need to waste salt for that!
 

vessxpress1

Premium Member
<a href=showthread.php?s=&postid=9258183#post9258183 target=_blank>Originally posted</a> by Chymos45
I didn't mean to imply "cooking" in the literal sense by increasing the temp, but rather accelerating the die-off/cycling of the algae by having the temp a little lower or higher than our optimum 76-80.

Also, would it be better to dunk and swish the individual rock pieces in RO/DI water (without any salt at all)? This would save on the salt and also make a small effort to minimize any undesirable hitchhikers.

I think if you leave the water too cold, it kind of slows down the bacteria process so you wouldnt want to do that. Too high will deprive the water of oxygen. So I'd say no, there's probably not any advantage.

A rinse in RO/DI will obviously kill off everything on the rock. I wouldn't do that unless that's what you really want to do. You have to have some rock with something left alive on them or nothing will happen. If anything does survive, it will take longer to go through the process and re-seed all the rock. Chances are the bad stuff won't come down for a long, long time. I would not rinse all your rock in fresh water. If some needs it, fine, but you'll be asking for trouble.
I rinsed and scrubbed algae off a few of my rocks in freshwater when I first moved to my new house. I set everything back up and had a huge ammonia spike. I lost just about everything. Thankfully, it wasn't a reef set up yet.
 

vessxpress1

Premium Member
Really, if you're cooking LR, swishing the rocks in buckets of freshwater is not an option! You will just keep killing everything off and the rock won't be live any more. It has to be rinsed in buckets of properly mixed saltwater.
 

alan214

Premium Member
<a href=showthread.php?s=&postid=9258293#post9258293 target=_blank>Originally posted</a> by vessxpress1
Really, if you're cooking LR, swishing the rocks in buckets of freshwater is not an option! You will just keep killing everything off and the rock won't be live any more. It has to be rinsed in buckets of properly mixed saltwater.

I totally disagree that simply swishing cured LR in RO/DI will "kill everything". All I'm talking about here is removing any loose matter (detritus, etc.).

You metioned you were scrubbing off all the algae, etc. Of couse you caused a mini-cycle in that scenario.
 

RichConley

New member
you do realize, if you put dry rock into a tub, and "cooked it" for 6 weeks+, it would have all the same bacteria your live rock has?


"I totally disagree that simply swishing cured LR in RO/DI will "kill everything". All I'm talking about here is removing any loose matter (detritus, etc.)."

And I'm sure it will kill plenty of stuff. We do freshwater dips to kill things, remember?
 

alan214

Premium Member
<a href=showthread.php?s=&postid=9258655#post9258655 target=_blank>Originally posted</a> by RichConley
you do realize, if you put dry rock into a tub, and "cooked it" for 6 weeks+, it would have all the same bacteria your live rock has?


"I totally disagree that simply swishing cured LR in RO/DI will "kill everything". All I'm talking about here is removing any loose matter (detritus, etc.)."

And I'm sure it will kill plenty of stuff. We do freshwater dips to kill things, remember?

What I said was, it will not kill everything. Most new liverock doesn't have much of anything alive on it to begin with. Besides, dipping in FW is designed to kill undesireable organisms. It normally doesn't have a catastophic effect on the things we want to survive.
 
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