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Aquacultured Live Rock

The cultured live rock available from Tampa Bay Saltwater is the result of years of work. This rock is "growing" on a State of Florida Lease site in the Gulf of Mexico in twenty feet of water six miles from shore. The project started in 1990 shortly after Florida banned collection of rock from state waters.

First a site was located and a lease application was submitted in 1991. It took nearly two and a half years of red tape to receive our lease, the first issued by Florida. Over one million pounds of imported Bahamian coral rock was barged to the site and dropped by crane in September 1993.

You can view some pictures of the back-breaking aquaculturing process, or better yet, take a look at the movie that documents the entire process (in either broadband or dialup versions in Windows Media Player format). For a more in-depth history of the aquaculturing process, check out the About Us section of the site. You may also be interested in checking out scientific evaluation that confirms that our rock has the least amount of phosphate in the industry; the report has lots of other good information as well.

Over the first years a wide variety of marine organisms have colonized the rocks. During the first year, organisms such as barnacles, oysters, algae, sponges, and tunicates were noted. After two years the tube coral colonies and solitary cup corals started showing up. They have continued to develop. Next, starlet coral colonies (Solenastrea hyades) appeared.

Several species of Caulerpa are found along with fleshy red and brown turf alga. Bryozoans are also common, both encrusting and bushy. Many small invertebrates such as small crabs, snails, and worms live on the rocks, including limpets and astrea snails. The list of species continues to grow with every trip. See our current catalog of organisms consisting of pictures taken by our customers.

Harvesting of the rock is done by scuba diving. Rocks are hand picked and carefully loaded in mesh baskets that are hauled up to the boat and placed into tubs with Sea Water. They are inspected, sponges that don't survive are removed, and then they are packed in water filled buckets for the boat ride in.

Finally, the pieces are placed in large holding system vats. This allows time for any die off due to damage during collection. Large fluidized bed filters control ammonia and nitrite and protein skimmers remove excess organic wastes from the water. Moderate lighting is provided to maintain animals without causing algae blooms. Snails, urchins, and hermit crabs in the system control undesirable algae. The rock is ready to ship in 3 to 14 days.

This exciting aquaculture product gives you a chance to help save part of the wild reef and have one of the most colorful aquariums possible. The time has come for us to quit talking about saving the reef and start doing something. It is not often that saving part of the wild reef can be so fun and educational!

For information about how you can have a piece of this amazing reef in your own home, take a look at "The Package". Tampa Bay Saltwater is the only company that ships its rock immersed in water, so that when it arrives, it's really alive! You can also order just live rock or critters if you already have an established tank - just use the Order Form.