Choosing the right kind of rock for your reef scape can be a bit of a mine field with so many new alternatives on the market, so we have tried to break this down for you to help you decide what’s best for you and your reef tank.

There are both natural rock variations that can be obtained and manmade alternatives; both have their own pros and cons.

Real Natural Rock

mainly these come in the following ways

A. Live Rock, this is taken from the ocean, transported wet and then stored in vats of water at your local fish shop. It’s becoming harder to purchase fresh due to export restrictions but you can still buy essentially live rock from friends, ebay, and tank shut downs.

On the upside live rock has a plentiful amount of well-established bacteria assuming its handled correctly but on the downside, there could be pests, high phosphates and other unwanted elements on the rock.

B. Marko or other dry mined rocks. These are mind from Dry reef beds, so they are a natural forming rock but much more ecologically sound and easily obtainable, it’s also much more reasonably priced (usually less than half the cost) of live rock.
On the plus side, this rock is clean, pest free and ready to go, but it’s quite stark looking to begin with it’s a pale colour and will take around 3 months to change its colour in your tank to that of natural live rock.

This is the number 1 choice here at Kraken Corals

C. Ocean Rock also known as Tufa rock, despite its name we generally don’t recommend this rock for Marine tanks, it’s not very porous so bacteria cannot colonise within the structure to aid in the biological filtration of your tank. It is however very cheap so sometimes people use this rock behind live rock to help bulk out a display whilst keeping costs down. There is also some thinking these days that using ocean rock in your display prevents detritus settling and as long as you have plentiful alternative filtration in your sump such as Maxspect bio-balls then the lack of bacterial living in the rock isn’t an issue.

Manufactured Rock

There are many different brands of manufactured reef rock available in the marketplace now, these are all well suited to marine tanks and come at a varying degree of cost. 
Real Reef rock despite its name is a manufactured rock, it’s a purple colour so that you already have depth of colour in your tank from the start, available in many shapes including plates and branching formations it’s a great choice. 

Other great choice for manufactured rocks are, Carrib Sea Life, Walt Smith 2.1, Aquaforest Rock, they all come in a huge range of shapes and sizes and colours and textures so it’s a matter of choosing what suits you in this situation.

On top of this there are also ceramic style rocks such as Aquaroche, these are pre formed structures which make designing your tank quick and easy although we don’t feel the structures always look particularly natural in form but this is just our personal choice.

Basic Reef Scaping (to get you started)

Firstly don’t get tied up in what your scape looks like too much, its inevitable that at some point your going to take it all apart and put it back together another way your reef hobby is always evolving and so will your reef tank scape.

Don’t worry too much
As you develop your skills in the hobby and your tank inhabitants change your scape will change too

Solid Foundations are what reef tanks are made of
Build on a solid foundation; consider an egg crate protective layer for the glass. Do you plan on keeping fish that may dig or bury under rocks? Use larger rocks lower down and build a good solid foundation for your reef to thrive.

Don’t be afraid to fix things in place
You can use epoxy, reef cement, acrylic rods and just plain old superglue to fix your rocks to each other, don’t be afraid of doing this, these bonds can be removed and rocks separated if needs be

Make Space for future purchases
Your going to want to add coral, make sure there’s plenty of room and places for coral to live and grow.

Water flow is important
Position your rocks so you can get good water flow around them, if there’s a place for dirt to be trapped it’s going to be a haven for unsightly hair algae. Try to make an open scape without stacking the rocks against the glass or weirs and try not to block flow.

Think of the fish
Consider hiding places for the fish but not so many that the fish spend all day at the back of the tank where you can’t see them.


With so many different rocks and ideas available the scaping possibilities are endless. Just remember to enjoy the hobby and your slice of the ocean.