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Thread: DIY Live Rock (Dark Gray Project)

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    DIY Live Rock (Dark Gray Project)

    So for my 180G I've decided to make my own live rock. I originally wanted to use like a flagstone in the tank but because I dont know what's in the rock or what might leach out, I didn't want to risk it. I also don't want my tank to look like all other tanks using actual live rock. So I've gone and made my own rock for my tank and kept the idea of using flagstone (long flat pieces of rock). I also see a lot of people trying to make their rock look like actual rock from the ocean's reef... and keeping the rock white by using the white cement mix. Using a 2/1/1 (Crushed Oyster Shell/Portlant Cement/Crushed Salt) mixture and incorporating the same method as Real Reef on how they make "Coralline" live rock, I made mine a very dark gray without going completely black. Here's some pictures.

    Home Depot doesn't sell the Oyster shell anymore. And the cheapest place is Rockin B Feed by far! No where have I found cheaper anywhere around the springs. Also, Argonite or whatever it's called, is very expensive and I've only found it at pet stores like PetSmart. Get your Portland Cement from Home Depot along with your Water Softener Salt. You can also get the substitute water softener which is much larger and would create holes in your rock instead of pores. You could use both to get a pretty neat look. And the Oyster Shell, get from Rockin B Feed out in Black Forest. If you use sand molds, you can also get the sand from Home Depot for $2.98 per bag of 50 lbs. Crazy cheap. I spent under $100 for 50 lbs of Shell, 90 lbs of Cement, 40 lbs of salt and 5 bags of sand. Made a total of like 90 lbs of rock with a half of bag of Cement and salt left.

    White Portlant Cement 50 lbs - $13.45
    Gray Portland Cement 92.6 lbs - $10.47
    Solar Naturals Salt Crystals 40 lbs - $4.78
    All-Purpose Play Sand 50 lbs - $2.98
    Crushed Oyster Shell 50 lbs - $15.99


    I let the mixture dry in wet sand molds. I let sit for 36-48 hours before moving because of how brittle it can be. After I removed from the cast, let sit outside for 24 hours to harden a bit more and then started running it in water to dissolve all the salt in the rocks.

    Quote Originally Posted by Joe View Post
    Air cured portland concrete (what you guys are using) dries in a somewhat logrithmic time curve. Very quickly over the first few hours and days and then more slowely as time passes.

    1 day 15% strength
    3 days 40% strength
    7 days 60% strength
    14 days 80% strength
    28 days 90% strength
    From 28 days to 100 years the concrete goes from 90% strength to 100% and then starts to decline in strength over the next 100 or so years until it turns back to powder and aggregate


    Just some rocks showing but in all that sand it about 30 pieces of rock weighing roughly 80 lbs total I think.


    The Salt and Oyster shell just to give an idea of what I'm working with.


    Sample piece I did just to test my mixture and color. Shows how porous it is.


    The rocks color when compared to white sand and Figi rock.


    The current collection of rocks and how they turned out along with basic idea behind the flat/round design.






    As the soaking begins.


    Last edited by Project Tanked; 02-20-2014 at 08:29 PM.

  2. #2
    Registered User Levi's Avatar

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    when using rock salt remember that you HAVE to soak it in freshwater to dissolve the salt, which makes it porous. I hate to see you kill your livesand, liverock and fish in that tank

    also remember all of the issues when using Portland cement vs the hydraulic cement, hydrating cement as it cures = super high ph levels

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    Senior Member lsaint's Avatar

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    cool it would be cool to do this to a back of a tank. I think some one did that too

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    Registered User Levi's Avatar

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    yeah I think it was Joe that did the back wall of his tank. Had I known about the hydraulic cement and possibly not raising PH I would have done my back wall with it. I forgot to drop by home depot today to pick up a bucket of it but I did make it out to Rockin B Feed to get oyster shells. I want to use large pasta to make tunnels through the rock for an eel or small fish. Then when you soak it to dissolve the rock salt the pasta comes out as well.

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    Registered User Levi's Avatar

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    I have seen people use PVC primer for the purple color and then also behr base tint, the stuff added to paint to make it whatever color you want. I think the white looks good only because with patience you get to see the start of the greens and purples coralline.

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    The tank I put that in was a 8g nano reef I'm cycling for my girlfriend. It was just to show color then I pulled it out. I'm going to soak it in the same container they're being made in. Just waiting until its all done. And the greens and purples will stand out more against black. Lol it won't by any means hide those colors. And I thought about the noodles but I'm just going to drill and punch larger holes in the bigger rocks I have. I made them thicker just for that purpose. And I made about 20 disks all different sizes so I can stack them as pillars in a way.

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    Registered User Levi's Avatar

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    I was just reading about using oyster shells vs crushed aragonite and found this on 3reef.com

    " Oysters store inorganic PO4 in their shells. Over time this will release into your water. I just had to consult the curator of a zoo about this. The local reef club used DIY rock to make an environmentally friendly setup. Because of the oyster shell it was release mass amounts of PO4 and they couldn't keep any SPS alive. Such results were confirmed via a Hanna colorimeter."

    might want to check into the truth of this, if so it could be a pita. I used ceramic tiles as baffles in a sump once and they leach tons of phosphates... wasn't fun.

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    I remember reading about people using crushed oyster shells in some other threads and didn't see anything about the PO4, but I didn't use them in my wall because I couldn't find them, so I can't offer any insight into that at all.

    Your design looks pretty cool. My rock wall was a sort of gray color. Certainly not white. It grew coraline pretty well.

    I bought some ceramic clay today to try making some shapes. It was the b-mix 5 from Laguna I saw referenced in some other threads. I'll make a post with whatever I learn from using it. Probably in about a week.

    I hope your rocks turn out well.

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    I've read into SEVERAL topics on oyster shells and never read anything to that effect. And there's DIY clips on youtube on this and people posting 3, 6 and 12 month updates. No issues. Maybe the oyster shells he used weren't 100% organic. The ones at Rockin B is organic. I'll be able to tell the tail tho. Lol good thing I'm not a SPS kinda guy.

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    Registered User Levi's Avatar

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    http://www.reef-eden.net/diy_9.htm

    here is a cool idea for DIY live rock, I may try this for a hollow column where fish can swim in and out and up and out

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    Registered User Levi's Avatar

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    Quote Originally Posted by Joe View Post
    I remember reading about people using crushed oyster shells in some other threads and didn't see anything about the PO4, but I didn't use them in my wall because I couldn't find them, so I can't offer any insight into that at all.

    Your design looks pretty cool. My rock wall was a sort of gray color. Certainly not white. It grew coraline pretty well.

    I bought some ceramic clay today to try making some shapes. It was the b-mix 5 from Laguna I saw referenced in some other threads. I'll make a post with whatever I learn from using it. Probably in about a week.

    I hope your rocks turn out well.
    when fired will the clay turn white like ceramic? If so I would be interested in getting a few pots made with unique mouth openings to make into caves for a rock wall to go under my coast to coast overflow.

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    My understanding is they will be cream colored.
    Don't look here for a comment.

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    That link you posted and the idea is pretty sweet but looks intense and hard to move. And you'd be stuck with that design for good. Lol wouldn't that cause a huge dead spot inside?

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    Registered User Levi's Avatar

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    Yeah I would never make anything that big but thoughts of a hollow stump with a viewing hole in the front spark my interest

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    Registered User Levi's Avatar

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    http://www.reefcentral.com/forums/sh....php?t=1952765

    good reading on oyster shells in reef tanks

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    Registered User Levi's Avatar

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    20lb hydraulic cement on clearance $4.80, got some chicken wire for structures. Need to pick up some aragonite and I'm going to 1.5/1.5 oyster shells/aragonite

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    Village Idiot greaseballpaul's Avatar

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    Agsjw or something like that (username on here. His name is Greg) has a sweet I think 300 in wall with custom made rock work like you are describing Levi. I'm sure the co he had make it has a website you could check out to get some structure ideas.

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    Village Idiot greaseballpaul's Avatar

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    AGGJSW. I was close.

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    Here is a great article on this stuff. http://delreefclub.org/index.php?Ite...tent&task=view

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    Registered User Levi's Avatar

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    so just made a batch with 2-1-1 ratio and let it dry for 12 hours. It is very brittle and seems to crumble every place I touch it. I mixed it up first before adding salt and put the salt in last minute with VERY minimal mixing to not retard the setting of the cement. I am going to try doing 2 part shells, 2 part aragonite, 1 part salt and 3 parts cement to see how this turns out.

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