70 gallon aquarium with purple rocks and no water

Top Five Beginner Live Rock

Updated 2024

When it comes to live rock, there’s often confusion, especially for those new to the hobby. Essentially, there are two types: wet live rock and dry live rock.

It’s important to understand that live rock is considered “live” not because it arrives alive, but because it becomes “alive” with beneficial bacteria once added to your saltwater aquarium.

In this post, I’ll focus on dry live rock, as it’s more environmentally friendly and easier to aquascape compared to wet live rock, which is often harvested from the ocean and comes with various hitchhikers.

The five options below are all dry live rock and serve as excellent base rock for your tank. While exploring, you’ll find different shapes like shelf rock or branch rock that suit your preferences, but these options will provide a solid foundation.

For beginners wondering how much to get, it depends on your tank’s shape and your aquascaping style. For a minimal aquascape, aim for 1 lb of live rock per gallon of display tank water. If you prefer a tank filled with rock, double that to 2 lbs per gallon of display water.

5. MarcoRocks MR Coralline Rock

This is good stuff:  Coralline-colored Reef Saver Rock from Marco Rocks. It’s like bringing a piece of the ocean into your aquarium, but without any of the drawbacks of live rock.

What’s awesome about this stuff is that it looks just like the real deal – that gorgeous Coralline-covered rock you see in thriving reef tanks. But here’s the kicker: it’s made using this neat process with organic pigments, so there’s no paint involved, and it’s totally reef-safe. No need to worry about any harmful chemicals leaching into your tank.

And get this – since it’s not harvested from the ocean, you’re not bringing in any unwanted guests. No pesky algae, aiptasia, or any other hitchhikers that can wreak havoc on your setup. Plus, it’s calcium-based, which means it helps keep your water chemistry stable.

Each piece is unique, which makes it super fun to play around with when you’re aquascaping. You can let your creativity run wild and create some seriously cool structures for your fish and corals to explore.

So, if you’re looking to add some color and character to your reef tank without any of the hassle, definitely give Marco Rocks’ Coralline Rock a try. It’s a game-changer for sure!

And hey, bonus: it helps support the preservation of our precious reefs. Win-win!

4. MarcoRocks Reef Saver


I’m a big fan of MarcoRocks! Having used them in my own tanks, I truly appreciate their commitment to sustainability. 

These rocks are responsibly sourced from a quarry above ground in Florida, ensuring they are 100% pest-free and eco-friendly. Rest assured, you won’t be contributing to the destruction of our oceans by choosing these rocks.

Not only do they stack wonderfully, but they are also lighter in weight compared to others, giving you more value for your investment.

You can find them in various size boxes, offering a diverse range of shapes and sizes. If needed, you can easily use a saw to create flat sections or a chisel to break larger pieces into smaller ones.

Probably the most budget friendly option around, if you are looking for the best deal pound for pound, these are them.

3. Real Reef Solutions Nano Reef-Ready Mix (11lb)

I had almost forgottoen about this rock.  I used it several times for personal tanks and for a tank I built for my neighbor.  It’s a good purple human-made rock.  It’s quite similar to CaribSea and MarcoRocks, but they all have slightly different colors and shapes.

The picture here is of their 11lb kit, perfect for nano tanks.  I’m really glad different manufacturers have started putting these kits together.  It used to be that you had to buy base rock, shelf rock, arches, and branches separately, driving the price way up!  But this little kit comes with it all, great for tanks 15 gallons or less.

Real Reef Solutions makes all of these types of rock separately, so you can purchase them in whatever quantity you want.

Honestly, just look at the pictures of all of the purple rock, and try to decide which one you like better.  The one major downside about all of the human made rock, is it just isn’t as porous as naturally made rock.  Sure, it has nooks and crannies, but not nearly as many deep place for anemones to sink its foot into.

Not a deal breaker, and you can get around that limitation with some creative aquascaping for sure.

2. CaribSea Life Rock Arches

close up product shot on white background of an arch shaped human made purple reef rock

CaribSea Life Rock is my go to rock.  It has it’s limitations mind you, but I like the color and I like the shapes.  CaribSea have expanded their lineup of reef rock over the last several years, into all sorts of shapes, trees, and arches.  This is a picture of their nano arch, but they sell arches of all differents sizes.

If you have a nano tank, getting one of their starter kits is the way to go, but for larger setups, just pick and choose the rock you want.  I would recommend some of their Shapes, Arches, and Base Rock.  You could also add in some Shelf rock if you have a larger system.

1. CaribSea Life Rock

product shot on white background of four purple pieces of dry reef rock.

At the top of the list is the CaribSea Life Rock, and it’s my personal favorite for a few good reasons:

1. The base rock shapes fit together nicely when stacked.
2. It comes with a beautiful purple coralline color that adds visual appeal to the tank.
3. Sustainably sourced, ensuring you’re making an eco-friendly choice.
4. Filled with spored bacteria, which aids in faster tank cycling.

Admittedly, this rock does come at a higher cost compared to the white-colored rocks mentioned earlier. However, the visual payoff is worth it. While it may take years for coraline algae to naturally cover other rocks, the CaribSea Life Rock gives your tank an established reef system look right from day one.

Recent Beginner Blogs

saltwater aquarium tank on cabinet with clownfish and anemones

Ultimate 4-Month Saltwater Aquarium Guide: Stunning Results

Setting up your first saltwater aquarium can be an exciting yet daunting task. In this beginner’s guide, we explore a detailed tour of my 15-gallon Hello Reef tank, covering essential tips, equipment recommendations, and maintenance strategies to ensure your saltwater aquarium thrives.

Read This Next