Transporting Live Rock

3 Golden Rules for your Rocks to live by

1. Keep rocks moist
2. Keep rocks from cooking
3. Keep rocks from freezing

How you do it is really up to you but here are some tips to guide you.

Short Distances (< 12 hrs)

Rocks Only
When the amount of time your rock will be out of the water is on the order of a few hours there is not much to do. Load the rock into a clean bucket or plastic tub. Your container of choice should be clean which means it was never used to hold harsh chemicals or oils. If you recently washed your container make sure that there is no residual soap and you are set. Remember, the rocks need to stay moist. If you have a lid on your container, you wont need to worry about this too much over short distances/time periods. However, there are 2 main environmental concerns when transporting live rock lid or not; freezing and overheating. Never leave your live rock in a closed container in the direct sunlight or a closed car in the summer (same as like a kid or dog...), this will cause your container (or car!) to become an oven and cook all of the beneficial bacteria or at least make them dry out really quickly. Alternatively, leaving the live rock in a snow bank or in an unheated car for hours in sub-zero temperatures will be colder than your freezer and freeze your rocks solid! Again, killing all of the beneficial bacteria.

Rock with Corals

If you have corals attached to your rocks, you will have to take some extra steps to protect the colonizing invertebrates. If you have anemones or large soft and hard corals, it is best to transport them in water in a container with a lid to prevent spillage. You also want to prevent your rocks from moving around in the bucket and your corals from hitting the walls and getting damaged. Here you can wedge some towels or anything that is clean (ie: oil, chemical and soap free) around the rocks. Low relief soft corals, like mushrooms or button polyps can be covered in a moist towel or newspaper (or alternative).

Long Distances (> 12 hrs)

(?)Source: Malcom, Malcom's Reef
(?)Source: steelhealr,
Rocks Only

The process is only slightly more complicated over longer distances but the golden rule still applies. Never let he rocks dry out. Also, unless the rocks are going to be under climate controlled conditions (ie: protecting them from the hot or cold) then you will want to house them in a Styrofoam cooler lined with a plastic bag. This will help to keep them moist and warm or cool depending on the climate they will experience in their travels. However, regardless of the cooler, leaving the cooler in the direct sun or on the tarmac in the arctic is a really bad idea. Inside the plastic bag, you will want to cover the rocks with damp towels or paper.

Rock with Corals
Here again you will want to transport the corals in water. If you are traveling a very long distance by car and spending
the night somewhere along the way, you will need some extra supplies. You will need to bring your corals and rocks inside wherever you are staying (except perhaps your tent...or if the weather is approximately 20 degrees celsius) so you can keep them warm (or cool). Regardless if you bring them in or not, you will want to change the water. When corals get stressed the exude slime that is full or toxins that can affect other corals and potentially even the bacteria in the rocks. You will want to change at least half of the water in each of the containers upon arrival. It is always best to mix the water before leaving your home to reduce the amount of stress due to changes in water chemistry along the way. Many corals are adapted to be out of the water for some time due to the natural fluctuations in water level cause by tides, so leaving corals out of the water but moist in a container is actually better than low tide on a reef in the baking sun! Despite this adaptation, be sure to check your corals after about 12 hours and re-wet the towel or paper with seawater if it is becoming dry. Remember, although we consider corals very fragile, they are actually quite robust to being out of the water and transportation. Use common sense, keep them moist and warm (or cool depending on your location) and they will survive.