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post #1 of 12 (permalink) Old 01-05-2015, 10:12 PM Thread Starter
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Rocks

How safe or wise is it to use stones or rock found in a home/park garden? Or maybe a planted river bed? Would just boiling work?
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post #2 of 12 (permalink) Old 01-05-2015, 10:24 PM
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Not that it is a frequent event, but boiling rocks CAN result in an explosion.
Testing them by dropping vinegar on them will tell you if they can raise the PH.
If it fizzes it can. Then(and I am going to assume you are talking larger than gravel)
you can wash them in bleach and rinse completely after. Like a cup of bleach in a 5g bucket of water or more if you like.

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post #3 of 12 (permalink) Old 01-05-2015, 10:26 PM
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It is very safe. There are a few issues with rocks.

One, they might increase hardness. If you change water often that isn't a problem and plants need the minerals in water hardness in the first place. Some of the most coveted and expensive scaping rocks increase hardness but fabulous scapes are created with them and plants look incredible in those tanks.

Two, a very few types of rocks are actually toxic. Not likely you would find them laying around or you would be living in a toxic spot! Think mercury/copper/zinc/uranium/lead ores, if you collect minerals then some of those might be poor choices.

If a rock is porous it is possible it would absorb toxins from dirty water/soil but otherwise scrub the rock and call it good. After scrubbing and drying drop water on it, if water gets sucked into rock it is porous. Do check that it is actually a rock as well, some shale around here breaks easily just by hand and it would likely be a poor choice for an aquarium.


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post #4 of 12 (permalink) Old 01-05-2015, 10:42 PM Thread Starter
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post #5 of 12 (permalink) Old 01-05-2015, 10:46 PM
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I like the rocks! They have lots of character and texture.

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post #6 of 12 (permalink) Old 01-05-2015, 10:50 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks, I'm going for a river bed surrounded by plants and wood
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post #7 of 12 (permalink) Old 01-06-2015, 02:06 AM
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Two points when we are dealing with rocks. One is that they can change your water but it depends on what your water has already. If your water is soft and acidic, it is natural to expect a rock made up of alkaline materials (limestone?) will raise the PH and hardness to some extent. But is that a problem? Depends on what fish you might have on hand. If they are some of those who are really sensitive and really need soft acidic water, it can be a problem. But keep in mind that fish are very durable and adaptable in many case.

The second is what might be on or soaked into the rocks. Very few are poison on their own but lots of them can get polluted with any number of other stuff we do to nature. I give it all an overnight soak in water with some cheap bleach in it. 1/4- to 1/2 cup is way plenty. When I'm ready, I take things out and rinse them to dilute the bleach. That puts the bleach pretty low so that it is almost the same as drinking water so I let it dry and the remaining bleach gasses off and the rocks are ready to use.
We deal with the chlorine in most of our water all the time so a bleach soak is just a handy way to make sure we are not adding something we don't know about to the tank.
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post #8 of 12 (permalink) Old 01-06-2015, 02:42 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks for all the feedback
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post #9 of 12 (permalink) Old 01-06-2015, 03:53 AM
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There's one problem; it's very hard to tell if the rock has veins of metal that could leach out and poison the tank.


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post #10 of 12 (permalink) Old 01-06-2015, 04:20 AM
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Unless you collect your rocks next to a gas station or something like that, there is very little risk they will do something terrible to your tank. Does anyone honestly think LFS or their suppliers treat the rocks they sell?


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post #11 of 12 (permalink) Old 01-06-2015, 10:23 PM
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Boiling rocks is perfectly safe, they won't explode.

That's a myth that keeps getting passed around on a "better safe then sorry" basis.

And, while it's hard to tell from pictures, those rocks look like some sort of silicate, and I would imagine they are safe.

Try scratching the rock with a piece of steel (a nail, knife point, awl, etc.) if you can't scratch the rock, it's safe. If you can scratch the rock, it might or might not affect hardness/pH. As PlantedRich pointed out, if your water is already hard, and you aren't using RO/DI, it's probably fine. Otherwise, try the acid test on the scratched up portion, or take two containers of water, put the rocks in one, and test (Hardness, pH) each one at the beginning, and then a week or two later.

Avoid really spectacularly colored rocks, and metallic colored rocks, these are often metal ores that can cause problems.
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post #12 of 12 (permalink) Old 01-07-2015, 12:54 AM
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The only thing I ever concern myself with when collecting rocks is how the ph will be affected and if there are visible signs of metals in it.

To check for metals I visually go over the rocks looking for signs of rust(reddish brown spots) or copper(green). Now what I do if I find a spot like that but I just HAVE to use the rock is I coat the spot with silicone and make sure that area is out of sight. I don't know if that helps but it has worked for me so far. I won't use it if the signs of metal are extensive.

To test ph I get a small amount of RO water and scratch the rocks and rub them together over the water, then boil them in the same RO water. From what I have seen the ph goes up pretty much every time, don't think ever found a rock that didn't change the ph at all this way, BUT if the change is only minimal, then I deem it ok. Some rocks will swing the ph up all the way off the scale, once I got above 9! Those I won't use.

Last edited by ErtyJr; 01-07-2015 at 12:55 AM.
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