good afternoon AC,

i have been researching DIY live rock, and i thought i would start a DIY thread here on my progress and what i used.

so i started this in the morning, my inital plan was to go to melbourne beach,FL and get some sand and crushed shells as my main mix, however i was unable to go today, so i went with the next best thing. i bought a 20lbs bag of crushed coral at the fish store.

Items used in this project
2- five gallon buckets
2- 12 gallon rubber maid container's
1- dollar store metal spatula(beats a 7 dollars cement diamond thing)
20 lbs of crushed coral
1 bag of builders sand
32 gallon rubbermaid trash can- for curing the rock
1- ebay 1600GPH power head.
1 bag of portland cement(gray :( )

total cost for everything at homedepot 45$(powerhead i already had.
my next batch will include:
beach sand mixture
rock salt(de-iceing salt)

NOTE: white cement is hard to find in small cities, i called around many places to get it but could not. i called a cement dealer and they had it but sold by the pallet, that was a little to much for me

Step: 1
add sand to the container hold your molds, make your design in the sand. also if your sand is to dry it wont hand the mold so moisten the sand so you can dig and the walls hold up.

Step 2:

this is the tricky part, get your five gallon bucket add your dry mix first. i used a 6/2 ratio(shells/cement). i personally think there is not enough cement but the next batch tomorrow i will adjust it just a bit. i added the crushed coral and then the cement mixed it well so it was all together, add about a cup of water and mix it in and then add another cup of water mix it in, your mixture shouldnt be to wet, it should look like wet oatmeal, you should be able to bunch it in your hand and it should stick together when you open your hand. once the mixture is mixed this is when you would add you rock salt. the rock salt will dissolve while curing and then it will leave tiny holes in your rock increase the pours in your rock- better for filtration.

here is some pics of my first batch:
the first picture is what happens when you use to much water .

the next two pics are of a dryer mixture

Step 3:

with you spatula of cement tool place cement in your mold. when you place in in your mold don't press down on your cement because it will then come out looking like garbage. you want it to fall as natural as possible. once in your mold let it sit for 24-36 hours.

step 4:

once your cement has set then you will then leave it out for about 3-4 days so the whole cement mix has a chance to fully bond and cure. once this step is done then you would place them in freshwater to leach all the minerals out from the cement. this is where people have their differences:

what i will be doing is adding 1 cup of white vinegar to the 32 gallon's of water to bring down the PH level, doing this every day and on the third day empty out all of the water and redoing this process, doing it this way will cure the rock in 4-5 weeks instead of 2-4 months.

Step 5:

on the 4th week to get an accurate reading test your house water PH and that will be you base line PH. empty all the water from your container you are curing the rock from, once you have done that then leave the water with no movement to get an accurate reading on the waters PH.

ill update with pictures of the molds 24 hours after they are made. ill also update with mixture ratios and different types of mixtures- hopefully ill be able to find the white Portland cement.