10-10-2007, 03:50 PM
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Yes, that's a good start at explaination. The biological filtration is the number one reason we use live rock. Saltwater functions a bit differently than freshwater, and there are bacteria in the live rock that help to keep the water quality stable and healthy. In a 20 gallon system, I would have at least 15 lbs of live rock in there.
Your question about increasing growth in the live rock has a few options. First, we can add more live rock from different places. Be choosy, look for problematic aptasia anemones on the rock, you don't want anything out of a tank with aptasia. Look for color and life in the rock before you buy it, and don't be afraid to ask the LFS how long it has been curing, and if that was in a barebottom vat of saltwater or in something containing life?
Buying your pieces of rock 1 at a time from different sources and even just different shipments at the LFS will help to introduce a lot of life into your tank naturally.
Another option is to add some new "live sand". This is aragonite sand, bagged wet, and should be marked as "live sand" on the packaging. The name says it all. Adding even a few handfuls can introduce new life into an aquarium, or help to build on existing life.
The only other advice I can give is to have patience. Things need time to grow, develop, etc. I have had tanks set up for years and 4 yrs after it was running, it suddenly started to grow a new form of sponge I had never seen before. There are organisms inside the rock that can lie dormant for years, waiting for just the right conditions to emerge and thrive. A tank is not considered established for at least the first 1 - 2 years. It sounds like you've gotten a good start. Most important is not to rush it, keep it clean over anything else, and well fed. Watch calcium levels, this will effect everything and how it grows/lives in the tank, and also watch specific gravity/salinity, as this will also make a huge difference. Be prepared for things to shift as the tank matures and new animals are added.
If you're considering a starfish, do some research on species and type. Some starfish are detrivores, and will eat things out of the sand, such as the sand sifting star and brittle star, others are algae eating, such as linkia, and others are omnivore and opportunistic feeders, and can eat fish such as chocolate chip stars. Also, some stars get very large and are not suitable for a small tank.
If you find you have specific species questions, ask away. I am also more than happy to offer suggestions. Please keep in mind that 2 blue damsels in a 20 gallon tank is about the limit for fish, so inverts will want to be the next focus. If you work the animals into the tank with specific jobs to do, and temper any impulse buys, you can have something really awesome soon enough. Patience, though... that is overall most important!