Using Bricks in a Reef

Paul B

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Manhattan Reefs
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One big problem with some Quarantined tanks.
This is not a debate on weather you should quarantine or not, but rather IMO a big problem in quarantine or hospital tanks.
In an effort to minimize chemical and drug absorption we generally shy away from real calcareous rock and prefer to use inorganic materials such as PVC fittings.
Calcium based rock will also absorb drugs such as copper forcing us to add more of the medication every day. We can of course use pottery, river rocks, marbles or our wife's jewelry but if she is bigger than us, we probably should not go that route.
There is a big problem in using PVC and it has nothing to do with it's chemical properties. It's the fact that the PVC we use is normally pure white, shiny and new looking. Fish really hate that and you can tell by the refusal of many of them to swim around normally or eat in a tank decorated with such material. It is not porous, offers little places to actually hide (yes they know you can see through the other end of that elbow and see them) and there is no nooks for food to be in so they soon tire of looking for it.
Even the mandarin feeder I invented won't work while it is new and shiny. It needs a few weeks in the tank to age and grow some algae before the fish will not shy away from it and actually eat from it. I get letters all the time telling me the mandarins are afraid of the feeder.
I have an alternative for PVC which is just as available and cheap, maybe even free.
Regular clay bricks that houses are built from. I have been using bricks in my tanks for decades. They are very porous, more so than reef rock and they are inert so they won't absorb medications, they are heat resistant so they can be boiled and for the most part contain nothing that would harm your animals.
I would not use bricks from Tibet, Siberia, Tim Buck Too or near the pyramids because I have no idea what is in those bricks, maybe ground up camel toenails but American bricks are just made out of clean clay with a little silica and alumina, which is not aluminum and they use it for antacids but it's main use is an ingredient in ceramics and bricks.
During the brick heating process the alumina fuses with the silica and makes a glass like material
From Wikipedia
"Normally, bricks contain the following ingredients:[19]
Silica (sand) ? 50% to 60% by weight
Alumina (clay) ? 20% to 30% by weight
Lime ? 2 to 5% by weight
Iron oxide ? ? 7% by weight
Magnesia ? less than 1% by weight"
If you put a brick in water you will see bubbles coming out of it's pores for an hour or so showing us how porous it is. Porosity is great as you can also use it for live rock in a sump or as a base under your reef structure and the bacteria that colonize it don't seem to know the difference.
I like to use bricks that I find in a lake or the sea only because I want to be certain that it doesn't have pesticides in it. You can use new bricks which you can find in Home Depot but I would soak them for a week or so and test the water with some "test" fish or snails but I have never killed an animal with a brick unless it was a wasp that I wanted to smash.
Bricks can be broken up very easily with a hammer (using goggles) and used as a support under real rock. It is also very cheap if you can't afford real rock because you used all your money on your tongue piercing.
If I had some questionable bricks that I had no idea where they came from, I may boil them.