Refugiums are additional tanks connected to reef aquariums that contain macroalgae such as caulerpa that help naturally lower nitrate and phosphate levels in your saltwater environment.
Hobbyists tend to opt for HOB-style refugiums as the easiest and most cost-effective method. This installation method offers many advantages over its competitors.
What is a Refugium?
Refugiums are commonly recommended as part of saltwater aquarium systems to help lower Nitrates and Phosphates levels in coral reef tanks, acting as natural sinks where macroalgae, copepods, or other organisms absorb excess waste nutrients before they pollute the display tank.
A saltwater refugium typically consists of a large sand bed, rock, or other porous items that support beneficial bacteria in order to effectively break down nitrates, phosphates, and other toxic substances into less harmful elements. A refugium also serves as an effective natural means for decreasing excess water volume – this feature is especially valuable in smaller reef tanks where adding an additional skimmer may not be an option.
Building and maintaining a saltwater refugium can be done using various approaches. Depending on its intended ecosystem and purpose, different media such as algae/macroalgae are popularly chosen; their purpose being to pull nitrates/phosphates out of the water column – species like Ulva chaetomorpha and Caulerpa are well known examples of this.
Refugiums provide home for not only coral species but also many other marine organisms – hermit crabs, brine shrimp and various forms of scavengers such as snails and polychaete worms are among them. When used for coral refugia purposes Xenia soft corals or other aggressive filter feeders may also make an appearance.
Some saltwater hobbyists favor using a marine refugium as an area to cultivate algae for use as food in their main tank. This form of growth can occur on different substrates including simple sand beds or miracle mud and is then fed back as nutrition to their fish in the main tank.
Many saltwater enthusiasts utilize marine refugiums to raise delicate corals as an added feature in their aquariums, adding more color and interest. A marine refugium typically includes live rock or sand for sheltering purposes as it provides essential protection for corals.
Your refugium substrate selection has many effects; it will determine which plants and animals thrive there, act as an efficient nutrient export system, and even affect how often you need to clean.
Mud is an excellent option for display tanks because it provides shelter to numerous macro algae and creatures that help lower nitrates and phosphates in your water, unlike live sand, it does not build up detritus as quickly. Furthermore, it helps with biological filtration as well as replenishing essential trace elements into your water source – plus there’s even specific formulations of mud created specifically for refugium use!
Rubble rock is an excellent option for creating a refugium substrate, as it offers both surface area and spaces where bristle worms can hide and help keep waste out of your tank. These creatures also help with cleaning your aquarium regularly!
Miracle Mud is another mud-based substrate, harvested directly from the ocean and dried on land before mixing with a special formulation that contains minerals and nutrients for easy use and relatively affordable production.
Live sand is not recommended as a substrate in a refugium due to its ability to accumulate detritus quickly, making cleaning difficult. It does however provide an ideal home for bacteria growth which helps with controlling nitrates and phosphates levels in water, providing a good environment for their development and functioning. Furthermore, live sand serves as an ideal base layer for other sand or gravel substrates.
Aquarists who wish to build refugium tanks often opt for live rock substrate instead. It provides an environment that encourages bacteria, pods, and coral larvae colonies that help break down waste while providing essential nutrients to their coral reef tank ecosystem.
A refugium can be as complex or simple as you like, the main goal being to add extra stability and experiment with various approaches to keeping an aquarium.
Macroflagellates require light in order to take in nutrients and grow, making bright lighting essential in order to increase productivity. When lighting a refugium tank it must be bright enough to encourage growth without stressing out or inhibiting photoinhibition; using an intense LED fixture like Kessil H80 provides ample illumination of this type.
This fixture is compatible with the myAI spectral controller so you can fine-tune its spectrum according to the needs of your algae species. At just 1 pound, this compact light can easily fit horizontally within a sump setup or attached directly onto an AIO filtration tank or sump-in-refugium setup.
This light provides wide coverage, and is perfect for growing macroalgae in a refugium. It features blue, red, magenta and violet LED arrays designed specifically to encourage growth; additionally it comes equipped with an excellent water cooling system to prevent overheating as well as being easy to use and maintain.
Another outstanding aspect of this fixture is its remote control via myAI app, enabling you to set lighting for all-in-one aquariums or sump tanks using this type of fixture and ensure they’re functioning optimally for coral growth.
Light can be set to mimic natural photoperiods for caulerpa macroalgae, making the refugium lights available 24-7 to help ensure their reproductive cycle. Caulerpa can go asexual in darkness and release spores into your display tank to take over nutrients that corals require for their own wellbeing. By having lights running 24 hours a day in your refugium you may prevent this process and reduce loss of nutrients from your tank.
This light is ideal for smaller or medium sized refugiums and can easily be attached to the rim of a sump tank or AIO filter, providing wide coverage suitable for growing various macroalgae species such as Chaetomorpha, Graciliaria and Halymenia. Additionally, its flexible gooseneck can bend to fit any tank size while being easy to control and adjust with its beautiful white finish that matches most sumps or all-in-one systems.
Some aquarists choose to grow macroalgae species in their refugium as an effective means of controlling nutrients, particularly nitrates and phosphates, in their system. Two popular options for refugium growth are caulerpa and chaetomorpha (commonly referred to as cheato), both of which excel at exporting these elements out of your system via regular pruning practices; both species require proper lighting conditions – red lights are most ideal as this encourages photosynthesis while increasing export rates by stimulating photosynthesis while increasing export rates from your system – though both will require frequent pruning practices so as not overtaking your tank and negatively affecting water quality in its system.
No matter which species of aquarium animals you select for your refugium, incorporating rockwork can prove extremely helpful in creating a balanced ecosystem. Rocks provide ample surface area for copepods to inhabit as well as protection for smaller fish and invertebrates that inhabit your refugium. A refuge with quality rockwork also prevents excessive water movement within its confines which would otherwise disrupt its ecosystem.
An important goal of the refugium is providing a home for copepods and other micro-crustaceans to thrive and multiply, providing natural filtration in saltwater aquariums through decomposing uneaten food, waste materials, and excess algae growth. Copepods play an integral role in maintaining stable water conditions in display tanks as they consume and decompose uneaten food, waste products, and excess algae growth – helping keep display tanks stable as well as providing high-quality protein sources like filefish or black bandit angelfish who otherwise might otherwise go without.
Refugiums are an integral component of many saltwater reefers’ systems and they can range in complexity depending on your preferences as an aquarist. A properly functioning refugium will bring many advantages to an aquarium including improved water quality, more abundant and healthier corals, and the chance for experimentation. If you don’t already use one in your saltwater aquarium, we highly advise starting now! You might be amazed how much more comfortable your tank becomes – don’t forget to experiment too! Enjoy your tank & don’t be shy in playing around with things!