Refugium instead of Protein skimmer.

zwalter38

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Hey all, I am in the process of setting up a reef tank. It is a 135g with two fx4 canister filters. I understand the issues presented with canister filters, but I had them from a freshwater set up and wanted to use them. I understand a sump is preferred however I’m going to use these filters. My question is since I do not have a sump, I have to figure out nutrient export since I do not have a protein skimmer. I’m not a huge fan of the HOB skimmers so I’m trying to do without them as well. The one thing I have thought of is macro algae. I was wondering if I could set up a refugium that is slightly elevated over my tank. This way I could pump from the display into the refugium and use an overflow and gravity could feed water from the fuge back into the display. I’m not necessarily looking for a no maintenance solution for nutrient export, but I’m looking for something to help reduce the amount of needed water changes to maybe once a month? So basically I was wondering if maybe something like a 15-20gallon fuge would be sufficient enough in nutrient export for the 135 gallon with no skimmer.
 

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Hey all, I am in the process of setting up a reef tank. It is a 135g with two fx4 canister filters. I understand the issues presented with canister filters, but I had them from a freshwater set up and wanted to use them. I understand a sump is preferred however I’m going to use these filters. My question is since I do not have a sump, I have to figure out nutrient export since I do not have a protein skimmer. I’m not a huge fan of the HOB skimmers so I’m trying to do without them as well. The one thing I have thought of is macro algae. I was wondering if I could set up a refugium that is slightly elevated over my tank. This way I could pump from the display into the refugium and use an overflow and gravity could feed water from the fuge back into the display. I’m not necessarily looking for a no maintenance solution for nutrient export, but I’m looking for something to help reduce the amount of needed water changes to maybe once a month? So basically I was wondering if maybe something like a 15-20gallon fuge would be sufficient enough in nutrient export for the 135 gallon with no skimmer.
Macro algae and skimmers perform functions. Skimmers remove organic matter, both dissolved and particulate. Algae remove nitrate and a little phosphate and add organic matter to the water, potentially coloring the water
 
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zwalter38

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Macro algae and skimmers perform functions. Skimmers remove organic matter, both dissolved and particulate. Algae remove nitrate and a little phosphate and add organic matter to the water, potentially coloring the water
I understand that they do not quite preform the same function and it can be more beneficial to have both, however I am doing my best to set this tank up without a protein skimmer. From my understanding, a protein skimmer takes out dissolved organic matter, like you've said, before it can break down into Nitrates and Phosphates. Also, Macro Algae can remove Nitrate and Phosphates. So, if I understand it right, they do not directly preform the same function, however they do get similar end results of lower Nitrates and Phosphates. Like I said I'm not trying to achieve a system I do not have to do anything to. I am just trying to reduce the amount of water changes I will have to do.
 

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I understand that they do not quite preform the same function and it can be more beneficial to have both, however I am doing my best to set this tank up without a protein skimmer. From my understanding, a protein skimmer takes out dissolved organic matter, like you've said, before it can break down into Nitrates and Phosphates. Also, Macro Algae can remove Nitrate and Phosphates. So, if I understand it right, they do not directly preform the same function, however they do get similar end results of lower Nitrates and Phosphates. Like I said I'm not trying to achieve a system I do not have to do anything to. I am just trying to reduce the amount of water changes I will have to do.
i run both a skimmer and chaeto, and perform 0 water changes. my tank has been running 3 years, give or take. look into alternative methods to keep trace elements leveled in your tank via all for reef dosing, or other "methods" like captiv8, triton, ati, or reef moonshiner methods.

i actually have to dose more no3/po4 daily to keep them from bottoming out.
 
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zwalter38

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i run both a skimmer and chaeto, and perform 0 water changes. my tank has been running 3 years, give or take. look into alternative methods to keep trace elements leveled in your tank via all for reef dosing, or other "methods" like captiv8, triton, ati, or reef moonshiner methods.

i actually have to dose more no3/po4 daily to keep them from bottoming out.
I have always liked the look of Macro algae tanks, so my idea was to take an old 15 gallon aquarium and set it up next to my main display. Then run a pump from the main display into the 15 gallon macro tank and the return it back into the main display. I would do this in hopes to reduce the buildup of Nitrates and Phosphates. Do you think this would be effective if I didnt have a protein skimmer?
 

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I have always liked the look of Macro algae tanks, so my idea was to take an old 15 gallon aquarium and set it up next to my main display. Then run a pump from the main display into the 15 gallon macro tank and the return it back into the main display. I would do this in hopes to reduce the buildup of Nitrates and Phosphates. Do you think this would be effective if I didnt have a protein skimmer?
if i'm understanding right, you mean to set up a separate macro algae tank(assuming with sand?) and plumb it to your display. if that's the case, i would say it can work to replace the skimmer but you lose out on the oxygenation of the skimmer as well as its function (removing organics, etc).

i personally don't have experience in this since i have a 'fuge, but i'm sure you can find a work around that fits your desires (like adding air stones to aid in oxygenation, or aiming your return lines towards the water surface for more water agitation/gas exchange.)
 

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I'd suggest start without and see what your tank needs as your progress. I.e if you have a low stocking or a lot of coral to take in the nutrients you may be able to run it without and do something like kalk instead for the PH boost
 
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zwalter38

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if i'm understanding right, you mean to set up a separate macro algae tank(assuming with sand?) and plumb it to your display. if that's the case, i would say it can work to replace the skimmer but you lose out on the oxygenation of the skimmer as well as its function (removing organics, etc).

i personally don't have experience in this since i have a 'fuge, but i'm sure you can find a work around that fits your desires (like adding air stones to aid in oxygenation, or aiming your return lines towards the water surface for more water agitation/gas exchange.)
Yes that is exactly my goal, setting up basically another display but for macros. This way I could get the benefit of the nutrient export along with added water volume to the entire system and getting the look of a macro tank that I enjoy. I would also like a place to grow copepods as I love dragonets. In my head the design of the macro tank plumbed into main display solves most of my issues. However I didn’t want to move forward with the project if I was just trying to convince myself it would work. As for gas exchange I do have both of the returns of my fx4’s aimed upwards a bit to break surface tension and it seems to have been effective so far.
 

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I run a frag tank with no skimmer and a large fuge, and on my display I have a skimmer and ATS. I recently removed the cup from my display skimmer because my nutrients were too low, so effectively the skimmer is now just for gas exchange. Unless you're extremely heavily stocked or feeding very heavy, I think you should be fine.
 
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zwalter38

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I'd suggest start without and see what your tank needs as your progress. I.e if you have a low stocking or a lot of coral to take in the nutrients you may be able to run it without and do something like kalk instead for the PH boost
That is basically my plan. See how the stocking goes and if the water changes become too frequent to keep things healthy then I will look into setting this up.
 

shakacuz

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Yes that is exactly my goal, setting up basically another display but for macros. This way I could get the benefit of the nutrient export along with added water volume to the entire system and getting the look of a macro tank that I enjoy. I would also like a place to grow copepods as I love dragonets. In my head the design of the macro tank plumbed into main display solves most of my issues. However I didn’t want to move forward with the project if I was just trying to convince myself it would work. As for gas exchange I do have both of the returns of my fx4’s aimed upwards a bit to break surface tension and it seems to have been effective so far.
you could entertain the idea of a "deep" sand bed macro display.
 
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zwalter38

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you could entertain the idea of a "deep" sand bed macro display.
That is definitely something I have entertained. My only concern with the idea is, how much more work would it add in the Maintenance routine. I have heard great things about deep sand beds and the anerobic areas it provides for bacteria. However, from what I have read it requires regular sand vacuuming. Would it be worth the aggravation of the vacuuming for the benefits?
 

shakacuz

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That is definitely something I have entertained. My only concern with the idea is, how much more work would it add in the Maintenance routine. I have heard great things about deep sand beds and the anerobic areas it provides for bacteria. However, from what I have read it requires regular sand vacuuming. Would it be worth the aggravation of the vacuuming for the benefits?
i believe a deep sand bed should be left untouched. the agitation would provoke an ammonia/hydrogen sulfide spike, likely from all the trapped organics/anaerobic areas. it shouldn't add more work.
 

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I have a refugium behind and slightly below my display on its own platform.
I use "miracle mud" substrate and I have like 5 different kinds of macro in there.

My refugium has a slower flow rate through it than most where people have a ball of chaeto tumbling around or something. Mine is all rooted into the mud substrate and the growth is kept relatively dense. I remove some every 2 weeks, but I leave a decent amount in there so it also acts as a mechanical filter to a certain extent.
Everything that makes its way into there is consumed somehow because there is no buildup...

It's growing like mad in there, so it must be doing something! I have big amphipods in there too that are shocking. I give the tank and the refugium a shot of live phytoplankton every night. And every once in a bit, I get like a half gallon of pods and throw them in too as I think they are who consume all the particles of everything.

I have my skimmer setup with its internal water a little lower than typical so it skims dark if needed.
But the thing is, it barely pulls out anything. It works for maybe a few hours a day. So, the refugium is doing a lot of the work. I feed a lot too.
The refugium seems to consume a lot more than its given credit for.

So sure, you can definitely have a refugium instead of a skimmer and macroalgae is only the beginning of it. You can create quite a decent live filter with a refugium. I don't think my system would be as successful so far without it.

As mentioned by someone earlier, you will eventually notice a slight color to the water, but it's barely noticeable and doesn't bother me. You could run carbon for a few hours and remove it if you liked...
 
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zwalter38

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I have a refugium behind and slightly below my display on its own platform.
I use "miracle mud" substrate and I have like 5 different kinds of macro in there.

My refugium has a slower flow rate through it than most where people have a ball of chaeto tumbling around or something. Mine is all rooted into the mud substrate and the growth is kept relatively dense. I remove some every 2 weeks, but I leave a decent amount in there so it also acts as a mechanical filter to a certain extent.
Everything that makes its way into there is consumed somehow because there is no buildup...

It's growing like mad in there, so it must be doing something! I have big amphipods in there too that are shocking. I give the tank and the refugium a shot of live phytoplankton every night. And every once in a bit, I get like a half gallon of pods and throw them in too as I think they are who consume all the particles of everything.

I have my skimmer setup with its internal water a little lower than typical so it skims dark if needed.
But the thing is, it barely pulls out anything. It works for maybe a few hours a day. So, the refugium is doing a lot of the work. I feed a lot too.
The refugium seems to consume a lot more than its given credit for.

So sure, you can definitely have a refugium instead of a skimmer and macroalgae is only the beginning of it. You can create quite a decent live filter with a refugium. I don't think my system would be as successful so far without it.

As mentioned by someone earlier, you will eventually notice a slight color to the water, but it's barely noticeable and doesn't bother me. You could run carbon for a few hours and remove it if you liked...
I figured without the skimmer the water would not be absolutely crystal clear, however it is only a 18" deep tank from front to back so if I run carbon with that depth of the tank I'm assuming it will be very minimal if noticeable at all. It sounds like you have basically achieved what I am looking to do, just minus the protein skimmer which you mentioned is not doing very much. What kind of macro's do you have growing? and where do you suggest getting them from?
 

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I run an ATS and no skimmer. My water is crystal clear. Someone in the photography forum commented on my macro pictures not having any particles in the water. I never really thought about it, the water is always perfectly clear

You could get a magnetic mounted algae scrubber and get excellent nutrient control. It could be hidden in the side or back, just empty it every 2 weeks or so. It would far outperform macro algae
 

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Yes that is exactly my goal, setting up basically another display but for macros. This way I could get the benefit of the nutrient export along with added water volume to the entire system and getting the look of a macro tank that I enjoy. I would also like a place to grow copepods as I love dragonets. In my head the design of the macro tank plumbed into main display solves most of my issues. However I didn’t want to move forward with the project if I was just trying to convince myself it would work. As for gas exchange I do have both of the returns of my fx4’s aimed upwards a bit to break surface tension and it seems to have been effective so far.

I’d run a skimmer even if all it did was aerate because gas exchange is much harder than folks assume. There would be no pH swing day to night, for example, if gas exchange was complete.


I also don’t think nutrient control is much of a reason to use one since there are other ways, but organic removal is, and if you do not use a skimmer, you need to use other means such as GAC.
 
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zwalter38

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I’d run a skimmer even if all it did was aerate because gas exchange is much harder than folks assume. There would be no pH swing day to night, for example, if gas exchange was complete.


I also don’t think nutrient control is much of a reason to use one since there are other ways, but organic removal is, and if you do not use a skimmer, you need to use other means such as GAC.
I do plan on running carbon as needed. Are there other ways of achieving the gas exchange needed? Apart from surface agitation?
 

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