Refugiums: Better Off With or Without?

Refugium: Worth keeping or not?


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timrocks311

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I always thought that refugiums were a great natural way to help control nitrates and phosphates. I thought it was absolutely necessary. When I built my current tank I made sure to have space in my sump for a refugium. It is still only about 4 gal volume on a 40 gal display with a 29 gal sump. I started with a few inches of sand, some rock/rubble and a clump of chaeto. Over time I've removed the sand (so I can clean it easier), then the rock and now it's just a clump of chaeto that seems to grow more slime algae on it than chaeto growth.

My tank is now over 1.5 years old. All this time I've had 0 nitrates and 0 phosphates until a few weeks ago when they both shot up. My nitrates are about 2 (ok with me) and my phosphates shot up to over 1.0, now down to 0.15 with some GFO and I'd like to get them much lower.

Talking with my LFS they think I should get rid of the chaeto. The theory is that small amount isn't helping with very much nutrient removal, and it's probably collecting more detritis than anything. They claim they've taken out refugiums in several tanks and seen nutrient levels drop. Recently cleaning the sump during a water change I pulled out the chaeto clump and tons of detritis/debris floated out. It got me thinking that removing this might be better.

I certainly see a lot of tanks without refugiums doing just fine. Besides the nutrient removal help, my biggest worry is pH drop at night. How big of a concern is this? I run the refugium light when display lights are off, hoping to stabilize pH, but I've never measured it. If I get rid of the fuge, I'd get rid of the light so I don't just grow algae in the sump. Maybe I could dose my ALK at night to help maintain higher pH.

So what's your theory on a refugium and what would you do in this case? I know Jake Adams on Reefbuilders has been against refugiums, but I can't find any info on why. Can someone explain? I'm thinking I might try removing the chaeto to see what happens.
 

glb

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I always thought that refugiums were a great natural way to help control nitrates and phosphates. I thought it was absolutely necessary. When I built my current tank I made sure to have space in my sump for a refugium. It is still only about 4 gal volume on a 40 gal display with a 29 gal sump. I started with a few inches of sand, some rock/rubble and a clump of chaeto. Over time I've removed the sand (so I can clean it easier), then the rock and now it's just a clump of chaeto that seems to grow more slime algae on it than chaeto growth.

My tank is now over 1.5 years old. All this time I've had 0 nitrates and 0 phosphates until a few weeks ago when they both shot up. My nitrates are about 2 (ok with me) and my phosphates shot up to over 1.0, now down to 0.15 with some GFO and I'd like to get them much lower.

Talking with my LFS they think I should get rid of the chaeto. The theory is that small amount isn't helping with very much nutrient removal, and it's probably collecting more detritis than anything. They claim they've taken out refugiums in several tanks and seen nutrient levels drop. Recently cleaning the sump during a water change I pulled out the chaeto clump and tons of detritis/debris floated out. It got me thinking that removing this might be better.

I certainly see a lot of tanks without refugiums doing just fine. Besides the nutrient removal help, my biggest worry is pH drop at night. How big of a concern is this? I run the refugium light when display lights are off, hoping to stabilize pH, but I've never measured it. If I get rid of the fuge, I'd get rid of the light so I don't just grow algae in the sump. Maybe I could dose my ALK at night to help maintain higher pH.

So what's your theory on a refugium and what would you do in this case? I know Jake Adams on Reefbuilders has been against refugiums, but I can't find any info on why. Can someone explain? I'm thinking I might try removing the chaeto to see what happens.
I’ve never had a refugium, but if you’re worried about ph at night, you could install a co2 scrubber. I have one hooked up to my skimmer and it helps. Hopefully more people will chime in. Let’s ask the #reefsquad.
 
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timrocks311

timrocks311

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There are multiple purposes for a refugium. How often do you remove some of the chaeto? Algae scrubbers and algae reactors are both alternatives.
I've been removing some chaeto every few weeks. I have considered building an algae reactor previously. Maybe that's a possibility.
 

Flippers4pups

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I look at refugiums in this order,

1. Copepods and amphipods will multiply faster and more abundantly in a refugium. Especially with a macro algae in there.

2. Nutrient export. This is so co-dependant on available nutrients. Is most effective with macro algae such as chaetomorpha. Harvesting algae is important as to allow it to grown.

3. As stated by @glb, reverse light schedule over the refugium can aid in pH. Growing chaetomorpha can help with C02 levels.
 
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Jay Tosi

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I personally view refugiums and an amazing way for nutrient reduction. It is amazing for removing nitrates and phosphorus the natural way. and as a bonus many species of copepods, amphipods, and 1000s of other types of micro fauna will culture. copepods can be detritivores which can also help keep those nitrates and phosphates low. Overall i think that it helps no matter the size, i am running one in a biocube, it isn't even a gallon but over the last 4 month I have noticed nutrients are greatly reduced. I made it a must with my newest 120g tank So I would personally keep it , it wont hurt anything it can only help.n if it does grow slime algae and such just manually remove it and boom nutrients removed from the tank. Good luck :)
 

dwest

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I ran a lighted fudge with macro algae for years. I took mine offline about 18 months ago because I was increasing nutrients because of dinos. I honestly see very little difference with and without the fuge. I agree that pH ran a little higher before but I don’t see any negative effects of the lower pH. I see no harm in taking it offline and monitoring.
 

MichaelReefer

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I may be wrong, but even more than nutrient reduction, a lot of people only have refugiums to keep Copepod production up. Thats why I have one anyways. Just have a bunch of Biological media, some Chaeto and a light, dumped some pods in it.
 
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timrocks311

timrocks311

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I may be wrong, but even more than nutrient reduction, a lot of people only have refugiums to keep Copepod production up. Thats why I have one anyways. Just have a bunch of Biological media, some Chaeto and a light, dumped some pods in it.
This was another reason I wanted a refugium, but I seem to have no pods in my tank. I don't see any amphipods since I started with dry rock and dipping every coral likely kills them. I've added bottles of copepods before but they don't seem to last long. I was going to try another bottle soon and this might be a reason to keep the fuge going.
 
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Halal Hotdog

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Size is everything. My DT is 155 gallons and my sump is 55 gallons that is usually 1/2 filled. Of my sump 1/2 is a refugium/ATS, if I could have it my way I would have a sump that is 2x the size as my DT and 3/4 would be refugium and 1/4 skimmer/pumps/reactors. I find refugiums are a great way for me to overfeed like a lunatic as well as maintain constant stability. Pods also have a haven to reproduce and grow in number. I don't chase detritus anymore, I let it float around and let me corals eat it up. PE on all my corals increased after removing filter socks.
 
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timrocks311

timrocks311

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If you have a Mandurian fish I would say to keep it. Could you use that space for something else?
I don't have a Mandarin. Not planning one in this tank. If I removed the Chaeto I'd probably either just fill that chamber with rock, leave it empty or hang a reactor of some type in it.
 

MichaelReefer

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This was another reason I wanted a refugium, but I seem to have no pods in my tank. I don't see any amphipods since I started with dry rock and dipping every coral likely kills them. I've added bottles of copepods before but they don't seem to last long. I was going to try another bottle soon and this might be a reason to keep the fuge going.

I added some and I see my Goby nipping randomly at the rock so I'm guessing hes eating them. I do with I had more though, I want a Mandarin one day :(
 

fish farmer

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I added a small area in my 20 gal sump for chaeto last year. My DT is a 29 gallon running for 8 years with some rock older than that. At the time my nitrates were 30 ppm and phosphates were upwards of 2ppm. Hair algae would grow fast in my tank. Once I added the chaeto the nitrates and phosphates started to drop, the hair algae disappeared. I was also added a better CUC and more routine WC. Over the winter my nitrates leveled off around 7ppm and the phos was around .7 ppm. I started tinkering with phosphate absorbing media and got some phos numbers around .1 ppm.

I don't like doing things fast which is why I like the idea of algae as filtration.
 

Chris Spaulding

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I took out The rug in my reds reefer v2 sump so I would have more room for skimmer and media reactor. I still wanted the Fuge for Pods and to help with PH at night so I added a CPR small hang on to the side and all works great for me. I was thinking of replacing the Fuge for a reactor just to save more room in the cabinet.
 

sarcophytonIndy

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I'm using my 55gal refugium mainly as a large chaeto reactor. I have a 600W horticulture LED above it. I have to thin out the chaeto on a bi-weekly basis. There are lots of pods, snails, worms in there as well.
 

William DeCoursey

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Can't see any downside to running one. Without the red glow, I'd have to get a night light for downstairs.
You do hear of people with very well established systems that don't need the nutrient uptake after the coral has taken the lead. I like it as a bellwether. It's coloration and performance can tell you as much as most canary corals.
 
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