Refugiums: Better Off With or Without?

Refugium: Worth keeping or not?


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MichaelReefer

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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.
:p Too true haha, mine lights up my living room lol. It's nice when I get up in the morning and the ladies sleeping, don't gotta turn a ton of lights on.
 
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sarcophytonIndy

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not to move the conversation away but what exactly is the benefit of having pods in your reef? Besides using them as a food source for fish.
They are part of the food web (ecosystem). Besides providing a source of live food for your fish, they consume detritus and uneaten food particles. And as far as my fuge is concerned, what I notice are the amphipods scurrying about in the chaeto. There may be copepods too, but they are much harder to see.
 

hart24601

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I have done reef with and without them. Sometimes they can be a pain when the algae dies off and it just doesn’t take off for some reason (mine did this until started auto dosing chaetogro) but what I like about them vs no fuge is in my experience the tank is a bit easier. That is the fuge seem to keep nitrates and phosphates low without bottoming out or getting too high. Seems like it gives me more leeway of not having to be as worried about when GFO is out or how much I fed, it just adapts for me.
 

appleton71

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I have roughly a 30 gallon refugium in my 125 gallon sump and I see some pretty amazing nutrient export with sea lettuce. Phosphates are 0 and nitrates drop every time I check my parameters. I've only done one water change since I started the tank in late June and that was right after the cycle completed. The sea lettuce has grown from a softball size to fill the entire chamber. I throw out handfuls every week.
 

Terrp

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I got rid of my fuge and went back to algae turf scrubbers. While a fuge is good for pods and nutrient export, I also grew nuisance algae along with the chaeto, requiring extra maintenance to keep the chaeto and fuge walls clean. Also, the light would get to other parts of the sump, requiring me to clean nuisance algae there as well. Some algae scrubbers can also be a pain to maintain, but I found the RAIN scrubbers from Santa Monica Filtration to be VERY easy to maintain and just as effective as a fuge for nutrient export. I remember reading that a fuge helps with pH more than algae scrubbers because chaeto takes CO2 from the water while an algae scrubber takes at least some of it's needed CO2 from the air. Whether that's true or not, I found the fuge's impact on pH to be relatively immaterial for my setup (even though the fuge was 10% of total water volume), so I had to use a CO2 scrubber even with the fuge.
 

RedSea500MaxS

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Almost no nitrates...stays at around 5 to max 10, very low phosphates, copepods produced, feed my fish and corals without any worries.......so what is a negative?

Also...I harvest 2 huge handfuls of chaeto and expensive red Macro algae’s a week. Why is this stuff not free?

Want higher ph...install CO2 scrubber! 8.1 to 8.3 for almost 2 months on my 160 gal....still first 1.2lbs bag of BRS media.
 

Scott.h

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It makes no sense to me why anyone (Jake) would be against it. I see no downside to it. PH, helps outcompete the nuisance algae in the display, pods, etc. Concerns, ok, so debris in the chaeto? When you do your water changes pull the clump out shaking it and put it in a bucket. Suck your water from the bottom of the fuge getting the detritus. Your nutrients aren’t nowhere near worrying about this, but if you must. If your nutrients run low set potassium nitrate up on a dosing pump head. Done.
 

Terry Mattson

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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 dose live phytoplankton twice a week and copods are keeping up with mandarin consumption.... so far. Also, I had a typical low power light over the refugium. Replaced it with a h380 and bam.... cheto went crazy. I pull out a gallon of cheto a week and still packed . My ph is now more stable as I run the light opposite of DT.
 

Shawn Blevins

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My experience with a refugium. Started with my return split so unfiltered water feeding refugium. Always had a detrius problem and slime like you mentioned. Take 2 re plumbed tank and emergency overflow to refugium with a 200 gph pump of filtered water feeding it. 2 times a day my return ramps up and causes water in emergency overflow an hour each time with a nutrient export on powerheads.Also added a small gyre pump which runs 15 min 8 times a day. Since the change Chaeto grows clean and sump stays free of detrius buildup. Also started culturing and dosing phyto. Had run my tank a few months without a refugium and had algae/nutrient problems so that what cause me to rethink my setup. Wouldn’t have a my display tank without a refugium 120gal display and around 45 gallon sump with 8-10 gallon refugium.
 
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timrocks311

timrocks311

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My experience with a refugium. Started with my return split so unfiltered water feeding refugium. Always had a detrius problem and slime like you mentioned. Take 2 re plumbed tank and emergency overflow to refugium with a 200 gph pump of filtered water feeding it. 2 times a day my return ramps up and causes water in emergency overflow an hour each time with a nutrient export on powerheads.Also added a small gyre pump which runs 15 min 8 times a day. Since the change Chaeto grows clean and sump stays free of detrius buildup. Also started culturing and dosing phyto. Had run my tank a few months without a refugium and had algae/nutrient problems so that what cause me to rethink my setup. Wouldn’t have a my display tank without a refugium 120gal display and around 45 gallon sump with 8-10 gallon refugium.
so what did your changes really do, just add more flow to the fuge? I did add a powerhead to the bottom of my fuge to try and get chaeto moving. it does tumble when it's small, but as soon as it grows a bit it will stop moving or get stuck in the powerhead.
 

GrumpyAlison

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I have some tanks with refugiums and some without and haven't noticed a huge difference in them tbh. The ones without, I still grow fancy macros in them because I think they're pretty. My one tank with a fuge I somehow killed all the algae in the refugium, filled it with rockflower anemones because my peppermint shrimp was torturing them and now the main tank has more algae and pods than the fuge.

It's probably bad, but I also rarely siphon the gunk off my sand bed/behind rocks - there's a lot of it in places, but everything in the tank seems pretty happy so I've been leaving it be to see what happens.

If it's relevant, I don't do anything else to my tanks in terms of skimming/dosing/etc - i just have tanks with water circulation and algae.
 

Ron83

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not to move the conversation away but what exactly is the benefit of having pods in your reef? Besides using them as a food source for fish.
Pods consume detritus. They act as a tiny little cleaning crew.
 

sarcophytonIndy

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I've notice that chaeto in a fuge that is always dying and full of gunk is often missing two things. The chaeto isn't tumbling and the light is inadequate.

I've found that when the chaeto strands are thin and stringy (like angel-hair pasta) and light green in colour it is doing well.
Totally agree. Most refugium lighting is woefully under PAR'd. I use this one


wills.jpg
 
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timrocks311

timrocks311

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I've notice that chaeto in a fuge that is always dying and full of gunk is often missing two things. The chaeto isn't tumbling and the light is inadequate.

I've found that when the chaeto strands are thin and stringy (like angel-hair pasta) and light green in colour it is doing well.
This is interesting. I started with an LED bulb and no flow to tumble the chaeto. I upgraded to a stronger LED but it bled to other chambers and just caused more slime algae. Chaeto wasn't growing any better with the stronger LED. I then added a powerhead for more flow and went back to the LED bulb. It seems to be growing with less slime algae, but it's thin and stringy. I always thought that meant it wasn't growing well though, that it's better to have thick dark green cheato.
 

sarcophytonIndy

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This is interesting. I started with an LED bulb and no flow to tumble the chaeto. I upgraded to a stronger LED but it bled to other chambers and just caused more slime algae. Chaeto wasn't growing any better with the stronger LED. I then added a powerhead for more flow and went back to the LED bulb. It seems to be growing with less slime algae, but it's thin and stringy. I always thought that meant it wasn't growing well though, that it's better to have thick dark green cheato.
The light thin stringy chaeto is new growth. The thicker dark stuff is older.
 

Sparky88

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Chatoe is a plant. You can't exspect a dent in nutrients until you realy have a set up that grows plants well. Like anything done incorrectly and it doesnt help. A good light bought from a dumb *** that couldn't grow pot right works awsome (atleast in ma)
 

sbdiehl88

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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 had a 10 gallon refugium on my diy 75g build for over a year. Fought and fought trying to grow chaeto over and over with every combination of lighting and flow. It would occasionally grow but mostly got covered in slime and died out. The fuge was absolutely disgusting. My LFS owner finally convinced me to try an algae scrubber instead and it was like absolute magic for me. My nitrates and phosphate are both ultra low and i can grow sps for the first time. Also a common misconception I see is that people dont think the scrubbers can grow pods but my glass is absolutely crawling with them even during the day since the scrubber got established and I have not added any pods for a very long time. They love gha as much or more than chaeto. And the gha loves phosphate unlike chaeto. The key is following very specific instructions on flow, screen size and lighting so theres no guesswork like trying to get the right formula for a productive fuge. Just my experience, I know some people have had lots of success with a fuge and chaeto.
 

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