Struggling to start micro algae Refuge

terryw

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Hello reefers. 15 years and Learning as I built the display in-wall underneath stairs and didn’t plan space for the many changes and hardware upgrades I’ve gone through.

Main tank: 55G. 2in sand bed. 20% live rock.
Yellow tang, maroon clown. Both 15 years in the tank. Saddle back puffer 5Y, Sleeper branded Goby 2Y. Small cleaning crew, Cerith, 3 jumbo turbo snails.

Filtration:
Fluval FX6, mixed foam filtration w/2 trays as biohome ultimate media. HOB protein skimmer.
Cross flow wave pump.

Has sufficed for Traditional fish only with recent additions to include LPS frags.

Changes to support mixed reef and goal of adding “color” besides the standard purple I seem to have.
Hardware:
Quanta - Meso Blue LED light
Trigger Systems Emerald26 Refugium.

Refugium now about 4 months old.
Design and layout: HOB overflow from main to 20G sump w3 chambers. foam block mechanical filtration overflow to 1st chamber a mix of Ceramic bio, biohome ultimate, marine pure block. 2nd is Cheato chamber only w/ small flow pump to spin Cheato. Light over section is a full spectrum 460-660nm w/dual heads. Provides significant level of light. On 11 Hrs offset tank schedule. Last chamber has pre filter and is return only.

Phyto and Pod dosing to help establish refugium.
Typical Maintenance of 20G water changes to main tank every 45 days.

I have Always had Higher levels of Phosphate and nitrate. 1ppm, and 40ppm.
Carbon dosing, reduce feeding, adjusting lighting, water change frequency none seem to have made drastic difference in water perimeter. All this is moot because I have fish 15 plus years old that are healthy.

Here is where I am struggling. I added the Refuge thinking it would help with nutrient control as my lighting spectrum increased to support LPS and other growth. Main tank algae growth has increased like Never before. Frequent glass scrubbing and Lots of little things seem to be growing. Frag of Green star polyps spreading to rock, Feather dusters, I think and etc.

Refuge.
Cheato - first attempt. softball size grew about 20% before starting to die in 3 weeks. Increased light and flow. Fell apart and removed. I Increased the light level to high and quickly grew hair algae and cyano before removing. Removal also seemed to have no effect on P&N.

2nd. Attempt. Supplemented with Brightwell aquatics Chaeto gro. 3 weeks in noticed turning white. trimmed off dying strands, opened mass to improve light exposure to middle. It was doing good about a week and then began to fall apart. Lost 50% of mass. Lowered lighting and it’s turned to mush inside and doesn’t seem like it will last.

I’ve heard the version of cheato I have Brillo doesn’t like as much light as the fine. The fine doesn’t seem to be as common from LFS and online do not stipulate it’s what you will receive.

So cheato won’t grow and phosphate and nitrate levels have not changed. (Probably due to lack of algae resources) I can change to another micro algae but other than lightning adjustments wondering what I’m missing.

I don’t think I have anything that is consuming elements that water changes or SEA LAB FORMULA #28 doesn’t restore or maintain.

I’m sure I missed providing some details but this is where I’m at.

Any suggestions or recommendations on helping algae growth in a refuge would be greatly appreciated.
 

Turtle_reef

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Hello reefers. 15 years and Learning as I built the display in-wall underneath stairs and didn’t plan space for the many changes and hardware upgrades I’ve gone through.

Main tank: 55G. 2in sand bed. 20% live rock.
Yellow tang, maroon clown. Both 15 years in the tank. Saddle back puffer 5Y, Sleeper branded Goby 2Y. Small cleaning crew, Cerith, 3 jumbo turbo snails.

Filtration:
Fluval FX6, mixed foam filtration w/2 trays as biohome ultimate media. HOB protein skimmer.
Cross flow wave pump.

Has sufficed for Traditional fish only with recent additions to include LPS frags.

Changes to support mixed reef and goal of adding “color” besides the standard purple I seem to have.
Hardware:
Quanta - Meso Blue LED light
Trigger Systems Emerald26 Refugium.

Refugium now about 4 months old.
Design and layout: HOB overflow from main to 20G sump w3 chambers. foam block mechanical filtration overflow to 1st chamber a mix of Ceramic bio, biohome ultimate, marine pure block. 2nd is Cheato chamber only w/ small flow pump to spin Cheato. Light over section is a full spectrum 460-660nm w/dual heads. Provides significant level of light. On 11 Hrs offset tank schedule. Last chamber has pre filter and is return only.

Phyto and Pod dosing to help establish refugium.
Typical Maintenance of 20G water changes to main tank every 45 days.

I have Always had Higher levels of Phosphate and nitrate. 1ppm, and 40ppm.
Carbon dosing, reduce feeding, adjusting lighting, water change frequency none seem to have made drastic difference in water perimeter. All this is moot because I have fish 15 plus years old that are healthy.

Here is where I am struggling. I added the Refuge thinking it would help with nutrient control as my lighting spectrum increased to support LPS and other growth. Main tank algae growth has increased like Never before. Frequent glass scrubbing and Lots of little things seem to be growing. Frag of Green star polyps spreading to rock, Feather dusters, I think and etc.

Refuge.
Cheato - first attempt. softball size grew about 20% before starting to die in 3 weeks. Increased light and flow. Fell apart and removed. I Increased the light level to high and quickly grew hair algae and cyano before removing. Removal also seemed to have no effect on P&N.

2nd. Attempt. Supplemented with Brightwell aquatics Chaeto gro. 3 weeks in noticed turning white. trimmed off dying strands, opened mass to improve light exposure to middle. It was doing good about a week and then began to fall apart. Lost 50% of mass. Lowered lighting and it’s turned to mush inside and doesn’t seem like it will last.

I’ve heard the version of cheato I have Brillo doesn’t like as much light as the fine. The fine doesn’t seem to be as common from LFS and online do not stipulate it’s what you will receive.

So cheato won’t grow and phosphate and nitrate levels have not changed. (Probably due to lack of algae resources) I can change to another micro algae but other than lightning adjustments wondering what I’m missing.

I don’t think I have anything that is consuming elements that water changes or SEA LAB FORMULA #28 doesn’t restore or maintain.

I’m sure I missed providing some details but this is where I’m at.

Any suggestions or recommendations on helping algae growth in a refuge would be greatly appreciated.
It sounds like you've put a lot of thought and effort into your reef tank!

Here are some ideas to help :)

Refugium optimization
for the cheato species: You're right, Brillo cheato prefers lower light compared to finer varieties like "Christmas tree" cheato. If you can't find fine cheato locally, consider online retailers.
For your light cycle: Try a reverse light cycle to your main tank (lights on at night). This maximizes nutrient uptake during peak refugium growth and minimizes competition with your main tank corals.
For your flow: Aim for moderate flow, enough to gently sway the cheato without dislodging it.
water flow path you want to ensure good water flow through the cheato chamber. Dead spots can lead to nutrient pockets and hinder growth. As well as detritus removal, Excess detritus can smother cheato. Consider placing a filter sock or refugium screen before the cheato chamber for mechanical filtration.

Nutrient export, for harvesting you want to regularly harvest excess cheato (20-30% weekly). This removes nutrients and promotes new growth. You can even pulse-feed the harvested cheato to your fish or sump inhabitants.
water changes you want to continue regular water changes (every 4-6 weeks) to remove accumulated nutrients.

Some additional Considerations to keep in mind: Carbon Dosing While you mentioned carbon dosing previously, consider revisiting this strategy. Biodegradable carbon can help reduce nutrient levels, but monitor for potential pH swings.
Live rock, Adding more live rock (to a total of 50% or more) in your main tank can provide additional biological filtration and nutrient export.
as well consider testing for other potential nutrient sources like dissolved organic compounds (DOC). Alternative microalgea, If cheato continues to struggle, you could experiment with other macroalgae like Caulerpa or Caulerpa Mexicana. These can be more tolerant of higher light levels. However, research their care needs carefully, as some can become invasive. Patience is really key remember, establishing a healthy refugium takes time. Be patient, monitor your parameters, and adjust your approach as needed.

hopefully this helps let us know how you do! :)
 
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terryw

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Thanks Turtle_reef. What testing method do you recommend using for (DOC). The growth light is opposite main light schedule. Flow in cheato chamber is enough to tumble and keep clear with 2-stage filter media.
 

Turtle_reef

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BRS did a video that had a simple test for water cleanliness..
1. Prepare a bucket of properly mixed salt water.
2. Syphon the same volume bucket of tank water and compare the colour of the two.

Use white buckets, and make sure that you have not stirred up the tank water or just fed the tank before syphoning. If the tank water clarity is close to the freshly mixed salt water then that is a good indication that your tank is clean. If your tank water is yellow then you need to improve either filtration method or maintenance.
 

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