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Refugiums
 
Simply put, a refugium is a separate but connected component of your aquarium. The refugium may be located within your tank, hanging off the back or side of the tank, sitting on a table next to your tank or stashed underneath the tank inside the aquarium stand. The one overriding requirement is that it must be connected to your main tank and share the same water. You may use the refugium to increase your water volume, provide a means of adding additional live rock and sand, grow out macroalgae and or provide a safe refuge for a huge assortment of tiny critters that would not otherwise survive within your main tank. If you so desire, you can also house your protein skimmer, heaters and other maintenance gizmos within a chamber of the refugium. Many people setup their refugiums with large growths of macroalgae with 24 hour lighting to ensure full time photosynthesis. This ensures full time oxygen generation and limits the nightly pH drop.
 
Small hang on back unit
In the basic saltwater aquarium you run your lights for 10 to 14 hours during which time plants and zooxanthellae convert carbon dioxide to oxygen utilizing a process called photosynthesis. This higher oxygen level helps to stabilize your pH level in your tank. Once the lights are turned off, plants and animals use the oxygen and convert it back to carbon dioxide. This process tends to have an adverse effect on your pH levels. Depending on biological load, the oxygen level may decrease severly and take the pH down along with it. To combat this process you simply fill a refugium with macroalgae, keep the lights on for 24 hours and you have full time oxygen generation. No more oxygen related pH crashes.
 
In the basic saltwater aquarium you run your lights for 10 to 14 hours during which time plants and zooxanthellae convert carbon dioxide to oxygen utilizing a process called photosynthesis. This higher oxygen level helps to stabilize your pH level in your tank. Once the lights are turned off, plants and animals use the oxygen and convert it back to carbon dioxide. This process tends to have an adverse effect on your pH levels. Depending on biological load, the oxygen level may decrease severly and take the pH down along with it. To combat this process you simply fill a refugium with macroalgae, keep the lights on for 24 hours and you have full time oxygen generation. No more oxygen related pH crashes.

Not only does macro algae filled refugiums help to stablize oxygen levels they also provide one other VERY important and in some cases critical function. The macro algae converts phosphates, nitrites and nitrates into new plant growth. This takes these pollutants out of the water and stores them within plant tissue. As long as you don't allow the macro algae to die off you are in great shape. Keeping the macro algae trimmed back is not much of a problem, in fact many of your fish and invertebrates will dine on a piece placed in the aquarium. 

 
 

Caulerpa is one of, if not the most common form of macro algae utilized in refugiums. This alga provides all the benefits described above and is also a favorite snack of tangs. Caulerpa does have some serious drawbacks. It is very invasive and can quickly gain an almost permanent foothold in your tank. It is very difficult to completely get rid of. Also, certain species of Caulerpa, such as Grape C. pictured on left can go sexual and place a large bio load into your tank very quickly. Continued pruning and 24-hour lighting has proven to minimize these risks. But, there are no guarantees.

Chaetomorphia, better known as Cheato is quickly becoming the preferred macro algae for refugiums. It tends to be much more stable than Caulerpa in that it does not go sexual nor does it suffer from periods of quick die off. Cheato grows slower than Caulerpa and therefore does not remove nutrients quite as fast as Caulerpa but that seems to be a good enough trade off. Cheato tends to grow in a large ball. Try to keep the ball of Cheato tumbling around in your refugium (using water flow) or turn the Cheato over every couple of days to ensure that the entire ball gets plenty of light.
 

Give some serious thought to running a refugium with your reef tank. Have any questions; come on in and see us!

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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