When setting up a salt water aquarium, one of the most efficient ways of filtration is the addition of a refugium. Not only does it help remove nutrients out of the water, but also serves as a sanctuary for micro-organisms to flourish and reproduce. Also the addition of a DSB (Deep Sand Bed) in a refugium helps serve as a de-nitrifying base for your aquarium. These small sanctuaries for small micro-fauna, copepods, mini brittle stars, and many other small organisms also provide a live food source for your tank inhabitants. There are too many benefits to your salt water aquarium with the addition of a refugium, which should never be passed up. Hopefully this short article can give the hobbyist a better understanding of how beneficial a refugium can be.
One of the most important qualities of a refugium is the exportation of nutrients out of the tank. What are nutrients and how are they exported? Nutrients are also known as Nitrates and Phosphates. Anyone who is familiar with these nutrients and how destructive they can be to an aquarium knows the importance of removing them from your system. Plant life, also known as Macro-algae, will dissolve nitrates and phosphates in your water column. It uses these nutrients to grow and thrive, and most macro algae will grow at an astonishing rate. Once the macro algae has overtaken the entire refuge, simply prune it and watch it grow and dissolve more nutrients. One of the most popular macro algae on the market today is known as Chaetomorpha. Chaetomorpha grows very fast, will not attach itself to anything, and most importantly will not go asexual. When a macro algae goes asexual, basically it is dying and releasing all the nutrients it has dissolved over time back in to the water. This can be very fatal to your livestock, and is why I would highly recommend Chaetomorpha algae. This is by far the best addition any aquarist can add to his or her refugium.
Another great benefit that comes out of a refugium is the various micro-fauna and other critters that will reproduce within the macro-algae, sand and live rock. These critters are good for a few reasons, but most importantly they are great scavengers. Copepods, mysis shrimp, mini-brittle stars, and bristle worms are very small, and can fit into the small holes and areas where snails and hermit crabs. Having a refugium will help maintain or even increase the population of these small organisms in your main tank. Also having a larger population of these organisms in your main tank also adds additional live food for your livestock. Fish, shrimp, hermit crabs, snails and even corals will take advantage of this live food. Not only is live food more nutritional than processed food, it also gives a more natural environment to your livestock.
Overall, the addition of a refugium to any marine aquarium is extremely beneficial, with no ill side effects. They are a great way to help reduce nitrates and phosphates, as well as creating a sanctuary for microorganisms and other little detritus eaters. These organisms usually find a way into your main tank, adding live food for your livestock. A refugium is something that should absolutely not be passed up when setting up a salt water aquarium.