It’s no secret that I am personally not a fan of the kitchen sink approach to creating a “refugium” with all the sands and cruddy algaes that usually build up there. I and we, are very much in favor of using macroalgae as a form of nutrient export for reef tanks, especially when it is done right, with proper lighting and proper flow to create a thriving mass of macroalgae.
Depending on where you live, Chaetomorpha algae might be called “cheeto”, “keeto”, or “shayto”; but no matter what you call it this particular genus of marine macroalgae has become the most dominant form of algae for phytoremediation in saltwater aquariums all over the world. In theory, a nice big ball of chaetomorpha can just grow wildly all over its enclosure and gross handfulls can be crudely pulled out and harvested to complete the final step of exporting nutrients.
In practice the Chaetomorpha is not always doing its best with lots of self shading going on, and many parts of the macroalgae mass not really getting all the lighting and flow that it needs to be cranking at full tilt. Reefers know that creating a nice big ball of chaetomorpha, and spinning it is the best way to create the most ball shaped jungle of Chaetomorpha possible.
Nowhere have we ever seen this concept in action, and in awesome display, than behind the scenes at the SEA Aquarium in Sentosa Singapore. With a third of the overall tank volume split off to accomodate this slow motion spinning ball of Chaeto, the entire 18″ diameter living, photosynthesizing ball of macroalgae is one of the most effective and healthy we have ever seen.
Since the ball is so spherical and spinning so perfectly, every side of the living mass gets equal and distributed lighting over its surface provided by a single Kessil A360 LED spotlight. The huge mass of tangled macroalgae strands also serve as the perfect home for countless pods and the centrifugal forces in play on the spinning ball also help to eject any detritus and funk that would try to build up there.
The hypnotic motion of this living light-powered filter is a display unto itself and we can’t help but think of all the different ways that this concept could be further applied and refined for all kinds of great aquarium applications. This is not the only way that the SEA Aquarium has gone all out on a reef display at their wonderful and growing facility, but it certainly is one of the most unique.
Big thanks toSea Aquarium assistant curator Marguerite Louise Alden for taking the time to give us a thorough behind-the-scenes tour where we witnessed this marvelous macroalgae display.