WHAT IS A REFUGIUM
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- With additional lighting, can be used to grow algae to harvest. Growing algae in a sump/refugium also helps absorb waste that would otherwise pollute the main tank.
- Protect small organisms so that they can be self-replenishing. This works especially when you want to grow "feeder" organisms to a certain size so that they can reproduce before the entire population is eaten. Popular "feeder" organisms include feeder fish, amphipods, and copepods. For example: in a reef tank, a large enough refugium can provide a safe haven for copepods (where they do not have to worry about being eaten and can breed). When the refugium is "stirred" (i.e., when you trim the macro-algae in the refugium), copepods will enter the water stream and makes their way back into the main tank, providing a regular source of sustenance for the larger organisms.
- When used as a sump pump, plays a crucial part of water flow for reef tanks.
- Increases overall water volume of aquarium, making it more stable. For example a 60 gallon tank with a 10 gallon refugium is actually a 70 gallon system; the extra volume makes the tank water less susceptible to variances in temperature and other disturbances.
- Separate fish that are delicate or prone to bullying (for example, seahorses) on their own. Some owners even place new fish in a refugium to help them acclimatize in a quieter environment (away from the inhabitants of the main tank). Helps fry develop in a safe habitat as they grow, while keeping them accustomed to the water/conditions of the main tank.
Main Types of Refugiums
- Pros - Can keep your skinners in here; run a reverse photosynthesis set-up for your algae; not worry about how it looks; costs the least out of the different types of refugiums available if you go low-tech (you're basically dealing with a regular tank here, not a specialized piece of equipment).
- Cons - You might forget to check your little fry as often as you should if you are keeping them down here; Costs the most if you go with a high-tech refugium sump pump option
- Cost - Depends on how you approach the refugium idea. If you go with a low tech approach and use a plain tank, your price depends on your materials and size. However, if you go high-tech with a refugium that incorporates the sump pump and a protein skimmer, the resulting cost can be in the $350 - $600 range. The extra cost is for a "ready to run" tank with all the parts and plumbing ready to go.
- Pros - Doesn't take up any more space than what you already have; you can enjoy seeing the little fry or other little critters growing in here; cheaper than a hang-on type refugiums
- Cons - Doesn't add water volume to your tank. Looks unnatural. Can't run separate lighting schedules for the main tank and the refugium.
- Cost - Price range is $35 to $50 depending on how big of a refugium you buy.
- Pros - With the Hang-On refugium, you still share the water between your tank and your refugium. Many tanks and stands aren't fitted with a sump, so this may be your only available out-of-tank refugium option.
- Cons - Can't be too big or heavy if they're going to hang on to your tank; may not work with how you have your tank set-up relative to the wall (you'll need some space behind your tank to fiddle with the refugium). Can also be hard to clean water spills behind the tank. More expensive option than an in-tank option.
- Cost - Price range is $75 to $150 depending on how big of a hang-on refugium you pick up.
Refugium Tips and Guidelines
- There must be sufficient water flow through the refugium. The actual flow rate (how many times the water cycles through the tank) depends on what you're keeping in the refugium. A basic rule of thumb is to change the refugium water volume in one hour (i.e. for a 20 gallon refugium, the water flow should be 20 gallons per hour (GPH).
- You can put your skimmer(s) (if you're using them) into your refugium if you're using a sump pump refugium. This can help free up valuable space underneath your tank for a calcium reactor and other equipment.
- Consider how you want everything connected if you have multiple refugium tanks, sump pumps, filter tanks, etc. tied in and out of your main tank.
- With refugiums as is with tanks in general, bigger is almost always better. Even if you think you won't need it now, get as large a refugium as you can afford and fit into your set-up. Some experts suggest sizing a refugium so that it is 20% the size of the main tank.
- Heads up: People often refer to the refugium as a "fuge" or you might see 'fuge in print.
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