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FAQs about Refugium Operation, Maintenance 2

Related Articles: Get Thee To A Refugium by Bob Fenner, Refugia: What They're For And How To Build Them by Forrest Phillips, Reef Systems, Reef Set-Up, Reef Filtration, Marine System PlumbingFish-Only Marine Set-up, FOWLR/Fish and Invertebrate Systems, Reef Systems, Coldwater Systems, Small Systems, Large Systems, RefugiumsMacroalgae

Related FAQs: Refugium Operation/Maintenance 1, Refugiums 1, Refugiums 2, Refugiums 3, Refugiums 4, Refugiums 5, Refugiums 6, Refugiums 7Refugiums 8, Refugiums 9, Refugiums 10, Refugiums 11, Refugiums 12, Refugiums 13, Refugiums 14, Refugium Rationale, Design, Construction, Hang-on types, Pumps/Circulation, Lighting, Algae, Livestock, DSBs, & Caulerpa, Marine System Plumbing, Holes & Drilling 1, Durso Standpipes, Overflow Boxes, Bubble Trouble, Plumbing NoiseMake Up Water Systems, Marine Aquarium Set-Up, Micro-Crustaceans, Amphipods, Copepods, MysidsAlgal Filtration in General, Mud Filtration 1

Refugiums are not "maintenance free".

Old Refugium New Tank      3/5/17
Hi Everyone,
I would like to get your advice on a question: what is the best way to introduce an established refugium to my new tank?
<Once the new tank is initially set up to the point of new water being stable (a few days usually); just beginning the interchange of water between the two
The refugium is 200 Gal.
I have kept alive for the last two years while I rebuilt my FOWLR tank.
The refugium has been kept alive by "feeding" it with the water change output from my reef tank. It has about 200 pounds of live rock, a deep sandbed, macro algae, worms, copepods, crabs, mangroves and even an oyster that hitchhiked on the live rock.
It also has a crop of Aptstasia that would make a reefer freak.
<Meh; some folks around the world use Aiptasia in RDP operated refugiums as media. I take it you don't intend to try to eradicate the anemones before joining the systems>
I just completed the fish tank. It is 1600ga.
It has a fine sand bottom, and I used 600 pounds of dry rock to build the rockwork, decorated with Living Color faux corals. The tank has been running empty with lights out for the last month (waiting for my first set of damsels to finish their stay in quarantine). The tank has also been isolated from the refugium up till now. I originally thought I could
slowly acclimate the refugium with the tank over a period of several days to speed up the development of the biological filter. When I mentioned this to my LFS owner he suggested I wait at least 3 months for the new tank to age a bit.
<Mmmm; not what I would do>
His exact words were "that much new water will kill everything in your refugium".
What he says seems to make sense, I would dilute the nutrient level to much to support the existing life in the refugium. So I was wondering what your suggestion is as to how to introduce my refugium to my tank.
Mike S.
<Up to you, but having "done" this for decades, I doubt there will be any issue with existing (refugium) life and this transition; now or later. Bob Fenner>

refugium (substrate) change?? Reading? Not yet; a whole bunch of Qs         2/5/16
I have done some reading on WWM but could not find answer to the following main question.
***Does one ever have to clean and change out entire refugium substrate?
other more minor ?s buried within(**)
<The short, simple answer is yes. USE the WWM SEARCH TOOL
for background -
90 gallon reef
Uses RO/DI water, ( 4stage ) circulated and oxygenated at least 24 hr
before 20 gal water changes every 2 weeks
Salt mix – Red Sea Coral Pro Salt
~15 gal refugium-( lit at night only) growing Chaeto with marked amount
of detritus on surface
In-sump ETTS Tower protein skimmer with Danner Mag Drive model 5 pump
Main pump- reef octopus DC 5500 in sump, about 5 ft below tank
inflows ->Circular
flow in tank with two inputs at opposite corners
Lighting – TWO 55 light 3w LED dimmable fixtures with blue, white,
yellow. white lights on 11amà7:30 pm ( 8.5hrs/day).
**How long can I have blue LEDs on? (will they bleach corals?)
<Depends on the PAR/PUR strength of the LEDs AT the point of light encounter with the corals AND what species, and condition to degree, these "corals" are/in>

Purple Tang- lateral line disease? ** any good tx?
<? See WWM>

Coral beauty- had recent white spots, 2-3mm flat. Now resolved.
Rock anemone . Occasionally target feed with shrimp.
Colt coral
Kenya Tree coral - growing VERY slowly high on live rock. Position?
<This too; all covered....>

Ricordea (2 - orange, green)
Green star polyps- no longer fully extend , ?light /flow levels?
<And this>
Yellow polyps- spreading. Please take some!
<I'll bet; no thanks>
Plate corals (2)- green and orange- occasionally fed raw shrimp
Zoanthids-** no longer fully opening.
<Trouble. See WWM>

Hammer coral and Torch corals-
Mushrooms- **recently smaller. Red and blue ones almost disappeared.
<Out competed... allelopathy very likely>
Leather coral – after months of being flat-topped/closed, now opens polyps fully and looks great. Why?
Grandis palythora- looks bleached since I got it ?change to lower light level?
Brittle starfish (2 in tank, 2 in refugium- one giant). Sea cucumbers (2)- reproduced in tank.
Recently had new condylactus. Did well for several weeks, grew, then disappeared overnight, never saw any "remains”
**Other questions-
What benefit is there to having live rock in one's refugium (along with plants) if you already have live rock in main reef?
SCWD or other inexpensive wave maker ?
any experience with use of nitrate remover called AZ-NO3?
Water chemistry-
Calcium 415
dKH 5.9 or 10 – >** big discrepancy between Salifert and Hagen tests??- considering getting Hanna alk checker
pH – 8.2
sp. Grav – 1.026
NO3- tr
PO4- .02-.03
Mg – 1280
pH- 8.1
temp 80 degrees
<Keep reading! Bob Fenner>
Re: refugium change?? Rdg? No       2/10/16

you say there are "lots of reasons".
when does one know they need to "renew the substrate" or other indicators of need to change out refugium and how does one do this without crashing the tank since there is a lot of bacteria down there?
<Search the word "refugium" on WWM>

looking for filter       12/4/14
I am in need of a specific type of filter( pic 1&2.) When I set up my tank, the store set up my refugium with a rigid filter. They went out of business a number of years ago and I have not found another filter like them since.
Needless to say, I am in dire need for new ones and was hoping someone there would know where I can get them. Otherwise, I am forced to use the cloth tubes(third pic.)
Sorry it is so disgusting, but it is the only one I have and I am trying to preserve it for as long as possible. As you can see, it is in truly in deplorable condition. Any help would be appreciated.
Thank you,
6" tall 4.5" across
This one is the only substitute I can find. I do not like these.
<Mmm; I would contact CPR re... a link to something like this: http://www.cpraquatic.com/pdf/sockitcombo.pdf
I think the product you show is Albert Thiel's old platinum line... the folks at Emperor Aquatics may have some of their filter socks still about... Bob Fenner>

Re: looking for filter       12/5/14
Thanks Bob,
I am hopeful that I can find them.
<Me too... there are a few other places to look for such Dacron/polyester bags (of quality)... If push comes to shove, you might consider the yardage store... for material; and making your own. BobF>

Copepods Living Under Water Surface Film (in sump/fuge)      11/21/14
Dear WWM Crew,
Just a quick one today. I have noticed that a thin film/layer of scum has collected on the surface of my 80L refugium attached to my reef tank (the surface is not agitated right now).
<I would provide this agitation... should the power go out, you might lose most aerobic life there in short order... and IF this water is pumped back into the system; potential trouble/s there as well>
The prevailing advice appears to be to remove it (I am aware of the reasons and methods), but I have also noticed that there are also a fair number of copepods/other microfauna living just under this film layer. The pods appear to be associated with this layer as they only move parallel to the surface and never swim down into the water. I don't see any pods when the surface is agitated and the scum removed by the drain.
<I see; again... aeration, circulation to aid in stirring this surface scum up a bit>
Would you advise I try to remove this film layer, or would it be worth leaving it alone as a habitat for the copepods? The water surface area in question is only about 20% of the total of the entire system, but it is the only part of the system that is completely uncovered (thus it probably is responsible for a lot of the gas exchange).
Thanks for your help,
<Welcome. Bob Fenner>

Refugium cleaner – 07/27/12
Hello, again. Hello
<Hey Bob>
I would like a bit of a clarification. Although your site is a marvelous wealth of knowledge and I have gained immeasurably from it, I do find some contradictions from time to time.
<Thank goodness. There are several ways to not only skin cat(fishe)s, but thankfully folks who can/will stand up for their observations, assertions>
I need a bit of enlightenment regarding cleaning of my refugium.
I designed and built my refugium a few months ago. Although small it has done wonders for my system. It is approx 10 gallons for a 55 gallon tank.
System also has 2 Magnums (1 with charcoal and Chemipure plus, 1 with the pleated element, a wet/dry sump with poly filters and a skimmer that feeds the refugium ( I know, kinda backwards but it's the way I designed it before learning better.....)
The refugium has a Red Mangrove, some Ulva and Chaetomorpha and is doing great. Copious amounts of Arthropods and Tisbe and countless (what appear to be) hermit crab larvae. A wonderful ecosystem.
(The skinny Mandarin Dragonette I purchased is now fat and happy.)
<Ah good>
I was looking for a way to keep the wastes cleaned up on the substrate and was somewhat led to believe that a brittle star would help clean it without eating the inhabitants or Macro Algae.
<Mmm, not my choice>
I bought  a common brittle star for the main tank and a "Tiger Striped" brittle for the refugium. I had read the warnings on the green brittle stars but decided to check up a bit on the Striped one when I saw some articles stating that the stars in the refugium would end up eating up all the nutrients the bugs needed to thrive. At this point I am wondering if I should add the star or leave well enough alone.
Please help me, Sages of Marine Knowledge and Understanding, to make the right choice....
<T'were it me/mine, I'd just partially stir and gravel vacuum the/this substrate every week or two. Please see here for more:
Thanks again and again for all you do.....
Bob in Thornton, Colorado
<Welcome. Bob Fenner, in San Diego, CA> 

Refugium and Sump Cleaning  11/19/11
Good morning Crew,
Hope all are well. Shawn here. My question is whether a sump and refugium should be cleaned regularly or left alone to do its thing. I hope this is not a stupid question but I believed that they should be disturbed as little as possible so as not to disturb the critters living in the sand and live rock. Thanks for all your help, Shawn
<I'm a fan of periodic (weekly to monthly) "light cleaning" of sumps, refugiums... wiping all down, some vacuuming of mulm, substrate if present. "Cleanliness is not sterility" but a modicum of gunk removal reduces smell and nutrient accumulation. Cheers, Bob Fenner>

Refugium help, substrate choices/choosing, socks   8/31/10
Hi Anthony,
My name is Sal.
<Hello Sal, Scott V. with you. Anthony has not been with the crew for some years now.>
I am planning on a refugium for my 90 gallon lps tank and I've got a few questions if u would be so kind.
I can't decide between a 5" DSB with oolitic sand or a miracle mud 1" sand bed. The reason I don't know if I want the 5" DSB is because I have a lot of detritus in my sump and I fear a nutrient sink situation. I can just siphon this detritus out right now since my sump is bare bottom. The great part of the miracle mud bed is that u swap out the mud every year thus
eliminating the nutrient sink possibility.
<A "gimmick" of the mud IMO.>
My LFS told me that the excess detritus accumulation in my sump is because I don't use a filter sock in my sump. They also said that if I used a filter sock with the 5" DSB, things would be just fine as far as avoiding a nutrient sink goes.
What do u think?
<I think this is fine advice. The DSB will serve more bang for the buck here, the filter socks can indeed be helpful here. A large part of the detritus buildup in the sump is due to dead spots in flow through it, just like the display. By using a DSB, effectively raising the floor of the sump putting the surface up into the flow, you may very well find the detritus does not accumulate in the same way, if at all.>
Should I use a filter sock no matter which route I choose?
<It will save you trouble/time cleaning it out.>
How often should they be cleaned?
<I do every few days. The socks are inexpensive enough to have several.
Swap them every three days or so, then wash a bunch at once.>
Thank you,

Source water for Refugiums 9/30/09
Good Day to the Wet Web Media Crew!
I have a quick question about the source water for Refugiums: Can the water from the Display tank pass through a mechanical filter first before being pumped-up to the Refugium?
Or is it better that the source water be gravity feed to the Refugium?
<Generally people try to gravity feed water out of the Refugium into the main tank, although this can be problematic since the refugium would need to be above the main tank which is rare. Passing water into the refugium after going through a filter/skimmer is no problem.>
Thank you very much for your time,

Re Source water for Refugiums 9/30/09
Thank you for your quick response, I appreciate it!
So in theory, the mechanical filter would only take out larger particulates/waste, thus leaving plenty of 'liquid nutrients' for the Refugium?
<That's it. Unfortunately our filters are not as good as we hope or often believe they are, so there is plenty to feed the refugium.>

Caulerpas & Copper? Which is better for a holding system. 7/1/2009
<Hi Matthew.>
I am in the process of reconstructing & redesigning my fish holding system.. It's a 150 gallons total system volume. Reasons for redesign are:
reinforcement of the stand with 2x4's, problem of high nitrates, insufficient space in the sump for a bigger better skimmer, and lastly overflow capacity when power shuts down was not enough.
I have ordered up modifications to my original sump to accommodate the new skimmer and have enough capacity for draining when/if power goes off and also space to put Fiji mud and possibly Caulerpas to export nitrates/phosphates and have healthier water for my fish.
<Sounds good.>
I have come across the debate of whether or not I will be running Caulerpas without copper or copper without Caulerpas. If I use copper, I will have the problem of slowly increasing nitrates without my Caulerpa and large water changes with constant adjustments using copper. I was told copper will kill the Caulerpa yes?
<Copper will kill any algae and invertebrate, essentially negating the refugium you just set up.>
Previously a Aqua UV sterilizer was being used, but after dismantling it I took a peak inside and saw how resinous the glass tube had become and realized its ineffectiveness against zapping pathogens.
<They do require regular maintenance to keep the inner sleeve clean.
Should be cleaned every two weeks or so.>
Being that the U.V. requires so much maintenance, I think this time I will not incorporate it since copper sounds more effective.
<Long term exposure to cooper is not good for fish either..>
If I don't use copper, my tank is not protected against ich/velvet but I will be able to keep nitrates very low.
<You can control Crypt and velvet using good quarantine and dipping procedures.>
Which method would you go with,
<Algae and refugium along with quarantine.>
Any suggestions for the long term success of this holding system are appreciated.
<Read here:
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/cutrbfix.htm >

Re: Caulerpas & Copper? Which is better for a holding system. 7/2/2009
<Hi Matthew.>
Sounds good, another person I know in the service biz recommended the same thing, Caulerpas and U.V.
I guess a 10 or 20 gal tank could be used to isolate and treat extreme cases with copper and freshwater dips.
One more thing, how much more susceptible do fish become to ich/velvet when nitrate concentrations are 50ppm and above?
<The water quality is poor at that level, which could stress the fish and make them more susceptible.>

Old/New Refugium 9/8/08 Hello, <Adam> I have a question regarding setting up a new fuge. A month or so ago I lost the measuring Pipette for my KH test. I guessed at the amount being 1/2 a mL and we will not discuss what happened slowly unnoticed. I have corrected the issue now but not without an outbreak of Cyano in my refugium. I had a small (approx. 7 gal, minus the 4 inches of sand) fuge connected to my sump, it housed Gracilaria as well as blue Ochtodes. With the growing Ochtodes and the lack of flow (nothing other than the Maxi jet 600 that fed the fuge) coupled with the alkalinity slowing dropping soon my fuge was covered in Cyano. I have disconnected my Fuge from the system but have added a power head and been doing SMALL water changes. My question is that I have decided to use a 29 gallon tank as my fuge, have a maxi jet 1200 feed it from the main tank and have a J tube overflow feed it to the sump. (the J tube will have a aqua lifter pump connected to it so that it does not loose suction as this is a temporary (short term... less than 6 months) solution while I am in the process of installing a 375 gallon display). <If at all possible do use two of these J tubes, as with any other overflow, for redundancy.> Anywho.. I have tried to keep the fauna in the display alive (plankton, mysis, pods, worms etc. hoping to save some of the Gracilaria,) how should I go about adding these to the 29 gallon once it is up and running without spreading more of the Cyano? <If the systems are linked the Cyanobacteria will spread with fueling factors in the water. http://www.wetwebmedia.com/bluegralgae.htm > I installed a baffle in the 29 gal so that I could use about 1/3 of it as a mud filter and then have about 24" of the length of the tank used for a 5" DSB. Is this something that would be beneficial or a nuisance? <It can work fine.> Also Should I let the 29 gallon cycle before connecting into the system? <I would set it up and run it connected. The display will seed the 29, meanwhile the extra volume of the 29 will certainly not hurt.> Currently I have a 120 gallon reef with around 150 lbs of live rock, a 50 gallon sump, running Chemi Pure elite for chemical filtration. Calcium is a little low at 330 ppm ( I am in the process of slowly bringing this up, and it has proven very difficult given the amount of Monti/Acro/Clams in the tank, I figured the fresh 30 gallons I have mixed up will help bolster this as well as a water change shortly after), Alk is 160ppm, phosphates 0, nitrate and nitrite 0. Thanks,... again... Adam <Welcome, do please run all future correspondence through a simple spell check before sending. Scott V.>

Changing Refugium 7/5/08 Hey guys. <Hey there Shane.> Had a quick question in regards to changing refugiums. Have had a squiz in FAQs for a similar question but couldn't find one. We currently have a 120L refugium set up with a 10cm sand bed and Caulerpa and it is set up under the main tank. Our main tank is a 640L fish and coral tank with about 40kg of live rock. We wish to upgrade our refugium to a 200L tank with deep sand bed and Chaetomorpha (when we can find some) and add some more live rock into the refugium. System has been running for 2.5 months after cycling for 1 month. Ammonia and Nitrites consistently at 0 and am trying to fashion an effective refugium to export nitrates and culture copepods and the like (bigger is better so I've read :). <Definitely is with a refugium.> My question is in regards to the change over. Is it possible for us to simply set the new refugium up with the sand and live rock, disconnect the old one and plug in the new one all in one afternoon? <Yes, most definitely.> As stated the refugium is under the main tank and we don't have the space to have them both running at the same time while the new one cycles. I'm hoping the live rock in the main tank will be sufficient to cycle ammonia and nitrites and we'll just up the frequency of the water changes (presently about 20% fortnightly) to combat a predicted rise in nitrates in the intermediate period while the new refugium establishes. <Unless your tank is grossly overstocked it will be sufficient.> Furthermore my understanding of the sand bed filtration method is that the bacteria in the sand are anaerobic and we can't just simply scoop out the sand in the current refugium and put it into the new one to seed the new sand. I assume that the bacteria would die and cause all kinds of spikes and O2 shortages. A point in the right direction would be much appreciated :) and I apologize if there is a posting I have missed that answers the question :/ <I would just scoop out the top few inches/cm and put it in a bucket. Then, rinse the sand that remains, place it in the new refugium, placing the sand in the bucket on top. I am frugal/cheap, no need to replace the sand (although you will need to add more to maintain the depth).> Love your work, you guys rock! <Geez, thank you!> Cheers from the land down under. Shane <Happy reefing from torching California, Scott V.>

Re: Changing Refugium 7/6/08 Hey Scott. <Shane!> Thanks for the help, music to my ears :) we'll make the change over with your advice as soon as we get the glass cut. <Great!> Thanks a bunch for the fast response. <Very welcome.> Have a good one mate. Shane <You too, have fun, Scott V.>

New tank, Refugium Setup 4/26/08 Hi! Appreciate all of the info and all of the responses I have gotten from you guys already. Thanks a bunch! <You're welcome, happy to assist.> Anywho, I am cycling my 3rd tank in a little over a year. <Wow, a fellow addict!> I have two set up now, one being the 30, and the other that I just got done cycling about 2 weeks ago that is a 54 corner. I plan on moving everything into the 54. I don't have a skimmer on the 54 yet, its still on the 30 right now, but I do have a CPR hang on tank refugium. What is really weird, is that I am only getting the brown algae in the refugium. <This is common, usually due to lack water flow or the lighting in the refugium being more conducive to the growth.> The main tank looks fantastic, just a little bit of the brown on the LR and LS, but not nearly as much as in the refugium. Is it ok like that for now, or should I be worried? <Nothing to worry about. Most tanks go through this phase, do take step towards controlling the nutrients that fuel this if you are not already.> Also, how much good do you think 20 pounds of LS, 4 pounds of LR and some spaghetti macro algae will do to control nitrates? <That is not much sand, but should be deep enough (at least 3', preferably 4'+) in the hang on refugium to achieve some nitrate reduction.> Thanks once again! <Welcome, have fun, Scott V.>

Refugium algae bloom 3-22-08 Hi Crew, <Mike here> My refugium setup has been running for less then month and I have already seen a lot of positive changes. <Nice> Decreasing nitrates being one of them! Pods multiplied nicely and the Chaetomorpha is growing. I have about a dozen Nassarius snails now. <In the 'fuge?> My question is about an algae bloom. There is green algae growing all over the top of my refugium's DSB (none in main display). It looks like the algae and the slim is preventing the gas bubbles coming up form the sand to escape. Should I get an organism(s) that will consume the slime algae? Any other suggestions? <Sounds like lack of water movement/sand sifting. Nassarius spp. snails will stir the top layer of sand fairly effectively, as well some brittle star species. Take care of these issues and the slime algae should disappear> Thank you once again, Peter <M. Maddox>

Replacing Old Sand Bed in Refugium 12/27/07 Hello, <Hi> I am planning on changing out my old sand bed (5yrs) for a new one and have a concern that this would cause my tank to start a cycle. <Yes most likely, at least to some degree.> I have a 180g SPS tank with a 40g refugium and a 20g sump, there is 250 pounds of live rock in display and another 50 in the refugium. Do you think taking the refugium offline and changing the sand (about 60 pounds) then putting it back inline would cause harm to my inhabitants. <May see a ammonia/nitrite spike as the bacteria inhabiting the old sand bed is removed.> As far as equipment I run a Deltec 851 skimmer , Deltec reactor with Rowaphos and a Deltec calcium reactor. I just want to make sure I do not crash the tank. <Unlikely, I would guess the existing bacterial population will quickly increase to make up for the removed sand bed. Within a few days I would guess you will be back to normal.> Thanks Mike Winston <Welcome> <Chris>

Re: Replacing Old Sand Bed in Refugium 12/27/07 Thanks, would it help to add the top 2 inches of my existing bed to the new sand? <Yes in that it would add back some bacteria and micro-fauna, but you will probably still see a small cycle.> <Chris>

Several Issues... Refugium effects on water chem., damsel aggr.    11/30/07 Hi Folks, <Hello> Once again I need to solicit your help. I fear it's becoming a habit :-). I installed a hang-on refugium about 3 weeks ago. These are some of the changes that have occurred: 0 nitrates & 0 phosphates YIPPIE!!! Now for the bad news... my dKH has plummeted to around 6.7 (an all time low tis usually around 8 dKH), calcium dropped to 300 ppm (it's usually around 340 ppm), my coralline algae is dying, and I have a major green hair algae bloom. Do you think the negative changes are related to the new refugium (which houses Chaeto & Caulerpa and a few mini brittle stars)? <Mmm, there is a very real possibility that the algae there are indeed malaffecting the water quality values listed, and mal-affecting the coralline, yes...> In addition I began adding parts A&B on Monday. Since then my dKH has risen to 7.9. However, my calcium is still hovering around 300 ppm. <Need to increase this component, source> BTW my PH is 8.31 (pre A&B my PH was 8.22. Any ideas on what I can do to resolve my numerous problems? Tank config: 90 gal reef, 20 gal sump, skimmer, live rock, live sand, soft corals, inverts, 8 fish, 2 BTA (and a partridge in a pear tree). Params: 0 nitrates, 0 nitrites, 0 ammonia, 0 phosphates, ph 8.31, dKH 7.9, calcium 300, salinity 1.022. <This last is low... I would increase the spg to near seawater strength. And read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/marine/maintenance/index.htm scroll down to the trays on alkalinity, calcium... read the SubFAQs files on Troubleshooting> Second unrelated problem. I have a Blue Damsel (I now know, not a smart move) who is harassing my Royal Gramma I believe to death. The Gramma was living in one of my rocks, until a couple of days ago when my Brittle Star decided to take up residence in said rock. Now the Gramma is out in the open and being completely terrorized. He looks pretty battered. Do you think it would be ok to move the Gramma to my 5 gal hang-on refugium? <Yes... that or the damsel... Who should be removed anyway. Bob Fenner> Thanks, Jacque

Re: Several Issues... Refugium effects on water chem., damsel aggr.. NealeM, pls    11/30/07 Hi Bob, <Jacqueline> Thanks for the quick response. I have read many sources in WetWebMedia regarding alkalinity, calcium, & PH. Most appear to be over my head. <Rats! I recognize that "pride comes before the fall" (with not much space between), but I do pride myself on being able to explain even arcane subjects (which our hobbies have aplenty) to folks...> Is there any info available for those folks who need it explained on a different level? <A different level? I don't even sense what I might do here... Am going to ask Neale Monks here... who is very sharp, much younger, and has a different "experience set" than I, to give this a go...> Also, should I remove the Chaeto & Caulerpa from my refugium? <No, I would not... Unless there's a "whole bunch" of it... in which case I'd thin it out... otherwise, perhaps cutting back the light intensity, duration daily will avail you... I WOULD purposely increase the alkalinity AND biomineral content of your water... via a/the two-part system or other means you have at hand and feel comfortable with... Slowly... by increasing doses a bit daily...> Will that cure my green hair algae bloom and coralline die off? <These successive approximations should do so over time, yes> Or is there another way to fend off the dreaded green hair algae. I currently perform 30 gal water changes every other week. Can you offer any recommendations where to purchase a better quality of macro algae? <Mmm, w/o getting too involved here, and not knowing the type/species/cultivar of Caulerpa... I'd replace it with either nothing, or with a species of Gracilaria (Ogo)> You mentioned I should increase part A&B to help increase my calcium level. I'm somewhat concerned that increasing the dosage will significantly elevate my PH which is currently 8.32. <Actually... the commercial products I'm familiar with won't do this... they are comprised of buffers that "hold" the pH no higher> Would you recommend just increasing the part B dosage? <Yes... worth trying. Again, just an increment more per day...> Thanks, Jackie <You are on the cusp/border of great understanding, self-realization here Jackie... I am very pleased to live vicariously through you. BobF>

Re: Several Issues... Refugium effects on water chem., damsel aggr.. NealeM, pls  11/30/07 Thanks for the quick response. I have read many sources in WetWebMedia regarding alkalinity, calcium, & PH. Most appear to be over my head. <Rats! I recognize that "pride comes before the fall" (with not much space between), but I do pride myself on being able to explain even arcane subjects (which our hobbies have aplenty) to folks...> Is there any info available for those folks who need it explained on a different level? <A different level? I don't even sense what I might do here... Am going to ask Neale Monks here... who is very sharp, much younger, and has a different "experience set" than I, to give this a go...> <<Hello Jacqueline, Bob. I have to be careful here as I'm not completely up to speed on marine aquarium water chemistry. But at a first pass, I think Jacqueline might find my intro to freshwater water chemistry -- http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwh2oquality.htm -- a worthwhile read. Very broadly, alkalinity is the ability of water to neutralise acids. Since all aquaria have a natural tendency to become acidic over time, alkalinity is important. Alkalinity is chiefly provided for by calcium carbonate and bicarbonate salts (the ones measured using your carbonate hardness test kit, typically in degrees KH). This is different to general hardness, which is a measurement of other dissolved minerals of less significance in terms of acid neutralisation. As carbonate hardness goes up (for example by adding calcareous material to the aquarium and/or filter) then the alkalinity will go up as well (meaning acidification will slow down) and the pH will consequently remain stably in the basic range of the scale (typically around pH 8.2 or so in marine tanks). Most confusion between pH, alkalinity, carbonate hardness, and general hardness come about because people don't fully appreciate that they are all measurements of different things. Once you understand that, you can then see how they are connected to each other, and then more clearly see how altering one aspect affects the others. E.g., tanks with low alkalinity have an unstable pH but this can be remedied by raising the carbonate hardness. Does this help? Neale>> <Ah, excellent. RMF>

HELP.... refugium looks like a bubble bath 11/26/07 Hello again, <Hello Bill> I had this refugium built by a local guy who builds tanks and also services them. Looking at the pictures I sent you, my 1st question to you is: Why is the sock completely under water? Shouldn't it be sitting on that bracket like most wet/dry systems? <Not really, the sock should be somewhat submerged. It looks as though the bracket was built into the sump rather than needing to hang one off the side.> Is there a design flaw here? Shouldn't there be another baffle so that the water level isn't so high where the sock is? <The second baffle from the sock would have to be cut lower to lower the water level here (unless there is an even higher baffle on the return pump chamber). From the pictures it looks like you could lower another inch or so. It looks like the sump was designed this way to give you as much volume as possible in the middle chamber, is this intended for a refugium?> And why is it bubbling so much? Took the sock off and it's even worse... <Is your overflow input on the sump under the water level? If it is not and it is constantly splashing that will explain the foam on top and why it would get worse with the sock removed.> The tank is a 300 gallon circular tank, the refugium is 72"x 20"x 20" and I'm using an Iwaki 100. There is also a closed looped mechanical filter using a Sequence 1/3 hp pump. Do you think the water flow is too high? <No.> Also, I'm getting micro bubbles in the return line, I can actually  see it getting spit out into the tank even though I barely see any micro bubbles in the water after the  last baffle/sponge. Could it be the loc-line fittings that I'm using? But the entire loc-line assembly is under  water and all my plumbing is pvc or flexible pvc and most of them are glued except where the Iwaki pump. Thanks, Bill <I would first look to the pvc connections as the source, especially any joint with flexible pvc. The flexible can be tough to join, make sure you used a glue specifically for flexible pvc. You may want to actually silicone (make sure no mildewcides) the threads leading to the pump and let it cure 24 hours. This will assure a good seal here. Also make sure your pump intake is not restricted. Welcome, good luck, Scott V.>

High Nitrates with a New Sump/Refugium 10/17/07 Folks: <Hello Tim> I hope that this is a new question - I tried to search your good Q&A before submitting a new question. I have had a 75 gallon FOWLR marine aquarium for about 18 months now. I have been foolishly maintaining this tank with only mechanical filtration and a small HOT refugium with a DSB and macroalgae. As you could expect, nitrates have been a consistent problem. Two weeks ago, I finally installed a large sump and refugium under my tank. I filled the bottom of the sump with mineral mud and have a large, football sized mass of Chaetomorpha and red Gracilaria macroalgae. The sump is well lit with a clip-on "plant light" on a flexible neck that I can point right at the macroalgae. On the side of the sump with my powerhead and protein skimmer, I have ten black mangroves at various stages of maturity. I have not done any water changes since kicking off the new sump because I wanted to be able to tell if the sump was lowering nitrates. After two weeks, I am seeing no improvement! My nitrates are still ridiculously high - at least 100 ppm. Is it time to search for problems? How long will it take for this sump to begin to reduce nitrates? Thanks, Tim <My first recommendation is to continue with water changes and stay on a maintenance schedule. The sand bed should be about 4" deep or greater. The flow should be less that 2000gph and closer to 1500gph. Too swift of a flow impedes the reduction of nitrate. As far as the time frame...I would judge progress after 60 days. The nitrates are removed by obligatory heterotrophic bacteria and their colonies take time to be established. Other chemical processes also take place and those functions also take some time to reach equilibrium. I would also strongly recommend the use of Activated Carbon and an Iron Based Phosphate Resin like Warner Marine's phoSar. This will help maintain water quality by removing additional dissolved organics (DOC's). If you are not using a protein skimmer, I would suggest the use of one rated for a 200g system. A protein skimmer will also remove additional DOC's. Hope this helps-Rich aka Mr. Firemouth>

Refugium...Disconnecting From The Main Display  9/27/07 Hi Guys. <Hi Ghulam, Mich here.> Hope all is well. <Hanging in there.> My question is regarding my DIY refugium. <OK.> I would like to separate it from my main system which is a reef system because cash is a bit tight these days for me as I have been spending it on the house, and I would like to spend less on salt & chemicals. <OK. Though I do question the functionality of doing this.> Anyway, back to my main question...would my algae in the refugium stay alive if I don't do any water changes for months & since its not getting the usual nutrients from the main system? <Yes it should stay alive if there is an appropriate light source, which presumable you already have. The algae should be fine without water changes as well.> I hope you understand what I mean. <Yes. I do understand what you mean, and you should be fine here. Though I'm not sure that disconnecting it from the main display really makes sense.> Thanks in advance. <Welcome! Mich> Ghulam

Refugium Confusion...Should It Be Fed?...Should It Receive Water Directly From The Display?...Yes To All! -- 08/20/07 Good evening Crew. <<Hello Andy>> For the 359th time, I have a couple questions. <<Okey-dokey>> I've been surfing WWM but no luck. I have a 30g fuge that is fed from my sump (after bio balls) via a MaxiJet 1200. Head is probably 30" to fuge. Return is via 1" bulkhead that feeds back to my sump near the main pump return. My fuge has 6lbs live rock, 4-6" DSB and a large tuft of Chaeto. There are lots of worms, copepods and amphipods and tiny brittle stars. <<Sounds good!>> I know that at least some of the pods are getting into my display because I see them in my sump. <<yes>> Anyway . . . 1. Should I be "feeding" my fuge? <<I believe it to be beneficial, yes. The 'critters' will multiply/maintain higher population densities if fed>> I haven't found much on maintaining pods, and I have to believe that they must eat something (phytoplankton?). <<Some are quite the carnivores...maybe even eating their young if not well fed>> Should I be dosing with DTs or something and, if so, how often? <<You can simply add a pinch or two of flake food a couple to three times a week...but I have found that shrimp pellets are quite the 'favorite' among the denizens of my refugium>> 2. I have had my fuge set up for 2 months or so. My Chaeto hasn't grown one bit. It isn't dying either. Just kind of maintaining the status quo. I have 0 nitrates. After reading all these posts about people having to constantly cut back their macro, I feel like an underachiever. Any thoughts? <<Mmm, this may be due to the absence of 'excess' nutrients in the system...and likely a result of feeding 'processed' water to the 'fuge from the sump. You can try increasing the light intensity above the Chaetomorpha to see if this stimulates growth>> Also, it seems WWM advocates feeding the fuge directly from the display. <<'Raw' source water is preferable, yes>> What's the benefit? <<The efficiency of the refugium is increased/the refugium better augments the other filtration when fed directly from the display>> My guess is that the filter media removes dissolved organics that the macro need, but if bio-balls are nitrate producers and macro loves nitrate... <<A valid point, but you state your Chaetomorpha is living, just not growing... providing water to the refugium directly from the display will lessen the burden on the rest of the filtration system while stimulating growth of the Chaetomorpha which will then allow pruning/removal of the absorbed compounds...and will also likely result in increased diversity/populations of refugium biota which too provide benefits to the system...>> I don't want to do this because I'm afraid of flooding, etc. if/when the power does go out, lose siphon, etc. <<Not a problem if plumbed correctly...you made the same considerations/took the same precautions with plumbing your sump, yes?>> How much benefit am I losing if I feed post-bio balls? <<As stated>> Thanks! Andy Bulgin <<Happy to assist. Eric Russell>>

Aiptasia ID/Refugium Cycle -- 07/24/07 Good morning Crew. <<Greetings Andy>> I have two questions that I wanted to run by you. <<Okay>> A few months ago, I e-mailed a picture of an anemone that I noticed on a piece of live rock. It was small, so Bob had a hard time identifying it but guessed that it was a "rock anemone". I Googled "rock anemone" but wasn't able to find a picture that looks exactly like the anemone that I have (actually, there are three on the same rock, in close proximity to each other--they are very small. The largest is maybe 1/2" across. I've been carefully watching this piece of rock now for 3 months to make sure that it doesn't start sprouting new anemones, just to be safe. So far, I haven't noticed any multiplication of organisms. <<Okay>> Anyway, today I was Googling "Aiptasia" and found a picture that IS my anemone. <<Oh?>> It's the 5th picture at http://www.petsforum.com/personal/trevor-jones/organismstoavoid.html <http://www.petsforum.com/personal/trevor-jones/organismstoavoid.html> . As you can see, this website claims that my anemone is indeed Aiptasia, and I was wondering if you agree. <<You are in the best position to make that assertion. Aiptasia are VERY common in the hobby. These are definitely an Aiptasia species and if this is what your anemone looks like, well then...>> If so, I'll begin the extermination process. <<Better now than later...>> Most Aiptasia I have seen are cream colored and clear with no striations like the one in this picture and have long, wavy/flimsy looking tentacles--very different than the anemone shown in this picture. <<Differing species>> Second question relates to my refugium. I set it up within the last month. It's 30-gallons with a deep sand bed, a few pieces of live rock and some Chaetomorpha. <<Sounds good>> So far things are going well--it is teaming with Copepods and this morning I noticed several creatures that look like Amphipods scurrying around the sand. <<Very likely>> However, green/brown Diatom algae is starting to cover my sand, and I was wondering whether I should let this algae run its cycle or add some snails or other organisms that won't prey on my pods to clean it up? <<You can do either, though 'I' would not be concerned here and let the 'fuge continue to cycle/increase its bio-diversity (including the diatoms).>> Thanks! Andy <<Happy to assist. EricR>>

I had inquired about setting up a sump/refugium in a basement directly below a main tank on the main floor of my house.  7/2/07 My question relates to a response from one of your crew members to an email that I had sent previously. I was hoping to get another's opinion. <Please let me try to clarify my previous response. If that doesn't help, I'm sure someone else here would be happy to give you another perspective.> I had inquired about setting up a sump/refugium in a basement directly below a main tank on the main floor of my house. Since I am in the research stage, and do not have any experience with a sump, I am unsure of how a water change regimen would work with this setup. <There's really no one way to do it. In my last response, I explained why many people with sumps prefer to do water changes from the sump. As for the size and frequency of the water changes, that's going to depend on your tank's needs (depending on bioload, filtration methods used, etc.). However, most would recommend something like at least 30% water changes once a month (or better yet, at least 15% twice a month). To a point, more is usually better.> I don't know if it is performed from the sump, or the main, or both. <Like I tried to explain in my last email, there are pros and cons to doing the change from the sump or the display. Doing the water change from the sump is less likely to cause an inadvertent overflow or dry-out (please see my previous response for an explanation of why this is). Doing water changes from the display has the advantage of being able to "vacuum" the tank as you change the water. So it really just depends on what you personally prefer to do.> Ideally I would like to make all the water and keep all the "stuff" in the basement (ie - out of sight). The response from one of your crew members seemed to say that when performing water changes I would be running up and down the stairs to avoid either an overflow, or pumping the sump dry. <Ok, I apologize for not being more clear. When I was talking about running up and down stairs to avoid overflow/dry-out problems, I was trying to explain why people do water changes from the sump. I didn't necessarily intend this as a reason why you shouldn't put your sump in the basement.> The overall impression from the response was to avoid the basement setup and go with a sump in the stand. Do you agree with that? <I'm sorry, I didn't mean this at all. There are pros and cons of both set-ups. As I mentioned, many people very much enjoy having their sumps in their basements. Theoretically, you should be able to do all the same work with a sump in the basement as with a sump under the tank.> Would I be doing as much work on the main as I would in the sump? I am fortunate to have a house with a basement, a spouse who loves the end results of this hobby and who is willing to let me use whatever space I need in the basement. It seems to me that many of the people posting on WWM would be jealous of this situation! <If you want to put your sump in your basement, then that's what you should do.> Would you please provide your thoughts on basement sumps? Pros/cons in your opinion? <In terms of being able to care for your tank, it really doesn't make much a difference. The pro of having the sump upstairs is the convenience of having everything in one spot. Also, if your "sump" is going to be more like a refugium, sometimes people become quite proud of their refugiums and actually prefer to have them upstairs (almost as an additional display). The pro of having the sump in the basement is, as you've pointed out, having it out of sight and with more room. You also have less noise upstairs if most your equipment is in the basement. Another thing to consider is the temperature of your basement. Most people have basements much colder than the rest of the house. If you tend to have problems keeping your tank cool, this might be another pro for having the sump in the basement. However, if you have trouble keeping your tank warm, then it would be a con for having the sump in the basement. As you're going to find with many things in reef keeping, no one can honestly tell you with certainty which way is always better. The hobby is filled with choices that have equally weighted pros and cons and depend a lot on personal preferences. The choice of putting the sump upstairs or downstairs is one of these choices.> Does Anthony Calfo's Book of Coral Propagation get into setup/plumbing such as this? <I don't know if it specifically talks about the pros/cons of sumps under the tank or in the basement, but it's probably a good book to have anyway. :-) > Thank you for thoughts. For some perspective, I will be upgrading my main tank from a 55 gallon to a 75 gallon, and using the 55 gallon to create the sump/refugium. <Congrats. :-)> Kind regards, Kim <Best, Sara M.>

Refugium Mystery Cloud! -- 06/28/07 Hello, <Hi there! Scott F. here today!> My name is Steve and this is my first time e-mailing for help. <Welcome to WWM, Steve!> I have a 75 gallon saltwater tank with a hang on refugium that has been giving me problems for the past month. About 3 weeks ago, I noticed a cloud suspended about a quarter of the was up my refugium. I also noticed a rancid smell coming from the refugium. I did 99% water change in the refugium and added about another inch of live sand to the refugium everything was fine for about a week then the cloud reappeared. Hoping you can give me some ideas on how to correct this and keep it from reappearing again. Thanks in advance, Steve <Well, Steve, without knowing some basic water parameters, I'm kind of taking a wild guess. Cloudiness and foul odor in my experience usually points to just a few things: First, it could be some kind of bacterial bloom. Did any fish or inverts die and go undetected in there? How is the circulation in the refugium? Perhaps the previous layer of substrate had some anaerobic activity that was disturbed and this was the source of the foul smell and cloudiness? If you have some species of macroalgae in there, such as Caulerpa, it could have possibly been a sporulation event (release of cellular material into the water during reproductive cycle). Lots of possibilities here; unfortunately, I couldn't put my finger on one without a lot of detail. My advice is to do some detailed analysis regarding what the conditions were in the refugium before the cloud, and then afterwards. Ask yourself if there was a single event, such as an animal loss, power failure, etc. that could have triggered this. By thinking "backwards", you may very well arrive at the solution. Let us know if we can help any further! Regards, Scott F.>  

I want a beautiful refugium - 5/25/07 Hi Guys, <'¦and Gals!> This isn't my first email about refugiums. As a matter of fact, it's my third. Either I'm a total idiot, or  refugiums are impossible to run! <Hopefully neither of these.> This is my 3rd attempt. Is this rocket science or what??? <Hmmm.  Let's see if we can have an "aha!" moment.> Each time I set up my refug., it stagnates. The plants die, the water grows thick with disgusting bubbles ,  and I take it down again. <The photos do show you seem to be having a problem with stagnation.  What I can't tell from the photos is where the water flow is supposed to be coming from and going to.  A refugium should have a pump pushing water from the tank into the refugium and then some sort of overflow to return it to the tank.  It should never get stagnant, but should have water constantly flowing through it.  In the photo, I see no sign of a pump or return, and the water level does not appear to be high enough to be spilling back into the tank.  Is the pump pumping? Is the water flowing?  If it is flowing, but too slowly, then get a better or larger pump. You want the volume turned over a few to several times per hour.  This is a small volume, so does not require a huge pump, but does need to be flowing vigorously.> Have I said enough? Should I be emailing Drs. Foster & Smith, since this is where I bought it. But it doesn't really matter, does it? <The photos of the current offerings on their website have pretty obvious flow patterns.  I don't see one like yours.  If this doesn't help you straighten it out, then certainly contact them, they should be able to help you.> This is a $250.00 headache! Advice is needed again! <Hope this helps.  Alex> I want a beautiful refugium - cont'd - 5/27/07 Okay, this was such a simple solution, why didn't the other pros on board at wetwebmedia.com see it?? <Well, the pictures you sent did help. Without them, I wouldn't have had a clue. And of course, sometimes the simple things are the hardest to see.> I have been looking for a solution for a year!!! Now, the refugium is running swiftly the way it should! <Excellent!> I'm hopeful the bubbles will clear and the sludge will subside, for I've only had this (3rd) attempt set up for 2 weeks or so. The only problem now (yes, there's always another problem) is to get the skimmer to work. You see, changing the powerheads presented me with a problem. I'm looking for a way to create bubbles into the chamber. And as we all know, different manufactures make it almost impossible to interchange parts. <Hmm. So the old powerhead had a venturi intake and the new one doesn't I suppose. If you use the original powerhead to power the skimmer, could you maybe use the second one to just add additional flow to the refugium, putting the water in behind the skimmer somehow? Maybe with a piece of flexible hose? This might be too complicated, but skimmers can be so finicky, I don't know if it will skim with the higher flow rate pump. Maybe if you can get a venturi going on the new one. Good Luck!> It WAS "rocket science" to get this new powerhead to fit on the refugium,.....ahhhh, how frustrating!! <Heee. Yes, that can be fun!> So, that's it for now. Thank you for your help, Alex! You get the gold star for today!!!!! Pam
<Gee. Thanks Pam! Alex>

Refugium Dilemma... bubbles,   5/24/07 Hello.  again.  I had added a refugium for my 10 gallon nano tank.  I used an Eclipse 6 gallon acrylic tank putting a bulkhead on the side.  The refugium has a 4 inch sand bed, the Chaeto is growing quickly and so is everything in the 10 gallon tank.  The issue is the overflow which has been a thorn in my side from the get-go.  And even though I read a lot, looked at numerous pictures of other refugiums set above or next to a tank I'm still having issues.  In the beginning the bulkhead only had a strainer but the water flow only covered half the bulkhead diameter and so there were numerous bubbles getting in the tank.  Seeking the help from the guys at the LFS one suggested a filter sock.  Being huge I cut it and sewed one small enough to allow adequate water flow.  It worked at first then micro bubbles started seeping through.  I read about baffles and tried making a mini baffle.  That too worked at first but the bubbles started getting into the tank again after a couple days.  Now during this time the water level in the 10 gallon was about an inch below the black frame on the edge of the tank, lower than it's ever been, but that had to be because if the pump stopped the remaining water in the refugium would fill the 10 gallon but not overflow.  Frustrated, I asked another guy at the LFS and he suggested a 90 degree elbow on the refugium side.  After somewhat awkward priming of that voila it worked no more bubbles.  I have a container for RO water in the cabinet above the tank which is filled daily and the drip tube set so that it takes a full 24 hours to drip the water into the tank which maintains the water levels safely compensating for evaporation.  The tank is set right next to me on my home office desk and one day glancing over I noticed the main tank level dropping and the refugium level climbing.  What the???  I quickly unplugged the pump and found that air got into the bulkhead.   <Yikes... fortunate you were there to catch this in time> Something I did not realize would be an issue.  After some lengthy contemplation on how to prevent a major catastrophe for my tank inhabitants I moved the pump from the bottom of the tank to as close to the top of the 10 gallon tank as possible so if an accident did occur the pump would run out of water to pump and my corals and shrimp would be safe and as the water level in the refugium is pretty low I might only have a very minor flood.  All that said.  I now understand why in the only picture I could find on the internet of a refugium set slightly higher than the display tank it had 3 bulkhead outlets at 3 different heights - for the proverbial "What If". <Ah, yes> Having been there and done that. can you please help with some additional ideas? <Will try> I had purchased an overflow U-tube and I was considering to make small boxes (as seen on diagrams found on the internet) to put on each end that would allow water in and if something went wrong would still hold the water in the tube and have the bulkhead which is set higher in the tank as the backup.  Here are pictures of the setup.  Thanking you again and in advance for your help.  Regards, Debbie <Well, thank you for sharing your insights, attempts at solving... Am concerned with the possible ruining of the pump here... Don't actually "like" the overflow U-tubes period... would encourage your adding another bulkhead... Bob Fenner> Main Tank: Overflow into tank; pump in background near top; nano filter for mechanical only; hose along back and right side providing water flow from different directions. Refugium side

Re: Refugium dilemma... part 2   5/24/07 Bob, <Dan> Thank you again.  I had read that you were not a big fan of U tubes but thought with a bulkhead backup it might be okay. <Might...> With that said, I also considered a second bulkhead but much smaller in diameter.  The pump I'm using is a Mini-Jet 404 and set at it's highest which is I believe 104 gph.  I would think that using a half inch bulkhead just below (and next too... not directly below) <Mmm, off to the side... and let's settle on a bit larger ID, 3/4"> the current one inch bulkhead would allow water to completely cover the opening because it allows for lower gallons per hour water movement thus eliminating bubbles.  I did find an article where the person had the same issue but was concerned more with the overflow and not the bubbles and devised what's in the picture below. <Yes, a drilled pipe intake screen...>   Also here is the link to the complete article:   http://www.petsforum.com/personal/trevor-jones/bulkhead_modifications.html <Folks can look up/at... this pic is someone elses work>   Have you seen this or heard of this being utilized before? <Oh yes>   Do you think it would work? <Yes, can... the longer intake, more holes, give the bubbles time, a greater chance of coalescing...> The only change I would make is placing holes in the sides and bottom and none at the top. <Mmm, I'd have some at the top... to preclude cavitation, and its inherent problems...> I think at this point my best bet is to take your suggestion and test it out in some in expensive plastic containers the same capacity as both tanks... I have an extra Mini-Jet 404... and play around until I get the results I need before taking the refugium down. <Ah, yes>   But I'll wait on your reply regarding the use of a much smaller bulkhead as the main flow.  Thank you again.  Regards,  Debbie <Thank you for your ongoing, intelligent (clear, concise, complete) communicative sharing. Bob Fenner>

Heavy Nutrient Issues and Refugium Questions.  -- 05/07/07 Greetings, <Jason.>      I have a few questions about my refugium.   <Okay.> I have a 60 gallon FOWLR with a sand bed ~4 inches deep. I've added on a CPR Refugium to help reduce our nitrate levels which have come down from 80 to 40 over the past 6 months or so since I added the refugium.   <Still very high though, I would be supplementing with frequent and large water changes my friend. As well as trying to find out what the source is; to much livestock? Overfeeding? Not enough water changes? Poor source water? A Build up of nutrients or detritus somewhere in the system? Are you using a protein-skimmer?> The refugium itself has about a 3 inch sand bed with some live rock and some Chaetomorpha.  So here are my questions: 1.  I can't seem to keep the Chaetomorpha anchored.  It always seems to float to the top of water and the lights end up baking it.  Any ideas? <Well Chaeto does not use hold-fasts it is a tumbling weed. I would not try to anchor it but I would increase the water flow in the fuge to keep the mass tumbling.> Currently i <I> have a couple of live rocks on top of it. <That's not how this 'beast' operates my friend'¦it is meant to be free floating.> 2.  I have some brown hair algae that has been pretty persistent in the refugium.   <High nutrient levels and poor water flow are a bad combination.> I put some turbo snails in the refugium a while ago and they did a good job on it but one day they all ended up in the outflow tube and the refugium ended up overflowing overnight and shorting out  most of the electrical to the entire tank, so i've <I've> been hesitant to put anything back in there (any suggestions?). <I think you need to increase your water-flow, and star on a 'hardcore' water change regime. I wouldn't add any animals to the refugium'¦if there's something in there you don't like remove it manually.>   I've added some PhosX pads to the refugium and they may have helped but not tremendously.   <Yes this well help the symptoms but not the main issue'¦you need to find the source of your nutrient issues.> 3.  My local fish store has  told me that once the refugium gets the nitrate levels down to 0-20 we won't need to change the water anymore.  Any truth to that? <Not at all my friend, it may decrease the frequency and amount you have to change, but eliminate them'¦hardly.> Lastly and unrelated to refugiums.  What are some good choices for a cleanup crew for removing fish waste from the superficial sand layers?   Currently we have a bunch of turbo snails and a few (3 or 4) super Tongan Nassarius snails and an emerald crab.  We had an electric blue hermit crab that recently kicked the bucket. <Well invertebrate life isn't going to last long in tank with such heavy nutrients, though I am a fan of the Nassarius snails. That is the first and foremost issue here. I also am under the impression that the tank needs more water flow on the whole, if wastes/detritus is settling into the sand; you don't have enough water flow to keep it suspended'¦and maybe your sand is to coarse.> Thank you guys for all of your help, never does a week go by where I don't utilize your website to some extent!! <Thank you and keep reading.> Jason <Adam J.>

Refugium Causing Cyanobacteria and Nitrates?  3/28/07 Hi, <Hello Brian> Thanks, as always, for your great site! <Welcome> I have a 75 gallon tank (fish, live rock, 2 clams, 1 anemone, lots of snails & hermit crabs) with a CPR Aquatics AquaFuge Pro underneath.  The refugium has a DSB comprised of miracle mud, a cheaper type of generic miracle mud, and some coarse sand/crushed shells. <Mmm, all mixed together? I would NOT do this>   About two days after I installed the refugium, I put in a big mat of Chaetomorpha (sp?) algae.  I ran the lighting 24/7 <Mmm... this algae is not able to "do" the light reactions of photosynthesis constantly... needs a daily dark phase...> (I believe it's an 18w 10000k).  After about a week, the algae started to turn brown, then it started to come apart (small pieces were accumulating in the mesh between the main compartment of the refugium and the sump), then red slime started to grow on the algae, then the red slime spread throughout the refugium, then the algae almost disappeared entirely.  Now, the red slime is out of control in the refugium, the algae is almost gone, and the nitrates in the tank are at 40 ppm (they used to be stable under 10 ppm at all times).  What's going on?  Do I need to add some kind of critters down there to keep the slime under control and to keep the nitrates lower? If so, sand-sifting stars, snails? <Uhh... Please read here re Refugiums: http://wetwebmedia.com/marsetupindex2.htm ... and re-read my comments above. Bob Fenner> Please help. Thanks, Brian

Terrible mess!! Refugium Problems 3/22/07 Hi everyone! <Hello Pam> Now, I know there are a zillion articles on refugiums, <More than that:)> and I have even emailed you about this particular problem, BUT, the problem still exists! <Not good.> I siphoned all the water from my refugium, took out the scum, sludge and low tide stench goop, removed top two inches of sand, and started with new plants, Chaetomorpha algae. Not only are the Chaetomorpha algae turning brown with the same sludge, the entire unit has become brown with the same conditions as before. it took only one week for this to start turning bad AGAIN! <One important question.  What are you using for light over the fuge?> This is a hang on refug. with 5 inches of live sand, and "MUD'' together. <Would not mix dissimilar products, grain size, composition, etc.  I would redo and stick with Miracle Mud, about two inches deep will do.> The skimmer is producing but not to a great degree. <Cleaning the skimmer, especially the riser tube, will make skimming much more efficient.> I am also surprised by the lack of flow in the refug. It just seems to barely break over the built in partitions to flow back into the tank. I am so frustrated by this. <Refugiums should not have a high water flow, in your HOB, 100gph should be fine.> It is no easy task to break down a refugium. It's just a  terrible mess. What's wrong? !! I hope you have the answer!!! <Wish you would have provided more info, such as water parameters, frequency of water changes, bio-load, ample supply of critters in the refugium, etc.  Do provide and I may be able to steer you in the right direction.> thank you! <You're welcome.  James (Salty Dog)> Pam

Re:  Refugium Problems 3/23/07 Okay "Salty" how's this:               REFUGIUM:  AquaFuge External Hang-On Refugium   25-1/2"L x 4-1/2"W x 12"H CoraLife 50/50 28watts over refug. @14hr/day CaribSea Mineral Mud, recommendations were to sandwich mud between 2 layers of LS. Total, 5inches. <Is the 5" depth recommended by CaribSea?  Unless a very healthy abundance of critters are present in the sand/mud, problems such as you are experiencing can/will happen.  Personally, I'd go no deeper than 3".> Chaetomorpha algae Tank 75 gallons / 7 yr set up/ reef 70lbs LR 2in/LS Abundant (aka Tons of....) mushrooms, Discosoma species, thriving  Rhodactis indosinensis, polyps etc. CoraLife actinic & 10,000K/65 watts ea. burning @ 14 hrs/day <130 watts of lighting is weak for a 75 gallon tank, and does aid in promoting nuisance algae growth. Outside of the one pic of algae growth, the health of your corals is certainly not indicative of your problems.  Are you stretching it a bit?  Your tank appears very healthy from what I see in the pics.> Various crabs, tons snails, etc. 3 1/2 in clowns, tiny! 3 Amblyglyphidodon aureus ( like to get rid of them, but can't catch the suckers!) <Yes, pretty quick aren't they?  Not one of my favorites as well.> 1 Pseudochromis water changes every 2 weeks @ 25 gallons <Great> I clean the skimmer w/ hot water. <Hot water not necessary, a bottle brush or similar to remove the sludge in the riser tube is all that is necessary.> Last numbers recorded:  3/12/07 dKH  4m/L pH    8.1 and stable Calcium 360 Salinity 1.027 That's about it. I hope this info helps! PS Expect some pictures from Picasa right behind this letter!! <Pam, from what I see, your lighting needs to be increased.  In the meantime, I'd lower the photo period to 12 hours.  No mention of a clean-up crew, very helpful in controlling nutrients, uneaten food, etc.  May want to consider employing a Lawnmower Blenny to help control the nuisance algae.> Thanks, <You're welcome, and thank you for the wonderful pics.  James (Salty Dog)> Pam Anderson Re:  Refugium Problems 3/23/07 Now you have the specs and the pictures Salty!!! <Thank you Pam, makes helping much easier.  James (Salty Dog)> Pam Anderson

Re:  Refugium Problems 3/25/07 Salty, I feel a bit  offended  by your statement, "Are you stretching it a bit? (read below) Stretching what? The truth? ??? <Pam, Pam, no need feeling offended, is not what I meant.  My statement was based on what appears to be a very healthy tank. Very few people will have algae free tanks.  Is why we sometimes employ specific eaters of such.  I myself have a little clump of macro here and there, but I feel it adds a splash of color in the system.  As long as nutrients are under control, as mine are, you should not have an explosive growth of the algae in question.  By "stretching it a bit", I meant that your tank is not as bad as it seems to you.  My apologies if you took this wrong.> You also seem to have lost site of my problem, which is the refugium, not the main tank. The main tank is quite healthy. I have abundant macro algae and  recent growth of grape Caulerpa. <Did not lose sight of your problem, as I did make a suggestion in one of the earlier queries.> My problem is with the sludge build up in the refugium. Carib Sea did not recommend the 5 inches total sand and MUD. <Didn't think so.> I posed this question weeks ago, to you guys.  I asked if 5in of live sand and MUD was too deep.  JustinN responded, but did not say it was bad OR good. Instead, he suggested I go with the Chaetomorpha not feather Caulerpa ............. also, losing site of the question!! ?? !! I know you guys are more than likely inundated with email questions. But please don't insult me by insinuating that I am stretching the truth. <Again, no insult intended, in fact I must commend you on the looks of your system.  I personally feel that 5 inches of sand bed is too much.  Bad things can happen such as what is happening to your ref.  Deep sand beds can only work properly if the sand is teeming with critters continually stirring/sifting through the sand.  Otherwise it can become a hydrogen sulphide/nitrate factory.  The "sludge" you mentioned earlier is indicative of what I am saying to you.  James (Salty Dog)> Pam

Re:  Refugium Problems 3/26/07 Thank you Salty!! <You're welcome.  Once this is done, I believe you will find improvement in your refugium.> I was feeling a bit wounded by your statement. Now I understand what you meant. I will syphon a few inches from the refug., for it IS a hydrogen sulphide/nitrate factory, all over again! Best regards! <You're welcome.  James (Salty Dog)> Pam Cycling Refugium With BioSpira (But why?) 3/14/07 Hi All, <Hi, "D". GrahamT here.> I have set up a 6 gallon Eclipse tank as a refugium for my 10 gallon nano reef.   <I love refugiums... and adding volume for that matter.> I started the cycling about 2 weeks ago using a piece of frozen shrimp to get the ammonia in there (Left it in for 1 week then removed).   <Wait. You are cycling a refugium? This doesn't compute. If you are adding more volume in the form of a refugium to one system, and it is destined to contain exactly the same water as the main system, then why would we cycle it separately??? (Or at all)> My LFS usually carries BioSpira but they were out and said it was on order.  This past weekend I went back only to find they just placed the order and it would be another 2 weeks... so I ordered BioSpira from Drs. Foster and Smith online Saturday P.M.  Product shipped Monday, received the package overnight A.M.; products still cold, well packaged great service by the way). I took a reading on the ammonia, nitrite and nitrates and of course they all top the charts.   <Well, of course...> I added some of the BioSpira (the 1 oz is for 30 gallons and this is only 6) with plans to add some more later. (Package clipped tightly closed and replaced in fridge.)  Then later add some Right Now! by HDLtd which I have found really helps in knocking down the nitrates.   <Not sure how that could be. Isn't "Right Now!" a live bacteria (like Bio-Spira)? It doesn't claim to contain any anoxic or anaerobic  bacteria capable of reducing Nitrates.> But while doing a search on the WWM site for BioSpira I ran across the sentence...""They, and the microbes in the BioSpira were poisoned, hemolyzed in the fishes' case, by the ammonia...""  So I became confused as to the use of BioSpira and I'm quite possibly misunderstanding the statement.   <Nah, that's just Bob trying to scare you into cycling a tank properly. ;)> <<You are perceptive. RMF>> But it has me thinking that by adding BioSpira to a tank high in ammonia I'm killing the beneficial microbes and in fact wasting my time adding the product.  Please clarify this for me.  If I need to do a water change to dilute the high readings somewhat before adding more BioSpira, please let me know.   <This is news to me. Bob has just earned a forward from me. My research on hemolization tells me it can apply to this situation, but is rather vague specifically with the microbial "form". Hemolyzed red blood cells are ruptured, not sure how ammonia does this, but I am not a bio-chemist. This one is for Bob.><<Way too much ammonia/ammonium presence will kill beneficial microbes... cause hemolysis (in animals with RBC's natch). RMF>> I was running a carbon filter.  I removed the carbon bag before adding the BioSpira. <Not necessary, will not filter out anything that Bio-Spira metabolizes, and can actually provide a ton of surface area for the bacteria to live on.> (Whisper inside filter because of the low water level... below bulkhead and left the bio-filter in place)  The refugium has a 4-1/2" sand bed and that is all that's in the refugium at this time.  I know I need to have all parameters in this tank identical to my main tank before even considering tying them together.   <The simplest way to achieve this would be to fill it with water from the display and some substrate, immediately tying them together.> I have some extra live rock from rearranging my main tank which I plan to add after the ammonia, nitrite & nitrate levels are to 0.  Then I'll add Chaeto.  Should I put a cleanup crew in my refugium?   Move a couple snails and/or a hermit crab; was thinking to order some brittle stars to put in there.   <Not necessary, doesn't hurt unless you worry about competition from the hermits for pods.> The live rock has bristle worms and gammarus shrimp already.  Love the gammarus shrimp... highly entertaining and excellent scavengers.  Afterwards, my thoughts are during my main tank water changes to remove equal water from refugium and replace it with the removed water from the main tank.  Should I do this for a week or two before tying them together?    <Would do it once and have done with it altogether. I think it's good that you worry about the condition of the 'fuge, but I think this could be going faster and smoother if you just tie-in to the main display and let everything equalize. The system wouldn't spike if you had started this way, but now you don't want to introduce the elevated levels of ammonia, nitrite and nitrate into your main system. Live and learn. I would be more concerned doing it this way that your 'fuge is chemically different in many ways from the display, and when you finally do "join" them, there will be a period of accelerated acclimation. That said, I think you'll still be fine, because you have a plan and you know what to look for. Good luck! -GrahamT> Thanks again. Regards, Debbie P.

Water parameters, refugium maint., algal use there   1/31/07 Dear crew, <Glen> I have an interesting observation I'd like to share.  Also any comments on the following refugium setup is greatly appreciated.  I have recently set up a refugium for my 55 gal reef for the purposes of growing 'pods for food & macros for nutrient export.  Since it is not a plumbed tank, I decided to display the refugium as well.   <I would do this as well... much to see, share> The setup: I placed a 20 gal high to one side of the display tank and installed a Rio Aqua 200 pump in the main tank and two siphon tubes between both tanks. <Two are better than one for sure...> The Rio pumps about 120 GPH into the refugium and the siphon tubes allow flow back to the main tank.  The top of the 20 gal is about 2" above the top of the 55 gal.  When the water level is equilibrated between the two tanks, this leaves me with about 3.5 gallons of buffer in the refugium in case the siphon tubes fail. <Not a pleasant thought, eh?> My pump will hopefully run dry first ;-)  Also installed a ZooMed oscillating powerhead (160 GPH), heater and Whisper power filter I had laying around doing nothing. After installing the "hardware", the "software" was set up and allowed to cycle as an isolated system: 15 gallons water from the display tank, 2" substrate (equal mix of sand, crushed coral and aragonite reef base), 15 lbs live rock.    The observation: At the end of 3 weeks, my refugium cycle was over and all water parameters were looking good: pH=8.4, NH4=0, NO2=0, NO3<10ppm, Pi=0, SG=1.024.  Same as the display tank.  Time to install the siphon tubes and fire up the pump!  Once I saw that the siphon was working, I thought to myself  " Maybe you should have slowly exchanged water between the two - a quart at a time.  Just like acclimating fish."  By the time I pulled the plug on the pump it had only been running for about 30 seconds and all corals in my tank had retracted their polyps, including my Rhodactis.  That little bugger never hides!  Even though all of my water parameters were OK and matched my main tank, <Allow me to add the stipulation: of things tested...> they still detected something was awry.  Something I couldn't test for. <Ah, yes> I have never even seen this on a water change either.  In the end all inhabitants were back to normal by morning, but it was an unnecessary shock to both them and me.   The questions: The only macros I can only find at the LFS places near me is Caulerpa. <Mmm, do a bit more looking about... perhaps "Craig's List" or such, ask your LFS or just hang around there... to chat with other aquarists re what they have, might give you a clipping of... If all else fails, consider buying online... Inland Aquatics, IPSF...> Right now it is illuminated in a semi-RDP style - 12 hrs of 15W actinic & 12 hrs 14W actinic + 15W daylight.  I will be upgrading the lighting soon & have the choices of the following total PC wattages: 36,65 & 72 or 130W.  What would you suggest to support macros and coralline algae? <Posted...> Is the substrate OK for 'pod growth AND the macros? <Is fine> Is carbon filtration necessary on the refugium? <Mmm, no... can be used in a punctuated fashion... perhaps a few ounces added (in a re-usable Dacron bag) in your hang on filter once a month... This would/does have value>   The 'fuge will be fed rarely, if at all, and I have carbon on the main tank. <Oh, then this will/would be enough>   However, I do have Caulerpa in the 'fuge and Sarcophyton, Xenia and Rhodactis in the main tank.  Chemical warfare has not been apparent between the corals, but Caulerpa also plays this game too? <Oh yes... see WWM re> Keep up the good work.  You've got me hooked! -Glen <Heeeee! Time to reel you in and land you on the beach of life! Thanks for writing, sharing Glen. Bob Fenner> Cyano In My Refugium 01/15/07 I have a 58 gallon reef and just added a DIY 20 gallon refugium with Chaeto and a 4.5''DSB and a live rock with dividing walls and my light was a 5100k 19 watt (I got that idea Melev's reef). Now I'm trying a 6400k 20 watt that I put in today. The Chaeto doesn't seem to be growing and the hair algae stopped growing (That's always a good thing'¦hair algae, that is ) I had a good time with the hair algae. I will miss scrubbing the rocks on the weekends. <Ah, yes'¦always a fun time) Now I have something new to do on the weekends. I now have Cyano bacteria in my refugium. I'm guessing it is either the lighting and or cycling? (My guess is lighting) My tank is 2+ years and my refugium is under three months old. It is on top of the main tank using a Maxi Jet 900 with a valve to control the flow and a Maxi Jet 1200 for the circulation. Is that too much? (Could be'¦flow needs to be slow enough for the macro to uptake the nutrients) I don't know before the MJ 1200 I could see all kinds of pods and I had to get live rock rubble to cover the sand to keep from having a sand storm in the refugium and the Cyanobacteria is on the sides and bottom covering the rubble but not the Chaeto it is spinning around. Thanks - Bill (I just had a discussion with Bob and a fellow reefer about this.  Changing lights is a direct way of stunting photosynthesis in algae (or in essence'¦coral).  Although it may seem that the light change directly is feeding the Cyano, it is more likely that the disruption of photosynthesis has caused the algae (coral, too) to stop using CO2 (photosynthesis) and in return the excess CO2 is fueling your Cyano.  Try switching back the lights and slowing down the flow through your refugium'¦that should take care of the problem. Cheers! Dr. J)

Re: How do I clean the foam block in my sump with out killing the good stuff that's living in it ?   12/21/06 Thanks for your quick response! how do you siphon your sump as it is on the floor level, do you know what I mean? do you have to use a pump ? Thanks again.  Nemo 1 <A small pump can be utilized here, with a length of properly sized aquarium tubing attached if a standard gravel siphon is not possible. -JustinN>

White strand bacteria inside tank  9/15/06 Hello all,    <Leslie>   This is the first time I have written and read a zillion of your prior posts which are and have been my answers to all my questions for the last 4 years. Thanks...   However, I just moved to Austin <A great Texas town> and brought my 1 1/2 year  29 gal sea horse tank along for the move. I read about moving everything, etc and followed directions etc.. even got into spousal disputes for stopping ever 30 min to check my water temps for the horses and sand and macro/fuge... anyways... arrived without any losses. <Good>   Upon setting up the system, I had 30% tank water and new water set aside, set everything up all looked good.   Then.... 1 week after,,, fuge sand died, turned black, and a white film/white flowing strands of this stuff is all over the walls and began appearing in the fuge, tank, canister filter/ hoses,... <Mmm, yes... highly likely residual decomposition event evidence> I just wiped it off, cleaned up the fuge, new live sand I begged for, more macro.... again (within 1 week) the white slimy strands/ film grew almost like white strands blowing in the wind (water)... this time took it all apart again, replace canister filter with old one, took fuge apart, bleached everything that had this bacteria growing on it, replaced and set up... all was good for about 2 weeks,,,   then the white film, wht strands, began appearing in the fuge again, then in the tank walls, and inside the canister filter/ tubes .... the fish/livestock are fine... this is inside the tank but it is not a fish bacteria issue.  HELP please.... I cannot keep changing out filter/fuge/everything every week.   I was going to use MelaFix but held off because this is a tank issue not a fish issue..     please help I am exhausted !   Leslie Wilson   Austin Texas <Mmm, unless "really stinky" (and or detectable ammonia, nitrite concentrations...), I would simply vacuum a bunch of this away weekly... allow all to settle in... Takes very little biological material to grow such fungus, moneran mass... But will clear in time. Bob Fenner> Cyano/Control  - 08/11/05 Hello WWM Crew ! <Hello Steven> I'm sure you're getting ready for your weekend and I appreciate any time you can give on my question! <"Your weekend".  Thanks for the laugh.> I have a 250 gallon reef tank with corals, fish and live Marshall rock (250lbs to be exact).  About a month ago I setup a 90 gallon refugium with a 4 inch sand bed, a pound of chameto, <Chaeto> a pound of Caulerpa mexicana, two halogen lights from Home Depot with 600 total watts, and it is on a reverse lighting schedule from my main tank.  However, the refugium, is next to a window that gets direct sunlight for a few hours a day, and indirect sunlight for the rest.  As of the last few days I have had a breakout of Cyano in ONLY my refugium.  There is a slimy top layer to the top of the sand and parts are slowly creeping onto my macro's.  My question is, why is only my refugium having Cyano and how do I get rid of it? <Mmm, could be excessive nutrients in the sand and not enough flow across the sand.  What is the color temperature of the halogens? Read here and links above for more info. http://www.wetwebmedia.com/bluegralgae.htm> Thanks so much! <You're welcome.  Mmm, everyone's shift key must not be functioning today.  In the future, please cap letters where required and do a spelling/grammar check.  Thanks, James (Salty Dog)> -Steven

Zero-Waste R/O Units...Marine Stocking/Refugium Questions - 07/30/06 Hi, <<Hello>> I am new to this hobby, and have a few questions. <<I'm here to assist>> First, I have a 150 gallon aquarium, with a forty gallon sump and a 20 gallon refugium. <<Cool!>> I am going to buy a RO unit because I am already tired of hauling RO water from the LFS and I know it will save money in the long run. <<Ah yes, not to mention giving "you" control over the quality/purity of your water>> Do you know anything about the "no waste" RO units that are on the market? <<Just what I've read on the internet>> Would you recommend them? <<From the little I know...no.  Depending on the model, it appears these units either feed the "waste" water back in to a hot water line, or back in to the cold water line feeding the RO unit.  The first method means the concentrated waste water can get in your cooking, your dishwasher, your shower.  The second method has these same issues to include drinking water...along with much quicker exhaustion of the filter components.  The decision is yours to make, but I prefer to let my RO unit flush the waste water to my garden.  If you do decide to go with a zero-waste unit, I recommend you check with your water company to see if they will require you to have a "back-flow preventer" installed (at your expense) on your home's water supply line coming from the street to prevent back-washing/possible contamination of the municipal water supply>> My next question is regarding stocking.  I have about 200 lbs. of live rock, a Majestic Angel, one Sohal Tang, one Copperband Butterflyfish, one Scooter Blenny, a pair of Percula Clownfish, one Royal Gramma, one Spotted Mandarinfish, a Mystery Wrasse and a Sixline Wrasse.  I would like to add a small school (5-7) of Pajama Cardinals, would this overload the tank? <<Is probably fine>> (I have an AquaC Remora 180 skimmer.)  My last question may seem silly, but will the small and micro organisms from the refugium go through the plumbing, with the water, into the main tank? <<Not silly at all, and often up for debate re the "survivability" of these organisms when passing through the pump.  I'm of the opinion that concern over "impeller-shear" is over-rated...most organisms will pass through the plumbing just fine.  So to answer your question...yes, the biota generated by the refugium will make its way to the tank>> I am so glad I found you guys. <<We're glad too!...and ladies here as well>> I live in Montana and there is no reef society, that I know of, here. <<Mmm, there is the Idaho Marine Aquarium Society ( http://www.idahoreefs.org/) which I believe services portions of Montana...worth making contact>> I'm doing this by myself and am getting my information from books and the internet. <<Indeed...making use of the resources at hand>> The LFS isn't very knowledgeable. <<A shame...>> Thank you for all your help.  Linda <<Is my pleasure.  EricR>>

Cleaning biomedia/fuge cycling  7/14/06 Hi again crew <Samuel> On your site and many others there is extremely conflicting information about biomedia in wet/dry systems and cleaning it! (oh so confusing!) <Mmm, examples please... little time, interest for/in commentary> My tank has been running for about 3 years with occasional problems but nothing dramatic. I recently had a medium BGA outbreak (actually I have had small amounts on and off for a while but only just got it ID'd by Bob) One of the contributing factors of course is nitrate. <Oh yeah> Now I had always been content with my wet/dry in my five foot semi reef (I also have around 90 kilograms of liverock and a large protein skimmer. Oh and a 36W UV sterilizer) I am setting up a refugium right now. I have two questions. Will the three foot fuge be adequate to deal with any nitrate produced by the wet/dry? <Very likely yes> Do you need to cycle a fuge? <Mmm, well... maybe... If the rest of the system is established, and there isn't a "whole lot" of biota (live and dead) coming in with the live sump... not much> - It is not in the sump, it is a separate side-by-side style fuge with a 2-3 inch fine gravel bed. I used sea-water to fill it (as i do with my display). So, does it need to be cycled or can i just "connect it up"? <Hey, this is three questions... as the last two are related; maybe two and a smidgen... All should be fine here> thanks so much crew! Sam McMenamin <You're welcome... and less confused I hope/trust. Bob Fenner>

Re: Cleaning biomedia/fuge cycling  7/15/06 Oh, sorry I forgot to give examples in my previous reply. <Ah, good. A statement w/o an example is hollow...> "<It's ok to rinse everything but the bio-balls in freshwater. If you need to clean off the balls for some reason, do it in tank water.>" "Do not clean the bioballs once they are cycled." "It is often necessary to properly rinse these items often to decrease the amount of detritus" <Thanky. Bob Fenner>

Re: Cleaning biomedia/fuge cycling  7/15/06 Thanks Bob! <Welcome, Sam> I am feeling much better now! I hadn't really occurred to me to cycle the fuge until I started to set up - You would think during the 1 year odd I have been planning this that cycling would have occurred to me!!! Oh well, I was lucky this time!!! (: <Perhaps> Ok Ok so maybe it was 2 and a bit questions - I can't sneak anything past you guys! I'm looking forward to picking up the macro algae and maybe a few shrimp this weekend... hmmm and perhaps eventually some tropical seahorses from here in Australia... I'll just need an infinite source of money and hours and hours of spare time (quit job and win lotto is the plan) <I've got to start buying those tickets!> Thanks again Bob Sam McMenamin <Thank you. Bob Fenner>

Refugium Safe Sand Stirrers - 07/13/06 Hi my salty friends. <<Hello Stephan>> I have a 55 gal. cryptic refugium with live rock,  5" DSB with 1-2 mm sand.  I'm running a 400gal/h pump thru it.  It is lit at night with an actinic light for 12hrs.  I noticed that my DSB has clumps of sand in the upper layer. <<Hmm...overusing calcium/alkaline additives?>> I was wondering what sort of animals I should add to help stir things up? <<Mmm, I'll get to this in a moment>> Is my flow too low? <<No>> Is my sand too coarse? <<No>> I don't want to put anything that might eat my pods. Help! <<And therein lies the rub Stephan.  Anything you put in the refugium to "stir" the sand will be eating some portion of the biota contained within...even snails!  Heck, your "pods" will even prey on their young if the available food supply gets low enough.  But, adding a dozen or so Nassarius snails or Cerith snails won't decimate your pod population (I have Nassarius snails in my own refugium) and are likely your best bet in this instance.  Do be sure to stay away from sand-sifter gobies and the overly efficient sand-sifting starfish>> I appreciate your generosity with info. Stephan <<Am happy to share.  Regards, EricR>>

Sump/Refugium Green Algae Surface Scum   6/11/06 Dear Crew-- <Juli> Thanks for your books, this site and your consistent willingness to help.  I'm battling a problem with bright green algae scum on the surface of my 55G sump/refugium.  I've queried numerous sources, tried a couple of unsuccessful solutions, and I'd appreciate your insight. I bought my established reef system on 4/29/06. <A little less than six weeks back> It had been stable for the two years prior and is still maintained by the same personnel.  Tank specs:  125G TruVu acrylic w/corner overflow, 150 lb LR/4" DSB, 55G sump/fuge (LR/LS formerly with Caulerpa but replaced by Chaeto), Euroreef RS5-3 skimmer, Rio 2500 return pump with Sea Swirl, 2 Rio 2100 power heads in the main tank.  The   overflow drains through a filter sock to the in-sump skimmer.    Refugium lighting is 1 65W 50/50 12 hours per day on a reversed tank photoperiod.  Main tank lighting is 4x65W 50/50's 9 hours per day (lighting upgrade is on the way). Water parameters:  aver. temp. 78F (77-79 max), ph 8.3, alk 7 dKH, ca 400, phosphate almost undetectable, amm 0, nitrite 0, nitrate 5ppm.    I use Bio Sea Marine Mix salt and I top off with RO/DI.  Any water is aerated for 24 hours before use.  I do a 20G water change every two weeks. Tank life: Fishes:  1 Regal Tang, 2 Yellow Tangs, 5 Green Chromis (spawning), 1 Maroon Clown, 2 Banggai Cardinals (mouth full of eggs), 1 Orange Diamond Goby. Inverts:  1 LTA (I'm surprised it has lived under these lights, so I feed it 3x week), 1 Leather, 1 Sinularia, 1 Tree, Yuma Ricordea, various Mushrooms, Star Polyps, 1 Open Brain, 1 Bubble, 1 Frogspawn, Button Polyps, 2 Mithrax crabs, myriad snails & small crabs.  1 Peppermint Shrimp, 1 Mantis Shrimp and 1 large red Serpent Star. The sump scum appeared ~3 weeks ago.  It is bright light green, somewhat bubbly and gets quite thick if I don't remove it manually.    Because the 'fuge contained Caulerpa I thought it had "gone sexual" and caused the problem, <Mmmm, no... would be quite different... green/ish water everywhere> I drained the sump and replaced the Caulerpa with Chaeto.  The algae returned within a few days.  I added a small powerhead to the sump to increase surface agitation, but it didn't help either.  I changed the filter socks & media and ran some carbon.  The algae returns within a couple of days regardless. <Is likely a BGA of some sort> Following the same regimen as the previous owner, I feed 1 cube Mysis & 1 cube brine 2x day with DT Phytoplankton, a few drops of garlic   and vitamin C.  I also give the Tangs Nori 2x day.  I dose the tank with alkalinity, calcium, strontium, Lugol's and Kent "Essential" at the proscribed weekly intervals. All tank inhabitants survived the move and some creatures seem to be growing and spawning.  The sump algae doesn't appear to have a negative impact on  the health of the organisms, at least not yet.    Perhaps I'm overreacting by thinking it could?  What do you think? Thank you so much. --Juli <This sounds like a very nice system... with even nicer plans for upgrading. I strongly suspect you're experiencing a transient effect of having moved, disrupted the dynamic of life processes here... with adventitious Cyanobacteria having exploited the possibility (the green-appearing scum)... I would do nothing other than what you list, let time go by, and the set-up will very likely re-center itself... This all takes time, and with the switching out of the extant macro-algae for new, a bit longer. Bob Fenner> Refugium Questions...Size/Methodology - 04/07/06 Greetings to all and thanks in advance to whoever I am fortunate enough to get to "talk" to. <<Hello..."talking" to EricR tonight.>> I have recently gotten addicted to this website, and am trying to make my way through the "Conscientious Marine Aquarist" and "Reef Invertebrates" at the same time.  Awesome information.  When are the other two volumes of the Natural Marine Aquarium Series coming out? <<Hmm, Bob would have to say for sure...but I think I heard they may be stalled at the moment.>> So I have a refugium question.......here is some background info: <<Ok>> I have a 65 gallon tank (36" x 18" wide x 24" deep), with probably 40-50 lbs of rock (a mix of purchased live rock and some old base rock from another tank, though all of it has been in the tank for about 4 years and has some good algae growth and some cool microorganisms, at least from what I see at night.....) <<All good, though you might consider changing out ten or so pounds of rock for renewed earth/bio elements.>> I have a wet dry on the tank, with an Aqua C Urchin in the sump, I run about 50 gph through a carbon reactor (replace carbon every 6 months), <<Useful life is 'maybe' half that long (have a read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/chemFiltrMar.htm), and some even advocate shorter (weeks) periods between change outs.>> and I run about 50 gph through a 9 watt Turbo-Twist UV sterilizer. <<Neither necessary or wanted on a reef system...in my opinion.>> Both drain back to the sump.  I run an air stone in one corner of my tank (figured it never hurts to aerate some more), <<No problem with salt creep?>> and have a couple of powerheads, with some PVC piping in the tank for distribution, etc. to generate some current within the tank. Fish - 1 Sebae Clown, 1 Keyhole Angel, 1 Coral Beauty, 1 Blue Chromis, 1 Firefish Goby, 1 Yellow Clown Goby, 1 Green Clown Goby, 1 Pearl Jawfish Goby <<Pretty much full-up...you are aware the Keyhole gets about as large as a Foxface?>> Corals - Yellow Toadstool, Star Polyps, Pavona Cactus, some small polyps (Zoanthids?), and some mushrooms.  A torch coral that's not doing too well (I read what Bob wrote about elegant corals after my purchase and learned my lesson about researching first before buying - I've since begun my transformation into a more responsible aquarist :-) <<Ah, excellent to hear!>> Misc. - One serpent star, one Condylactis gigantea anemone <<Mmm...>>, a few blue leg hermit crabs, one cleaner shrimp.  I have a 96W Jalli 36" power compact fixture with one 36" actinic blue bulb and one 36" 7100K daylight bulb - on a timer, 11 hrs on for daylight, 13 hrs on for blue, (hour before, our after daylight).   I'm very interested in a refugium, but this tank is in my living room, on a stand, and the only places I can make this work would be below the tank in the stand (wet dry down there, very limited space) or off the back of the tank. <<How about another stand next to the tank to hold the refugium?...make very interesting displays in their own right.>> I am not ready to abandon my wet dry bio-balls and turn the filter into a refugium, especially since the skimmer, carbon etc, are in there.  I could engineer some neat larger tanks to put adjacent to my tank per some of what I've read/seen from others, but we really don't have the room and I won't get the support from the family to turn our living room into a marine experiment, if you know what I mean. <<Yeah...I know...bummer dude...>> Something silly about it being a place to entertain people or something like that.....and I like having a place to sleep so I'm stuck with the small refugium! <<Might want to reconsider yanking the wet/dry...can "engineer" a combo sump/refugium under the display to hold your gear, et al.>> In reading through this site, books, etc, I understand that I can't get a real big refugium with the space I'm restricting myself to. <<Indeed>> I figure the best I can do would be 5-7 gallons, and this is only about 10% of tank volume if I account for the volume occupied by rock (I'm estimating I have 55 gals water plus rock volume for 65 total - estimate).  I guess I was really interested in a DSB refugium for nitrate control, and with sand at 4-6" deep, that will take up a lot of the volume!!!  Plus I've learned from you that a DSB should be 20-40% tank volume. <<Bigger IS better.>> I had also considered a plankton refugium, but is it necessary if I already see some evidence of lots of microorganisms at night in the main tank? <<Not necessary probably, but beneficial all the same.  Coupled with a macro algae as the matrix for the plankton you have both a place for plankton refuge/production 'and' nutrient export.>> When I started thinking about refugium types, I felt I would like to a) control nitrates a little better or lacking that b) supplement my fish/corals with a natural food supply to get away from foods like Phytoplankton additives , or zooplankton additives....What do you think? <<Am much in agreement...I consider many of these type additives to be no more than pollution in a bottle.>> I want to make the best use of the refugium, given my limits in size- i.e. what's best for small refugiums in a tank that's slowly converting from FOWLR to reef status.  Also, if I did do a DSB (which I only will do if you think I'd still get benefits at 5-7 gals), is it ok to throw some pads/media like Scotchbrite or foam in there, to try and culture zooplankton in an unlit DSB refugium? <<Given your current limitations, I would probably go with a lighted (RDP) vegetable refugium (Chaetomorpha).>> I know you've commented on limits to combining refugium types at the small volume end of the spectrum. <<Yes...best to 'maximize' the small volume with a single methodology.>> Based on what I read I thought these two types might be ok together? <<Most times, yes.  I employ a lighted vegetable refugium WITH a 6" DSB on my system...in a 55g tank.  But I think your situation warrants the veggie 'fuge and maybe...put the DSB in the display...>> Thanks for your time and the wonderful service you provide! Chris <<Is a pleasure to assist.  Regards, EricR>>

Planaria In My Refugium - 03/22/06 Hi folks. <<Howdy>> I have a Chaetomorpha refugium, bare bottom with lots of pods and also lots of red/brown Planaria on the walls, detritus and within the algae. <<Sounds like my refugium about a year ago.>> Should I be concerned? <<I never was...these pest are overrated in my opinion.  Yes, they can become a "plague"...but are usually easily controlled with aggressive skimming, diligent feeding, etc..>> This refugium is fed unfiltered (no sock) raw water and then overflow into the sump and then pumped back to the tank. <<As it should be.>> I have not vacuumed this refugium in fear of taking away the pods. <<Understood and agreed...>> Is Planaria a dangerous thing in a refugium. <<Not in my opinion.>> My main tank (180) has  few but I am worried that they can be harmful to my corals. <<There's some concern if they reproduce to the point they drape/shade the corals...but this is usually a result of lazy/sloppy husbandry.  Aside from the other control methods mentioned, you can siphon them from the display when performing water changes.>> What do these critters thrive on? <<Neglect...but (more) seriously, an excess of organic material.>> Should I vacuum and add a filter sock to the fuge, limit nutrients? <<Mmm, no...defeats the purpose of the 'fuge.>> I realize that in getting rid of Planaria there will be collateral damage and I should expect population of pod to grow back up. <<Using chemicals/poisons is not the answer in my opinion.>> The tank has been running for about three months. <<Opinions/methods vary...please have a look here and among the indices in blue:  http://www.wetwebmedia.com/flatworms.htm  >> Thank for the immense help you have shared for the past three years. <<A collaborative effort...I'm thrilled to do my small part!  Regards, EricR>> Re: Refugiums  - 03/12/2006 Thanks James. By filter pads to you mean the woolly stuff and/or the plastic pad as well? I have an Eheim 2218 if that helps.  <Yes, anything that can collect/trap detritus and waste.  James (Salty Dog)> Joe.

Refugium Silver Bullet for Algae part 2 2/20/06 Okay, may I ask one more question? <I think you just did. Ha!  I never get tired of that one!  OK, sorry, on to your real question...> When I do my water changes, I don't siphon the bottom because this removes the sand, which would lead to replacing it often.  Is this normal practice, removing the sand? <Ahhh, yes.  It is tricky to siphon Cyano from the sand without removing significant amounts of sand.  I use a rigid piece of air lift tubing on the end of my siphon hose and use it to gently waft the Cyano off the sand so that it can be siphoned... works like a charm!> I have only 3 small fish, lots of mushroom etc. Where is the heavy bio load??? I feed so rarely, the poor things are probably starving.  Ahhh, that's enough complaining for today. You guys must be over loaded! Thank you.  Pam <Indeed that is quite a light load, but Cyano doesn't require much to grow.  Please don't give up!!  You will get ahead of it.   As other things begin to grow (corals, macro algae in your refugium, etc.), they will outcompete the Cyano.  Best Regards. AdamC.>

Refugium Silver Bullet For Algae part 3 3/7/06 Boy do I feel stupido! Guess what I'm doing tonight? SIPHONING CYANO ! <<No reason to feel stupid.  Cyano is one of the most frustrating problems we can experience in reef tanks and most people that offer solutions don't tell you that they require weeks of patience and diligence.  Siphon away!  AdamC.>>

Refugium silver bullet for algae part 4 3/7/06 Well Adam. seeing that you just sent this mail to me, let me tell you what I had to do! The 250 dollar refugium I put on the tank 3 weeks ago, was polluted as a cesspool!!!! It first started to build up with the Cyano crapola, and I ignored it, hoping it had to age a bit to do it's thing. Then, yesterday, I noticed how disgusting it looked, put in my hand and pulled out a clump of dead plants!!!! Geeeeez! Can't win for loosing here. Now, I'm doing another water change at 30 gallons out and in! I'm losing my patience!  What do you say to that?! Errrrrrrr! <<First, just for those who may find this in the FAQ's...  The point of the title of this topic was that there are no silver bullets in this hobby!  Anyway...  I feel your pain... really, I do!  I have had the same experience with refugia.  Just like reef tanks in general, sometimes they just take off and flourish from day one and sometimes they need extra TLC.  My bet is that you have some live macro algae left.  If not, there is always some available through your local aquarium club.  Nurse it along for a while and it will take off!.  My very best advice is to seek out an aquarium club.  When you are having persistent difficulty, there really is no substitute for an in-person visit by an experienced hobbyist to look at your system as a whole and discuss your experiences with.  Best Regards.  AdamC.>   Refugium Work!   2/7/06 Dear Bob, <Scott F. here today!> It's been about 3 weeks since I set up my 20 gallon refugium. I have Caulerpa in there as well as 2 mangrove  pods. I see lots of pods growing as well as worms, etc. <Sounds good...You may want to consider a different macroalgae, such as Chaetomorpha, which is very fast growing, excels at nutrient absorption, and does not have the propensity to release its sexual products into the water like Caulerpa does.> My main question: I have has to do with a black pea like structure stuck to the side of one of the baffles. I felt it and its a bit squishy and really stuck  on. can this be an egg pod? and if so of what? <Almost impossible for me to guess without a picture. I'd suspect that it might even be some kind of a sponge.> My second question had to do with the pods getting into my main tank. Can the pods get through the foam on the return pump? If not is that something I should remove or move slightly forward to filter most debris, but let the little guys through.. <I'd use a more "porous" matrix, such as eggcrate or a plastic screening, if this is your goal.> Please let me know and THANKS for all your help.. You guys are the  best! Thanks, Jason <My pleasure, Jason! Regards, Scott F.>

Refugium maintenance   1/31/06 Hello! I'm running a refugium in my system (55gal main tank) for almost 1 1/2 years now. The setup is a small 10gal tank in which I created some compartments with acrylic to accommodate a skimmer, the pump, bioballs and the refugium area.  I know it is a very small setup but I did it more like an experiment because I read so much in the internet about the benefits of having one that I just started it. <Okay> I still have the same small space for 2 basic reasons, first one, space under the main tank in pretty limited to accommodate a bigger tank, and second, I am afraid of losing the life that have developed there (small critters that crawl all over the place and even in the main tank and in the mouth of my yellow polyps). Also I have 4 mangrove plants that I am afraid to lose if I move them from there. But the reason for this email is to know if some kind of maintenance have to be given to this refugium (other than harvest the grape Caulerpa and cleaning the leaves of the mangrove). This morning I was wondering about how much detritus and sediment is over the sand actually biosediment) in there. Is this substrate supposed to be cleaned frequently or did it is supposed to be left alone. I am pretty sure the mangroves feel like home in there. Maybe it is time to just replace the biosediment with a fresh new substrate? <Mmm, good question... I am much more a fan of the "do nothing" maintenance school re such refugiums, live sumps. If you detect, sense that there is too much "detritus" (black sand let's say), I would cautiously remove about half of this... from one side of the live part of the unit. Otherwise, I would likely just add cups of new carbonaceous sand, live rock as it is apparently melted away and lost. Bob Fenner>

Refugium setup    1/25/06 Hi WWM Crew, My question deals with setting up a refugium.  Although these questions may be basic, I have not seen them asked I have a 27 gallon, 20 inch high acrylic aquarium on the way that I plan to setup alongside my 75 gallon 8 month old reef tank.  After reading your FAQs, I am settling on a six inch DSB of sugar fine aragonite.  My question is regarding the setup.  I figure that adding new sand and water to the refugium and then immediately hooking it up to the main tank could cause stress/death on the inhabitants in my tank. <Mmm, not so...> I picture cloudy/out-of-balance water pouring into my reef tank. <Pre-rinse and allow the fine substrate to settle... add a bit of the "old water" to this tank... leave be for a week or two...> Since the fuge is so large, should I set it up independently, possibly with some water/sand/rock from the main display, and let it cycle for a month or so? <Oh! Yes> If so, how can I then slowly and effectively bring the two tanks to equilibrium (i.e. the water parameters)?  Again, I ask this because the fuge is so large (about 35% of the main tank volume). <"Boris Karloff" (mix the water back and forth with a pitcher.) With or sans blood-curdling laughter> Also, to jumpstart pod growth, I was planning on adding "Ocean Pods".  How long should I let the fuge settle/cycle before adding these?   <The month or so> Since my gravel will be fairly fine, will Gracilaria algae and a few Shaving Brush plants be sufficient for pod growth....or will I need Chaetomorpha? <Mmm, in this sized refugium I might try two or all three> Finally, my goal is to successfully keep a mandarin.  Do you find that pod reproduction/growth would decline over time; would I need to supply my fuge with something like "ocean pods" on a monthly/etc. basis? Thanks again, Tim <Only time/experience can/will tell... but I give you good odds that "this will do it" if there is not too much food competition in your main system. Bob Fenner> Refugium maintenance   1/20/06 Hello! I'm running a refugium in my system(55gal main tank) for almost 1 1/2 years now. The setup is a small 10gal tank in which I created some compartments with acrylic to accommodate a skimmer, the pump, bioballs and the refugium area.  I know it is a very small setup but I did it more like an experiment because I read so much in the internet about the benefits of having one that I just started it. <Yes, even a small one is better than none.>I still have the same small space for 2 basic reasons, first one, space under the main tank in pretty limited to accommodate a bigger tank, and second, I am afraid of loosing the life that have developed there (small critters that crawl all over the place and even in the main tank and in the mouth of my yellow polyps). Also I have 4 mangrove plants that I am afraid to loose if I move them from there. But the reason for this email is to know if some kind of maintenance have to be given to this refugium (other than harvest the grape Caulerpa and cleaning the leaves of the mangrove). This morning I was wondering about how much detritus and sediment is over the sand (actually biosediment) in there. Is this substrate supposed to be cleaned frequently or is it supposed to be left alone. I am pretty sure the mangroves feel like home in there. Maybe it is time to just replace the biosediment with a fresh new substrate? <It isn't a bad idea to vacuum periodically.  I'm sure the critters present in the substrate are consuming a good bit of detritus.  Changing 1/2 the substrate say every 6 months helps also.  Might even want to consider using Ecosystems Miracle Mud which I believe would improve the refugiums efficiency.  James (Salty Dog)> What is the Right Approach to "Cleaning" Refugium?  9/26/05 We have a 120 gal saltwater aquarium that is maintained by a "service". We've not had good luck with the LFS's - actually, business is booming for them which unfortunately sometimes means that they focus on whoever currently has the biggest dollar project in progress. <Human nature... I don't fight...>   The first store we did business with was very attentive when they learned that we wanted to buy a new tank, have them install it and maintain it.  Unfortunately, the did a half-xxx job on the install and then we didn't see them often.  They'd send someone out to maintain it but everything we bought died within a short period of time while they maintained it. <Better to seek out an "only service" company...>   The story has repeated itself, although we have a "service" maintain it now - same guy has done it for a couple of years - and the tank is stable. We found another LFS who recommended the addition of a 75 gallon refugium. They again did a half-axx job of installing it (not completed) and they don't maintain it.  We're not sure that the gentleman who maintains our tank is an "expert" - he certainly understands water quality and does a good job of cleaning our tank and has recognized developing problems over the past couple of years and taken care of them before problems "bloomed".  He's quick to recognize stress in a fish and has saved a couple of our fish when they became ill. <Sounds good> A bit more information about our tank.  Show tank:  We have a bed of live sand, live rock, a variety of corals (tongue, bubble, cup, leather, mushroom, sun, brain, polyps) and fish (regal tang, yellow tang, red Coris wrasse, tomato clown, 2 scissor tails, 2 green Chromis, Bengali cardinal, 2 pajama cardinals) - metal halide lighting and chiller to maintain temp. Refugium:  75 gal divided into 3 sections, large protein skimmer, live rock and 5 mangrove plants. Question:  The gentleman who maintains our tank does a great job of cleaning the tank, but says we should NOT clean the brown stuff that's accumulating at the bottom of the refugium and on the submerged motors, etc in the refugium. He said that if we "stir that up" it will get up into the main tank and won't be good for it.  I'm worried that this is detritus that needs to be removed somehow - maybe "vacuumed" out.  What is the right approach? <Better to periodically (maybe monthly, every other month) remove about half of this accumulated "gunk", by turning the sump/refugium off, siphoning/gravel vacuuming it... Particularly the pumps... to prevent clogging.> Thanks so much for your guidance! Cj Ortega <Welcome. Bob Fenner> Sump / Fuge advice needed  09/13/2005 Hi guys, <Yo>I need some help with my external filtration setup (sump/fuge). Currently the water in my 55G reef tank leaves the tank via a Lifereef overflow and flows into a refugium.  Before entering the refuge the water passes through a filter sock which contains a small piece of poly filter cut to fit the sock and a small amount of carbon (both media types changed on a weekly basis).  The fuge contains about 10 gallons of water, 10-15 pounds of live rock, and various types of Caulerpa (No sand).  From the fuge the water then flows into a sump (10 gallons of water), which contains a skimmer (Euroreef copy cat - similar to a CS6-3).  A Mag 7 then returns the water back to my tank via a spray-bar. The tank contains about 60 pounds of live rock and a 3-4 inch sand bed. Is the order of this system a problem?  In particular, should water be flowing directly from the tank to the sump instead of into the fuge? <I would keep it as is> Second, is the filter sock and its contents a good idea? <I would place this in the sump.>  Third, is macro algae something I could afford to eliminate from the system?  It seems to be more of an annoyance than anything else.  It doesn't seem to be growing fast enough to make any real impact in terms of nutrient removal (only needs to be harvested once every 2 weeks) and it appears to be the cause of excessive detritus at the bottom of the fuge.  Any other comments / opinions would be greatly appreciated. <The algae is helping more than you realize.  As far as the detritus on the fuge bottom, a turkey baster works good for removal.  Just part of normal maintenance.  James (Salty Dog)> Thanks for your help,    Eric Inoculating refugium confusion 8/19/05 Hello everyone,  Thanks for all your help so far.  I'm actually getting a hang of this!  I just recently set up my refugium in my sump below my tank.  I just added a DSB, Live rock, various macroalgae and would like to add live culture of copepods, amphipods etc.  My goal is to set up a LPS tank and I would like to inoculate my system to feed these corals. <This sounds like a great set up and should benefit your system and it's inhabitants.  As for intentional inoculation...  a handful of sand from an established system with lot's of life is beneficial, but you will be surprised how fast a population grows without any intentional intervention on your part!> My question is since my refugium is below the tank, these critters have to make it up to my main tank through a pump.  Don't they get killed?  I've read your web site and from what I'm understanding is that to have live food, I need to have a refugium set up either beside my tank or as a hang on.  Is this right? Nilesh <Not at all!  In a perfect world, it would be nice if the return from every refugium could flow passively into the display but in the real world, practical concerns (like spouses!) often prohibit this.  The reality is that a pass through a pump is probably not as lethal as most of us might assume, and even maimed/killed 'pods make very good food!  Best Regards.  AdamC.> Refugium Setup 8/18/05 Hi Bob and crew! <<Hello John - Ted here>> Over the past few weeks since I setup my new reef tank (3 weeks ago) I have been reading over the site like a mad man.  I can't believe all the information available. Yesterday I finally received in the mail a copy of your book and was amazed at the size of that as well! I have read a lot about refugiums and feel I have a pretty good idea on how they work.  I do have a few questions though. First, with my tank already being setup, I imagine that just setting up the refugium and new skimmer inside could cause some problems for my tank inhabitants.  Is there a process in implementing the refugium to an established tank?<<When adding more live rock to your system you will likely see an increase in nitrite and nitrate. Get the AquaC skimmer on line and operating first. You want it working when you add the live rock to the refugium. Add new sand to the refugium and start with a small amount of live rock. Monitor nitrite and nitrate. After 7-10 days, add a little more live rock. Keep this up until you have added all the live rock. Do not add more livestock or otherwise change the system. Remember, with the hobby, it is better to be patient and go slow.>> Also, In my tank I currently have about 3 inches of live sand, along with about 50 pounds of live rock, 1 finger leather, 1 green star polyp, some hermit crabs, turbo snails, and a cleaner shrimp that loves my hands! In the refugium am going to be using live sand and live rock.  Should I add some of the sand from my existing display?<<You might add a small amount of sand from display tank but it really isn't necessary. The sand and live rock in the refugium will become populated by beneficial bacteria rapidly enough.>> I also seem to have some brown hair algae, quit a bit still, as well as some red slime starting to form on the sand in the display.  The guy at my LFS said I didn't have enough water circulation in the tank.  I'm wondering if I don't have it setup right.  I started with 3 powerheads in the tank and recently added a 4th oscillating one.  Is there something else I can do to get this in check?  My sand looks kind of ick due to this.<<Water circulation does affect slime but ultimately, control of algae and slime is accomplished by a combination of things including aggressive export of nutrients, using high quality water in water changes and aggressive skimming. The AquaC skimmer is a good start and a good investment. I highly recommend regular water changes also. Please do a search on WWM for "nutrient export".>> I'm running a Seaclone 150 (soon to be replaced) and for filtration I have 2 emperor 400 going...although I was told by the LFS to remove to carbon and bio wheels and use it only for water movement.  Its seems to just accumulate junk on the screen though.<<There are better ways to increase circulation than the Emperor 400 (using powerheads for example). I also recommend using carbon on reef systems. You can remove the Emperor 400 and place a fine mesh bag with carbon in the system where there is some water flow such as where the skimmer returns water.>> Last I'm worried about the temperature in my tank.  Due to my 75 gallon tank being on the 2nd floor of the house and over the garage, the heat rises into my room.  I currently have the heater turned all the way down, but my temp is around 82-84 degrees F.  I have looked into chillers but they are so expensive that I can't afford one at the moment.<<You can control the heat using fan(s) and controlling other sources of heat (like aquarium lights). The fans will increase evaporation so be prepared to replace more water.>> Thanks in advance for your help, I'm stopping today to pickup my newly completed refugium and new AquaC Urchin skimmer (can't wait to ditch my sea clone 150!).<<You're welcome.>> Happy Aquascaping! John Rohrbaugh <<Cheers - Ted>>

Re: Refugium Setup 8/18/05 Thanks for the response Ted, after about 3 hours of prep, multiple trips to Home Depot, I got the refugium online! <<You're welcome.>> I'm currently draining out from the tank 2 2inch diameter hoses and pumping back in with a mag 9.5.  After a little adjusting on the overflow box I seem to have reached the right medium. I purchased the sand an live rock as well.  The sand is in, as well as the Aqua C skimmer, it seems to be doing a great job as I'm already seeing junk in the box.  I have the live rock in a bucket with some water and will add it over the next week or so. <<Monitor the temperature, etc of the water in the bucket and don't put all of into the refugium at once. Be patient and allow enough time for the bacteria in the refugium to develop.>>  I also added in 2 returns instead of one with a SCWD device to alternate between the too <<Awesome>> .  Already my 2 corals seem to be more alive and open. <<Great.>> Thanks for all your help, I'm sure we will be chatting again after I finish more of Bob's book. Thanks again Ted. <<You're welcome and happy reefing. - Ted>>

Sump/LR/Refugium 8/14/05 First let me say thank you for having a great website! Back ground.  200+ gal acrylic octagon FOWLR, 200+ lbs of live rock.  Rock really does not have much growing on it.  Overflows into a wet/dry with a mag 3600 for the return.  Tapping off the pump return is 3 Rainbow Lifeguard filters (1 mech, 2 chem) with a chiller returning to the sump. <Okay> 1.  Even though the rock only has algae does it still provide denitrification? <Yes> 2.  With this much live rock and the tank fully cycled (5 months) can I pull the bio-balls and rely solely on the rock to convert ammonia. <Almost certainly yes> 3.  If I can pull the bio-balls does it need to be replaced with LR or can I install a felt filter bag or should I use both? <Can add both, either, or not... I do like (esp. Emperor Aquatics) bags for removing a good deal of the "glop" of large/r systems, lots of... though do require diligent (often daily) cleaning> 4.  Is this pump too big? <Mmm, nope> Thanks again for all of your help. PS I have read your site for days and days and besides learning a lot, honestly I am also thoroughly confused =) Fargo <Mmm, I don't like this last... if you have a moment, please do explain to me what it is that is confusing... and better, how we might go about formatting WWM to lessen this propensity. Cheers, Bob Fenner> Sump pump and refugium questions 7/28/05 Bob, < Blundell here today. > I need to replace a pump on an ETSS protein skimmer. It sits next to a 25-30 gallon refugium under a 90 gal reef tank. The old pump was labeled CAP Beauty, 1800 l/hr. I have bought a Aquaclear 70 powerhead(400gal/h) but it doesn't seem to be as strong. Any thoughts? < I wonder what the head pressure loss is for the Aquaclear, and how that compares to the CAP?  There really shouldn't be much just running a skimmer.  My best advise is to check for a larger pump (sorry to say this after you've already purchased a pump).  In my experience you really can't go to big so I'd check out a 800-900 gph pump. > Also, what maintenance  for the refugium-  2" live sand/gravel with Caulerpa, I believe, opposite light cycle to tank. < No maintenance.  Well okay, you do need to make sure that the inlet to return pump is clean and the drain line is effectively draining into the sump.  Other than that, really refugia are worry free. > It overflows into the sump with skimmer. Any stirring, etc needed? < No, in fact I don't think I would recommend that.  I'm not a big fan of stirring up a bunch of crap and having it blow around in your tank.  I prefer to keep that all trapped in the sump. > ( I have read/heard differing views.) < Unfortunately any number of those views could be correct, so I guess do whatever makes sense to you. > Thanks. Jay <  Blundell  >

Brown Algae In refugium - 06/11/05 Hey guys, <<Howdy>> I looked for a similar Q&A to this...couldn't find any. <<Really?>> I have a new setup cycling for about a month.  I inadvertently had the light running on the refugium w/out anything but Miracle Mud in there.  I developed a light coat of brown/rust algae.  My question is after trying to skim it out and adding some Caulerpa, will this stuff go away? PS:  79 gallon bow front, 3 chamber sump/custom w/AquaC 120 w/ Mag 700, and a 5 gallon refugium with 20lbs of Miracle-Mud, 80 or so lbs of live rock. <<Sounds like you're experiencing the natural succession of algae associated with cycling a tank.  Given time and good water flow the algae should subside.  Please have a read here re tank cycling: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/estbiofiltmar.htm>> Thanks very much, Ken <<Regards, Eric R.>>

Problems with Refugium/Cyano My refugium is starting to get a scummy kind of reddish algae with bubbles on top of the water. <<Cyanobacteria most likely.>> I'm assuming its bad and wondering how to get rid of it and stop it from returning.   Thanks!    <<It's an eyesore for US, and it's a sign of an unhealthy system, especially in regards to nutrient export/control.  Put "Cyanobacteria" and "marine algae", "nuisance algae" into the Google bar at top of our home page.  Glory in the VAST (and I do mean vast) results you will find, follow all leads, then act.  Marina>>

BGA, Refugium, Lack of Knowledge I am in the process of setting up a 210 tank with a refugium.  I have Caulerpa and starter fish growing in the tank for about 3 weeks.  With the addition of some bacteria I am now at the end of the nitrite cycle.  However, I just noticed a red film like algae covering the mud in the refugium. <Common> I was told by the people in the store where I purchased the set up that I will need to add an antibiotic to get rid of this bacteria and I will have to begin the set up all over again.  Is there any other option. <Not so... Please read on WWM re Cyanobacteria, Refugiums, Antibiotic/Chemical Algae Control... Knowledge is power... its antithesis? Be powerful. Bob Fenner>

Red Slime in Refugium 5/16/05 Hello all, Just a quick question...my 55 gal tank is well on it's way from FOWLR to reef. I purchased a CPR refugium about a month ago and added some Caulerpa and a few chunks of live rock. All this has gone very well and the tank appears to be doing great.  <Congrats on the move to a reef! Sounds like nice changes.> However, in the last two weeks the refugium has been growing quite a bit of red slime algae. I've read over methods of control but have not seen my particular issue addressed....I was wondering if it will stay in the refugium or will it spread to my main tank? The LFS says it's likely to stay in the refugium. Today I noticed a sheet of the red stuff broken off and being tossed into the main tank in bits....The refugium water flow is obviously low, and the lighting is 24/7. Just what the bacteria like best right? What's your take on this? Lighting in the main tank is dual 175MH and some actinic supplementation. Water flow is brisk. All nasties read "zero". Thank you for your time, Ivan  <Red slime seems to flourish in 24 hour lighting and low flow. Low alkalinity and pH also contribute. Even though Ammonia, Nitrite, Nitrate and Phosphate all read zero... there may be a good bit being produced/introduced, but it is being used just as fast. I would not worry about it moving to the main tank since the higher flow, more intense light and normal photoperiod should all inhibit it. In the mean time, I would consider lighting the refugium 12-14 hours opposite the main tank. If you are concerned about the Caulerpa crashing, prune it often or switch to Chaetomorpha. Once the macros get going, they should out compete the slime for nutrients. Best Regards. AdamC.>

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