Living Jackson

Benefits of cycling

The lazy man’s way to avoid algae. Refugium set up tips for nitrate and phosphate control.


– Today in the 5-Minute
Saltwater Aquarium Guide, we spend so much time
trying to tell you how to avoid algae growth in a new reef tank, this time we’re gonna show
you exactly why growing algae in the back is not just one
of the best ways to do that, but actually why it’s
so easy and what I call the lazy reefer’s way to avoiding algae. (upbeat music) Hey, I’m Ryan, your host at BRStv and the 5-Minute Saltwater Aquarium Guide. This is a clear,
simplified, and direct path to setting up that first
successful reef tank. It’s time to talk refugiums. A refugium’s a filtration component where we intentionally grow certain forms of algae or plants and
actually uptake pollutants from the tank. It’s not shiny or fancy,
but it’s one of the coolest, and I believe one of the most effective, ways to deal with excess
nitrate and phosphate that can build up in a new tank. So here’s a challenge
that most new reefers face in later stages of the tank, like your two, or three, and beyond. Phosphate and nitrate
buildup and pest algae or slimes that can feed on that are just less common than
they are in the first year, where they’re actually very common. There are a variety of reasons why that first year is more challenging, including just experience,
managing, feeding, filtration, and maintenance. But one of the bigger reasons
is in your two, three, and beyond, you’ll likely
have a lot of coral, and they’ll be bigger by then, meaning the coral wills likely suck up most of that excess nitrate
and phosphate themselves. Your coralline algae coverage is solid, microfauna and clean-up
crew are established, and you just don’t have to be as concerned about nitrate and
phosphate in older tanks. But in that first year,
keeping the levels down can make things a whole lot easier. There are other ways
than refugium to do that, you can up your water change game, be super stingy with feeding,
consider removal medias or promote bacterial solutions, but I’m just gonna say
it, none of that is easy as walking by, grabbing
a handful of Chaeto, and just throwing it in the trash. Once you get that fuge going, it’s near impossible to mess up. So this is the way this works. The excess fish food and fish waste in the tank eventually break down into excess nitrate and
phosphate in the tank. Nitrate and phosphate are
effectively plant fertilizers that, when combined with
light, promote algae growth. More or less, more light
and nitrate and phosphate means more algae. However, with the refugium,
rather than growing algae in the display tank, we grow
really easy to harvest algae, most often Chaeto, in a
filtration compartment. This doesn’t just work well, in some cases it might even work too well, meaning the refugium can strip the water of nearly all the traces
of nitrate and phosphate, something we’ll show
you how to easily avoid. With these two tanks we’re
actually gonna put a refugium on the 40 gallon breeder,
but skip it on the E-170. That’s because there just
isn’t a super clean way to add a hang-on version to the E-170. Now, one of the benefits with the E-170 is it comes pre-plumbed for a sump, so you can add a sump and figure out a fuge solution down there later. But for a new reefer, first tank, I believe maintaining the simplicity of an all-in-one design is more important than the fuge, so we’re
just gonna go without. This is how we’re gonna put a refugium on the 40 breeder. It’s just a hang-on filter
that goes in the back. I’m gonna address the elephant
in the room here directly, there’s no way around it, hang-on gear’s not super attractive. That said, I believe with the first tank, the number one thing isn’t
what the outside looks like, but what it looks like on the inside, and a high success path
to your first tank, and a refugium will help you with that. That said, a fuge is an optional filter. You don’t need to put
one on if it violates your aesthetic desires for the tank, and why we didn’t put one on the E-170, but we are gonna use one here. This is the medium-sized version from CPR that covers about half of the tank. You could get away with a smaller one, but this medium size matches well with the type of light
that we’re going to use. The CPR fuges have an option that comes with a light for 50 to 60 dollars more, but I don’t like how easy it is for that light to fall in the water, and the spectrum isn’t really
optimized for plant growth. Instead, we’re gonna get that hang-on fuge without the light and
use a two inch 8831.00 waterproof refugium light
which has a spectrum designed more for this purpose, and waterproof, meaning it can fall in without issue and worth the extra 20 bucks. In fact, the waterproof design means that rather than lighting from
the top like we’re gonna do, you could actually try
lighting from the bottom to avoid a lot of that
light spill into the room. Some of the most advanced
installs might try lighting both the top and the bottom, and the last few years has really been what I would call a refugium evolution, and it’s all based on
using proper lighting. If we wanna outcompete the algae growing in the front of the tank, we actually need to apply the same level of effort to the back of the tank. The two inch refugium
light has a magnetic holder that attaches on the
side or back of the fuge, whatever you find easier for your install, then put it on a standard
hardware store timer. In this case we’re gonna
put it on a Save a Watt, and we’re on an opposing light schedule to the tank, meaning
something like 7:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m., so it’ll not
only help with pH in the tank, but also make sure the fuge doesn’t have to compete with the lights on the front of the tank at the same time. In fact, that’s how we
suggest tuning the fuge. You may find that the 12 hour light cycle isn’t enough or actually works too well. If you wanna remove more
nitrate and phosphate, just leave the fuge light on longer, maybe maxing out at about 18 hours or so, or a potential 50 percent
increase in uptake. If you wanna reduce the uptake, shorten the photoperiod to six hours, or a potential 50 percent decrease. So adjusting your filter
is just adjusting the time that it’s on, and super easy. There are a variety of algaes that can be grown in a refugium, but I’m just gonna say that Chaetomorpha, commonly referred to as
Chaeto, is the easiest, and because of that,
the best for a new tank and the only one I use even 15 years in. I strongly recommend getting the Chaeto from a clean, pest-free source
like the AlgaeBarn brand which goes in tanks without pests. When I say strongly recommend, I mean do not under any circumstance get mack or algae from
someone else’s tank, because there’s an
extremely high likelihood that it’ll come with some type of pest you don’t want in your tank. Again, when I say
extremely high likelihood, I mean near certainty, and you don’t have to learn the hard way like I, and many like me, have. I’d also strongly consider
a larger size ball of Chaeto because it can
take a bit to grow out. One of the secondary benefits to a fuge that we didn’t talk about is a fuge is a safe haven for copepods,
amphipods, and microfauna to reproduce, which is
largely considered beneficial to the tank, and particularly
important components of many fish’s diet. AlgaeBarn’s a great resource for starter refugium pod cultures as well with their 5280, which is a mix of pods. Really, a variety of cool
things they offer like clean, cultured Coralline
algae in a bottle, both pink and purple,
also widely considered to be valuable additions to a new tank. Okay, so these tanks
are what I call set up and you’re off to the races, but knowing what to do
when things are going right is only half the story. What about when, despite
all your best efforts, they go wrong? The difference here is spotting it early and knowing what to do. We’re gonna give you those tools, staring with showing algae
who’s boss of the tank. The entire 5-Minute Guide’s
always available here, but if you wanna be
ready for the inevitable, and you should, because the right kind of knowledge can make
things so much easier, the next episode is for you.

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