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Salt Water Refugiums

Articles on general fish keeping

Salt Water Refugiums

Postby Mick » Mon Apr 05, 2010 9:08 am

What is a refugium?
Basically a refugium is as the name implies a safe haven for invertebrates, plants and even some fish away from the main marine aquarium but connected so that the same water is used in both. Refugiums can also act as an extra filtration method as the water passes through and back into the tank. These do not replace sumps and should be visible along with the main marine aquarium. They can either be placed at the side of the aquarium or directly above, the choice is yours. Sumps, sometimes known as reverse photosynthesis devices, are always placed below the marine aquarium and normally are out of view hidden away in a cabinet. Refugiums cannot be used as the main filtration system in any salt water tank, they are only a quiet area where the inhabitants such as copepods and shrimps are free from predators, delicate plants can grow freely, or even fish can be placed in there for their own safety. Smaller tanks are used to build a refugium, the average size being 10 gallons and the water flow is very gentle but lighting must always be used on these especially if keeping marine plant life in there. Some marine keepers will often place coral frags into refugiums until they are large enough to be added to their main reefs.

Building your salt water refugium
The first thing you must do is decide where your refugium is going to be placed, as mentioned above ideal sites are either at the side of the main aquarium or above the main aquarium. With either option it should be placed as closed to the main tank as possible, this will prevent any plumbing from being too complicated and the water flow will not be restricted. Always remember that the water supply for the refugium has to come from the main aquarium and once passed through has to return to the main aquarium or sump. The water can be pumped into the refugium by means of a small electric pump or you can even adapt the pipework from your skimmer to feed the refugium as well. If the refugium is placed above the main aquarium gravity will return the water to it by means of an overflow pipe or if you are running a sump them the return pipework can be sent down to the sump. Always ensure that the inlet pipe to the refugium is below the water surface of the main tank and definitely below the weir if one is fitted, this will prevent oils and proteins that gather on the water surface being dragged into the refugium.

What do I place inside the refugium?At this stage the refugium is in place and the water flow through it has been checked, there are no leaks or other problems so now we can start adding our basics to the refugium. Bearing in mind that the refugium is not the main filtration for your marine aquarium, add a few pieces of Live Rock, the amount is not critical, you are going for aesthetics rather than function. Once the rock is in place a couple of inches of sand that is suitable for salt water tanks such as aragonite sand or coral sand. Many marine keepers will use their refugiums as a place to grow caleurpa or cheato, growing it in here will prevent the tank inhabitants from feasting on it and destroying the while plant. Growing it in here will also mean that the refugium will filter the water better before it returns to the main tank.
This is basically all that you need to add, any other inhabitants are purely your choice.

Lighting your refugium
Using the lighting form your main aquarium is not a good idea when looking at lighting in the refugium. It should have an independent light source, there are clip on lights available nowadays or even a small lighting strip will suffice. As long as you are providing the correct wattage for the tank and it is the correct kelvin rating ( 6000K-7000K is ideal) you will be o.k. Be aware that glare from the lighting system could fill the room, try to add some reflectors or shades above the lights to prevent this.

Pre-built refugiums are available nowadays and these mostly clip on the sides or the back of the main marine aquarium, I personally think that creating one is much more fun and it can save you a lot of money in the long run.

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Mick
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