Mark Martin on Refugia
Mark discusses the benefits of a refugium
This week I want to discuss refugia and suggest that adding a refugium to an existing system is an easy way to improve the health of your aquarium and the wellbeing of many of the animals you keep. In short, a refugium is a refuge. It is a place where you can grow various plants and animals that would normally be preyed upon or eaten in your display tank proper. The benefits are a source of plant food that can be regularly harvested and fed to various herbivores in your display tank, a source of pods that will thrive in the refugium and then make their way into the display tank, and a means of exporting nutrients from the system. In short, there really isn’t a good reason to not have a refugium plumbed to your system—so here’s how.
The simplest way to add a refugium to your system is to use a commercially manufactured refugium like the ones from CPR that we sell. These are commonly referred to as “hang-on-the-back” or HOB refugia, because they literally hang on the back of your display tank or on the side of your sump. The advantages to these commercially manufactured refugia are many, but perhaps the best is that they really are plug-and-play. For example, the ones from CPR come complete with a pump and all the hardware necessary to connect it to your system. They even can be purchased with a light specially designed to illuminate your refugium (essential for plant growth). Simply add a deep sand or mud bed, some macroalgae and some cultured pods and you’re good to go. Obviously, you also can easily design a do-it-yourself refugium.
Like all aspects of marine aquarium keeping, appropriate maintenance and husbandry practices can make or break the successful addition of a refugium. It is essential to trim macroalgae in the refugium (which can then be used as food for your display tank), and you will need to maintain the pump, light and any other equipment associated with your refugium. The work required to keep a refugium, however, is more than worth it in terms of the overall benefits to your system.