The Refugium is Here!

Brand-new ADHI Model 20 Refugium.  Sometimes ebay is still good to me.

Brand-new ADHI Model 20 Refugium. Sometimes ebay is still good to me.

Yay!  The refugium is here!  The one thing I’ve been waiting on before setting up the 65g is the ‘fuge.  The ADHI model 20 is a 20-gallon ‘fuge and will serve as the tank’s secondary filtration system (the first being live rock, which will be discussed with pictures in another post).  Take a look at the handy-dandy picture on your left… the ‘fuge has space for a protein skimmer, as well as the heater and other elements that need to go in the tank to promote excellent water quality.  That space in the middle with the light that looks a bit like a second aquarium?  Well, it’s a second aquarium.  You fill the bottom with a substrate and the top with a macroalgae, and it works like a wetlands attached to the ocean, filtering out the crap that’s in the water supply before it returns the water to the main body.

Brief biology lesson! The purpose of macroalgae is to serve as a nutrient export.  When we feed the tanks, we put energy into the water in the form of food.  If there is too much food to be eaten by the livestock, it decays; alternatively, if the animals eat the food, it becomes waste.  In either case, it becomes a contaminant to the water supply.  The macroalgae is used to remove these contaminants (mainly phosphates and nitrates) by consuming them, literally using them as fertilizer.  After the macroalgae has grown, the hobbyist removes part of the macroalgae from the tank and *poof!* Those waste products have been permanently removed from the system.

It says something about my generation that I can't see virgin acrylic without wanting to backlight it or stick a decal of a flaming skull on it.

My 'fuge! It says something about my generation that I can't see virgin acrylic without wanting to backlight it or attach a decal of a flaming skull.

The refugium is also the nursery to the tank’s macroorganisms, like copepods and tiny mysid shrimp.  These live and breed in the macroalgae, and every so often they get caught in the water column and are carried into the main tank.  What I’ve read about ‘fuges suggests that the best design is to stick the ‘fuge above the display tank so the water traveling down from the ‘fuge to the display tank is gravity-fed, because around 80-90 percent of the little macroorganisms are chopped up by the water pumps that drive the water from the sump up to the main tank.  I don’t want (can’t have) a huge cabinet above the display tank, so the macroorganisms will no doubt experience some slicing and dicing.  But I’m a little concerned that my pump, a Rio Hyperflow 20HF that moves 1290 gallons per hour, might be way too overpowered for use in a ‘fuge – more on this later.

Leak test!  Note the water levels as divided by the three chambers.  And my new totally stupid garden hose.

Leak check! Note the water levels as divided by the three chambers. And my new stupid-looking garden hose.

The ‘fuge will be stocked with GARF Grunge, a coralline-rich substrait that is specifically designed to have lots of good micro- and macroorganisms in it to help promote the biodiversity of the aquarium.  I’m waffling on macroalgaes… chaetomorpha sp. is especially popular, but there’s also no reason to only keep a single macroalgae in the ‘fuge.  And I should perhaps note the light fixture that came with the ‘fuge concerns me, as it didn’t come with any tie-downs or fasteners… yes, you read that right, it’s a free-floating electrical fixture designed to balance without supports above several dozen gallons of salt water.  A certain project involving plastic, silicone, and a Dremmel just moved to the top of my To Do List…

Although I don’t think there’s any pressure to do this quickly.  Yesterday as I sat, inspecting the parts of my brand-new ‘fuge for cracks, I came to the realization that I have no idea how to set this thing up. None whatsoever.  I don’t know which bits go where and what pipes are needed to attach the thing to the other thing so water goes where it’s supposed to instead of all over the floor.  And the Internet hasn’t been helpful… the diagrams on ‘fuges and assembly imply that you already know how to do this stuff!  Well, I ask you, Mister Internet – what are you supposed to do if you’re an idiot?  Huh?  What then?

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~ by KBSpangler on March 24, 2009.

5 Responses to “The Refugium is Here!”


  1. ^ maybe not the best, but at least a part description of a working refugium. The guy’s trying to explain his entire tank setup.

    • Yeah, that will explain a good piping set-up, but not the very fine step-by-step how to put it all together. Did it at least come with instructions?

      • Nope, no instructions, and no real explanation of what section of the sump is intended for what purpose. I’ve spent a lot of time at Melve’s Reef today and I’ve come to the conclusion that I either need to hire someone or be willing to break/flood expensive shit. So hiring someone it is.

  2. Flooding should be avoidable if you follow the advice of just thinking “where will water end up if power/siphon fails”.

    The set-up seems… pretty odd. Looks like (from left to right) Overflow/filter/mysid. Overflow is just to prevent lower tank from flooding. Filter is where the pump back to tank is. Mysid is for living things that will work their way into the middle. Algae… probably goes in overflow?
    …maybe hire someone. D:

  3. […] how I described the purpose of a refugium?  In a refugium, water goes into the first chamber where it is treated with a protein skimmer (the […]

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