A little bit of aquarium maintenance is not only
unavoidable, but it can also be a fun way to do some satisfying work and stay
involved with your tank in particular and the hobby in general. But, in some
cases, an aquarium system never seems to get in the right balance, so to speak.
The result is massive, regular water changes, frequent replacement of chemical
filter media and lots of algae scraping. When the chore of keeping your
aquarium livestock alive (much less healthy) becomes what seems an almost
insurmountable feat, you might start to consider throwing in the towel.
Rather than giving up, many frustrated aquarists resort to
installing a refugium. This often happens only after much consideration, since
(1) this might involve making substantial changes to the existing filtration
system and (2) well-designed units can incur a significant expense. For sure,
it’s not a decision that many take lightly.
In pretty much every case--every aquarium system--a refugium
will (at least to some extent) serve two purposes: Improve water quality and
improve animal nutrition.
What this really means is that a refugium, if densely
planted with actively growing macroalgae, will amend your system’s water
quality by removing excess nutrients and CO2. This, in turn, will
lead to reduced growth of nuisance algae (and less algae scraping!). It could
also lead to greater stability of pH values.
Improved water quality should, in itself, help to improve
the wellbeing of your animals. But the increased availability of live pods and
greens that a productive planted refugium provides can only further enhance
So, do you need a refugium? Look at it this way: There are
multiple ways that one could go about simplifying aquarium maintenance. But in
terms of natural, long-term solutions for both water quality and feeding
issues, you can’t really do better than a booming, well-constructed, heavily