Can I Put Chaeto in My Display Tank?

Can I Put Chaeto in My Display Tank?

The prolific green algae Chaetomorpha spp. has become one of the most widely used “macros” by saltwater aquarists. Generally, it is maintained in large clumps within a specially set up refugium. In some other cases, it is kept in so-called algae reactors (indeed, Chaetomorpha is by far the most commonly used algae for this). However, once in a while, a hobbyist inquires as to whether or not it is possible to cultivate these algae inside the main tank alongside corals, clams, etc.

The short answer is, yes. Of course, you can put it in there. The better question, however, is “do you really want to?” And “if so, why?”

Back “in the day,” a lot of hobbyists similarly experimented with Caulerpa spp. Explaining that they liked the “greenery” and just wanted to have a little bit for variety, they’d throw a small wad somewhere on
the bottom of the display. Problem was, that fast grower almost always won pruning races against the keeper, with the result being corals and other sessile inverts getting overgrown and irritated--seemingly overnight.

So, maybe “chaeto” isn’t quite as invasive as Caulerpa. But the same sort of thing can occur. Chaeto is messy and can grow quite rapidly under the “right” conditions. Just saying...

If you really, really like pruning and picking at your tank, then, by all means, add some chaeto to the display. But we could only suggest such a thing--all the above cautions thoroughly emphasized--if you intend to maintain small, ornamental patches of the stuff. And, we’d also suggest some of the much slower-growing, less invasive, varieties such as dragon’s tongue Halymenia or blue Hypnea instead.

If you intend to keep enough chaeto in your system to reliably maintain low dissolved nutrient levels, then we must suggest that you grow it in a refugium or reactor only!
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