Dec 21

Built a DIY Refugium & Lighting

After reading the inspiring article from Mark Levinson’s website. I decided to build a refugium in my sump to create some extra nutrient export.

The overall goal of this venture, is to create some additional nutrient export and hopefully help reduce some of the algae outbreaks I’ve been having in my Display Tank.

Since the beginning of summer 2009, I have started to notice some brown algae (like diatoms) growing on the rocks and substrate. In September, I suspected a Phosphate problem even though it wasn’t really measurable on my test kit. I added some PhosLock and for the second part I’ve created a refugium.

This is a typical refugium setup minus the substrate. Since I have a deep sand bed in my display tank, that is where the primary denirifying bacteria are.

Click to Enlarge

Shopping List

Here are the things you will need. I found all of this stuff at home depot for under $40.

  • 1 Fluorecent Spiral bulb with built in reflector as seen in the picture above. A lighting spectrum within the range of 5100 – 6500K is needed. Do not buy a light with a kelvin of under 5100k. Your Cheato will not grow very much at all.
  • 1 light socket for the bulb.
  • 1 “L” Bracket
  • 1 Heavy Duty zip tie
  • 1 light timer
  • 1 lamp cord

All you need to do is get some Cheato algae and put it in your sump in an area with high flow. If you don’t have much flow add a MaxiJet pump.

Hang the light above the part of the sump containing the algae and set the timer to turn the light on/off on the INVERSE schedule of your display tank lighting.

The result will yield two good things:

  1. Your Cheato will grow creating competition for the algae in the tank. This will reduce the algae in the tank and create an extra means of nutrient export (Phosphate, Nitrate).
  2. When you are running the light of your refugium on the inverse schedule of your display tank lighting you will stablize the PH of your system. This is due to the fact that you have photosynthesis occuring at all times of the day instead of just during the “Lights On” time of your display tank.
  3. This was an afterthought. It will create a great place for copepods to grow because there are no predators down in your sump. If you have a mandarin fish or sixline wrasse this will produce more of their natural foods.


There are many benefits of setting up a refugium in your reef aquarium. I have yet to reap the benefits of this as it has just been setup in my  tank. But one thing is for sure, I wish I had done it sooner.

I will post updates when I can see some growth.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>