Julian vs. Jake: The Refugium Debate at MACNA

Discussion in 'General Reef Topics' started by Matt Rogers, Sep 4, 2014.

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  1. Matt Rogers

    Matt Rogers Kingfish Staff Member

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    The Refugium Debate at MACNA was a highlight for me and many others I imagine. Credit goes to Jake Adams for mixing up the usual speaker slide shows with the novel and entertaining 'debate' format and Julian Sprung for accepting the challenge. These two not only played to a packed house, but did so with aplomb. They were prepared, made great points and were amicable to each other. The result was highly entertaining. Highlights below.

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    Julian

    Julian is a pro. His demeanor, knowledge and humor made him a formidable opponent for the Refugium debate. Julian started off with the basic question, "What is a refugium?" He covered a lot of ground here and then boiled it down to what I believe were two definitions, one being a safe harbor for our pods and other critters from the fish in our tanks. And the other relating to the potential filtration benefits and then referenced a quote from Walter Adey, "Mr. Refugium." Regarding the former definition, Julian showed some great slides of a crusty sump pump and some aquarium plumbing that in fact were a safe harbor or refuge for the calcareous invertebrates within. This was thought-provoking and made me re-examine what a refugium is. Which obviously was his point.

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    For the potential filtration benefits of a refugium, Julian made a few observations that stood out and I put to paper. One was regarding mangroves. (Julian knows a thing or two about these - check out his mangrove guide here - http://www.twolittlefishies.com/images/mangrove_manual.pdf) Julian said if you choose to use mangroves in your refugium, don't just put a couple in there unless they are large. You will need many of them to have a noticeable reduction in phosphates and nitrates. With regard to using protein skimmers and refugiums, Julian pointed out that some type of refugiums will work better. Specifically a refugium dominated by algae may enhance the skimmer performance where as a DSB refugium may out-compete it, reducing performance.


    Jake

    Jake began by noting that many hobbyist are obsessed with their refugiums to the point that their display tanks seem secondary. Refugiums have become a distraction. He pondered, "Is the reef aquarium principally not about fish and corals?"

    Jake asked if refugiums work so well, why do we have phytoplankton and zooplankton foods? Biopellets and reactors for natural nitrate and phosphate control? Protein skimmers for nutrient export, pH and Oxygen regulation? Again, thought-provoking. I was enjoying this.

    Then Mr. Adams took a hard look at refugiums commonly found on hobbyist tanks. He showed the mishmash of elements people put in their refugiums from pictures he found on forums. He then made a few declarations. They were unsightly AND ineffective. Algae Turf Scrubbers or algae dominated refugiums are not compatible with deep sand beds. DSBs perform best when in the dark. And, with what I thought was his strongest point, do not make a "catch-all" refugium. You need to fine-tune it to reap the most benefits.


    So was there really a debate?

    Not really. This was not a 30 seconds to make your point and 30 seconds to make a rebuttal format. It was a novel way for two speakers to cover a lot of ground. And consistently, although they are both passionate aquarists, they stayed on topic and did not target each other. I commend them for that, they took the high road. They kept it entertaining and informative. The closest it came to a debate was after Jake made what I thought was a great point about a catch-all refugium with DSB and blasting it with light, then Julian had a great retort that he animated with his hands. I paraphrase: "There is this thing called the Earth that rotates and this thing called the Sun. While one side of the earth is hit with light, the other is dark. It has worked pretty well." They both laughed. Everybody laughed. And we all left satisfied. A highlight of MACNA 2014.


    matt
     
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  3. WhiskyTango

    WhiskyTango Eyelash Blennie

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    Good points from both.

    I like Jake's points against a catchall refugium with multiple nutrient exports working against each other, which reminds me of this quote.
    "Ron Swanson - Never Half-Ass Two Things, Whole-Ass One Thing"
    Design your refugium around a primary method.

    I doubt anyone will argue against the positive affects of micro flora/fauna diversity in a fuge. A refugium full of macro-algae and 2" inches mud is my favorite.
     
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  4. zesty

    zesty Sailfin Tang

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    Yup, I agree that the fuge can turn into a distraction. My coral addiction has grown into 3 frag racks in my DT and more corals/fish back in my fuge section of my sump. This meant I had to corral my chaeto to a corner and it hasn't been growing as fast due to this fact.

    I've been wanting to get mangroves for some time now. I really want to put a line of them along one wall of my fuge, somewhat forest wall-look is the vision in my noggin.

    The long term plan is to finish up my frag tank setup and get my DT back to a DISPLAY tank and not a tank with a bunch of corals and frag racks.
     
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  5. dowtish

    dowtish Horrid Stonefish

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    great post Matt!

    This was a very cool way to do a presentation at MACNA.
     
  6. zesty

    zesty Sailfin Tang

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    100% agree! Get the masters to debate err discuss alternate reefkeeping ways is going to be nothing but awesome. I'm sure it's something that's going to stir up the forums and spark new discussion. I hope to see more of these. They should do TED talks, but aquatics themed talks!
     
  7. Servillius

    Servillius Montipora Digitata

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    Very cool. Wish I could have been there.

    So is the point this, that we absolutely need a variety of biotopes in a tank for it to work well, but it may not be essential that this be done in a specialized refugium?
     
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  9. Matt Rogers

    Matt Rogers Kingfish Staff Member

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    I don't believe the display tank was really in the point, the points were specific to the refugium and indirectly about the display tanks health. I saw on FB that there may be a podcast of this out soon. I'll follow up when I know more.
     
  10. Av8Bluewater

    Av8Bluewater Giant Squid

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    So what's the consensus these days? Refugium or no refugium?
     
  11. Todd_Sails

    Todd_Sails Giant Squid

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    I would think it wasn't about refugium or no refugium, more about what makes up a refugium.

    This reminds me of when I first started about 3 years ago, and quickly found/thought I needed a sump.
    Some Anthony Calvo guy- ( I know he is well known) was all about the RDSB= Remote Deep Sand Bed.
    I almost started one in a 5g bucket, as many others had done and were successful at reducing nitrates with it.
    He preached 'keep it in the dark, so the algae won't grow.

    Lon story short-
    Based on MY research, I'm doing what seems to work for ME and MY system- your results may vary.
    Lots of rock and swallow SB in the DT
    (now using) filter sock/bag, skimmer,
    and Massive chaeto in the large volume sump.

    Thanks for the Recap of the 'debate' Matt Rogers.
     
  12. Pickupman66

    Pickupman66 Tassled File Fish

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    reat read and good writeup.

    I have a moderate sized fuge in my tank that started off as very Chaeto dominated. then Hair algae begun to grow and it seems to be taking over my chaeto. it is also growing in the return section of my sump as well on my pretty blue pump.

    however, im not really getting anal about it because no hair in my display. I put a pair of mexican turbos down there to consume it. best part, im testing zero nitrates and very low phosphates. .04 last check.