View Full Version : Chaeto or Caulerpa? How about sea grasses or Mangrove

12/26/2016, 02:08 PM
I'd be interested to know everyone's thoughts on refugium plants.

I currently have a nice crop of saw caulerpa in my sump/refugium that keeps my nitrates undetectable. I had an algae meltdown once when this same crop was in an HOB refuge with timed lighting. It is now below the tank in it's own compartment and has 24/7 lighting. No issues since ... been two years.

I'm curious about other varieties, however ... Chaeto and Sea Lettuce for example. I'm also interested in mangrove trees or possibly sea grasses or other non-algae plants.

Please share your thoughts and or experiences with any of the above. Why do, why don't, pluses and minuses of each preference.

Thanks! :)

Ron Reefman
12/27/2016, 04:07 AM
I used to have caulerpa in a display refugium until it did the typical 'spawn' or 'going sexual' and turned my tanks green. No more.

I've used chaeto for about 6 or 7 years now. No issues. It grows fast, allows for lots of nitrate and phosphate export. Easy to care for in a regular refugium but it doesn't do much for me in a display refugium.

Mangroves are extremely slow growing and do not remove or 'hold' enough nitrate or phosphate to be worth putting any effort into keeping. If you like the look and want something 'different' looking in your tank or refugium, OK. But just not an efficient nutrient exporter at all.

I'm currently working on a new 50g cube display refugium and a 65g shallow tank for local stock which will be mostly stuff other than corals and fish (other than gorgonians a few local zoas and the odd fish I catch). I have several different macroalgae growing in both tanks now, but the time has been short so I can't say they are doing well enough to keep yet. Although one algae growing from some TBS live rock I got about 6 weeks ago is growing quite fast... almost too fast and could be quite invasive.

12/27/2016, 08:09 AM
Thanks Ron ... I appreciate the input.

Yah, mangrove would be more for a "something different" in the display tank, me thinks. It used to be more available here in Greeley ... not so much these days. Grumblings in my local fish store are that it was labor intensive, requiring multiple daily spritz with fresh water. Not sure that would fit with my lifestyle.

I may give the Chaeto a spin in a smaller 10 gallon cube I am wanting to re-purpose.

Anyway ... thanks again for sharing your experience! :)

Ron Reefman
12/28/2016, 03:55 AM
Happy to try and help DB. I kind of feel bad for people who have to pay for mangrove propagules as we just pick them up off the beach here along the Gulf of Mexico!

01/01/2017, 07:44 AM
It depends on what you want to do... If youre thinking about nutrient export caulpera is tough to beat. The racemosa spp grow fastest but also can go sexual (0ther than turning your water cloudy Ive never seen this do any harm); however if you prune it that seems to prevent that. The more leafy varieites of caulpera ime grow slower and Ive not had them go sexual.
Personally Ive had poor luck with chaeto; it grows very slowly or not at all and traps a lot of detritus.

01/01/2017, 09:27 AM
Spartan ...
Excellent ... thanks for the input! :)

01/01/2017, 02:49 PM
I have caulerpa taxifolia and botryocladia in my sump. They work well. I haven't thought about grasses but if my manatee grass takes off I might try that. The only thing is cut manatee grass rhizomes don't respond well to being severed. You could imagine clipping leaves to export nutrients just like mowing grass. I'm not well versed on grasses but iirc manatee grass is a pioneer species so it probably grows faster than others.

I'd love to try Ulva again. My last batch was eaten up. It would be fun to grow it as both export and food supplement.

One day I'll do mangroves too. I built a planter into my back wall for it.

Either way I'm just in foco so if you try something out I'd love to check it out. Maybe even split shipping on an order from a Florida vendor

01/02/2017, 08:09 AM
JZinCO ...
I think it would be fantastic to be able to re-create an entire biotope, complete with macro algae, trees and grasses, etc. I've come across information on some other salt tolerant plants out there, but have yet to see much outside of mangrove and caulerpa available to me locally. I'm sure that some species may be protected and therefore unavailable, perhaps? I think I'll give mangrove a shot next time I see it in my local fish store [shout out to Animal Attraction / monsterreef.com]

Ron's notion of setting up discrete tanks is an attractive solution to me. I can set one up to cater to plant/algae life. I might have to wait until I can retire to have enough time to care for another tank ... or maybe break down some of my fresh water aquariums. Hmmmm ... got my feeble brain processing now. However, I'm going to have to throw all of you under the bus when my wife asks me "what are you doing, now? ... ANOTHER tank?" [she actually loves them almost as much as I do]

Michael Hoaster
01/02/2017, 09:19 AM
I've been lurking, and one thing is not clear to me: Are you looking for plants for filtration/export in your sump/refugium, or are you looking for plants for display? It sounds like your refugium is already functioning well. Could you clearly indicate what you want to do?

01/02/2017, 10:19 AM
Michael ...
Does it have to be one or the other? Cannot aesthetics and function cooperate hand in hand? Because something works, shall I then stop and pursue nothing else? Sometimes I just like to talk, learn, see, question, test.... To do otherwise, for me, is tantamount to being dead. I'm old, but still far too young for that! :D

Michael Hoaster
01/02/2017, 11:19 AM
No, it doesn't have to be one or the other. All of my tank's filtration is done by plants, right in the display. No sump. No skimmer. No mechanical filtration. Plants are prettier, and more effective than man-made gadgets. So you're just asking general experience questions regarding different plants? OK!

In my experience, fast growing caulerpas require frequent pruning, so you may not want them in a display. I have to prune mine pretty much every week. If you like seeing new plant growth everyday, and don't mind pruning, caulerpa's great.

If you are bringing plants into a reef system, their lower nutrient levels favor slower growing plants, like seagrasses, red macros and mangroves. So, you are somewhat limited by a reef tank's requirements, in what you can keep successfully, plant-wise.

I hope this is helpful!

01/02/2017, 11:40 AM
Hey, Michael ...
It helps tremendously .... thank you!