There are plenty of reasons to install a planted refugium into your reef aquarium system. You might culture macroalgae for numerous purposes including removing excess nutrients, growing a live food for herbivores, creating pod microhabitat, or just for simple enjoyment. Some macros are better suited for some of these purposes than for others. Therefore, if you keep a planted ‘fuge for multiple uses, then it may be best to use some combination of macroalgal species (mixed macros!).
We here present a few possibilities for macroalgal “multi-tasking.” This is by no means the extent to which you can incorporate several species in your marine garden to best accomplish a particular goal. For example, in some cases, you might choose to utilize three or four species. You might even fine tune your crop by finding the ideal proportional size of each species in the garden. You might add and/or remove different species as current conditions in the tank demand. And so on!
The nutrient sponge
Both chaeto (Chaetomorpha linum) and sea lettuce (Ulva lactuca) are known to be very fast growers and, therefore, excellent choices of macro for nutrient sequestration. Of course, both of these are chlorophytes (e.g. green algae) and therefore require intense lighting; unless they receive the powerful light energy required for fast growth, they will grow much more slowly or even die off. Simple as that!
If grown under a strong light (such as the Kessil H160 Refugium Light), both chaeto and sea lettuce thrive. Sea lettuce in particular can grow at spectacularly high rates, especially in nutrient-rich environments.
This particular combo allows for maximal nutrient removal in eutrophic (i.e. high-nutrient) environments. Specifically, the sea lettuce can respond quickly and intensely to elevated concentrations of nitrate and phosphate, proliferating rapidly. However, the presence of the loose, wiry chaeto in the bed helps to keep the soft, fan-shaped blades of sea lettuce from packing against each other and/or the outlet drains. It also allows for overall higher rates of water flow, which increases for higher turnover through the ‘fuge and potentially more efficient nutrient sequestration.
As it happens, the physical environment this creates makes an excellent habitat for harpacticoid copepods and other small benthic microcrustaceans!
The mixed salad
Especially where dissolved nutrient levels are near desired levels, and the tank houses obligately herbivorous fishes and inverts such tangs, large angelfish, batfish, rabbitfish, sea urchins, certain crab species, etc., it is advantageous to grow edible macros. The best types for this purpose are not only wholesome and devoid of allelopathic (i.e. noxious or toxic) compounds but are also soft (i.e. easy to chew to swallow). Some of the most nutritious and delicious soft macros are sea lettuce and red ogo (Gracilaria parvispora).
Sea lettuce and red ogo are both fairly easy to grow. Also, they are both relatively simple to harvest, as they grow in small clumps that can effortlessly be picked from the algal mass for use as a high-quality live food for larger herbivores. Clumps can be dropped right into the tank (some large fishes, for instance, can suck them up as is) or attached to an algae clip.
The great thing with this set of mixed macros (being as Ulva is a chlorophyte and Gracilaria is a rhodophyte (red algae)) is that each of the two species has its own nutritional benefits. So, used together, they present a more varied diet. For example, sea lettuce is a great source of vitamins from group B (e.g. cobalamin and vitamin B12) whereas ogo is a great source of iodine and bromine. Each boasts its own distinct set of healthful carotenoids.
Sure, herbivores can be incredibly finicky about their foods. If you find that most of your herbivores prefer one type, you can offer the other type first–while they’re most hungry and most likely to accept the unfavored alternative. This practice helps to ensure that all herbivores are enjoying a reasonably balanced diet.
Easy on the eyes
Hobbyists who have gained good control over their water quality can relax a bit and enjoy the more ornamental varieties of macroalgae. Those with low-to-moderate nutrient levels and intense refugium lighting have the enviable option of cultivating some of the most beautiful seaweeds such as dragon’s breath (Halymenia dilitata) and blue hypnea (Hypnea pannosa). Such is a ‘fuge worthy of showing off alongside the main tank!
When displaying ornamental mixed macros, any number of species will do. But the more the merrier! This is especially so when species are selected to complement each other’s shapes and colors. Take for example dragon’s breath and blue hypnea. The former is velvety red and leafy, while the latter is iridescent blue and lacy. When set closely beside each other, each stands out even more boldly and beautifully.
Both species naturally inhabit rocky subtidal environments (with Hypnea preferring slightly shallower waters than Halymenia). Since Hypnea requires slightly stronger light, one could build a rubbly refugium bottom, with Hypnea at the tops of the rocks and Halymenia between them on the bottom. The dash of green provided by a mangrove might make the display even more visually pleasing!
Mixed reasons for mixed macros
Again, the above suggestions present just a few of many, many possible examples of ways aquarists can make good use out of mixed macroalgal beds. With a decent understanding of the basic requirements and benefits of each macro species, anyone can build a planted refugium and sea garden that suits their own unique needs!
Right tool for the right job and most look cool too
Want to try a Dragons Breath fuge along with some fast growing chaeto. Need to get my fuge going.
Andrew Welsh Welsh says
Love mixing my macros
Regina Heitschmidt says
I had no idea that I could mix until reading this! I am going to try it!
never thought about mixing them. I may do that now.
Me to, Great information
It does, a variety of homes and food.
Karen Martinelli says
Yup great stuff
Right tool for the right job and look cool too
I’ve actually been thinking of the idea of adding a refugium to my sump
Macros are the best nutrient export as well! Keep it as organic as possible imo
One of the best way to to get rid of no3 and po4x
Tracy B Schultz says
Michael Thorne says
Loved the idea of a refugium with mixed macros
Joe Camejo says
Helped keep my nutrients under control. Specially Nitrates which Ive always had issues with.
gandla nagaraviteja says
Good to know. Nice Article on Micro Algae.
Thanks for the article. I learn so much here, and I am using all this information to create a successful reef tank.
Lonnie Goldman says
Juan Carlos Perez says
Got chaeto in one chamber and sea lettuce in the other.
I love a mixed reef
Very good information for my future purchases.
Jordn Gerardot says
I tried Dragon’s breath but couldn’t get it to thrive
Dallas Tippie says
Mixed macro algae would be great for my tangs!
Very informative, I’ve done a mix of Ulva and Cheato.
TiNa Hess says
I’m currently trying it but not sure how I feel about it.
Mr Papu says
Looking to add some of these into my new refugium!
I love macros and the pop of color they bring
I love macros and the pop of color they bring!
I love macros and the pop of color they bring!!
Dragons breath is probably my favorite
Great ? information
Maybe in a connected tank, but in my main DT the tangs would decimate it (it’s happened in the past).
they all play an important roll in a reef system
Great information! Might need some
The more macros the better!
Brandon Lynn Taylor says
Ive got 4 types!
Chell Slayton says
There’s nothing like a beautiful reef garden!
Stephen Holmes says
I love the idea of a mix of macros but how do you light sea lettuce which likes the surface and chaeto which sinks?
Stephen Holmes says
I love the idea of multiple macros, but how do you light them? Sea lettuce seems to like floating and chaeto sinks. Possible with 1 light?
Timminy Moore says
Can’t wait for my refugium starter kit to get here this week!
Does a great job and looks good while doing it
Mr Papu says
Can’t wait to add these to my refugium
Tony Mangano says
A must for a fuge
Bob escher says
Great export of nutrient
Dragons breath is probably my favorite
Jorge Cabrera says
I mainly keep one but more would be cool
Derek Nguyen says
All got their owm.type of benefits for a reef tank!
Can you have a mixed macros in a small refugium?
Great article. What happened to the last post I put here. Not counted?
Ken Bilow says
I don’t like to mix in Caulerpa
Must have for refrigum
Shawn Vest says
I always like grape caulerpa and chaeto in my fuge
I have always found algae beautiful.
One day I too will have a refugium great enough to geow several different macro algea
Elizabeth Dusser says
My pods love all of that macro algae
Christopher skates says
I think mixing them up makes the refugium look nicer.
Any suggestions on how to use Algae in a Biocube? Would love to see a post on it
Shawn Dear says
Would a kessil h80 tuna flora be good for sea lettuce
Suriyun Soukhamneut says
One day ill have a refuguim
i am using 2 styles of macro algae and no problems.
Robert Paniagua says
I just got an order of sea lettuce hopefully keeps my phosphates under control better than my cheato
Ramon Mateo says
my sea lettuce beats out my chaeto
Is the amount of lettuce directly correlated to the health of the tank?
Use your fish poop to grow algae in fuge and then feed your algae back to your fish!
Chad Whitmire says
Best way to go in my opinion. A refugium with natural filtration. Algae Barn has great information and great products.
One day ill have a refuguim
I agree with running the “mixed salad”, cheato, dragons breath, mangroves, and couple others here.
I think this is something I want to include in the near future to have an assortment of macro algae in my refugium.
Bob Trimper says
some work better than other – seems to be tank specific
Interesting Info. thanks for the sharing
I really need to add a refugium ….
Victoria Joy Brewer says
I plan to add some of the more beautiful Macros to my tank so they can be seen.
Would love to do a display macro tank some day
I have only used charts, but now may have to order a variety! Great info!
I have only used chaeto, but now may have to order a variety! Great info!
I have chaeto and dragon’s breath in by HOB refugium. Just need a stronger light.
You guys should do some test to find the best combination.
Fabian Noggle says
dragons breath is expensive locally and stores claim it is ultra rare and the reason for the price, this expense is why i dont use it but at the same time i have cheato and it hasnt grown in 6 months but my algae scrubber grows like crazy and has to be harvested every 7 to 14 days
devon maynard says
I love macros
I only use chaeto
C Reab says
I am not a fan of others
Justan Jenkins says
interesting… will be helpful if i win…. right now only have fresh water tank.
TJ Saffioti says
Plants are great to keep in a tank. Helps filter water, looks more natural, and helps keep healthier fish!
Brandon Rush says
Matt Traylor says
Leighla Wolf says
It’s important to consider lighting for mixed macros. Red macros and green macros react differently depending on light source so having a full spectrum light would definitely be something to consider. 🙂
Kristin Randles says
We use chaeto in our fuge
I have a yellow tang in my Reef/Tank and grow sea lettuce, red Ogo and Chaeto in my refugium with Chaeto divided by egg crate from the Sea lettuce and ogo My tang loves a clip of the red lettuce daily and it’s fun to watch how happy she is.
It’s a win-win having a refugium that keeps my Phosphates, Nitrates and PH stable + renewable free food!
Kurt Kidder says
Justin Walz says
Need the space and a nice place to keep in view but this definitely goal in the next build
Eliminate excess nutrients AND grow fish food at the same time!
Alfie Henshaw says
Just the article I was looking for
Jame Wohler says
Never had much other then Cheato…and shaving brush plants
Wanting to start with cheap, and get some pods started soon.
Would like to add mangrove trees to my sump.
All macros have numerous benefits!
Jorge Cabrera says
I think natural filtration is so under used in our hobby. macros for the win.:D
planning to add some color and cleaning help to the display. That’s the way to go.
Chris Montesione says
mixing macros always add more texture and color.
Great article! I love how the chaeto works to control nutrients.
Jeremy Pryes says
Josh Stevens says
Great way to get rid of No3
Billy Smith says
I just ordered a refugium kit this week. I’ve already added an egg rate baffle to keep my macros from flowing over into my return pump. I’m so READY! How long does shipping usually take? I’m going to mix chaeto, sea lettuce, and red ogo. I’m sure I’ll have to keep it from overcrowding. Good thing I can feed it to my tangs. I’m just a few weeks in on my first marine tank. Looking forward to reading more of the blogs and ordering more products!!!