The botanical refugium. Been there. Done That? Or a new idea?

In the course of another blog yesterday, I had this personal epiphany that it might be a cool thing to keep all of your botanicals in a separate aquarium (refugium) to provide many of the benefits (habitat enrichment, a substrate to cultivate biofilms, algae, and even invertebrates/aquatic insects) to our display tanks without the jumble of stuff that some aquarists may not care for.

Of course, you might like the whole botanical aesthetic, yet you want to try something different in the display with blackwater. So, a "refugium" (literally translates into "place of refuge") will support the growth of beneficial life forms outside of the primary display tank. And the cool thing is that you could, in both theory and practice, create a sort of multi-level biotope, with leaf litter, botanicals, wood, etc in a separate vessel from the primary display. 

Refugiums have been used for years in reef and marine aquariums, offering the opportunity to propagate plans, algae, and invertebrates in a protected environment, which supplies some of the benefits (i.e.; nutrient processing capability and the occasional "food animal" being shot into the display for a treat for the fishes) to the display,  Ohh, maybe Daphnia instead of the traditional copepods and amphipods of reef keeping practice. 

This is getting even more interesting.


Again, I know that the concept of a freshwater refugium is not groundbreaking (I've hear, but not seen, Discus aquarium run with an inline refugium.), but the application to a blackwater system is compelling. All of the benefits and none of the "perceived" downsides (like leaves and such "cluttering" the display tank (arghhh, there's that whole aesthetic argument again).

Simple to set up, you'd literally plumb an aquarium in line with the display, or you could even use a sump for this purpose. I can imagine a hardscape or cichlid aquarium with heavy digging, metabolic waste producers having a refugium growing vast quantities of hardy plans like Anacharis, Hair Grass, or Water Sprite, harvested regularly for the sole purpose of nutrient export. Oh, or growing ornamental shrimp safely in a system used for predatory fishes...lots of possibilities, right?

Yeah, maybe it's a been there, done that thing, but I think I might explore the idea further using botanicals...

Any takers?

That's it for today..It's a nice summer Sunday morning here in L.A., and I'm heading to the beach. 

Stay creative. Stay innovative. Stay appreciative.

And Stay Wet.

Scott Fellman

Tannin Aquatics

Scott Fellman
Scott Fellman


Leave a comment