This article will show you the best macroalgae that you can use in your reef tank.
Macroalgae is a very popular type of algae kept in saltwater tanks. These plant-like “seaweeds” have many benefits but most commonly used for nitrate and phosphate reduction and removing excess nutrients from your tank.
These excess nutrients are absorbed by the macroalgae and then harvested and thrown away by you.
Macroalgae is usually grown in a refugium to improve water quality. It can also help reduce the need and frequency of water changes.
There are many different types of macroalgae that you can use in your tank. They are classified into 3 categories. Green macroalgae, brown macroalgae, and red macroalgae.
Here are some great choices for macroalgae to use in your reef tank.
- Ulva Sea Lettuce
- Dragons Breath
- Pom Pom Macroalgae
- Red Ogo plant
Chaetomorpha – Chaetomorpha Linum
Chaetomorpha is one of the most commonly used and accessible to get macroalgae. The main purpose of Chaetomorpha is to remove excess nutrients in your tank. It can also be used as a decoration in your tank. Something to keep in mind if you put it in your main display tank is that many fish like Yellow Tangs will eat it.
It also purposes as a great hiding place and reproduction area for copepods. Chaetomorpha is not an expensive macroalgae. You can buy a jar for $20. It will grow fairly quickly under proper lighting and you will need to harvest it regularly to remove the excess nutrients from your tank.
Care and requirements
Available to purchase at Marinedepot.com
Ulva Sea Lettuce – Ulva Lactuca
Ulva Sea Lettuce is one of the faster-growing macroalgae that you can keep. Sea lettuce is very hardy and will remove excess nutrients from your tank easily. It actually prefers to be in tanks with high nutrient levels and high lighting.
A great thing about Sea lettuce is you don’t really need to worry about harvesting and throwing it out. Fish love to eat it so if you have excess, just toss it in the tank and let them enjoy it.
It will easily attach itself to rocks in the tank and grow from there. You can use it in a refugium as well. Because of its size, it is easy to remove from your refugium area.
Available to purchase on Marinedepot.com
Dragons Breath macroalgae is a red algae that is not only great for nutrient export, but it looks amazing in a display tank. Keep in mind that herbivorous fish will eat it.
It is also known as Dragons Tounge or Flame algae. This is an easy to keep macroalgae that loves medium to high water flow and lighting. It will grow fast in your display tank but also does well in a refugium.
Dragons Breath is one of the most sought after types of macroalgae and it does cost more than others. A small piece can cost around $30.
Dragon’s Breath is available on Amazon.
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Caulerpa macroalgae are very unique. It is one of the only largest single-cell species in the world. It is very fast-growing and can quickly take over a tank if not watched carefully. It is also somewhat intrusive as it can easily cover corals and smother them. But if you keep an eye on things, this shouldn’t be an issue.
Caulerpa is great for removing excess nutrients and it provides extra filtration. The biggest problem with Caulerpa is the fact that it can reproduce leading to it “going sexual”.
This can lead to water quality problems if not dealt with right away. Caulerpa comes in different types and I love the look of it in a display tank. It also will do great in a refugium and does a great job in improving the water quality of your tank.
Caulerpa is available on Amazon.
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Halimeda is a macroalgae that looks great in a display tank. It can also be used for filtration and placed inside a refugium but most people will place it in the main tank and used for aquascaping. You won’t have to worry about your fish or invertebrates eating these algae. They generally don’t bother with it.
Halimeda will grow under low lighting conditions but does best when placed under higher lighting. This macroalgae uses calcium to grow so it’s important to keep levels between 380-450ppm.
Halimeda is available on Liveaquaria.com
Pom Pom Macroalgae – Gracilaria Hayi
Also known as Red Bush algae, the Pom Pom macroalgae is a red algae which can be placed inside a refugium or kept in the main display tank. This type of algae will be a welcomed snack by herbivorous fish, so if you may want to keep it in a refugium if you have these fish.
Pom Pom is very hardy and grows quite fast. It is great for removing excess nutrients from your tank and the excess that you trim and remove can be fed to the fish.
Pom Pom is not the cheapest macroalgae, but not as expensive as Dragon’s breath. You can buy a small clump of Pom Pom for about $15.
Pom Pom is available at Marinedepot.com
Red Ogo Plant – Gracilaria parvispora
Perhaps my favorite macroalgae is the Red Ogo. This algae is very colorful with a mix of red and burgundy. It looks great in any reef tank and has short bushy fronts that can be pointy on the tips. The Red Ogo is a very hardy algae that will grow fast under the right lighting conditions.
Red Ogo is one of the best algae for nutrient export. Great for removing nitrate and phosphate from your tank. Like many other macroalgae on the list, herbivorous fish will love to have this for a snack.
Care and requirements
Red Ogo is available on Marinedepot.com
Benefits of keeping macroalgae in your saltwater tank
The main benefit of keeping macroalgae in your saltwater tank is that it filters and removes excess nutrients from your tank. Nitrate and phosphate will build up in your system causing poor water quality conditions. Macroalgae is very effective in naturally removing these from your tank.
It provides a beneficial area for invertebrates like copepods and amphipods to reproduce. Macroalgae when placed in the main display tank will act as a safe place for fish to hide and take cover. It provides a very natural environment for them to be in.
Certain species of Seahorses actually require macroalgae to survive.
Macroalgae also provide oxygen to your tank.
Best macroalgae for a refugium
There are several different macroalgae types that you can add to a refugium. The ones that I recommend are the Chaetomorpha and Caulerpa.
Both are great at reducing excess nutrients and have great growth rates. They will also increase your water quality and will appreciate being in a refugium under proper lighting.
How do you grow macroalgae?
Lighting is a very important part of growing macroalgae. Here are my top picks for the best refugium lighting.