Prime Fuge Review: The Best Refugium Light We’ve Ever Tested—Grow Macroalgae FAST!

In our latest video, we look at the new Aqua Illumination PRIME Fuge LED light and show you how this light can give your refugium a boost!

Using algae as a means to fix nitrogen and phosphate is a very effective way to control nutrients in an aquarium. As algae grows, nitrate and phosphate are used by the algae which is then harvested and removed from the system ,in turn, reducing nutrients. Science has taught us that light spectrum plays a key role in the rate at which the algae will grow and the faster it grows, the more nutrients it consumes.

Prime Fuge
Prime Fuge

With this knowledge, Aqua Illumination recently revamped their very popular PRIME LED light to include a different array of LED diodes that provide the optimal spectrum of light for algae growth in a refugium with the all new PRIME fuge.

It becomes a bit complicated to understand exactly how it all works but in a nutshell, different plants and algae contain different pigments that prefer different light spectrums for maximum photosynthesis. Macroalgae contains pigments that prefer a red spectrum of light so it makes sense to see the new LED array inside the PRIME fuge is dominated with RED colored LED diodes.

LED Layout and Wattage
LED Layout and Wattage

The new array includes six Cree XP-E Photo Red diodes, four Cree brand XPE2 Red diodes along with two cool whites and a UV diode which help to fill in the gaps and create a full spectrum output that is dominated by the 600nm range or red colored light.

The 80 degree optics will evenly blend the light and provide you with a 24 x 24 inch spread of usable light. Best of all the light is very efficient and will draw a maximum of only 46 watts from the wall.

Optics and Spread
Optics and Spread

This efficient operation combined with the improved light spectrum means you will get faster and more robust macro -algae growth for less cost compared to competing light fixtures.

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Within this category of refugium lights, Kessil has been the dominating brand with their Tuna Flora lights that were originally created for horticulture applications. Hobbyists reported substantial improvements in the growth rate and health of macro-algae when switching from a full spectrum white daylight to the Kessil Tuna Flora.

Kessil vs Aqua Illumination
Kessil vs Aqua Illumination

Up until now, nobody could really come close to providing that optimal spectrum and efficient operation Kessil was offering with the Tuna Flora lights. The new PRIME fuge is going to be a tough competitor for Kessil, filling this refugium niche and taking it a step further with built-in wireless control via an app. Coming in at $30 less than the Kessil H160 with very similar output and light spectrums.

myAI app
myAI app

Wireless control is made possible with the same myAI app that works with the latest line-up of Aqua Illumination products. You can now control your water flow with the Nero 5, your main display lights with the Hydra or Prime HD lights and now your refugium all from a single app without any additional modules or wires under the tank.

No more bulky wall timers or using up precious sockets on your controller, simply connect to the light from your smartphone or tablet, set your spectrum, input your operating times and forget it. The best way to get started with the app control is select the quick start schedule which gives you a baseline that can then be modified to suit your needs.

Color Sliders
Color Sliders

I would not recommend adjusting the color sliders because you can really do some damage. Instead, start with only adjusting the time at which the light operates my modifying the set-points outlined with the quick start setting.

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If you are worried about too much light, don’t be. Algae, in general, is quite hardy and will thrive in a wide range of conditions. You could always turn on the acclimation feature in the myAI app to slowly ramp up the intensity of the light if you desire.

Refugium Photoperiod
Refugium Photoperiod

Some folks like to run the refugium 24 hours a day, some run an opposite light schedule from the display tank to help combat natural pH swings.
Personally, I run the refugium lights for 18 hours per day which has always worked out great for me in terms of nutrient reduction and growth. I schedule the light to turn on around sunset time in the display. The refugium light will then run through the evening hours to combat the pH swings but also continue for a few extra hours through the sunrise to ensure optimum growth and nutrient removal.

Chaetomorpha
Chaetomorpha

Typically, I am harvesting macroalgae on a bi-weekly basis from the refugium.

A very common practice is to start with a 24/7 light schedule to sort of jump-start growth in your refugium. After a few weeks you should have a growing bunch of Chaetomorpha, Caulerpa or whatever macroalgae you choose. You can then test your nitrate levels and adjust the photo-period accordingly to maintain your desired nitrate level. Generally speaking, less light = less growth = less nutrient uptake so you can adjust the length of time to accommodate your average nutrient input.

Mounting options
Mounting options

All of the same mounting options will work with the PRIME fuge so no matter your situation, you should find a mounting solution that works for you with the suspension kit, flex arm or tank mount options.

Optimal light spectrum, easy control, flexible mounting and efficient operation put the PRIME fuge at the top of the list for choosing a refugium light and trust me when I say that when compared to inexpensive DIY fuge lights, the results will be quite noticeable and well worth the extra expense.

I know for some of you it might be hard to swallow a $200 refugium light but considering it has the potential to reduce the frequency of water changes and eliminate the need for chemical filter media such as GFO and carbon, the light will pay for itself within a short time.

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