1. How long does it take for an Algae Turf Scrubber to start working?

After setup and installation, the algae turf scrubber should start to grow algae within the first 1-3 weeks and begin pulling nutrients. Remember, your tank must have livestock with some measurable level of nutrients to fuel the algae growth in order for the scrubber to work.  

2. Do you need to seed an Algae Turf Scrubber?

Since algae turf scrubbers are used on cycled aquariums that already contain livestock, there is no need to seed the tank with any kind of algae. This algae generally makes its way into your tank as a hitchhiker on rocks, corals, and even fish. You should not be used an ATS on a new aquarium that does not contain livestock which is really the only situation where algae will not be present in the water. 

3. Does an Algae Turf Scrubber increase pH?

Since algae are photosynthetic they will uptake dissolved CO2 from the aquarium water which will have a positive impact on pH (allow for higher pH levels). That said, the extent of this impact can vary based on exactly how much algae growth you're experiencing and would be minimal in lower growth scenarios. The amount of light, available nutrients, amount of CO2 in the air, and size of the aquarium will affect the rate of algae growth and, therefore, the rate of CO2 uptake. 

4. Is an Algae Turf Scrubber BETTER than a protein skimmer?

Both a protein skimmer and ATS are capable of substantial nutrient reduction. That said, a protein skimmer has the added benefit of improving gas exchange and mechanical filtration while an ATS will uptake CO2 which can be highly beneficial for those experiencing excess CO2 and lower pH. If you only had room for one, an ATS can most certainly export nutrients in place of a protein skimmer when used correctly. 

5. Is an Algae Turf Scrubber the same as a Refugium?

No, a refugium is different from an algae turf scrubber in a few ways. Most notably, an ATS grows Turf Algae while a refugium is designed to harbor macroalgae like Chaetomorpha, Caulerpa, and Gracilaria along with rock and sand/substrate. Refugiums also harbor microcrustaceans and various other microorganisms that generally won't proliferate in a turf scrubber. It could also be argued that refugiums require more maintenance and provide more habitat for pests to populate.  

Yes, both a refugium and ATS will export nutrients and uptake CO2 meaning the effects on your tank are very similar, but they are quite different in terms of setup and components.