I'm a researcher currently working on paints and coatings designed to prevent fouling in marine environments. Currently our research group focuses on synthesizing fundamental chemical agents and testing them in a variety of ways. Due to our location we don't have regular access to the ocean for field tests and I have taken it upon myself to prepare an in-lab marine aquarium for testing purposes. I have some experience in setting up freshwater aquariums and have done a lot of reading into saltwater systems but my main concern is that most guides obviously direct you towards a set up that minimizes fouling, so that you don't have to clean the tank as often. My question to you is what can I do in order to maintain a level of fouling from bacteria, diatoms and algae similar to the ocean? I wouldn't mind cleaning the tank regularly, but at least this way we could submerge samples in and over the course of a few weeks they could begin to be coated by organisms (or not) so that we can do in-house testing before sending colleagues off to field test sites around the world.
The set up I have now involves a 150L tank in a temperature controlled room sitting at 22.5C. I have access to artificial seawater due to the large distance to the ocean. I have some pump and filtration systems but again don't know if they should be used as is because they would promote growth in the filter medium and not in the tank itself.
I am not interested in harming fish, so would prefer not to introduce large animals to the system, my ideal plan would be to have a coral-like system but they would compete with micro-organisms and prevent the much wanted fouling I want. What would be a sustainable mixture of organisms that thrive in high algae environments but won't consume more algae than is produced?
If you have any suggestions please let me know, at this stage I am happy to undertake any promising projects.