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You're most welcome! I know that you will put all the information and advice that I provide to very good use, Jocelyn!
Now that you have finished all of the lessons in the training program, I can go ahead and certify you whenever you please. Let me know if you want to receive the certification at this time, and I will be delighted to oblige.
Best wishes with all your fishes, Jocelyn, as well as your ongoing studies!
Happy Trails & Happy New Year!
I'm interested, how do we get started?
In order to get started with the seahorse training course, you just need to contact me off list with your full name (first and last), which I need in order to enroll you in the training program. Just send a brief e-mail to the following address, and I will reply and send you the first lesson right away: PeteGiwojna@aol.com
The training program is a correspondence course that is conducted entirely via e-mail, so we need to establish e-mail communication in order to proceed. There are 10 separate lessons we will go over that discuss all aspects of the care and keeping of seahorses in the home aquarium in great detail. The training program is completely free of charge, so there are no transactions required whatsoever. We will merely be going over the material in the comprehensive lesson plans until everything is completely clear to you. I will answer any questions or concerns you may have as we go along, and once we begin, I will be working with you personally until your seahorse tank is up and running and you are well-prepared to give your ponies the best possible care.
Best wishes with all your fishes, John! I hope to be hearing back from you off list shortly so that we can get you started out with the seahorse training.
Hi Pete, it's been awhile since my last contact with you. I am now in the process of cycling my 55gal. for horses. How do I finish my certification since I've read through the course? Ross
Dear Jocelyn & Ross:
Once you have completed the seahorse training program, all you need to do in order to be certified is to notify me (PeteGiwojna@aol.com) that you have read and understood all of the lessons, and that you have a suitable seahorse tank ready to receive the seahorses. The way it works is that I personally notify Carol Cozzi and Craig Schmarr, the owner/operators of the Ocean Rider aquaculture facility, as well as the sales department at Ocean Rider, that you have successfully completed the training program and earned your certification. You will receive a copy of that notification at the same time, and you will be authorized to order seahorses at that point. Your official Ocean Rider Training Certificate will then follow within the next day or two.
If and when you decide to place an order for highly domesticated, High-Health seahorses with Ocean Rider (seahorse.com), don't neglect the "Special Instructions" or "Comments" section of the online order form. That is the place where you can request seahorses with special traits when you place your order. This includes coloration, gender, or perhaps requesting a pregnant male, if you so desire. The "Comments" section on the online order form is also for any such special instructions you may have regarding your order, such as delivering the seahorses on a specific date. When Ocean Rider subsequently fills your order, they will look over the current crop of seahorses and do their very best to select specimens that meet your specifications from their available livestock.
Given a choice, Ocean Rider always tries to place their seahorses with knowledgeable hobbyists who are the best prepared to provide them with good care. So be sure to mention that you have completed the Ocean Rider Training Program and earned your certification (that's what makes you a "Preferred" customer) when you make your comments, and remind them that you have been corresponding with Pete Giwojna to assure that your aquarium will provide optimum conditions for the seahorses. Then point out specifically what you're looking for in your seahorses. If you want active specimens that tend to swim a lot and explore their surroundings, say so. Or if you want ponies with lots of personality that will interact freely with their keeper, tell them that. If your main goal is to obtain colorful seahorses, then ask for yellow or orange Sunbursts was the most vivid, intense coloration.
Best wishes with all your fishes!
I sent you an email. Can't wait to get started!
Okay, I received your reply with the additional information off list, and I have enrolled you in the Ocean Rider seahorse training program accordingly.
By now, you should already have received the first lesson, and we can proceed accordingly. I will answer any and all questions you may have as we go through the materials for all the lessons.
Best wishes with all your fishes, Kitty!
Just following up with my last e-mail. At your earliest convenience I would love to be certified for the seahorse training program. I've finished all ten lessons. Whenever you get a chance please e-mail me.
From, Jocelyn Louie
I’m new to the website, not sure how I’ve missed it in the past with all of my seahorse searches! I currently do not have a saltwater tank set up. I only have an 8gal freshwater (hangs on the wall) with goldfish. In the past I had dwarf seahorses (in a 5gal and 8gal) for about 5 years, and was successful at hatching baby brine shrimp. I recently just purchased a 75gal tank to set up a seahorse tank. I only have a stand and tank till I do more research to get the right equipment. I would love to start the program!
~~~ Liz :cheer:
Okay, that sounds fine! The Ocean Rider seahorse training program is designed for hobbyists in your exact situation, Liz, and I would be very happy to enroll you in the training course as soon as you contact me off list. Just send a brief e-mail with your full name (first and last), which I need for my records, to the following e-mail address, and I will send you a reply, and we'll be in business: PeteGiwojna@aol.com
The seahorse training program is a correspondence course that is conducted entirely via e-mail, so we have to establish e-mail communication in order to proceed. As soon as you receive your e-mail, I will go ahead and send you the first lesson, and we will proceed step-by-step from there.
Your new 75-gallon aquarium can make the foundation of an outstanding setup for seahorses, Liz, and I will help you to prepare the tank so it creates ideal conditions for your seahorses. We'll have it up and running, all ready for your first ponies, before you know it!
Best of luck with the lessons, Liz!
I have been keeping marine animals now for years. I have had a great time with my pets.I have a 55 gal reef tank, a 29 gallon reef tank, a 37 bowf reef only tank and now I have a 40 gall with a 20 gal refugium/sump that is set up just for the Sunburst! I am ordering a pair of sunburst from you guys. I have always been interested in keeping seahorses as they are amazing animals. I have set up a tank just for them. Also I have spent the last 3 or so months researching these little guys. I look forward to getting my new family members soon. I cant wait. I would also like to enroll in the training class. You can never learn enough.
Thanks in advance,
A 40-gallon aquarium equipped with a 20 gallon sump/refugium should make an outstanding home for Sunburst seahorses! I would be very happy to enroll you in the Ocean Rider seahorse training program and teach everything you need to know about the care, keeping, breeding and rearing of Sunburst seahorses, but it is a correspondence course that is conducted entirely via e-mail, so we'll need to establish e-mail communication before we can begin.
Please send a brief e-mail message to me off list at the following email address, and I will send you the first lesson right away:
Best wishes with all your fishes, Joe!
I do not have a tank (yet) nor have I ever had a salt water one. I have had fresh water tanks before and the only other animals I have ever owned are dogs and cats.
I am interested in learning more about getting a tank, what kind, set up and all the ins and outs.
I live in Arizona and I really am not sure you would be able to ship here as the weather is HOT! Well not all the time but many months.
My name is Claudia Thomas and my email is CJTNY73@gmail.com.
If there is anything else you need for me to get started with getting certified, please let me know.
I am only looking to have a small tank for sea horses only and maybe a snail or other
friend them may want.
I appreciate your time and may GOD bless you.
I am wanting to set up a seahorse tank. I been doing a lot reading on seahorses, and seahorse tanks. I want to go through your training course.
My family visited your facility while on vacation and would love to go through the training so we can enjoy seahirses at home. How do we get started?
The Ocean Rider seahorse training program is a correspondence course that's conducted entirely via e-mail, so in order to get started with the training, we must first establish contact via e-mail. I am in charge of the training program and you can reach me at the following e-mail address anytime: PeteGiwojna@aol.com
How long this training will take to complete depends on your experience level as an aquarist to a large extent. For example, if you have never kept seahorses before and you do not already have a suitable saltwater aquarium up and running, it will take at least eight weeks for your training and preparations to be completed before you can be certified. It will take that long to learn the basics of seahorse keeping, set up a suitable aquarium, cycle the tank from scratch to establish the biological filtration, and optimize the tank to create an ideal environment for seahorses. Only then can you be certified ready to receive your first seahorses.
On the other hand, experienced marine aquarists and hobbyists that have had seahorses before and already have a suitable saltwater aquarium up and running can be certified much more quickly. I will run through the same basic information with them, but most of the information I provide will be familiar material for such hobbyists and they should be able to review it and get up to speed quickly, plus they should have well-established aquariums ready, fully matured that they can fairly quickly adapt in order to make them more ideal for seahorses. In a case like that, certification can be completed as soon as they have absorbed the material I provide and are confident they have a good grasp of the specialized requirements and aquarium care of the seahorses.
So in order to get started, Kristine, the first thing I need to know is how experienced you are with saltwater aquariums. Have you ever kept a marine aquarium before? If so, how long have you been involved with the saltwater aquarium hobby? Do you have one or more marine aquariums up and running at this time? If so, how long have the tanks been in operation?
Do you have an aquarium up and running at this time that you intend to use as a seahorse tank? If so, can you please describe the aquarium system you will be using for your seahorse tank? How large is the aquarium (length, width, and height)? What kind of filtration equipment is installed and running on the aquarium? What type of lighting system does the tank you? How long has the proposed seahorse tank been up and running? Please list all of the current inhabitants of the aquarium you will be using as your seahorse tank, if any.
If not, if you don't have an aquarium for your seahorses as of yet, Kristine, that's just fine. I will be providing you with lots of recommendations and options in that regard so that you can pick out a tank that is just right for your needs and interests. And I will be working with you personally every step of the way until your new aquarium is ready for seahorses and you are well prepared to give them the best of care, regardless of how long that may take.
All we ask in return is that you stick with the highly domesticated Ocean Rider Mustangs or Sunbursts when you are finally ready to stock your tank, Kristine. As you know, Mustangs and Sunbursts are the perfect ponies for beginners. They are hardy, highly adaptable, easy to feed, and perfectly adapted for aquarium life -- the world's only High-Health seahorses, guaranteed to be free of specific pathogens and parasites.
If you would like to give the free seahorse training program a try, just send me a brief e-mail with the information requested above, and I will enroll you in the training course and get you started out with the first lesson right away. Be sure to include your full name (first and last), which I need for my records, and we'll be all set.
Best wishes with all your fishes, Kristine!
Pete Giwojna, Training Program Advisor
I am interested in taking the traing course with the objective of purchasing a pair of seahorses from Ocean Rider.
Over the past twenty years I've had a number of marine systems ranging from 15 to 90 gallons and had good success with all of them. A few years back, I left the hobby and sold my 90 gallon system because we were travelling a lot. Then, a little over a year ago, my five year old granddaughter inspired me to get my 15 gallon tank out of storage and start something up because of her curiosity about the creatures living in the sand on our beach. It was a standard mini reef with live rock/sand, and soft corals - xenia, green start polyps, leather corals - and a pair of captive raised black and whithe perculas.
My wife gave me an 18" cube tank (25 G) for Father's Day and I just moved the mature sytem from the 15 gallon tank into that one. It appears to be stable but I plan to continue to test diligently for the next couple of weeks. If all goes well, I am hoping to order the seahorses late July in order to have them in the tank before our grand kids arrive at that point in time - by the way the granddaughte rI mentioned lives in the Netherlands so these vists are a big deal!
System highlights -
1. 25 lbs. live rock
2. 40 ibs. live sand
3. Standard clean up critters
4. Aquaclear 50 Power Filter (w/Chemipure Elite)
5. Remora Skimmer on its way. Due early next week.
6. Hydoe Koralia Wave maker with 2 Nano power heads
7. Fluval Heater
8. JBJ K2 Viper 70 Watt light - I'm hoping this not too much for the seahorses. Please let me know what you think.
I think that covers it. Looking forawrd to your course and the excitement of having a pair of these wonderful creatures in our home.
Hello I also would like to get certified.... please email me with information... my tank is not set up right now but will be in a week when I get back from vacation so I want to make sure I do it right not only for money stand point but also for these majestic creatures to live happily for a long time....
My tank is 72 bow front, asm g3 skimmer, 30 gallon sump, filter sock, 2 250w mh, 4 65w cf, led lunars as well, no live rock or sand yet bc I am not sure what aquascape is the best.... o and I have one marineland 900 jet... think I might get rid of that bc of the risk of the ponies wrapping tails around it.... just need advice I have 6 months to set up cycle and cure rock... so I have time on my side....
Okay, that sounds just fine. A 72-gallon bow front corner tank with an efficient filtration system can make an excellent habitat for large seahorses such as Mustangs and Sunbursts (Hippocampus erectus), Tyler. It will have the superior height that is so important for seahorses as well as plenty of water volume to provide good stability and a very comfortable margin for error.
It doesn't matter if you are relatively experienced with saltwater aquariums, Tyler. The seahorse training course is geared for newbies entered is designed to teach you the fundamental principles of good aquarium management as you progress through the lessons. By the time you have finished all 10 lessons, you will have a good understanding of everything there is to know about the care and keeping of seahorses in home aquariums.
In short, Tyler, I would be more than happy to enroll you in the Ocean Rider seahorse training program but it's a correspondence course that is conducted entirely via e-mail, so we need to establish e-mail contact before we can begin. Please send me a brief message to the following address, including your full name (first and last), which I need for my records, and we can begin immediately:
As soon as I hear from you, I will prepare the first installment, which is a two-part lesson, and send it out for you right away, and we'll go from there.
Please allow me to formally introduce myself, Tyler. My name is Pete Giwojna and I provide tech-support for Ocean Rider (seahorse.com). As you know, part of my duties in that regard include providing a quick training course for new Ocean Rider customers and first-time buyers to get them up to speed on the aquarium care and requirements of seahorses.
The purpose of this training is twofold: (1) to assure that the hobbyist has a suitable aquarium, completely cycled and with the biofiltration fully established, ready and waiting when his seahorses arrive, and (2) to assure that the hobbyist has a good understanding of the aquarium care and requirements of Ocean Rider seahorses by the time he or she has completed the training and been certified. All of which will help to ensure that things go smoothly and that the home aquarist's first experience with Ocean Rider seahorses is rewarding and enjoyable.
This basic training is very informal and completely free of charge, Tyler. Ocean Rider provides the free training as a service to their customers and any other hobbyists who are interested in learning more about the care and keeping of seahorses. It's a crash course on seahorse keeping consisting of 10 separate lessons covering the following subjects, and is conducted entirely via e-mail. There is no homework and there are no examinations or classes to attend or anything of that nature -- just a lot of good, solid information on seahorses for you to read through and absorb as best you can, at your own speed, working at your computer from the comfort of your own home. The training course consists of a total of over 200 pages of text with more than 200 full color illustrations, broken down into 10 lessons covering the following subjects:
Lesson 1: Selecting a Suitable Aquarium & Optimizing It for Seahorses.
Tank dimensions and specifications (why height is important);
Tank location and aquarium stressors;
Setting up a SHOWLR tank to create ideal conditions for seahorses;
titanium grounding probe
Test kits for monitoring water quality;
Aquascaping the seahorse tank;
artificial hitching posts
Basic aquarium setups for seahorses;
Lesson 2: Cycling a New Aquarium & Installing the Cleanup Crew.
The nitrogen cycle;
nitrification and denitrification
Step-by-step instructions for cycling a new marine aquarium;
Seahorse-safe sanitation engineers and aquarium janitors;
Starter seahorses (hardy, highly domesticated, high-health ponies)
Lesson 3: Reading Assignments (books, articles, and columns devoted to seahorses).
Lesson 4: Water Chemistry, Aquarium Maintenance, & Maintaining Optimum Water Quality.
Basic water quality parameters (acceptable range and optimum levels);
Advanced water chemistry for reef keepers;
Performing partial water changes to maintain good water quality;
Aquarium maintenance schedule;
Lesson 5: Feeding Seahorses.
Frozen Mysis serves as their staple, everyday diet;
brands of frozen Mysis
thawing and preparing frozen Mysis
enriching with Vibrance
Recommended feeding regimen;
how to tell if your seahorse is getting enough to eat
Feeding tips for seahorses;
preparing and serving the frozen Mysis
feeding new arrivals
setting up a feeding station
training the seahorses to use a feeding tray
artificial feeding stations
natural feeding stations
purchasing a ready-made feeding station
elevating the feeding station
Mysis relicta from Piscine Energetics
Broadcast feeding or scatter feeding -- just say no!
Lesson 6: Compatible Tankmates for Seahorses.
Safe and unsafe companions -- no guarantees;
fish to avoid
Feeding seahorses in a community tank;
Seahorse-proofing a reef tank
lighting the seahorse reef
managing water circulation for a seahorse reef
Lesson 7: Courtship & Breeding.
Courtship displays in Hippocampus (fully illustrated)
tilting and reciprocal quivering
pouch displays (pumping and ballooning)
copulatory rise and the egg transfer
Male brooding -- a true pregnancy
Giving birth -- dawn deliveries
Lesson 8: Raising the Young.
Determining ease of rearing
Setting up a basic nursery for benthic babies
Advanced nursery tank options for pelagic fry
the shaded nursery
kriesel and pseudokreisel nurseries
the divided nursery
in-tank nurseries (illustrated)
the greenwater "starter" nursery
hyposalinity for pelagic fry
Culling the fry (if necessary)
Feeding the fry
hatching and enriching brine shrimp (Artemia)
decapsulated brine shrimp eggs
culturing rotifers and copepods
Fry feeding schedule
Lesson 9: Disease Prevention and Control.
Captive bred vs. wild-caught seahorses
Importance of High-Health seahorses
Seahorse anatomy illustrations
Screening seahorses from your LFS
Quarantine protocol for pet-shop ponies and wild seahorses
Beta glucan boosts immunity to disease
Early detection of health problems
disease symptoms in seahorses
What to do at the first sign of a health problem
The seahorse-keepers medicine chest
first aid kit for seahorses
must-have medications to keep on hand
properties of the main medications
Hepatic lipidosis (prevalence of fatty liver disease)
Seahorse disease book
Lesson 10: Mustangs and Sunbursts (Hippocampus erectus) & Acclimating New Arrivals.
Nature of Mustangs and Sunbursts
multi-generational approach to rearing
Hippocampus erectus species summary
scientific name and common names
meristic counts and morphometric measurements (illustrated)
climate and distribution
color and pattern
onset of sexual maturity
ease of rearing
natural habitats and natural history
preferred parameters and aquarium requirements
suggested stocking density
successful rearing protocols
feeding the fry
nursery tank designs
rearing and grow out tanks
diet and nutrition
wide ranging species with different races
Acclimating new arrivals (step-by-step instructions)
Keeping and culturing red feeder shrimp (Halocaridina rubra)
As I said, the seahorse training program is a correspondence course that is conducted entirely via e-mail, Tyler, and once we begin the lessons, I will be providing you with detailed information on all of the subjects above and answering any questions you may have about the material I present so that everything is perfectly clear to you. I will also be recommending seahorse-related articles for you to read and absorb online.
In short, Tyler, the training course will teach you everything you need to know to keep your seahorses happy and healthy, and it will arm you with the information you need in order to tackle your first seahorses with confidence. It will explain how to set up a new aquarium and optimize it to create ideal conditions for your seahorses.
Once we begin the lessons, Tyler, I will be working with you personally every step of the way through our ongoing correspondence until your new aquarium is ready for seahorses and you are well prepared to give them the best of care, regardless of how long that may take.
All we ask in return is that you stick with the highly domesticated Ocean Rider Mustangs or Sunbursts when you are finally ready to stock your tank, Tyler. As you know, Mustangs and Sunbursts are the perfect ponies for beginners. They are hardy, highly adaptable, easy to feed, and perfectly adapted for aquarium life -- the world's only High-Health seahorses, guaranteed to be free of specific pathogens and parasites.
Best wishes with all your fishes, Tyler!
Pete Giwojna, Ocean Rider Tech Support
I'd like enroll in your seahorse course.
I am relatively new to marine aquariums. I have a reef tank that has been running for 20 months and a frag tank that is 8 months old. I was considering a seahorse tank when my stepdad passed away unexpectedly and I was asked to care for his seahorses. The seahorses do have an established tank that I will be able to take and my my stepdad took your course so I know they have been cared for properly. I would like to take your course so I can ensure they continue to receive goo care.
I'm very sorry to hear about the passing of your stepfather, but it sounds like his seahorses are in good hands, sir, and I would be very happy to enroll you in the Ocean Rider seahorse training program so that you can give his ponies the best possible care.
The seahorse training program is a correspondence course, Pete, so we need to establish e-mail contact before we can begin. If you can please send a brief e-mail including your first and last name, which I need for my records, to the following e-mail address, I will begin sending you the lessons immediately, sir:
I am looking forward to hearing back from you again shortly, Pete.
My name is Felix Hernandez and I will like to take the seahorse training program.
Well, I live in Clermont, FL and have been keeping saltwater fish for well over 15 yrs and reef tank for 8yrs and have dwarf seahorses for 1yr. They. are my babies!!
300Gal reef tank 72x36x27
Berlin sump with skimmer
400# of live rock
T5 with 3 400watt MH
list of corals to big
10Gal dwarf seahorse
air driven spong filter
tank#3 (going to be the seahorse tank) :-)
56gal colum 30x18x24
two marinland 280 bio wheels
black sand and 25# liverock
tank only has cardinals
4 pajama 4 banggai 2 yellow striped
me email: email@example.com
Hello my friend.
My last duty station as an Army Chaplain, was at Ft Shaffter. I was medically retired in 2003.
I have focused on Fresh water, and now that I have some time, I would like to try one of my tanks as a reef tank, with the goal of ultimately having a few sea horses or sea dragons
I have 2-93 Gal bow front tanks, (pie slice shaped) and a 180 Gal bow front.
and a 125 gal rectangular tank. They are all 24" tall, the 180 is 24 " in depth, and the 92's are 34" deep.
I am presently wanting to find a way to down load your training program so that I can work up to the certification process before I do something stupid and kill an expensive horse.
Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
Outstanding, sir! The training program is a correspondence course, which is conducted entirely via e-mail, so it is unavailable for downloading, but it would be it an honor and a privilege to enroll you in the Ocean Rider training program for new seahorse keepers, Dave, and I will get you started out with the first installment, which is a two-part lesson, right away. Look for it in your e-mail inbox later today, sir.
Any or all of your available aquariums would make superb seahorse setups, Dave. They all have the superior height that is so important for seahorses as well as plenty of water volume to provide exceptional stability and a very comfortable margin for error. The first lesson in the training program is devoted to selecting and equipping a suitable tank, and it will discuss the aquarium parameters to look for when deciding on a seahorse tank that is just right for your needs and interests, sir, so you'll have a better idea of which tank you may wish to convert to a dedicated seahorse setup after you go over the first information packet.
Your plans to accommodate seadragons, however, will have to remain a project for the future, since none of the glorious dragons will be available for home hobbyists at this time, and that is likely to remain the case for some time to come.
This is what I usually advise home hobbyists regarding the fabulous seadragons, Dave:
I share your fascination with seadragons -- they are surely about the most exotic, spectacular aquarium specimens unimaginable!
Both Carol Cozzi-Schmarr and her husband Craig (Ocean Rider in Kona, Hawaii) and Tracy Warland (South Australia Seahorse Marine Services in Port Lincoln, Australia) have worked with farm-raised Seadragons. Rearing protocols for both the Leafy and Weedy Seadragons are under development at these aquaculture facilities, as well as at several zoos and large public aquaria that house captive populations of the dragons. For example, as I recall, the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach California has successfully raised two broods of dragons in captivity and, at last report, the yearlings were even eating frozen food. I believe José Gomezjurado may also be working with captive-bred seadragons. But progress has been slow, and successful breeding in captivity has been very rare thus far, so these must be considered long-term projects aimed at the goal of someday raising domesticated dragons for zoos and public aquaria.
Rearing seadragon fry is actually straightforward and has not proven to be an obstacle at all. In fact, all of the seadragons currently on public display around the world were raised in captivity. However, this has been accomplished by procuring gravid males and allowing them to give birth in the aquarium. The adult males are then released back into the wild, and the resulting seadragon fry are raised using techniques very similar to the way seahorse fry are raised.
Closing the life cycle with seadragons has however proven to be extremely difficult. The domesticated dragons pair off, court, and breed in captivity fairly well, but successful egg transfers are rarely if ever accomplished. The females will ripen eggs and dutifully attempt to transfer them to receptive males, but for some as yet undetermined reason, the eggs almost always fail to adhere to the brood patch on the ventral surface of the male. It is this problem that is holding back captive breeding programs for seadragons.
These magnificent animals are the largest, fanciest, strangest and most fascinating of the seahorse's relatives and a wonder to behold. For seahorse lovers, getting up close and personal with Seadragons is the ultimate experience, and I know hobbyists who have planned their entire vacations around the opportunity to visit an aquarium where seahorses and dragons were on display, often travelling thousands of miles for that rare privilege. For us hard-core fish fanatics and aficionados of aquatic equines, that's better than a trip to Disney World any day.
The spectacular Leafy Seadragon (Phycodurus eques) is surely the most ornate of all fishes and the most splendid example of protective mimicry one could ever imagine. Textbooks dryly describe the fabulous finnage of these mythical marvels as "lobate and spiny processes" extending from the body. In plain English that merely means that Phycodorus eques has developed extravagant, branching leaflike appendages all around the margins of its body. Twigs of this fantastic fleshy foliage sprout from its snout, its crest, and its rib cage, adding to its masterful disguise. So intricate, elaborate and profuse are these delicate leafy structures that they resemble the exquisite patterns of fine lacework doilies.
In short, the Leafy Seadragon looks like the result of some diabolical experiment in genetic engineering that involved splicing the genes of a seahorse with those of a seaweed. Only in this case the experiment seems to have gone slightly awry, yielding a chimerical creation that's roughly 80% clump of Sargassum and only about 20% seahorse! Words simply don't do it justice -- only a photograph could begin to capture the intricate elegance of this miracle of evolution.
The Weedy Seadragon (Phyllopteryx taeniolatus), which grows to a length of 18 inches (46 cm), is another equally outrageous oddity of nature. It is not as fancy as the Leafy Seadragon but it is even larger and more colorful. Weedies have relatively sparse, wispy appendages but are adorned with bright yellow and red colors, which are crossed by several diagonal violet bars and often further augmented by a constellation of silvery-white dots adorning its dark midsection. The specimens from deeper water seem to have the most striking coloration, featuring intense reds and purples. When courting and mating, the diagonal bars become a brilliant fluorescent purple that all but glows.
My favorite description of the Seadragon's bizarre beauty was penned by the Rev. J. E. Tenison-Wood in "Fish and Fisheries of New South Wales:"
[open quote] "It is the ghost of a Sea Horse, with its winding-sheet all in ribbons around it, and even as a ghost it seems in the very last stages of emaciation, literally all skin and grief. The process of development by which the fish attained to such a state must be the most miserable chapter in the history of natural selection. If this be the survival of the fittest, it is easy to understand what has become of the rest. . . . Never did the famishing spectres of the ancient mariner's experience present such painful spectacles. If these creatures be horses, they must be the lineal descendents of those which were trained to live on nothing, but unfortunately perished ere the experiment had quite concluded.
"The odd thing about these strange fishes is that their tattered cerements are like in shape and color to the seaweeds they frequent, so they hide and feed with safety. Thus the long ends of ribs which seem to poke through the skin to excite our compassion are really protective resemblances, and serve to allure the prey more effectually within reach of these awful ghouls. . . . If this is [evolutionary] development, it stopped here only just in time; one step more and it would have been a bunch of kelp." [end quote]
Both of these spectacular species are native to the Wonderful Land of Oz. The Leafy and the Weedy Seadragon inhabit the temperate waters of southern Australia.
Like the male seahorse, the male seadragon carries the eggs, but in the case of the dragons, the males don't get pregnant or undergo labor pains and birth spasms. They merely carry the eggs on the underside of their tails and ferry the embryonic young about until they hatch. The male seadragon lacks a pouch and the female simply glues the exposed eggs to a special place on the ventral surface of the male's tail for safekeeping, where they embed partially.
Wild-caught Seadragons are fragile creatures that find the captive environment very stressful, and therefore only tank-raised specimens are sold for public display nowadays. The wild dragons proved so skittish that simply turning the room lights on or off in the display hall was often a deadly disruption for them. The sudden change in light intensity would send the delicate deep-water dragons careening around their tank in a blind panic and they would injure themselves by crashing into the sides of the aquarium or broach the surface and gulp air with fatal consequences. Flash photography from well-meaning visitors who hoped to capture an image of the fantastic fishes as a memento of their visit to the aquarium could produce the same result.
Tank-raised specimens are much more at home in the aquarium and have no such problems. Provided with pale night lights and dimmer switches on the light fixtures, they do quite well in the aquarium. As a result, the domesticated dragons now live as long as 9-10 years with good care (Warland, pers. comm.). Many of the domesticated dragons will readily accept frozen Mysis.
Before you get too excited, however, I should point out that domesticated dragons are completely beyond the reach of the home hobbyist. They are very costly animals and require very large, deep enclosures with carefully directed water currents in order to thrive. So unless you're independently wealthy and can afford to pay an architect to build a new house for you designed around your seadragon system, our dream of keeping domesticated 'dragons in our living rooms will have to remain just that -- a favorite fantasy.
But don't despair -- there's another way to live out such a fantasy that's the next best thing. The good news is that when hardy, captive raised Seadragons that are accustomed to aquarium life become readily available, there isn't a zoo or public aquarium in the country that won't want to display them. Before long, we will no longer have to worship Seadragons from afar or plan a special summer vacation just to get a quick glimpse of them for they are sure to be on exhibit somewhere near to us all. Soon we'll be able to visit them, observing them at our leisure and admiring their majesty and grace as often as we like.
That's the current status of domesticated dragons, Dave. They are tremendously popular display animals, and before long most everyone will be able to enjoy them at their local zoo or the nearest public aquarium. Leafy Seadragons will probably never be practical for the home hobbyist; they simply require too much depth and swimming space. Weedy Seadragons, on the other hand, can be kept in smaller, shallower aquaria with proper care, and it may someday be feasible for a dedicated hobbyists to keep juvenile weedies in a home aquarium. In fact, sir, the sort of large, tall, deep aquariums you have available right now would be very well suited for keeping weedy seadragons. But first the aquaculturists will have to overcome the sticky problem of those egg transfers...
Please allow me to introduce myself, Dave. My name is Pete Giwojna and I provide tech-support for Ocean Rider (seahorse.com). As you know, sir, part of my duties in that regard include providing a quick training course for new Ocean Rider customers and first-time buyers to get them up to speed on the aquarium care and requirements of seahorses.
This basic training is very informal and completely free of charge, Dave. Ocean Rider provides the free training as a service to their customers and any other hobbyists who are interested in learning more about the care and keeping of seahorses. It's a crash course on seahorse keeping consisting of 10 separate lessons covering the following subjects, and is conducted entirely via e-mail. There is no homework and there are no examinations or classes to attend or anything of that nature -- just a lot of good, solid information on seahorses for you to read through and absorb as best you can, at your own speed, working at your computer from the comfort of your own home. The training course consists of a total of over 200 pages of text with more than 220 full color illustrations, broken down into 10 lessons covering the following subjects:
The seahorse training program is a correspondence course that is conducted entirely via e-mail, Dave, and once we begin the lessons, I will be providing you with detailed information on all of the subjects above and answering any questions you may have about the material I present so that everything is perfectly clear to you. I will also be recommending seahorse-related articles for you to read and absorb online.
In short, Dave, the training course will teach you everything you need to know to keep your seahorses happy and healthy, and it will arm you with the information you need in order to tackle your first ponies with confidence. It will explain how to set up a new aquarium and optimize it to create ideal conditions for your seahorses.
It doesn't matter if you are new to saltwater aquarium keeping, Dave. The seahorse training program is geared for beginners and is designed to teach you all the fundamentals of good aquarium management as you progress through the lessons. I will also be recommending some good basic guidebooks for novices, and, of course, I will be working with you personally every step of the way through our ongoing correspondence until your new aquarium is ready for seahorses and you are well prepared to give them the best of care, regardless of how long that may take.
All we ask in return is that you stick with the highly domesticated Ocean Rider Mustangs or Sunbursts when you are finally ready to stock your tank, Dave. As you know, Mustangs and Sunbursts are the perfect ponies for beginners. They are hardy, highly adaptable, easy to feed, and perfectly adapted for aquarium life -- the world's only High-Health seahorses, guaranteed to be free of specific pathogens and parasites.
Best wishes with all your fishes, Dave!
Pete Giwojna, Ocean Rider Tech Support
After a few years I am ready to get back into my all time greatest hobby. SEAHORSES! :) I used to have a 55 gallon tank setup with 4 pairs of your horses, for over 4 years. A tragedy happened when a power surge came through and tripped my surge protector and unfornately it was on a day I was gone for a vacatioin and the neighbor I had coming in to feed them knew only what I had shown them which was to feed them and make sure everything looked ok. Unfornately it had 100lbs of live rock and all that rock sucked the oxygen straight out of the tank. I was devistated as they were my pride and joy, and everyone loved to watch them. But I want to give it another go, as I am finally over the loss. I was headed to order online when I learned about this certification stuff you must do now. So I would love to enroll in this asap.
i would like to enroll in your training program before i make my purchase. Please email me firstname.lastname@example.org with any info you need and how to get the course started.
Hello, I'm thinking about getting searhorses again. We had them before but we bought some fry that had worms and nothing in the tank made it. The tank has been set up for over a year and all the parameters are excellent. The tank currently has the following in inhabitants and we can move anything to a different tank.
Pair of maroon clowns and pink bubble tip anemone, one harp tail blennie, one flame hawk fish, one six line wrasse, one blue spot puffer (toby), one black and white hi-hat (growing out of the tank and will more than likely be removed soon), 8 nacariuss snails, and currently 5 small blue leg hermit crabs.
The tank is 36 gallons with a power-head, a Fluval 305 filter, and around 6 pounds of live rock.
Let me know your thoughts.
Well, sir, a 36-gallon aquarium with an efficient filtration system could make an excellent habitat for seahorses, and it would be well suited for large tropical seahorses such as Mustangs or Sunbursts (Hippocampus erectus).
Unfortunately, Charles, many of the current inhabitants of your 36-gallon community tank are not good companions for seahorses, and whether or not you would like to proceed will therefore likely depend on how willing you are to relocate the specimens that would present a risk to the seahorses.
The flame Hawkfish is a splendid tankmates for seahorses, sir, and the Nassarius snails and blue legged hermit crabs can form the basis of an efficient cleanup crew, and are fine with seahorses. A small six-line wrasse also often does well with seahorses, but the remaining specimens would not be safe to keep with the ponies.
The pink bubble tip anemone should be removed because of its stinging ability. Seahorses are bottom dwellers that orient to the substrate and they will grasp onto any handy objects on the bottom with their prehensile tails in order to use them as convenient hitching posts. Sooner or later, the ponies would encounter the tentacles of the anemone and be stung. This would be painful for the seahorses and could damage their integument, leaving them vulnerable to secondary infections at the site of the sting.
Maroon clowns are way too territorial and aggressive to be kept with seahorses, Charles. They are very scrappy for clownfish and have a well-developed cheek spine on their gill cover that they use for fighting, just as marine angelfish do, and they can do a lot of damage with this weapon if they are so inclined. Moreover, they are especially feisty and territorial when they have paired off. Your pair of maroon clowns are very likely to regard any seahorses as unwelcome intruders, with unfortunate consequences…
The blue spot puffer might be a good candidate for seahorse setup except that they are notorious fin nippers and often cannot seem to resist the seahorse's well-developed dorsal fin. The puffer should be relocated as a precaution for that reason.
A small high hat (cubbyu or jackknife fish) usually gets along very well with seahorses, but it sounds like your specimen has been thriving under your diligent care and growing accordingly, and may now have reached the size where it would be problematic. I would relocate the high hat to be on the safe site as well.
Some blennies do well with seahorses, but many of them can become aggressive toward the ponies over time; I am not sure which category the harp tail blenny may fall into, Charles, but I would play it safe and relocate the blenny rather than take a chance that it might cause trouble down the line.
In other words, sir, in order to convert your 36-gallon tank into a suitable seahorse setup, most of the current residents would need to be relocated. If you are okay with that, Charles, then I would say the chances are good that Mustangs or Sunbursts would thrive under your care and I promise you will find them to be tremendously more hardy than the parasitized seahorse fry that fared so poorly for you in the past.
If that sounds good to you, sir, then I would like to invite you to participate in the Ocean Rider seahorse training program, Charles, which will teach you everything you need to know about successfully keeping Mustangs and Sunbursts in your home aquarium.
This basic training is very informal and completely free of charge, yet quite comprehensive, Charles. Ocean Rider provides the free training as a service to their customers and any other hobbyists who are interested in learning more about the care and keeping of seahorses. It's a crash course on seahorse keeping consisting of 10 separate lessons covering the following subjects, and is conducted entirely via e-mail. There is no homework and there are no examinations or classes to attend or anything of that nature -- just a lot of good, solid information on seahorses for you to read through and absorb as best you can, at your own speed, working from your computer in the comfort of your own home. The training course consists of a total of over 200 pages of text with more than 220 full color illustrations, and if you would like to give a try, just send me a brief message saying so to the following e-mail address, and I will get you started out with the first lesson in the training program right away:
(The Ocean Rider seahorse training program is a correspondence course conducted by e-mail, and we therefore need to establish e-mail communication in order to proceed with the lessons.)
Best wishes with all your fishes, sir!
Yes! I want to take your Seahorse training program. Because after all " knownledge is power". I have always been interested in Seahoreses and I want to give you a "heartfelt Thank you!" for giving us all your time, knownledge, and your Love of these Beautful Seahorses to train us to be able to take care of them the right way. Giving us your knownlegde is a wonderful service and allowing us to take part and learn ia a honor. Thank you so very, very much I look forward to taking your lessons,Wanda:
Thank you for all the kind words!
We do indeed have the knowledge to empower you to keep seahorses successfully in a home aquarium, Wanda, and I would be very happy to teach you everything you need to know in that regard. However, the Ocean Rider seahorse training program is a correspondence course that is conducted entirely via e-mail, so before we can begin the lessons, we must first establish e-mail communication. If you will send me a brief e-mail message off list that includes your full name (first and last), which I need for my records, I will reply by sending you the first installment in the training program, and we can proceed from there. I can be reached at the following e-mail address anytime:
This basic training is very informal and completely free of charge, yet quite comprehensive, Wanda. Ocean Rider provides the free training as a service to their customers and any other hobbyists who are interested in learning more about the care and keeping of seahorses. It's a crash course on seahorse keeping consisting of 10 separate lessons, and is conducted entirely via e-mail. There is no homework and there are no examinations or classes to attend or anything of that nature -- just a lot of good, solid information on seahorses for you to read through and absorb as best you can, at your own speed, working from your computer in the comfort of your own home. The training course consists of a total of over 210 pages of text with more than 230 full color illustrations, broken down into a dozen information packets devoted to specific topics:
Best wishes with all your fishes, Wanda! As soon as I get your e-mail message, we can begin the lessons.
Pete Giwojna, Ocean Rider Training Program Advisor
Thank you Pete for your quick response I can't wait to start your lessons.
Wanda A Larochelle
1 Felker Dr
Milton NH email@example.com
I ordered books New Marine Aquarium by Paletta and your book Step by Step Seahorses
I should get them by Tuesday.
I visited Hawaiian Aqua-Farms and am so blown away by these beautiful creatures. I have have freshwater aquariums for years. I have always wanted to establish a marine tank but what would be better than seahorses. I would like to start the online course as soon as possible. Since I am a list person, I will need an outline of how to set up my tank. Thanks, Joan Carrjoancarr45@att.net
Aloha Pete, My students and I just signed up for your course. We have a wonderful marine lab here in Ohio but no horses (yet)
We can't hardly wait to get started:
BTW one of my students will be Traveling to the big Island on Monday for a college visit. She has been accepted into the Marine Biology program at U of H. Needless to say, I am thrilled for her.
I can't say enough about how wonderful I think it is that you take your time to do this, much less for free!!
well done sir
Very impressive, sir! You have developed the marine lab at Bellevue into an outstanding facility for your students, and adding seahorses and pipefish to your captive breeding program should be very successful and very popular with your budding marine biologists!
I have contacted you off list in response to your e-mail, Dave, and you have been enrolled in the Ocean Rider seahorse training program. Please let me know whether you and your pupils would prefer to receive individual lessons or if you would rather have all 10 lessons sent you in one file, and we'll proceed accordingly.
Best of luck with all of your projects, sir!
Pete, Thanks for the very kind words ! I have asked the students who are
interested in learning about the horses and setting up an aquarium (starting later this summer) to enroll on their own. But we will work as a group through the lessons in our lab before school. Look for their e-mails before the end of next month.
Okay, Dave – that's perfect! Go ahead and send any of your students and budding marine aquarists who are interested in seahorse husbandry (or just keeping a pair of ponies as pets) my way and I will see that they get started off on the right foot with the best possible information and the best livestock for first-time seahorse keepers!
Best of luck with the marine lab at Bellevue, sir!
My name is Tammy Tucker and I am very interested in seahorses and want to learn more about them so that I can bring them into my home. I don't have a tank or anything picked out yet and am looking forward to learning and then having my own.
Hello. My name is Debbie Remsen. My fiance and I have a reef tank. We started it in October. He has had sw tanks before,for me its new. I have had a fresh water aquarium for 4 years.
I have set up a 40 gallon tank,3 weeks ago. The dimentions are 30" wide, 23 Highand 12 wide. I have an overflow box, a sump, with a protein skimmer,and a 500 gph pump,and aspray bar return. There's 35 lb. live sand, and 20 lb. of live rock, t5 lighting 2 24w day and 2 blue bulbs. Theres an artificial,large branch coral (orange) and some live branch rock, 2 artifcial long leaf plants. The only inhabitants now are3 peppermint shrimp.
I would like to start the training program asap, I can't wait to get my new babies!!!
Hello my name is Crystal. I currently have a 46 gallon now front fish only tank that I have had set up for the past 2 years, and now have branched out with a 32 gallon tank that has been set up for 4 months that will be a seahorse tank only. I have live sand in it with about 30lbs of live rock. Using a fluval filter and heater. I would love to take the course on seahorses ASAP.
I am thinking of trying a salt water tank . I have had a rased fresh water tanks for over 40 years . I have benn afrade of trying salt water becase of the expince and time trying to stablize a new tank. But im To the point that Im Ready to see how hard it realy is. you can e-male me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Dear Tammy, Debbie, Crystal & Rex:
Thank you very much for providing me with your e-mail address, or contacting me personally off list via e-mail (PeteGiwojna@aol.com) as well as posting on the forum regarding the seahorse training program. As you know, the training program is a correspondence course that is conducted entirely via e-mail, so we cannot begin the lessons until we have first established e-mail communication.
All of you have received my replies by now, and should have received the lessons for you to read through and study at your leisure. Be sure to get back to me with any questions or concerns you may have as you go over the material in the training program, and we will discuss everything until it is perfectly clear. Once you feel you have mastered all the material in the lessons, and feel your new tank is ready to receive the seahorses, let me know and I will put your certification through so that you can place your orders any time thereafter.
Best wishes with all your fishes, guys!
I have become facinated with seahorses.I saw a special on animal planet about seahorses and was hooked.I learned of Ocean Rider on the show and was pleased to hear that the farm was in Kona.I had a trip planed already planned so I visited the farm,was very impressed.I wan't to start a seahorse aguarium,I would like to take the seahorse course.How do I get started?
I am pleased to hear that you had an opportunity to visit the Ocean Rider seahorse farm while you were vacationing in Hawaii, sir! The seahorse tour is an amazing experience for anyone who has an interest in these amazing aquatic equines.
The Ocean Rider seahorse training program is completely free of charge, Ralph, so there are no fees associated with the training at all. However, the seahorse training is a correspondence course that is conducted entirely via e-mail and we must therefore establish e-mail communication before you can begin the lessons. Just contact me at the following address with a brief e-mail that includes your full name (first and last), which I will need for my records, and then give me a little background information regarding your experience as an aquarist, and I will be more than happy to enroll you in the training program and get you started off with the first lesson right away:
It doesn't matter if you have an aquarium up and running at this time that you would like to use for seahorses or if you will be setting up a new tank from scratch, Ralph, but if you are planning on using an existing aquarium, please include a description of the tank you have in mind. It will be helpful for me to know the size of the tank, including it's dimensions (length, width, and height), the sort of filtration system and lighting you are using, and a complete list of all of the current aquarium inhabitants, if any, including the cleanup crew.
The additional information requested above will help me to provide you with the best possible assistance and guidance as we progress through the lessons in the training program.
Best wishes with all your fishes, Ralph!
Just wanted to say how much I am enjoying the course.The info is explained very well and is enjoyable to read.It seams to me that water chemistry is the hardest part,then tank mantenaince.
Reading about your interactions at feeding time makes all the work ivolved well worth it.
Just wanted everyone to know how invaluable and fun this course is thank you again.
Best wishes to all,
I would like to take the Training Progam i have 3 salt water reef tanks in my house and want to make one a seahorse tank. Thank you I am looking forward to getting started.
I would love to be enrolled in your Seahorse Cert. course. I am new to Marine aquariums but am soaking up all the info I can. I have had freshwater tanks for years and really enjoy spending time with my fish. My nephew offered me his old 75 gallon tank (48"L x 18"W x 20"H) and I immediately thought "SALTWATER"!!!! After much thought and planning occurring over the 2 months it took to get the tank here from Texas (my mother was visiting and brought it back to Alabama with her) I settled on a seahorse tank. More studying of course and I'm 3 months into having it up and running. I have simple flourescent daylight bulb and 2 Marineland Penguin Biowheel 350B filters each for 75gl tanks so I'm over filtering I know but I like the extra clean. I have a deep sand bed in the back of my tank but I don't like how it looks so it tapers to 2 inches in the front of the tank. I like the slope since my live rock stacks nicely on it. I have 60 lbs of live sand, the rest is about 70lbs of argonite sand. I plan on adding a layer of black so the horses colors will pop. I have about 60lbs of live rock at the moment and will be adding more. I just added a CPR in tank refugium to house my pod population for the tankmates and LOVE the setup. I will be adding some macro to it and a couple more pieces of small live rock. I have no room for a sump so I'm hesitant about adding a skimmer. I currently do a 15-20% water change EVERY Sunday and I like that schedule...seems to keep all my parameters right on the money. Currently it is stocked with a Pajama Cardinal, 2 Scooter Blennies, a fire shrimp, a chocolate chip starfish, 2 red leg hermits...multiple tiny hermits, 1 turbo snail (I had 2 but the starfish ate one last weekend), and several misc. cleanup crew snails. Thoughts on what I need before bringing in my herd? I plan on ultimately 2 pairs, maybe 3 but will have to see how the first fare.
Excellent! A 75-gallon aquarium can certainly make a wonderful habitat for seahorses and I generally like the way you have equipped the tank, Lisa. The two Marineland Penguin biowheel filters, in conjunction with a DLSB and live rock will certainly provide your seahorse setup with very efficient biological filtration, including plenty of both nitrification and denitrification ability. With 70 pounds of aragonite in your deep live sand bed, you should have no trouble retaining the pH of the aquarium water in the proper range. And, of course, an in-tank refugium with an abundant population of copepods and amphipods is always a welcome addition to a large seahorse setup.
Give it its very efficient filtration system, your 75-gallon aquarium system can easily support two or three pairs of large tropical seahorses such as Mustangs or Sunbursts and still provide you with a very comfortable margin for error, Lisa.
Most of the current inhabitants of the 75-gallon aquarium should do very well with seahorses, Lisa. The pajama Cardinals, fire shrimp, red leg hermits, dwarf hermits, and Turbo snail all make good companions for seahorses. But you'll need to keep a close eye on the scooters at first, and I recommend relocating the chocolate chip starfish as a precaution, as explained below:
When discussing compatible tankmates for seahorses, it’s important to remember that one can only speak in generalities. There are no unbreakable rules, no sure things, no absolute guarantees. For instance, most hobbyists will tell you that small scooter blennies make great tankmates for seahorses and 9 times out of 10 they're right. But every once in a while, you will hear horror stories from hobbyists about how their scooter blenny coexisted peacefully with their seahorses for several months and then suddenly went "rouge" overnight for no apparent reason and turned on the seahorses, inflicting serious damage before it could be captured and removed.
Does that mean that we should cross scooter blennies off our list of compatible tankmates for seahorses? Nope -- it just means that we must be aware that individuals within a species sometimes vary in their behavior and respond differently than you would expect, so there are exceptions to every rule. It's fair to say that scooter blennies generally make wonderful companions for seahorses, but there's always a small chance you might get Satan reincarnated in the form of a scooter blenny. There’s no guarantee that adorable scooter you picked out at your LFS because of his amusing antics and puppy-dog personality won’t turn out to be the blenny from hell once you release him in your seahorse setup.
In other words, Lisa, your two scooters are very likely going to be perfect gentleman and make fine tankmates for your seahorses, but observe them closely for the first several days after you add your seahorses to make certain that the scooter blennies do not object to their presence. After all, they will be the established residents in the aquarium, and the seahorses will be newcomers that are invading their turf.
As far as starfish go, it's best to avoid a large predatory species such as chocolate chip starfish and African red knob starfish (Protoreaster spp.). I would describe predatory sea stars such as these as "opportunistic omnivores," meaning that they are likely to eat any sessile or slow-moving animals that they can catch or overpower. For instance, I would not trust them with snails, clams, tunicates, soft corals and the like. Most fishes are far too fast and agile to be threatened by sea stars, but seahorses are sometimes an exception due to their sedentary lifestyle and habit of perching in one place for extended periods of time. What occasionally happens, in the confines of the aquarium, is that a predatory starfish may pin down the tail of a seahorse that was perched to the piece of coral or rock the starfish was climbing on, evert it's stomach, and begin to digest that portion of the seahorse's tail that is pinned beneath its body. That's a real risk with large predatory species such as the beautiful Protoreaster starfish are the popular chocolate chip stars, which are surprisingly voracious and aggressive for an echinoderms.
But there are a number of colorful starfish that do well with seahorses. Any of the brightly colored Fromia or Linkia species would make good tankmates for seahorses. However, bear in mind that, like all echinoderms, sea stars are very sensitive to water quality and generally will not do well in a newly established aquarium. Wait until your seahorse tank is well-established and has had a chance to mature and stabilize before you try any starfish.
Three attractive species I can recommend are the Fromia Sea Star or Marbled Sea Star (Fromia monilis), the Red Bali Starfish (Fromia milliporella), and the Red Starfish (Fromia elegans), which are safe to keep with seahorses. They are not nearly as delicate as the Linkia species and should do well in the tank such as you're planning that has lots of live rock and optimum water quality, and are nonaggressive starfish that feed primarily on detritus and meiofauna on live rock and sandy substrates.
A protein skimmer should not be needed in a tank like yours that features plenty of denitrification ability, Lisa, providing you use a product such as AquaBella Organic Solution or SeaChem Stability on a regular basis to assure that the aquarium includes large populations of facultative and anaerobic bacteria that can complete the nitrogen cycle by converting nitrates into nitrogen gas, which will bubble out of the aquarium and be removed from the tank entirely. Adding monthly boosters of AquaBella, in particular, will be especially helpful for a tank like yours with a DLSB since it will help prevent any impaction of the gravel bed.
The beneficial microbes in the AquaBella rapidly undergo a population explosion in the gravel bed of the DLSB, taking advantage of the enormous surface area and virtually unlimited attachment sites it provides to build up their numbers quickly. These microbes utilize organic wastes as food, metabolizing organic solids and phosphates contained in fish wastes and leftover fish food as well as in detritus, enzymatically breaking them down to harmless substances in the process. This effectively keeps such wastes, organic matter, and other gunk from accumulating in the DLSB, preventing impaction and keeping the aquarium water crystal-clear while helping to maintain optimum water quality. (For hobbyists who might doubt the ability of beneficial microbes' ability to rapidly breakdown the organic matter that accumulates in the substrate of a seahorse setup, I should point out that AquaBella is also used by hog farmers to break down the organic "sludge" that often accumulates in their hog pits to a depth of 2-3 feet over time. Needless to say, if the AquaBella can handle the tremendous amount of wastes produced by hogs being fattened for market, it will have little trouble keeping up with the waste products of your seahorses.)
In fact, the AquaBella is so effective in removing proteins and other organic wastes from the aquarium water that protein skimmers often have little to do in an aquarium that uses this product. Many times a protein skimmer proves to be unneeded for an aquarium that has been cycled with AquaBella and then receives booster shots of the bioenzymes it contains on a monthly basis. For these reasons, the AquaBella should be especially helpful in your 75-gallon tank with a deep live sand bed, Lisa.
As for what else you need before you bring in your ponies, Lisa, the two primary things that come to mind are the need to bolster your cleanup crew and the need to provide some colorful hitching posts for the seahorses. A selection of colorful branching corals and artificial gorgonians will provide convenient places for the seahorses to hang out and will encourage them to look their best and brightest. You can read a detailed discussion on the aquarium décor that is best suited for a seahorse tank in Lesson 1b (Decorating and Aquascaping your Tank) of the seahorse training program, which includes several dozen photographs of other hobbyists' seahorse setups to give you a better idea of the possibilities in that regard.
Likewise, Lisa, Lesson 2 (Cycling a New Aquarium & the Cleanup Crew) of the seahorse training course will provide you with detailed recommendations for the type of sanitation engineers and aquarium janitors that are especially useful in a seahorse tank. You want to include more snails for one thing, including plenty of the Nassarius snails that make excellent sand sifters for a tank with a DLSB.
In short, Lisa, I would be very pleased to enroll you in the Ocean Rider seahorse training program and it will explain exactly what you need to do in order to convert your 75-gallon aquarium into an ideal biotype for seahorses, but the training program is a correspondence course that is conducted entirely via e-mail, so I need to have your e-mail address in order to get the lessons and information packets to you. If you will send me a brief message to the following e-mail address, I will respond immediately and include the lessons as an attachment to my e-mail:
Best wishes with all your fishes, Lisa! I hope to be hearing back from you via e-mail very shortly.
Happy Trails & Happy Fourth of July!
Pete Giwojna, Ocean Rider Training Program Advisor
Thanks so much for the informative reply, Pete. I will certainly look into rehoming that chocolate chip star. I really don't want to have to worry about my ponies safety in what should be a happy home for them.
I failed to mention that I have collected quite a few colorful hitches. Some are bright orange false corals with different sized branches. I have a smooth decorative porcelain pot that has 2 handles and the sides cut out for a great play area...it is a favorite of the scooters. Also a really neat prehistoric looking saber toothed cat skull (made for aquariums) that the teeth would make great little hitches too.
I will certainly bolster my cleanup crew during my money saving time before I order my ponies. And of course look forward to the course to increase my knowledge.
Yes, I do think it's best if you relocate the chocolate chip starfish just to be on the safe side. If nothing else, that will assure that you don't lose any more snails from your cleanup crew to the predatory sea star.
Okay, it sounds like you are ready have a nice selection of hitching posts for your ponies, and bright orange is a very good color for encouraging the seahorses to brighten up (especially the Sunbursts). The decorative porcelain pot sounds very interesting, and I can certainly envision the ponies using the handles as convenient perches, but I am especially intrigued by the sabertoothed cat skull, Lisa – it must be quite an attention getter! (I once had an aquarium with large red bellied piranha and one of the few decorations in the tank was a life-size human skull, which was artificial, of course, but very realistic nonetheless. That sparsely decorated piranha tank was always a favorite with my visitors and the skull was an amazing conversation piece.)
But I should explain that when you post your messages here on the forum, your e-mail address is not revealed, so I have no way of sending you the lessons for the training program unless you contact me off list and establish e-mail communication. Please send me a brief e-mail message to the following address, Lisa, and I will go ahead and send the lessons for the Ocean Rider seahorse training program right away:
Best wishes with all your fishes, Lisa!
Hello wondering if this is still being offered. If so I would like to do this.
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