Dear Daphne:

Pete Giwojna

Dear Daphne:


I understand that you are inheriting your friend’s tank (complete with seahorse) because she is moving away and it would be too much of a hassle to transport the aquarium and its inhabitants to her destination. That’s an exciting development, Daphne, but a lot of responsibility for someone who has never owned a marine aquarium.

It’s good to see that you are approaching this challenge seriously, and reading up on some appropriate aquarium guide books to prepare yourself for this new project, Daphne, and that’s a very sensible approach.

Yes, the eight-gallon JBJ is going to be too small for a Hippocampus erectus seahorse in the long run, Daphne. If the seahorses still a juvenile, only a few inches in length, it might do all right in a tank of that size over the short term, providing you can maintain optimum water quality, but the juveniles grow rapidly and it will outgrow the need-gallon tank within a matter of months.

I should explain that the key to keeping seahorses successfully in a small, closed system home aquarium is to maintain optimal water quality at all times, and, unfortunately, the water quality can degrade and go downhill very quickly in an aquarium with such a small water volume, especially for an inexperienced aquarist who has never maintained a marine aquarium before.

Hippocampus erectus are large tropical seahorses, Daphne, and the smallest aquarium I would recommend for these ponies is a tall 30-gallon aquarium. And, for an inexperienced hobbyist who is new to saltwater as well as to seahorses, and aquarium of 40 gallons or more would be even better. That’s because the larger water volume in such an aquarium makes it inherently more stable. You will find it easier to maintain good water quality in a larger aquarium, which will provide you with a larger margin for error and be more forgiving than a small tank that holds only 8 gallons of water.

A small eight-gallon aquarium will be subject to much more rapid changes in temperature, specific gravity, and pH, making it much more difficult for you to maintain stable conditions, and the water quality can go downhill so fast that it would be difficult for you to detect a problem and correct it in time to avoid a disaster. As just one example, in a small, eight-gallon aquarium you might find yourself dealing with a dangerous spike in the ammonia and/or nitrate levels following a heavy feeding or the undetected death of a large snail, and you would need to be prepared to deal with such a situation properly where the health of the seahorse would suffer.

As for whether or not it would be advisable to provide the solo seahorse with a companion, Daphne, in my experience, captive-bred-and-raised seahorses are very social, highly gregarious animals that very much enjoy the company of others of their kind. For instance, Ocean Rider seahorses are raised by hand from birth at population densities that are far greater than wild seahorses ever experience, and Ocean Riders are therefore accustomed to living in large groups in close proximity with other seahorses (cohorts) of similar size and age. They can be kept individually, but I believe they do best when they have the opportunity to interact with other seahorses. Seahorses are intelligent enough to become bored in captivity and having other seahorses with which they can interact provides them with an important means of behavioral enrichment, especially if they have an opportunity for courtship and breeding.

But I would not consider getting a companion for your new pony until you have moved her into a larger aquarium. Attempting to keep two seahorses together in the eight-gallon aquarium would only compound the difficulty of maintaining optimum water quality at all times. Wait until you have established a larger aquarium that can safely accommodate a pair of Hippocampus erectus seahorses, Daphne, and then you can safely consider providing the new seahorse with a potential mate.

Under the circumstances, Daphne, I think the best way for you to proceed would be to complete the free Ocean Rider training program for new seahorse keepers which will explain how to select a suitable aquarium for your new pony, cycle the aquarium properly, and equip and aquascape the tank properly in order to create an outstanding seahorse habitat. In the meantime, the Hippocampus erectus you will be inheriting should be okay in the well-cycled eight-gallon tank temporarily while you are finishing the training course and setting up a bigger tank for the seahorse to live in for the long term.

No doubt the best possible way for you to prepare for having a seahorse tank in your home is to read through the free Ocean Rider Seahorse Training Program, Daphne, which will explain everything you need to know in order to keep seahorses successfully in a small, closed-system home aquarium in considerable detail.

Please allow me to formally introduce myself, Daphne. My name is Pete Giwojna and I provide tech-support for Ocean Rider ( 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, yet quite comprehensive, Daphne. 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 several hundred pages of text with more than 250 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;
filtration options
protein skimmers
UV sterilizers
titanium grounding probe
water circulation
Test kits for monitoring water quality;
Aquascaping the seahorse tank;
artificial hitching posts
Basic aquarium setups for seahorses;
undergravel filters
sponge filters

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;
microhermit crabs
cleaner shrimp
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);
specific gravity
dissolved oxygen
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
secretive feeders
morning feedings
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
fasting seahorses
target feeding
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;
Tropical tankmates;
fish to avoid
seahorse-safe fish
seahorse-safe invertebrates
Feeding seahorses in a community tank;
Seahorse-proofing a reef tank
safe corals
unsafe corals
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
Pair formation
Morning greetings
Male brooding — a true pregnancy
Giving birth — dawn deliveries

Lesson 8: Raising the Young.
Seahorse fry
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
Delivery day
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
external anatomy
internal anatomy
Screening seahorses from your LFS
Quarantine tank
Quarantine protocol for pet-shop ponies and wild seahorses
Beta glucan boosts immunity to disease
Early detection of health problems
aquarium stressors
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
Life expectancy
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
hybrid vigor
genetic diversity
selective breeding
Hippocampus erectus species summary
scientific name and common names
meristic counts and morphometric measurements (illustrated)
climate and distribution
color and pattern
breeding habits
breeding season
gestation period
brood size
pelagic/benthic fry
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
color variations
temperature requirements
wide ranging species with different races
recommended reading
Acclimating new arrivals (step-by-step instructions)
Keeping and culturing red feeder shrimp (Halocaridina rubra)

The seahorse training program is a correspondence course that is conducted entirely via e-mail, Daphne, 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, Daphne, 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.

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.

It doesn’t matter if you don’t have a suitable aquarium for your seahorses up and running at this time, Daphne. 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. Nor is it terribly important that this will be her first saltwater aquarium. The training program is geared for beginners and is designed to teach you all of the fundamentals and principles of good aquarium management as you go along, And, of course, once we begin, 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, Daphne. 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 take advantage of the free seahorse training, Daphne, just send me a brief e-mail message to that effect and I will send you the complete seahorse training manual, which includes all 10 lessons, to look over at your leisure.

You can contact me at the following e-mail address anytime:

[email protected]

Best wishes with all your fishes, Daphne!

Happy Trails!
Pete Giwojna, Ocean Rider Training Program Advisor

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