Re:My sponge is shrinking…

Pete Giwojna

Dear Carrie:

Yes, indeed, the polyurethane that is used to make these synthetic sponges is totally inert in saltwater and completely non-toxic. They are perfectly safe to use in the aquarium. There are several different types and sizes of artificial sponges available and they can be obtained from quite a number of places online, but one that is familiar to most hobbyists is Drs. Foster & Smith, which offers some very realistic, colorful tube sponges:

Click here: Aquarium Decorations & Ornaments for Home Aquariums: Artificial Sponge Aquarium Decorations

Although these polyurethane sponges are designed for aquarium use and are altogether safe, there is one thing the hobbyist needs to be conscious of when using them. Don’t broadcast feed or scatter-feed frozen Mysis when you are using these tubes sponges in the aquarium. Scattered feeding is never a good idea in the first place, but it is particularly ill advised around the fake sponges because there is a chance that frozen Mysis can settle in the opening of the tubes where it would be inaccessible to the seahorses or the aquarium janitors. If that happens, the trapped Mysis would begin to decay and could soon degrade your water quality. So it’s important to target feed your seahorses away from the tube sponges, or to teach them to eat from a feeding station instead in order to avoid any such problems.

Staghorn coral skeletons are also safe to use and look perfectly natural in a marine aquarium, so that’s another good option you can certainly try, Carrie. The coral is not at all too rough or scratchy or abrasive for seahorses and they will gladly use the branches as hitching posts. The only drawback is that the pristine staghorn coral skeletons look beautiful at first but don’t stay that way for long. They do indeed get overgrown with algae and I find that it’s almost always the unattractive brown stuff, which can be rather unsightly. When that happens, cleaning the coral skeletons is more difficult than the artificial decorations.

Best of luck with your aquascaping, Carrie!

Happy Trails!
Pete Giwojna

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