When it comes to skimmers, both the AquaC Remora and Euro-Reef series of protein skimmers are first-rate units that will serve you well. You can’t go far wrong if you select a quality AquaC or Euro-Reef skimmer rated for an aquarium of at least 40 gallons. I’ve also heard good things about the H.O.T protein skimmers. I believe Premium Aquatics carries all of those brands of hang-on-the-back protein skimmers, and I would select one of the above if I was you.
If space is at a premium as far as installing a protein skimmer grows, a lot of hobbyists like the Red Sea Prizm protein skimmers because of their sleek compact design. Some seahorse keepers like the convenience of the CPR Cyclone Bak-Pak series of protein skimmers because they combine biological filtration with an efficient skimmer, but as others have are ready pointed out, they have their drawbacks and are notorious for releasing clouds of microbubbles into the aquarium.
Regardless of what brand and/or model you get, it is indeed an excellent idea to install an efficient protein skimmer on your seahorse tank, Stephanie. Although seahorses can certainly be kept successfully without the use of a protein skimmer, I recommend including a good skimmer for best results. As a rule, seahorses are messy feeders, particularly when scarfing down enriched frozen Mysis. Ample evidence of this is revealed every time they scarf one up. As they snick up a shrimp with their slurp-gun snouts, water is passed over their gills and expelled forcibly (it is this very process that generates the powerful suction they use to slurp up their prey). As the jet of water is ejected through their gills, it carries a cloud of macerated particles and debris with it. It is a startling sight the first time you observe this phenomenon, for it brings a fire-breathing dragon to mind. As one young hobbyist matter-of-factly described it, "My seahorse blows smoke out of its ears when he eats." I’ll be darned if that’s not exactly what it looks like, too!
The majority of the undesirable metabolites, organic wastes and excess nutrients that accumulate in our aquariums and degrade water quality are "surface-active," meaning they are attracted to and collect near the surface of a gas-liquid interface (Fenner, 2003). Skimmers take advantage of this fact by using a column of very fine air bubbles mixed with aquarium water to trap dissolved organics and remove them from our systems. This air-water mixture is lighter than the surrounding aquarium and rises up the column of the skimmer until the foam eventually spills into a special collection cup atop the skimmer, which can be removed and emptied as needed. Proteins and other organic molecules, waste products, uneaten food and excess nutrients, and a host of other undesirable compounds stick to the surface of the bubbles and are carried away along with the foam and removed from the aquarium (Fenner, 2003a). As a result of this process, these purification devices are typically known as foam separators, foam fractionators, air-strippers, or simply protein skimmers.
In my experience, nothing improves water quality like a good protein skimmer. They provides many benefits for a seahorse setup, including efficient nutrient export, reducing the effective bioload, and increasing both the Redox potential and dissolved oxygen levels in the water (Fenner, 2003a). They do a tremendous job of removing excess organics from the aquarium, including phenols, albumin, dissolved organic acids, and chromophoric (color causing) compounds (Fenner, 2003a). Their ability to remove dissolved wastes BEFORE they have a chance to break down and degrade water quality makes them indispensable for controlling nuisance algae. A good protein skimmer is an invaluable piece of equipment for keeping your nitrates low and your water quality high when feeding a whole herd of these sloppy eaters in a closed-system aquarium.
When it comes to hydrometers,Stephanie, refractometers in general are much preferable to either the simple swing-arm hydrometers or floating hydrometers because the refractometers are much more accurate and precise, so you should be all set when it comes to measuring your specific gravity.
As far as biofiltration goes, wet/dry trickle filters are probably the most desirable units for the seahorse keeper after live rock filtration. They are top-of-the-line units that feature a thin film of water trickling over filter media with an ultra-large surface area, thereby allowing maximum air-water contact. This provides excellent oxygenation with efficient offgassing, which is very important for seahorses. It helps keep dissolved oxygen levels high, CO2 low, and effectively prevents gas supersaturation, which can sometimes contribute to serious problems (gas bubble disease) for our aquatic equines. As an added benefit, wet/dry trickle filters can also support a tremendous population of aerobic nitrifying bacteria that provide remarkable biological filtration, which gives these systems excellent carrying capacity and a decent margin for error for beginners.
If you have a biowheel, as it spins and exposes the filter media to the air, it essentially acts as a wet dry trickle filter, so you already have that covered as well.
Either type of thermometer should be perfectly satisfactory.
When it comes to obtaining the commonly used medications for seahorses, Stephanie, methylene blue, formalin, and metronidazole should be available from any well-stocked fish store.
Pouch Kits and beta-glucan (a primary ingredient in Vibrance) can be obtained directly from Ocean Rider (http://www.seahorse.com)/.
Betadine or something equivalent should be available from any drug store or pharmacy.
You can obtain the right kind of Panacur (i.e., fenbendazole) online from the following web site:
Click here: KV Vet Supply / KV HealthLinks – Pet, equine & livestock supplies / Quality nutrition for you!
(Get the 22.2% granules of Panacur/fenbendazole rather than the paste.)
You can get a wide range of antiparasitics, anti-fungals, and antibiotics, including pretty much all the medications on my list from National Fish Pharmaceuticals (aka the Fishy Farmacy) at the following URL:
Click here: Fish Medications
Diamox (the tablet form of acetazolamide) will be the toughest of the most-have medications to obtain, since it’s a prescription drug. Most hobbyists will need to obtain it via their family physician or local veterinarian.
Having the items above in your fish room medicine chest, ready to use, will enable you to respond to almost any emergency or disease problem that may arise quickly and efficiently.
Best of luck with your research and preparations for the care and keeping of seahorses, Stephanie!