Re:New 170 gal reef which are safe tankmates

Pete Giwojna

Dear Mark:

You already know my views on the matter — I’m generally pro-UV for most conventional seahorse setups. I would say UV sterilization is a must for anyone who’s keeping delicate wild-caught seahorses or seahorses obtained from your LFS. If you’re keeping captive-bred-and-raised seahorses obtained directly from the breeder — particularly a High-Health aquaculture facility such as Ocean Rider — then an ultraviolet sterilizer becomes an option rather than a prerequisite. If you can afford it and your aquarium system allows for easy installation and maintenance, it’s still a nice addition to a seahorse tank that can help minimize any potential problems with certain microbes and free-swimming parasites and which does a great job of helping to control nuisance algae. It can be especially helpful for controlling the incidence and spread of disease in crowded nursery tanks and grow-out tanks.

Reef keepers tend to avoid UV because it reduces the population of microscopic planktonic organisms filter-feeding invertebrates require, so if you will be keeping a lot of filter feeders or live corals that need supplemental feedings rather than obtaining most of their food and directly from the zooanthellae in their tissues through the process of photosynthesis, then an ultraviolet sterilizer might not be the best option for your 170-gallon reef system. And if your reef tank will employ micron filtration or an ozonizer to help regulate ORP, those will provide many of the same benefits as an ultraviolet sterilizer, reducing the need for UV.

For instance, the addition of an ozonizer will increase the efficiency of any protein skimmer and kill bacteria and free-swimming parasites, thereby helping to prevent disease while promoting faster wound healing.


Ozone (O3) is the highly unstable triatomic form of oxygen. The instability of the ozone molecule makes it highly reactive, and it oxidizes or "burns up" organic compounds and microbes on contact. As a result, ozone is widely used for water purification and sterilization, particularly in Europe (Fenner, 2003a). When used in conjunction with a protein skimmer and properly administered, it provides many benefits to the aquarium and is a very useful option seahorse keepers should strongly consider employing.

Ozone chemically degrades large organic molecules, thereby helping to raise pH, increase dissolved oxygen levels and Redox potential, and improve water quality in general while greatly increasing the efficiency of your protein skimmer (Fenner, 2003a). Its ability to destroy microbes on contact also makes it a very useful disease control measure. Virtually all the large public aquaria employ ozone in their systems for these reasons.

For best results, an ozonizer or ozone generator is used to introduce ozone into the bubble column of a protein skimmer. The outflow from the skimmer should then be discharged into a filter or sump for degassing and chemical filtration before being returned to the main aquarium (Fenner, 2003a). In the best systems, ozone is used in conjunction with an ORP controller in order to optimize and stabilize Redox (reduction-oxidation potential).

Ozone is not necessary for keeping seahorses successfully. Protein skimmers can certainly be operated effectively without it and captive-bred seahorses will thrive in a well-maintained system without the use of ozone. But in my opinion, the benefits ozone provides far outweigh the costs and it can be a very useful addition to a SHOWLR tank. Ozone is by no means a necessity, but it can be a very worthwhile investment in the long-term health of your seahorses.

Obviously, ultraviolet sterilization is a bit superfluous in an aquarium system with an ozonizer or ozone generator.

Those are just some of the things to keep in mind when deciding whether or not an ultraviolet sterilizer is a good option for your particular needs and aquarium system, Mark.

Best of luck with your superb 170-gallon reef system, sir!

Happy Trails!
Pete Giwojna

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