Pete Giwojna

Dear Lisa:

Excellent — you are doing a lot of things right! You couldn’t have made a better choice than Mustangs for your first seahorses. Your 20-gallon high tank has good water depth, which is so important for seahorses, a water temperature of 75°F is solidly in the comfort zone for your Mustangs, and live rock with lots of plants is the type of decor I generally prefer and should make your seahorses feel right at home.

Sand is a better substrate than coral. Crushed coral or coral sand tends to compact and aggregate over time, and may eventually transform it into concrete-like mass. I find that a thin layer of fine-grained oolitic live sand, preferably black, helps control nitrates and is the ideal substrate for a seahorse tank such as yours, Lisa. It is bioactive, aesthetically pleasing, and the very fine grains of sand are well suited for the various snails that form an essential part of the cleanup crew for a seahorse tank. I find the dark color of an oolitic black sand substrate shows off my seahorses and macroalgae to great effect and enhances the appearance of tank in general.

The depth of a shallow sand bed like this is an important factor. Too deep, and you risk anaerobic dead spots where deadly hydrogen sulfide gas can form. Too shallow, and there will be less surface area to support beneficial nitrifying bacteria and Nassarius snails and other beneficial burrowers may feel vulnerable and exposed. A bed of live sand between 1/2 to nomore than 1-inch deep is just right for the main tank. A properly layered Deep Live Sand Bed (DLSB) 3-6 inches deep with a full complement of sand shifters also works well with seahorses, but is best confined to a sump rather than the display tank due to the seahorse’s heavy waste production. In other words, you can minimize the buildup of detritus in the DLSB by installing it in your sump rather than the main tank.

Other than that, it really doesn’t sound like you need much help with your aquarium setup, Lisa. Do you have a cleanup crew in place yet? What type of sanitation engineers are you using for your aquarium janitors? And what type of lighting to you have on the aquarium?

It’s very difficult to say how long it may be before your new arrivals get serious about courtship and mating, Lisa. The seahorses are fairly young when they are shipped — typically about 5-6 months of age, which is just about the time they are hitting sexual maturity. If conditions are to their liking, a newly formed pair of adolescents will sometimes begin courting right away. But a lot of times the newcomers need a period of adjustment before they are comfortable enough in their new surroundings to set up housekeeping. It depends to a large extent on how mature your Mustangs are and how how much at home they feel in your aquarium. I can tell you that Hippocampus erectus typically begins breeding within the first year of its life, so if you’re new Mustangs are perhaps six months of age, chances are very good you will have some babies within the next six months, if not considerably sooner. However, I don’t expect that there is an urgent need to set up a nursery tank or live food cultures for the newborns at the moment.

But it never hurts to be prepared and if you search this forum for topics such as "nursery tank," "fry feeding schedule," and/or "kriesel" or "pseudokreisels nurseries," you’ll find tons of information on rearing H. erectus babies, Lisa.

Best of luck with your new Mustangs!

Happy Trails!
Pete Giwojna

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