Re:Ready to start certification

Pete Giwojna

Dear Denise:

Okay, that’s just fine. I would be very happy to enroll you in the Ocean Rider seahorse training program, Denise, but it’s a correspondence course that is conducted entirely via e-mail so we need to establish e-mail communication before we can get started. Please contact me off list at the following e-mail address, with a brief message that includes your full name (first and last), which I need for my records, as well as a brief summary of your background as an aquarist, and I will get you started out on the free training program as soon as I hear from you:

[email protected]

Actually, the biocubes and nano tanks are often not the best option for seahorse keepers, at least right off the shelf, Denise. As you know, they are designed primarily with reefkeepers in mind. As a result, they typically provide the powerful water currents and high intensity lighting that live corals require in order to thrive. All of which can sometimes make the biocubes a bit problematic for seahorses, since they do best with moderate water currents and relatively cool water temperatures (72°F-77°F).

In other words, you may need to moderate the water flow in the biocube and take steps to prevent it from overheating, in order to convert into a suitable habitat for seahorses, Denise.

If you really like the convenience of the nano tanks or biocubes, Denise, you might consider an Oceanic 29-gallon biocube. They have a very efficient filtration system that I really like, as we’ll discuss in more detail below, and come with compact fluorescence as the standard lighting system, rather than the high intensity metal halides. They do have many of the same concerns regarding powerful water currents that can be too overpowering for seahorses, but I know a number of hobbyists who have modified 29-gallon Oceanic Biocubes by installing a spray bar return, as I will explain in more detail below, and then used them very successfully for seahorses. So that is one option that you can consider when selecting a suitable seahorse tank.

I would be happy to give you my impressions of the 29-gallon Oceanic Biocube and my thoughts regarding its suitability for seahorses, Denise.

First of all, the wet/dry filter is a plus. When it comes to external filters, wet/dry trickle filters are probably the most desirable units for the seahorse keeper . 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 (e.g., gas bubble syndrome) for our aquatic equines. As a added benefit, wet/dry trickle filters can also provide remarkable biological filtration, which can give you a real nice edge by further increasing your carrying capacity and boosting your margin for error accordingly.

I don’t know how powerful the water pump that comes with the 29-gallon Oceanic Biocube is or how many gallons per hour it puts out, but in general, the filtration system for a seahorse tank should turn over the entire volume of the tank a MINIMUM of five times per hour, so if the water pump for the Oceanic Biocube isn’t pumping at least 150 gallons per hour, then the system may actually be undercirculated.. It’s difficult to quantify the water flow beyond that because the optimal flow depends to some extent on the dimensions of the aquarium, particularly the height, and largely upon what type of water return the filtration system uses. For example, if the filtration system features a waterfall return or a spray bar return positioned above the surface of the water to provide better surface agitation and oxygenation, both of which effectively diffuse the discharge from the filter, you can easily use a water pump that turns over the entire volume of the tank 10 times per hour (or even 20 times per hour under certain circumstances) without generating too much turbulence or water flow for seahorses.

The Oceanic BioCubes are nice aquarium systems with a very efficient filtration system, but as I mentioned, like all of the nanocubes, they are designed with reef keepers in mind and have strong pumps that produce strong water flow and high turnover rates. The output from the pump often needs to be toned down a bit so it doesn’t overwhelm the limited swimming ability of Hippocampus, if you will be using a Biocube as a seahorse tank.

One good way to accomplish that is by adding a spray bar return positioned above the surface of the water to provide better surface agitation and oxygenation, which will effectively diffuse the discharge from the filter, allowing you to maintain a relatively high turnover rate without generating too much turbulence or water flow for seahorses. For example, this is how Estefano recommends modifying BioCubes and nano tanks to make them more suitable for seahorses with regard to the water flow:

<Open quote>
I recently bought a biocube 24 (for a different reason other than a seahorse) but here are some of the recommended upgrades I would strongly consider if I were to house seahorses in this setup…

1) skimmer – Sapphire aquatic is coming out with a very high quality venturi skimmer that fits perfectly in on of the back compartments of the biocube. check; then click on skimmers, you will see the biocube29 skimmer there. there are others available, however this is one of the top quality skimmers out there.

2) SPRAY BARS!!! very important, all these nanocubes have very powerful pumps that are designed to turn water over 10-15 times per hour, as you may have read from previous recommendations from Pete you will know that this is not suitable for seahorses, adding spraybars (from loc-line, 1/2 inch; available at is a very good upgrade. they also have a check-valve available which you can use to slow down the water flow.

3) UV sterilizer – CADLIGHTS has created an in chamber UV steralizer I would strongly consider adding to a setup like yours. go to and click on the UV sterilizer from the list, its only $55 and a really nice upgrade for your new tank.
What I would recommend you do is the following:

Go to your local fish store and buy a Mini-jet 606, These pumps have a flow controller built right into them. They are rather inexpensive and readily available in every fish store out there.

This is the link of the pump so you know what to look for…

As a long term solution you should install some spraybars, I must advice you that you will need to sand down the original nipple that comes with the biocube in order to make the spraybars fit. Its really easy and only takes 5 minutes with sanding paper.

Here are the links of the spraybars so you know what to look for…

and the elbow you will need to make it go across the top…

and the regulator ball-valve…

I hope this help,

<close quote>

As for the lighting system, compact fluorescents are a good choice for seahorses, Denise (although not as good as the LED lighting system you are planning on using). Compact fluorescents shouldn’t be too overpowering, yet they will put out enough light to maintain a healthy growth of macroalgae or sustain soft corals that are safe for seahorses. The blue lunar "moon lights" are also a nice feature that the seahorses should appreciate. Without knowing exactly how the light fixtures are wired and configured, I cannot advise you as to how best to connect them to separate timers. If they have separate ballasts, there is usually a way that can be accomplished, but you’ll need to contact the manufacturer of the Oceanic Biocube and get some help from their tech support department regarding the best way to rewire the lighting fixtures so that you can operate them on separate automatic timers. That might be a good do-it-yourself project, or I might be something they wouldn’t recommend; I would stick to whatever they advise in that regard.

If the light fixtures that come with the biocube cannot be easily modified to accommodate separate timers, there is another easy way for the home hobbyist to provide his seahorses with a simulated dusk and dawn. Just turn the room lights on 15 minutes or half an hour before you turn on the compact fluorescence in the biocube to serve as the artificial "dawn," and then leave the room lights on for a while after you turn off the aquarium lights to provide a simulated period of dusk.

In short, although I have had no personal experience with the Oceanic Biocubes, based on their overall design I do think they would make an acceptable aquarium for seahorses as long as you take into consideration the factors we have discussed above, and consider modifying the tank by installing a spray bar return to diffuse the water flow. And there are a number of hobbyists that used 29-gallon Oceanic Biocubes modified with spray bar return quite successfully for their seahorses.

Pete Giwojna, Ocean Rider Tech Support

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