Re:seahorse now feeding

Pete Giwojna

Dear Helen:

I am very happy to hear that your case of weak snick resolved itself and that all of your seahorses are now eating well. No doubt it was due to a mechanical injury or muscular strain from ingesting a foreign object of some sort, and that injury or strain has quickly healed up on its own, which is the best possible outcome.

If the hairy coating that has developed on the bamboo is greenish, then I suspect it may be hair algae, which is a very undesirable form of nuisance algae that you’ll want to eliminate from your aquarium as soon as possible. As its name suggests, hair algae often resembles a dark green, sometimes almost blackish, hair like coating that grows on the substrate. If that matches the description of the fuzzy growth on your red bamboo, Helen, then you should be very carefully remove the piece of bamboo so that you don’t dislodge any of the hair algae, and then discard it from your aquarium. Let me know if that’s the case and I will provide you with some suggestions to help prevent the stubborn hair algae from regrowing and taking over your aquarium.

The rusty tinge that comes and goes on your sand is most likely due to diatoms, which are a form of brownish algae contained within a transparent silica shell. A bloom of diatoms is harmless and most newly set up marine aquariums go through a stage where the diatoms or brown algae grows on surfaces in the aquarium. In most cases, the brown algae will disappear as suddenly as it appeared once it uses up the available supply of some key nutrient in the aquarium (usually silicates). Ordinarily, once the available silica has been exhausted, the population of the diatoms will crash and they will then typically die off on their own.

Brown diatom algae is usually the first problem algae that a new marine aquarist encounters. A bloom of brown algae often occurs soon after one introduces new live rock to a marine aquarium. This bloom occurs because the curing of the live rock introduces silicates and nutrients (even pre-cured live rock from your LFS will have some die off after it is transferred to a new aquarium; that’s normal). As a result of the diatom bloom, a brown film often develops on the sand or rock substrate in the tank.

Control of brown diatom algae is relatively easy. The first thing to do is to purchase Trochus or Astraea snails that eagerly consume the brown diatom film. I’ve had good results purchasing Trochus snails from IndoPacific Sea Farms (IPSF). There are other snails that will clean the glass such as Nerite and Strombus snails, but Trochus and Astraea snails are the brown diatom cleaner workhorses. The second thing to do is to perform regular water changes with RO/DI water to remove any excess nutrients and silicates from the water. The third thing to do is to have an effective protein skimmer to help with the nutrient removal. The fourth thing to do is to cut down light intensity or duration. The final thing to do is to have some type of chemical filtration such as carbon or ChemiPure help with the nutrient removal. I would rank the methods above from most important to least important in the order they are listed.

But if this is a newly established aquarium, Helen, then the diatom problem will most likely clear up on its own eventually with no need for any further intervention on your behalf.

Your aquarium parameters all sound good, except for the water temperature which is running a little too high. The pH, specific gravity, and nitrate levels are all fine, but a water temperature of 26°C (79°F) could be problematic in the long run. Your seahorses will be more comfortable and less susceptible to heat stress and bacterial infections if you can gradually lower your water temperature to around 72°F-75°F (22°C-24°C), Helen. If your water temperature consistently runs much warmer than that, there are a couple of things you can do to stabilize it at 75°F.

For example, some hobbyists keep their fish room air-conditioned and adjust the air conditioning to keep the air temperature in the room at about 75°F or a bit below. The water temperature then tends to stabilize at around that temperature range as well.

Or you can reduce the water temperature via evaporative cooling instead. One simple way to drop the water temp in your aquarium is to position a small fan so it blows across the surface of the water continually (Giwojna, Oct. 2003). This will lower the water temperature several degrees through the phenomenon of evaporative cooling (just be sure to top off the tank regularly to replace the water lost to evaporation). Leaving the cover/hood and light off on your seahorse tank in conjunction with evaporative cooling can make a surprising difference. (A hood or cover tends to trap heat and hold it in the tank, so removing the voter cover from the aquarium can make a surprising difference in the water temperature, and is safe to do with seahorses since they do not jump at all.)

While reducing the water temperature via evaporative cooling, I should also caution you to observe all the usual precautions to prevent shocks and electrical accident when you are using an electric fan or any other electrical equipment on your aquarium, Helen.

One such precaution is to install an inexpensive titanium grounding probe in your aquariums. That will protect your seahorses and other wet pets from stray voltage and should also safeguard them electrocution in the event of a catastrophic heater failure or similar accident..

But the best way to protect you and your loved ones from electrical accidents around the fish room is to make sure all the outlets are equipped with Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters. And it’s a good idea to make sure all your electrical equipment is plugged into a surge protector as well to further protect your expensive pumps, filters, heaters, etc. from damage. Some good surge protectors, such as the Shock Busters, come with a GFCI built right into them so you can kill two birds with one stone. So when you set up your cooling fan(s) on the aquarium, be sure they’re plugged into a grounded outlet with a GFCI or a surge protector with GFCI protection.

In your case, you may be able to lower the water temperature from 26°C to 24°C (75°F) simply by leaving the cover or hood off of your seahorse tank and leaving the aquarium light on the aquarium switched off as much as possible.

Best of luck with your new seahorse setup, Helen!

Pete Giwojna

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