Re:Tank and horse questions:

Pete Giwojna

Dear Catherine:

Okay, the link you provided works find this time!

Wow — that’s quite a jungle of macroalgae you have cultivated! It must surely make your ponies feel right at home and the lush bed of macroalgae is no doubt a happy hunting ground for them where they can seek out copepods and amphipods to graze on between meals. Well done!

However, my bet is that your ponies most likely spend most of their time hanging out in the grassblade jungle you have provided for them, on the hunt for stray pods, and dark coloration may help to conceal them amidst the dark green masses of macroalgae, whereas bright yellow seahorses would be more conspicuous in such a setting. That may be one reason that the yellow seahorses you adopted have assumed dark coloration. That’s not a bad thing at all, since the lush growth of macroalgae is helping to maintain good water quality and keep your aquarium healthy, and the seahorses no doubt love it, but it may not be the best situation for brightly colored seahorses…

The heavy growth of macroalgae will also keep the nitrate levels in your seahorse tank nice and low because the plants consume nitrates for growth, just as the plants in your garden utilize nitrogenous fertilizers. Just be sure to thin out the fast-growing Caulerpa and macroalgae regularly, Catherine; when you remove the excess strands and fronds, you’re exporting phosphates, nitrates and other nutrients from the tank, thereby helping to maintain good water quality, and thinning out the runners helps keep it from going sexual.

When thinning out Caulerpa and other macroalgae, take care not to actually cut it. Remember, you’re not pruning hedges or trimming trees — the idea is to carefully pull up and remove continuous, unbroken fronds or entire runners with numerous old fronds. Simply thin out the colony of excess strands, gently plucking up convenient fronds that can be readily removed intact.

Typically, the Caulerpa colony will put out horizontal runners or strands (i.e., the stolon of the plant) and a number of vertical leafy structures or "fronds" will sprout upwards from these runners. When I am thinning out a bed of Caulerpa, I try to weed out the older growth and pluck out whole runners complete with several feathery fronds so that I minimize any breakage when I remove the older plant material from the colony. In other words, rather than plucking off individual fronds at the attachment where they sprout from the runners, I prefer to extract an entire runner or strand together with all of its fronds, which allows me to remove more plant mass with as little breakage or damage to the entire colony is possible. Often there will be older strands and fronds that have separated from the rest of the colony naturally, and these are the best runners to target since there will be little or no breakage when they are removed. By regularly removing the older runners and the associated fronds, you can interrupt the life cycle of the Caulerpa and prevent it from going sexual. This is best done on a weekly basis to be safe, if the Caulerpa colony is growing rapidly.

A little breakage when thinning out the Caulerpa is fine, but cutting or breaking too many strands will result in leaching undesirable substances into the aquarium water as the Caulerpa’s lifeblood drains away. Too much cutting or breaking can thus sap the colony’s strength and cause die offs or trigger the dreaded vegetative events that judiciously thinning out the colony otherwise prevents.

All of the soft corals in the aquarium appeared to be healthy and thriving as much as your macroalgae is, which is another sign of a healthy aquarium. No doubt Pegasus and his pals are very happy in the playground you provided for them, Catherine.

Best wishes with all your fishes (and invertebrates), Catherine!

Happy Trails!
Pete Giwojna

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