Re:Temporary Tank Setup

Pete Giwojna

Dear Claire:

I’m glad to hear that you were able to line up a couple of healthy seahorses, one way or another!

Yes, I do think setting up a 20-gallon aquarium with the same saltwater and live rock from the Hippocampus kuda seahorse tank is a sensible plan. The live rock will contain both nitrifying and denitrifying bacteria to carry out the nitrogen cycle and provide the aquarium with some instant biological filtration, and a 20-gallon aquarium is large enough to support a couple of H. kuda temporarily. You’ll want to include an external filter of some sort on the 20-gallon tank in order to provide water movement and maintain good aeration/oxygenation and circulation, as well as some chemical and biological filtration.

It would also be a good idea to add some marine BioSpira to the tank to provide additional biological filtration as quickly as possible, if it’s available to you in Calgary. Go to a well-stocked fish store at your earliest convenience and obtain some Bio-Spira and add it to your temporary aquarium according to instructions. Bio-Spira is a product offered by Marineland which contains the live bacteria necessary to convert ammonia and nitrite into harmless nitrate. It is available for both freshwater and marine aquariums, so of course be sure to get the Bio-Spira for saltwater. Just use it as explained below and it should help assure that things go smoothly:

BIO-Spira is a "live" bacteria culture that is sold refrigerated and must be kept refrigerated until used. It can not be overdosed. Repeated dosing of your aquarium with ammonia removing liquids (such as BIO-Safe, Amquel, Ammo-lock and Aqua-Safe) can inhibit the beneficial action of BIO-Spira. Ammonia removing liquids should only be used to initially treat tap water. It is normal to have a small (<2 ppm) amount of ammonia or nitrite during the first few days after set-up. These concentrations are not harmful and will quickly drop to zero with proper use of BIO-Spira.

Shake well before each use. Use 1 ounce (29.6 ml) of BIO-Spira per 30 gallons of water. BIO-Spira cannot be overdosed. Keep refrigerated. Be sure to shut off any UV sterilizers and remove medication by means of a water change or activated carbon.

I would also add a Polyfilter Pad (from Poly-Bio Marine, Inc.) to the external filter in your 20 gallon tank. It will absorb any excess nitrogenous wastes that the live rock can handle.

Regarding your new tank, Claire, if it has completed the nitrogen cycle and both the ammonia and nitrite have peaked and then dropped back to zero, it is indeed time to add your cleanup crew. I like an assortment of snails (especially Astrea and nassarius snails) along with perhaps a few microhermit crabs (Paguristes cadenati, the Scarlet reef hermit is seahorse safe and my favorite if my sanitation engineers include any hermits). Feed your cleanup crew as necessary (vegetable-based flake foods will suffice for the herbivorous snails and hermit crab and a few pieces of frozen Mysis will take care of the scavengers that prefer a meatier diet), and the metabolic wastes produced by the scavengers and the aquarium janitors will keep feeding the nitrifying bacteria in the new tank so that the population doesn’t begin to die back due to a lack of ammonia.

Some people like to wait 4-6 weeks after installing the cleanup crew and macroalgae before they add any seahorses. This serves as a quarantine period for the invertebrates and allows the new aquarium additional time to mature and stabilize. In a case like yours, however, Claire, you will have to use your own judgment to determine whether the pair of H. kuda would be better off remaining in the temporary 20-gallon aquarium that long or if they would be better off in the new, larger aquarium even though it hasn’t matured yet. I would be inclined to move them into the larger aquarium as soon as feasible since the smaller 20-gallon tank certainly isn’t mature either end the risk of picking up any sort of parasites or pathogens from snails and/or microhermit crabs is slight.

Best of luck with your new seahorses, Claire!

Pete Giwojna

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