Seahorse Club
Aquarium & Livestock

Feed Ezy Frozen Mysis

Seahorse Club
Aquarium & Livestock

Feed Ezy Frozen Mysis

Seahorse Club
Aquarium & Livestock

Feed Ezy Frozen Mysis

Seahorse Club
Aquarium & Livestock

Feed Ezy Frozen Mysis

Seahorse Club
Aquarium & Livestock

Feed Ezy Frozen Mysis

Seahorse Club
Aquarium & Livestock

Feed Ezy Frozen Mysis

90G set up for mandarin,seahorse,coral system etc?

Ocean Rider Seahorse Farm and Tours | Kona Hawaii Forums Seahorse Life and Care 90G set up for mandarin,seahorse,coral system etc?

  • This topic has 22 replies, 2 voices, and was last updated 15 years ago by Pete Giwojna.
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  • #1676


    not sure if this is the right category to post in

    Thinking of switching up a 90G with 30G sump mrc
    8-t5 lighting 4-20 000k/2-purple/2-12 000k

    90 lbs Live rock

    And turning it into a lagoon style low /med flow tank with 100% live food if possible
    was thinking of breeding mandarin gobies and seahorse\’s in the long run

    I wouldn\’t mind some Wrasse Labridae, zoo\’s,paly,recordia,gorgonian\’s,acan\’s

    Is there a way I can accomplish this as a long term goal?

    Can I get rid of the mrc and add a algae turf scrubber I was planning on building a med/high powered scrubber and not using a mrc unless I have to so I can keep as much nutrient\’s/pod\’s etc in my tank as possible the ATF will be 2-24\" t5 H.O on each side of the screen 3\" away 10\" tall 240 square inch\’s

    I really want to go all natural and possible use the display as the refuge hardly any micro algae etc just large pod population maybe alot of rock rubble spot\’s etc

    not 100% sure about which food to raise I had phyto going fo some time
    and experimented with a 20G and slowly increasing until I believe I had a nice large pod/scavenger population in the 1000\’s
    would like to duplicate it on my 90G

    open to a refuge aswell If recommended


    Is it best to have a A.T.F instead of a protein skimmer and have a refuge aswell as a safe haven for pod’s?


    You guy’s ship to Canada?

    Pete Giwojna

    Dear Clintos:

    Yes, sir, your post is certainly appropriate for this forum and I would be happy to discuss your proposed setup with you.

    I absolutely love the psychedelic coloration and peaceful nature of Mandarin dragonets! There’s no disputing that they are gorgeous little fishes and make ideal tankmates for seahorses in the right type of setup. They are docile, slow-moving, passive fish that are beautifully marked and very deliberate feeders. And they are quite hardy fish providing they can be fed properly. They have a heavy slime coat that seems to make them quite resistant to protozoan parasites such as Cryptocaryon irritans.

    But, as you know, in order to do well, mandarins need a large, well-established aquarium loaded with live rock or live rock rubble that’s teeming with copepods and amphipods. Mandrins must have continuous opportunities to graze on suitable live foods or they generally slowly waste away and starve to death. In the right system, they can thrive, and will often learn to take small pieces of frozen Mysis, but they do best in well-established reef systems or aquariums with at least 1 pound of live rock or LR rubble per gallon, a mature sand bed, and a refugium that can continually replenish the pod population in the tank. Those are typically the conditions that are necessary to assure they have adequate suitable live prey. It sounds like that is pretty much the type of system you have in mind, Clintos, so I think you’re on the right track, sir.

    Mandarins are bottom feeders that normally do not take food from the water column, so select an aquarium with a large foot print that can accommodate plenty of live sand, small pieces of live rock, live rock rubble, and macroalgae. If you want to maintain more than one Mandrin, and keep a male/female in top condition, the larger the aquarium (and therefore the more extensive pod hunting ground the Mandarins will enjoy) the better. If you want to keep one or more seahorses as well as the Mandarins, look for aquarium that’s at least 20 inches tall.

    I agree with your thinking regarding the sump-mounted MRC protein skimmer for this particular application, sir — I would omit the MRC in favor of an algae scrubber. As you said, you want to encourage an abundance of nutrients to support a thriving population of phytoplankton, which will in turn support abundant zooplankton and microfauna to establish the self-sustaining food web you hope to maintain. I would go with the algae scrubber and avoid using an ozonizer, skimmer, or ultraviolet sterilizer in your mandrin tank.

    If you want to keep an assortment of seahorse-safe soft corals such as zoanthids, palythoas, Ricordea, gorgonians and such, that’s fine, but I would not keep any wrasse in your aquarium. The reason for this is that the wrasse are all active feeders and will take more than their share of the zooplankton, copepods, and amphipods you were hoping to cultivate in this aquarium system. That’s not what you want if you hope to create a self-sustaining food web, sir. The wrasse would outcompete the dragonets and/or seahorses for the precious live foods, and that’s something you must avoid if you will be keeping a pair of Mandarins in breeding condition.

    I would definitely include a refugium in the design of your new aquarium system, Clintos. It’s generally not possible to create a self-sustaining ecosystem in a seahorse tank in which the natural reproduction of copepods and amphipods is enough to sustain these seahorses without the aid of one or more well-stocked refugia. Our galloping gourmets will usually deplete the pod population faster than it can replenish itself. If you have a large enough aquarium with lots of live rock and a well-established, heavy population of copepods and amphipods and other microfauna — the type of setup that would be good for Mandarin dragonets, for example — you might be able to pull it off..

    But you will increase your chances of establishing a self-sustaining ecosystem dramatically if you also set up Gammarus amphipods, copepods, feeder shrimp, and other live foods species in a refugium that’s connected to the main tank. That way the Gammarus and copepods and other small crustaceans can build up a very large population well they are safely protected from any predators within the refuge, and some of them will be steadily released into the main tank to replenish the supply of live foods for your Mandrins and/or seahorses.

    A refugium is simply a self-contained protected area, isolated from the main tank but sharing the same water supply, which provides many of the same benefits as a sump. A refugium can help newly added fish or invertebrates easily acclimate to a new tank. It can provide a safe haven for injured fish or corals to regenerate damaged tissue without the need for a separate quarantine tank. But perhaps its main benefit for the seahorse keeper is provide a protected area where macroalgae can be grown and small live prey items (copepods, amphipods, Caprellids, etc.) that will eventually become a food source for the inhabitants of the main portion of the tank can be cultured safely, allowing their population to build up undisturbed.

    For instance, Charles Delbeek likes to use colonial shrimp species in the refugium for his seahorse tank, where the regular reproduction of these hermaphroditic crustaceans will provide a continuous supply of nutritious nauplii for his ponies: "There is a method that can be used to offer an occasional supply of live food for your sea horses. By setting up a separate system housing several species of shrimp such as the common cleaner shrimp (Lysmata amboinensis), peppermint shrimp (Lysmata amboinensis), or Rhynchocinetes uritai or R. durbanensis, you can get a fairly regular supply of live shrimp larvae. These species are best to use since they can live in large groups and spawn on a regular basis. Such a system is commonly called a refugium. A refugium is a small (10-20 gallon) aquarium that contains live sand, live rock and/or macroalgae such as Caulerpa or Gracilaria. It is plumbed such that water from your main system is pumped to the refugium and then returns via an overflow to the main tank. Some of the pods and larval crustaceans will then be carried from the refugium into the sea horse tank in the water that overflows from the refuge. For this type of arrangement to work, the refugium must be slightly higher than the main tank. Shrimp are added to the refugium and within a few months they should start spawning and hatching eggs every few weeks. The larvae are then carried back to the main tank by the overflow, where they become a food source for your sea horses. Of course other life will also thrive in the refugium and it is not unusual for copepods, mysis and crab larvae to also be produced on a regular basis. The key to the refugium is to keep predators out of the system so that the smaller micro-crustacean population can thrive. You would need a fairly large and productive refugium to produce enough food to maintain even a pair of sea horses, so at best, a typical refugium can provide a nice source of supplemental live food; the basic daily diet still needs to be provided by you in the form of the frozen foods mentioned above." (Delbeek, November 2001, "Horse Forum," FAMA magazine).

    I would set up one or more refuges like the ones Delbeek prefers for your Mandrin aquarium system, Clintos. Concentrate on populating your main tank with a dense population of assorted copepods and amphipods (Gammarus and Caprella species) and make sure the aquarium is very well-established with a booming population of pods, zooplankton, and other microfauna before you introduce the Mandarins. Try your luck with a pair of Mandarins first (one male and one female only — otherwise they will fight viciously among themselves), and if they do well, then you might consider adding one or more seahorses to the system. But if your primary goal is to keep a pair of Mandarins in breeding condition, you may want to omit the seahorses since they will be direct competitors for the live food with the Dragonets.

    Best of luck with your most interesting project, sir — it should make a fascinating experiment and you’ll learn a great deal in the process whether or not it is as successful in maintaining a self-sustaining food web as you had hoped and envisioned. Please keep us posted when you get your new aquarium system up and running

    Pete Giwojna

    Pete Giwojna

    Dear Clintos:

    Unfortunately, Ocean Rider only ships their livestock within the Continental US so you won’t be able to obtain captive-red-and-raised seahorses from Ocean Rider. But there are some good aquaculture facilities in Australia that ship captive-red-and-raised seahorses to Canada, so you will still be able to get hardy domesticated seahorses. For example, Seahorse Sanctuary is a good alternative. It is owned and operated by Mick Payne and his wife, and Mick is very well respected among professional aquaculturists. Seahorse Sanctuary in Australia provides the following three tropical species of colorful captive-bred-and-raised seahorses, Clintos:

    Coral seahorses (Hippocampus barbouri)
    Brazilian seahorses (Hippocampus reidi)
    West Australian seahorse (Hippocampus subelongatus)

    Canada Seahorse also carries several species of captive-bred-and-raised seahorses, which are imported from Seahorse Australia:

    Southern Knights (Hippocampus abdominalis/bleekeri)
    Southern Champions (Hippocampus breviceps) — short-headed seahorses
    Chargers (Hippocampus barbouri) — zebra-snout seahorses
    Asian Emperors (Hippocampus kuda) — yellow seahorse

    You may want to check out their online site ( for additional information, sir. So there are several species of domesticated seahorses available to hobbyists in Canada and you will just have to find a local fish store in your area that is willing to carry specimens from Seahorse Sanctuary or Seahorse Australia if you want to give them a try.

    Best of luck establishing a self-sustaining ecosystem with sufficient live food to support a pair of Mandarins and/or seahorses, Clintos!

    Pete Giwojna


    Thank’s for your very informative advice 😉

    I have set up a 3 month old 90lbs LR 4"-6" dsb 90G 48"Lx18W"x24"H 8-t5 H.O on the blue side 4" from water level with 30G sump over fow box in the middle back I have a single pipe lift pump that is approx 600-800gph that is "T" off in the back split into 2 pipe’s on each side of the over flow box that is brought down behind the rock’s and under the gravel in the front of the display "T" off again the 2 pipes into a total of 4 output’s I think is 3/4" wide each was thinking of 3 hydor koralia power head’s

    2 will be 600gph and 1-400gph

    was hoping this might be ok for seahorses?

    I have some question’s regarding lower light and nutrient’s in regard’s to sps
    not sure what to believe when I go on other forum’s they usualy call me nut’s to suggest that an increase in nutrient’s may fill in surton spot’s where light is lower in regard’s to say montipara digitata/cap sps not sure If it’s possible but would like to play with the concept all the sps will be in the top 1/2

    Do you have a suggestion’s on forum’s in regard’s to lower light/flow extra nutrient’s


    Pete Giwojna

    Dear Clintos:

    In the aquarium system you describe certainly has more than adequate size and water volume to make a good seahorse setup, but seahorses are not powerful swimmers and it sounds to me like you may have too much water movement and currents that will likely be too overpowering in this particular tank. This is what I normally advise hobbyists regarding the water flow in their seahorse tanks, sir:

    <open quote>
    Water Circulation for the Seahorse tank

    Many seahorse keepers are overly conscious of the inactive life style and limited swimming ability of Hippocampus, and have adjusted their flow rates accordingly, resulting in undercirculated tanks with too little water movement. That’s a serious mistake for a small, close-system aquarium.

    In actuality, seahorses prefer moderate water movement, including some areas of brisk current, providing there are also sheltered spots and some areas of relatively slack water they can move to when desired. Slack water means comparatively low flow, NOT stagnant conditions! As with any aquarium, avoid dead spots and stagnant areas in the seahorse tank at all costs (Giwojna, unpublished text).

    Contrary to popular opinion, seahorses are quite effective swimmers that can hold their own in strong currents as long as sheltered areas are available (Delbeek, Oct. 2001). I have often discussed this matter with professional divers and collectors who regularly encounter seahorses in the ocean, and they report that the horses are often found where you would least expect them — well offshore and thriving in areas with powerful currents. For example, here is how Paul Baldassano, a commercial diver in New York who makes his living collecting sea urchins, describes the behavior of his local seahorses:

    "In regard to seahorses in the wild, I occasionally see Hippocampus erectus in the wild while SCUBA diving but never in the places where they are supposed to be. I see them in the open sea far from shore and also in areas with large rocks and very strong currents. The last one I saw was in a channel off the south shore of Long Island New York in water about 12 feet deep. The current was so strong that I had to hold on to the rocks so as not to be swept away. This Hippocampus erectus was having no trouble staying there munching on the abundant plankton. Apparently they find places near the rocks where there is no current because as you know they are lousy swimmers. There is also a large population of seahorses in a similar area in another part of the New York shore, but I think it is best not to divulge that location for obvious reasons (Baldassano, pers. com.)."

    Neil Garrick-Maidment, a very successful seahorse breeder in the UK, reports much the same thing, noting that seahorses in the wild seem to thrive amid strong currents:

    "Whenever I have dived on Seahorse sites I have always been amazed by the currents and tides that this very fragile looking Seahorse lives in. We often find Seahorses in flat muddy/silt areas nowhere near rocks or weed. These areas are often scoured by strong currents and the Seahorses do well in them and seem completely unperturbed by the current (Garrick-Maidment, pers. com.). In setting up a tank for them I try to remember the feeling I had in those areas and replicate them. I have now started to use wave surge devices, so that the current in the tank, although strong (they seem to thrive in strong currents) varies in its direction (Garrick-Maidment, Jun. 2002)."

    Kirk Strawn, who earned his Master of Science thesis studying Hippocampus zosterae in the field, echoes Neil’s thoughts on the matter:

    "The aquarist is not giving his seahorses natural conditions when he keeps them in a still-water aquarium. In nature tidal currents, wind, and waves are usually mixing the well aerated surface film water with the deeper water."

    Likewise, David Warland, a fish farmer and commercial seahorse breeder in Port Lincoln, Australia, reports he often finds Hippocampus abdominalis perching on the tuna net enclosures at the farm in deep water:

    "The Horses that are around the farms have traveled vast distances over plain sand/mud to get to the farms, which are in at least 20 meters of water, and are miles from the nearest land or shallow water (Warland, pers. com.)."

    And Jorge Gomezjurado, the Senior Aquarist at the National Aquarium in Baltimore, recommends the following when it comes to water movement:

    "I personally believe that current and water dynamics are very important for Syngnathids. In nature they live in areas with active water movement.(i.e., tides in mangrove lagoons and estuaries, coral reefs, kelp forests, etc.). Why don’t we give them the same environmental conditions in captivity? Our small tanks (90 gallons) have large turnovers on an average of 5 gpm (or 300 gph). It is very important that the current is steady and directionally constant, which allows the animals to find a good spot to hold and they will not be pulling in different directions all the time."

    Most seahorse keepers feel it’s best to keep the current steady and nonvarying so they can find slack-water areas and sheltered spots downcurrent to hold in when they want to get out of the current. The more brisk the water flow, the more important this becomes. However, in a large aquarium with low to moderate water movement, alternating currents should not present much of a problem, and would help to provide good circulation throughout the tank.

    The point is that, as long as slack-water retreats are available, the greater seahorses can tolerate far more current than most folks suspect and good circulation is as important for a seahorse setup as any other aquarium. What seahorses lack as swimmers is not agility, but rather stamina (Evans, 1998). They can hold their own against strong currents, but not indefinitely, so low flow areas where they can move out of the current and hold when they want to rest must be provided in addition to good circulation.

    For example, along with an external power filter, my seahorse setup also has a 200 gph powerhead with a sponge pre-filter positioned right near the top for surface agitation and extra water movement, with additional small powerheads used as needed to eliminate any dead spots along the substrate or behind the rockwork. I like to give my seahorses as much current as they can handle without getting blown around.

    In short, if your filtration is not turning over the entire volume of the aquarium a MINIMUM of 5 times per hour, your seahorse setup is undercirculated. With a spray bar return raised above the surface of the water to diffuse the outflow, you can safely achieved much higher turnover rates without producing too much turbulence or current for seahorses. A waterfall return is another good way to diffuse the output from your filter, and also works well for seahorses. There will be an area of relatively vigorous water movement at one end of the aquarium underneath and nearby the waterfall, while the other end of the tank is a relatively low flow area. (By the same token, however, if the filtration system in your seahorse tank is turning over the entire volume of water much more than five times per hour, it may be too overpowering for the seahorses unless it is diffused by a spray bar or waterfall return.)

    As with anything, too much of even a good thing can be undesirable, and too much current can overwhelm the limited swimming ability of Hippocampus. One indication that you may have too much water movement in your seahorse tank is if the seahorses are getting buffeted around by the currents, and whisked away uncontrollably when they tire of fighting the current. Or alternatively, they may stay perched in one place all the time and refuse to swim around and explore their tank for fear of getting swept away by the current if they relax their grip on their hitching posts. So you can get a pretty good gauge of how well the seahorses are able to cope with the water movement than their tank by observing how the current affects the swimming ability.

    Likewise, if a mated pair of seahorses is consistently spilling eggs during the copulatory rise, that’s another pretty good indication that there may be too much turbulence or water movement in the upper reaches of their aquarium.

    If the seahorses are having difficulty tracking their prey and eating because the current whisks the frozen Mysis past them too quickly to target it accurately and slurp it up, that’s another red flag. Often that situation can be corrected simply by adjusting the output from your filter to reduce the current during feeding time or turning it off altogether while the seahorses are eating.

    But as long as your seahorses aren’t getting buffeted around, aren’t routinely dropping eggs during disrupted mating attempts, and aren’t having difficulty targeting their prey and eating, there’s really no such thing as too much water movement. In general, the stronger the water flow, the more important it is to keep the water currents steady and unvarying so the seahorses can establish holding areas in the sheltered spots and low-flow zones without getting blindsided by unpredictable currents. Just make sure your seahorses are not getting trapped against overflows and be sure to screen off the intakes for any powerheads. Powerheads can be switched off at feeding time, if necessary.

    To sum up the above and quantify everything, you generally want the filtration system for seahorse tank to be able to turn over the entire volume of the aquarium about five times every hour in order to provide adequate circulation throughout the whole tank. So for the 90-gallon main tank in your aquarium system, the filtration system should put out about 450 gallons per hour in order to provide optimum conditions for the seahorses. But the filtration and combination of powerheads you are considering would move a great deal more water than that (two 600 gph powerheads plus another 400 gph powerhead), and that makes me think you’re going to have too much current and turbulence for the seahorses in this case, sir.

    As for the lighting, the lighting system you propose should be quite adequate for soft corals and some hand-picked SPS corals. This is what I typically advise home hobbyists who want to keep seahorses in reef systems or with live corals, Clintos:

    <Open quote>
    Live corals are a different matter altogether, and you must observe some special precautions when selecting corals for a seahorse tank. Here are some suggestions regarding what specimens do well with seahorses and which should be avoided, if you will be keeping live corals with your ponies or maintaining a reef biotype for them:

    Seahorse-Proofing the Reef Tank

    When designing a reef tank that will include seahorses, one must anticipate the different ways they might be injured in such a setup and then take precautions to prevent them from coming to harm. The process of rendering your reef system seahorse safe is much like the measures new parents take to childproof their house when they are expecting their first child. Intake tubes for the filters should be shielded, siphon tubes should be equipped with filter baskets or screens, and so on…

    For instance, when powerful water movement is combined with overflows, there is a risk that seahorses could become pinned against an overflow or even go over it (Delbeek, Oct. 2001). Therefore, in the seahorse reef, overflows must be baffled and/or screened off, or the water flow should be adjusted sufficiently to prevent that from happening.

    Likewise, although seahorses have no problem with strong currents in the wild, in the confines of aquarium, it is possible for them to come in contact with stinging corals if they are struck by a sudden powerful wave or surge, or are overwhelmed by a strong, unexpected current (Delbeek, Oct. 2001). The hobbyist needs to take this into consideration when placing water returns and corals in the seahorse reef (Delbeek, Oct. 2001). If possible, keep the water currents steady and unvarying so the seahorses can establish holding areas in the sheltered spots and low flow zones without getting blindsided by unpredictable currents.

    One good way to accommodate both the needs of corals that prefer brisk currents and the seahorse’s need for slack-water retreats is to create tall rock formations a foot or two down current from the strongest water flows to intercept and deflect or divert that strong flow of water, creating eddies and slack-water zones where there is relatively little water movement down current. Seahorses will hold in these low flow areas when they want to move away from the current, so it’s a good idea to position convenient hitching posts in the lee or down-current side of such formations..

    Another excellent way to accomplish the same thing is to use small powerheads to create and direct current wherever needed. A properly positioned powerhead can thus bathe your prized Acropora formations in a brisk water stream precisely without generating too much water movement elsewhere in the aquarium. Just be aware that powerheads can become death traps for seahorses if their intakes are not properly shielded or screened off, and take the necessary precautions (Delbeek, Oct. 2001). Carefully conceal the intakes amidst the rockwork where they will be completely inaccessible to seahorses, otherwise shield them, or screen them off with a sponge prefilter.

    In short, the hobbyist who wants to keep seahorses in a reef system must be willing to make some concessions and modifications to accommodate their special needs nonetheless. For example, the reef keeper must be willing to limit himself to corals and invertebrates that meet the following criteria:

    1) Avoid any stinging animals with powerful nematocysts. This means fire corals (Millepora spp.) and anemones should be excluded from the seahorse reef, and any corals with polyps that feel sticky to the touch should be used with discretion and only after careful planning. When a seahorse brushes up against them or attempts to perch on them, the nematocysts or stinging cells of these animals can penetrate the seahorse’s skin and damage its integument. Needless to say, this causes pain and discomfort and can leave the seahorse vulnerable to secondary bacterial and fungal infections, which may take hold at the site of injury. Short polyped stony (SPS) corals are generally fine, but large polyped stony (LPS) corals should be regarded with caution, as discussed in more detail below.

    2) Water movement and circulation must be managed as previously described. Corals that require powerful surge or overly strong water currents could overtax the limited swimming ability of Hippocampus unless slack water areas the seahorses can retreat to when needed are also provided.

    3) The corals must be able to withstand being used as hitching posts by the seahorses from time to time; that is, they cannot be so delicate that having a seahorse’s grasping tail anchored around them could cause them any harm. For instance, soft corals may retract their polyps when a seahorse perches on them. This can be harmful to their health if it becomes a chronic problem, because many corals rely on their polyps to absorb light and convert it to energy via photosynthesis. Be sure to watch any soft corals and hermatypic corals to make sure they are not closed up for extended periods. Normally, they adjust to the seahorses’ presence and unwelcome attention after a while, and remain contracted only briefly after each contact. After repeated exposures to grasping tails, each such incident elicits a weaker response, so they tend to extend their polyps sooner and sooner after being disturbed (Delbeek, Oct. 2001).

    4) Avoid Tridacna clams and similar bivalve mollusks. Sooner or later a seahorse will perch on them with its tail between the valves and the clam’s powerful adductor muscle will clamp down on it like a vise. At best this will be a very stressful experience for the unfortunate seahorse, since it can be the devil’s own business trying to persuade the stubborn mollusk to release its struggling victim! At worst, it can result in serious injury or permanent damage to the seahorses tail (Giwojna, unpublished text).

    5) Beware of unwanted hitchhikers that may have come in on your live rock unbeknownst to you and which can harm seahorses, such as fireworms, mantis shrimp, or Aptasia rock anemones. When setting up a reef system for seahorses, it’s a wise precaution to pre-treat your live rock with a hypersaline bath to drive out such pests beforehand because they can be very difficult to remove or eradicate once they make themselves at home in your aquarium (Giwojna, unpublished text).

    As long as the specimens you are considering for your seahorse reef satisfy these requirements, anything goes! Some of the good and bad candidates for such a reef system are discussed below:

    Seahorse-Safe Corals

    Soft corals have very little stinging ability and generally make good choices for a modified mini reef that will include seahorses (Delbeek, Oct. 2001). This includes most mushroom anemones (corallimorpharians). However, as Charles Delbeek cautions, "One notable exception is the elephant ear mushroom anemone (Amplexidiscus fenestrafer). This animal is an active feeder on small fish and will envelope them whole with its mantle then slowly digest them by extruding its digestive filaments into the space created. No small fish are safe with these animals in the tank (Delbeek, Oct. 2001).".

    Hippocampus also does very well with zooanthids and colonial polyps in general. But the hobbyist must be sure to observe a couple of precautions when handling the zoanthids and placing them in your aquarium.

    First and foremost, many of the commonly available Zooanthus (button polyps) and Palythoa (sea mats) species contain a very toxic substance in their mucous coat known as palytoxin, which is one of the most poisonous marine toxins ever discovered (Fatherree, 2004). Palytoxin can affect the heart, muscles, and nerves, resulting in paralysis or possibly even death, and many hobbyists have reported numbness, nausea and/or hallucinations after merely touching these corals (Fatherree, 2004). When you handle zoanthids and palythoans, you cannot help picking up some of their protective slime on your fingers, and so much as rubbing your eye, picking your nose, or a small cut on your finger can be enough to land you in the hospital. When handling Zooanthus are Palythoa species, it’s very important to wear disposable latex gloves, avoid touching your mouth or eyes, and carefully dispose of the gloves immediately afterwards (Fatherree, 2004).

    Secondly, zoanthids and other soft corals such as mushrooms may wage border battles if you place them in close proximity to each other (and the zoanthids almost always lose out to the mushrooms in these skirmishes). So be sure to allow adequate space between the colonies. Some rapidly growing Zooanthus colonies can be aggressive to soft and stony corals alike as they rapidly spread over the rockwork, but in general they are quite peaceful, and you can always slow down their rate of growth by reducing the nutrient loading in the aquarium.

    Other low light corals that should be suitable for a seahorse reef include genera such as Cynarina, Scolymia and Trachyphyllia, as well as non-photosynthetic gorgonians such as Subergorgia and Didogorgia, and perhaps wire corals such as Cirripathes spp. (Delbeek, Nov. 2001).. However, supplemental feedings of zooplankton may be required to maintain these corals in good health.

    The hard or stony corals fall into two categories depending on the size of their polyps. The small polyped stony (SPS) corals have tiny polyps that extend out of minute openings in the stony skeleton, and generally have weak stings that should not pose a threat to seahorses. Depending on conditions in the tank, SPS corals such as Acropora, Montipora, Pocillipora, Porities, Seriatopora and Stylophora can be tried freely at your discretion (Delbeek, Oct. 2001).

    The large polyped stony (LPS) corals, however, are generally best avoided altogether. These include genera such as Catalaphyllia, Cynarina, Euphyllia and Trachyphyllia that have large fleshy polyps which often have tentacles equipped with powerful stinging cells. The Euphyllia and Catalaphyllia have the most powerful nematocysts among the LPS corals, and can deliver stings that are stronger than most anemones (Delbeek, Oct. 2001).

    Some of the soft corals and stony corals that generally do well with seahorses in a modified reef tank are listed below. (By no means is this intended to be a comprehensive list, but rather just a few examples of suitable corals to serve as general guidelines when stocking a reef tank that will house seahorses):

    Finger Leather Coral (Lobophyton sp.)
    Flower Tree Coral – Red / Orange, (Scleronephthya spp.)
    aka: Scleronephthya Strawberry Coral, or Pink or Orange Cauliflower Coral
    Christmas Tree Coral (Sphaerella spp.)
    aka: the Medusa Coral, Snake Locks Coral, or French Tickler
    Cauliflower Colt Coral (Cladiella sp.)
    aka: Colt Coral, Soft Finger Leather Coral, Seaman’s Hands or Blushing Coral.
    Toadstool Mushroom Leather Coral (Sarcophyton sp.)
    aka: Sarcophyton Coral, Mushroom, Leather, or Trough Corals.
    Bullseye Mushroom Coral (Rhodactis inchoata)
    aka: Tonga Blue Mushroom, Small Elephant Ear Mushroom (rarely)
    Clove Polyps (Clavularia sp.)
    Stick Polyp (Parazoanthus swiftii)
    Green Daisy Polyps (Clavularia sp.), Indonesia
    Orange & Green Colony Button Polyps (Zooanthus sp.), Fiji
    Pulsing Corals (Xenia spp.)
    Red Ricordea (Ricordea sp.), Indonesia, occasionally Solomon Islands
    Lavender Hairy Mushroom (Actinodiscus sp.), Tonga
    Pimpled Mushroom (Discosoma sp.), Indonesia
    Purple Gorgonians

    For more information regarding seahorse-safe fish, corals, and other invertebrates, see Will Wooten’s online Compatibility Guide at the following URL:

    Lighting for a Seahorse Reef

    If at all possible, metal halides should be avoided for a reef tank that will include seahorses. In addition to providing high-intensity lighting, the metal halides also tend to generate a lot of heat, and as you know, heat stress can be very detrimental to seahorses. Most of the subtropical/tropical seahorses do best at temperatures of around 73°F-75°F (23°C-24°C); so avoiding temperature spikes above 80°F (27°C) is very important. This can be very difficult to manage with metal halide lighting. In addition, seahorses don’t like excessively bright light and they may go into hiding, seeking shaded areas amidst the rockwork, if the lighting is too intense for their comfort level. And the seahorses won’t look their best and brightest under metal halides because they will produce excess melanin (black pigment) in order to protect themselves against the harmful ultraviolet radiation they associate with intense light, and darken as a result. For instance, Jorge Gomezjurado reports "…I have exposed yellow seahorses to strong metal halide and they have turned black in few hours." So it would be a shame to display brightly colored seahorses under metal halide lighting in a small, close system aquarium.

    All things considered, power compact lighting is a better alternative for a seahorse reef. I prefer the power compacts because they allow me to provide my seahorses with a natural day/night period that includes twilight periods at "sunrise" and "sunset." To accomplish this, I like the power compact (PC) light fixtures that include two tubes — one actinic and one daylight fluorescent — with dual ballasts so that each ballast can be placed on a separate automatic timer. I like to have the bluish actinic come on before the daylight tubes and stay on after the daylights go off, thereby providing a simulated dusk and dawn (Giwojna, unpublished text). This is important for seahorses since they conduct most of their courting and breeding in the early morning hours under twilight conditions. It’s a neat effect and fish and invertebrates can then anticipate "lights out" rather than being plunged into total darkness at night or suddenly thrust into bright light in the morning. I also adjust the timers to lengthen or shorten the daylight periods in accordance with the changing seasons. I find that maintaining a natural cycle this way aids reproduction (Giwojna, unpublished text).

    Basically, I find PC lighting to be a good compromise for a seahorse system. Power compacts provide plenty of light for macroalgae or the seahorse-safe soft corals in a modified reef system without being too bright or generating too much heat, and the dual ballast system allows for a natural day/night rhythm that changes with the seasons. The resulting dusk and dawn facilitate courtship and help the seahorses maintain a natural reproductive cycle (Giwojna, unpublished text).

    Although they are very costly, the new Solaris LED Illumination Systems are another good option for a seahorse reef. The Solaris LEDs can provide the spectrum of light and intensity needed by light-loving corals without the same concerns regarding overheating that make metal halides undesirable, and that’s a huge plus for the seahorse keeper. Aside from generating less heat, they also provide very considerable energy savings and the longevity of the LED is also superior to metal halide lamps. Best of all, the flexibility and adjustability of the Solaris LED Illumination System allows you to independently set the lights to duplicate sunrise, daylight, cloud cover, sunset, and even the lunar cycle. They certainly are very expensive, but they have some wonderful advantages over the conventional metal halide lighting, particularly for seahorses. However, because of the cost factor, I prefer PC lighting for a seahorse tank with live corals myself.

    Of course, for seahorse keepers who do not have live corals in their corrals, standard fluorescent bulbs or tubes are more than adequate. For all intents and purposes, you really can’t go wrong no matter what lighting system you chose as long as you avoid overheating and provide both shaded areas where your seahorses can escape from light altogether and well-lit areas where they can bathe in the light as they please.

    One good way to accomplish that is to keep the coral and inverts that require stronger lighting at one end of the tank, which is brightly illuminated, and keep the other end of the tank shaded to accommodate the seahorses, reserved for corals that don’t need high-intensity lamps. If need be, you can also provide shaded areas by positioning sections of aluminum foil atop your aquarium that are the right size and shape to cast shadows where you want them below. You will find your seahorses will move into and out of the light often, seeking the comfort level that suits them at the moment.
    <Close quote>

    And this is what Charles Delbeek has to say about keeping seahorses in reef systems, sir:

    <Open quote>
    There has been a lot of interest lately in keeping sea horses in reef aquaria. Although it is possible to do so, there are some things that need to be taken into consideration. Most reef tanks that house corals also have a great deal of water movement. When combined with overflows, it is not uncommon for sea horses to be trapped against or even go over, overflows. Powerheads are also often used and can be death traps for sea horses if the intakes are not properly screened off. To keep sea horses in reef tanks one really must foresee all the possible ways that they could be injured and to take precautions against this happening.

    Many corals are powerful stingers, but these belong mainly to the stony coral families. Most soft corals have very little stinging ability and will not harm sea horses. However, since sea horses can grasp onto soft corals with their tails they can cause the coral to retract its polyps. This can be a problem if the coral relies on its polyps to capture light to provide the energy it requires to survive. Fortunately in most cases, the coral will habituate to the constant irritation caused by the sea horse and will not retract its polyps as frequently as in the beginning. The observant aquarist should keep an eye on their soft corals to insure that they are not remaining closed for long periods of time.

    In the case of stony corals there are two main groupings to be considered. The small polyped stony (SPS) corals consist of genera that have small polyps that extend out of very small openings in the skeleton. These would include genera such as Acropora, Montipora, Pocillipora, Porities, Seriatopora and Stylophora. These SPS corals are generally considered to be weak stingers and should not irritate sea horses very much. However, the same precaution I mentioned for soft corals also applies to SPS corals. The second major grouping are the large polyped stony (LPS) corals. These include genera such as Catalaphyllia, Cynarina, Euphyllia and Trachyphyllia that have large fleshy polyps often with tentacles that can have powerful stinging cells. Of these the Euphyllia and Catalaphyllia are the strongest stingers, and any sea horses placed into tanks with these corals should be carefully observed.

    Despite what many people think, sea horses are quite effective swimmers and can hold their own in strong currents. However, in the confines of an aquarium, it is not impossible for them to come into contact with stinging corals if suddenly caught in a very strong current. The aquarist needs to take this into consideration when placing water returns and corals in the aquarium. People have been keeping fish with corals for several years now and the instances where fish have been taken by corals are few and far between, but it does happen occasionally. Sea Horses, like any other fish, have a natural ability to avoid most powerful stinging corals, and the slightest touch is enough to reinforce this natural avoidance behaviour.

    Other invertebrates that sea horses should do well with include zoanthids, corallimorpharians (mushroom anemones), sponges, sea cucumbers, shrimp and the smaller detritus or algae feeding snails, worms and crabs. One notable exception is the elephant ear mushroom anemone (Amplexidiscus fenestrafer). This animal is an active feeder on small fish and will envelope them whole with its mantle then slowly digest them by extruding its digestive filaments into the space created. No small fish are safe with these animals in the tank.

    Charles Delbeek
    <close quote>

    Okay, Clintos, that’s the quick rundown on keeping seahorses in reef tanks.

    I don’t have any hard data or evidence to support your idea that a higher level of available nutrients in the water with SPS corals can help compensate for reduced light levels and less water circulation, but I do know a number of hobbyists who keep a few SPS corals together with their seahorses successfully, and in most cases they are not using metal halides or other high-intensity lighting. It would be an interesting experiment and I don’t see any reason not to give it a try, but you would have to moderate the water flow in the aquarium or the seahorses will very likely be overpowered.

    Best of luck with your fascinating projects, Clintos!

    Pete Giwojna


    That sound’s like almost the perfect tank I’m trying to acheive;) before looking into seahorse’s just started reading about sea horse’s and really wanted a peaceful tank with peaceful inhabitant’s for my mandarin’s I only have 1 small mandarin for now while trying to come up with the answer’s to the right size A.T.S/refuge, I think I’ll set up a seperate plumped together tank with shrimp’s that I just learned in regard’s to the shrimp’s egg’s etc I’ll probaly have montipora encrusting in the top 1/4 with a small garden of zoo’s some paly’s, larger garden of yama/recodia maybe some gorgonian’s,Christmas Tree Coral, Strawberry Coral, Cauliflower Coral etc I have no problem sacrificing my lps like favia etc along with my tang’s,wrasse’s, anthia’s,coral beauty,dotty back and using multiple small powerhead’s I liked the idea about lighting I’m still looking into it but my 8-t5 have 2 switches I can set to timer’s my temp is 82 to 83F right now I think it’s because of the 8-t5’s with individual reflector’s I’ll raise it a bit and instal fan’s and keep 4 on most of the time to keep it at 76F-78F will also set up light shading for some sunpolyp’s,dandro’s,duncan’s but with aptasia not suggested makes me really think about the dandro’s,duncan’s,sunpolyp’s wouldn’t mind acan’s thou seem’s like there might be a small chance I could keep some I think I’ll look into some more
    and double check the coral list allowed some coral’s I forget there names I couldn’t get the link you sent to work I’ll search for the link tomarrow also looking into maybe a moonlight that I can dim/adjust and leave on nightly if possible with lot’s of black shaded spot’s at night

    I never was able to keep filter feeding coral’s alive like gorgonian,christmas tree coral my first 2 year’s so I decided to culture phyto plankton but never could get my hand’s on them coral’s since so thinking sps are filter feeder’s I thought they might feed on phyto still not sure If they do I think they prefer rotifer’s which will be my next culture then mysis but heard they need small newly hatched baby brine to eat

    in the last 6 month’s I set up a 20G with a eggcrate stair rack and 60 kenya tree’s on small plug’s 2 small perc’s and a watchmen goby was able to add 1/8to1/4to1/2to3/4to1 cup daily slowly over time while my crustation’s grew I think the tree’s,crustation’s,worm’s,pod’ etc sucked up all the eccess phyto the water with in 10’s of minute’s was so crystal clean I couldn’t believe it I had of course the 60 plug’s and 10 lb’s rock 4" dsb and just 2-100gph powerhead’s 20% weekly waterchange every plug,inch of gravel,rock had 100’s of serpent star’s,crustation’s,copepod,amplipod,myssid never feed the fish very often but 1 once a week they had really nice color and fat belly’s

    was hoping to do the same thing with my 90G but this time with the most extreme natural export and extreme nutrient addition heard that it would take over 1-1/2 cup of wet food to equal the amount of live food on the reef
    in a 100G

    was thinking of starting from scratch with no fish and a phytoplankton reactor this time

    Pete Giwojna

    Dear Clintos:

    Okay, sir — that sounds like a plan!

    If you can adjust the lighting and bring the water temperature down closer to 75°F, adjust the water movement using smaller powerheads, relocate the LPS corals and active fishes that would outcompete Mandarins or seahorses for the precious live foods, you should be able to design a workable system that will achieve most of your goals.

    I don’t see a problem with keeping Montipora in the upper 1/4 of the tank and a garden consisting of assorted soft corals and gorgonia that don’t need as much light of the lower the tank. Tubastrea often work well with seahorses, so the sun polyps are certainly worth a try providing they will thrive under your care.

    If the link won’t work for you, copy the URL and paste it in your web browser and then press "Enter" — that should take you to the right page.

    Kenya tree corals are great with seahorses and I like the supplemental feeding regimen of wet food to develop for the filter feeding corals. I should think if you can scale up the feedings, there’s no reason that they should work as well in the 90-gallon setup as well.

    Best of luck with your ambitious project, Clintos! That’s going to be a very interesting aquarium system and I will be eager to hear how your experiment works out in the long term.

    Pete Giwojna

    Post edited by: Pete Giwojna, at: 2009/05/06 02:36


    I’ll let you know how it turn’s out I already adjusted some thing’s It will be a long process that I’m trying to rely on being funded 100% by the extra coral growth I like to trim away and sell I appreciate everything alot I’m now looking into pipe fish and thinking of buying some cheap seahorses after I get the system going for 1 year with just 1 small mandarin and some chromis’s while building up pod’s etc

    thank’s for your help my ultimate goal is to find away somehow to get the seahorse’s sold on this site I’ll check with custom’s and maybe some people in michigan since I live on the border michigan to see if there is a way I can grab thoose seahorse’s in the long run some how
    as a 2 year plus goal maybe through breeding or someting not sure but I do like the purple,red,yellow one’s on this site and if there is a way to cross breed I wouldn’t mind experimenting

    thank’s again


    So far I decided to have a :225G ECO

    still in the process of researching and planning
    So far I got rid of all my fish but 2-nemo’s,3 chromis’s,1 small mandarin
    I’ll be renting the nemo’s and chromis’s for now the small mandarin will stay

    leaning toward’s this:

    90G DT

    25G sump

    20G plumbed shrimp tank 6 to 10 cleaner shrimp’s

    Algea turf scrubber 4-t5 h.o on each side of screen 3" from screen acrylic box
    design would go more higher but I still want a little inorganic’s so I can maybe scrap the glass a bit for feeding the box will be designed to add more if I have to but I doubt I will

    40G nutrient soft coral scrubber 216" of water channel 60’s coral on plug’s

    50G refuge above DT with ton’s of rock rubble no macro

    still playing with flow and live food culture choice’s

    Picked to culture these phyto’s nano,iso

    the pond will be a new home for Tigriopus californicus and soft coral prop
    AKA TIGERPOD’S ignore the skimmer and pump’s

    just looking into doser’s or drip’s for the phyto/maybe live zooplankton dosing

    hoping thing’s will pan out with more then a pair of mandarin’s if I do this if not then the live food will be for the coral’s

    leaning toward’s culturing Nitokra lacustris as well

    2 type’s of phyto one being high in epa the other dha along with high protein,pigement’s,carb’s i’m hoping will feed,soft coral,fliterfeeder’s,pod’s,worm’s,slug’s,microserpent star’s etc etc

    the zooplankton I’m hoping will feed all coral’s and fish along with me being able to harvest them at different time’s in their life cycle’s for different size polyp’s/fish

    would love to get my hand’s on Gladioferens imparipes a type of calanoid
    maybe for something in the future

    still debating on mysid If I can just keep a small supply going in my system and get away without culturing them this will be fine

    shrimp egg’s will be as a nice little snack

    amphlipod still not sure if it will be a compliment to the system if It is and they are bigger then the tiger’s probably them too

    this is where I am now I have a long way’s to go
    not sure what the 2-glass jar’s will be for just that I picked them up at a garage sale


    Pete Giwojna

    Dear Clintos:

    Outstanding! Wow, you’re innovative concept has come a very long way since you first begin planning this project in the early stages, sir! Thanks again for keeping us updated on the progress of your grand experiment!

    From what I can see and hear thus far, I like pretty much everything about the new aquarium system you have designed, Clintos — the 25-gallon sump, the 20-gallon shrimp tank plumbed right into the system, the algae turf scrubber, the 40-gallon soft coral nutrient scrubber, and the 50-gallon refugium — all terrific additions to a superb aquarium system!

    For the shrimp tank, sir, I would suggest a colony of 6-8 hermaphroditic peppermint shrimp (Lysmata wurdemanni) plus at least as many Rhynchocinetes uritai or Rhynchocinetes durbanensis shrimp, which should then provide your main tank with a fairly regular supply of live shrimp larvae

    I agree that Nannochloropsis aculata and Isocchrysis galvana are exceptionally good phytoplankton species for you to culture for this application, and certainly culturing Harpacticoid copepods such as Nitokra lacustris would be ideal as well.

    And the tigerpods (Tigriopus californicus) should be an interesting species to grow in the pond.

    I cannot see any reason why a pair of Mandarins and the other specimens you are interested in should not thrive in a setup such as this.
    It certainly looks like you’ve got a good handle on everything, Clintos. Please keep us posted on the progress of your fascinating project, sir!

    Best of luck treating your vision and concept to fruition, Clintos!

    Pete Giwojna


    Thanks for your encouragement and advice I will look into the shrimp’s you suggested

    I’m trying to bring the concept’s of the wild reef’s extremes in regard to pushing autotropy vs heterotrophy% into a closed home aquarium not sure if I am chasing a lost cause but would like to find out about adaptability
    to light vs nutrition for coral’s seems IMO if they can do it in the wild maybe it might work in the home aquarium If this is right then it might benefit people trying to keep hard to keep coral’s/fish

    thing’s I’m sure will change a bit as I read on about the seahorse/pipe fish/mandarin daily zoo plankton consumption and what zoo plankton I can actually maintain in population over time with these heavy consumer’s

    leaning towards multiple 5G culture instead to have more control over crashed culture’s

    Pete Giwojna

    Dear Clintos:

    VERY interesting, indeed! I don’t know of anyone who has systematically experimented with autotrophy versus heterotrophy in the manner you propose, and regardless of how the project ultimately turns out, you are going to learn a great deal in the process. That’s a fascinating avenue for research and I hope your experiments prove to be productive and successful, sir.

    I agree that small batch cultures are the most practical approach for the home hobbyist when it comes to culturing copepods and other zooplankton. This can be accomplished using 5-10 gallon culture containers, as discussed below:

    Culturing Copepods

    Step 1: Providing Marine Microalgae (Phytoplankton).

    Marine microalgae or phytoplankton is available from many sources. It can be cultured at home, and if you have a green thumb and are experienced with such greenwater cultures, that may be your best option. However, home culturing may not be for everyone. Greenwater cultures can be tricky to maintain. They are easily contaminated and are prone to "crashing" suddenly and unpredictably, which can have dire consequences if you are relying on the phytoplankton to provide food for your seahorse fry.

    Alas, I am one of those unfortunates who cannot seem to maintain a decent greenwater culture for any length of time no matter what I try. Consequently, I now much prefer to obtain live marine phytoplankton from other sources rather than attempting to culture my own. Commercially available phytoplankton tends to be more concentrated than homegrown cultures as a rule, and I find purchasing it to be far more convenient, efficient, and productive. Given my repeated failures and the time I spent for naught on my own greenwater cultures, I’m certain that buying live phytoplankton is more economical for me in the long run as well. If you are inexperienced with greenwater culture or simply lack the time to culture your own, I recommend buying your live phytoplankton instead (see the Resources page for suppliers). Whichever source you decide to use, home grown or store bought, make sure you use it strictly according to instructions to prevent contamination and spoilage of the phytoplankton.

    The type of phytoplankton or microalgae you use is not that crucial. Chlorella is one of the most popular microalgae used in mariculture (Wilkerson, 1995), but Dunaliella also works extremely well and is recommended by Dr. Amanda Vincent (Vincent, 1995c), an authority on the breeding habits of seahorses. Serious breeders often use a mixture of different types of phytoplankton to feed copepods or rotifers, rather than a microalgae monoculture, with the goal of enhancing the nutritional profile of the ‘pods or rotis as much as possible (David Warland, pers. com.).

    There is a great deal of merit to that approach, but in the past, maintaining separate cultures of different species of microalgae was beyond the capabilities of most home hobbyists, myself included. I prefer to keep things simple and I have always used Nannochlroposis as the phytoplankton I feed to copepods, both because it produces good results and because it is commercially available from a number of sources. To simplify things all the further, I purchase my Nannochlroposis in quantity as needed, rather than struggling with phytoplankton cultures.

    The product I like best at the moment for this now includes a concentrated mixture of live marine phytoplankton (two species of Nannochlroposis, N. oculata and N. salina, as well as a Chlorella sp.) in every bottle (DT’s Live Marine Phytoplankton, 2003). That makes it a simple matter to provide my ‘pods with a diversified diet to maximize their nutritional value as fry food — I just unscrew the cap on the bottle and pour the requisite amount of this phytoplankton mixture into my culture tank whenever it’s losing its greenish tinge, and I’m in business (DT’s Live Marine Phytoplankton, 2003)! No muss, no fuss. Quick, easy and effective — just the way I like it!

    Step 2: Culturing Zooplankton (copepods and/or rotifers).

    We will be using standard 10-gallon glass aquaria as our batch culture tanks. It’s a good idea to run at least 2 such tanks simultaneously; that way, if one of the cultures falters, the other tank can pick up the slack and you won’t miss a beat. Depending on how many seahorse fry you are rearing, you many need to operate several such tanks to assure you will be producing sufficient food for them all.

    Fill each of these culture tanks slightly less than half full with synthetic saltwater, adjust the salinity of the culture tank to match the salinity of your nursery tanks, and maintain the pH at 7.9 or below (Rhodes, 2003). This will assure that the copepods (or rotifers) we are culturing do not experience any salinity shock when we feed them to our seahorse fry. No heater is necessary — the cultures will do just fine at room temperature (24C-28C is optimum). Provide very low aeration (Rhodes, 2003). Airstones are unnecessary — a naked bubbler stem is sufficient. Adjust the airflow so it produces a slow, steady stream of coarse air bubbles (slow enough so that you can count the individual bubbles). Ambient room lighting is adequate or you may provide low wattage fluorescent lighting if you prefer.

    Add enough greenwater (either commercially produced phytoplankton you’ve purchased or your own homegrown microalgae) to tinge the culture tanks green, and you’re ready to start culturing copepods. All that remains at this point is to "seed" the culture tanks with copepods. Add a starter culture of marine copepods to each tank, acclimating the ‘pods if necessary exactly as you would acclimate a new aquarium fish. They will do the rest.

    To nurture the copepods, simply maintain a nice green tint to the culture water by adding more phytoplankton whenever the water in the tanks begins to clear in color. (Be conservative with these phyto-feedings. One dose of phytoplankton every 7-10 days is generally adequate, depending on production and your copepod harvest rates; Rhodes, 2003.) The ‘pod population in the culture tanks will double every 2-3 days, depending on the temperature and how well they are fed (Rhodes, 2003), and as soon as the population builds up sufficiently, we can begin to harvest copepods to feed to our seahorse fry. When you begin to notice numbers of copepods gathering on the tank glass, that’s a good indication that their population density can support daily harvesting.

    The best way to harvest copepod nauplii is to strain the desired amount from the culture tank using a 35-micron sieve and then rinse or backwash the strainer in the nursery tank (Rhodes, 2003). Alternate which culture tank you harvest the copepods from for each feeding in order to avoid depleting the ‘pod population too much in any given tank.

    Periodically, it will be necessary to restart the copepod culture tanks to filter out the detritus that accumulates on the bottom. This is typically done every month or two (Rhodes, 2003) and is a surprisingly simple process. Just siphon out the water from the culture tank, straining the water in the process in order to retain the copepods. A 125 -micron sieve works well for a strainer. That size mesh will retain all the reproductive adults you need to restart your culture (Rhodes, 2003). It’s a good idea to use a small diameter siphon at first, being careful to suck up as little of the detritus as possible since it will clog up your strainer and your goal at this point is to recover as many copepods as you can. Once you’ve strained out most of the ‘pods, backwash them into container of clean saltwater and set them aside to seed the culture tank after you’ve finished cleaning it. Having saved as many pods as possible, switch to a larger siphon and drain the culture tank completely, removing all of the accumulated detritus. Fill the tank half way with freshly mixed saltwater you’ve prepared in advance and adjust the aeration. Then return the copepods you strained out previously and add enough concentrated phytoplankton to tinge the water green, and your culture is ready to begin producing again. If you restart your culture tanks on alternate months, one or more of them will be in full production at all times, and you can keep a thriving copepod population going indefinitely in this manner.

    If you so desire, rotifers can be cultured in exactly the same manner. The only difference is that the 10-gallon culture tanks should each be seeded with a quart of live rotifers initially (Giwojna, Jan. 1997). When necessary, add enough concentrated phytoplankton or greenwater to keep the rotifer culture tanks slightly green. As long as the rotifers are being fed algae, about 25% of the rotifer cultures can be harvested each day to feed to your seahorse fry (Wilkerson, 1995). Try to keep more than one rotifer culture going at all times in case of crashes, and be sure to keep the bottom of the culture tanks scrupulously clean (Giwojna, Jan. 1997).

    In fact, you can even maintain a dual culture of copepods and rotifers in the same tank if you wish. But you must avoid cross-contamination of your culture tanks with brine shrimp at all costs! Newly hatched brine shrimp (Artemia nauplii) are considerably larger than either copepods or rotifers, and the Artemia will happily fed on them as well as the phytoplankton. So if any brine shrimp ever find their way into your culture tanks, you will very shortly thereafter be culturing Artemia instead of ‘pods or rotis, leaving you with nothing but live food that’s too large for pelagic fry to eat.

    Harpacticoid copepods such as Nitokra lacustris go through 6 naupliar stages as they grow, followed by 6 copepodite stages, before they become reproductive adults. They range in size from 45 microns (smaller than rotifers) up to 270 microns as full-sized adults. The many different stages of development copepods undergo is actually a blessing for the aquarist since it makes it possible to provide progressively larger ‘pods to the seahorse fry as they grow simply by using sieves with different sized mesh to harvest them. For instance, a 35-micron sieve will gather up even the smallest copepod nauplii for newborn fry, while a 125-micron will collect only adult-sized pods for older fry and juveniles, leaving the smaller ‘pods behind to develop further. An 80-micron sieve will take intermediate-size ‘pods along with the adults.

    Best of luck with your most worthwhile project, Clintos!

    Pete Giwojna


    This is my old station that I have had success with



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Make A Tax-Deductible Donation Today!

A Different Kind of Farm (Video) »

Ocean Rider Kona Hawaii

Ocean Rider Kona Hawaii
Seahorse Aqua-Farm & Tours

73-4388 Ilikai Place

Kailua Kona, Hawaii 96740

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