- This topic has 3 replies, 2 voices, and was last updated 15 years, 5 months ago by Pete Giwojna.
September 1, 2008 at 10:13 am #1536SeanMember
Pete, quick question for ya:
Would it be ok to completely remove all my liverock and sand from my 50 gallon tall seahorse tank?
I have several clownfish breeding tanks that are bare and they are doing great, plus less maintaince?
SeanSeptember 1, 2008 at 11:44 pm #4437Pete GiwojnaGuest
Yes, sir, it’s possible to maintain seahorses in a bare-bottomed aquarium if you wish, in order to facilitate water changes and maintenance, as long as the aquarium is equipped with an efficient filtration system that can provide adequate biological filtration minus the live rock and live sand. Remember, when you remove the live rock and live sand, you are not simply making a cosmetic change and rearranging the decor of your aquarium, you are also removing a very large portion of the beneficial nitrifying bacteria in the aquarium. The porous surface and interior of the live rock support a vast population of beneficial Nitrosomonas and Nitrobacter bacteria as well as a large population of anaerobic denitrifying bacteria. These are the bacteria that carry out the nitrogen cycle in the aquarium, converting poisonous ammonia to nitrite and then converting the nitrite to relatively harmless nitrate, which the anaerobic bacteria in the interior of the rock then convert to nitrogen gas that eventually leaves the aquarium.
Likewise, the live sand provides a tremendous amount of surface area with its millions of tiny sand grains, which also support a huge population of these beneficial nitrifying bacteria. So when you take out the live rock and the live sand, your aquarium will be losing a very large portion of its biofilter in the process.
You will need a very efficient filtration system on the aquarium to make up the difference. A wet-/dry trickle filter or a biowheel filter that can support equally large populations of the beneficial nitrifying bacteria should be in place before you consider removing the live sand and/or live rock from the tank. And you’ll want to make sure that your 50-gallon tall tank is equipped with an efficient protein skimmer that can remove dissolved organics before they enter the nitrogen cycle and thereby help to maintain good water quality.
So make sure that your aquarium is equipped with a well-established, very efficient biofilter and a good protein skimmer for supplemental filtration before you consider removing the live rock and live sand. And once you have removed the live rock and live sand — taking away a substantial portion of the biological filtration ability for the aquarium in the process — be sure to a monitor the ammonia and nitrite levels in your seahorse tank very carefully for the next few days and weeks. The tank may well experience ammonia or nitrite spikes while the biofilter is adjusting to these changes, and you may need to perform major water changes in order to prevent the levels of ammonia or nitrite from presenting a danger to the seahorses in the meantime.
As long as you maintain adequate biological filtration throughout the process of removing the live rock and live sand, then it will be fine to maintain a bare glass bottom on your seahorse tank, if you prefer. But the seahorses will not be comfortable in the type of bare tank that works well for breeding pairs of clownfish. The seahorses require plenty of hitching posts and holdfasts to provide them with attachment points and adequate shelter if they are going to do well in a bare-bottomed aquarium.
A certain amount of complexity is desirable in a seahorse setup. For example, a tank with too few attachment sites and hitching posts is a stressful environment for seahorses, as is a sparsely decorated aquarium that leaves these secretive animals feeling vulnerable and exposed. Such sterile environments are commonplace when seahorses are being maintained under laboratory conditions. A Spartan setup facilitates feeding, water changes and maintenance, in general, but it can adversely affect the behavior of the inhabitants and may even prevent captive seahorses from breeding.
Hippocampus relies on camouflage and remaining hidden for its very survival. Seahorses can thus become distressed and agitated if their tank is too barren to provide adequate cover. This is particularly true during courtship and mating when the increased activity level and heightened coloration make them highly conspicuous and vulnerable, and breeding may be severely inhibited under these conditions.
A recent research project that studied the behavior of captive Cape seahorses (Hippocampus capensis) recently confirmed the need for a certain level of complexity in any setup for seahorses (Topps, 1999). The study found that seahorses display more "natural" behavior when they are provided with an elaborate, structured environment that includes a number of different microhabitats (Topps, 1999). These findings are another indication that a sparse setup with inadequate shelter can inhibit the behavior of captive seahorses.
So it’s just fine if you want to maintain a bare-bottom seahorse tank, Sean, providing you manage the biological filtration properly, but you don’t want to have a completely barren seahorse setup. A bare glass bottom is fine providing you have plenty of artificial corals and/or plants to provide the seahorses with adequate hitching posts and a sense of security.
Best of luck redecorating your seahorse tank so that it’s more to your liking, sir!
Pete GiwojnaSeptember 2, 2008 at 2:16 am #4438SeanGuest
Pete, thanks for the response 🙂 Let me tell you what I have and you can let me know if it’s enough 🙂
I have a Fluval 405-mechanical, biological, and chemical filtration system. It has 4 media trays with 2 compartments in each, and four foam filters.
As far as the protein skimmer, I have a coral-life 125 neddle wheel super skimmer.
Current aquarlium chiller to maintain the proper temp.
Power compact light that has all three setting’s- moon, actinic, and white.
I have a small power head at the bottom of the tank postioned so that it keeps the water moving at the bottom- very gentle though.
I was going to make up a corner of the aqurium with tall fake plants and of course I will have various other fake plants of different heights and plenty of hitching posts for them.
I will of course keep plenty of snails in the tank to keep it clean as well.
Let me know if you think what I have is good enough. If not, I’ll make whatever changes you suggest.
Post edited by: Sean, at: 2008/09/01 22:18September 2, 2008 at 10:27 pm #4439Pete GiwojnaGuest
Well, sir, your Fluval 405 canister filter is rated for aquariums of up to 100 gallons, so it will eventually be able to provide all of the biological filtration necessary for your 50-gallon seahorse tank all on its own.
But right now, that’s not what it’s doing. At this point, the live rock and live sand in your aquarium are performing a considerable portion of the biological filtration for the aquarium, and you are going to lose that additional biological filtration ability when you remove the substrate. Depending on how much live rock and live sand is in the aquarium, it probably accounts for these 50% of the biological filtration in the tank, with your Fluval 405 providing the remaining 50% of the biological filtration.
That means you will be losing approximately half of the biofilter when you remove the live rock and live sand, and the aquarium is going to be much less stable for some time afterwards. The biological filtration media in the Fluval 405 will eventually build up a larger population of nitrifying bacteria in order to compensate for that loss, but that’s a process that will take some time — at least a week or two. In the meantime, it will only be able to break down about half of the ammonia that is being produced in your aquarium, which means you will have to guard against harmful ammonia spikes for the first couple of weeks after you remove the live rock and live sand.
Monitor the ammonia and nitrite levels very closely, feed the seahorses and other specimens very sparingly during this period, keep the tank under stocked, and be prepared to perform water changes as often as necessary in order to maintain optimum water quality and correct the spikes in the ammonia and nitrite levels that are bound to occur while the Fluval 405 is adjusting to the change. Otherwise, your seahorses will be stressed and the high levels of ammonia and nitrite will impair their breathing and lead to all sorts of troublesome complications.
Also, you will need to be aware that when you remove the live rock and siphon out the live sand, you will be releasing quite a bit of detritus and sediment into the aquarium water. It may take the better part of a day for the mechanical filtration in your canister filter to clear up the water again afterwards, and the mechanical filters will need to be cleaned thoroughly or replaced after they have strained out all of the sediment and particulate matter that was stirred up when you removed the live rock and live sand. It would be a good idea to relocate the seahorses to your hospital tank or quarantine tank temporarily during this time, so that they are not exposed to the dirty water conditions and any bacteria that may have been stirred up and released from the substrate.
And of course you will want to retrieve the snails and micro hermits from your cleanup crew before you remove the live sand and live rock. The aquarium janitors and sanitation engineers won’t be very happy with a bare-bottom tank, since they like to burrow within or sift through the live sand and spend much of there time grazing on the macroalgae and cleaning the detritus from the live rock. But there will also be less need for the cleanup crew with a bare glass bottom that is more sanitary and makes cleanup and maintenance easier.
If you want to concentrate the hitching posts and decorations primarily in one corner of the aquarium, that’s fine, but you should realize that the seahorses are going to congregate where the holdfasts and shelter is and may pretty much ignore the rest of the tank. So I would be be inclined to distribute the artificial corals and plants throughout the aquarium, which will also assure that the seahorses move throughout the tank. Otherwise, with all of the plants and decorations confined to one area of the tank, which is where the seahorses will spend all of their time hanging out, the rest of the 50-gallon aquarium is going to look awfully barren.
Feel free to experiment with a bare glass bottom aquarium for your seahorses as long as you provide sufficient hitching posts and shelter for the seahorses, and allow plenty of time for the Fluval 405 to adjust to the heavier burden it will be carrying. Beware of the increased risk of ammonia and nitrite spikes after you remove the live rock and live sand!
Best wishes with all your fishes, Sean!
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