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

Filter help

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  • #1483

    First off, thank you for sharing your knowledge with everyone.

    We got a good deal on a 56 gal tank (square), so couldn\’t pass it up. Now our ultimate plan is to raise a couple Hippocampus Erectus. No big production, just a nice tranquil home for them.

    We considered live rock, maybe some compatable coral or invertibrates. A couple tankmates to sweep the floors. We\’ve been reading everything we can get out hands on in reference to saltwater aquariums. So, long story short, we are concentrating on being educated about what we want to raise long before we actually draw a drop of water.

    Unfortunately, we\’ve found that every \"expert\" out there has their own techniques and advise to give. I\’ve been keeping track of consistancy, thus the reason I\’ve joined this site. Thank you.

    Our next step is to decide on a filtration system…so many to choose, so little knowledge.

    We\’ve looked at different filters…side hangers, undergravel, sumps, skimmers, canisters…we\’re not in Kansas anymore Toto. For the price of a simple home system, what equipment is definately required, and what is optional. I\’m sure you can\’t claim one manufacture is better than another, but a hint would help.

    Thank you for any help you can provide.

    Wayne and Lisa

    Pete Giwojna

    Dear Wayne and Lisa:

    It sounds like you’re off to a pretty good start already. The 56-gallon aquarium that you have selected should make a fine home for a pair of Mustangs or Sunbursts (Hippocampus erectus) and some compatible colorful invertebrates. In general, a tank of at least 40 gallons (150 L) is preferable since that’s the size when one begins to see significant benefits in terms of the greater stability a larger volume of water can provide. An aquarium of 40-gallons or more will be more resistant to overcrowding and to rapid fluctuations in temperature, pH, and salinity than smaller setups. The larger the aquarium the larger the margin for error it offers the aquarist and the greater the benefits it provides in terms of stability. So you’re new tank is a very good size to start with and should provide plenty of room for your seahorses to roam and explore.

    You have the right idea about reading everything you can get your hands on with regard to saltwater aquariums and seahorses. The best approach is always to do your homework and research as much as you can about marine aquariums and the care and requirements of seahorses before you take the plunge, and I would like to make a couple of suggestions for you to add to your reading list.

    There are two books that I highly recommend for all inexperienced marine aquarists. An excellent place to start would be to read the book "The New Marine Aquarium" by Michael Paletta. Next I would suggest you follow that up by perusing "The Conscientious Marine Aquarist: A Commonsense Handbook for Successful Saltwater Hobbyists" by Bob Fenner. Those are both outstanding books for a beginner that will give you an good grasp of the basic things you need to know to maintain a marine aquarium.

    After you’ve had a chance to digest The New Marine Aquarium and The Conscientious Marine Aquarist, and have a better understanding of the basic principles involved in keeping a saltwater aquarium, you should next study a good guide book devoted for seahorses. I would say the most useful of these for your needs is "How to Care for your Seahorses in the Marine Aquarium — A Stable Environment For your Seahorse Stable" by Tracy Warland. All of the books I have mentioned should be available from your local library or can be purchased from any of the major booksellers.

    There is also one good disease book on seahorses that you might find very useful. Dr. Martin Belli, Marc Lamont, Keith Gentry, and Clare Driscoll have done a terrific job putting together "Working Notes: A Guide to the Diseases of Seahorses." Hobbyists will find the detailed information it contains on seahorse anatomy, the latest disease diagnosis and treatment protocols, and quarantine procedures to be extremely useful and helpful. It has some excellent dissection and necropsy photos as well as a number of photos of seahorses with various health problems. This is one book every seahorse keeper should have in his or her fish-room medicine cabinet, and I highly recommend it! In time of need, it can be a real life saver for your seahorses. It’s available online at the following web site:

    Click here: Working notes: a guide to seahorse diseases > books > The Shoppe at | CafePress

    There are also a number of interesting articles about seahorses available online that would be helpful for your ongoing research. For example, I wrote an article in Conscientious Aquarist called "Feeding Stations : A Better Way to Feed Seahorses" that you may find useful. It discusses all the different kinds of feeding stations, including natural feeding stations, and explains how to do keep seahorses to use a feeding tray in considerable detail. It’s available online at the following URL:

    Click here: Seahorse Feeders

    And I know you would enjoy the two-part article on coloration in seahorses that I recently wrote for Conscientious Aquarist online magazine, if you haven’t already seen it. You can read the articles at the following URL’s and enjoy Leslie Leddo’s magnificent photographs:

    part one:

    part two:

    I sympathize with your confusion regarding the filtration system that would be best for your needs — there are certainly a bewildering array of filtration options available these days. If you’re going to include live rock in your aquarium, it will provide the bulk of the biological filtration you need as well as denitrification to help keep the nitrates nice and low, and you don’t need anything fancy for supplemental filtration at all. In that case, you won’t need an expensive wet/dry trickle filter or an affordable biowheel filter or anything of that nature, which are filters that excel at providing efficient biological filtration.

    Rather, a simple external power filter is all you need to provide added water movement and circulation for your aquarium, as well as accommodating any mechanical or chemical filtration you may desire. Nothing fancy is needed here, since it’s primary purpose is to provide adjustable water movement and circulation that can be switched off during feedings if needed.

    The type or brand of supplemental filter you choose for your live rock tank is therefore not critical, but there are certain desirable features you want to look for in any filter that will be used for seahorses. For example, it should provide good surface agitation and water movement with adjustable flow to promote gas exchange at the air/water interface. The intake tubes should reach all the way to the substrate (add extenders if they do not) and be screened off or otherwise shielded so they cannot "eat" a curious seahorse. The filter must provide efficient oxygenation and gas exchange and be able to accommodate mechanical and chemical filtration media such as activated carbon and polyfilter pads. A prefilter is very desirable, as is a "waterfall" return or a spray bar return if you go with a canister filter.

    And you will want to filter 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 a 56-gallon aquarium, you’ll want to an external filter that can pump out around 300 gallons per hour. Or you could use two smaller hang-on-the-back filters whose combined output is about 300 gallons per hour, and position one of them on the far left in one of them on the far right side of the aquarium. That arrangement would provide good cross circulation to eliminate dead spots in the aquarium.

    If there is a good local fish store in your area, I suggest you pay them a visit and tell them you have a 56-gallon aquarium that you are setting up for seahorses with live rock for biological filtration, and asked them to recommend a good filter that meets the criteria we discussed above. They can help you find just the right unit with the desirable features I mentioned previously.

    In your case, since you only want to keep a pair of Hippocampus erectus and some colorful invertebrates in your 56-gallon aquarium, even an undergravel filter would be quite adequate. So if you wish, your filtration system can be as basic as a set of well-maintained reverse-flow undergravels that covers the bottom of the tank completely. I know undergravel filters are considered old-fashioned technology nowadays, but they are inexpensive, utterly reliable and foolproof (no moving parts), easy to install, require no modification whatsoever, and work extremely well for seahorses. An inexpensive diaphragm air pump will operate the filter and provide all the aeration you need, or you can upgrade to powerheads for greater efficiency and extra water movement.

    For the substrate with your reverse-flow undergravel filters, use a coarse bed of good calcareous aquarium gravel such as dolomite, aragonite, or crushed oyster shell 2-3 inches deep, since the buffering ability of such substrates will help maintain good pH.

    Again, it is a good idea to supplement the undergravels with an inexpensive hang-on-back filter or canister to provide better circulation and accommodate chemical filtration media.

    This is a very simple, inexpensive aquarium that’s extremely easy and economical to set up and operate, yet it can be very successful if used within its limitations. For instance, undergravel filters are notorious nitrate factories and the hobbyist must take measures to compensate for this fact. This simple system relies totally on water changes to control nitrates. There is no live rock or live sand bed to provide denitrification, no algal filter or denitrator in a sump, and no protein skimmer to remove organics before they enter the nitrogen cycle. This limits the carrying capacity of the tank and makes an accelerated maintenance schedule and more frequent water changes an absolute necessity. For this reason, reverse flow undergravels often work best with seahorses; they help prevent detritus from accumulating in the gravel bed.

    I recommend biweekly of about 15% or weekly water changes of a least 25% at the very least for such a system. Use a gravel washer to clean a different portion of the gravel bed (no more than 25%) each week and keep the tank under stocked. If you are diligent about aquarium maintenance, perform water changes religiously, and limit yourself to fewer seahorses that you feed carefully, you will find that a simple system featuring undergravel filters can be very successful. But if you are negligent with regard to maintenance, skimp on water changes, or tend to overcrowd or overfeed your tanks, this system will be very unforgiving. With just a pair of seahorses in a 56-gallon aquarium, the undergravels should be more than adequate.

    The type of filtration you choose ultimately depends on what filtration system you are most comfortable with and how much you can afford to budget for your aquarium system.

    Rather than discussing all of the different filtration options and systems that are commonly used to keep the greater seahorses, I am going to focus on one particular method that I have found produces the best results for me and describe how to set up such a system in detail. One reason I prefer this method is that it is very versatile and can easily be adapted to suit almost anyone’s needs and interests.

    The setup for greater seahorses I prefer, and which most hobbyists favor at this time, is know as a "Sea-Horses-Only-With-Live-Rock" system, or a SHOWLR tank for short. It is simplicity itself, extremely effective for seahorses, and endlessly adaptable. It is suitable for tanks from 5 gallons to 500 gallons, and can be adapted successfully to suit the simplest setups or the most complex, high-tech systems. The primary components of the SHOWLR tank include:

    (1) a thin layer of live sand (1/2" to no more than 1" deep) for the substrate;
    (2) as much as 1-2 pounds of well-cured live rock per gallon of water;
    (3) a quality protein skimmer;
    (4) and an external power filter to provide water movement and supplemental filtration; power heads can be added as needed to increase circulation and eliminate dead spots.

    Live Rock.

    The one indispensable part of a SHOWLR system is the foundation of live rock. The live rock is the living, breathing, heart and soul of the system, which provides the bulk of the biological filtration as well as some denitrification ability and shelter and habitat for countless critters and microfauna. The porous interior of the rock supports large populations of the beneficial oxygen-loving Nitrosomonas and Nitrobacter bacteria that breakdown deadly ammonia and nitrite into less toxic substances (primarily nitrate). Deeper inside the live rock, where oxygen levels are nil, anaerobic denitrifying bacteria take hold and complete the nitrogen cycle, breaking down nitrate into harmless nitrogen. This helps keep the nitrate levels in the seahorse tank low. As a result, live rock is superior to most other forms of biofiltration, which lack this final anaerobic step and cannot carry out denitrification. This makes live rock doubly good at maintaining optimum water quality.

    Equally important, the rockwork provides cover for the seahorses. By this, I mean the rock allows the seahorses to hide and conceal themselves completely whenever they feel the need. Seahorses are shy, secretive creatures that rely on camouflage as their primary means of protection, and if they feel too exposed and vulnerable, it can be stressful for them.

    As much as 1-2 pounds of live rock per gallon is recommended if the live rock will be the primary means of biological filtration in the aquarium. That amount of live rock will provide adequate levels of both nitrification and denitrification for the tank. (However, if you will have an additional means of biological filtration on the aquarium, then you won’t be nearly that much live rock and you can get by with a fraction of that amount.) You can simply select the precured live rock you find most attractive at your LFS and add enough of it to create interesting rock formations that are aesthetically pleasing to your eye. Use enough rock to create some interesting caves, arches, ledges and overhangs.

    Despite its beauty, natural appearance and the many benefits it provides, some hobbyists avoid live rock like the plague for fear that they may introduce harmful pests to their aquarium along with the live rock. This is a valid concern since potentially harmful hitchhikers like mantis shrimp, fireworms, aggressive crabs, hydroids and Aiptasia rock anemones are very often unseen and unwanted tenants of live rock. They insinuate themselves throughout the live rock in nooks and crannies, and multitudes of these squatters may have taken up housekeeping in a good-sized piece of rock unbeknownst to the unsuspecting aquarist. They conceal themselves within the labyrinth of rock and often escape even the closest scrutiny undetected.

    But with a little care this is one time when aquarists can have their cake and eat it too. There are a number of ways to take advantage of all the benefits live rock provides without risking unleashing an epidemic of tenacious rock anemones or turning Jack-the-Ripper loose in your tank reincarnated in the form of a thumb-splitting Stomatopod.

    By and large, bristleworms are beneficial scavengers and sand sifters unless their numbers get out of hand, so a good option for many seahorse keepers is to keep the Aiptasia and bristleworm population in check using some means of biological control. Peppermint Shrimp (Lysmata wurdemanni) love to dine on Aiptasia rock anemones and several of these attractive shrimp will do a fine job of eradicating them from the aquarium. Certain nudibranchs (Berghia sp.) also feed on Aiptasia. Likewise, small Arrow Crabs (Stenorhynchus sp.) will keep the bristleworm population at a manageable number. Any mantis shrimp or aggressive crabs that happen to slip by are generally fairly easy to trap and remove, and commercially made traps are available for that very purpose.

    Treating the live rock with a hypersaline dip is another excellent technique for ridding it of unwanted pests. This method doesn’t kill the critters outright but merely drives them out of the rockwork so you can selectively cull through them. Another advantage of this method is that leaves all the desirable life on the rocks intact and unharmed.

    To use this technique, simply place your newly arrived live rock in an inert container filled with saltwater at a specific gravity of at least 1.045 to 1.050 for several minutes before you introduce it to the aquarium. These saltier the water, the shorter the length of time you need to soak the live rock and the more effective it will be in driving out unwanted hitchhikers. Invertebrates cannot tolerate rapid changes in salinity, so all the mobile inverts in the rock will immediately abandon there hidey-holes and bale out of the rock like rats deserting a sinking ship. After several minutes in this extra-salty bath, the evacuation will be complete, and you can remove the now pest-free live rock and sort your catch. Cull the invertebrates left behind in dipping container, discarding the pests you don’t want while retrieving any of the refugees you might like to add to your system. Several minutes in the hypersalinity is usually enough to drive out all the active invertebrates such as mantis shrimp (Stomatopods), crabs, and assorted worms of every description, yet this brief period of immersion will not harm encrusting organisms or sessile life.

    The best way to obtain live rock is from an aquarium store in your area that caters to reef keepers. They will have pre-cured live rock available and you can handpick interesting rock formations that are heavily infested with pinkish-purple coralline algae for your aquarium. That will also save you the cost of having the live rock shipped to you, which can be considerable because of the weight of the rocks.

    Aquarium Substrate

    A thin layer of live sand, preferably black, is the ideal substrate for a SHOWLR tank. It is bioactive, aesthetically pleasing, and is a fine-grained sand well suited for the various snails that form an essential part of the cleanup crew for a seahorse tank. I find the dark color shows off my seahorses and macroalgae to great effect and enhances the appearance of tank in general.

    The depth of a shallow sand bed like this is a crucial factor. Too deep, and you risk anaerobic dead spots where deadly hydrogen sulfide gas can form. Too shallow, and there will be less surface area to support beneficial nitrifying bacteria and Nassarius snails and other beneficial burrowers may feel vulnerable and exposed. A bed of live sand 3/4-inch to 1-inch deep is just right for the main tank. A properly layered Deep Live Sand Bed (DLSB) 3-6 inches deep with a full complement of sand shifters also works well with seahorses, but is best confined to a sump rather than the display tank due to the seahorse’s heavy waste production.

    The type of sand I usually prefer for this is Nature’s Ocean Bio-Activ Live Aragonite Black Beach sand. A thin layer of the sand should make the ideal substrate for your aquarium, and you can order it online from the following site:

    Otherwise, either the Arag-Alive Indo-Pacific Black Sand by CaribSea or else the CaribSea Tropical Isle Tahitian Moon Black Sand would be good alternatives. You can obtain them online from Premium Aquatics and a number of other sources, and either of them should also work well for the substrate in a seahorse tank.

    Here is a simple itemized list of the equipment and accessories you would need for such a setup, Wayne and Lisa. Unless they are listed as optional, you will need to line up the following items, if you don’t already have them.

    1) A suitable aquarium of at least 30 gallons (the taller, the better).
    2) Glass Cover or hood for the aquarium.
    3) Strip reflector or light fixture to fit the new aquarium.
    4) Florescent bulb(s) for the strip reflector or light fixture.
    5) External filter to provide water movement and supplemental filtration.
    6) Titanium grounding probe to protect against stray voltage.
    7) A quality protein skimmer (optional but highly recommended).
    8) Ultraviolet Sterilizer (necessary for wild-caught seahorses but not needed for Ocean Riders).
    9) A thin layer of live sand (1/2" to no more than 1" deep) for the substrate.
    10) Well-cured live rock.
    11) Hydrometer for checking specific gravity or salinity.
    12) Saltwater test kits for measuring the following aquarium parameters:
    dissolved oxygen (optional but highly recommended)
    13) Aquarium thermometer.
    14) Instant Ocean artificial salt mix
    15) Natural or Artificial Hitching Posts
    16) Package of Frozen Mysis to feed the seahorses (e.g., Piscine Energetics, Hikari and Gamma are all good brands to choose from).

    For best results with Hippocampus erectus, when you set up the aquarium strive to maintain stable water conditions within the following aquarium parameters at all times:

    Temperature = optimum 72°F-75°F (22°C-24°C).
    Specific Gravity = range 1.022 – 1.026; optimum 1.0245
    pH = range 8.0 – 8.4; optimum ~8.2
    Ammonia = 0
    Nitrite = 0
    Nitrate = range 0-20 ppm; optimum 0-10 ppm

    Protein Skimming.

    Although seahorses can certainly be kept successfully without the use of a protein skimmer, I recommend including a good skimmer for best results. As a rule, seahorses are messy feeders, particularly when scarfing down enriched frozen Mysis. Ample evidence of this is revealed every time they scarf one up. As they snick up a shrimp with their slurp-gun snouts, water is passed over their gills and expelled forcibly (it is this very process that generates the powerful suction they use to slurp up their prey). As the jet of water is ejected through their gills, it carries a cloud of macerated particles and debris with it. It is a startling sight the first time you observe this phenomenon, for it brings a fire-breathing dragon to mind. As one young hobbyist matter-of-factly described it, "My seahorse blows smoke out of its ears when he eats." I’ll be darned if that’s not exactly what it looks like, too!

    The majority of the undesirable metabolites, organic wastes and excess nutrients that accumulate in our aquariums and degrade water quality are "surface-active," meaning they are attracted to and collect near the surface of a gas-liquid interface (Fenner, 2003). Skimmers take advantage of this fact by using a column of very fine air bubbles mixed with aquarium water to trap dissolved organics and remove them from our systems. This air-water mixture is lighter than the surrounding aquarium and rises up the column of the skimmer until the foam eventually spills into a special collection cup atop the skimmer, which can be removed and emptied as needed. Proteins and other organic molecules, waste products, uneaten food and excess nutrients, and a host of other undesirable compounds stick to the surface of the bubbles and are carried away along with the foam and removed from the aquarium (Fenner, 2003a). As a result of this process, these purification devices are typically known as foam separators, foam fractionators, air-strippers, or simply protein skimmers.

    In my experience, nothing improves water quality like a good protein skimmer. They provides many benefits for a seahorse setup, including efficient nutrient export, reducing the effective bioload, and increasing both the Redox potential and dissolved oxygen levels in the water (Fenner, 2003a). They do a tremendous job of removing excess organics from the aquarium, including phenols, albumin, dissolved organic acids, and chromophoric (color causing) compounds (Fenner, 2003a). Their ability to remove dissolved wastes BEFORE they have a chance to break down and degrade water quality makes them indispensable for controlling nuisance algae. A good protein skimmer is an invaluable piece of equipment for keeping your nitrates low and your water quality high when feeding a whole herd of these sloppy eaters in a closed-system aquarium.

    When it comes to skimmers, both the AquaC Remora and Euro-Reef series of protein skimmers are first-rate units that will serve you well. You can’t go far wrong if you select a quality AquaC or Euro-Reef skimmer rated for an aquarium of at least 40 gallons. I’ve also heard good things about the H.O.T protein skimmers. I believe Premium Aquatics ( carries all of those brands of hang-on-the-back protein skimmers, and I would select one of the above if I was you.

    If space is at a premium as far as installing a protein skimmer goes, a lot of hobbyists like the Red Sea Prizm protein skimmers because of their sleek compact design.

    Okay, Wayne and Lisa, that’s the quick rundown on the main items you are going to need in order to get your new 56-gallon seahorse tank up and running. If you contact me off list ([email protected]), I will be happy to provide you with a lot more information on the care and keeping of Hippocampus erectus, as well as detailed instructions for optimizing your new aquarium to create an ideal environment for Mustangs or Sunbursts.

    Best of luck with your continuing education and research into the marine aquarium hobby!

    Happy Trails!
    Pete Giwojna


    Thank you for the wealth of information you’ve provided. We’re searching for the books you’ve recommended in our local area here in MA.

    Our intent is to have a substrate of black live sand and Live Rock stacked in the center/back of the tank. Then have a few tall and short plastic plants as hitching posts on each side of the LR. We thought about keeping the front couple inches clear of obstuctions.

    We’ve noticed that we only have two 13 inch openings at the top of the tank for any hanging devices such as filters. This is due to the tank having an inside lenth of 29.5 inches and the top strap in the center.

    I’ve noticed that most of the hanging bio wheel filters may not fit, but I like their simplicity. I’ve used those types when I had fresh water tanks years ago.

    In the fresh tanks, I used different filter systems. In a 36 gal tank I used an undergravel, with a small Whisper filter inserted in to the tube. It seemed to work good. In that tank, I had an oscar, pacu, large mouth bass and blue gills. Occasionally there would be a few crayfish, minnows and feeder guppies. After a couple years, the oscar, pacu and bass all ended up being about 10-12 inches long. They ate everything else in the tank, naturally.

    I wasn’t a very respsonsive owner though. I had 3 tanks. I setup the tanks, fed the residents, cleaned the sponge in the filter and occasionally cleaned the substrate. God definately watches over us fools. No major problems besides ich from the feeder minnows…the treatment ended up killing the pacu, but cured the other two. My brother took the bass when I joined the Army…the oscar survived the drive from Illinois to Florida, but only lived a couple weeks after arrival. That was 19 years ago and haven’t had a tank since.

    Ok, that’s the background. Now on to the current.

    We’ve read about the Eco Aqualizer and wondered if it would be good to have.

    We’re looking for an over the edge hanging filter such as a Marineland Penguin 350, or similar hanger that will fit. If we can’t find that type of filter, we’ll have to go with a cansiter. I’m guessing that all cansiters are pretty much the same, so as long as it’s punping 300-400 gph, is this correct?

    The skimmers we’ve found that may work for us is the Prizm Deluxe or maybe a Seaclone 100. The Seaclone has a few good comments, as well as bad comments on reviews.

    We’ve read about a refugium being a good idea and will hang on the back of the tank. Is this one of those "nice to have" items? Is a refugium able to be used as a hospital/nursery or should that task be in a totally seperate tank? Is a 10 gallon tank suitable as a seperate tank?

    Would these items work well together, is it overkill, or not enough?

    Oh…what advice is there on using water from our de-himidifier in the basement? Use it or stay away from it? We plan to find water at the LFS if we can’t use the de-humidifier or tap water.

    We cleaned the new tank with clean water and a micro fiber rag. The problem is that it still seems like it has a haze of some sorts. This haze is not dust or streaks. If you lick your finger and rub your bare finger on it, it seems to clean. So, what cleaner will be safe to use, inside and outside the tank to really clean it good? (no water in tank yet)

    We’ll be leaving on vacation mid week for two weeks. Advisable or not to setup the tank before we leave? Our first thought was to setup and start it before we leave, once we returned, it might be cycling. But then again, we don’t want to have it all setup and have a leak or water problem to deal with upon our return. I think I probably just answered my own question. That must have been your mind mojo working on me. 🙂

    Thank you for the assistance and advice.

    Wayne and Lisa

    Pete Giwojna

    Dear Wayne & Lisa:

    Please do round up the books I mentioned in my previous post, which you should find very enlightening. In particular, The New Marine Aquarium by Michael Paletta and Bob Fenner’s Conscientious Marine Aquarist book are outstanding for beginners and should be included in the library of all marine aquarists.

    Okay, that sounds like a solid plan regarding your live sand and live rock substrate. I agree that it’s a good idea to leave the foreground of the aquarium open to provide the seahorses with unobstructed swimming space. This will maximize the vertical swimming area they have in which to accomplish the copulatory rise and transfer of the eggs, and they also appreciate horizontal swimming space. It’s a good idea to include a few relatively short hitching posts in the front of the aquarium, since the seahorses will utilize these in their dancelike courtship displays, but otherwise try to keep the very front of the tank open and unobstructed.

    Yes, sir, that central plastic strip is there to strengthen your acrylic aquarium and minimize the bowling of the front and back of the tank, but it certainly does restrict the openings on the top of the aquarium for installing equipment and working in the tank. If you can find a quality biowheel filter that will fit in the 13-inch opening on either side of the tank that moves enough water (~300 gph), that makes a nice filter for a seahorse tank and the waterfall return on the bio wheels is also a desirable feature.

    A Marineland Penguin 350 or similar hang-on-the back (HOB) would also be a good choice for your 56-gallon seahorse tank. It should be able to move enough water and will easily accommodate mechanical filtration as well as activated carbon or the chemical filtration media of your choice.

    If you can’t get HOB to mount properly due to the restricted opening on the top of the tank, then a good canister filter that moves at least 300 gallons per hour would certainly do the trick. Not all canister filters are created equal. Some of them are much more rugged and reliable and better constructed than others. But the top end "quality" canister filters can be very expensive, and for your purposes here — adequate water movement and circulation plus mechanical and chemical filtration — most any decent canister filter can do the job. Again, if you go with the canister, a spray bar return is very desirable and will allow you to use canisters with bigger pumps that move much more water without creating too much turbulence for the seahorses or overpowering their limited swimming ability.

    I am not familiar with the ECO-Aqualizer, Wayne and Lisa, but I went to their website and studied the information there, including the aquarium review, and I was more mystified than anything. My background is in biology and chemistry, and my specialty is marine biology, but I was unable to fathom how the ECO-Aqualizer is supposed to work. I even conducted some rather extensive experiments with magnets and magnetic fields when I was in my 30s, but I am completely baffled by this device. For the life of me, I cannot comprehend what this gadget is supposed to do or how it is supposed to accomplish it; it flat-out doesn’t make any sense at all to me. (The hydrogen bonds in water molecules are quite strong and it takes a lot of energy to break them, which is why we are not all riding around in hydrogen-powered vehicles with zero emissions these days.) The aquarium review strikes me as sophistry, and I am very suspicious about the claims made for the ECO-Aqualizer.

    The only thing I can say about the device for certain is that passing your aquarium water over magnets or exposing it to light in the wavelengths mentioned will not have any adverse affect on the aquarium water, so installing an ECO-Aqualizer on your tank should at least not cause any harm. But I would save my money and avoid this gadget in favor of more proven technology.

    In my opinion, you will get much more bang for your buck by using the cash you would have spent on an ECO-Aqualizer to upgrade to a better protein skimmer or add some additional live rock to your aquarium.

    Speaking of skimmers, I am not a big fan of the Seaclone series of protein skimmers, which are notorious for releasing clouds of excess bubbles into the aquarium. That’s a pretty common problem with Seaclone protein skimmers, especially when they are first installed a new aquarium. They are prone to releasing clouds of microbubbles into the aquarium unless they are adjusted just right, and they can be tricky to tweak and fine-tune. The bubbles that the skimmer releases into the main tank are not directly harmful to seahorses, but they can be problematic under certain circumstances if they lead to gas supersaturation — one of the primary factors that can trigger gas bubble syndrome in seahorses. This can happen when the microbubbles are drawn into a pump and then mixed with water under pressure. So to be on the safe side, Wayne, you’ll want to be sure to eliminate the excess bubbles from the skimmer that are escaping into the main tank if you try a Seaclone 100.

    The first thing I would do if you get one is to try carefully adjusting your Seaclone skimmer so that the escaping microbubbles are eliminated. If that doesn’t do the trick, you may need to rig up some sort of bubble trap to prevent them from being released into the tank. If you read through the following FAQs on the Seaclone Protein Skimmer from Bob Fenner’s site, you’ll get a pretty good idea of how to proceed:

    For example, here is how one hobbyist recommends tuning the Seaclone when it’s installed on a new aquarium:

    <Open quote>
    I don’t really have a question for you guys this time but instead am offering some helpful advice. I see a lot of posts all over the Internet from people who cannot get there Sea Clone protein skimmer to skim properly. Well, I was shown a method over this last weekend that worked so great that I had to share the
    info. So here goes, first, ignore the instruction that come with the skimmer pertaining to adjusting the air valve. Instead, remove the air valve completely, let
    the skimmer run for at least 30 seconds with full air flow, minimum water flow (about 50gph). Then slowly screw the air valve back into place until first
    resistance is felt. From here on its a matter of making 1/4 turns at a time, pausing for a moment to let the skimmer adjust. When you first start to
    notice micro-bubbles entering the tank stop the 1/4 turns and make fine, minuscule adjustments. It take some practice to get it working just right but I tried
    this out on my new 55 gallon Reef tank, added 4 inch sand bed, 60 – 70 lbs L/R, water, let sit for a week, then added the Sea Clone and within 24 hours I already
    had 1/2 the collection cup full of nasty, stinky, green sludge. I tried once before to get a sea clone 100 to work and finally returned it back to the store,
    frustrated as all get at, but after having someone come over and show me how to set it up, I’ve been nothing but impressed.
    Hope this helps many of you out!
    <Close quote>

    For my money, the Seaclone skimmers are more trouble than they are worth. Just too difficult to keep tweaking and fine-tuning in order to make them function properly. I would recommend going with another model of protein skimmer, sir.

    Yes, indeed — a good refugium can be a real asset for seahorse tank. But because by definition a refugium shares a common water supply with the aquarium it is mounted on, it can not be used as a quarantine tank or a hospital tank for treating ailing fishes. If you need to choose between the two, I would recommend doing without a refuge and setting up a separate quarantine tank. Here’s how to proceed:

    A bare-bottomed aquarium of at least 10 gallons (the bigger the better) will suffice for a Quarantine Tank (QT). Ideally, the hospital tank should have one or more foam filters for biofiltration along with a small external filter, which can easily be removed from the tank during treatment, if necessary, but which can hold activated carbon or polyfilter pads when it’s time to pull the meds out. No aquarium reflector is necessary. Ambient room light will suffice. (Bright lights can breakdown and inactivate certain medications and the fish in quarantine will be more comfortable and feel more secure under relatively dim lighting.)

    For seahorses, it’s important for your quarantine tank/hospital tank to include enough hitching posts so that the ponies won’t feel vulnerable or exposed during their stay in quarantine. Aquarium safe, inert plastic plants or homemade hitching posts fashioned from polypropylene rope or twine that has been unraveled and anchored at one end work well for this if you’re short on such decorations.

    Cycling the sponge filters for the QT tank is important because otherwise the only way to maintain water quality is by making partial water changes every day or two throughout the treatment period. Breaking in the biological filtration will eliminate the need for such frequent water changes and assure that the quarantine period is less stressful for the fish by eliminating transient spikes in the ammonia and/or nitrate levels.

    Be sure to avoid sponge filters with weighted bottoms or other metal components since they will rust when exposed to saltwater. Sooner or later this will cause problems in a marine aquarium. Select a sponge filter that has no metal parts and is safe for use in saltwater. The proper units will have suction cups to anchor them in place rather than a weighted bottom.

    The sponge filters I find that work well are the Oxygen Plus Bio-Filters (models 2, 3, 4, or 5) or the Tetra Brilliant foam filters. They have no metal components, making them completely safe for use in saltwater, and just one of these foam filters will do the job on a tank of 5 gallons or less. They do not have a weighted bottom but are equipped with suction cups instead. Two of the smaller models can be used on larger tanks, but one of the larger models, like the one at the link below, would be sufficient for a 10-gallon aquarium:

    Click here: Foam Aquarium Filters: Oxygen Plus Bio-Filter 2

    Avoid the Oxygen Plus Bio-filter 6, 11, and the Multi sponge, which all have a weighted bottom (metal), that rusts when exposed to saltwater. If you want more filtration, you’re better off going with two of the smaller suction cup sponge filters rather than any of the models with weighted bottoms. For instance, for a 10-gallon tank, I’d suggest using two well-established foam filters, one at either end of the tank for the biofiltration.

    All you need to operate sponge or foam filters is an inexpensive, diaphragm-operated air pump (whatever is available at a reasonable price from your LFS will do just fine), a length of airline tubing to connect the air pump to the foam filter(s), and a set of air valves (gang valves) to regulate the air flow to the filters. That’s all — nothing to it! The inexpensive Apollo 5 air pumps work great for sponge filters, but whatever air pump you have on hand should certainly do the job.

    Cleaning the foam filters is a snap. Simply immerse them in a bucket of saltwater and gently squeeze out the sponge until it’s clean and releases no more sediment or debris. (I use the saltwater I siphoned out of my aquarium when performing a water change for this, and clean my sponge filters whenever I change water.) Run a bottlebrush through the inside of the tube, wipe off the outside of the tube, and you’re done. The filter is ready to go back in the aquarium with no impairment at all of the biofiltration. Takes only a couple minutes.

    No, sir, I wouldn’t recommend using the water from your dehumidifier for your new aquarium. Theoretically, the water that is condensed from the air should be clean and pure, much like distilled water, so I can see why you would think using the water from your dehumidifier would be a good thing. But in actual practice, dehumidifiers tend to get pretty dirty rather quickly. Mold and bacteria are common problems in dehumidifiers that have been in operation for any length of time, and you’ll want to avoid introducing any such bacteria are mold spores to your new aquarium.

    If possible, I recommend using reverse osmosis/deionized water (RO/DI) to fill the aquarium initially and for making regular water changes once the aquarium has been established. RO/DI water obtained from a good source is ultra-pure and using it to fill the tank will help prevent nuisance algae from ever getting started in the newly established aquarium.

    If you do not have an RO/DI unit of your own, you can always purchase the reverse osmosis/deinonized water (RO/DI) instead. Most well-stocked pet shops that handle marine fish sell RO/DI water as a service for their customers for between 25 and 50 cents a gallon. If your LFS does not, WalMart sell RO/DI water by the gallon for around 60 cents, and you should be able to find a Wal-Mart nearby. (Heck, even my drug store sells RO/DI water nowadays.)

    However, it’s not always safe to assume that RO/DI water purchased from your LFS or your drugstore or some other convenient source is as pure as you might expect. If the merchants selling the RO/DI water are not diligent about monitoring their water quality and changing out the membranes promptly when needed, then the water they provide will not be a good quality and will not produce the desired results. I suggest that you look for an aquarium store that maintains beautiful reef systems on the premises — that’s a good sign that they know their stuff and are maintaining optimum water quality at all times, so the RO/DI water they provide should be up to snuff.

    If you do not have access to a good source of reliable RO/DI water, then detoxified tap water will have to suffice for filling your new aquarium and would probably be a better choice than the water from your dehumidifier. In many areas, the municipal water supply has undesirable levels of amines, phosphates or nitrates, and in the United States, it is always chlorinated and fluoridated, so be sure to dechlorinate/detoxify the water using one of the many commercially unavailable aquarium products designed for that purpose when you add it to the aquarium.

    The haze on your acrylic aquarium is probably due to minor scuffing (micro scratches that are invisible to the naked eye). It may not be a problem once the tank is filled with water, but there are a number of products made for acrylic tanks that can clean and polish such areas and remove the haze altogether. One such product is CRL Plastic Cleaner & Polish, which is made for use on plastics and acrylic, but there are many similar products designed specifically for use on acrylic aquariums that would work just as well. Just be careful to clean the surface using a damp cloth to remove any dust or grit before using the polish. Use the product according to instructions and it should be perfectly safe. (Do the polishing before you fill the tank with water.)

    Yes, sir, if you will be leaving for a vacation in two weeks it’s best to wait until you get back home before setting up the aquarium to make sure there is no problem with equipment failures or leaks while you are away.

    Contact me personally off list ([email protected]) when you get back from your trip and I will provide you with a lot of additional information about cycling your new aquarium and aquascaping it to create an ideal environment for your seahorses.

    Best wishes with all your fishes, Wayne and Lisa! Have a great vacation!

    Happy Trails!
    Pete Giwojna


    Thank you again for your assistance. I sent you an email. On vacation, we found a couple more of the books you recommended. They are a wealth of information.

    We decided to go with a JBJ ecu-35 and a HB-100 octopus skimmer. So far we have 34 lbs live rock. 4 lbs of that has great growth on it. the other 30 has very little growth. (purchased at two different LFS here in MA)

    The substrate we went with is the Black Tahitian beach sand. Right now things look pretty dull, except for the 4lb chunck…but it time it’s going to look awesome.

    Future thoughts:
    We’re hoping for a pair of Erectus down the road. Not going to get in to a hurry. With them, we’re thinking of Fox Coral (Nemenzophilia Turbida), Toad Stool, and possibly some Xenia. Could have the names a little off because we’ve found different web sites that named them different…even when the species was listed. So confusing.

    We’ll have a couple Pepermint shrimp and blue leg hermit crabs as a cleanup crew.

    So far after one week, we haven’t noticed any real movement in the parameters in the tank. I shut off the heater to let the water cool down to 76F. When the water went into the tank, the ammonia read .25. Yesterday, it was .5. Not sure if that means it’s on an upswing, or if I did the test wrong. I’m still so new I don’t know I’m doing it wrong. Great thing about instructions…they’re ME proof. hehehehehe

    We’re curious to know what algae is growing on our cured rock, so if anyone wants to take a stab at it, let me know and I’ll email you the pics. We’ve guessed that one of them is a Halimeda. The purple we’re guessing is coralline. The rest…you tell us. If I knew how to put the picture here, I would.

    Thank you again to everyone who has been sharing their experiences and advice to us new kids. We really appreciate it.

    Wayne and Lisa

    Pete Giwojna

    Dear Wayne & Lisa:

    Okay, things are really progressing nicely now! The water quality parameters you listed all look fine for a new aquarium that’s in the process of cycling, and you have rounded up some good, solid equipment for your aquarium system. So far so good…

    But I should caution you that its important not to operate your new protein skimmer, an ultraviolet sterilizer, or ozonizer, or make water changes while your new aquarium is cycling. Remove chemical filtration media while the aquarium is cycling and avoid adding any ammonia-removing liquids or ammonia-sequestering products (such as BIO-Safe, Amquel, Ammo-lock, Aqua-Safe, etc.) while the tank cycles. You want a nice high ammonia spike, followed by a nice high nitrite spike, when the aquarium cycles in order to build up the largest possible population of the nitrifying bacteria that feed on ammonia and nitrite, so using any type of filtration or additives that could reduce the amount of ammonia or nitrite at this time will actually hinder the cycling process and be very counterproductive.

    Sarcophyton toadstool corals and leather corals are a great choice for a seahorse tank. They do well under low light and low to moderate currents, just like the seahorses, and our ponies enjoy perching on them and feeding from the soft corals. They are hardy corals that are well suited for a beginner. The Xenia pulse coral is also completely compatible with seahorses and may do well in your aquarium once it’s well established.

    Most long polyp stony corals (LPS) must be regarded with caution and are best avoided by the seahorse keeper, but the Fox Coral (Nemenzophylia turbida) is one of the exceptions. It has very short tentacles that are rarely ever extended or seen, day or night. Unlike most other LPS corals, the Fox coral thrives under low light and low to moderate water currents, and it is very hardy — another species that’s often recommended for beginners.

    Stay away from other LPS corals, however, Wayne and Lisa. Many of them have large fleshy polyps with very powerful stings (stronger than many anemones), and they usually require high intensity lighting and vigorous water movement, which may be too overpowering for seahorses.

    With regard to your cleanup crew, the peppermint shrimp and one or two blue leg hermits are fine but you should expand your sanitation engineers somewhat to include an assortment of snails and some different hermits. As Julian sprung reports, Astrea species are the ideal snail to be placed in your aquarium as soon as ammonia and nitrite levels reach acceptable levels (less than 1 ppm). Introduced as soon as possible to a new aquarium, that has reached this cycling phase, these snails effectively limit the development of all microalgae. In other words, they are good at eating diatoms, but will consume red slime and green algae as well. The Astraea tecta found in Florida and Caribbean waters inhabits rocky inter tidal regions and is are said to be quite adept at removing alga films from rock surfaces.

    And don’t forget to include at least a handful of Nassarius snails to clean up the meatier leftovers as well.

    The Scarlet Hermit Crab (Paguristes cadenanti) is likewise one of the most popular hermits with seahorse keepers, because of its colorful appearance, small size and nonaggressive habits, and because it will eat all kinds of algae, such as red, green and brown slimes, as well as green hair algae.

    Also consider the Red Legged Hermit (Clibanarius digueti), which is reputed to be a much better algae eater than the Blue Legged Hermit, less aggressive, and has been reported to eat red slime algae. So when it comes to hermits, Wayne and Lisa, I recommend the scarlet reef hermits and red legged hermits over the blue legs.

    There are a couple of good sources for cleanup crews that I recommend — Reeftopia and IndoPacific Sea Farms.

    For example, Reeftopia offers the `true micro` blue leg hermit crabs (if those are the ones you fancy the most), which are around 0.5cm in size and a bargain at 200 for $36.00. They also offer very nicely sized peppermint shrimp (consistently large and less likely to become Hippocampus treats) at 8 for $22.00 and a wide variety of clean up snails including Ivory ceriths at 12 for $15.00 and Bumblebee Snails (at 12 for $20.00) as well as a small (ca. 1 cm) `Golden Astrea` snail at 100 for $29.00.

    Be sure to check out their Total Reef Care Specials (packages of assorted sanitation engineers and aquarium janitors) at the following URL:

    IndoPacific Sea Farms ( also offers a good package deals on cleanup crews under the heading of " Grazers and Detritivores," so examine those deals before you decide what might be the best cleanup crew for your particular tank. And don’t forget their Hawaiian Macroalgae 6-Pack, which consists of a half dozen different types of colorful macroalgae (red, green, gold, brown), including Caulerpa and Gracilaria species.

    I examined the photos you sent me closely and I must say I am very impressed with the new piece of live rock from Aqua Dreams — it’s a beaut! It’s loaded with colorful coralline algae (a couple of different types with bright complementary colors — very nice!) and a very nice crop of Halimeda sea cactus in addition to a number of other encrusting organisms. That’s exactly the type of live rock you want for the uppermost pieces in your aquarium.

    It’s fine to use less overgrown pieces of live rock for the base or foundation of the rockwork, but the upper layers should consist of showy pieces bursting with life and color. The coralline algae is especially desirable since it will spread if conditions are favorable and cover the surrounding rockwork and substrate with a colorful coating.

    You have correctly identified the Halimeda on your live rock, but after studying the other green macroalgae that has sprouted from the Aqua Dreams live rock in the photographs, I cannot identify it positively. It appears bushier than the various types of Caulerpa I am familiar with, including the Caulerpa sertularioides I have had in the past, which has feathery plumes sprouting from horizontal runners. That doesn’t appear to be what I’m seeing in the photographs. So I can’t identify that particular macroalgae for you, but I can suggest some other sources with excellent photographs of marine plants and macroalgae that may allow you to match it up exactly.

    Check out the following two sites and go through their online photographs of macroalgae:

    Inland Aquatics has perhaps the best selection and variety of macroalgae available:

    Aquacon is another good source for cultured macroalgae with good photographs of all their plants:

    Click here: Marine Plants for Saltwater aquariums

    I couldn’t see the specimen you mentioned which has "large shrimp legs" in the photographs, so I have no idea what that may be. But I certainly know what you mean about staring at the live rock and scrutinizing it long enough to imagine it changing shape, sprouting limbs, and moving around.

    You’ll find that the unexpected appearance of all sorts of invertebrates and microfauna in your marine aquarium is the very reason aquarists refer to the live sand and live rock in their tanks as "live." It can be very difficult to accurately identify all of the mysterious life forms that may blossom from your live rock over the months and years, but 99% of them are harmless, benign, or beneficial to the aquarium and the pageant of life that appears in microcosm from the LR is fascinating to observe 100% of the time.

    Reef Central ( is the place to go to identify all of the interesting critters that pop up from live rock or live sand or natural seawater. They have an excellent series of photo galleries on their site, including one devoted to Reef Tank Hitchhikers, so you might check in there for help identifying mystery creatures that sprout from your live rock:

    Click here: Reef Central Online Community

    Reef Central has a discussion forum devoted just to seahorses, so it’s a good place to visit from time to time anyway.

    Also, if you copy and paste the following URL into the Web browser on your computer, it will take you to another site with lots of photographs of aquariums hitchhikers that you should also find very interesting and informative:

    Finally, Wayne and Lisa, if you go to and look in the photo galleries in the "Fauna" section, that’s another good way to identify the hitchhikers and mysterious invertebrates that appear seemingly out of nowhere in a dynamic marine aquarium:

    Best of luck with your new aquarium system, Wayne and Lisa!

    Happy Trails!
    Pete Giwojna

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