- This topic has 5 replies, 2 voices, and was last updated 17 years ago by Pete Giwojna.
February 14, 2007 at 10:27 am #1128ageberMember
i am wondering if i can use an in tank refugium of some kind for a fry tank. I am trying to plan for the coming of some fry as i saw a pair of our seahorses mating. My main tank is 90 gal with all live rock and corals, gorgonias, and sponges and about an inch of live sand. I have a 20 gal refugium under it with a 24 hour lighting. it has lots of mysis shrimp, some brine shrimp, copepods, etc in it. If i use an in tank refugium and feed live baby brine, will i have potential problems because of all of my live rock. Can i use a 2nd outside refugium, would this be better. I am wanting to keep it pretty easy to keep the fry alive should we be lucky enough to have them. Does either of these options sound plausible or do I really need to set up a separate tank for babies.February 14, 2007 at 10:42 pm #3435Pete GiwojnaGuest
The sort of nurseries you are considering are known as in-tank nurseries and they can indeed be very successful for rearing seahorse fry, as discussed below:
The In-Tank Nursery.
In-tank nurseries enjoy all the advantages of divided nurseries and then some. For example, like divided nurseries, the tank-within-a-tank design makes it much easier to provide seahorse fry with stable conditions and optimum water quality, vastly increases filtration and equipment options, simplifies maintenance and offers enormous versatility. The idea behind the in-tank nursery is to confine the seahorse fry in a small, flow-through enclosure that can then be attached securely inside a larger aquarium. The in-tank fry enclosure must allow water to pass through it freely but not fry food such as copepods, rotifers or Artemia nauplii. The enclosure thus allows the food to be concentrated in a small space to maintain the proper feeding density, while at the same time providing the fry with all the benefits of living in a much larger volume of water. This includes greater stability in terms of water temp, pH, oxygen levels, salinity and so on.
But by far the biggest advantage of the in-tank nursery is the superior water quality it provides. The larger tanks that accommodate the fry enclosures are normally in the 10-20 gallon range, but there is no upper limit to the size of the host aquarium — the bigger, the better. Of course, for starters, the larger volume of water is naturally more resistant to pollution from the mass consumption and elimination one must deal with when rearing seahorse fry. But more importantly, with the fry safely sheltered in their nursery, the main tank can be equipped with any kind of filtration and filter media you can think of to improve water quality or safeguard the health of the fry. This includes heaters, sponge filters, inside box filters or external power filters with activated carbon, polyfilter pads, or ion-exchange resins, micron-level mechanical filtration, bio-wheels, wet/dry filtration, protein skimmers, UV sterilizers, ozonizers — you name it. Airstones, bubble wands, powerheads, filters and the like can operated full blast without worrying that they’ll buffet the fragile fry or that they filters may ‘eat’ the newborns or consume all their food. Use your imagination — anything goes!
Water quality benefits as a result, and the added filtration reduces the need for frequent water changes. When substantial water changes are called for, the main tank makes the whole process easier.
The first in-tank nurseries were ready-made breeder nets intended for livebearing freshwater tropicals (Abbott, 2003). These breeder nets worked very well for dwarf seahorses, which produce small numbers of babies (Abbott, 2003), but they are not well suited for the huge broods of fry many of the greater seahorses produce. Hobbyists soon began to improvise in order to overcome the limitations of such breeder nets and accommodate larger broods in their fry enclosures. Breeders began to experiment with in-tank refugia, "critter keepers," and various plastic containers to meet their needs. They modified these by drilling them full of holes and covering the holes with plastic mesh. If necessary, an airline is added to the fry enclosure for better circulation and a drip line brings filtered water in from the main tank or an external power filter.
The versatility of in-tank nurseries is one of their biggest assets. They allow almost any existing aquarium to "host" a fry enclosure and there is also great flexibility in the design of the inner nursery tank. They can easily be modified to accommodate either benthic or pelagic seahorse fry, and multiple in-tank nurseries can be housed in one big main aquarium. Endless variations on this basic concept are possible. The in-tank nursery is simply a much more versatile and adaptable design than the divided nurseries that preceded it.
Okay, that’s the quick rundown on palpins or in-tank nurseries, ageber. For good results, you need to be very meticulous about keeping such nurseries scrupulously clean, since fecal pellets build up in them very quickly. When seahorse fry are well fed, defecation is amazingly rapid, with each newborn producing an average of one fecal pellet every 25-30 minutes. Multiply that by several dozen newborns, and you’ll have a pretty good idea of the magnitude of the sanitation problem. Hundreds of fecal pellets are going to accumulate on the bottom of the in-in-tank nursery every hour.
The best way to deal with that situation is to siphon the fecal pellets of of the bottom of the in-tank nursery several times a day, and to maintain two or more of the palpins or in-tank refugia and switch them out regularly. While one of the in-tank nurseries is occupied, keep another identical one in reserve, clean and sterilized. Then gently transfer all of the newborns into the clean in-tank nursery, taking care not to expose them to the air. This will allow you to clean out the dirty in-tank nursery thoroughly and sterilize it again, so it’s ready to go back into operation. The more often you switch from the dirty in-take nursery to the clean one, the better. Changing them daily is not excessive.
Not only is changing the in-tank nurseries regularly a good idea for sanitary purposes, it is also an excellent way to prevent hydroids from getting established in the nursery, which is indeed more likely if the host tank includes lots of live rock, live sand and corals. The hydroids will have very little chance to colonize the in-tank nursery if you replace it with a clean one that you have sterilized every couple of days.
Best of luck rearing your Sunburst fry, ageber! Please keep us posted on how well your in-tank refugia work as nurseries.
Pete GiwojnaFebruary 14, 2007 at 11:37 pm #3437ageberGuest
as always thatnks for the informative reply. another question, how do i transfer the fry from the tank to the nursery and from one nursery to the other. if the brrod is large, how many babies can 1 intank nursery hold. My main tank is a 90 gallon so it is 48 inches long and has a divider built on the top for support. I also have a refugium under it as well as another refugium (50 gallon) from another tank. will those work although they are filled with live critters and plants as well as mud so that might impact the cleaning of the debri and fecal pellets. also, is there any special brand of intank nursery you can recommendFebruary 15, 2007 at 6:01 am #3441Pete GiwojnaGuest
You’re very welcome, sir!
When transferring the fry, scoop them up in a small measuring cup or something similar along with a little water. It’s important that the newborns aren’t exposed to the air during the transfers. Or a plastic turkey baster works well for delicately sucking up the fry when transferring them, providing you cut off a bit from the tip of the baster to enlarge the opening at the tip. Just don’t net them out.
The recommended stocking density for pelagic seahorse fry such as H. erectus is no more than 25 per liter, or a maximum of 80 fry per gallon. But for best results, I would recommend that you limit yourself to no more than 6 fry per liter, or a maximum stocking density of about 25 fry per gallon, while you are learning the ropes and gaining experience at rearing.
I know of no ready made, off-the-shelf refugia or crater keepers that work well for in-tank nurseries as is, without major modifications. At the moment, fabricating suitable in-tank nurseries is very much a do-it-yourself project. Most in-tank nurseries are modified critter keepers or plastic goldfish bowls that have been adapted as nurseries by cutting a large hole (or a series of smaller holes) at one end and then screening of those openings with fine mesh (e.g., 400 micron screen). Water from the host tank is poured into the in-tank nursery several times a day in order to provide the fry with frequent water changes.
Modified plastic critter keepers or critter carriers are perhaps the most often used containers to create suitable in-in-tank nurseries, so that might be a good place for you to start, ageber. There is still room for a great deal of experimentation in order to determine the optimum design, so don’t hesitate to get creative. But I would avoid breeder nets — they tend to get quite a bit dirtier than bare-bottomed nurseries (uneaten brine shrimp and fecal pellets will accummulate on the netting and cling to the mesh) and are too difficult to sterilize and keep sanitary.
I should think either your 90-gallon tank or the 50 gallon refugium (or both) would make good host tanks for housing a number of in-tank nurseries.
Best of luck with your first attempt at rearing, sir!
Pete GiwojnaMarch 5, 2007 at 7:13 am #3473ageberGuest
i had made for me 2 intank nurseries should i be lucky enough for my seahorses to have fry. I have very fine holes drilled in a number of places thru the acrylic and a very small pump at 1 side to help water movement. My question is i want to put some sort of mesh over the holes so the baby brine cannot escape into the main tank. I am planning on using some form of adhesive to hold the netting. My question is does anyone know what type of netting would work best and where to buy it as well as what type of glue or adhesive will work and not harm my tank. would the same type of silicone for sealing aquariums work and would either nylon stockings cut apart or perhaps screen mesh used for screenprinting do the job. Appreciate any help Also, the intank nursery is 17 inches long, 4 inches wide, and 8 inches deep. will this work ok.it will hang on the front of my 90 gal tank. one on each side.March 6, 2007 at 12:47 am #3474Pete GiwojnaGuest
It sounds like you did a fine job of constructing homemade in-tank nurseries for your 90-gallon aquarium. A 120 micron polyester or nylon plankton screen would be perfect for containing Artemia. Suitable screen can be purchased from Miami Aquaculture Inc. (see the following link):
The best adhesive to use for screening of the holes you have drilled in your in-tank nurseries may depend on whether you feel the polyester or the nylon plankton screen is best for your needs. The nylon screen is softer whereas the polyester screen is much more durable and stands up to regular cleaning really well compared to the nylon screen. I should think that silicone aquarium sealant, which is designed for use on glass aquariums, would probably suffice, but you may want to contact Miami Aquaculture to see what type of adhesive they would recommend for securing the screen to your acrylic nurseries to make sure it will work well with the polyester or nylon screen you obtain.
I would include some holdfasts in your in-tank nurseries for the seahorse fry to hitch to at night, but other than that, I can’t see any reason why your homemade in-tank nurseries should not work well. Strips, sections, and cylinders of plastic window screen or the plastic mesh sold in craft stores for needlepoint projects make fine hitching posts for seahorse fry. Short lengths of polypropylene rope (the kind sold at hardware stores and marine outlets for boating purposes) are another good option for hitching posts in the nursery. They come in many different colors, can be cut to any desired length, and are buoyant so if one end is anchored and the other end is unraveled, they will wave gently in the current like natural plants. (Avoid nylon rope, however — it bleeds in saltwater and will leech color and who knows what else into your tank!) If necessary, the holdfasts can be secured to the acrylic with silicone aquarium cement or suction cups designed for use in marine aquaria, or secured to a piece of coral rubble to anchor them in place.
The only aspect of your homemade nurseries I am unsure about is the small pump you included at one end. It would have to be very small to avoid generating too much current for the newborns so hopefully you can adjust the flow rate of the pump to a minimum that produces the desired result without buffeting the babies about in the process.
Best of luck with your in-tank nurseries, ageber! Here’s hoping you soon have a brood of babies to occupy them. Please keep us posted on how everything turns out and any modifications you make to the nurseries as you go along.
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