Ocean Rider Seahorse Farm and Tours | Kona Hawaii › Forums › Seahorse Life and Care › hazy/cloudy water quality
- This topic has 16 replies, 2 voices, and was last updated 14 years, 11 months ago by Pete Giwojna.
June 10, 2008 at 8:02 am #1467kkinseyMember
i appreciate all the helpful info everyone has given on the do\’s and don\’ts of seahorses. my question is what causes the tank to stay hazy almost foggy looking? i started trying to raise seahorses in march and unfortunately have lost several. i now have 6. 4 bigger ones and 2 small ones. i really want to do what ever i need to so that i don\’t lose anymore
it seems as though their breathing isn\’t what i think it \"should\" be, but i have had them this round for two weeks.
any and all help is wonderfully appreciated!!!!!! thank you so much in advance!!!!!!June 11, 2008 at 4:08 am #4253Pete GiwojnaGuest
The kind of cloudy or hazy aquarium conditions you describe can result from a number of causes — a bacterial bloom, a vegetative event during which a mass die off of Caulerpa occurred, precipitation from improperly mixed saltwater, fine sediment stirred up from a white sand substrate, etc..
It’s very difficult to determine what may be causing the foggy or cloudy aquarium water in your case without knowing more about your aquarium system. How big is your seahorse aquarium, Kinsey? What type of filtration system and equipment does the aquarium use? How is the turnover rate or circulation in the aquarium and what provides the aeration? Does it include a live sand bed? How about live rock? Does the aquarium have any form of mechanical or chemical filtration? How long has the aquarium been established (up and running with the biofilter fully cycled)?
What are the current inhabitants or specimens that are living in the aquarium? what species of seahorses are you keeping? How about a cleanup crew — do you any sanitation engineers for your seahorse tank, Kinsey? Are there any macroalgae or marine plants in the tank?
What is your feeding regimen for the seahorses (what do you feed them, how much do you feed them, and how often do you feed them)? How do you offer the food to your seahorses?
What are your current aquarium parameters (temperature, pH, specific gravity, ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate readings)? Also, it would be very helpful if you can tell me the dissolved oxygen levels in your seahorse tank if you monitor the DO.
Please get back to me with the additional information I requested as soon as possible, Kinsey. In the meantime, I would recommend increasing the aeration and circulation in the cloudy aquarium and adding a good brand of activated aquarium (i.e., low ash content and phosphate free) to your external filter. Feed the seahorses very sparingly until you get back to me. I hope to hear from you again shortly!
Pete GiwojnaJune 11, 2008 at 5:42 am #4254kkinseyGuest
thank you, first of all for taking the time to reply to me!
here is the info you requested. hope its helpful. my tank is a 35 gallon hexagon vertical tank, i have a whisper duo filtration system for 30-60 gallon tanks,it moves the water pretty fast. yes, i have a live sand bed and some live rock, the aquarium has been set up for 6 weeks.
i only have the six seahorses, two chocolate chip starfish, 1 big snail and 5 small snails, and 7-9 hermit crabs in the tank
im not sure of the species of the seahorses; sorry!no marine plants at all just artificial plants
i feed them twice a day—-once in the morning when i get up (around 6;30am) and then again when i get home from work ( around 5:30 or 6:00pm)
i’ve been using the 5 in 1 test strips to calculate the water and they seem to be where the pet store personal suggested they should be.
i’m so sorry to not be any better help; i am still very new to the seahorse hobby.
i am so very grateful that you are trying to hep me with this problem as i do not want to lose any more seahorses or other items in my tank.
kay kinseyJune 11, 2008 at 5:50 am #4255kkinseyGuest
i forgot to let you know that i did a partial water change last night. i took out 10 gallons of water and added 10 gallons more with the salt mixture.June 12, 2008 at 2:01 am #4256Pete GiwojnaGuest
Thanks for getting back to me with the additional information about your aquarium system. It does suggest a couple of things that should be corrected.
First of all, the aquarium is pretty heavily stocked for a new tank, and that may be part of the problem. If the 35-gallon hex tank has only been up and running for six weeks, that’s barely enough time to cycle a new marine aquarium from scratch. Your aquarium could have used more time to mature and for the biological filtration to become fully established before you stocked it to capacity, but it is already housing about as many seahorses as it can safely sustain.
The recommended stocking density for large seahorses such as Mustangs and Sunbursts (Hippocampus erectus), H. kuda, H. reidi, H. barbouri, etc., is about one pair per 10 gallons, which means that a 35-gallon aquarium with an efficient filtration system could house about six such seahorses when it was fully stocked. So your aquarium is carrying a heavy bioload for a newly established tank. It’s always better to gradually increase the number of specimens in a new aquarium over a period of several weeks to allow the biological filtration to adjust to the increasingly heavy bioload.
I suspect that you’re probably getting some transitory ammonia spikes in your seahorse tank following heavy feedings, and that the cloudiness or haziness of the water is due to a bacterial bloom fueled by excess nutrients in the tank. Overfeeding or scatter feeding frozen Mysis can contribute to such problems by promoting wastage and spoilage.
Seahorses are messy feeders, and the first thing I would recommend is to change our feeding habits somewhat, Kay. If you have been broadcast feeding or scatter feeding your seahorses with frozen food, you should switch to target feeding them or train them to use a feeding station instead. Whether it is a tank with lots of live rock, a modified minireef, a seagrass system or a mangrove biotype, a well-designed seahorse setup is an elaborate environment. A certain level of complexity is necessary in order to assure that our seahorses behave naturally (Topps, 1999) and to provide our ponies with plenty of hitching posts and shelter, and enough sight barriers to assure them a little privacy when they feel the need to be alone. Their homemade habitat may thus take the form of a labyrinth of live rock, an intricate arrangement of corals and gorgonians, a well-planted bed of seagrass or macroalgae, or a full-fledged reef face. When feeding seahorses in such intricate surroundings, the worst thing you can do is to scatter a handful of frozen Mysis throughout the tank to be dispersed by the currents and hope that the hungry horses can track it all down. Inevitably some of the frozen food will be swept away and lodge in isolated nooks and crannies where the seahorses cannot get it. There it will begin to decompose and impair your water quality, which is why ammonia spikes are common after a heavy feeding. Or it may be wafted out into the open again later on and eaten after it has gone bad. Either outcome can lead to dire problems. Target feeding the seahorses or training them to use a feeding station are the best ways to avoid such complications.
Also, I would suggest not offering them their first feeding in the morning until after the aquarium lights have been on for at least half an hour. It sometimes takes the seahorses a while to rouse themselves after the aquarium lights first go on, so they will feed more actively and aggressively if you give them more time to adjust and get moving before you give them the morning feeding. I know you must need to get a morning feeding in before you leave for work or for school, so you may not be able to alter what time you feed the seahorses in the morning, but if you can turn on the aquarium light first thing upon arising in the morning and then wait to feed the seahorses until just before you’re ready to depart, that may help. Or you could put the aquarium reflector on an automatic timer and set it to turn the lights on about an hour before you will be feeding the seahorses in the morning.
Here are some additional feeding suggestions to keep in mind that may also be helpful, Kay:
In general, it’s a good idea to offer one morning feeding and one mid-to-late afternoon feeding, if possible, but there are no hard-and-fast rules when it comes to easy-to-feed, farm-raised horses. Some hobbyist prefer to give their seahorses two feedings a day, while others prefer to give them their quota of frozen Mysis in one big meal. As long as they get their fill, there is really no right or wrong way to go about this — just do whatever works bests for your seahorses and your schedule.
As you know, the feeding regimen that generally works best for most captive-bred seahorses is to provide each of them with 2-7 frozen Mysis relicta twice a day, enriched with Vibrance, and then to fast your seahorses entirely once a week. In other words, your seahorses should each be eating a total of around 4-14 frozen Mysis each day, depending on the size of the seahorse and the size of the Mysis. But those are just rough guidelines and there is a lot of variation in how much Mysis healthy seahorses eat each day.
A large seahorse naturally eats more than a smaller pony. And jumbo-sized Mysis will fill up a hungry seahorse faster than smaller shrimp. So a seahorse that’s scarfing up king-sized Piscine Energetics Mysis relicta does indeed need to eat fewer shrimp than a pony that’s dining on the tiny Hikari Mysis or the miniscule H2O Mini Mysis.
Aside from size, some of the other factors that determine how much a seahorse eats are water temperature, the age of the seahorse, and whether or not it is actively breeding at the moment. The warmer the water temperature (within the seahorse’s comfort zone), the higher it’s metabolism, and the more calories it needs to eat as a result. Young seahorses that are still growing rapidly typically eat more than mature seahorses that have reached their full growth. As you might expect, breeding pairs that are producing brood after brood every few weeks need to eat a lot because so much of their bodily resources go towards producing clutches of eggs or nourishing a pouch full of developing young.
So don’t get hung up trying to count every morsel every seahorse in your tank scarfs down. Just make sure all your seahorses have full bellies at the end of the day, as indicated by their well-rounded abdomens. After a good feeding, the seahorses belly rings should be flush or even slightly convex in cross section when viewed from head on. (We never want to see sunken, severely pinched-in abdomens on our seahorses! Concave belly rings are a sure sign of an underfed seahorse, with the sole exception of a female that has just transferred her eggs.)
So if you want to check whether your seahorses are eating well or not, don’t look at their profile — just examine them head-on and check out their gut. Their abdomens or belly plates should bulge out slightly or at least be flush with their flanks, not pinched in or sunken. In other words, when viewed from the back or from head-on, the cross-section of their abdomens should appear concave "( )" or flush "l l" rather than concave ") (" or pinched in.
In order to enrich it, the frozen Mysis is carefully thawed out and rinsed well to remove any excess shrimp juices, and then a VERY light dusting of the Vibrance is added to the Mysis while they are still just a bit moist. The Vibrance is then gently worked into the frozen Mysis and it usually adheres very well. The end result should be whole, completely intact Mysis shrimp that have acquired a reddish tinge to their head or anterior end. In actual practice, there are probably as many different ways of successfully thawing and enriching frozen Mysis as there are aquarists that use them; most everybody works out their own method of preparing the frozen Mysis that works best for their needs and busy schedule.
Feeding Frozen Mysis
(1) Tips for thawing and enriching frozen Mysis.
In order to prevent wastage and obtain the maximum benefit from this superb food, it must be thawed properly. This is especially important because once the Mysis are fully thawed, they are not refreezable (Adib, 2004). Most hobbyists tend to simply thaw their mysids in aquarium water, which has the virtue of thawing it quickly but is not the best approach. The faster the frozen shrimp is thawed, the more likely it is to be damaged in the process. We want the mysids to remain intact and lifelike; we don’t want the tissue of the Mysis to begin to breakdown in the process of freezing/thawing. The goal is to preserve the Mysis and retain all those precious shrimp juices when we thaw it, not to release their fluids into the aquarium water where it will only degrade the water quality and do your seahorses no good!
So don’t thaw frozen Mysis in 75°F-80°F aquarium water. Don’t nuke it in the microwave to defrost it! And don’t simply toss a chunk of frozen Mysis in your tank and let it float around until it thaws and releases individual mysids!
Nor should you thaw it in tap water, distilled water, or any other source of freshwater. You want to thaw the shrimp in water that is about as salty as their own bodily fluids so there is little or no difference in osmotic pressure. Freshwater will tend to move into the mysids as they thaw and can break down their integument and rupture cell walls as they swell; excessively salty water will tend to draw water out of the Mysis as they thaw, desiccating them in the process. Normal strength seawater is just right for thawing.
So the recommended method for thawing frozen Mysis is to use refrigerated saltwater from your aquarium. Keep a small jug of your artificial saltwater in your refrigerator and reserve this for thawing your mysids (Adib, 2004). Place a couple of ounces of the chilled saltwater in a small cup or similar receptacle and use that to thaw the shrimp. Break off a small chunk from the mass of frozen Mysis — just enough for one feeding or a day’s worth at most (with experience, you will soon learn exactly how much to use) — place it in the cup of saltwater and allow the Mysis to slowly thaw in the refrigerator for 30-45 minutes (Adib, 2004). Then take the cup out of the refrigerator and allow the thawed Mysis to warm up at room temperate for another 15 minutes (Adib, 2004). This method leaves the mysids perfectly intact and lifelike, and produces immaculate shrimp that need no further rinsing. (If you use another method for thawing the Mysis, it’s generally advisable to rinse the thawed shrimp in a brine shrimp net to prevent fouling of the aquarium water.) You are now ready to fortify the Mysis with the enrichment formula of your choice.
Carefully remove the individual thawed mysids from the thawing container using a plastic fork or a toothpick and gently deposit them in the bowl of a plastic spoon. The idea is to handle the shrimp as little as possible during the thawing and enriching process, since rough handling can cause the mysids to break apart. If your enrichment product is in powder form such as Vibrance (which I recommend), take a pinch of the formula, sprinkle it on the Mysis, and mix it in very gently (a plastic knife or similar instrument works well for this step). The orange power will adhere to the moist Mysis, and when you’re done, the head region (cephalothorax) of the mysids should be stained reddish. (If your preferred supplement is a liquid formula, just add a few drops to the Mysis and let it soak in.)
With a little practice, most hobbyists quickly work out their own technique for preparing enriched Mysis. The method outlined above works well for me and many other aquarists, but there are many other ways of defrosting and enriching the Mysis that work equally well. For instance, other hobbyists prefer to add a dusting of enrichment powder (or a few drops of a liquid supplement) to a chunk of frozen Mysis and gently mix it in (or allow it to soak in) as it thaws. One nifty way to do this is to break off my little chunk of frozen shrimp and place it on a square of wax paper, allow it a while to defrost, and then add a pinch of enrichment formula and roll the Mysis and power in the wax paper as though making a cigarette. This technique is trickier and takes a little experience before you can pull it off properly. The thawing and rolling/mixing process must be done very, very carefully or you may crush some of the Mysis and lose a lot of shrimp juice while preparing it. As always, if you’re doing it right, the heads of the individual Mysis shrimp should end up stained red, which is a feeding "trigger" captive-bred chowhounds find hard to resist. With a little practice, you will soon refine your own method for preparing frozen Mysis that works the best for your schedule and the needs of your herd.
But however you prepare it, it’s important to keep the enriched Mysis refrigerated until it’s used, and to use all the Mysis you thawed and enriched within 24 hours. For best results, the enriched Mysis should be used immediately after it’s prepared. Whether it’s been refrigerated or not, avoid using thawed and prepared Mysis that is 2 or 3 days old. We don’t want to offer our seahorses food that might have become laden with bacteria.
(2) When it comes to feeding, give new arrivals time to recover and settle into their new surroundings before you force the issue.
That’s a long haul from Hawaii, and it sometimes take new arrivals a good week or two to settle in, make themselves at home, and start feeding normally afterwards. For that reason, I suggest the hobbyist have a supply of live food on hand whenever acclimating new additions to his herd. The tiny red feeder shrimp from Hawaii (Halocaridina rubra) are ideal for this, but live Gammarus, ghost shrimp, or even adult brine shrimp will do. The live shrimp help them adjust during the initial acclimation period when you first introduce your seahorses to your tank. The live foods will give the new arrivals a head start, help them recover from shipping stress quickly, and get them through the difficult period of adjustment in tiptop condition.
Don’t worry about feeding your seahorses immediately after they arrive. Give them a good 24 hours to adjust and settle down first. After the adjustment period, go ahead and offer some carefully thawed Mysis to your seahorses each day. Many seahorses handle shipping and acclimation with ease and never miss a beat, gobbling up frozen Mysis from Day One. Others will need more time before they feel at home in their new surroundings, and may not feel comfortable enough to accept frozen Mysis from their keeper until a week or two has passed. So keep offering Mysis each day, but feed it sparingly at first and remove any uneaten Mysis after an hour or so. Once the seahorses that start eating the Mysis first have had their fill, add some live feeder shrimp for the others that are lagging behind.
Many times all the seahorses resume feeding on the frozen Mysis right away and the live red feeder shrimp aren’t needed; in that case, simply keep them on hand for use as occasional treats. They last indefinitely in a clean, aerated plastic bucket at room temperature with a pinch of flake food sprinkled in sparingly a few times a week.
Be patient with the ones that seem more reluctant to resume feeding on frozen Mysis. Don’t isolate them from the others, don’t pester them by persistently trying to target feed them at this point, and don’t keep dropping frozen shrimp on their heads! That can spook a high-strung seahorse and stress him out all the more, setting him back further. Just give them time and they will soon join the others, scarfing down frozen Mysis greedily again. This can sometimes take a couple of weeks. (Mature males often lag behind at first; for some reason, they seem to be more shy and retiring than females, which can be quite brazen at times. I suspect this is due to their parental duties — during the breeding season, pair-bonded males are ordinarily ALWAYS pregnant, and they can’t risk exposing their precious cargo to any more risk than absolutely necessary.) Make a note of the reluctant eaters; the ones that are slow to take frozen Mysis now may require target feeding later on.
(3) Be aware of secretive feeders and give them plenty of room at first.
It’s quite common for new arrivals to display shy, secretive behavior. I have found that some of my seahorses, especially newly acquired specimens, are reluctant to eat while they know they are being observed. That doesn’t mean they are starving themselves, however, just that they tend to feed in secret. Rather than feeding from your hand or gobbling up the Mysis when you first offer it, they will prey upon the natural fauna in the tank, slurping up copepods and amphipods from hiding, or snatch up leftover frozen Mysis when they think no one is looking. Some of the seahorses that don’t appear to be eating at first may actually be feeding on the sly.
When that’s the case, it’s best to back off a bit and leave the tank alone as much as possible for the time being. It’s okay to observe the tank discretely but try to avoid flat-nose syndrome, and keep feeding your other specimens as usual, of course, but don’t try to force the issue with the shy ones. Just leave them be, give the seahorses plenty of peace and quiet, and let the secretive feeders adjust to their new environment and get used to the daily routine at their own speed. Before too long, they’ll begin sneaking leftover Mysis when they think you’re not watching and feel safe. Once they feel at home, the shy specimens will start exploring their tank freely and displaying themselves openly. Before you know it, they’ll come to recognize you as their feeder and begin interacting with you at dinnertime. And from there, it’s just one short step until you have them literally eating from your fingers.
(4) Morning feedings are best.
The recommended feeding regimen is to provide each of your seahorses with 4-14 frozen Mysis shrimp daily, enriched with a good food supplement, and then to fast your seahorses entirely once a week. Some hobbyist prefer to give their seahorses two feedings a day, while others prefer to give them their quota of frozen Mysis in one big meal. As long as they get their fill, there is really no right or wrong way to go about this — just do whatever works bests for your seahorses and your schedule.
However, many hobbyists find that their seahorses feed best during the morning, so if you can only feed your seahorses once a day, try to make it a morning meal. Whether it’s their biological clocks, something built into their natural circadian rhythm, or whether they’re simply hungriest shortly after waking up, seahorses do seem to feed more aggressively in the morning, and hobbyists should try to accommodate them, if possible. Breakfast, it seems, is the most important meal of the day for our aquatic equines as well as ourselves.
If you can only manage one feeding a day, DO NOT make it an evening meal. The worst thing you can do is to feed your seahorses late in the day when there will likely still be leftovers remaining at lights out. The uneaten Mysis will begin decaying overnight and put your water quality at risk. Worse still, the next morning, when they are hungriest, your seahorses may discover the bacteria-laden Mysis and snap them up off the bottom. This is an excellent way to spread disease and make your seahorses sick. Feeding your seahorses early in the day, so they have plenty of time to clean up leftovers, is a good way to prevent this. An efficient clean-up crew of scavengers also helps.
(5) Use a feeding station.
Seahorses respond very well when they are fed at the same time and place each day. They quickly learn the routine and will come to recognize their keeper as the one who feeds them — the giver of gourmet delights! Once that happens, they will often beat you to the spot, gathering around their feeding station as soon as they see you approach.
In fact, the aquarist can easily condition his seahorses to come a running at feeding time. Before you open the aquarium cover, make a point of lightly tapping it a few times or rapping on it gently. The seahorses will quickly learn to associate the tapping with the mouthwatering morsels that follow, and before you know it, they will respond by gathering at the feeding station as if you were ringing the dinner bell.
To facilitate this process and make feeding them easier, choose a feeding station that’s convenient for you in a relatively uncluttered part of the aquarium, and give your seahorses their meal right there every day. The feeding station should have some convenient hitching posts situated nearby as well. Avoid using an area where currents might whisk the food away from the seahorses before they can eat it.
I know one hobbyist who uses a toadstool leather coral as his feeding station. He places the Mysis on the bowl-shaped top of the toadstool, which contains them nicely while his seahorses perch around the edges and scarf up the shrimp as if dining at a lunch counter.
Not everyone has a toadstool coral to serve as a natural feeding station, of course, but it’s easy to make your own lunch counter that will work just as well. Get a small Pyrex bowl or a similar shallow container made of clear glass or plastic (a large petri dish works great for this) and fill it about halfway with your tank substrate (Mike Kelly, pers. com.). Then sink the bowl into your sand bed until the substrate you placed in the bowl is level with the substrate in the tank (Mike Kelly, pers. com.). Leave the rim sticking up above the sand bed about a 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch or so (Mike Kelly, pers. com.). The clear glass rim of the bowl is transparent and virtually unnoticeable, so don’t worry that it will detract from the appearance of your display tank. Artfully position a few natural hitching posts around the bowl to provide your seahorses with a handy perch from which to snick up their dinner.
At feeding time, place the frozen Mysis on the sand or gravel inside the bowl. A long tube of clear plastic 1/2′ to 1′ in diameter facilitates this. The bottom of the tube is placed in the middle of the bowl and the enriched Mysis are then placed in the top of the tube, which guides them exactly where you want them as they sink. The rim sticking above the sand bed will then keep the food in place while your seahorses dine at their leisure. Afterwards, any leftovers are neatly contained, making cleanup a breeze!
Or you can always purchase a seahorse feeding station off the shelf, ready to go, as is. Artificial cup coral makes an attractive elevated "lunch counter" that does the job nicely. Elevated on a pedestal, the seahorses can perch around the edge of the cup, which contains the frozen shrimp nicely until eaten. The coral cups are very lifelike and make nifty ready-made feeding stations if positioned at a convenient (for you and your galloping gourmets) spot in your tank where currents won’t whisk the Mysis away.
Another handy item that makes a great ready-made feeding station for seahorses are the conical worm feeders designed for offering bloodworms and tubifex worms to fish. They may require a little modifying since many of them are designed to float. Depending on the type of feeder, you may have to perforate air filled chambers around the collar, weigh it down to submerge it, or cut the conical worm trap free from the rest of the feeder. Worm feeders come with a suction cup, so once you’ve overcome the buoyancy problem, they can be secured anywhere in the aquarium you want, and they work just as well with frozen Mysis as with worms. If you position the conical feeder where a slight current hits it, gently jostling and agitating the frozen Mysis inside, it is even more effective. The flow of water imparts a bit of movement to the frozen Mysis, causing it to twitch or swirl about just a bit periodically inside the feeder. This makes the thawed Mysis look all the more lifelike and quickly attracts the interest of the seahorses. They will gather around the feeder and snick up Mysis through the open top. The conical shape of these feeders contains the frozen Mysis even better than most other feeding stations.
Some hobbyists prefer a more natural looking, aesthetically pleasing feeding station, which they fashion themselves to suit their own tastes. They start with a piece of well-cured live rock that’s approximately the right size and shape, and painstakingly hollow out the center to form a shallow concave depression. This shallow bowl is fashioned by grinding it out, using an electrical moto-tool (available at any craft store or hardware store) with a carbide burr or sometimes even a shop grinder. Once the bowl has been hollowed out, a series of holes are then drilled around the circumference of this depression. Red, brown or purple Gracilaria, green Caulerpa and/or gorgonian branches are planted in these holes to create natural hitching posts. As the macroalgae takes hold and fills out, this produces an attractive feeding station that looks completely natural. It’s a great do-it-yourself project for the handy hobbyist.
An upturned clamshell also makes a nifty natural feeding station that fits in perfectly in your seahorses’ setup. Choose a colorful natural seashell for this, such as one valve of a Tridacna clam or perhaps a Lion’s Paw Scallop shell, and you have an attractive feeding station that’s perfectly appropriate for your tank. The concave interior of the bivalve shell acts as a shallow bowl to contain the frozen Mysis until it’s eaten, and unlike some feeding stations that look out of place and detract from the appearance of your tank, a seashell looks as natural as can be in a marine aquarium. My favorite for this type of feeding station is a medium-sized Abalone shell. The iridescent, opalescent colors of the upturned interior, with its magnificent polished surface of mother-of-pearl, are spectacular! An upturned abalone shell requires no further modification whatsoever, making it the ideal feeding station for the unhandy hobbyist who’s all thumbs.
Other aquarists reserve a small, transparent glass bowl or clear plastic receptacle for feeding their seahorses. They merely place the bowl or plastic container on the bottom of the tank at feeding time, add the enriched Mysis, and let their seahorses gather round and dine at their leisure as though eating from a feeding trough. A few hours later, the feeding container is removed, along with any leftovers. Quick and easy!
For more information, see my article in Conscientious Aquarist which explains exactly how to set up a feeding station and train your seahorses to use a in greater detail.. It’s available online at the following URL:
Click here: Seahorse Feeders
(6) Target feed your seahorses and remove uneaten leftovers promptly.
The individual personalities of seahorses naturally extend to their feeding habits. Some are aggressive feeders that will boldly snatch food from your fingers, while some are shy and secretive, feeding only when they think they’re not being observed. Some like to slurp up Mysis while it’s swirling through the water column, and some will only take Mysis off the bottom of the tank. Some are voracious pigs that greedily scarf up everything in sight, and some are slow, deliberate feeders that painstakingly examine every morsel of Mysis before they accept or reject it. Some eat like horses and some eat like birds. So how does the seahorse keeper make sure all his charges are getting enough to eat at mealtime? How does the hobbyist keep the aggressive eaters from scarfing up all the mouth-watering Mysis before the slower feeders get their fair share? And how can you keep active fishes and inverts with seahorses without the faster fishes gobbling up all the goodies before the slowpoke seahorses can grab a mouthful?
Target feeding is the answer. Target feeding just means offering a single piece of Mysis to one particular seahorse, and then watching to see whether or not the ‘horse you targeted actually eats the shrimp. Feeding each of your seahorses in turn that way makes it easy to keep track of exactly how much each of your specimens is eating.
There are many different ways to target feed seahorses. Most methods involve using a long utensil of some sort to wave the Mysis temptingly in front of the chosen seahorse; once you’re sure this has attracted his interest, the Mysis is released so it drifts down enticingly right before the seahorse’s snout. Most of the time, the seahorse will snatch it up as it drifts by or snap it up as soon as it hits the bottom.
A great number of utensils work well for target feeding. I’ve seen hobbyists use everything from chopsticks to extra long tweezers and hemostats or forceps to homemade pipettes fashioned from a length of rigid plastic tubing. As for myself, I prefer handfeeding when I target feed a particular seahorse.
But no doubt the all-time favorite implement for target feeding seahorses is the old-fashioned turkey baster. The old-fashioned ones with the glass barrels work best because the seahorses can see the Mysis inside the baster all the way as it moves down the barrel and out the tip. By exerting just the right amount of pressure on the bulb, great precision is possible when target feeding with a turkey baster. By squeezing and releasing the bulb ever so slightly, a skillful target feeder can keep a piece of Mysis dancing at the very tip of the baster indefinitely, and hold the tempting morsel right in front of the seahorse’s mouth as long as necessary. Or if the seahorse rejects the Mysis the first time it drifts by, a baster makes it easy to deftly suck up the shrimp from the bottom so it can be offered to the target again. In the same way, the baster makes it a simple matter to clean any remaining leftovers after a feeding session. (You’ll quickly discover the feeding tube is also indispensable for tapping away pesky fish and invertebrates that threaten to steal the tempting tidbit before an indecisive seahorse can snatch it up. And it’s great for tapping on the cover to ringing the dinner bell and summon the diners for their gourmet feast!)
In short, target feeding allows the hobbyist to assure that each of his seahorses gets enough to eat without overfeeding or underfeeding the tank. And it makes it possible to keep seahorses in a community tank with more active fishes that would ordinarily out-compete them for food, since the aquarist can personally deliver each mouthful to the seahorses while keeping more aggressive specimens at bay.
The key to keeping active specimens like firefish or compatible clownfish or cleaner shrimp successfully with seahorses is to feed the other fish and inverts with standard, off-the-shelf aquarium foods first, and once they’ve had their fill, then target feed the seahorses.
(7) If possible, stick with frozen Mysis relicta from Canada.
Although there are several types of frozen Mysis on the market, the deep, cold water habitat and the unique way its captured and prepared makes Mysis relicta far superior to the others for feeding seahorses due to a variety of reasons (nutritional value, each individual shrimp is frozen whole and intact, the most lifelike in appearance, natural odor attractants, etc.). The fatty acid profiles of Mysis relicta are higher than that of enriched brine shrimp and it has more than three times the fatty acid content of ocean krill (Piscine Energetics. 2003). These high levels of fatty acids not only provide seahorses with essential nutrition, but also stimulate a positive feeding response (Piscine Energetics. 2003). Mysis relicta are high in protein and high in animal fat, yet are sodium free. The lack of salt intake is desirable for marine fishes, which are constantly working to expel salt from their bodies (Piscine Energetics. 2003). Suffice it to say that almost all farm-raised seahorses are pretrained to eat frozen Mysis relicta, and that’s the species they will eat the best in the hobbyist’s home aquarium as well.
One big reason for this is Mysis relicta’s highly diversified eating habits. The food chain in the deep, cold waters that this species prefers gives it extremely high levels of EPA and DHA (fatty acids), which are not only important for the nutrition they provide, but also act as natural appetite stimulants, triggering a positive feeding response in seahorses (Piscine Energetics. 2003).
Another reason Mysis relicta is eaten so greedily by seahorses is that it is virtually identical in appearance to the mysids that are a favorite food of all Syngnathids in the wild. Equally important, the Mysis relicta are flash-frozen after harvesting while they are still alive and kicking (Piscine Energetics. 2003). Their lifelike appearance is thus perfectly preserved, and they reach the consumer as whole intact shrimp. This is very important because seahorses accept frozen shrimp much more readily when the eyes and head are intact. I have observed on many occasions that when frozen Mysis are broken and fragmented, as is common with some brands, the seahorses will often eat the anterior portion with the eyes and antennae still present, and totally ignore the rest of the parts. Needless to say, that’s not only wasteful but also bad for your water quality. Mysis relicta thaws as whole, intact, individual shrimp, preventing such problems.
In short, Piscine Energetics frozen Mysis relicta has a superior nutritional profile and is a very desirable food source for large seahorses and other marine fish. But the PE frozen Mysis is by no means a prerequisite for keeping Ocean Rider seahorses. If you find the PE Mysis difficult to obtain locally, your seahorses will be quite content with another good brand of frozen Mysis that is readily available in your area. In fact, young seahorses often prefer the smaller Hikari frozen Mysis until they have grown large enough to handle the jumbo PE frozen Mysis.
I normally obtain my PE frozen Mysis from Premium Aquatics because they offer it online in small quantities, and they offer it graded for size (when they have it in stock, you can obtain either small Piscine Energetics Mysis relicta or the usual king-sized PE Mysis relicta).
If you want to go with the PE Mysis relicta, you can order it online from Premium Aquatics (see link below).
Click here: Frozen Foods: Premium Aquatics
If Premium Aquatics is out of the PE Mysis relicta, which happens at certain times of year, your next best bet is to contact Piscine Energetics and obtain a list of the retail outlets that carry their Mysis relicta, as Leslie explained. Depending on where you live, you may be able to obtain the PE Mysis relicta from a local fish store in your area:
Click here: Mysis Relicta — Natural fish food,for finicky saltwater and freshwater fish, by Piscine Energetics
If piscine energetics frozen Mysis relicta proves to be difficult to obtain in your area, frozen Mysis is available in several different brands from many different sources, and one of the other brands will suffice. Gamma brand frozen Mysis is good, Hikari frozen Mysis is quite acceptable as is San Francisco Bay brand frozen Mysis, and Piscine Energetics frozen Mysis is, of course, perhaps the best in terms of nutritional content and quality control. Your local fish stores should carry one or more of these brands. One way or another, you need to line up a good source of frozen Mysis to serve as the staple, everyday diet for your domesticated seahorses.
(8) Observe fast days and don’t overfeed.
One of the most common mistakes hobbyists make is to overfeed their seahorses. Any excess Mysis that’s not eaten within an hour or two of a feeding can become a threat to your seahorses. Either it will find its way into some inaccessible nook of the aquarium and begin to decay, degrading your water quality, or it may be noticed by a hungry seahorses hours later or perhaps even the next day, and eaten after bacteria have gone to work on it. The best way to avoid such problems is to target feed and remove leftovers promptly, as soon as you’re sure all the seahorses have had their fill. If you can only feed once a day, make it a morning meal before you leave for work, so the seahorses have the rest of the day to glean their leftovers. A good cleanup crew can also help by taking care of any uneaten morsels that slip past the aquarist.
It’s equally important to observe the once-a-week fast day. Fasting helps prevent any potential problems with hepatic lipidosis (fatty liver disease) and keeps your seahorses feeding aggressively rather than losing interest in frozen foods. The problem is that although fasting is very healthy for seahorses on a staple diet of enriched Mysis, it can be very hard on the hobbyist. Here’s how I described this dilemma in a recent aquarium magazine article (Giwojna, Jun. 2002):
"The only thing I don’t like about this extremely nutritious diet is the obligatory fast day. The problem with fasting is that my mustangs don’t seem to realize it’s good for them — that it’s absolutely in their own best interests, essential for their long-term health. Whenever I make an appearance on fast day, they insist on parading back and forth in front of the glass in their greeting colors, begging for a handout. Before my butt hits the upholstery, both of them will be dancing at the feeding station, impatiently awaiting their gourmet shrimp dinner. When it doesn’t materialize, they forlornly abandon their post at the lunch counter, and come up to stare at me through the front glass. When I still don’t take the hint, the female paces back and forth at the front, looking her brightest and most conspicuous, as though trying to attract my attention, while the male reverts to his drab everyday attire and dejectedly resumes his futile vigil at the feeding station. If not for their well-rounded cross-sections, one would think they were dying of hunger, making it difficult to resist their puppy-dog antics. Just sitting there ignoring them makes me feel like a first-class heel. Sheesh — talk about your guilt trips…Dang! I hate fast days."
In short, Kay, I’m thinking that the seahorses’ messy eating habits are largely what is fueling the bacterial bloom, so if you can make a few adjustments in that regard, that may be very helpful in correcting the problem in clearing up the aquarium water. Giving the ponies a little longer to wake up in the morning before the first feeding and then target feeding the seahorses or teaching them to eat from a feeding tray might work wonders in that regard.
Bolstering your cleanup crew can also be useful, and I would suggest adding perhaps a half-dozen Nassarius snails to your tank to help clean up the meatier leftovers.
If you can possibly install a protein skimmer on your aquarium, that can also make a big difference by removing some of the organic wastes from your aquarium before they ever enter the nitrogen cycle, Kay. I know it can be hard to equip hex tanks with protein skimmers because of their unusual shape, but you might ask the guys at your local fish store if they can recommend a good in-tank skimmer that would fit on your 35-gallon hex tank.
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.
Installing a protein skimmer will also increase the aeration and oxygenation in the aquarium, which can be especially beneficial when there is a bacterial bloom. When the bacteria multiply to the extent that they are turning the water cloudy, they are present in vast numbers and can thus the levels of dissolved oxygen in the aquarium and raise the levels of CO2 via their respiration. If a bacterial bloom had occurred and reduced the oxygen levels in the water, it’s possible the seahorses may experience respiratory distress as a result, especially overnight when the dissolved oxygen levels drop further after the lights are turned out.
It was good thinking to perform a 10% water change in your seahorse tank under the circumstances, Kay. But I would go a step further and do another water change of at least 25% as soon as possible in order to further enhance your water quality.
In most cases, the surest way to improve your water quality and correct the water chemistry is to combine a 25%-50% water change with a thorough aquarium clean up. Siphon around the base of your rockwork and decorations, vacuum the top 1/2 inch of the sand or gravel, rinse or replace your prefilter, and administer a general system cleaning. The idea is to remove any accumulated excess organic material in the sand/gravel bed, top of the filter, or tank that could degrade your water quality, serve as a breeding ground for bacteria or a reservoir for disease, or otherwise be stressing your seahorses. [Note: when cleaning the filter and vacuuming the substrate, your goal is to remove excess organic wastes WITHOUT disturbing the balance of the nitrifying bacteria. Do not dismantle the entire filter, overhaul your entire filter system in one fell swoop, or clean your primary filtration system too zealously or you may impair your biological filtration.]
At first glance your aquarium parameters may look great, but there are some water quality issues that are difficult to detect with standard tests, such as a decrease in dissolved 02, transitory ammonia/nitrite spikes following a heavy feeding, pH drift, or the gradual accumulation of detritus. A water change and cleanup is a simple preventative measure that can help defuse those kinds of hidden factors before they become a problem and stress out your seahorses. These simple measures may restore your water quality and correct the source of the stress before your seahorse becomes seriously ill and requires treatment.
Here are some suggestions to keep in mind when you are making water changes in your seahorse tank, Kay. Personally, I really like the convenience of mixing up a relatively large quantity of saltwater in a plastic garbage can, rather than mixing it by the bucket full on a weekly basis. A 30-40 gallon capacity plastic garbage can allows me to mix up enough saltwater for a whole month’s worth of weekly water changes at one time. Which assures that the freshly mixed saltwater will be well aged and thoroughly aerated, and that any chlorine or residual ammonia will have at plenty of time to have dissipated before it’s used. And it also allows you to preadjust the saltwater to match the exact conditions in your aquarium very accurately. It’s always a good idea to keep some premixed saltwater on hand in case of an emergency, when a quick water change becomes necessary.
Water Changing Tips
If you find that performing a major water change seems to cause your seahorses distress, try adjusting your water changing schedule so that you are performing smaller water changes more frequently rather than larger water changes less often. For instance, if you have been performing 20%-25% water changes monthly, switch to administering 5% water changes every week instead. You’ll find the smaller water changes are much less stressful on the aquarium inhabitants.
Be sure to observe all of the usual water changing precautions as well. For example, it’s an excellent idea to use Reverse Osmosis (RO) or Deionized (DI) or RO/DI water for your changes because it’s much more pure than tap water. However, water purified by such methods is very soft and must be buffered before it’s used so it won’t drop the pH in your aquarium when it’s added.
When mixing saltwater for your marine aquarium, it’s important to fill your container with all the water you will need BEFORE adding the salt mix. In other words, if you are mixing up 5 gallons of new saltwater, fill the mixing containing with 5 gallons of water and then add the salt. If you do it the other way around — dump the salt mix in the container and then start filling it with water, the water can become saturated with salt to the point that the calcium precipitates out. This calcium precipitation will turn the water milky and can also lower the pH to dangerous levels.
Water changes can also sometimes be a problem because of the supersaturation of gases in tap water. Tap water distribution systems are maintained under pressure at all times, both to insure adequate flow and to prevent polluted water from outside the pipes from entering in at leaks. Any additional gas introduced into these pipes (from a leaky manifold, for example) will be dissolved at these higher partial pressures, and will often be supersaturated when it emerges from the tap. Also, gases are more soluble in cold water than warm, so when gas-saturated cold water emerges from the tap and warms up in an aquarium, or is warmed up and preadjusted to aquarium temps prior to making a water change, the water can become supersaturated. This must be avoided at all costs because gas supersaturation is one of the contributing factors that can cause Gas Bubble Disease in seahorses and other fish. To prevent this, tap water should be allowed to sit for several days beforehand or gentle aeration can be used to remove gas supersaturation before a water change (just make sure your airstones are not be submerged greater than 18 inches while you’re aerating your freshly mixed water).
There are a few accessories you should keep on hand to make water changing easier: one or more large capacity plastic garbage cans or Rubbermaid vats for mixing up new saltwater; a small powerhead for stirring and circulating the water while it mixes; a submersible heater to adjust the temperature of the newly mixed water; a large diameter siphon hose; a couple of new plastic buckets that hold 3-5 gallons.
First use a clean plastic bucket to fill up the garbage can with 10, 20 or 30 gallons of water or however much you want to mix up at one time. Add the proper amount of artificial salt mix for that much water, and toss your small, cheap powerhead into the garbage can to stir it up. While it’s mixing, put the submersible heater in to adjust the water temp, and add dechlorinator or detox if using tap water (if using reverse osmosis deionized water, or another softened source, be sure to add a pH buffer to the new water). Let the new batch of water mix, aerate, and stabilize for 24-48 hours before you perform the water change and check to make sure the temperature and pH of the new water matches your aquarium. Some artificial salt mixes produce residual amounts of ammonia when newly mixed; aerating the freshly mixed saltwater for 24-48 hours will dissipate and remaining traces of chlorine or ammonia.
If you follow the steps outlined above when mixing up new saltwater prior to performing a water change, the water cannot become saturated with salts, the calcium will not precipitate out, the newly mixed saltwater will be crystal clear and the water exchange should go smoothly.
For best results for seahorses, the home hobbyist should 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 = 8.2 – 8.4
Ammonia = 0
Nitrite = 0
Nitrate = 0-20 ppm; optimum 0-10 ppm
I know the 5-in-1 test strips you have been using are easy and convenient, but they are not particularly accurate or reliable, Kay. When you have a chance, I suggest that you pick up a better set of basic test kits to monitor conditions in your aquarium, and keep track of the water quality. The basic test kits you’ll need to keep track of the aquarium parameters are ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, and pH plus a hydrometer to check specific gravity and an aquarium thermometer (if you don’t have one already). You’ll need to get separate test kits for ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate, and pH, and I recommend Aquarium Pharmaceuticals or Salifert kits for saltwater, which are fairly economical. I also like the SeaTest hydrometers — convenient, easy to read, and relatively reliable, if used properly. Here’s a list of better test kits to consider:
Ammonia test kit for saltwater (by Aquarium Pharmaceuticals);
Nitrite test kit for saltwater (by Aquarium Pharmaceuticals);
Nitrate test kit for saltwater (by Aquarium Pharmaceuticals);
pH test kit for saltwater (by Aquarium Pharmaceuticals);
or the Salifert Nitrogen Cycle Package of test kits (Ammonia, Nitrite, Nitrate, & pH)
Click here: Salifert Test Kits:
The SeaTest hydrometer has a simple swing arm to measure the specific gravity of the aquarium and allow you to see how salty it is. You just fill the hydrometer with aquarium water, tap it to make sure there are not any air bubbles clinging to the swing arm, and the pointer will then indicate the current specific gravity in the aquarium. A reading of anywhere between 1.022-1.026 is acceptable, with 1.0245 being optimal.
The test kits I mentioned above for ammonia, nitrite, nitrate and pH are simple-to-use colorimetric tests. You just fill a small vial with aquarium water, add the prescribed amount of drops from the test solution, shake the vial until it changes color, and then compare the color of the water with a color comparison chart after waiting a certain amount of time in order to determine the level of ammonia or nitrite or nitrate or pH of the water.
Here is some additional information about these basic water quality parameters that explains why it’s important to test them regularly and points out the proper level to maintain in your aquarium:
Basic Water Quality Parameters.
Ammonia (NH3/NH4+): Optimum level = 0 at all times
Ammonia is highly toxic to both fish and invertebrates in even small amounts (> 0.01 mg/L or ppm). Causes of ammonia toxicity include: immature biofilter (new tank syndrome), impairment of the biological filtration due to antibiotics and other medications, overfeeding, overstocking and dead specimens that go undetected (Webber, 2004).
Nitrite (N02): Optimum level = 0 at all times
Nitrite is slightly less poisonous to fishes than ammonia, but deadly to many invertebrates at very small concentrations (0.01 mg/L or ppm). Even trace amounts of nitrite such as this can wreak havoc in a reef tank and cause serious distress to fish. High levels of nitrite result from the same causes as ammonia.
Nitrate (N03): Optimum level = below 20 ppm in fish-only tanks; 0 ppm in reef tanks.
Nitrate is the end product of the process of nitrification, formed during the Nitrogen Cycle by the oxidation of nitrite by aerobic bacteria. Nitrate is relatively nontoxic to fishes, but elevated levels (> 20 ppm) are stressful to seahorses over the long term and promote the growth of nuisance algae. Reef invertebrates can be much more sensitive to nitrate, and concentrations as low as 0.06 mg/L can cause problems for symbiotic stony corals. The nitrate level is therefore a good indicator of water quality. For best results, consider using live rock and/or a live sand bed (preferably situated in your sump) in conjunction with a good protein skimmer to help filter your seahorse setup. The skimmer will remove excess organic compounds before they enter the nitrogen cycle, and live rock and a deep sand bed will provide significant denitrification ability, all of which will help keep your nitrates down. Don’t overstock, don’t overfed, remove leftovers promptly (a good cleanup crew is useful here), grow and harvest macroalgae, practice good aquarium maintenance and maintain a sensible schedule for water changes.
pH: Optimum level = ~8.2 (typically fluctuates between 7.9 at night and 8.4 during the day)
The pH is a measurement of the alkalinity or acidity of aquarium water. A pH of 7 is considered to be "neutral," neither acid or alkaline, while pH levels above 7 are considered to be alkaline or "base," and pH levels below 7 are considered to be acidic. Marine aquaria need to maintain alkaline conditions at all times, and low pH (< 7.6) is especially detrimental to seahorses because it is conducive to Gas Bubble Disease. Normal daily fluctuations in pH are to be expected in the aquarium, and are generally gradual enough not to be stressful (Webber, 2004). Maintaining a sump or refugium with a reverse photoperiod to the main tank can eliminate these natural pH cycles. Regular partial water changes are the key to maintaining stable pH. Buffers can also help but the hobbyist should beware that excessive use of pH buffers may increase KH values to dangerously high levels.
Specific Gravity: Optimum level = 1.022 – 1.025
The specific gravity measures the density of a your aquarium water relative to the density of distilled water, and aquarists use it to estimate the salinity of their aquarium water (Trevor-Jones, Dec. 2002). In effect, it’s one way to measure the saltiness of your tank, since the more salt that is dissolved in the water, the denser it becomes. This can also be done by measuring the total amount of dissolved solids in the water, which is expressed as the salinity in parts per thousand (ppt). Hobbyists must remember that constant evaporation of freshwater from the aquarium causes the salts to become more concentrated, which increases the specific gravity or salinity accordingly. Therefore, it is necessary to top off the tank with freshwater regularly in order to make up for evaporation and maintain the desired specific gravity. Seahorses tolerate a wide range of salinity very well and hyposalinity (specific gravity at 1.011-1.015) is often used to help rid them of ectoparasites.
Finally, Kay, since you are inexperienced marine aquarist and this is your first attempt at keeping seahorses, I would also like you to obtain a copy of "The New Marine Aquarium" by Michael Paletta and read through it carefully. You can borrow a copy from your local library or purchase the book from any major bookseller. That’s an excellent book for beginners that will give you a much better understanding of the basic principles involved in maintaining a successful marine aquarium.
Best of luck with your new seahorse tank, Kay. Here’s hoping the water clears up quickly and you have no further difficulties in that regard.
Post edited by: Pete Giwojna, at: 2008/06/11 22:04June 12, 2008 at 6:02 am #4258kkinseyGuest
just want to thank you very much for taking the time to reply to all my questions!!! my tank is looking so much better!!!! i can at least see from side to side from a distance now, still would love for it to be a lot more clear, but i am sure that will happen soon enough.
their breathing seems to "look" more normal, that is wonderful!!!unfortunately due to the fast water pressure and suction when i have the filter set at full speed i have lost another small one; i guess with the lights out and the speed combined it could not see to stay away.
still trying to figure out the best way to start the change in feeding. but will get there soon enough.
i do have two other tanks (small—1 1/2 gallon and 5 gallon) are they acceptable to use as dr tanks? they have actually been set up since march, but do not have live sand or rock
i am about to start moving into a bigger apartment, how’s the best way to move this 35 gallon tank? i was thinking put the seahorses in a container using some of the water in the tank, then transfer the water that is in the tank into containers—move the aquarium and then put the water back in the tank.
this is the way we move our 55 gallon freshwater tank and fish.
thanks again for all the help,
kayJune 12, 2008 at 10:36 pm #4262Pete GiwojnaGuest
That’s a good sign that your 35-gallon hex tank is starting to clear up. I think you’re on the right track now.
Yes, your five-gallon aquarium could be used as a hospital tank, if necessary.
Live sand and live rock are not necessary in a hospital tank. A bare-bottomed aquarium with plenty of hitching posts will suffice for a hospital ward or 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 but which can hold activated carbon or polyfilter pads when it’s time to pull the meds out. It’s important for the hospital ward to include enough hitching posts so that the seahorse won’t feel vulnerable or exposed during treatment. Aquarium safe, inert plastic plants or homemade hitching posts fashioned from polypropylene rope or twine that has been unraveled and anchored at one end are excellent for a hospital tank. No aquarium reflector is necessary. Ambient room light will suffice. (Bright lights can breakdown and inactivate certain medications and seahorses are more comfortable and feel more secure under relatively dim lighting.)
So just a bare tank with hitching posts is all you need for your hospital ward. No heater. No reflector. No lights. No substrate. You can even do without the sponge filters or external filter in your case, just adding a couple of airstones to provide surface agitation and oxygenation. That’s it.
In a pinch, a clean 5-gallon plastic bucket (new and unused, NOT an old scrub bucket!) can serve as a makeshift hospital tank. It should be aerated and equipped with hitching posts and perhaps a heater, but nothing else. This makes a useful substitute when the Quarantine Tank is occupied or in use and a seahorse needs treatment.
Stay on top of water quality in the hospital tank/bucket with water changes as often as needed during treatment, and and when you are treating the occupants for a health problem, re-dose with the medication(s) according to directions after each water change
Yes, the same techniques used to move your 55-gallon freshwater aquarium should be equally effective for relocating your 35-gallon hex tank marine aquarium, Kay.
Here are some additional tips for handling the seahorses during the move and more information on transporting an aquarium safely.
If your seahorses are mated pairs, then it would be best to use larger shipping bags and confine the pairs together two at a time while you make the move, rather than separating the pair bonded seahorses, which is always stressful for them. In that case, you won’t need to include anything for them to use as a hitching post since they will intertwine their tails and cling to one another for support.
If your seahorses are not mated pairs, then I would bag them up singly to minimize the amount of metabolic wastes that accumulate in the bags while en route. Don’t include a piece of wood or any other rigid objects as a hitching post for them to anchor to — it’s very important to avoid putting any rigid objects or objects with sharp edges in the shipping bag due to the danger that it could cause a leak while they were being transported. You don’t want to risk losing your seahorses because their shipping bag was punctured en route and all of the water leaked out!
If you want to include a hitching post for your singles, just a sprig of Caulerpa will work well. Or you could use a length of flexible airline tubing that you have formed into a closed loop using a small section of rigid airline tubing to join the ends together. Otherwise, bag up the solos without any sort of hitching post. They will be better off without anything to anchor to than they would be if you included solid objects that could possibly puncture the shipping bag.
When it comes to moving the aquarium, Kay, I have to warn you that moving a fish tank from one location to another is a major undertaking that requires careful planning and a great deal of time and effort. Even relocating a small aquarium from one room to another is a painstaking task that can take all day to accomplish, let alone transporting a larger aquarium across town or across the country. Aquariums are fragile objects that were never meant to be portable.
But I know you’re up to the task and there are a couple of other suggestions I would like to share with you that can make the job a lot easier and safer. A good place to start is by reviewing the article in Conscientious Aquarist by Amy Janacek titled "Moving and Transporting Your Livestock and Tanks," which is available online at the following URL:
At the end of the article, you will find links for further discussions on the subject of moving and relocating an aquarium that should also be helpful. After checking out Amy’s article and the relevant discussions, you should be able to tackle the job of moving your aquariums confidently!
Best of luck moving into the larger apartment, Kay!
Pete GiwojnaJune 13, 2008 at 2:17 am #4263kkinseyGuest
thanks again! although the 35 gallon tank is somewhat more clear than it has been should i worry about the ( i don’t know how to explain it) "fog"up close to the top of the water, or am i just being perinoid? i moved the tiny seahorse into my 1 1/2 gallon tank so that i can keep the filter moving fast. good or bad idea?
is it ok for the water to move this fast, the seahorses don’t seem to move around as often with it so fast. i turn it down to feed, and up at night and while i am at work. when i turn the lights on the two males are usually different colors than while the lights are on. almost transparent, is this ok? i tried the target feeding this morning after turning the light on about 45 minutes beforehand, i could only get one of the males to eat like that. and have not been able to observe the females eat at all. the bigger male eats off the bottom randomly.
but will continue to experiment with the feeding task.
sorry to be a pain, just want to do the best things to keep this batch.
thank you lots,
kayJune 13, 2008 at 2:24 am #4264kkinseyGuest
one more question: i am thinking about taking my 10 gallon tank down, only have a petra clown fish and a sanddrifting starfish left in it. would it be too much to put them in with the seahorses? or should i not.June 14, 2008 at 4:10 am #4265Pete GiwojnaGuest
I’m not sure what you mean when you say the tank is a little foggy up close to the top of the water. Normally, a well-filtered marine aquarium is crystal clear from top to bottom, so I would be concerned if there is still some cloudiness near the surface of the aquarium. If it’s due to a bacterial bloom, it should eventually disappear on its own as you control the excess nutrients in the water through the changes you made when feeding the seahorses. The good circulation should help, particularly if there is adequate surface agitation.
Yes, I think it was a good idea to transfer your tiny seahorse to these smaller aquarium if he was having difficulty coping with the current in the main tank. When he grows up a little and puts on a little more size, you can return him to the main tank with the rest of the herd.
There is a good way to determine if the water flow from your filter is too strong for the seahorses or not, Kay. All you have to do is collect the outflow from your Whisper filter where it normally enters the aquarium. Collect all of the water that is throwing through the Whisper for 30 seconds, measure the volume of water that you collected, and then multiply that by 120. That will give you the actual flow rate for 60 minutes or one hour, with no guesswork involved. Then you can divide that number by the capacity of your aquarium to see how many times the tank is being turned over every hour.
For example, if the Whisper filter puts out 1-1/2 gallons of water in 30 seconds, multiply that by 120 and you see that the filter is pumping out 180 gallons per hour (1.5 x 120 = 180). Then if you divide 180 by the capacity of your hex tank, you’ll see that the whisper filter would be turning over the entire volume of your aquarium a little over five times every hour (180/35 = ~5). In this example, that would be just about the perfect amount of circulation for your seahorse tank.
You ordinarily want the filtration on a seahorse tank to be turning over the entire volume of the aquarium 3-5 times every hour. Personally, I would say that your seahorse tank is under circulated if it doesn’t turn over the entire volume of the aquarium at least five times an hour. So for your 35-gallon aquarium, you want the output from your filter/water pump to be at least 175 gallons per hour, in my estimation.
If the filtration produces turnover rates considerably in excess of five times the volume of the tank every hour, then you need to start to be concerned about generating too much water flow and too much current for the seahorses. If you have a spray bar return or waterfall return that diffuses the output from the filter, then you can achieve turnover rates of 10 times the total water volume of the aquarium every hour without producing too much turbulence and overpowering the seahorses in a tall tank. But if you don’t have a spray bar return or waterfall return that splashes the output from the filter into the aquarium and attenuates the water flow, then turning over the volume of your aquarium much more than 5 times every hour may produce currents that can overwhelm the limited swimming ability of the seahorses, so be careful about increasing the turnover rate too much.
Here’s what I normally advise hobbyists with regard to the water movement in their seahorse tanks, Kay:
Time and time again I find that home hobby tanks have far too little water movement. In my experience, most seahorse setups are chronically undercirculated, a serious mistake for small, closed-systems aquaria, and our pampered pets often suffer as a result. Many hobbyists are overly conscious of the seahorse’s inactive life style and limited swimming ability, and have adjusted their flow rates accordingly, resulting in less water movement than desirable. 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! Avoid dead spots and stagnant areas at all costs.
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:
"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. In setting up a tank for them I try to remember the feeling I had in those areas and replicate them. (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 give them the same environmental conditions in captivity? Our small tanks (90 gallons) also have large turnovers on an average of 5 gpm (or 300 gph). It is very important that the current is steady and directional constant, which allows the animals to find a good spot to hold and they will not be pulling in different directions all the time."
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. I cannot emphasize that enough.
For example, in addition to an external power filter, my SHOWLR system 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 probably undercirculated. With a spray bar return raised above the surface of the water to diffuse the outflow, you can achieve turnover rates of several times that much 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.
But 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 a 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 downcurrent 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.
In short, there is a fairly simple way to roughly determine whether or not the water movement and circulation in your aquarium is adequate. As a general rule of thumb, if your filter/pump(s) are not turning over the entire volume of your seahorse tank at least 3-5 times per hour, then the aquarium is under circulated. So just take the number of gallons per hour that your filter/pump/powerheads move and divide that by the capacity of your aquarium, and you can get a rough gauge of where things stand. Ideally, that calculation will come out to be 5 or above; if not, you can probably stand to increase the water flow a bit, and if the figure works out to be less than three, then you definitely need to step up the circulation. Likewise, if the number comes out to be considerably greater than 5, then you probably need to tone down the water movement somewhat, especially if you don’t have a spray bar return or waterfall return that diffuses the output from the filter. Remember, adequate surface agitation to promote efficient oxygenation and gas exchange at the air/water interface is just as important as the overall water movement.
Keep working on your target feeding technique, Kay. Once the seahorses learn to associate your baster with their gourmet Mysis shrimp, it’s easy to lead them to the feeding station and train them to take their meals from the feeding tray. Be sure to turn down the circulation on your filter while the seahorses are feeding.
I wouldn’t transfer the percula clownfish (Amphiprion percula) and the sand sifting starfish to your 35-gallon hex tank at this time. They clownfish will compete with the seahorses for the frozen Mysis, which will complicate things at feeding time. That’s not what you want when you are still in the process of training your seahorses to accept target feeding or to eat from a feeding station. And it wouldn’t be prudent to add any more specimens to an aquarium that is experiencing a bacterial bloom and still has not yet completely adjusted to the increased bioload from all of the seahorses. For these reasons, I would not add any more specimens to your 35 hex tank for the time being.
Best wishes with all your fishes, Kay!
Pete GiwojnaJune 15, 2008 at 10:53 pm #4272kkinseyGuest
once again i truly appreciate your advice!!!!! the local fish store here just recently changed owners; and i spent several hours talking with the new owner the other day. i took some water from my tank to them to check, he said it was perfect, so there had to be another problem. i let him know what you said about my feeding technique; he agreed that i may be overfeeding. also he tested my salt level and it was WAY too low, i have since added the appropriate amount of salt due to the hydrometer i bought from him to test the salt and my tank is ever so much better looking!!!!!!!!!! i cut back to feeding once a day. unfortunately; i lost all the little ones and two of the bigger ones in this process. so i have learned a great lesson and am eager to do better!! don’t think i have any "mated" pairs yet, but do have 3 female and 2 male. as i bought 3 more seahorses yesterday. so i now have 5 all together. anxious to see if i can get them to mate and breed now.
thank you for everything!!!!!!!!!
kayJune 20, 2008 at 6:23 am #4283kkinseyGuest
is it normal for the seahorses to shake? not real sure that the local fish store really knows what to tell me. guess i ask too many questions. i am very grateful to you for all your help!!!!!!!! sorry for the inconvience.
sincerely, kayJune 20, 2008 at 11:03 pm #4284Pete GiwojnaGuest
When they are courting, seahorses will on rare occasions perform a display known as reciprocal quivering, but I don’t think that’s what you mean when you ask whether or not seahorses "shake." Can you describe the shaking that you are concerned about in more detail, as well as any other unusual symptoms you may have noticed in your seahorses? How long does the shaking last and how often does it occur? Do you ever see the seahorses attempting to scratch themselves with their tails or rubbing up against hitching posts or other objects in the tank as though they are irritated?
How is their breathing rate? Have you noticed any huffing or labored breathing or rapid respirations or other signs of respiratory distress? How is their appetite? Are the seahorses still eating normally?
Also, please check your water quality parameters again immediately and advise me what your current readings are for the following:
Ammonia (NH3/NH4+) =
Nitrite (N02) =
Nitrate (N03) =
specific gravity or salinity =
water temperature =
I need more information about your current aquarium conditions and water chemistry to see if anything is amiss and should be adjusted, and they need to know more about the seahorses behavior to determine if the shaking is problematic and the seahorses should be treated.
Please get back to me as soon as possible with the additional information, and with a better description, it should be able to tell you if the shaking is an indication of courtship or a symptom of a health problem.
Pete GiwojnaJune 29, 2008 at 5:27 am #4300kkinseyGuest
im sorry for the delay in getting back to you. the seahorses that seem to shake a bit occasionally, i have now had two weeks; seems better. it doesn’t happen real often, and yes at one point i did see one use its tail and rub its face. their breathing seems normal to me but right before the shake happens it looks as though she lets out a big gasp of air her snout opens all the way. just watching really closely. their eating habits are good. and the tanks water quality is good as well salt level is 1.026 and the nitrate are normal and the ph is good and the amonia level is all wher it should be according to my tester and the local fish stores calculations. still a tad puzzled; maybe i am just perinoid as a result of losing so many before. thanks for your time once again, sincerely kayJuly 1, 2008 at 11:08 pm #4307Pete GiwojnaGuest
Thank you for getting back to me with the additional information.
No, I don’t think you’re just being paranoid at all. The yawning behavior that precedes the shaking, and the attempts to scratch her head using her tail suggest a potential problem with ectoparasites or gill flukes. The shaking and scratching are a response to an irritation, and most of the time external parasites are the cause of the irritation.
But the trend is good — the fact that the seahorses are shaking less often now and that the scratching is very sporadic indicates that the situation is stable or perhaps improving.
If the shaking or scratching persists, I am going to recommend a simple treatment consisting of a freshwater dip followed by an extremely brief dip in methylene blue for the affected seahorses. This can help cleanse them from ectoparasites or gill flukes and provide them with some immediate relief.
Here are the instructions for performing the dips, if necessary, Kay:
Step 1 — Freshwater Dip
A freshwater dip is simply immersing your seahorse in pure, detoxified freshwater that’s been preadjusted to the same temp and pH as the water the seahorse is accustomed to, for a period of at least 10 minutes (Giwojna, Dec. 2003). It doesn’t harm them — seahorses typically tolerate freshwater dips exceptionally well and a 10-minute dip should be perfectly safe. Freshwater dips are effective because marine fish tolerate the immersion in freshwater far better than the external parasites they play host to; the change in osmotic pressure kills or incapacitates such microorganisms within 7-8 minutes (Giwojna, Dec. 2003). A minimum dip, if the fish seems to be doing fine, is therefore 8 minutes. Include some sort of hitching post in the dipping container and shoot for the full 10 minutes with your seahorses (Giwojna, Dec. 2003).
If you will be using tap water for the freshwater dip, be sure to dechlorinate it beforehand. This can be accomplished usually one of the commercial dechlorinators, which typically include sodium thiosulfate and perhaps a chloramine remover as well, or by aerating the tap water for at least 24 hours to dissipate the chlorine (Giwojna, Dec. 2003).
If you dechlorinate the dip water with a sodium thiosulfate product, be sure to use an airstone to aerate it for at least one hour before administering the dip. This is because the sodium thiosulfate depletes the water of oxygen and the dip water must therefore be oxygenated before its suitable for your seahorse(s). Regardless of how you detoxify the freshwater for the dip, it’s important to aerate the water in the dipping container well beforehand to increase the level of dissolved oxygen in the water. Many hobbyists leave the airstone in the dipping container throughout the procedure.
Adjusting the pH of the water in the dipping container so that it matches the pH of the water in the aquarium is a crucial step. Ordinary baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) will suffice for raising the pH of the water. If there is too much of a difference in the pH, there is a possibility the seahorse could go into shock during the dipping procedure. Preadjusting the pH will prevent that from happening. If you will are unsure about your ability to accurately adjust the pH in the dipping container, avoid this procedure altogether or be prepared to monitor the seahorse very carefully or shorten the duration of the tip to no more than about 4 minutes.
Observe the horse closely during the dip. You may see some immediate signs of distress or shock. Sometimes the horse will immediately lie on its side on the bottom. That’s a fairly common reaction — normal and to be expected, rather than a cause for concern, so don’t be alarmed if this happens. Just nudge or tap the seahorse gently with your finger if it lies down on its side. Normally, the seahorse will respond to the slight nudge by righting itself again and calm down for the duration of the dip. However, if it does not respond, stop the treatment.
Most seahorses tolerate the treatment well and experience no problems, but if you see continued signs of distress — twitching, thrashing around etc. — stop the treatment.
After you have completed the dips and returned the seahorses to the aquarium, save the dip water and examine it closely for any sign of parasites. The change in osmotic pressure from saltwater to freshwater will cause ectoparasites to lyse (i.e., swell and burst) or drop off their host after 7-10 minutes, and they will be left behind in the dipping water. Protozoan parasites are microscopic and won’t be visible to the naked eye, but some of the other ectoparasites can be clearly seen. For example, monogenetic trematodes will appear as opaque sesame seeds drifting in the water (Giwojna, Aug. 2003) and nematodes may be visible as tiny hairlike worms 1/16-3/16 of an inch long. Other parasites may appear as tiny dots in the water. Freshwater dips can thus often provide affected seahorses with some immediate relief by ridding them of these irritating pests and can also aid their breathing by flushing out gill parasites.
Step 2 — Methylene Blue.
Follow the 10-minute freshwater dip with a very brief (5-10 seconds — no more than 10 seconds maximum) dip in a solution of methylene blue between 30-50 ppm, as described below. Prepare the solution of methylene blue using saltwater from your seahorses tank ahead of time, before you do the freshwater dip, so you can dip the affected seahorses in the meth blue for 5-10 seconds one by one right after you have given each of them their freshwater dip. Time that very short Methylene blue dip closely — keep the seahorse in your hand while you dip her in the blue so there’s no fumbling around to capture her when time’s up — pull her out after 5-10 seconds and immediately return her to the main tank with the other seahorses afterwards.
If you can obtain the Kordon brand of Methylene Blue (available at most well-stocked local fish stores), their suggested treatment protocol for treating external parasites as a dip is as follows:
For use as a dip for treatment of external parasitic protozoans:
(a) Prepare a nonmetallic container of sufficient size to contain the fish to be treated by adding water similar to the original aquarium.
(b) Add 5 teaspoons (24.65 ml) per 3 gallons of water. This produces a concentration of 50 ppm. It is not recommended that the concentration be increased beyond 50 ppm.
(c) Place fishes to be treated in this solution for no longer than 10 seconds.
(d) Return fish to original aquarium.
See the following link for more information on treating with Kordon’s Methylene Blue:
Click here: KPD-28 Methylene Blue
If your methylene blue is not Kordon (KPD-28) Methylene Blue, Kay, then disregard the instructions above and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for using your brand as a bath or dip instead.
Methylene blue transports oxygen and aids breathing. It facilitates oxygen transport, helping fish breathe more easily by converting methemoglobin to hemoglobin — the normal oxygen carrying component of fish blood, thus allowing more oxygen to be carried through the bloodstream. This makes it very useful for treating gill infections, low oxygen levels, or anytime your seahorses are breathing rapidly and experiencing respiratory distress. This makes it a very helpful medication to use its gill parasites or gill flukes are affecting the breathing of the seahorses. It is the drug of choice for treating hypoxic emergencies of any kind with your fish.
In addition, methylene blue treats fungus and some bacteria and protozoans. Methylene blue is effective in preventing fungal infections, and it has antiprotozoal and antibacterial properties as well, by virtue of its ability to bind with cytoplasmic structures within the cell and interfere with oxidation-reduction processes. In short, methylene blue is a "must" for the seahorse keeper’s fish-room medicine cabinet.
Hopefully, the freshwater dip followed by the 5-10 second dip in methylene blue will relieve the seahorses’ irritation and put a stop to the shaking and scratching once and for all. If not, we can treat your seahorse tank with a good antiparasitic (e.g., praziquantel, Parinox, or metronidazole) or hyposalinity, if the problem persists.
Here are some precautions to keep in mind when handling the seahorses for the dips:
I do not like to use an aquarium net to transfer or manipulate seahorses, since their delicate fins and snouts can become entangled in the netting all too easily. I much prefer to transfer the seahorses by hand. Simply wet your hand and fingers (to avoid removing any of the seahorse’s protective slime coat) and scoop the seahorses in your hand. Allow them to curl their tail around your fingers and carefully cup their bodies in your hand to support them while you lift them out of the water. When you gently immerse your hand in the destination tank, the seahorse will release its grip and swim away as though nothing out of the ordinary has happened.
Composed of solid muscle and endowed with extraordinary skeletal support, the prehensile tail is amazingly strong. Indeed, large specimens have a grip like an anaconda, and when a 12-inch ingens or abdominalis wraps its tail around your hand and tightens its hold, its vise-like grip is powerful enough to leave you counting your fingers afterwards!
In fact, it can be quite difficult to remove an attached seahorse from its holdfast without injuring it in the process. Never attempt to forcibly detach a seahorse from its hitching post! When it feels threatened, it’s instinct is to clamp down and hold on all the tighter. When you must dislodge a seahorse from its resting place for any reason, it’s best to use the tickle technique instead. Gently tickling the underside of the tail where it’s wrapped around the object will usually induce the seahorse to release its grip (Abbott, 2003). They don’t seem to like that at all, and will quickly let go to move away to another spot. Once they are swimming, they are easy to handle.
I would also like you to acquire your own set of test kits so that you can monitor your water chemistry at home, Kay, rather than bringing water samples into your local fish store to be analyzed. If you’re going to be keeping a saltwater aquarium, you really need to have all of the basic test kits and use them regularly in order to maintain the water quality parameters within the recommended range. When a problem arises, you need to be able to determine immediately if the water chemistry is off so that you can respond right away and correct the problem as quickly as possible. That’s not practical if you need to run a water sample down to your LFS, which isn’t always open (emergencies always seem to arise after business hours or on the holidays), and many times delaying the necessary adjustments or treatments can have fatal consequences for the fish.
Test Kits to Monitor Water Quality
If you don’t already have them, you’re going to need to obtain a set of basic test kits in order to cycle your new tank, monitor conditions in your aquarium, and keep track of the water quality. The basic test kits you’ll need to keep track of the aquarium parameters are ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, and pH plus a hydrometer to check specific gravity and an aquarium thermometer (if you don’t have one already). You’ll need to get separate test kits for ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate, and pH, and I recommend Aquarium Pharmaceuticals or Salifert kits for saltwater, which are fairly economical. I also like the SeaTest hydrometers — convenient, easy to read, and relatively reliable, if used properly. Here’s a list of what you’ll need for starters:
Ammonia test kit for saltwater (by Aquarium Pharmaceuticals);
Nitrite test kit for saltwater (by Aquarium Pharmaceuticals);
Nitrate test kit for saltwater (by Aquarium Pharmaceuticals);
pH test kit for saltwater (by Aquarium Pharmaceuticals);
or the Salifert Nitrogen Cycle Package of test kits (Ammonia, Nitrite, Nitrate, & pH)
Click here: Salifert Test Kits:
The SeaTest hydrometer has a simple swing arm to measure the specific gravity of the aquarium and allow you to see how salty it is. You just fill the hydrometer with aquarium water, tap it to make sure there are not any air bubbles clinging to the swing arm, and the pointer will then indicate the current specific gravity in the aquarium. A reading of anywhere between 1.022-1.026 is acceptable, with 1.0245 being optimal.
The test kits I mentioned above for ammonia, nitrite, nitrate and pH are simple-to-use colorimetric tests. You just fill a small vial with aquarium water, add the prescribed amount of drops from the test solution, shake the vial until it changes color, and then compare the color of the water with a color comparison chart after waiting a certain amount of time in order to determine the level of ammonia or nitrite or nitrate or pH of the water. You will be using the ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate regularly while your aquarium cycles in order to keep track of the cycling process, as explained below:
A test kit to measure the levels of dissolved oxygen is also useful for seahorse keepers. The Tetra Oxygen Test Kit (TetraTest 02) is a good liquid reagent test kit for fresh or saltwater with simple color scales for comparing readings that tests for 02 in the range of 2-14 ppm (the optimum dissolved O2 level is 6-7 ppm). It will cost you between $8.50 to $14 depending on where you shop and should be available at any well-stocked LFS. Salifert also makes a nice 02 Test Kit (their 02 Profi-Test) that will run you about $20.
Also, Kay, please do look up copies of The New Marine Aquarium by Michael: that I recommended in my earlier post as soon as possible. It will be enormously helpful in helping you to maintain a successful marine aquarium.
Best wishes with all your fishes, Kay!
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