- This topic has 5 replies, 3 voices, and was last updated 17 years, 5 months ago by Pete Giwojna.
September 14, 2006 at 8:39 pm #929stephanie_71982Member
my name is stephanie, and i am going to be getting seahorses soon,right now i am in the learning side of things..i dont even know if i am doing this right..i havent bought my tank yet,but i have been looking..i have seen a few 30 and 45 gal tanks that are tall but other than that i havent been able to find any taller tanks..can you help with this..also i need to know how to set up a saltwater tank as far as where do i get the live sand and salt,,also i need info on the filteration system whats best for sea horses and can i have star fish with them..i am just really green and reaaly scared..this has been a dream of mine since i was a little girl and its about to happen as soon as i can figure out the rigth way to do this ..i am so nervous..i am sorry if i dont make much sense right now i am just so excited..please help me if you can..any help will be greatly appreciated.. thanks.. sincerely stephanie.[b]September 14, 2006 at 10:39 pm #2861Pete GiwojnaGuest
Welcome aboard! We’d be happy to help you get started off on the right foot in your quest for more information on the care and keeping of seahorses, so just relax and take all the time you need to build up a solid foundation of knowledge about these amazing aquatic equines so that your confidence level is high when you finally take the plunge.
As for the proper aquarium for your seahorse setup, it’s generally best to start out with the largest tank you can reasonably afford and maintain, the taller the better, in order to provide yourself with a comfortable margin for error if these will be our first seahorses, Stephanie. Most any tank that’s 50 gallons or above should have sufficient height for seahorses, but if you’re looking for something a little smaller, I would suggest the 30 gallon Extra-High All-Glass Aquarium (24“L x 12“W x 24“H). Any local fish store can order one for you and it’s an economical tank with excellent height for seahorses at 24-inches tall. You can then equip it with a simple, standard, off-the-shelf glass cover and an ordinary off-the-shelf strip reflector with a daylight florescent bulb, and that can form the basis of an inexpensive yet solid seahorse setup.
The type of filtration you add to the aquarium will depend to some extent on the size of the aquarium you ultimately decide on and your own personal preferences. Many seahorse keepers preferred well-cured, "debugged" live rock to provide all or most of the biofiltration for their aquariums. Wet/dry trickle filters are also very beneficial for seahorses, but as an inexperienced aquarist you might prefer to stick to a simple external hang-on-the-back filter or an efficient canister filter instead that is rated for an aquarium of the size you have chosen. Whatever filter you decide is best suited for your needs, I would also recommend getting a good protein skimmer for your aquarium to further supplement the filtration. Some seahorse keepers prefer the CPR Bak-Pak series of filters because those filters combine a protein skimmer along with efficient biological filtration.
If you don’t have them already, you will also need some saltwater test kits to cycle your 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 I recommend fasTest or Salifert kits for saltwater, which are fairly economical. I also like the SeaTest hydrometers–convenient, easy to read, and reliable. Here’s a list of what you’ll need for starters:
fasTest Ammonia test kit for saltwater (by Aquarium Systems);
fasTest Nitrite test kit for saltwater (by Aquarium Systems);
fasTest Nitrate test kit for saltwater (by Aquarium Systems);
fasTesT pH test kit for saltwater (by Aquarium Systems);
or the Salifert Nitrogen Cycle Package of test kits (Ammonia, Nitrite, Nitrate, & pH)
Click here: Salifert Test Kits:
Safe or Prime declorinators by Sea Chem for detoxifying tap water;
SeaTest Hydrometer (by Aquarium Systems) for checking salinity;
Instant Ocean artificial salt mix
Fine-grained oolitic live sand
Package of Frozen Mysis to feed the seahorses (e.g., Piscine Energetics, Hikari and Gamma are all good brands to choose from)
Natural or Artificial Hitching Posts
The price for these items varies considerably from source to source, so I suggest you print out a list like this and then price it at different local fish stores in your area as well as different online outlets to give you a better idea of what these accessories will cost.
There have been a few other threads on the Ocean Rider Club discussion board at seahorse.com from hobbyists who were just starting out with seahorses that you should also find to be of interest, Stephanie. They discuss setting up an ideal system for seahorses, filtration, feeding, lighting, circulation and so on in much greater detail than the brief overview above. I’ve provided links to those discussions for you below, so please check them out when you get a chance. They will provide a good place for you to start with your ongoing research and I think they will answer many of your questions about keeping seahorses:
Click here: Seahorse.com – Seahorse, Sea Life, Marine Life, Aquafarm Sales, Feeds and Accessories – Re:ok stocking density…
Re:Hello, newbie here! – O http://www.seahorse.com/option,com_simpleboard/Itemid,144/func,view/id,1004/catid,2/
Click here: Seahorse.com – Seahorse, Sea Life, Marine Life, Aquafarm Sales, Feeds and Accessories – Re:Setting up a 100gal for
Re: Guidance on Keeping Seahorses:
Re: New to seahorses and I have lots of questions!
Re: Tank set-up advice
Re:New with lots of questions 🙂
Please let us know if you have any other questions that haven’t been covered in those previous discussions, Stephanie!
In addition, there are several fairly recent books about seahorses available that would be helpful for a beginner. I would say the most useful of these is "How to care for your Seahorses in the Marine Aquarium A Stable Environment For your Seahorse Stable" by Tracy Warland. Either of Neil Garrick-Maidment’s two latest books, Seahorses: Conservation & Care or the Practical Fish-Keeper’s Guide to Seahorses would also be good choices. And "Seahorses: Complete Pet Owner’s Manual" by Frank Indiviglio is another worthwhile book for someone new to seahorses. You can order all of these books online from Jim Forshey at the Aquatic Bookshop (http://www.seahorses.com/index.shtm) or from Amazon.com and the other major booksellers.
Keep an eye out for my new book as well. It is called the Complete Guide to the Greater Seahorses in the Aquarium (TFH Publications, unpublished) and should be coming out sometime later this year. It is far more detailed and comprehensive than the other books mentioned above, and is considerably longer than all four of them put together.
As far as starfish go, it’s best to avoid a large predatory species such as chocolate chip starfish and African starfish (Protoreaster spp.). I would describe predatory sea stars such as these as "opportunistic omnivores," meaning that they are likely to eat any sessile or slow-moving animals that they can catch or overpower. For instance, I would not trust them with snails, clams, tunicates, soft corals and the like. Most fishes are far too fast and agile to be threatened by sea stars, but seahorses are sometimes an exception due to their sedentary lifestyle and habit of perching in one place for extended periods of time. What occasionally happens, in the confines of the aquarium, is that a predatory starfish may pin down the tail of a seahorse that was perched to the piece of coral or rock the starfish was climbing on, evert it’s stomach, and begin to digest that portion of the seahorse’s tail that is pinned beneath its body. That’s a real risk with large predatory species such as the beautiful Protoreaster starfish, which are surprisingly voracious and aggressive for an echinoderm.
But there are a number of colorful starfish that do well with seahorses. Any of the brightly colored Fromia or Linkia species would make good tankmates for seahorses. However, bear in mind that, like all echinoderms, seahorses are very sensitive to water quality and generally will not do well in a newly established aquarium. Wait until your seahorse tank is well-established and has had a chance to mature and stabilize before you try any starfish.
Best of luck fulfilling your seahorse dreams, Stephanie!
Pete GiwojnaSeptember 15, 2006 at 12:07 am #2862LeslieGuest
I would go with the 45 if you can. It should be tall enough. 21 tp 24 inches should be tall enough for most of the captive bred seahorses available these days. Most LFS can order taller than standard height tanks if you are looking for more height. To be honest the taller tanks IMO are a pain to clean. 24 inches is about my max.
In addition to live rock and sand I like hang on the back filters. I find they are easier to get to for cleaning and media changes. I do not like canisters at all. I find them harder to get to. I make much more of a wet mess when I work on them, than I do the hang on the backs.
I would recommend Sunbursts or Mustangs or both for your first seahorses. They are a nice hearty beginners seahorse.
Hope this helps,
LeslieSeptember 15, 2006 at 12:08 am #2863stephanie_71982Guest
[b][size=4][/size]hello and thank you pete for taking the time to help me..i wrote most of everything you said down so i would have it in my sea horse note book..i havent really what you call had much luck in locating the right aquarium..but will check into what you said..i will read the posts that you mentioned too..i will try to get those books also..and i would like very much to have yours when it comes out..please keep me posted on that..thanks for the list of supplies too. i am still nervous but not as bad you helped me so much,,thank you..the other star fish you mentioned they are pretty much safe right..i just want starfish and seahorese with some tank cleaners..i thought that maybe the star fish would be ok with the sea horses..do you know anyone who has the starfishes with thier sea horses..also i want to have artificial plants and hitching posts along with artificial corals..will that be safe for my sea horses..how old will my tank have to be,to be considered established and mature..and where do i get a feeding station for my seahorses..when i start i put the sea horses in then later the starfishes and tank cleaners..what order do i do them in..also i have seen the gallery here with photos they are really beautiful..when i get my seahorses can i order the specific colors or how does that work..and do all the sea horses have to be the same breed..how many can i have of the seahorses and star fishes can i have together..i know i have lots of questions ,i am sorry..i just want to do everything right..i appreciate all the help you give me now and in the future….thanks..
stephanie curtrightSeptember 15, 2006 at 12:17 am #2864stephanie_71982Guest
[b][size=4][/size]hello leslie and thanks for your advice..i will more than likely get the sunbursts and mustangs both..what kind of seahorse set up do you have..and what do you feed yours..i am thinking about setting up an extra tank for if they get sick or something what do you think..thanks again for the advice..
sincerely stephanie curtrightSeptember 17, 2006 at 12:06 am #2872Pete GiwojnaGuest
Yes, of course, I know many hobbyists who keep starfish with their seahorses. As I said, you must avoid the predatory species such as the beautiful Protoreaster sea stars, but any of the Linkia species (e.g., the blue, or the purple, or the red Linkia) or colorful Fromia sea stars will do well with seahorses. You can consider your seahorse tank sufficiently well-established for starfish after it has been cycled completely and up and running for several months. You need to give the aquarium that long to adjust to the heavier bioload after you add the seahorses and to stabilize so that you can be confident that there will be no ammonia/nitrite spikes and that your nitrate levels are under control and you can maintain good water quality.
But starfish are not the best scavengers for a seahorse setup, Stephanie, and you’ll need to add a good cleanup crew of snails and micro-hermit crabs that can go on your aquarium right away as soon as it has been cycled. The discussions I referred you to in my previous post will explain the types of sanitation engineers that work well for seahorses.
Yes, indeed, artificial plants and corals that are designed specifically for use in marine aquaria will make excellent hitching posts for your seahorses. They are perfectly safe and a wide assortment of them is available nowadays that are very lifelike and realistic. It’s getting difficult to tell the live corals and plants from the good faux decorations these days.
As for feeding stations, Stephanie, I wrote an article in Conscientious Aquarist explaining exactly how to set up a feeding station and train your seahorses to use it in some detail. It should cover everything you need to know in that regard. It’s available online at the following URL:
Click here: Seahorse Feeders
When you had a chance to read the article, you will see that quite a number of ordinary items and natural objects such as seashells and certain corals will all make perfectly suitable feeding trays or feeding troughs for your seahorses. You probably have a number of items in your kitchen right now that would make a fine feeding station.
When a new aquarium has cycled completely and is ready to be stocked, I like to begin by adding my aquarium janitors or clean up crew first, since many of them are herbivorous and can help prevent nuisance algae from ever getting a toehold in the tank. (New aquariums are always susceptible to algae and diatom blooms.) Give the biofiltration a week or so to adjust after you add your sanitation engineers and then you can gradually introduce your seahorses, a pair or two at a time. After the aquarium has been up and running successfully for several months, you can add delicate invertebrates that are sensitive to water quality such as starfish and decorative shrimp.
Yes, you certainly may request seahorses of a particular color when you place your order. Just use the "Comments" section on the online order form, which is for any special instructions you may have regarding your order. That is where you can request the particular traits you want in your seahorses. That’s the place where you can specify if you want seahorses of a certain gender or color, or perhaps a pregnant male… When Ocean Rider subsequently fills your order, they will look over the current crop of seahorses and do their very best to select specimens that meet your specifications from their available livestock.
You can always get either males or females, and if you’re willing to pay a little extra, you can obtain a pregnant male. You can also request a seahorse of a particular color. They will then try their hardest to pick out the seahorses that are the closest possible match for your preferences, although there may not always be specimens available of the particular color you are looking for when your order is filled. It’s the next best thing to handpicking the seahorses yourself.
In actual practice, Stephanie, determining how many seahorses can comfortably live in an aquarium of a certain size is not as simple as it seems at first glance. The proper stocking density for any given setup depends on a great many complex factors. I have listed a few of the most important of these below:
· The size of the aquarium.
· The filtration system it uses.
· Is it a species tank or a mixed community?
· The number and type of non-seahorse tankmates it houses.
· The type of seahorses you will be keeping and the maximum size they reach.
· The experience level of the seahorse keeper.
· Are the seahorses you will be keeping wild specimens or farm-raised livestock?
Many of the considerations you must keep in mind when stocking your aquarium are self-explanatory. For example, common sense dictates that the bigger the tank the more seahorses it can safely house, or that an aquarium of given size can support more small to medium sized seahorses than it can if stocked with one of the giant breeds. And you don’t need to be Jacques Cousteau to realize that if you are keeping your ponies in a mixed community with other reef fishes, you will have to settle for fewer Hippocampines than if you kept them in a species tank dedicated to seahorses only (Giwojna, Jan. 2002).
Likewise, the experience level of the hobbyist certainly has a bearing on how many seahorses he should attempt to keep in a given volume of water. If you’re a rank beginner, you will be better off keeping your stable under stocked in order to provide a margin of error while you learn the ropes with these amazing aquatic equines. Savvy seahorse pros who’ve seen it all before and know all the tricks and trouble spots, on the other hand, can afford to push the envelope a bit and keep their herds near capacity (Giwojna, Jan. 2002).
In addition, the filtration system obviously affects the number of specimens a certain aquarium can support, yet it is often overlooked when stocking densities are discussed. Consider two identical 29-gallon (tall) tanks: one relies on undergravels and/or foam filters, perhaps supplemented by a small external, hang-on-the-back filter packed with media such as activated carbon; the other features plenty of live rock and perhaps even a live sand bed, supplemented with a good protein skimmer and a power filter for added circulation and water movement. The first simple setup has an adequate biofilter but is something of a nitrate factory, whereas the more sophisticated setup has significant dentrification ability in addition to plenty of biofiltration (Giwojna, Jan. 2002). Both systems have the right dimensions and sufficient water volume to support several large seahorses, but you don’t need to be a marine biologist to understand that the live rock setup with the skimmer can handle a greater bioload and safely house more specimens than the more basic system (Giwojna, Jan. 2002).
Perhaps the most common mistake seahorse keepers make when considering the appropriate stocking density for their systems is failing to distinguish between wild-caught and captive-bred seahorses. Enough field work and research has now been done to conclude that, in terms of their behavior and need for elbow room, seahorses in the wild are very different animals from captive-bred and raised seahorses (Giwojna, Jan. 2002). For example, field studies show that pair-bonded seahorses typically enjoy a large territory in the wild (100 square meters in the case of female Hippocampus whitei, a fairly small Australian species that has been studied closely), and with their patchy distribution pattern, these seahorses only infrequently come in contact with others of their kind (Vincent & Sadler, 1995). Traumatic capture techniques, mishandling, and lack of feeding opportunities often plague wild-caught seahorses during transport and holding, and by the time they finally arrive at your local dealer’s, chances are great that wild ponies have already endured quite an ordeal (Bull and Mitchell, 2002). Malnutrition and stress at a time of high metabolic demand are likely to have weakened them (Lidster, 2003). When confined in an aquarium, therefore, wild-caught horses do not tolerate crowding well, and given their low disease resistance compared to their captive-bred brethren, it is NEVER a good idea to crowd wild-caught seahorses. They often have a more difficult time acclimating to life in captivity and will therefore be stressed, at least initially (Giwojna, Jan. 2002).
Farm-raised seahorses, on the other hand, are raised at far greater population densities than any seahorse experiences in the wild. Born and bred for aquarium life, they are far more social than wild caughts and are used to living in close proximity to each other (Giwojna, Jan. 2002). For them, that’s their normal condition and the aquarium is their natural environment. They reach the hobbyist well fed, in peak condition, and already accustomed to aquarium life and frozen foods. As a result, farm-raised seahorses are simply hardier, more disease resistant, and tolerate crowding and life in captivity far better than their wild-caught counterparts (Giwojna, Jan. 2002). Suffice it to say that more captive-bred seahorses can be maintained in an aquarium of a given size than wild-caught ‘horses.
Quantifying all of this, and specifying a certain number of seahorses per so many gallons of water, is a very tricky proposition because so many factors like those described above must be weighed. Consequently, my recommendations for stocking density always include a range for each size of aquarium in order to accommodate variables such as differing filtration systems, whether the seahorses are wild or captive bred, and varying levels of expertise. If you’re new to seahorses or have a basic setup that relies on regular partial water changes to control nitrates, you will need to stick to the lower end of the recommended range when stocking your stable (Giwojna, Jan. 2002). However, if you’re an experienced reefer or an old hand at seahorse wrangling, with a relatively sophisticated system at your disposal, feel free to explore the upper limits of the suggested stocking densities (Giwojna, Jan. 2002). Likewise, if you’re keeping wild-caught seahorses, I suggest you cut the recommended stocking densities for captive-bred seahorses at least in half (Giwojna, Jan. 2002).
Assuming that your aquarium will be a dedicated seahorse tank and not a community tank, and that you’ll be keeping captive-bred seahorses such as Mustangs or Sunbursts of average size, the suggested stocking density for Hippocampus erectus under those circumstances is about one pair per 10 gallons of water volume. So a reasonable number of average size Mustangs (or Sunbursts) to keep in a 30-gallon aquarium, for example, is a total of about three pairs or six individuals. An experienced seahorse keeper with a relatively sophisticated filtration system could comfortably keep around eight H. erectus in such a tank with no problems, but a beginner with a basic filtration system should keep no more than four erectus in a tank that size, at least until he or she games a little more valuable firsthand experience keeping seahorses. Such a set up could also accommodate one or two small starfish and a complete cleanup crew.
As always, be sure to remember the three golden rules that should always guide your actions when stocking any seahorse setup:
I. Under stocking is ALWAYS better than over stocking. Always! That is the one immutable law that governs the seahorse-keeping universe, and if you violate it, the aquarium gods will exact swift and terrible retribution!
II. When in doubt, under stock. Don’t push your luck! If you have any doubt whatsoever as to whether or not your system is running at capacity, it probably is. In such a situation, you MUST err on the side of caution.
III. Don’t mess with success! If your seahorse setup has been running smoothly and trouble-free for a prolonged period at it’s present level of occupancy, try to resist the temptation to increase your herd. Why risk upsetting the balance in a system that has settled into a state of happy equilibrium? Rather than risk overcrowding an established tank, consider starting up a new aquarium when the urge to acquire some new specimens becomes overwhelming.
When stocking your aquarium, consider these golden rules to be your commandments. Obey them, and your system should flourish. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow thee all of thy days. Break them, and you will soon find yourself teetering on the brink of disaster. Abandon all hope ye whom embark down that dark road to ruin.
Best of luck with your ongoing research on the care and keeping of seahorses, Stephanie!
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