April 23, 2022 at 3:35 am #75489munmachiParticipant
I’m not exactly new to keeping aquariums but my roommate and I are disagreeing on how to maintain the bioload in our saltwater tank. We recently finished cycling and furnishing our very first seahorse tank, and I know these guys have a weak immune system so I want to make sure I’m not leaving them susceptible to any type of bacterial infection, and I want to remove any uneaten frozen mysis shrimp after they’re done eating rather than leaving them in the tank. We’re already keeping the temperature fairly low around 70-72° F just in case.
However, my roommate is stalwart about leaving the food in there for a few days as it helps feed the beneficial bacteria to keep the nitrogen cycle going. I’ve been letting him do so because the water consistently stays at 0 ammonia and 0 nitrite with minimal nitrate, meaning that there is indeed enough bacteria to keep everything going. He says that if he takes it out, the bacteria will starve and some of them will die.
He’s more experienced with keeping aquariums than I am, so I’m deferring to him right now, but I can’t help but worry that leaving the food in there will encourage not only the beneficial bacteria, but also unwelcome bacteria that might hurt our future seahorses. I thought that thawed mysis shrimp decomposed fairly quickly within just a few hours of being added to the tank, but my roommate says it doesn’t do so for a few days. I have a hunch that we already have a surplus of bacteria to handle the bioload thanks to some (seahorse compatible!) shrimp and fish already in there, and letting some bacteria starve as a consequence of removing the food will not affect the ammonia and nitrite levels of the tank, as the remaining bacteria should still be feeding off of the bioload that the fish will be outputting into the water anyway. We have a good amount of live rock and filter media.
Do you guys have any advice on how to approach this and whether my roommate’s method is safe? I really don’t want to risk it with the new seahorses we’ll be ordering soon, so I’d rather take out any uneaten frozen food shortly after adding it rather than leaving it in like my roommate insists. But, he’s still more experienced than I am, so I’m worried that I might also be wrong on this.April 23, 2022 at 12:44 pm #75515Pete GiwojnaModerator
Generally speaking, once you have cycled a new aquarium and built up a thriving population of beneficial nitrifying bacteria to provide biological filtration, it’s not necessary to provide additional ammonia sources, such as decaying frozen Mysis, in order to sustain the biofilter. Seahorses are messy feeders and their natural waste products will provide plenty of ammonia to sustain good populations of Nitrosomonas and Nitrobacter in your biofilter.
It is true that the population of bacteria in your biofilter will adjust to the current bioload in the aquarium at any given time, and that you can further increase the population of nitrifying bacteria by adding additional ammonia to feed even more of them. But I don’t understand what your roommate hopes to gain by doing so. As long as you feed your seahorses properly and practice good aquarium maintenance, you should not have to worry about spikes in the ammonia or nitrite levels stressing your ponies.
In any case, I believe that you are correct in removing the leftovers and uneaten frozen Mysis promptly after the seahorses have had their fill. In my opinion, it’s a bad idea to leave excess Mysis laying around for two or three days.
For one thing, 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, which is the dirtiest area of the aquarium where all of the wastes accumulate. This is an excellent way to spread disease and make your seahorses sick.
It would be helpful if you can tell me more about your seahorse setup. Maintaining stable water temperatures at 70° F-72° F is an excellent way to protect your ponies against heat stress, and you guys are doing a great job in that regard. And, of course, it’s a very good sign that your ammonia and nitrate levels are staying at zero.
But I would like to know what sort of filtration you are using, what substrate you are using in your seahorse tank and what the depth of the sand bed may be, as well as whether or not your tank includes a sump and employees a protein skimmer and/or an ultraviolet sterilizer.
Do you target feed your seahorses individually or use a feeding station for your ponies? Or are you scatter feeding frozen Mysis?
How big is your seahorse tank? What are the dimensions of the tank (length, width, and height) and on many gallons/liters is the water volume of the aquarium system?
I apologize for all the questions, but the more information I am about your seahorse setup, the better advice I will be able to provide.
Best wishes with all your fishes!
Pete Giwojna, Ocean Rider Tech SupportApril 25, 2022 at 7:44 am #75588munmachiParticipant
Hi Pete, thank you for the great in-depth advice.
We have a 29 gallon, 30x12x18 inches. We don’t have the seahorses yet, but I am planning on getting two of them and training them (by target feeding them at first) to eat at a new station where I can clean up food quickly. Currently, we’re just broadcast feeding for the sake of a few fish – we have 2 small dragonets and 2 small gobies, all trained to eat mysis shrimp. I’m hoping to continue broadcast feeding while the seahorses will be distracted eating at the station so the bottom-dwellers and seahorses can eat their fair share of food.
We have no substrate in the main tank so that cleaning the bottom is very fast, and we have plenty of live rock. We use a back hanging 5 gallon refugium with additional live rock, a lot of chaeto algae, a UV sterilizer light, a sump filter, an external canister filter for a 50 gallon, and an additional hang on back filter for a 20 gallon all with protected powerheads so that the seahorses are not injured. We don’t currently have a protein skimmer but we are highly considering it if the chaeto is insufficient, although the nitrate levels have been fairly low so far.
Currently, the uneaten mysis shrimp sits at the bottom of the tank floor and gathers at the single intentional dead zone at the very front of the tank. It’s very easy for me to clean up thankfully because we do not have substrate and the dead zone is in the most accessible area for me to siphon or clean with a turkey baster, so I am hoping your advice will be able to help convince my roommate to do so after feedings. We are both very thankful for all of the great and thorough advice you provide in the forums here and we admire your knowledge and willingness to teach others.
As another precaution, we just added a pair of large peppermint shrimp to clean up additional uneaten mysis shrimp. Normally we would be worried about overcrowding the tank but there are many hiding spaces for any bottom-dwellers because of our rock setup and we have very powerful filtration.
I hope this provides additional context!
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