- This topic has 9 replies, 3 voices, and was last updated 15 years, 8 months ago by Pete Giwojna.
April 1, 2008 at 11:42 pm #1395arcprolifeMember
I would really like a mandarin goby but I dont want to mess with live rock If I keep my tank well stocked with copepods do you think I can manage one. Thank you for all your advice:cheer: :cheer: :cheer:
My tank is 57 gal. with several fake coral and fake rock-when its cycled I will have 4 seahorses and 4 clown fishes, clean-up crew and hopefully a mandarin gobyApril 2, 2008 at 9:37 pm #4085Pete GiwojnaGuest
I absolutely love the psychedelic coloration and peaceful nature of Mandarin dragonets! There’s no disputing that they are gorgeous little fishes and make ideal tankmates for seahorses in the right type of setup. They are docile, slow-moving, passive fish that are beautifully marked and very deliberate feeders. And they are quite hardy fish providing they can be fed properly. They have a heavy slime coat that seems to make them quite resistant to protozoan parasites such as Cryptocaryon irritans.
But in order to do well, mandarins need a large, well-established aquarium loaded with live rock that’s teeming with copepods and amphipods. As you know, mandarins must have continuous opportunities to graze on suitable live foods or they generally slowly waste away and starve to death. In the right system, they can thrive, and will often learn to take small pieces of frozen Mysis, but they do best in well-established reef systems or aquariums with at least 1 pound of live rock per gallon, a mature sand bed, and a refugium that can continually replenish the pod population in the tank. Those are typically the conditions that are necessary to assure they have adequate suitable live prey.
It’s going to be difficult to provide them with the conditions they need to thrive without live rock in the aquarium. The live rock provides the shelter and feeding opportunities that the copepods and amphipods need in order to build up and maintain a breeding population. Without the live rock, and with several hungry seahorses competing with them for the available pods, it will be challenging for you to provide a Mandarin goby with enough to eat. Your 57-gallon tank is borderline large enough to support a Mandarin, but if you want to give it a try, I wouldn’t introduce a Dragonet until the tank was at least one year old.
And I would only consider a Mandarin if you can equip the aquarium with a good refugium as well. As an example of the type of refuge that produces good results for mandarins and seahorses, Charles Delbeek likes to use colonies of glass shrimp and cleaner shrimp that in the refugium for his seahorse tank, where the regular reproduction of these hermaphroditic crustaceans will provide a continuous supply of nutritious nauplii for his ponies:
"There is a method that can be used to offer an occasional supply of live food for your sea horses. By setting up a separate system housing several species of shrimp such as the common cleaner shrimp (Lysmata amboinensis) or peppermint shrimp (lyse model wurdemanni), or Rhynchocinetes uritai or R. durbanensis, you can get a fairly regular supply of live shrimp larvae. These species are best to use since they can live in large groups and spawn on a regular basis. Such a system is commonly called a refugium. A refugium is a small (10-20 gallon) aquarium that contains live sand, live rock and/or macroalgae such as Caulerpa. It is plumbed such that water from your main system is pumped to the refugium and then returns via an overflow to the main tank. For this type of arrangement to work, the refugium must be slightly higher than the main tank. Shrimp are added to the refugium and within a few months they should start spawning and hatching eggs every few weeks. The larvae are then carried back to the main tank by the overflow, where they become a food source for your sea horses. Of course other life will also thrive in the refugium and it is not unusual for copepods, mysis and crab larvae to also be produced on a regular basis. The key to the refugium is to keep predators out of the system so that the smaller micro-crustacean population can thrive. You would need a fairly large and productive refugium to produce enough food to maintain even a pair of sea horses, so at best, a typical refugium can provide a nice source of supplemental live food; the basic daily diet still needs to be provided by you in the form of the frozen foods mentioned above." (Delbeek, November 2001, "Horse Forum," FAMA magazine)
Aside from the one Delbeek favors, refugia are available in a number of different designs. For example, there are easy-to-install external hang-on refugia and in-tank refugia as well as sump-style refugia that are mounted beneath the main. In the case of the latter, the refugium is installed exactly like any other sump. Here are a couple of online sites where you can look up more information on refugia, including articles explaining how to set up and install a refugium of your own:
Click here: Refugium Setups Information – From About Saltwater Aquariums
Click here: Refugiums
A good refugium is all the more important in the aquarium like yours that lacks live rock. So if you want to add a Mandarin to your system at some point, I would establish a refuge as described above and then wait at least a year for the sand bed and refugium to mature and build up a large population of copepods, amphipods, and steady supply of larval shrimp before you actually introduce the Dragonet.
Best of luck with your new seahorse setup!
Pete GiwojnaApril 2, 2008 at 11:42 pm #4086SissyGuest
I completely agree with very thing Pete has stated. I just wanted to add that I have been able to get some Mandarins to eat frozen blood worms. You have to feed enough for it to fall on bottom, and with clown fish, I’m not sure this would work.
Sissy SathreApril 5, 2008 at 7:49 am #4100arcprolifeGuest
Thank you so much for the info. I would still like a dragonet so maybe I am fearful of live rock for no reason. I have read so many posts I figured I am cutting down my exposure to unwanted pests and diseases by not having live rock. Can you help me decide if live rock is that bad. Will introducing copepods into my tank make it so thats all I see is little bugs. If live rock is not so bad how can I quarantine it when I buy it and what care does it need. Thank you so much again. I want to get all the problematic stuff out of the way before adding seahorses.:cheer:April 5, 2008 at 8:05 am #4101SissyGuest
Well there is allot of pros and cons in usting live rock with sea horses. I personalyApril 5, 2008 at 6:54 pm #4102NovahobbiesGuest
Well there is allot of pros and cons in usting live rock with sea horses. I personaly
Man, I wanted to hear what you had to say! 🙂 Internet connection time out?
Well, personally I’m a big fan of live rock. Because of the massive quantities of beneficial bacteria that thrive both on the surface and deep within the substrate, LR is a great way of maintaining superior water quality. Commonly nitrate levels are kept lower in a tank stocked with live rock, since the bacteria needed to break down nitrate are anarobic and can live deep in the oxygen-poor sections of the rock. LR, of course, also provides a refuge for the copepod/amphipod population needed to keep a brace of seahorces and a dragonet or two. Finally, live rock provides some fascinating viewing experiences as time progresses. Most live rock will have creatures living deep within the crevices of the rock that start to "sprout" a few months after the rock is re-cured, including corals, coraline algae of course, and the occasional bit of sponge. "Fresh" live rock is even more varied in it’s livestock, but you run the risk of pest species sometimes. I’ll get to that in a moment.
Dragonets are beautiful. I have an ocellated mandarin (often called a scooter blenny) in my reef tank, and I’m getting a green mandarin dragonet for my seahorse tank in a few weeks. As I’m sure you are aware, they are great little additions to a tank with a lot of personality, but their diet requirements can be sometimes demanding. Like Pete said, a refugium would definitely be the way to go if you’re set on keeping LR out of the tank. But consider the pros and cons before you choose that set up.
If I may ask, why exactly don’t you want LR in the tank? Are you concerned with pest species? If I may offer a suggestion or two, there are a few ways to deal with the problems of pests on live rock. I’m not going to go into a curing lesson here — there are many different and excellent articles available online in regards to curing LR, and I won’t tell someone that one method is necissarily better than another. Let’s just assume you have your rock cured, or mostly cured.
First, and this is only my personal experience, but try to buy your LR from a LFS. You have the benefit this way of looking at the pieces and picking out exactly which ones you want. You can also observe the LR in the pet shop’s tank before you buy it sometimes, and watch to see if there are critters moving about it. You can also choose from most places how "live" the rock really is. My LFS is great, they have separate curing tanks for LR that is plain coraline-encrusted rock, some that is fully cured, near cured, and a tank for rock that is SO live it has lots of macroalgae, coral frags, etc, already heavily populated.
Second, if you choose your live rock and bring it home, you can always submerge the rock in a plastic container filled with RO/DI water. Many mobile organisms will flee the rock in a couple minutes of this exposure in attempt to find a proper saline environment. This includes pest bugs such as bristle worms and mantis shrimp. The downside of this is that if there are existing copepods on the rock, they will go too. This is less of a problem though because you can always re-seed the rock with fresh pods later. If you have the benefit of doing this in a white plastic container, you can also pick and choose the life that has fled the rock. In other words, if you see a crab or snail that you decide you want to keep, you can rescue it from the RO water and plop it in the tank for later.
Finally, go over the rock with a toothbrush, tweezers, and syringe with lemon juice. Remove any sessile organisms you don’t want with the brush or the tweezers. The dreaded Aptaisia anemones are pretty hard to see if the rock is out of the water, but if you do see them, or one sprouts later, you can inject them with the lemon juice. This is a trick I found online, and I’ve recently had the opportunity to try it. I’m happy to say that it is pretty effective! Use a diabetic syringe of 1 cc or .5 cc, and just inject .1 to .2ml of juice to the stalk or mouth of the anemone. It takes a day or two, but it works.
Well, I’m at the end of my speech here, so I’m getting off of the soapbox. It’s pretty evident that I am a fan of LR in a display aquarium of any kind, and I think you would find it easier than you expect to properly maintain your new dragonet’s and your sea horses’ food supply with the proper amount of rock in your tank. I’m no expert, this is just my opinion for what it’s worth. I’m just another schmoe with aquarium life constantly on the brain! 😆April 6, 2008 at 2:31 am #4107Pete GiwojnaGuest
I agree with Sissy and Nova regarding the live rock. With the exception of dwarf seahorses (Hippocampus zosterae), my preferred setup for keeping the larger Hippocampus species is a "seahorse-only-with-live-rock" tank.
The one indispensable part of a SHOWLR system is the foundation of live rock. The live rock is the living, breathing, heart and soul of the system, which provides the bulk of the biological filtration as well as some denitrification ability and shelter and habitat for countless critters and microfauna. The porous interior of the rock supports large populations of the beneficial oxygen-loving Nitrosomonas and Nitrobacter bacteria that breakdown deadly ammonia and nitrite into less toxic substances (primarily nitrate). Deeper inside the live rock, where oxygen levels are nil, anaerobic denitrifying bacteria take hold and complete the nitrogen cycle, breaking down nitrate into harmless nitrogen. This helps keep the nitrate levels in the seahorse tank low. As a result, live rock is superior to most other forms of biofiltration, which lack this final anaerobic step and cannot carry out denitrification. This makes live rock doubly good at maintaining optimum water quality.
Equally important, the rockwork provides cover for the seahorses. By this, I mean the rock allows the seahorses to hide and conceal themselves completely whenever they feel the need. Seahorses are shy, secretive creatures that rely on camouflage as their primary means of protection, and if they feel too exposed and vulnerable, it can be stressful for them.
As much as 1-2 pounds of live rock per gallon is recommended if the live rock will be the primary means of biological filtration in the aquarium. That amount of live rock will provide adequate levels of both nitrification and denitrification for the tank. That amount of live rock will provide adequate levels of both nitrification and denitrification for the tank. (However, if you will have an additional means of biological filtration on the aquarium, then you won’t be nearly that much live rock and you can get by with a fraction of that amount.) You can simply select the precured live rock you find most attractive at your LFS and add enough of it to create interesting rock formations that are aesthetically pleasing to your eye. Use enough rock to create some interesting caves, arches, ledges and overhangs.
Despite its beauty, natural appearance and the many benefits it provides, some hobbyists avoid live rock like the plague for fear that they may introduce harmful pests to their aquarium along with the live rock. This is a valid concern since potentially harmful hitchhikers like mantis shrimp, fireworms and large bristleworms, aggressive crabs, hydroids and Aiptasia rock anemones are very often unseen and unwanted tenants of live rock. They insinuate themselves throughout the live rock in nooks and crannies, and multitudes of these squatters may have taken up housekeeping in a good-sized piece of rock unbeknownst to the unsuspecting aquarist. They conceal themselves within the labyrinth of rock and often escape even the closest scrutiny undetected.
But with a little care this is one time when aquarists can have their cake and eat it too. There are a number of ways to take advantage of all the benefits live rock provides without risking unleashing an epidemic of tenacious rock anemones or turning Jack-the-Ripper loose in your tank reincarnated in the form of a thumb-splitting Stomatopod.
For instance, some seahorse keepers treat live rock with fenbendazole (brand name Panacur) for a period of 3-4 days to eradicate such pest before placing it in the aquarium. Fenbendazole is an anthelmintic agent used for deworming large animals such as horses (Abbott, 2003), and 1/8 teaspoon of granular fenbendazole per every 10 gallons of water will indeed kill worms, including bristleworms, as well as hydroids, anemones and certain other Cnidarians (Liisa Coit, pers. com.). It will not harm your biofilter, most macroalgae, copepods or most types of shrimps and other crustaceans, or most kinds of snails (Liisa Coit, pers. com.), so it leaves most of the desirable life on the rock intact. Be sure to check the water for ammonia and nitrite if you use fenbendazole for pest control this way, since the sudden die off of worms and Aiptasia anemones is likely to cause ammonia and/or nitrite spikes that must be controlled with water changes. However, the porous live rock will absorb some of the fenbendazole and gradually leach it back into the aquarium for many months afterwards with harmful results for live corals, gorgonia, tubeworms, Christmas tree worms, and the like, so you should never treat the live rock that will be used in a reef tank or system with live corals in this way.
By and large, bristleworms are beneficial scavengers and sand sifters unless their numbers get out of hand or they reach of size of 3 inches or more in length, so a better option for many seahorse keepers is to keep the Aiptasia and bristleworm population in check using some means of biological control. Peppermint Shrimp (Lysmata wurdemanni) love to dine on Aiptasia rock anemones and several of these attractive shrimp will do a fine job of eradicating them from the aquarium. Certain nudibranchs (Berghia sp.) also feed on Aiptasia. Likewise, small Arrow Crabs (Stenorhynchus sp.) will keep the bristleworm population at a manageable number. Any mantis shrimp or aggressive crabs that happen to slip by are generally fairly easy to trap and remove, and commercially made traps are available for that very purpose.
Treating the live rock with a hypersaline dip is a good technique for ridding it of unwanted pests. This method doesn’t kill the critters outright but merely drives them out of the rockwork so you can selectively cull through them. Another advantage of this method is that leaves all the desirable life on the rocks intact and unharmed.
To use this technique, simply place your newly arrived live rock in an inert container filled with saltwater at a specific gravity of 1.045 to 1.050 or higher for several minutes before you introduce it to the aquarium. Invertebrates cannot tolerate rapid changes in salinity, so all the mobile inverts in the rock will immediately abandon there hidey-holes and bale out of the rock like rats deserting a sinking ship. After several minutes in this extra-salty bath, the evacuation will be complete, and you can remove the now pest-free live rock and sort your catch. Cull the invertebrates left behind in dipping container, discarding the pests you don’t want while retrieving any of the refugees you might like to add to your system. Five minutes in the hypersalinity is enough to drive out all the active invertebrates such as mantis shrimp (Stomatopods), crabs, and assorted worms of every description, yet this brief period of immersion will not harm encrusting organisms or sessile life.
Another easy way to debug your live rock of unwanted pests is the Club Soda trick. To use this technique, simply remove the live rock to an empty bucket and flush out the likely looking hidey holes thoroughly with a generous amount of straight, undiluted Club Soda. The carbonation in the Club Soda means the hidden pests will be immersed in CO2, deprived of oxygen, and subjected to a drastic pH shift all at once. They’ll bail out of their hiding places in a big hurry! You can then rinse the live rock in a bucket of saltwater you have prepared in advance, to remove any lingering traces of the Club Soda, and return it to the aquarium immediately.
This method works well for surgical strikes in which you are flushing out a particular pest whose hidey hole you have already located. If you want to cleanse your live rock of unwanted hitchhikers in general, place the live rock in a bucket with just enough saltwater to cover the rock and then add a full 2-liter bottle of Club Soda (Liisa Coit, personal communication). Pour the Club Soda slowly over the surface of the rock, concentrating in particular on any cavities or crevices. This will drive out any mobile pests hiding in the rock, including crabs, mantis shrimp, pistol shrimp, and bristleworms, in a matter of moments. Afterwards the live rock is rinsed in saltwater to remove the residual Club Soda, and is ready to be returned to the aquarium. (Any desirable critters that may have been driven out of the live rock — Gammarus, pods or snails, for example — can be netted out of the delousing bucket and returned to the aquarium as well, none the worse for wear.)
So if I was you, I would avoid the hassle curing the live rock and instead select attractive pieces of precured live rock from a good LFS that caters to reef keepers, and then debug the live rock as described above before you introduce it into your seahorse tank. That way you can enjoy the benefits of the live rock while minimizing the potential for any harmful hitchhikers to find their way into the aquarium. And once your tank has been well-established and build up a suitable population of copepods and amphipods amidst the live rock, a Mandarin goby should do well in such a setup.
Best of luck with your new seahorse tank!
Pete GiwojnaApril 6, 2008 at 3:18 am #4108arcprolifeGuest
THANK YOU!!! I did not know you could debug live rock so now I will try some. I figured I am inexperienced enough to need the least amount of problems as possible. Thanks to all the advice I believe I can have live rock and keep away hitch hikers. B)April 7, 2008 at 12:25 am #4110arcprolifeGuest
I purchased some live rock from the LFS that was already cured. I only got two pieces maybe 10 pounds total. I soaked them in club soda for about two minutes then put them in the higher salinty bath for a few minutes and then rinsed it with my tank water before putting it in the tank. There wasnt a whole lot that came off. The rock had some pink algae I think on it. I rubbed down the rock while it was in the saltwater and it stayed on. Is pink patches good or is that hydroids. How long will it take before i know if there was some hitch hikers. In case I left behind all my copepods will buying a bottle of copepods introduce things like hydroids. Thank you again for helping me with this.April 7, 2008 at 5:54 am #4111Pete GiwojnaGuest
Excellent! There is less chance of undesirable hitchhikers sheltering in the live rock when you select the precured live rock from your LFS, in the first place. If you have been taken the precured live rock and debugged it using both the club soda trick and a hypersaline bath, the chances are very good that you have driven any mobile pests (mantis shrimp, crabs, bristleworms or fireworms) out of the live rock before it was introduced to your aquarium.
To complete the debugging process, all you need to do is wait until your aquarium has cycled completely, and then introduce some peppermint shrimp and a small arrow crab or two for biological pest control. The peppermint shrimp (Lysmata wurdemanni) will chow down on any Aiptasia rock anemones that may have survived the cleansing process, while the small arrow crabs (Stenorhynchus seticornis) will feed on bristleworms and control any of these pests that may have made it that far. Between the two, and the debugging measures you’ve already applied to the precured live rock, you should have everything well under control.
Don’t worry about the pink encrustations on the live rock. That’s coralline algae and it’s very desirable on live rock. When conditions are favorable, the coralline algae will be spread over the live rock and cover it with a beautiful pinkish-purplish carpet. The colorful coralline algae is harmless to seahorses, very pleasing to the eye, and competes for nutrients with undesirable nuisance algae (hair algae, red slime algae, etc.), helping to keep it from getting a toehold in your tank. So you needn’t try to scrub off the pretty pink algae, sir; rather, you should encourage it to grow on your live rock. In short, the pink encrustations are desirable coralline algae and not the unwanted hydroids.
Seahorses often like to perch on live rock, particularly colorful pieces that are heavily overgrown with pinkish or purplish coralline algae. I always look for live rock that’s heavily encrusted with coralline algae for my tanks, so keep that in mind when you’re ready to add some more live rock. Aside from looking pretty, live rock also provides additional biological filtration (both nitrification and denitrification) for the aquarium and provides shelter and sight barriers that make the seahorses feel secure.
It’s a good idea to seed the live rock with copepods to help them rebuild a sizable population as quickly as possible.
Best of luck with your new seahorse setup!
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