- This topic has 3 replies, 2 voices, and was last updated 16 years, 4 months ago by Pete Giwojna.
July 2, 2007 at 9:35 pm #1238suddenlyaddictedMember
I recently became very interested in fish keeping though I only have fresh water fish at the moment. I started looking at saltwater fish(they are just neater) and I came across seahorses. I never thought that you could keep them in your home. I have always loved horses(the real ones) and was interested in seahorses when I was little too.
So I really want a tank of them now. They seem so interesting, but hard to keep.
So far I know that I would like a 55 gallon with live rock and live sand. I know I need a filter and heater though I haven\’t figured out what is the best brand. I want some live plants as well as some fake ones. I really want a star fish, maybe two as part of my cleaner crew. I want a refugium so that I could do work there without bothering the main tank all the time(at least I understand that you can do things with your water here and not in the main tank)also to maybe keep some pods for feeding and have as a qt tank.
I\’m really most interested in the pixies, but understand that I need a lot more experience before I go with them. So I think that I will go with some sunbursts.
Right now though I\’m just making my to buy list and reading, lots of reading. I\’m on a budget so I\’m not going to be able to get everything all at once. I have at least 3 or 4 months before I will be ready, probably a little longer since by then it will be getting close to the holidays.
I already have the list of medicines that you need to have before you get horses. What other things that would be needed to have on hand before I get them? What tests do you specifically need? Is there a good master test that will have all of the ones that I would need?
Post edited by: suddenlyaddicted, at: 2007/07/02 17:39July 3, 2007 at 5:12 am #3720Pete GiwojnaGuest
I too share your addiction to seahorses and they are certainly one of the most fascinating fishes you could hope to keep in a home aquarium. Highly domesticated seahorses such as Mustangs and Sunbursts are really not any more difficult to keep than your average marine angelfish, for example. You just need to maintain optimum water quality, provide them with a highly nutritious diet, and maintain a stress-free environment in order for them to thrive.
I think your plan of setting up a 55-gallon aquarium with live rock and live sand for Sunbursts is a good choice, since an aquarium of that size will have the increased height that is so important for seahorses and has a adequate water volume to provide stability and a better margin for error for a first-time seahorse keeper. By all means, take your time and assemble the components for your aquarium system little by little as you can afford them and learn more about the needs and requirements of the seahorses.
An aquarium heater is usually necessary to keep the aquarium temperature from falling below 70°F when keeping tropical seahorses. I suggest using a good, fully submersible aquarium heater that can be pre-set to hold at a specific temperature. But rather than getting one large heater whose wattage is sufficient to heat the entire aquarium, I recommend obtaining two smaller heaters whose combined wattage will do the job nicely. That way, if one of the heaters fails, the second one will still be able to keep the tank sufficiently warm to prevent the fish from being chilled. On the other hand, if one of the smaller heaters sticks in the "on" position, it will not be able to heat up the entire volume of the water in the aquarium to dangerous levels.
When selecting a heater, a good rule of thumb is to multiply your tank gallon size by 5 to determine how many watts you need to adequately heat your aquarium. So, for example, a 55-gallon aquarium would require around a 275-watt heater or — even better — two 140-watt heaters. When it comes to heaters,, I prefer either the Ebo-jager or the Visi-Therm deluxe (MarineLand) line of heaters, but there are lot of good heaters available nowadays.
In addition, if at all possible, the heater(s) should be placed in a sump/refugium or external filter, rather than in the main tank. If that’s not possible, be sure to use a heater guard. Over the years, I have seen several reports indicating that seahorses may have suffered burns when they perched on an unprotected heater overnight during the winter.
I think it’s an excellent idea to add a refugium to your seahorse tank as well. As you know, a refugium is simply a self-contained protected area, isolated from the main tank but sharing the same water supply, which provides many of the same benefits as a sump. A refugium can help newly added fish or invertebrates easily acclimate to a new tank. It can provide a safe haven for injured fish or corals to regenerate damaged tissue without the need for a separate quarantine tank. But perhaps its main benefit for the seahorse keeper is provide a protected area where macroalgae can be grown and small live prey items (copepods, amphipods, Caprellids, etc.) that will eventually become a food source for the inhabitants of the main portion of the tank can be cultured safely, allowing their population to build up undisturbed.
For instance, Charles Delbeek likes to use glass shrimp and cleaner shrimp that are too large to be eaten 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 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
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.
Two attractive species I can recommend are the Fromia Sea Star or Marbled Sea Star (Fromia monilis) and the Red Bali Starfish (Fromia milliporella), which are safe to keep seahorses. They are not nearly as delicate as the Linkia species and should do well in the tank such as you’re planning that has lots of live rock and optimum water quality, and are nonaggressive starfish that feed primarily on detritus and meiofauna on live rock and sandy substrates.
Let me know when your new aquarium is ready for the plants, and I will be happy to recommend some colorful, easy-to keep macroalgae that would work well in a seahorse tank, as well as a line of very realistic synthetic plants you could mix it in with the real ones.
Check back with us in a month or two regarding the filter for your seahorse tank, addicted. I have been instrumental in the design of the new filtration system created specifically for seahorses, and these new units may be available for the general public in another month or two. When they are ready, these new filters will be ideal for seahorse keepers.
Best of luck with your ongoing research into the needs and requirements of seahorses! Keep reading — I like your methodical approach to preparing for your first seahorses very much.
Pete Giwojna, Ocean Rider Tech SupportJuly 3, 2007 at 7:16 am #3721suddenlyaddictedGuest
I try to be informed about things. I kinda got thrown into keeping fish(someone else purchased them) and I was one of those people that thought that you sprinkled in some food every day and changed the water when needed….and then I started reading. lol
So I’m learning about cycling and all that for freshwater fish(and have sadly lost two of them due to my lack of knowledge)
I have already seen how fast a smaller tank can change (my freshwater is only a ten gallon) So I do hope that a 55 gallon will be a little more forgiving in that area. I will get a bigger one than that if I can find a used one or a good deal.
Especially since saltwater seems to be a little more complex, then freshwater.
I was thinking of a 20 gallon refugium would be big enough if I was going to use it to raise food for the horses. I’m a little confused on how all that is set up and will have to spend more time studying about them. (thank you for those links)
I like the idea about having two smaller heaters and will plan on putting them in my refugium. And thank you for the brand suggestions. All of the info. about who likes what has been a little confusing.
I will also be sure to be back about plants too. I was wondering what would be good, but it will be a little while before I’m ready to get any.
Thank you for telling me about the different kinds of starfish also. I was looking at the chocolate chip one, but will not be adding that one now for sure. I’m sure that I will like one of your suggestions.I was looking at a Sand Sifting Starfish (Astropecten polyacanthus) do you know if that is an o.k. one?
Off to do some more reading. I have already started to fill up a notebook on things that I have found useful. lol
Post edited by: suddenlyaddicted, at: 2007/07/03 03:29July 11, 2007 at 5:07 am #3725Pete GiwojnaGuest
Yes, a Sand Sifting Starfish (Astropecten polyacanthus) is safe to keep with seahorses, but is not the best choice for a conventional setup. They won’t be a risk at all for your seahorses, but they do take a toll on the meiofauna in the live sand and really only do well in large tanks with fairly deep sand beds. I think the Fromia starfish I recommended will prove to be more satisfactory — they are colorful and make better display animals then a sand sifting starfish would.
I would suggest going with a thin layer of live sand as the substrate for your main tank, and a sand sifting starfish isn’t needed for such a shallow sand bed..
The depth of a shallow sand bed like this is a crucial factor. Too deep, and you risk anaerobic dead spots where deadly hydrogen sulfide gas can form. Too shallow, and there will be less surface area to support beneficial nitrifying bacteria and Nassarius snails and other beneficial burrowers may feel vulnerable and exposed. A bed of live sand between 1/2 to nomore than 1-inch deep is just right for the main tank. A properly layered Deep Live Sand Bed (DLSB) 3-6 inches deep with a full complement of sand shifters also works well with seahorses, but is best confined to a sump rather than the display tank due to the seahorse’s heavy waste production. In other words, you can minimize the buildup of detritus in the DLSB by installing it in your sump rather than the main tank.
So I would stick with a thin layer of sand in your seahorse tank, Moon Valley, and then go with one or two of the colorful Fromia starfish, rather than a sand sifter.
Best of luck with your ongoing research! It’s an excellent idea to keep track of the useful information you come across in a notebook as you do more reading and learn more about the care and keeping of seahorses.
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