November 13, 2009 at 7:06 am #1768Pete GiwojnaModerator
I’m setting up my first seahorse tank and learning so much! I have a few questions about keeping the seahorse tank clean.
For the seahorses I will use a 45 gallon tank, 24 tall, an Eheim Ecco canister, and an Aquastep UV sterilizer powered by a RioAqua pump.
With my goldfish tanks, I follow a fairly rigorous cleaning schedule:
Weekly: Vacuum the entire substrate and do a 40-50% water change. Take out and rinse all decor. (With the seahorses, I imagine I would need to leave in at least one hitching post while I clean.)
Every two weeks: In addition to the above, I completely clean the canister and the UV sterilizer pump. (I rinse the canister media in tank water only.) Take out all the decor and bleach it along with the filter intake and outflow, canister tubing, and UV pump. After bleaching, soak in water with Prime before returning to tank.
Monthly: clean out the UV sterilizer body
I do all of this to keep the level of parasites down in my tank. It’s impossible to ever completely eradicate them, it seems, so I rely on this cleaning schedule to keep their populations in check. (If they do begin to bother the fish, of course, I treat with appropriate meds.)
If I follow this protocol with the seahorses, will a protein skimmer still be necessary? I’ve never measured a nitrate level above 7 ppm in my tanks, and I use Prime in case something unexpected occurs.
I am bit afraid to add another piece of equipment to my tank because of the heat issue. With the lights (double T5 Coralife fixture), sterilizer and canister, my water temp runs 76-77º in the summer and 74-75º in the winter. Though I have heaters, mostly the other equipment provides enough heat. But another device might push the temp beyond ideal.
If a protein skimmer really is necessary, which model do you recommend?
Also, do seahorses find substrate vacuuming stressful? My goldies think it’s Christmas when I vacuum; they love to troll along behind the siphon. But seahorses are not substrate foragers, are they?
Thanks for your wisdom!
A good protein skimmer is an optional piece of equipment for a seahorse tank, Diane, though highly recommended in most cases. In general, the more heavily the aquarium is stocked, the more important protein skimming or foam fractionation will be for maintaining optimum water quality.
In your case, Diane, it sounds like you practice an exemplary aquarium maintenance schedule. If you will be maintaining a fish-only saltwater aquarium, consisting of two pairs of Mustangs (Hippocampus erectus) in a 45-gallon aquarium along with a suitable cleanup crew, and feeding the seahorses properly (i.e., target feeding them or training the seahorses to take their frozen Mysis from a feeding station, rather than broadcast feeding or scatter feeding the frozen Mysis), then there will be less need for a protein skimmer.
Your aquarium would be stocked at less than 50% of capacity, so if you maintain the same sound aquarium management practices, including regular partial water changes, you may certainly consider keeping your Mustangs without the help of a protein skimmer. As long as you are able to maintain the key aquarium parameters (water temperature, salinity or specific gravity, pH, and the levels of ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate) within the proper range, and keep the dissolved oxygen levels high, and are not experiencing any problems with nuisance algae (e.g., hair algae, diatoms, or cyanobacteria), then you will know that your aquarium system is getting along just fine without the use of a protein skimmer.
But if you begin to see spikes in the ammonia or nitrite levels following a heavy feeding, or a rise in the nitrate levels above 10, or see a drop in the dissolved oxygen levels or the appearance of nuisance algae at some point, then you will know that your 45-gallon aquarium would benefit from the use of a protein skimmer.
Your seahorses should not find vacuuming the substrate to be stressful. If the vacuuming flushes copepods and amphipods out of their hiding places, then the seahorses would certainly have a culinary interest in your cleaning activities, although they will have no interest in the detritus or sediment that may be stirred up otherwise. You will find that your seahorses definitely do have distinct personalities, Diane. For instance, females generally tend to be more active and outgoing than the males. They will often swim around more and explore the aquarium to a greater extent than the males, which tend to pick out a favorite perch or home base and hang around in the same general area most of the time. Just like people, some seahorses are shy and retiring (introverted, I guess you could say) while others are real busybodies, that insist on being right in the thick of things and helping you out whenever you are working in the tank or performing aquarium maintenance. These extroverts will often perch on your hand or whatever aquarium utensil you may be using and watch intently as you finish your chores, apparently enjoying the ride and the company. Others will gladly interact with you at feeding time, but prefer to keep their distance otherwise.
When cleaning the aquarium decor, it will indeed be a good idea to leave the seahorses with at least one convenient hitching post while the others are being cleansed. A suggested maintenance schedule for your seahorse tank is included at the end of Lesson 4, so that should give you a better idea of how to proceed in that regard.
Best of luck with your ongoing research into the aquarium requirements of seahorses, Diane! It’s obvious that you are a very conscientious aquarist and will be more than diligent in maintaining your seahorse setup.
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