Seahorse Club
Aquarium & Livestock

Feed Ezy Frozen Mysis

Seahorse Club
Aquarium & Livestock

Feed Ezy Frozen Mysis

Seahorse Club
Aquarium & Livestock

Feed Ezy Frozen Mysis

Seahorse Club
Aquarium & Livestock

Feed Ezy Frozen Mysis

Seahorse Club
Aquarium & Livestock

Feed Ezy Frozen Mysis

Seahorse Club
Aquarium & Livestock

Feed Ezy Frozen Mysis

Stocking 40 Gallon Tank

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    I have a 40 Gallon Hex Tank and need some advice. I have a reef tank and have taken my time setting it up for almost 6 months now. I can’t find any direct list that covers the complete stocking of a tank. Here’s what I have so far…

    Clean up crew – 6 large Narc. Snails, 20 small Cerith Snails, 1 blue legged Hermit Crab, Sand Shifting Star & Orange Knobby Star

    Fish – 1 fully grown mandarin green goby, 1 green clown goby, 2 small (1/3") tank raised false perculas, 1 green blue cromis & 1 cardinal. (I know the green blue cromis is not recommended but he came with the large rock that was given to me by a friend that passed away – so he’s staying. He’s very small and only eats flake food.)

    Seahorses – 1 pair of baby Kellogi’s

    Filtering – Large Red Sea Fan, Purple Tree Gorg. and Red Gorg.

    Also – three different Florida Mushroom Corals

    I want to know if I’m okay as far as my stocking and clean up crew goes. I’m under the total inches that I’ve read listed from others. All my levels are zero and have been except my nits usually are negative. Salinity and temp always right now.

    Here’s my other question – I planned on purchasing a pair of Sunbursts and now I hear that I shouldn’t mix species. What should I do?


    Wanted to follow up to say – that I only added the Kellogi’s a week and a half ago. By the second day that I fed them – they were eating out of their feeding station. I’m wondering if my tank is going to be too crowded. And now when hearing about not being able to mix species, I’m wondering if I should return the Kellogi’s and just order the Sunbursts. I would feel so bad giving them back because they seem to be so happy and active.

    Pete Giwojna

    Dear Kyme:

    Well, for starters, I see no problems with the cleanup crew for your aquarium. The nassarius and Cerith snails are perfectly appropriate and desirable, the blue leg hermit crab is one of the micro-hermits that can be used with seahorses, and the starfish are okay providing you can keep them alive (sand sifting starfish can be challenging in that regard and do best in large, well-established tanks with a relatively deep sand bed).

    The mushroom corals and gorgonians are excellent choices for a seahorse tank, and there is no need to change anything as far as they are concerned.

    Nor do I have any problem with the fish in your current lineup with respect to seahorses, Kyme. I have found that chromis often do very well with ponies as long as the aquarium is large enough, and the other species are completely unobjectionable. (Percula clown fish and false Percula clownfish are the only Amphiprion species I recommend keeping with seahorses.)

    I am a bit concerned about your Mandarin goby, however, Kyme. Don’t get me wrong — 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, as you know, in order to do well, mandarins need a large, well-established aquarium loaded with live rock or live rock rubble that’s teeming with copepods and amphipods. Mandrins 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 or LR rubble 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.

    Mandarins are bottom feeders that normally do not take food from the water column, so they do best in a well-established aquarium of 100 gallons or above with a large foot print that can accommodate plenty of live sand, small pieces of live rock, live rock rubble, and macroalgae. I am worried that your manderin goby may have difficulty scrounging up enough live copepods and amphipods in an aquarium of only 40 gallons. Try target feeding and on tempting the Mandarin to eat small, bite-size pieces of frozen Mysis (Hikari frozen Mysis and Mini Mysis by H2O Life are the smallest brands of Mysis). And please consider adding a refugium to your 40-gallon seahorse tank, Kyme, as discussed below:

    For best results, set up Gammarus amphipods, copepods, feeder shrimp, and other live foods species in a refugium that’s connected to the main tank. That way the Gammarus and copepods and other small crustaceans can build up a very large population well they are safely protected from any predators within the refuge, and some of them will be steadily released into the main tank to replenish the supply of live foods for your Mandrins and/or seahorses.

    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 colonial shrimp species 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), peppermint shrimp (Lysmata amboinensis), and especially Camel Shrimp (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 or Gracilaria. 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. Some of the pods and larval crustaceans will then be carried from the refugium into the sea horse tank in the water that overflows from the refuge. 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).

    In addition to help keeping your Mandarin goby well fed, installing such a refugium would also provide the seahorses with live food treats on a regular basis.

    As far as stocking your 40-gallon aquarium system goes, Kyme, I would not recommend adding a pair of Mustangs or Sunbursts (Hippocampus erectus) to an aquarium that already houses a pair of H. kelloggi seahorses. The issue is not so much a problem with over stocking the aquarium, but rather the fact that the H. kelloggi are such a fragile, delicate seahorse species and have proven to be very prone to disease problems in the aquarium. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but I don’t believe the H. kelloggi seahorses are going to survive for any length of time in a reef tank at tropical water temperatures, and when they fall ill, they are liable to develop highly contagious bacterial infections that could threaten any other seahorses in the same tank.

    To put it in a nutshell, Kyme, the Hippocampus kelloggi that are available nowadays have proven to be very problematic. For the past couple of years, I have been getting numerous e-mails from H. kelloggi owners urgently requesting help with treating various health problems, so it doesn’t appear to be a particularly hardy strain of seahorses at this stage in its development. I believe part of the problem is simply that H. kelloggi have not been cultured or selectively bred for aquarium life as other species that have been around much longer, and as a result, the kelloggi are just not as well adapted to aquarium conditions as of yet.

    Many people suspect that the H. kelloggi are merely pen raised, and have therefore not benefited from the sort of intensive aquaculture and selective breeding that produces superior captive-bred livestock here in the US. Net pens are a low-tech, low-maintenance method of farming seahorses that basically involves raising them in large enclosures in coastal waters. It is a common practice in Indonesia, many Asian countries, and the Philippines. In some cases, entire lagoons may be fenced off for that purpose. In the simplest form of pen rearing, broodstock are released into these enclosures, and then they and their progeny are pretty much allowed to fend for themselves thereafter. Any offspring that survive to marketable size are periodically harvested from the holding pens or lagoons.

    The benefit of this technique is that it allows seahorses to be raised cheaply, and therefore produces specimens for the aquarium trade that are relatively inexpensive. (It is the low-cost of the H. kelloggi that attracts most hobbyists.) The downside is that pen raising does not strengthen and improve the seahorses generation after generation, making them ever better adapted for aquarium conditions, as does Western-style aquaculture. So the pen raised ponies are not generally as hardy and adaptable as captive-bred-and-raised seahorses.

    Such operations (net pens) are controversial with environmentalists for a number of reasons. Since the enclosures are open to the ocean, there is a real risk that adults or their fry may escape from the pens and establish colonies in the wild that may pose a threat to endemic seahorse populations. The pens are no barrier to disease organisms or parasites, so pathogens and parasites imported on foreign broodstock may spread to fishes in the wild (or vice versa). Wastes from the high density of penned animals are carried directly to ocean on prevailing tides and currents and may have a negative environmental impact on the surrounding area. There is no way to monitor the penned animals, hence no way to determine whether the seahorses they contain are actually born and raised in the enclosures or are merely wild-caught seahorses maintained in holding pens prior to being shipped off to unsuspecting consumers.

    Pen-grown ponies can thus be risky for the hobbyist because of the circumstances under which they were raised. In essence, a mesh barrier is all that separates them from wild seahorses. There is no guarantee they will be disease free. Although many of them learn to accept frozen Mysis, there is no guarantee they will eat frozen foods since they are often accustomed to foraging for live prey. There is no guarantee they will be able to adjust to aquarium conditions since they are essentially raised in the sea. There is no guarantee that they are even captive bred, since the pens are not secure and livestock is introduced and removed from the pens and lagoons on a continuous basis. There is no guarantee they will be friendly and sociable rather than shying away from their keepers, since they are unaccustomed to the human presence. Pen-raised ponies are particularly misleading because they are almost never advertised as such — they are typically called captive raised or even captive bred seahorses, which can lead the unwary consumer to assume that they have been painstakingly raised using intensive mariculture techniques and rearing protocols. Nothing could be further from the truth.

    In light of the health problems so many home hobbyists have been having with their H. kelloggi for some time now, I have been discussing the needs and requirements of this species with advanced aquarists and experts that have worked with H. kelloggi in the past. The consensus seems to be that the current crop of H. kelloggi are being shipped out to hobbyists while they are still too young (the two-inch long juveniles are no more than 3-4 months old) and that they are not well adapted to aquarium conditions because they are likely being pen raised. The tiny H. kelloggi juveniles would fare better if they allowed them to grow up for a few more months and shipped them at the age of around six months.

    However, the primary problem folks have been having with their H. kelloggi may be due to their temperature requirements. The people I conferred with maintained that H. kelloggi is a deepwater seahorse and is therefore adapted for lower light levels than most seahorses and also requires cool water temperatures (Lisa Coit et al., pers. com.). They feel that this species should be maintained in temperate tanks rather than tropical aquaria, and that H. kelloggi will only thrive if they are maintained at a water temperature of 68°F or less (Lisa Coit et al., pers. com.). They report that if the H. kelloggi are maintained at standard aquarium temperatures for a tropical marine aquarium (i.e., 75°F-78°F) they will be plagued by various bacterial infections and suffer as a result.

    So there are several problems with the H. kelloggi, Kyme. They are likely being pen raised in Asia, they are being shipped to the consumer while they are way too young and small to thrive, and they are being kept in tropical aquariums rather than the cool water or temperate tanks that they need. This combination of unfavorable circumstances is quite deadly and is dooming most all of the H. kelloggi that come into this country to an early demise. Heat stress is making the H. kelloggi susceptible to a variety of health problems, but especially bacterial infections, most often Vibrio in one form or another.

    In short, the odds are stacked against your new H. kelloggi doing well in a tropical aquarium with live corals and reef fish for any length of time. If you do not have a temperate aquarium unavailable that you could relocate the H. kelloggi to, Kyme, then it would probably be best if you return the small H. kelloggi as soon as possible, before they develop any sort of health problems.

    If all is going well with your aquarium for the next few weeks after you return or relocate the H. kelloggi, then you could possibly consider adding a pair of Mustangs or Sunbursts to your 40-gallon aquarium system. For best results, I would recommend that you complete the Ocean Rider seahorse training program while you are waiting to see if all of the specimens in the aquarium do well once they H. kelloggi have been removed, Kyme. That would be a productive use of your time while you are waiting and it would assure that you have an excellent understanding of the aquarium care and requirements of Mustangs and Sunbursts before you acquire a pair. Completing the seahorse training course also earns certification as a "preferred customer" with Ocean Rider and authorizes you to purchase their seahorses.

    If you would like to give the seahorse training program a try, Kyme, just send a brief e-mail to me off list ([email protected]) with your first and last name, which I need for our records, and I will get you started out with the first lesson right away.

    Best wishes with all your fishes (and invertebrates), Kyme!

    Pete Giwojna


    Thank you for your response. The live rock in my tank came from a very established tank with lots and lots of copepods and others, that is the only reason I decided on the Mandarin. In addition, I do target feed him frozen mysis daily and he takes it.

    I should have known better then get the seahorses without any research on that particular breed. I had done lots of research – and decided on a Erectus or Reidi. But then after all that time, my son talked me into the little babies they had gotten in at the LFS. They have mo problem taking them back and giving me a credit. I will definitely do that right away then. I felt bad bringing them back but I guess I’m going to have too. 🙁

    As far as my clean up crew goes – I will take your advice there too. I will pass him onto a friend with a much larger tank. Should I add any more clean up crew in place of him?


    Pete Giwojna

    MoonValleyAZwrites the following:

    Clean up; crew. I have found over time to watch all hermits, and if you see any aggression,take that guy out. I have seen many hermits, attempt to dine on a sea horse tail. ..I now have a diversified clean up crew. (Including a cucumber).

    Mandarin Goby…..Great addition to seahorse..It’s the only fish other than two pipe-fish, which are realy sea horse that got put through a hair straightner:cheer: ..
    .My goby Loves the tank, and therefore loves me, and provides me with entertainment. The goby actually eats with the seahorses, taking turns going for the mysis I feed.

    Pete Giwojna

    Dear Kyme:

    Okay, that sounds good! If your live rock is loaded with copepods and amphipods, and your Mandarin goby is already accepting frozen Mysis well, then the chances are good that the Mandarin will do well in your tank. And he certainly will make a splendid tankmate for your seahorses.

    Yes, I think it would be very prudent if you return the juvenile Hippocampus kelloggi. Unfortunately, nobody is having any luck keeping the little H. kelloggi that are coming into the country nowadays for the reasons we discussed in my previous post. The seahorses simply would not have lasted long in a warm water aquariums with live corals…

    If you’re going to remove the sand sifting starfish, Kyme, then I would recommend replacing it with one or more of the colorful little Fromia sea stars instead. Three attractive species I can recommend are the Fromia Sea Star or Marbled Sea Star (Fromia monilis), the Red Bali Starfish (Fromia milliporella), and the Red Starfish (Fromia elegans), which are all perfectly safe to keep with seahorses. They are not nearly as delicate as the Linkia species and should do well in the tank such as yours 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, making them a useful addition to the cleanup crew for a seahorse tank.

    You might also consider diversifying your snail assortment somewhat, Kyme. This is normally what I advise the home hobbyist regarding the cleanup crew for a seahorse tank:

    Sanitation Engineers: The Cleanup Crew

    Once the tank has cycled, It’s a good idea to begin stocking your system by adding the cleanup crew first. Assorted snails and micro hermit crabs form the backbone of the cleanup crew in most seahorse tanks, but the proportion of snails to hermits is a matter of personal preference. Many hobbyists favor using nothing but a variety of snails, others favor a 50/50 mix of snails and hermits, while others like to use a preponderance of snails with just a few hermits. Personally, I prefer a cleanup crew consisting of a mixture of assorted snails and micro hermits (heavy on the snails but very light on hermits) at a density of no more than 1-2 janitors per gallon at the most. But if you are new to seahorse keeping, the safest plan may be to go with aquarium janitors that are 100% snails of various types, which will eliminate any possible mischief the hermit crabs may otherwise get into from the equation.

    The snail assortment may include bumble bee snails, Trochus snails, margaritas, Astrea and Cerith snails, red foot Moon snails, etc., but especially Nassarius snails.

    Nassarius snails are terrific detritivores and amazingly active for snails. They’ll bury themselves until they detect the scent of something edible, and then erupt from the sand and charge out to clean it up. They do a good job of cleaning up meatier leftovers such as uneaten Mysis and can fill the role played by microhermit crabs for hobbyists who prefer a cleanup crew consisting only of snails.

    A varied assortment of snails is very desirable because different types of snails have different habits, seek out various microhabitats within the aquarium, and prefer to eat different things. Some are herbivores that feed on microalgae, and some of the herbivorous snails prefer to graze on it from the substrate, others like to clean it from the rocks, and still others love to scrape algae off the aquarium glass. Furthermore, the different herbivorous snails tend to specialize on different types of microalgae and have definite preferences as to the types of algae they will eat, so it’s important to have a nice variety of snails that cover all the bases in that regard. It’s equally important to include some omnivorous snails in your assortment, which will go after meaty leftovers, along with the vegetarians. And you’ll want to have plenty of detritivores, too, which will feed on detritus and decaying organic matter in the aquarium

    For best results, Astrea sp. snails should go in the tank as soon as the ammonia and nitrite levels are down to zero in order to keep nuisance algae from gaining a foothold in your tank. Introduced as soon as possible to a new aquarium, that has reached this cycling phase, Astrea snails effectively limit the development of all microalgae. In other words, they are good at eating diatoms, but will consume red slime and green algae as well.

    Astrea snails can be identified by their sharp conical shell with pronounced ridges spiraling down the shell. Like many of the Turbo and Trochus snails to which they are related, Astrea snails are notorious for being unable to right themselves once they are upended. The diligent aquarist should be aware of this and quickly right any of the snails that have become dislodged and landed upside down in order to prevent their premature demise.

    But you must avoid predatory snails such as tulip snails, horse conchs, crown snails (Melanogena corona), and the venomous cone snails (Conus spp.), which can kill a human with a single sting from their harpoon like radula. Tulip snails, horse conchs, and crown conchs will hunt down and eat the other snails in your cleanup crew, whereas cone snails prey on small fishes in addition to presenting a deadly hazard to the aquarist.

    For hobbyists who like to include small hermit crabs as part of their cleanup crew, I like a combination of Dwarf Blue-leg (Clibanarius tricolor), Left-handed (Calcinus laevimanus), Mexican Red Legged Hermits (Clibanarius digueti) and above all, Scarlet Reef hermit crabs (Paguristes cadenati), which are my personal favorites. It’s very important to obtain dwarf or microhermit crabs for a seahorse tank — species that start out small and remain small even when they reach their maximum size, such as the species mentioned above.

    The Scarlet Reef Hermit Crab (Paguristes cadenati) is a colorful micro-hermit that’s a harmless herbivore. So cannibalism isn’t a concern at all for these fellows, nor are they likely to develop a taste for escargot. As hermits go, most of the time the Scarlet Reefs are perfect little gentleman and attractive to boot. Best of all, they eat all kinds of algae, including nuisance algae such as red, green and brown slimes, as well as green hair algae.

    If you’re going to have any hermits, stick with species like the above, which are known as micro hermits because they start out tiny and stay small. Avoid Anomura species of hermit crabs no matter how small they are, however, because they will kill Astraea snails to obtain their shells.

    A mixture of the snails and micro hermits we have discussed will provide a very good balance of herbivores, omnivores, and detritivores that are all active scavengers and completely compatible with seahorses. They will clean up meatier leftovers such as frozen Mysis as well as helping to control nuisance algae.

    With regard to the hermit crabs, there are a couple of other possible risks you should be aware of aside from the possibilities that the hermits could grow a large enough to be a threat to the seahorses.

    For example, sometimes it works the other way around. Micro-hermit crabs are generally entertaining additions to an aquarium that do a great job as scavengers and get along great with seahorses, but over the years, I’ve had a few seahorses that were confirmed crab killers. These particular ponies were persistent hermit crab predators that specialized in plucking the hermits out of their shells and attacking their soft, unprotected abdomens, and they honed their skullduggery to a fine art. They were experts at extricating the crabs and would eat only their fleshy abdomens and discard the rest. Mind you, that was only a few individuals out of a great many Hippocampines, but I could never keep hermit crabs in the same tank with those specific seahorses.

    On the other hand, sometimes it’s the micro-hermits that are the troublemakers. Most of the time, they coexist perfectly well with their fellow janitors in the cleanup crew. But I’ve had more than a few tiny hermits with a taste for escargot that persecuted snails mercilessly. These cold-blooded little assassins would kill the snails in order to appropriate their shells. Once they had dined on the former occupant, they would take up residence in their victim’s cleaned-out shell! It soon became clear that these killer crabs were driven not by hunger, but by the need for a new domicile. Once I realized they were house-hunting, I found I could curb their depredations but providing an assortment of small, empty seashells for the hermits to use. Colorful Nerite shells are ideal for this.

    Because of these potential problems with the microhermit crabs, many seahorse keepers prefer to avoid the hermits altogether and compile a group of sanitation engineers and aquarium scavengers that consists entirely of assorted snails instead. That’s probably the simplest and safest option if this will be the first time you have assembled a cleanup crew for a seahorse tank.

    After the tank has been up and running for several months, you can add a few large Peppermint Shrimp (Lysmata wurdemanni) and/or Scarlet Cleaner Shrimp or Skunk Cleaner Shrimp (Lysmata amboinensis) or Fire Cleaner Shrimp (Lysmata debelius) to complete your cleanup crew and add a touch of color and activity to the tank.

    Peppermint shrimp (Lysmata wurdemanni) are a favorite with seahorse keepers because they eat Aiptasia rock anemones, and both the peppermints and Scarlet cleaner shrimp (Lysmata amboinensis) will perform another useful service by grooming the seahorses and cleaning them of ectoparasites. As an added bonus, they reproduce regularly in the aquarium, producing swarms of larval nauplii that the seahorses love to eat.

    Just remember, it is important to select good sized cleaner shrimp for your seahorse tank(s). Seahorses will actively hunt small cleaner shrimp and they are quite capable of killing shrimp that are far too big to swallow whole, so the cleaners need to be large enough that they are not regarded as potential prey.

    Another thing to keep in mind when introducing cleaner shrimp to your aquarium is that they are more sensitive to water quality and rapid changes in pH, temperature, or salinity than fishes are, meaning the shrimp need to be acclimated more carefully and gradually. Whereas drip acclimation should be avoided for seahorses that have been on the shipping bag for 24 hours or more, it is the perfect way to acclimate delicate shrimp from your LFS. They will do best it drip acclimated to the new aquarium over a period of several hours to allow them to adjust to any differences in the water parameters very gradually.

    Shrimp that are introduced to a new aquarium too abruptly will not flourish and are liable to die within a day or two from the stress of acclimation, unable to adjust to any significant differences in pH or salinity, or they simply fail to thrive and expire a week or two later for no apparent reason. If the shock is too great, they will autotomize, dropping legs, claws and/or antennae immediately upon being introduced to the new aquarium conditions.

    Okay, that’s the quick rundown on seahorse-safe sanitation engineers, Kyme.

    The only other thing I would suggest is to please consider participating in the free Ocean Rider training program for seahorse keepers before you purchase Mustangs or Sunbursts to replace the H. kelloggi seahorses. It’s a correspondence course that’s conducted entirely via e-mail, and if you would like to give it a try, just contact me ([email protected]) off list with your first and last name and I will get you started on the first lesson immediately.

    Best wishes with all your fishes, Kyme!

    Happy Trails!
    Pete Giwojna

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