- This topic has 5 replies, 3 voices, and was last updated 17 years ago by Pete Giwojna.
February 8, 2007 at 11:15 pm #1112ceresmaMember
Hi and thanks in advance for the great info I know I will receive!
Whay order should I add my seahorses. My plan is for safe corals and safe reef fishes (per pete\’s article in TFH) I plan to add the corals first but what should be next?
MarkFebruary 9, 2007 at 3:48 am #3395ageberGuest
I am not sure what is correct, however, I added a piece of coral for them to hitch on and then added the horses. In my new 90 gal tank, we added the live rock, a bunch of corals and gogonia’s for hitching posts, then the seahorses and over time have been adding some safe fish, and more corals. it has been fine for us for last 3 months with no problemsFebruary 9, 2007 at 4:07 am #3396ceresmaGuest
Have you added any fish yet?
MarkFebruary 9, 2007 at 6:33 am #3397Pete GiwojnaGuest
I think you have the right idea, sir — I would establish my live rock, coralline algae, and the bulk of your hand-picked corals for your seahorse reef first. It’s best to let most of the corals get a bit of a head start and establish themselves somewhat before you add the seahorses and the excess nutrient loading that goes along with those messy eaters. I would also add an assortment of snails early on in order to help prevent nuisance algae from getting a toehold in your tank. If your seahorse reef is going to have a sump and/or refugium, getting a lush bed of macroalgae such as Gracilaria, Chaetomorpha, or Caulerpa going after the tank cycles in the sump/refuge in order to utilize nitrogenous wastes for growth and outcompete nuisance algae is a good idea.
I would add the bulk of your cleanup crew shortly before you introduce the first seahorses. When it comes to sanitation engineers, I prefer a cleanup crew consisting of a mixture of assorted snails and micro hermits (heavy on the snails but light on hermits) at a density of up to 1-2 janitors per gallon. The snail assortment may include bumble bee snails, trocha 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.
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 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.
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 hermits, 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.
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. I even use them in my dwarf seahorse tanks. 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.
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) 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 the largest possible 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.
I prefer to introduce my seahorses ahead of any other compatible reef-say fish that will serve as their tankmates so that the seahorses are the established residents of the tank when the other fish are added. That helps to minimize any potential aggression towards the seahorses, which just occasionally flares up when other fish have already established territories in the aquarium and the seahorses are the new arrivals, since that’s a situation where they might be regarded as unwelcome intruders.
Best of luck establishing your new seahorse reef, Mark!
Pete GiwojnaFebruary 9, 2007 at 8:02 am #3398ceresmaGuest
Thanks for the detailed answer. As soon as my coral takes hold I will get the ponies (I’m thinking about 4 pairs in the 170 gal tank). I will add the snails in the next week or so even before the coral.
MarkFebruary 10, 2007 at 12:05 am #3400Pete GiwojnaGuest
You’re very welcome! A 170-gallon aquarium with an efficient filtration system such as yours should be able to house a fine selection of hand-picked live corals and several pairs of seahorses without difficulty, and gradually stocking the aquarium in a series of stages or steps is certainly the best approach.
Here’s hoping everything goes smoothly and your seahorse reef blossoms into the beautiful undersea guard you have envisioned it would be!
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