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Keeping seahorses is not just for anyone looking for a new hobby. It requires hard work, studying, and a lot of patience with overall maintenance.
Especially for beginners, it takes trial and error to find what works and learn from previous mistakes.
Seahorses require a similar setup to any other saltwater aquarium except for some unique changes to suit their lifestyle to ensure they survive and thrive, to say the least.
With the growing number of seahorse deaths, it becomes daunting trying to figure out ways to actually keep them alive.
So below I’ve compiled a few essentials that a seahorse tank requires to ensure their survival.
1. Correct Tank.
Seahorses require a special tank that is suited to their body type and swimming patterns.
They require a tank with more vertical room. Seahorses swim vertically in an upright position.
So a normal horizontal fish tank won’t be ideal to cater to their specific needs.
Apart from that they are also territorial. Even though they enjoy company they also love their own spaces.
It is recommended that a seahorse tank should be at least 30 gallons for a pair of seahorses.
The size requirement has many benefits but in terms of spacing, this provides each seahorse with its own hiding spots and territory to prevent tension and dominance from being established.
The correct size and shape tank are crucial in keeping seahorses happy and thriving.
2. Bonding Pair.
Assuming you going with captive-bred seahorses instead of wild seahorses, it’s advised that seahorses should not be left alone.
What I’ve noticed is that captive-bred seahorses are more sociable and they enjoy company.
This makes sense since captive-bred seahorses are most likely raised in huge tanks with high densities of their own kind.
This sociable nature is definitely an artifact caused by human involvement.
This new sociable adaptation that captive-bred possess makes them needy for company or at least a bonding pair.
It’s advised that seahorses be kept in pairs so they aren’t cut off from the interaction of their own kind.
Having a company also is beneficial to their well-being which positively influences their mental health hence they will thrive.
3. Mature Water.
Water quality remains the most important factor in the well-being of a seahorse and it’s the main cause of premature death in captive seahorses.
Mature water or balanced water is the type of water that has been cycled and filled with good bacteria for the well-being of the aquarium and its mini ecosystem.
We know that organic build-up and detritus are common threats to a saltwater aquarium. This causes ammonia and nitrite levels to increase rapidly.
The presence of these chemicals in the water is toxic to most fish as well as seahorses. In order to get rid of these harmful chemicals, good bacteria are needed.
Good bacteria break down organic debris, keeping the water clean while preventing toxic ammonia and nitrite from accumulating
This entire process is what results in an aquarium being matured, balanced, and safe for seahorses to thrive in.
Healthy water means healthy seahorses. This is probably the most important factor in ensuring seahorses survive in an aquarium.
4. Hiding Spots.
Seahorses are the type of fish that are slow to move, weak swimmers, and are more or less defenseless.
Their only defense mechanism is hiding which they seek hiding spots within the coral. These hiding spots become their safe haven as well as their resting place.
Hiding, along with their camouflage ability is their way of hiding from prey.
These hiding spots are very important for them in making them feel safe. Whenever they feel threatened they seek hiding.
In order to keep them happy within an aquarium you must have proper safe hiding spots with compatible coral for them to anchor on.
They normally wrap their tails around coral to keep them firm in the water since their maneuvering skills within the water are weak.
The right hiding spots should have no sharp rock or venous coral. It should be safe for their delicate bodies and easy for them to access whenever they want to.
5. Nutritional Requirements.
Seahorses are small fishes that require constant need of nutrition in order to resource their energy reserves.
You may be wondering why would a small fish require so much food, but it’s actually due to their physiological functioning.
Seahorses don’t have a stomach to store food, therefore whatever they consume is often ingested, digested, and exits their body.
The lack of stomachs prohibits them from receiving nutrients over time therefore to supplement this you need to make sure they are fed 2-3 times a day.
Also, these fish are messy eaters so apart from consistent feeding they also require target feeding of the right amount.
Free feeding can cause build-up which can affect the balance of the water.
Many hobbyists prefer target feeding to control the amount of food being dispensed so each seahorse gets the right amount of food they need with little to no waste.
Apart from the feeding they also require a balanced diet. While brine shrimp is a common food source it isn’t enough to satisfy their dietary requirements.
Mysis shrimp remains one of the best food sources for captive-bred seahorses to thrive on.
6. Compatible Tank Mates.
Seahorses are very docile and peaceable fish, they require tank mates of this same nature or of their own kind to remain alive and active.
The wrong tank mates can outperform them causing them to become prey.
When choosing the right tank mates for a seahorse aquarium you need to find compatible marine life that will be mutually beneficial for both living species.
Compatible tank mates include snails, hermit crabs, shrimp, gobies, etc.
This also goes for corals and types you choose for a seahorse aquarium.
Compatible corals include the Kenya tree, Green Nepthea, Colt leather, etc.
Stay away from corals that are venomous with stinging ability. These corals will totally consume the seahorse leaving them prone to infection and possible death.
7. Good Flow.
One of the many mistakes beginners make is cutting the flow in aid to protect the seahorse from turbulence.
This only creates more problems and is possibly the reason why seahorses die.
We know that seahorses are weak swimmers so they can’t compete with heavy flow.
In order to prevent this, most people shut down their flow to a minimum in order to keep their seahorses happy and protected.
While this is a noble act, it actually has adverse which causes a bigger problem. Lack of proper flow causes
- Dead spots.
- Leaves food to sink down.
- Prevents proper filtration.
- Reduces the health of the marine environment.
- Increases CO2 in the water.
These effects are dangerous and deadly for a seahorse. What you would’ve thought would be a solution to a problem is actually the cause of several other things going wrong.
The correct flow must be found to ensure everything is running smoothly. The only way to improve flow is by using more powerheads with moderate flows.
Instead of one powerhead with high flow which is dangerous for a seahorse, rather incorporate many powerheads with moderate flows to even out the flow within a system.
Correcting flow problems in a seahorse aquarium can save your seahorses from the dangerous effects that can death.
8. Proper Filtration.
Seahorses are fish that give off a very heavy bioload as small as they are they can really be messy and this can cause a host of other problems.
Seahorses are always releasing waste through their rear end or are expelling waste through their vacuum snouts with each mysis they suck up.
Since they are always eating due to the lack of stomach this repetitive cycle soon leads to the decline of the water.
To combat this they require a proper, well-structured filtration system that will help ensure stable water parameters.
Hobbyists often use a combination of mechanical, chemical, and biological filtration to form a suitable filtration system ideal for seahorse aquariums.
You also have to get a good solid protein skimmer which is an additional piece of equipment but it’s literally a saving grace when it comes to seahorses aquariums.
Make sure you choose the right protein skimmer though, since you need something powerful enough to cater to their messy tendencies.
9. No Stress.
Stress is probably the main reason apart from bad water that causes the decline of seahorses within an aquarium.
Stress is a big contributor to the well-being of a seahorse since it affects their immune systems.
A stressed seahorse will have a compromised immune system which can be easily consumed by infection or parasites.
Oftentimes, seahorses can harbor bacteria, and parasites without it affecting them. These pathogens remain dormant waiting for a chance to attack.
When a seahorse is stressed out, this compromises its immune system providing the perfect opportunity for these pathogens to overtake and consume to the point of death.
Keeping a seahorse is the only way to prevent stress. Below are the main stress factors that captive-bred seahorses face.
Eliminating these factors will help significantly in making sure your seahorse is happy and thriving.
|SEAHORSE STRESS FACTORS IN CAPTIVE-BRED
|1. Bad water quality.
|3. Aquarium placed in high-traffic areas.
|4. Violent tank mates.
|5. Environmental Changes
|6. New tank Additions
|9. Low oxygen levels
10. Safe Temperature.
Seahorses are very sensitive to water temperature since they don’t have their own body temperature and they rely on the temperature of the water to maintain their internal temperature.
Fluctuations in water temperature can cause several problems that can turn out pretty fatal for these little creatures.
Your seahorses will do best if you can maintain stable water temperatures around 75°F. When they are kept at water temperatures above their comfort level this opens the door to a host of problems such as
1. Heat stress, denaturing certain enzymes.
2. Compromised immune systems.
3. Increasing the growth rate of microbes and making disease organisms all the more deadly.
4. Increases metabolic rate, more demand for oxygen.
5. Affects the water’s oxygen-holding capacity.
Getting a cooling system and heater to balance temperature for a stable environment is crucial to seahorses’ survival.
It’s important to remember that these fish are cold-blooded creatures who cannot maintain homeostasis at all times.
They depend heavily on the water temperature to keep them functioning optimally.
11. Sufficient Oxygen Levels.
The respiratory rate of a seahorse fluctuates throughout the day due to circumstances and environmental factors.
However, one thing that stays constant is their need for oxygenated water for them to breathe effectively.
lack of oxygen over time will result in what I like to call symptoms of death.
This includes labored breathing, decreased appetite, and rapid gill movements. Without a rapid response, this soon leads to death.
Oxygen levels in an aquarium are not constant, they fluctuate due to several reasons.
Water oxygen levels depend on water temperature, salinity, atmospheric pressure, overfeeding, overcrowding increased ammonia and phosphate levels. etc.
With that said, it’s important to make sure the oxygen levels in an aquarium remain within the normal limit for seahorses to breathe properly.
They require 80-110% oxygen saturation and a DO level of 6-8 mg/L. Supersaturation (anything >115%) in aquariums should be avoided, as it is one of the causes of gas bubble disease in fish.
Some of the ways to keep oxygen levels healthy in an aquarium include
Weekly water change, proper maintenance, good filtration system, target feeding, stable water temperatures, and aeration by increasing agitation.
This is just another important survival requirement for seahorses to thrive in captivity.