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Seahorse Environment

If you want to keep seahorses, it is my firm belief that you owe them the best environment you can possibly provide.  When choosing equipment, tank mates, or any other aspect of the seahorse home don't ask what is required or possible for their survival but, rather, ask what is optimum for the seahorses and their long term wellbeing. 

Seahorses are slow eaters and should not have to compete for their food.  In addition, seahorses are easily stressed by fast moving or aggressive fish.  For these reasons, a species only tank is highly recommended.  Personally, my seahorses have only clean-up crew and one scooter blenny as tankmates.  I do keep a variety of soft corals with them.  Most seahorse keepers will someday give in to the urge for more fish or corals in the tank...  please be cautious in doing this and read this excellent article on tankmates.

The information here is not appropriate for dwarf seahorses (H. zosterae).   If you are interested, please visit our Dwarf page.   I would also suggest you visit Seahorse.org and Syngnathid.org for information on their specific needs.

First, you will need a glass box.  A tank.  Unless you are keeping H. zosterae it is recommended that you have at least a 20 gallon "tall" tank.   I recommend that you get the best tank you can afford.  Compared to the amount of money you will be spending, the tank cost is a minor matter. 

The tank will be filled with either natural seawater or artificial seawater which can be purchased at your LFS (local fish store) either premixed or as dry salt mix.  If you are using artificial seawater, you will need a source of filtered water.  When you mix saltwater it must be allowed to aerate and age overnight before adding to the tank to be sure that the salt crystals have completely dissolved.

The tank must be cycled and preferably be a mature tank.  The inhabitants of your tank will create toxic ammonia as a waste product.  There are bacteria that convert the ammonia to nitrite and then to nitrate which is less toxic.  BEFORE any living creatures are added to a tank, it is necessary to establish sufficient colonies of these bacteria - this is called cycling the tank.  There are articles on how to property cycle your tank at Seahorse.org and at Syngnathid.org.

You will need a salinity meter to measure the salt content of the water.  You will also need equipment or tests to monitor PH, ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate.  Be sure all tests used are appropriate for saltwater.

Seahorses do not have any specific needs for lighting.  Florescent lights should be full spectrum to simulate daylight.  If your tank has very bright lights, be sure to provide shadier areas as well.

All living things require oxygen so it is important to use an air pump and airline (without airstones) unless your system includes another method of oxygenating the water.

It is recommended that water circulation should be 2-4X your tank capacity.  IME most seahorses actually enjoy having areas of moderate current as long as calmer areas are also provided.

Stable water temperatures are also very important and you will need to provide a heater and/or chiller depending on the needs of your species and your local climate.

To keep the water clean you will need to provide filtration.  Mechanical filtration removes particles from the water.  Biological filtration is the removal of toxins as performed by nitrifying bacteria as mentioned above.  Chemical filtration is also used under certain circumstances.   Plants and macroalgae also aid in the removal of excess nutrients from the water.

Detailed information is available at Syngnathid.org's Filtration Primer.


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