by Dan Underwood
Keeping seahorses is much easier than many would have you believe, PROVIDED the proper environment is setup for them. The two places where most folks fail is the improper environment and under feeding. Examples of improper environments can range from adding them to a tank that is too small, a tank that is too warm, wrong tank mates, wrong amount of flow, or lack of enough filtration. Seahorses will generally thrive if the proper environment is set up and they are fed properly.
Having worked with seahorses for over 13 years, assisted many customers, and being an active participant on several message boards, we have paid attention to what works long term and where folks run into problems. Many hobbyists succeed well beyond 5 years and sometimes as long as 10 years with the same seahorses, yet we have seen many others that can’t seem to get beyond 1 to 1 1/2 years, often even shorter periods. There is a common theme in how tanks are setup with the successful hobbyists.
The information being provided is based on those that have had long term success keeping seahorses. If this information is followed, odds are you will succeed. This doesn’t mean there can’t be exceptions in the setup, in this hobby one can always find an exception, however, odds are you will find yourself dealing with some type of an issue if these guidelines are not followed. This can range from minor to major. We get calls every week from these folks asking for help. In many cases, a simple tweak or a correction in the setup and their seahorses flourish. Sadly, in other cases they were given or obtained bad information and the setup is just not conducive for seahorses. Unless you already have a history of successfully keeping seahorses, it is strongly recommended to sticking to what is known to work.
Keeping seahorses should be easy, fun, entertaining and educational. Even for newbies to the hobby. In fact, we have found folks who are new to the hobby, are patient, do the proper research, and follow our advice are generally the most successful, even more so than some of the more experience marine hobbyists.
Below are the basic recommendations. I will expand upon this information and get into why things should be setup this way in future articles.
TANK – Minimum of 29 gals, with 25 to 30 gallons for each pair of seahorses.
SUBSTRATE – Sand or bare bottom. Stay away from crushed coral or gravel.
WATER FLOW – Minimum of 10 times the turnover of tank volume per hour.
BIOLOGICAL FILTRATION – adequate to handle the anticipated biological load.
MECHANICAL FILTRATION – Should have some type designed to remove suspended particulate matter as well as a good performing protein skimmer.
TEMPERATURE – 69 – 77 degrees F with 72 to 74 being ideal.
TANKMATES – stick with 0 to 1 on the following guides: Seahorse.org Tankmates Guide (http://www.seahorse.org/library/articles/tankmates/tankmates.shtml) or FusedJaw.com Seahorse Tankmates (http://fusedjaw.com/aquariumcare/seahorse-tankmates-whats-safe-whats-not/)
LIGHTING – not critical for seahorses. Recommend LED’s when possible.
PARAMETERS (basic) – Ammonia – 0, Nitrites 0, pH – 8.0 to 8.3, salinity 28 to 36 ppt.
SEAHORSE SPECIES – stick with 1 seahorse species per tank.
FEEDINGS – Minimum of twice a day, ideally 3 times a day.