How to Set Up a Seahorse Aquarium

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How to Set Up a Seahorse Aquarium

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Many aquarium enthusiasts enjoy adding rare and vibrant animals to their miniature ecosystems, and seahorses are a popular choice due to their striking colors, unique physical forms, and captivating personalities. With their horse-like heads and serpentine, armored bodies, seahorses possess a mythical appearance that enhances the aesthetic appeal of aquariums.

Keeping seahorses can be as straightforward as caring for other fish, provided that you conduct some research and planning ahead of time. Below, you will find basic tips for setting up and maintaining a seahorse aquarium, allowing even beginners to relish the experience of having these fascinating creatures grace their tanks.

Steps to Set Up a Seahorse Aquarium

1. Select a Tall Aquarium

Seahorses, being vertically oriented creatures, prefer changing their depth. Opt for an aquarium that is at least 45cm tall. A minimum size of 50cm (W) x 50cm (H) x 60cm (L) is recommended for housing 3 to 4 seahorses measuring 12–20cm each without other sea creatures.

2. Install Standard Fluorescent-Strip Light

Seahorses aren’t fans of bright light. Choose a tank with standard fluorescent-strip lighting, avoiding overly bright options, which is why they’re not typically paired with corals.

3. Invest in a High-Quality Filter

Select a high-quality tank filter that neither creates bubbles nor causes a strong current, as seahorses, being weak swimmers, struggle with strong water flows. The filter should be designed for larger aquariums and capable of removing the substantial amounts of undigested food that seahorses typically excrete.

4. Install a Protein Skimmer

A protein skimmer helps maintain clean and well-oxygenated water, catering to the needs of seahorses’ weak gills. Ensure it’s properly installed in the tank.

5. Maintain Proper Salinity

Follow the instructions on the salt mix to keep the water’s specific gravity between 1.021 and 1.024, which is ideal for most marine aquariums.

6. Regulate Water Temperature

Maintain a water temperature between 23°C and 25°C. This range, lower than the preference of most marine life, can be achieved using a water chiller or tank fan. The temperature differential makes it challenging to find suitable tank mates for seahorses. Always have a thermometer in the tank to monitor the temperature.

7. Add Appropriate Substrate

Add substrate to the aquarium base. Options include cured live rock (to minimize tank pests) or sand. Choose substrates without jagged or sharp edges to prevent injuries to the seahorses.

8. Install ‘Hitching Posts’

Seahorses often wrap their tails around solid structures. Install multiple ‘hitching posts’ in the substrate, using items like fake corals, plants, kelps, or slender rock formations.

9. Introduce Cleanup Crew

Add small hermit crabs, limpets, or snails to the tank to naturally clean up undigested food particles left by the seahorses.

Handling Seahorse Fry: Important Tips

Remember to NEVER expose them to air. Use a large-diameter siphon and rely on gravity to transfer them into a 20L bucket (have additional mixed water ready for your display). Alternatively, use a pipette with the end cut off for a larger opening, or scoop them with a specimen cup.

Avoid using nets or other methods that expose fry to air, as this is lethal. Exposure leads to over-inflation of their swim bladders—visible as a small bubble in their throat area—resulting in a slow death.

Frequently Asked Questions

Question #1: Timing of Seahorse Birth

When should I expect my pregnant seahorse to release the new fry?

Reidi seahorses typically carry the fry for two weeks before release, though timing may vary with individual seahorses, depending on factors like pouch size and experience. Younger females usually leave smaller clutches of eggs. The smaller the male, the sooner he’ll expel the fry due to limited space. Health, stress levels, and the environment also affect the number of fry.

Question #2: Separating the Seahorse

When should I separate him from the tank to provide a safe space for the fry?

Do this as soon as possible. The longer fry remain in the display, the higher the risk of them being preyed upon by other living creatures (like fish and corals) or falling victim to non-living hazards, such as filters.