Seahorses are one of the more specialized marine fish to keep. Their tank requirements are a bit different then those of most other marine fish and should be met for optimal life. Keeping a seahorse tank is a lot of work, money, and time but it can pay off and YOU can do it.
First we are going to cover types of seahorses because even the different types can affect the tank setup.
Here are some of the most popular seahorses
- Hippocampus abdominalis
- Hippocampus barbouri
- Hippocampus erectus
- Hippocampus kuda
- Hippocampus reidi
- Hippocampus zosterae (Dwarf seahorses)
Please remember that just like any fish tank seahorses should only be introduced into a stable cycled tank. Cycling a marine tank can be done with the use of live rock which will either cycle the tank right away or will slowly grow the bacteria needed. There are other ways but this is the most preferred method of cycling.
- Dwarf seahorses need nano tanks. Nano tanks are usually 2-20Gallons. They are very small in size and there for should not be kept in a tank larger than 10 Gallons.Tank
- If youâ€™re considering any of the other species 29 Gallons is usually the minimal tank size most will recommend. 37-55 Gallons is highly recommended as a good tank for most seahorses. Unlike most fish seahorses need HEIGHT more than length or depth. The tank height should be at least three (3) times the height of the seahorse. Having a large tank (anything over 55 gallons or so) may make it a little more difficult for feeding because seahorses can be rather slow and if the food is dispersed all over the tank there is a greater change the seahorse will not receive enough food.Filtration
- Next, filtration; seahorses are very messy eaters so good filtration is key. Its up to you really whether you want to use a HOB (hang on the back), canister, or a sump but like most setups in marine situations sumps are favored because of the benefits it has. If youâ€™re on a budget then you can easily go with a HOB or a canister but DO NOT use a biowheel, biowheels will cause nitrate problems. Canisters are the next preferred because you can choose the media and it will allow for more turn over per hour. Sumps being the most preferred because they are 100% customizable. You can add a refugium to hold macroaglaes and rock which will hold vital bacteria and purify the water. A sump consists of another tank with usually at least 2 sections one for the water to come into the sump and one for the water to make its way back to the display tank (via a pump). Below is a picture of a sump with 2 chambers utilizing the waste from the display directly into the refugium which then goes through bubble traps (to make sure no air bubbles go back to the display tank) and then into the return chamber where the pump sits. For more on sumps see the Building a sump section. You want the water to be turned over around 5X an hour.
- Whether or not to have a skimmer is a highly debated topic and is more of a personal option, some will say that they are dangerous to seahorses because of a common disease seahorses get and other say that it is safe. Others say it is almost pointless for the size of the tank.Heating\Cooling
- Heating the tank, if you have a tropical species (kuda, erectus,â€¦) then you will be looking for temperatures between 70-74F above 74 degrees and the diseases become much easier to receive for seahorses. In some tanks a chiller will be required to actually cool the water. If youâ€™re keeping cold water seahorses that require temperatures in the 60s a chiller will be required. Also, please use a heater guard when using a heater to protect the seahorses from burns.Lighting
- Lighting, seahorses need no special lighting if you are not planning on keeping any macro algaes or corals a normal fluorescent strip can be used. It is said that sometimes seahorses will be affected by intense light (using metal halides for example may cause the seahorse to look for a darker spot). When it comes to lighting it mostly depends on what else you plan on having within your tank. If you plan to have some low light corals (Zoanthids) your going to want to get some power compacts, these are much more powerful fluorescent bulbs that usually incorporate a dual daylight bulb and a dual Actinic bulb. If your interested in keeping corals needing higher amounts of light (like clams) your going to need to invest in metal halide lights.
Metal HalidePower compact
- Live rock is usually used in seahorse tank with some exceptions; some feel that using live rock introduces many harmful hitchhikers which can easily put your seahorses at danger. Realize though that this is a select few and live rock is recommended for filtration reasons and also it provides the seahorses a place to live. Also, sand is the number one substrate; it is a great buffer and also gives life to tons of bacteria needed for a healthy tank. A DSB (deep sand bed) usually consists of 2-4 inches while a SSB (shallow sand bed) consist of 0-2 inches.
- Perches, seahorses when they are not swimming around the tank perch on what ever they can. Sometimes theyâ€™ll use rock, other times tank equipment (this is why its important to have a heater guard). Certain corals like tree corals and gorgonians are used also as perches. Macro algaes along with many other objects both naturally found in seahorses environments and not can be used (such as rope hung in the tank or fake corals).
- When feeding it is a good idea to have a feeding station so that you can easily clean up and get rid of any un-eaten food, usually a spot where there are many spots for the horses to perch and a place for the food to sit.