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Hot Summer, Cool Seahorses: Cooling The Seahorse Aquarium

Summers can be deadly to seahorses. Are you prepared to cool them down? Summer’s here, and seahorse aquarists are starting to see tank temperatures rise. Seahorses, are particularly vulnerable to warmer temperatures , so for many seahorse aquarists, even moderate heat can lead to a mad dash to lower the water temperature. The consequences of warm water can be deadly for seahorses. Bacteria spread at a faster rate in warmer water, so the warmer it gets, the more likely you are to see illness pop up in your aquarium. Another often overlooked problem is that warmer water holds less oxygen, stressing out the inhabitants of your aquarium. This tends to be worse for seahorses than other fish due to their lobed gill structure. Fans, your first line of defense Often, open tops with fans blowing across the water is enough to drop temp a few degrees. This works by evaporative cooling. Removing tops, and placing a fan so it blows across the water will make the water evaporate much faster, cooling the tank. You can easily drop a tank below the ambient temperature if you have enough evaporative cooling. Theoretically, you can drop as much as 18F degrees below ambient temperatures. Realistically, you are going to see a drop of between 3 and 5 degrees in a home aquarium. (More about evaporative cooling here.) Ways to improve evaporative cooling is to have the fan blowing across the longest part of the tank. Aiding evaporation can be done by increasing surface movement. Position power heads and add air pumps to create more movement. If you have a sump, you can help things out by placing a fan across the sump as well. Keeping the stand doors open will help heat from equipment dissipate. Be sure if you have fish that could be jumpers that the tank has some form of mesh over the top to keep them from making their final leap. You can use egg crate to fashion a top, or pond mesh and aluminum window frames. Do remember that with evaporative cooling, you will lose significantly more water through evaporation than normal. Keeping an eye on the tank, or even adding an auto top-off unit to replenish the tank will be necessary. Evaporative cooling works best in dry climates. Someone in Arizona will have better results than someone in Florida. However, if air conditioning is being used, you have a dehumidifier build in, and can get to lower humidity levels to keep the tank cool. Air Conditioning Often when people think cooling a tank, they think they need to resort to a chiller. That’s not always the case! Often times it’s cheaper to get a room air conditioner and run it rather than buying a whole chiller. And for bonus points, you get a cool room. Of course, it depends where you live, where your tank is set up, and what your electricity prices are like. But it’s always a good idea to at least consider air conditioning. Small units can be had for under $100. If you have odd shaped windows you can get a portable air conditioner. Portable air conditioners carry warm air out via a hose that you connect to a window. They do take up floor space, and some people think they’re loud; but they provide an option for those of us with weird windows. Check Your Equipment There are many ways you can change your equipment setup to help remove heat. Reducing equipment, externalizing equipment, and even cleaning equipment can all help. Reduce Equipment If you’re running several powerheads to keep water moving, a pump from the sump to the tank, and a pump for the skimmer, you could easily be dumping a large amount of heat into your aquarium. Reducing those items while keeping the water moving is a great way to lower the temperature of the tank. Multiple powerheads can be replaced with a single, well designed closed loop. Upgrade Equipment Older equipment is likely to draw more power mom less umph. The additional power translates to additional heat in the tank. Newer, low watt pumps can lower the overall energy consumption along with the heat output. Don’t forget the lowly air pump! Most are low watt and can move around a substantial amount of water, even if it’s not in the way we’re used to in an aquarium. But they can work to keep the surface agitated with very little cost or heat addition. Externalize Equipment Every piece of equipment in the tank adds to the heat overload. If you can externalize the pumps that are in your aquarium, you’re reducing a lot of the equipment heat. External sump pumps can be plumbed alongside your sump. Internal powerheads can be upgraded to those with external motors, such as a VorTech (just be sure to use the foam covering to keep seahorse tails out). Clean Equipment Because our tanks are alkaline with a lot of minerals, calcium deposits occur inside our pump housing. This creates friction, and friction is heat. It may sound like a simple step, but cleaning your pumps every couple of months can help keep the temperature in check. A good vinegar soak followed by a thorough rinsing will remove calcium deposits with ease. Chiller A chiller is often the nuclear option in high temperature situations. They are expensive and take up space. And you need to be sure you’ve chosen one that can cool your aquarium to the right temperature. There are many low cost models out there that don’t cool as much as they purport to cool, so checking reviews is essential. Pet Education has a great article on choosing the right chiller Chiller Sizing Calculator DIY Chiller One way to go about a chiller on a budget is to make your own. While they are rarely pretty, they are an option for those on a budget or just like the challenge of building something themselves.Most rely on a dorm fridge which can often be had for next to nothing, and a big coil of aquarium tubing where water passing through, is cooled, and passed back into the aquarium. DIY Chiller ideas: DIY Evaporative ChillerRefrigerator ChillerDIY chillerAnother DIY ChillerDIY ChillingDIY Do It Yourself Aquarium Chiller Basement If you’re in a warm climate and air conditioning or a chiller isn’t an option, but have access to a basement, sometimes the reality is that it might be the best place for your aquarium. Placing in the basement is not something you can do quickly during a heatwave, but if you’re deciding where to set up your aquarium, be sure to think of what the conditions are going to be like throughout the year. Sometimes placement in the basement is just a fact of life. If you have a concrete floor, you can even take advantage of natural cooling by placing the aquarium sump directly on the concrete rather than raising it up to sit on wood inside the stand. It may take some clever modifications, or a custom built stand, but can be well worth the cooling effect of the concrete. Ice in Emergencies Keeping a couple bottles of ice in the freezer can be a lifesaver. They don’t take up much space, but in an emergency such as a/c or power outage in a heat wave, they could make all the difference in the world. The downside is that you don’t have much control over the cooling. But they could end up saving your seahorses. If you don’t have bottles of ice, and need something FAST, regular ice can be used, but place it in a ziplock bag so it doesn’t melt into the tank. You don’t want it diluting the tank, only cooling. Ice Chiller In a prolonged emergency or unexpected heat wave, you can make a temporary chiller out of a cooler, ice, a coil of aquarium tubing (at least 75’) and a pump to push the water through the tubing coiled up in the cooler. A more detailed explanation. Following the above advice should let you cool your seahorse aquarium to safe temperatures with ease, leaving you, and your seahorses to sleep better at night. DIY Ice Air Conditioner You can even make an air conditioner using a number of inexpensive parts if you’re really in a bind. The idea is to have a fan pushing cold air out of a container. The essentials are a small fan, ice, and a container for the ice. Youtube has a couple examples, one using a 5 gallon bucket, and another using a cooler. I suspect neither would last long term, but they might be a good short term solution for cooling a room with aquariums rather than trying to cool each room. And they’re dirt cheap to build. Do you have any tips and tricks for aquarium cooling? Leave them in the comments below! This entry was posted on Saturday, July 26th, 2014 at 11:53 am and is filed under Aquarium Care. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.
Posted in DIY, Equipment, Fish, Science, Seahorses, Tanks | Leave a comment

Seahorse Canada: Canadian Seahorses At Last!

A flirty pair of seahorses from Seahorse Canada. Canadians have long had trouble getting true captive bred seahorses. CITES has had the unfortunate side effect of restricting access to Captive Bred seahorses to Canada, and while a few overseas companies do ship across the border, it’s a difficult process. No more! Seahorse Canada has recently opened it’s doors, specializing in captive bred seahorses. Their first offering is the Lined Seahorse Hippocampus erectus. H. erectus are considered the hardiest of the seahorses, making this an excellent first offering. This is doubly good news, as many of the tank raised seahorses that make it into Canada tend to species that are more difficult to keep. A beautiful group of Lined Seahorses showing long cirri, the fleshy growths that help them blend into algal environments. And did I mention they’re true captive bred seahorses? Seahorse Canada is a home based breeding facility, allowing Angelo Guaragna, his girlfriend Eve Herman and Thanny, the resident “seahorse whisperer” , to monitor their seahorses 24/7 and ensure they are getting the best care. Those of you familiar with seahorses know that many tank raised seahorses fair poorly in home aquariums, so having access is to true captive bred seahorses north of the border will make seahorse keeping a much easier prospect for Canadians. Yellow Lined Seahorse showing the bright colors they can achieve. I took a few minutes of their time to ask how they got started. Eve had her first experience with seahorses at 8 years old, given to her by her mother; this started a lifelong love of seahorses.  Just under four years ago, her interest in seahorses sparked the set up of a few marine tanks. The care and attention of Thanny, along with help from saltwater expert Colin from Reef Boutique Toronto, helped to inspire them to take their passion to the next level. So, after a few years of research and experimenting with different species, foods and environments, they have been successful in breeding H. erectus and are currently in process of trying to breed H. reidi. Eve, Angelo and Thanny, were able to get their breeding operation off the ground. Seahorse Canada is currently working towards raising the ever popular Brazilian Seahorse. Seahorse Canada is currently researching shipping methods, and have shipped as far as Ottawa. They are continuing to research  best shipping practices so they can offer their seahorses to aquarists across the country. Seahorse Canada hopes to offer supplies and specialty foods for seahorses soon. And they are currently working with the Brazilian Seahorse, H. reidi, which they plan to offer in the future. Oh Canada, you have your seahorses now! Many beautiful seahorses available to Canadians. This entry was posted on Saturday, February 22nd, 2014 at 5:41 pm and is filed under Aquarium Care. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.
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Introducing the Snowshine Seahorses

Introducing H. erectus var. Snowshine. As the head seahorse nerd and proprietor of FusedJaw.com, most of my articles shy away from my own operations. However, I’ve had a project underway I’ve been quietly working on for while that I’m excited to share: The Snowshines, a new variety of Hippocampus erectus. This new variety of seahorses, named Snowshines in honor of both the blustery state they were created (Wisconsin) a well as their unique coloration. Snowshines are still Lined Seahorses, H. erectus, but through selective breeding exhibit an unusual amount of pearlescent white markings, mixed with a base coloration that can manage a wide range of colors, all tinted with a glistening sheen. Light colored Snowshine H. erectus There have been a few varieties of seahorses offered by breeders based on color; but seahorses can change colors, making breeding for color a daunting task. Pintos, pieds, and other piebald varieties are probably the most well known, bur aquarists are frequently disappointed in the finicky color changes that can obscure the prize markings. The trouble with trying to breed for color with seahorses has always been that they are masters of camouflage and change to match their surrounding. But there is no set formula to encourage seahorses to display specific colors. There are certain tricks one can do, such as offer brightly colored holdfasts, but no one technique reliably guarantees color. And no one is quite sure of the extent that color is even an inheritable trait, as seahorses, like octopuses, use chromatophores (color-changing cells) to blend into their environment. Comparing Snowshines to wild-type H. erectus. Left shows a normal wild-type H. erectus at the bottom, and Snowshine var H. erectus above. Right image shows a wild-type H. erectus in the foreground, and Snowshine H. erectus behind it. I’ve been pondering this problem for a while, and decided to approach it from a different direction. Instead of attempting to breed for the base colors, which change, I’ve been selecting for the white coloration that occurs in the saddles and stars. Saddles are white patches that occur on the dorsal side of many seahorses, and stars are the small white dots that appear on many seahorses skin when displaying dark coloration (sometimes confused with ich by novice aquarists.) My observation is that these markings and color are more ‘sticky’ than the wide range of other colors H. erectus can produce. In working on this, I also noticed these markings seem have a certain amount of pearlescent shine. “Saddles” highlighted in yellow, “Stars” highlighted in blue on a wild-type H. erectus. Photo courtesy of Brian Gratwicke Snowshines are the results of using those observations to selectively breed a variety of seahorse that shows these traits amplified. Saddles merge to create large blocks of shiny white coloration. Many of them have masks much like certain clownfish varieties. And while the base color can change; black, green, yellow, and orange, brown are all color combinations I’ve seen underneath the white. My favorite, however, is when they display white on white – they not only show the white patches, but white coloration underneath, while displaying dark horizontal lines characteristic of H. erectus. Just like all seahorses, their colors are flexible, but the pearlescent “shine” stays. For example, many aquarists tend to shy away from darker colored seahorses. But with Snowshines, a black seahorse becomes a dramatic contrast of brilliant white and stark black. And while the exact coloration, shape and appearance does still change as they age as it appears with all seahorses, they keep the most dramatic coloration, the shine. Snowshine brother and sister from two different broods. Large male is 13 months and small female is 5 months in photo. The idea in selecting for these seahorses is partially based on the widespread interest in Hippocampus zebra, a rare deepwater seahorse that has only been found a handful of times. I’ve often wondered why someone doesn’t try to selectively breed H. erectus coloration to imitate H. zebra. H. erectus which has bold lines, but the distinctions between the lines and background colors of H. erectus isn’t very impressive. Eventually the idea brewed in my head long enough, and that someone became me. I didn’t end up with exactly what I set out to create, but I think I’ve created something much more interesting. A white-on-white Snowshine seahorse with bold horizontal stripes H. erectus is known for. Snowshines will be available for the first time through Diver’s Den. For those of you not familiar with Diver’s Den, it’s LiveAquaria.com’s WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) shop that let’s you purchase the exact fish or invertebrate you see photographed. If you’re interested in a truly unique seahorse, keep your eyes glued to Diver’s Den. Snowshines compared to normal H. erectus Snowshine showing white and brown coloration Snowshine seahorse pair showing mottled coloration This entry was posted on Wednesday, December 4th, 2013 at 8:29 am and is filed under Breeding. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.
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Help! My Seahorse Just Had Babies!

Or, what to expect when you didn’t know you were expecting. Seahorses are known for their proclivity of having hundreds of babies when you least expect it. Photo by CARSTEN SCHÖNIJAHN You just walked by your tank to discover dozens, if not hundreds of tiny seahorses drifting around your aquarium. These miniature copies of the adults caught you off guard, and now you’re not sure what to do. This guide will walk you through what you need to do within the first few hours to try and save the young seahorses. In the immortal words of Douglas Adams; Don’t Panic! The absolute first thing you must do is decide if you really want to try to raise these babies. Raising baby seahorses is a time, space, and money consuming task. And there is no guarantee that you’ll be successful; very few seahorse fry survive in the wild. Being unprepared means that you’ll be starting from a disadvantage as well. However, thanks to their yolk sack when born, baby seahorses can go 24 – 48 hours without. . .
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The Pygmy Pipehorses of Cozumel

Close up of a pygmy pipehorse - Cozumel, Mexico. Photo Courtesy of Jim Lyle Diving in Cozumel, is by all accounts, is an amazing experience. Cozumel is considered one of the best diving locations in the world, with reefs and shallow coral formations teaming with sea life. Divers flock from around the world to see such amazing animals as sharks, sea turtles, stingrays, and of course, seahorses. But one surprising animal exists there going mostly unnoticed. It’s the West Atlantic Pygmy Pipehorse, Amphelikturus dendriticus, a diminutive relative of seahorses. Most people know what a seahorse is, and many have some awareness of pipefish, the seahorse’s straightened, snake-like cousin, but few are aware of the in-between fish called the pygmy pipehorse. They are, as you would expect, a middle ground between seahorses and pipefish. They hitch like seahorses, and while they have a slightly bent neck, its no where to the extreme that gives seahorses their moniker. Females tend to rest. . .
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Syngnathid Symposium 2011

The the second Syngnathid Symposium was held the first week in November in Chicago at the Shedd aquarium. 92 delegates from all over the world gathered to discuss current issues with seahorses, sea dragons, pipefish and other syngnathids. Topics discussed were husbandry, challenges in breeding, keeping and obtaining these unique animals as well as conservation and research initiatives. Most attendees were from public aquariums, along with researchers, conservationists, a couple commercial interests, and me, a syngnathid nut. I had the privilege to attend as an observer, blogger and general enthusiast and to learn more about the challenges those who work closely with seahorse, sea dragons, and the much forgotten pipefish. Topics ranged from the difficulties in sea dragon breeding to population dynamics of seahorses to at times loathing these difficult animals (even if in a loving way). There were more topics covered than I could possibly share in a summary, but I want to share. . .
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