DISCLAIMER: I AM NO EXPERT; I AM
MERELY A HOBBYIST USING MY OWN EXPERIENCE AND RESEARCH TO HELP OTHERS.
Seahorses are one of
the more specialized marine fish to keep. They’re 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’re going to
cover types of seahorses because even the different types can affect
the tank setup.
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.
Click on any thumbnail
for a larger photo.
- 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.
- If you’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.
- 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 you’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
- 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
- Heating the tank, if you have a tropical species (kuda, erectus,…)
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 you’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, 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.
- 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 they’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
- 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.