It's a fascination, turning into a hobby...

My dad has inspired many things in my life. I can attribute my fascination with diving to my childhood. Dad used to own an aquarium which sold many exotic varieties of fish. Having a HUGE marine aquarium in our own home with sharks, moray eels, octopus and other fish you wouldn't want to touch in it was so cool. I have no idea how many hours I would spend watching this tank and pretending I was a merman and it was my Atlantis. These days I am a diver. Any dive I've been on (except freshwater dives) there is always one critter I search for... the seahorse. I believe them to be good luck. Around the open waters and bays of Sydney there are actually a good variety of seahorses, but seeing one is never guaranteed. They disguise themselves very well. I love these animals.

Over the weekend I started to set up an aquarium to bring these little animals closer into my life. Australia has a strong captive-bred culture of seahorses ie: animals not taken from the wild. Captive-bred seahorses are delicate creatures, but hardier than their open water counterparts. These days you no longer need to have a separate tank for live feed for them, they will eat frozen food. Setting up a successful marine tank for these critters is going to be a long and complex process. Artificial marine environments are difficult to maintain. I'm going to blog about the experience as I go along.

Getting it right from the start:

My new tank: is 3ft.
Depending on the breed, this tank could happily house 3 or 4 pairs. Mixing up the salt water was a long process as this should not be done in the tank. Special marine salt is required as well. Table salt does not contain anywhere near the required trace elements required and will kill anything introduced to the tank. My tank holds around 190l of water. My process was to mix up the water in batches of about 10l. Firstly, chemically neutralising the chlorine then adding the marine salt, stirring then adding to the tank.

The lighting system on this baby is rather stunning, literally. It has turned my bedroom at night into day. It's freakin' bright - just like sunlight. You'd get a tan under here.

The Filter: MariSys 240
This is the most important part of getting it right. The choice of this filter system for my tank will refresh the water approx 6 times an hour. It's pretty powerful. It contains a protein skimmer which is essential for organic waste removal in salt water aquariums.
It contains a 4 stage trickle system. The mug is temporary... I will replace this soon with a more suitable gunk collector (yes, that is the technical term). The top layer contains typical woolen filtration pads which remove larger particles of waste. The water then passes through a carbon layer which removes finer particles and smells. The water then flows through the next stage which is the Bio Balls (pictured above). Bacteria will colonise these balls and will break down harmful ammonias and nitrates. After this the water then travels through another carbon layer which should remove any further organic waste and will polish the water. Finally the water passes through a very cool container of ceramic pieces. This final stage is where the good bacteria grow and do the final cleaning before the water is pumped back by the power head into the tank. Oh, and it sounds like it's raining in my bedroom. I find it really relaxing...

The biology:
The tank, at this stage, is a desert. There are no bacteria here. Solution: naturally introduce some into the tank. I added 5 mollies to the tank. These are usually fresh water fish but they actually happily live in saltwater as well. They took a little longer to introduce, but they seem happy enough. How will they help the tank?Poo!

And this is where we wait... This process should take about 6 weeks.


The Mutant said...

Holy crap! That looks so amazing! I want one! Actually, scratch that - no room at my place and the cats would keep trying to get inside! I look forward to seeing it all set up though!

Muzbot said...

I have very little room in my place as well. It's taken some creative rearranging of some furniture to make this possible. I still haven't sorted out where everything will go now as the tank stands in place of a book shelf that was there.
Great to meet you on the weekend.

Adaptive Radiation said...

Cool. Are you going to go for the temperate water varieties (e.g. pot bellied seahorse) or the tropical ones? It would be neat to set up an eelgrass biotope. I'm a big fan of Syngnathid fishes...I did some research on seahorses a while back when they came under export regulation. I also attempted to do some research on Stigmatopora pipefishes in Botany Bay when I started my PhD (but they turned into a pipedream...they were very hard to keep alive). Good luck.

Muzbot said...

AR: So I can call on you for some advice? :)
I'm going to go for a tropical variety. I considered the temperate variety but somedays in summer my room can get a little warm and the water cooler can be a little expensive. I'm going for the "Asian Emperor" variety. I think they are also called "Yellow" seahorses

Adaptive Radiation said...

Hmmm...I can give you advice about NOT keeping pipefishes. In any case, it looks like you are in great hands with a father who worked in the industry.

It might be worth looking into what species the Asian emperor might be to see if it is really tropical. I know that the western australian seahorse, Hippocampus subelogatus, is being bred commercially and might be passed off as a tropical variety.

Btw...You should go to the Sydney Aquarium for inspiration. Their seahorse tanks look awesome.