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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
And now, time for something a little different.

Throughout my life I've vaguely admired saltwater tanks but never had much interest in owning one. Every time I even get the slightest bit of 'maybe saltwater might be fun' I hear a little bit about what is required to get them to a high level of success and it immediately switches off any desires I might have of owning one. I'm speaking right now about corals, because a tank without corals is typically called a FOWLR or Fish Only With Live Rock (so no corals), and... I kind of hate how those look. Sooo no saltwater for me.

This has been the state of things until earlier this year when I paid a visit to the National Aquarium in Baltimore. There on display was a tank of seahorses with live seagrass... I was somewhat entraced. And there were no corals. No corals, means not having to do all the crazy stuff corals need to survive..... Here are 2 pictures I took at the time:





These pictures don't really show the tank itself, which honestly wasn't much to look at. But hopefully it gets across that there was a lot of seagrass in there. Sooo could I do a saltwater tank with plants and seahorses?

BUT I already have 3 display tanks (only counting ones filled with water and also not counting my 40 breeder quarantine, the 10 gallon blackworm culture tank, or my 5 gallon tadpole raising/breeding tank), and The Wife had been pretty adamement about not getting another tank. I floated the idea and only got a raised eyebrow... le sigh. But then inspiration struck. I decided to make a deal with The Wife. I get seahorses, and she gets another cat.

So lets talk about my new saltwater setup!

First of all the setting. The seahorse tank is going in my office, right next to my newt tank. To that end I am going to make some effort to make them look similar. The newt tank is a Waterbox Clear Mini - 30 gallon. Its 60cm or not quite 24 inches wide and not quite 18 inches deep and not quite 18 inches tall. Ideally then my seahorse tank will be 24 inches wide and 18 inches deep. Seahorses are one of those weird fish that like vertical space more then horizontal so ideally my seahorse tank will be 24 inches tall. This ideal tank will be about 45 gallons. Since I am going saltwater I will be using a sump which will probably be diy from a 20H I have laying around. For plants.. well there aren't that many to choose from. In the saltwater hobby there are 4 submersed plants that make up 99% of what people have in their tanks, those are turtle grass, manatee grass, shoal grass, and star grass. There are other species, but these are widely recognized as the ones you might somewhat easily find. I plan to have manatee grass and maybe turtle grass in the tank. I will also have a few red mangrove growing out of the water.

I am currently trying to secure the tank itself. I've contacted one custom aquarium maker near me and trying to get in contact with another (consequently, if you know any custom aquarium makers in Maryland or very nearby, I'd very much like to know).

I also have already started work on the stand. The newt tank stand is a petco metal stand I heavily modified. The seahorse stand will have a very similar look with one big change. The inside shelf will be substantially beefier to support the weight of the sump.

Yesterday I made my form for the concrete top on the stand:



And poured the top itself:



Today I worked on the wood for the sides and the brackets that will make the bottom shelf hold the weight of the sump, but I forgot to take pictures ;P Tomorrow I will likely finish the stand.


While I feel pretty confident in freshwater, I essentially know NOTHING about saltwater. So I am doing my research trying to figure out all the new terminology and the odd mix of science, and animal husbandry that make up the aquarium hobby. What is (to me anyway) somewhat odd is how incredibly rare seagrass is in the saltwater aquarium community. There are a handful of articles about it, and a double handful of forum threads scatted throughout the internet, and that is it. It also seems like most of the people who have grown it in the past basically used mud and fish poop to keep plants alive. They did well for a time, then usually they would crash and die out. This is exactly what I would expect would happen to anyone in the freshwater world doing the same thing without adding fertilizer. So I am planning to add ferts to my seahorse tank to keep the plants happy. Right now I am leaning towards the PPS-PRO method and a autodoser since I am 1) having so much success with it in my 120P tank, and 2) its a lean dosing method so probably good for a tank that may or may not be sensitive to the compounds in the fertilizer.

I have a LOT I want to talk about for this tank, but this first post has gone on long enough so I am going to end it now and say, more to come.
 

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Sounds interesting. Looking forward to seeing what you come up with!

I've toyed with the idea of salt from time to time, myself. I don't much care for the blue light coral look, but I really like anemone and clownfish tanks. Maybe you'll inspire me to take it on!
 

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You might want to look into macro algae. You will find significantly more options than searching for saltwater plants. Those who keep seahorses, pipefish, etc. quite often keep them in macro algae tanks. You might also find inspiration in display refugiums that often utilize macro algae as the main nutrient export. The picture below is a macro algae refugium example:

Flower Plant Water Purple Window


Good luck!
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Sounds interesting. Looking forward to seeing what you come up with!

I've toyed with the idea of salt from time to time, myself. I don't much care for the blue light coral look, but I really like anemone and clownfish tanks. Maybe you'll inspire me to take it on!
I with you on the lights. I really hate those terrible blue actinic lights. Fortunately they will not be needed for this tank. I don't know yet what light I will be using but I know I need a lot of it. Like 250 ppfd of light. And since these are plants I need much more natural coloring for the lights. I'm honestly not sure if reef tanks need those blue lights anymore. I think they are just used because they make the corals fluoresce, but I know so little about saltwater I'm not sure.

You might want to look into macro algae. You will find significantly more options than searching for saltwater plants. Those who keep seahorses, pipefish, etc. quite often keep them in macro algae tanks. You might also find inspiration in display refugiums that often utilize macro algae as the main nutrient export. The picture below is a macro algae refugium example:

View attachment 1035606

Good luck!
I might add 1 macro algae to the tank (since they come in such vivid reds) but honestly even that I'm leaning towards a no. The macro algae is interesting but something about the way they look tends to throw me off a bit, sorta an uncanny valley of plants ;P
 

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I think they are just used because they make the corals fluoresce
Yep. Gives that Photoshopped look all the time.

We used to grow corals under 5500K florescents -- they grew like crazy. There was actually a time in the hobby (early 1990s) when there was an argument against running actinic (back then, the lighting was 5500 flo or MH lamps and 420nm actinic lamps in combination) because it reduced coral growth. I recall when 10K lighting was bleeding edge.

The history of aquarium lighting (starting back when Robert P.L. Straughan put his corals in a fishbowl and took them outside for an hour each day) shows that corals can be grown under darn near any lighting.

FWIW, growing corals is easier than growing FW plants, at least as evidenced by my 30 years of doing both. Corals are simple, really -- four easily measured parameters (NO3, PO4, Ca, KH) and a bunch of light. I personally wouldn't touch seahorses or marine plants with a 10 fathom pole.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Yep. Gives that Photoshopped look all the time.

We used to grow corals under 5500K florescents -- they grew like crazy. There was actually a time in the hobby (early 1990s) when there was an argument against running actinic (back then, the lighting was 5500 flo or MH lamps and 420nm actinic lamps in combination) because it reduced coral growth. I recall when 10K lighting was bleeding edge.

The history of aquarium lighting (starting back when Robert P.L. Straughan put his corals in a fishbowl and took them outside for an hour each day) shows that corals can be grown under darn near any lighting.

FWIW, growing corals is easier than growing FW plants, at least as evidenced by my 30 years of doing both. Corals are simple, really -- four easily measured parameters (NO3, PO4, Ca, KH) and a bunch of light. I personally wouldn't touch seahorses or marine plants with a 10 fathom pole.
Awwww seahorses aren't so bad! ;P

At least captive bred erectus eat frozen food now. The real problem is the darn things need to be fed 2 to 4 times a day and if they go 4 days without eating they straight up die. Deciding to get seahorses was also deciding to get a dog walker to come in a feed my fish when we go on vacation.
 

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Looks like you have good plan so far. I had a pair of Erectus years ago. I was able to get mine eating frozen mysis and i can assure they did not get fed 4 times a day. Mine bred like crazy although i never tried raising any. I kept mine in a refugium connected to my main reef system. Im honestly surprised they did so well considering they are said to prefer lower temps. I probably still have some reef stuff laying around shoot me a message if i can help in anyway
 

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Yep. Gives that Photoshopped look all the time.

We used to grow corals under 5500K florescents -- they grew like crazy. There was actually a time in the hobby (early 1990s) when there was an argument against running actinic (back then, the lighting was 5500 flo or MH lamps and 420nm actinic lamps in combination) because it reduced coral growth. I recall when 10K lighting was bleeding edge.

The history of aquarium lighting (starting back when Robert P.L. Straughan put his corals in a fishbowl and took them outside for an hour each day) shows that corals can be grown under darn near any lighting.

FWIW, growing corals is easier than growing FW plants, at least as evidenced by my 30 years of doing both. Corals are simple, really -- four easily measured parameters (NO3, PO4, Ca, KH) and a bunch of light. I personally wouldn't touch seahorses or marine plants with a 10 fathom pole.
Oh man, still can't beat the look of a 250W overdriven 20k SE Radium MH. I've never seen such a beautiful spectrum of light.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
I’d recommend seagrasses for the seahorses if you don’t mind trying something a little different. Thalassia testudinum is a favorite. Here are some of my old seagrass aquaria:

View attachment 1035620
View attachment 1035621
I am definitely considering turtle grass. Part of the hold up will be access. Where did you get yours? Did you plant it bare root or with some of the original substrate mixed in? How much par were you putting at substrate if you remember? Sorry for all the questions, but you are the first person I've spoken with that actually has grown it before.
 

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I used to occasionally find and catch seahorses when I lived in Bermuda. Unfortunately, they don't last long in a 1/2 gallon, unfiltered goldfish tank!
 

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No worries! It was bare root—I was able to get from a couple of sources.
I am definitely considering turtle grass. Part of the hold up will be access. Where did you get yours? Did you plant it bare root or with some of the original substrate mixed in? How much par were you putting at substrate if you remember? Sorry for all the questions, but you are the first person I've spoken with that actually has grown it before.
I used to get it from here and one other place. Apparently the other site doesn’t get them in any more. Their live mud works pretty well. You shouldn’t need much—a little goes a long way.


I had about 500-600 PAR on them at the time.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
No worries! It was bare root—I was able to get from a couple of sources.

I used to get it from here and one other place. Apparently the other site doesn’t get them in any more. Their live mud works pretty well. You shouldn’t need much—a little goes a long way.


I had about 500-600 PAR on them at the time.
Was that 500-600 par at substrate? If so..... I'm 'going to need a bigger boat'.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Yes, was very overpowered. 2x 250w 10K halides in very efficient reflectors over 16” of tank. Honestly don’t need much, but growth was impressive.
Oh thank goodness ;P I was worried that I was going to need something crazy. Yeah I've read that I need like 250 ppfd but it wasn't clear if that was at the plants themselves or at substrate. I'm aiming for it to be at substrate though to be safe.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 · (Edited)
Update!

The stand is mostly finished. I say 'mostly' because I am going to need to do some work inside of the stand so I can mount various doodads and gizmos. I haven't started that process yet simply because I don't know what its going to need. I think I am going to be using soft tubing for most of my plumbing. But if I end up using hard pvc, the places I will need to be able to secure stuff will greatly increase, etc.

Anyway here you can see the stand with the steel support in the base that will hold the shelf for the sump:



Here is the stand with the wood panels in place:



Here is the top being spray painted because I totally messed up with cement color mix and the result was an affront to the dignity of all decent life forms:



And here is the stand assembled and in place:



In other news I am zeroing in on the tank itself. At this point it's almost certainly going to be a custom tank. I have one quote which is acceptable and I'm waiting on one other quote to come back. I figure that I will probably pull the trigger sometime in the next week.

Now I need to figure out my sump ;P
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Do you have a controller for this tank? At a minimum I'd recommend having an ATO. Keeping salinity constant is really important and evaporation will increase salinity quick.
Originally I was hoping to skip a controller. But in doing further research and talking to people sooooo much more experienced then me, I am now convinced that I should get one. I don't know what controller to get though. To me so far they sound like - Apex - most popular with the best software but people complain the probes suck and make the whole thing innaccurate - GHL - super accurate but the worst software and you need to have programing skills just to make it do basic functions - Hydros - new kid on the block, who knows how long they will be providing support??

I am simplifying things to a gross extent but that's my current state of understanding. I will be buying a controller to monitor things and to run the ATO (which I also now know I need), but beyond that its up in the air.
 

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I'm an Apex fanboy. I have not found the probes to be inaccurate, especially if properly calibrated, but you can always swap them out with whatever brand probe you want if it's a concern. The pH probe I'm using now is some rebranded Bulk Reef Supply probe that is doing the job just fine. Really the thing you are going to be monitoring most closely via probes is temperature. pH should be significantly less of a concern in saltwater than fresh. Conductivity or ORP are not necessarily parameters that need to be monitored constantly. The biggest benefit of the controller is for allowing custom programming for lights, heaters, auto top off pumps, etc., logging historical information and spotting trends and sending you alerts (like leak alerts) and allowing for remote controlling of outlets from anywhere you have an internet connection.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
I'm an Apex fanboy. I have not found the probes to be inaccurate, especially if properly calibrated, but you can always swap them out with whatever brand probe you want if it's a concern. The pH probe I'm using now is some rebranded Bulk Reef Supply probe that is doing the job just fine. Really the thing you are going to be monitoring most closely via probes is temperature. pH should be significantly less of a concern in saltwater than fresh. Conductivity or ORP are not necessarily parameters that need to be monitored constantly. The biggest benefit of the controller is for allowing custom programming for lights, heaters, auto top off pumps, etc., logging historical information and spotting trends and sending you alerts (like leak alerts) and allowing for remote controlling of outlets from anywhere you have an internet connection.
This is why though I almost didn't go with a controller. I feel like temperature is a solved issue. I can buy a temperature controller much cheaper then a full aquarium controller, and even that is just for safety. Apparently seahorses like it cold so my heater should basically never turn on. I can't really speak at all as to accuracy of the apex, I'm just paroting what other people said when I was reading threads the other day. Essentially my main concern is salinity and alkilinity. I know I will need an ato so being able to see that working appropriately will be great. I will probably be dosing kalwasser...maybe? Heh a lot to figure out. But I need a controller to do that for me. The biggest gray area for me is that the plants are going to suck a lot of nutrients and carbon out of the water. I will be injecting co2 into this tank but its possible that could become overwhelmed. At that point the plants will take it out of the water and the alkilinity could suddenly change. Being able to monitor that and have the system automatically take actions would be pretty spiffy.
 
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