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Sapphire Damsels and New Horses

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  • Offline Shawn
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Sapphire Damsels and New Horses

« posted: 23 days ago »
I have a couple questions I would appreciate some help with if possible. I have been keeping seahorses for almost a year (H. erectus). There have certainly been some problems and I lost two of them. One had an injury before I bought it that looked healed, then in the spring the temperature in the tank rose for a couple days and an infection presented itself and she faded pretty fast. My LFS cut me a deal on a replacement and she is still doing well. The male however (I started with one pair) didn't get along great with the replacement, and I left them for a week in the care of one of my friends while I was away. When I returned the water level dropped and the male stopped eating and passed away about a week later. I think that the salinity spiked because the person watching the tank didn't add new water. I don't know if that is the case, but figured a little background wouldn't hurt.

I didn't replace the male, and it has been nearly five months since he died. I am setting up a new tank (20XH, instead of the current 13 widescreen; I have been meticulous in caring for the 13G and the female still seems content, albeit lonely). The reason for the upgrade is to provide some extra vertical space and allow me to increase the bioload slightly by adding peppermint shrimp for aptasia control. And this (finally) brings me to my question (sorta).

I also have a minor flatworm problem, not a big one, and they are harmless thus far, but I would like to try and eliminate them in the new tank. To that end I have seen that Sapphire Damsels are good for this, and while they seem peaceful, I can't find explicit compatibility with horses. Does anyone have experience with them to know their temperament and/or compatibility?

Additionally, I would like to get another male, but I am concerned about how long the female has been alone, I am hoping that because she will be in a new environment she might take better to a new mate, but  would appreciate thoughts on this as well.
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  • Offline rayjay
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Re: Sapphire Damsels and New Horses

« Reply #1 posted: 23 days ago »
First of all Shawn, the MINIMUM recommended tank size for ONE pair of standard seahorses is 29g.
Anything less means the water quality deteriorates much faster and leads to bacterial diseases and/or internal chemistry problems. I actually use 20g Hs for sumps for my 37g seahorse tanks.
This water quality CANNOT be measured with any available to the hobby test kits so pro-active measures need to be taken, and that starts with appropriately sized tank utilizing extreme husbandry/water changes compared to say a reef tank.
Keeping temperatures in the 68 to 74F also help minimize the bacterial threat.
Peppermint shrimp don't always work in aiptasia control and in fact, my H. reidi years ago, tore one apart to eat the pieces. Also, some shrimp that look like peppermints are not peppermints.
As for flatworms, if it was my tank I'd remove the seahorses and other life forms in there and place in a hospital tank until treatment of the flatworms is completed in the display tank.
I no of NO damsels that I would ever place in a seahorse tank.
Additionally, I prefer NOT to have other fish in with my seahorses as they have a propensity to fall victim to pathogens they are then exposed to but have not grown up with.
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  • Offline Shawn
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Re: Sapphire Damsels and New Horses

« Reply #2 posted: 23 days ago »
Hello RayJay,

I appreciate your input in this matter. As for the worms, they are (as far as my experience and research can find) a harmless planarian. They are not seen anywhere other than the glass, and it is for that reason I wanted to be rid of them. They have been in my tank since my first piece of live rock, and the population has not changed.

I am hesitant about keeping anything in the tank other than horses, but do have a neon goby. It is captive bred, from a tank of only captive bred fish and was quarantined for two months prior to adding the horses. I understand the problem with shrimp, and realize that peppermint shrimp, as with most biological controls, are not always effective. I am also aware that many pet stores will mislabel dancing shrimp as peppermint and this often leads to some doubts concerning their effectiveness in aptasia control. The aptasia "problem" I currently have is not out of hand, nor is it expanding. I have been spot treating when needed, but total eradication is challenging, if not impossible, by this method.

I do take the water quality of my tank very seriously, and to do a water change weekly is to have let it go too long. I maintain the temperature at 68F, my comment about the spring was that I had not found a way to cool the tank, and when I realized it had heated up (to 73F) I took precautions to lower it again. However, I already acknowledge this in the infection onset in the one horse. I also keep the salinity low in an attempt to stave off bacterial or parasitic complications.

I do understand your concern about tank size. It is legitimate, and I have seen very many reviews on what size is appropriate. I hand feed my horse 2-3 times a day, minimizing the food waste as much as I can, and the goby does well in cleaning up after her. I do only have the one horse, but as I have said, she seems content, and her health is not at risk as far as I can tell.

I very much do appreciate you taking time to reply to my question and I take to heart your concerns and will bear them in mind as I decide how I should best move forward.

Thank You

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  • Offline angieg1123
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Re: Sapphire Damsels and New Horses

« Reply #3 posted: 20 days ago »
It is good that you asked about the damsel before adding it to the tank.  I agree with what has already been said. I do not think anything smaller then a 29g is a good idea....YOU could live in a bathroom your whole life without ever being able to leave the room, but would you be happy living there?  When we choose to take these or any other animal and keep it in tank, or home, we become responsible for it. It's quality of life is dependent on US.  They have no choice. 
Flatworm exit is inexpensive and easy to use. Again, you would have to remove the seahorse and other critters first.  I have used it once, before I knew I should QT macros.  Now I QT everything!!  Petco just had their $1 per gallon sale, you could have picked up a 29g for $29.00. They have the sale every few months.   I have never had Aptasia so I can't offer any suggestions other then boiling water in a syringe and injecting them. (Works on ugly brown button polyps too lol) 
Good luck and I hope you are able to get rid of both pests.
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  • Offline Shawn
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Re: Sapphire Damsels and New Horses

« Reply #4 posted: 18 days ago »
Hi Angie,

I feel bad about this but I do have one slight clarification to make, I am always hesitant about forums like these and the types of responses that come up. Sometimes people are helpful, and sometimes they are just judgey which doesn't help anyone. I appreciate you expressing your concerns while also providing helpful advice. Currently I am running a 20XH and starting a 36G bowfront, the 13G widescreen is a hospital tank. Agreed that one could live in a single room, but that doesn't mean you would want to, but when you are sick a smaller room is fine.

My question about the damsel was legitimate, referencing the article on this website about seahorse-compatible fish, the green chromis is listed as least concern, and yellow tailed damsels are listed as "with-caution" so to speak. Given that both are types of damselfish and their behavior is so different, it led me to think (in my opinion legitimately) that the sapphire one may be OK at least with caution. I certainly would not add it without hearing of someone else's experiences with the fish in any tank environment. I am hesitant about the flatworm exit as I am with most chemical treatments, especially not knowing the active ingredients. At least when I was using Joe's Juice on the aptasia I knew that it was a suspension of calcium hydroxide, which is sparingly soluble in salt water (due especially due to the pre-existing [Ca]) and it is equilibrium controlled in its dissolution so it has no significant impact on pH and only posed a hazard to snails that wandered into it.

I did have the series of misfortunes with the seahorses, however, and I am not sure if it is best to add a new one with my current one when transferring to the new tank. The new tank is still cycling, and will be for another month or so, therefore this question is not too pressing, but there were aggressions between the last male and the new female, and that was after replacing very quickly the first female. It will be seven to eight months that this female has been without a partner when I am ready to get a new one, and I am not sure if it would be better to continue to keep her alone or bring in a new male.

If you have any suggestions and time enough to send them I would greatly appreciate it, and I will continue to research the flatworm exit before using it. Also, side note, I have tried vinegar, freshwater and boiling water in addition to Joe's Juice on the aptasia, no success, I am quite envious of your lack of these pests, but as I have also mentioned, they are not causing harm at the moment, so they are of concern, but not nearly a threat. Another side note, aptasia and nassarius snails will fight over freshwater mysis shrimp, so at least they provide some entertainment in that respect.

I feel a couple peppermint shrimp will not be too harmful to include in the new tank as an insurance policy.
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  • Offline rayjay
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Re: Sapphire Damsels and New Horses

« Reply #5 posted: 18 days ago »
When I first started with seahorses in 2002, I thought with 8 yrs of reefing behind me I would have no problem. WRONG/
However, through trial and error and with the help of a few forums that don't exist now and along with seahorse.org that sprouted out of another forum, I slowly learned a few things.
#1 thing I do now, is ALWAYS start with a sterile tank and that means rock, decor, sandbed and anything else going into the system.
I've never had flatworms or aiptasia since and that is over a decade now.
I had used FE but found it took repeated dosings to get anywhere with it, and even then I ended up with them coming back again after some months.
At that point I put the seahorses in the hospital tank and bleached the system, full system rinse and added ClorAm-X and ran for a day, followed by another full system rinse with ClorAm-X and then put in new salt water, added ammonium chloride and went through the cycle. Worked great.
For the one only tank I had with macro, I treated the macro separate with hydrogen peroxide and most of the macro survived to continue growing afterwards.
On a side note, in my reef tanks I used hydrochloric acid in the syringe to kill the aiptasia, limiting dosing two about 10ml a day (90g tank) to keep pH from dropping. You just have to be sure there is no coral or anything to be affected, directly above dosing point. Be sure to put the needle in the hole the aiptasia's base is in.
For me, I would solve the problems first and then be sure nothing else goes wrong afterwards for 2-3 months before introducing another seahorse, which should preferably come from the same breeding source as the original so as not to introduce any new pathogens to the existing one.
For me, the MAIN reason for the tank size is control of water quality as the more water, the easier it is to maintain the quality as problems are slower to develop, often giving you a chance to correct and repair rather than loose everything in a hurry.
Now, for damsels, I'd rate them as mostly a 4 and very few at a best of 1. Same with clownfish.
Basically ANY fish that is territorial is a no-no but like in any species, bad ones can come from good so always be watchful of those rated OK. Problems most often occur as they mature if not evident right off.
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  • Offline vlangel
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Re: Sapphire Damsels and New Horses

« Reply #6 posted: 18 days ago »
Hi Shawn, my name is Dawn and I just wanted to welcome you to fusejaw.  It seems like rayjay and angie have given you good advise.  We all wish you the best of luck with your current seahorse and any future ponies you might get.
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  • Offline Shawn
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Re: Sapphire Damsels and New Horses

« Reply #7 posted: 18 days ago »
Hi RayJay,

Thank you, hopefully I can clean up the aiptasia once the seahorse is out and re-purpose the tank. It is in good condition. What concentration of HCl did you use when treating the aiptasia?

I am starting fresh on everything in the new setup, although, I was thinking of using 1 or 2 gallons of water from the old tank to help in cycling which could either be good because the tank is established so there should be good bacteria, but then again sterile could be best. I will definitely wait to add a second seahorse until the first has been in the new system for a while. I had been considering adding them at the same time in case the problems I had seen previously were at all territoriality-related, but if you don't think that will be a problem I have no qualms about waiting. My LFS still orders from the same breeder, so getting from the same stock shouldn't be an issue.

Because macros have been mentioned twice now, I figure it is a good time to ask a slightly different question. When I first started the tank I had tried keeping red gracilaria. Turns out I had a couple asterina stars hitchhike on my liverock and they made quick work of it. They are otherwise a non-issue, so I feel bad about killing them, but are there any macros that they don't like quite as much? I am also assuming here that you probably haven't had this problem with the sterile-everything approach, but I have yet to purchase liverock from any source that does not have at least a few of them on it.

Thank you again for your response, and if you get a chance I really would appreciate any other advice I can get. I am not new to this, but I definitely lack experience, one year is not very long and I am still trying to grow in the aquatic animal care area!
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  • Offline rayjay
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Re: Sapphire Damsels and New Horses

« Reply #8 posted: 17 days ago »
I used the HCl right out of the bottle and I assume it's a standard commercial concentration. I bought it at the pool store. I also used it for cleaning equipment for my reef systems when calcium would build up on power heads and other items.
I see no need to add water from an already in service tank to a tank that is sterile to begin with. I've never had any problems with just adding ammonium chloride, or some use bottled ammonia meant for cleaning but for that you have to be absolutely sure there are no additives of any kind in it. By adding old water to it you risk possible transfer of unknown pathogens IMO. Sure, it works for many people, but there are many more where luck didn't come along with it.
You don't need the bacteria already present, but if that's what you want, it's better to buy some commercial bacteria sold for the purpose.
As for learning, I'm still learning all the time and just coming up to 15 years now with seahorses.
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Re: Sapphire Damsels and New Horses

« Reply #9 posted: 8 days ago »
Shawn, one thing I learned about erectus years ago is they can become larger than you can imagine and will dwarf a 24" tall 60G tank. They can also live for 8+ years and do continue to grow throughout their lives. That being said, do not transfer water from a existing tank to a new one, as Ray already said you are risking transferring organisms that you don't want in a new tank. My smallest tank for a single adult pair of H. comes is a 45G and I am cycling a 58G tank to move them into as they are already outgrowing their 45G tank. Also, I would not add any damsel into a seahorse tank. My seahorse tanks are not only species specific, I only keep a single pair in each tank. As for aiptasia and flatworms, moving forward, prevention by using sterile techniques is much easier than eradication, this has already been stated.
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