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  • vlangel

    Christopher Marks

    Congratulations to community member vlangel and her 36 gallon reef aquarium for being selected for our February Reef Profile! Her nano reef aquarium features a community of rare specimens including a captive bred pipefish and a mated pair of seahorses. Below is the aquarium profile vlangel has written for us sharing her experiences in the hobby and her aquarium's progress over the past year and a half. See what she's been up to and share your comments and questions in vlangel's featured reef profile thread, or in the comments section below. Be sure to also check out her aquarium journal in the members aquariums forum for more information about this reef tank.


    Hopefully this reef profile will present to prospective seahorse enthusiasts what is possible with a specie specific aquarium, while maybe making it less intimidating. I myself was inspired by Zia's and Felicia's seahorse tanks.

    Tank Specs

    • Tank and Stand: Aqueon 36 gallon glass bow-front tank on an Aqueon pine stand. The tank is outfitted with an HOB overflow box. The overflow box is rated for an aquarium over 100 gallons and has a single drain with 1" ID. An Aqua Lifter pump is installed to ensure a siphon is always started in the U tube during return pump start up.
    • Lighting: 30" Coralife T5HO 4 bulb fixture, 2 actinic for 9 hours, 1 coral daylight and 1 10,000K for 6 hours that are plugged into an automatic timer. 2 LED moonlights can be turned on as desired.
    • Circulation: 1 Rio 180, 2 Rio 90's, and 1 Rio 50. These sturdy little pumps can be unobtrusively placed in the tank for a clean uncluttered appearance. Also the guards on them protect the seahorse's tails from injury.
    • Biological Filtration: Live Rock, from a previous tank, some of which is large and dense for denitrification. 1" of CaribSea Aragonite sand, and live sand from a previous tank.
    • Basement Sump: 20 gallon long with 3 DIY chambers. The drain chamber contains a SCA 302 skimmer. The fuge chamber contains live rock, macro algae and some misc coral. A filter pad can be inserted between the drain and fuge chambers when necessary. The return chamber has a 9.5 MagDrive pond pump with 1" ID Ehiem flex tubing and 10 feet of head as it returns water to the tank upstairs.
    • ATO: AutoAqua Smart ATO with a 10 gallon reservoir.
    • Chiller: Coralife 1/6 HP set at 70°F. A Hydor pump located in the drain chamber sends 300 gph through the chiller and the output sends the water back to the return chamber. There is a UV sterilizer inline to the chiller but is not operational at the moment. No heater is necessary.
    • Water: A 5 stage RO/DI unit makes water to be mixed with Instant Ocean for aquarium water.


    Established May, 2014


    • A mated pair of captive bred Hippocampus erectus Seahorses
    • Captive bred Flagfin Banded Pipefish
    • Royal Gramma


    • Kenya Tree
    • Colt Coral
    • Blue Clove Polyps
    • Green Star Polyps
    • Yellow Polyps
    • Blastos
    • Toadstool
    • Various Mushrooms
    • Various Gorgonians
    • Various Palythoa
    • Various Zoanthids
    • Various Pagoda Cups
    • Various Monticaps
    • Various Encrusting SPS

    Macro Algae

    • Red Grape Caulerpa
    • Dragon's Breath
    • Rose Pedal
    • Halimeda
    • Blue Scroll
    • A few unknown varieties


    • 5-6 Large Peppermint Shrimp
    • 1 Atlantic Cucumber
    • 1 Small Crab
    • A few Nasarrius Snails and Bumblebee Snails

    History – May 2014

    Originally the seahorse tank started in May 2014 as a 30 gallon extra high tank connected to the already established 36 gallon bow front reef tank via the 10 gallon cabinet sump. This way I could utilize the chiller for both tanks since our house did not have air conditioning at the time. This arrangement however split the return flow so much that the water turnover rate in both tanks was inadequate. Conventional wisdom requires a 10 times hourly turnover rate for a seahorse tank, and this tank had less than 4. This was particularly problematic because the ponies' diet consists of a half cube of frozen mysis twice a day, resulting in a heavy bioload in addition to that of the reef tank. Even with 25 to 30 gallon water changes every week the seahorse tank had more nuisance algae than desired. With the low flow, I was beginning to worry about bacterial infections, a serious concern for seahorse keepers. All was well until July 2015 when Adam, the male seahorse, did get an infection on his pouch. This required him to be quarantined, with 3 rounds of antibiotics and a probiotic pouch flush to return him to health.

    Downsizing – October 2015

    When Adam recovered I made the difficult decision to downsize to just a seahorse tank. It meant selling some beloved aquarium pets, but I knew having a better setup and a more manageable water change schedule were in the best interest of all the animals. Even though the consolidation and transfer had to take place simultaneously, it went perfectly.


    I chose the 36 gallon bow front to be the display tank because of its size and shape being better suited for moving the aquascape forward and away from the back wall. That way the back wall is accessible to clean. Also its wider footprint allows for more gas exchange at the surface of the water. Seahorses are more sensitive to lower oxygen levels than other fish. Everything that was seahorse safe I kept, and all else from the reef tank was sold. When the transfer was complete I could not have been more pleased with the results!

    Maintenance Upgrade – December 2015

    Mixing, lifting, and carrying 18 to 20 gallons of water every week can become quite tiresome. I used to dream of having a basement sump where water could be transported in a Brute can on a dolly. This past December I decided to move from dreaming about it to actually making it happen. I had a spare 20 gallon L aquarium that I used for the sump. This was not my first DIY sump. It is a simple design has always worked well for me. I decided on flex tubing to give a little leeway for the plumbing to all line up. I calculated that without splitting the flow my 9.5 MagDrive pump, even with 10 ft of head pressure, would still provide 420 gph of flow, more than 11 times water turnover. The scariest moment was flipping the switch to turn the return pump on after all the new plumbing was done! Would the drain handle the flow, would leaks squirt saltwater all over who knows where, or would some other heinous and unforeseen thing happen?! It all worked perfectly, except for a little sucking noise from the drain. A simple fix with a DIY Hofer gurgle buster installed in the drain, and the annoying sucking was reduced to a gentle trickling.

    Feeding Routine

    The ponies are captive bred and came already trained to eat frozen mysis. My pair have learned to eat from a feeding bowl. I fill the bowl by squirting freshly thawed mysis down an acrylic tube into it. This lessens waste and pollution of the tank. I also have live ghost shrimp for treats, or to gut load with medicines to treat the seahorses if they get sick.

    I have not done a very good job up to this point of feeding my coral. I worry a little that the added nutrients could compromise Adam and Eve's health, and they are my first priority. However this year I am going to attempt to feed BBS and frozen rotifer once a week to my zoas and gorgs.

    Maintenance Routine

    When doing water changes, I first make RO/DI water and mix Instant Ocean to make saltwater at 0.023. Then I empty the sump of 7 gallons of water into a nearby drain. Next I pump premade saltwater back into the sump using a Rio 2100 pump. I perform a water change three times a week, which is about a full Brute can's worth of water. No carrying and no lifting, Hallelujah!


    I also clean the skimmer cup when I am doing the water change. When the water change is finished I add the recommended dosage of Seachem Stability to the display tank. I replace and rinse activated carbon in a media bag once every week. Then it is put back into the drain chamber.


    At least once every week I scrub or scrape all the glass and surfaces in the display tank. About every 2 weeks I use a turkey baster to blast the rock work in case detritus has settled in it anywhere. I prune the macros and remove bubble algae as needed.


    I dose 2 part as needed for alkalinity and calcium. Magnesium is used up much faster in my tank by the macro algae so that is dosed more often but still only as needed. Finally on occasion I dose Iron also for the macro algae. I confess that I only test parameters about once a month now.


    Thanks for checking out my aquarium, as you can see my aquarium keeping method is relatively low tech and relies on water changes for stability, this is what works for me! I would like to thank Christopher Marks for all the hard work he does in pulling these reef profiles together. I would also like to thank Markalot as he was my first follower, has always been encouraging and has offered good sound advise when I needed it. I would like to acknowledge Felicia and Zia for their very inspirational tanks and also for their encouragement particularly regarding seahorses. Finally I want to say how much I really appreciate all of you who are my friends on Nano-Reef. You've helped me enjoy the camaraderie of this hobby when I stayed home to care for my mom-in-law and that is priceless to me! Thank you all from the bottom of my heart.


    Dawn @vlangel

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    Recommended Comments

    Beautiful tank and awesome setup! Even your fuge is nice-looking. :-)

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    Proud of you mom. Great to read about all of this. I haven't seen the sump since you set that up, and I'm glad you've finally gotten around to having Dad put the hole in the floor. The fuge does look really nice.

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    Congrats dawn! Hooray the pony garden!!!! Well deserved and earned

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    WOO HOOOOOOOO!!!!! Congrats Dawn!


    Thanks you two. I appreciate that you both have been rooting for me!

    Yay! Awesome! Congrats!

    Thanks Nano sapiens!

    Congratulations! You have a great looking tank!!

    Thank you, that is very kind.

    Well deserved!

    Thank you!

    Yay!!!! Congrats!!!

    Thank you!


    Thank you!

    Congrats dawn! Hooray the pony garden!!!! Well deserved and earned

    Thanks Patrick!

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