Lighting Their

Some lights are better than others for seahorses.

Shedding Some Light

I'm shopping for new lights for my 20-gallon reef-and-seahorse tank. I'm considering power compacts because they aren't super intense. My horses don't seem to mind being out in the sun for good portions of the day (it helps to have a lot of shaded areas in the tank).

I'm also looking into 14,000K metal halides and the new Solaris LED systems. These are extremely expensive, but they do some pretty serious effects (cloud, dusk, dawn, night and moon cycles). So what type of lighting is everyone using?

— Seahostler

Metal halides would not bejmy first choice for lighting your 20-gallon reef/seahorse setup. In addition to providing high-intensity lighting, the metal halides also tend to generate a lot of heat, and heat stress can be very detrimental to seahorses. In addition, seahorses don't like excessively bright light, and they may go into hiding and seek shaded areas amidst the rock-work, if the lighting is too intense for ^l|ir comfort level. And the seahorses won't look their best and brightest r metal halides either, because y pr|duce excess melanin (black pigment) in order to protect themselves against the harmful ultraviolet radiation they associate with intense light and darken as a result.

JcrlBGomezjurado reports:"I hav^ exposed yellow seahorses to strong metal halides, and they have turned black in a few hours." So it would be a shame to display brightly colored seahorses under metal halide lighting in a small closed-system aquarium.

If you can^fford it, I agree — the Solaris LED Illumination System does sound like it would be a much better alternative for a seahorse reef than metal halide lighting. The Solaris LEDs can provide the spec

Metal halides are not the best choice for displaying colorful seahorses such as this specimen. These lights are prone to overheating. Seahorses subjected to extremely hot lights will produce excess melanin, which obscures their attractive coloration.

trum of light and intensity you need without the same concerns regarding overheating, which is a huge plus for the seahorsekeeper.

Aside from generating less heat, they also provide very considerable energy savings, and the longevity of the LEDs is also superior to metal ^Snae lamps. Best of all, the flexibility and adjustability of the Solaris LED Illumination System allows you to independently set the lights to duplicate sunrise, daylight, cloud cover, sunset and even the lunar cycle.

I have never had occasion to try the Solaris lighting system as of yet, but it certainly does sound like it would work very well for seahorses. If you do decide to give it a try, I would opt for the smallest Solaris system possible for your 20-gallon tank.

Power compact (PC) lighting would certainly also be a good choice for a setup like yours. I like them because they allow me to provide my seahorses with a natural day/night period that includes twilight periods at "sunrise" and "sunset." To accomplish this, I use PC fixtures that include two tubes — one actinic and one daylight fluorescent — with dual ballasts so that each ballast can be placed on a separate automatic timer.

I like to have the bluish actinic come on before the daylight tubes and stay on after the daylights go off, thereby providing a simulated dusk and dawn. This is important for seahorses since they conduct most of their courting and breeding in the early morning hours under twilight conditions. It is a neat effect, and fish and invertebrates can then anticipate "lights out" rather than being plunged into total darkness at night, or suddenly thrust into bright light in the morning.

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I also adjust the timers to lengthen or shorten the daylight periods in accordance with the changing seasons. I find that maintaining a natural cycle this way aids reproduction. Of course, the Solaris LED Illumination System can accomplish the same thing only better and duplicate a far greater range of lighting conditions to boot, but the power compacts can simulate somewhat similar effects at a much lower cost.

In many cases, I find PC lighting to be a good compromise for a seahorse system. Power compacts provide plenty of light for macroal-gae or the seahorse-safe soft corals in a modified reef system without being too bright or generating too much Qkat. The PC's day/night rhythm helps seahorses maintain a natural Reproductive cycle. Of course, for sea-horsekeepers Who dAnot have live corals in their corrals, standard fluorescent bulbs or tubes are more than adequate. The type of fluorescent lights you choose should depend in part on the color of your seahorses.

For instance, if you own bright red or orange seahorses, I strongly urge you to consider adding one or more Gro-lux fluorescent tubes to your aquarium reflector. Osram Gro-lux bulbs put out wavelengths of light that are concentrated toward the red and violet regions of the spectrum. They are intended to stimulate better plant growth, but have the added affect of greatly enhancing any red or orange or purple colors they illuminate. When bathed in Gro-lux light, bright red or orange seahorses will literally begin to glow!

I discovered this phenomenon when I transferred a rare red-orange Hippocampus erectus to a new aquarium. Now, this beautiful seahorse was very colorful under any kind of lighting, but as soon as that Gro-lux lamp switched on in the new tank, the erectus was ablaze with a shade of brilliant Day-Glo orange ordinarily only seen from neon signs, nuclear meltdowns and psychedelic posters displayed under UV. The steed shone with a luminous aura that made it look like it was swathed with liquid fire.

The Gro-lux lamps would have no effect whatsoever on black, brown, yellow or green seahorses, which would absorb the light rather than reflecting it. However, if you own red, orange or purple seahorses, you should use Gro-lux bulbs.

In many cases, I find PC lighting to be a good compromise for a seahorse system. Power compacts provide plenty of light.

If you don't have red or orange seahorses, then you should know Paul Groves, cura|pr at Underwater World in Perth, Australia, recommends combining a triphosphor (6500K) fluorescent tube with a Phillips TL Blue fluorescent tube to produce the best overall lighting. After much experimentation, he found the above combination of lights really encouraged the coloration of the seahorses as well as being aesthetically pleasing to the eye. He reports that the diversity in colors displayed by H. subelongatus was much less under any other lighting.

If you want to accent the colors of red, orange or purple seahorses, then Osram Gro-lux fluorescents are ideal; for other Hippocampus, try a 6500K triphosphor fluorescent with a Phillips TL Blue fluorescent to keep them looking their best. U

Carol Cozzi-Schmarr is a marine biologist with more than 15 years of experience managing commercial shrimp hatcheries in Ecuador and Costa Rica. Along with her husband Craig, she started Ocean Rider in 1998, the first seahorse farm in the United States and one of the first in the world.

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