Itís green (usually),
itís tasty to corals, and itís essential to the food chain.
Itís some of the smallest eukaryotic life, itís usually one-celled,
and itís everywhere in the ocean. It comes in many forms-
diatoms, dinoflagellates, pelagic microalgae, and even coccolithophoresÖ
So, what is it?! Itís phytoplankton, and it can make raising
those little seahorse fry much, much easier!!!
So, you ask, what does it do? Phytoplankton, when used in
seahorse fry rearing systems, has a number of benefits. First
and foremost, it provides a source of enrichment for their
zooplanktonic food- brine shrimp napauli, rotifers, and the
like. These filter-feeding microcrustaceans, when released
into the seahorse rearing system, immediately begin filtering
the water for any particulate matter they can find before
being sucked into the snout of some hungry fry. But any time
counts, and the more nutritious phytoplankton your seahorsesí
food can consume, the more nutritious phytoplankton your baby
seahorses will consume.
But donít change the channel; thereís more! Being miniature
Ďplantsí (ok, theyíre actually protists, but thatís scientific
mumbo-jumbo), phytoplankton are able to utilize nitrogenous
compounds, i.e. the ammonia in baby seahorse poop, as a source
of fertilizer. So, essentially the phytoplankton serves as
a means of biological filtration, thus keeping your rearing
systemís water more stable and cutting down on the waste levels
in the water (but yes, you will still need to do those always-essential
water changes almost every day).
And it doesnít end there, friends. There are many small benefits
to using phytoplankton in the seahorse rearing system. It
provides a screen against light that can disorient or stress
your fry. Additionally, as marine fish are constantly consuming
the water in which they live, the fry will essentially be
living in a vitamin smoothie.
So, now you know what phytoplankton does, but where will
you get it? Itís available cultured from many online dealers,
and there are a few commercial companies that offer live phytoplankton
through local fish stores. The most practical and cost-effective
means of getting phytoplankton, however, is by culturing it
yourself. Itís really quite simple.
To start out, you'll need a few pieces of equipment that
should be relatively easy to come by:
- a 2-gallon hex aquarium starter kit; these commonly-available
kits come with a tank, a light socket, an air pump, and
various other items. They are available almost anywhere,
including Wal-Mart and other fine value stores.
- a 7w fluorescent light bulb; the type that screws into
a standard incandescent outlet. Make sure you do not get
higher than seven watts, as anything more powerful can overheat
and crash your algae culture.
- Miracle-Groģ Water Soluble All Purpose Plant Food; i.e.,
the blue stuff. I've found that no other fertilizer works
quite as well as this stuff. It's water soluble, easy to
find, and its blue colour serves as an indicator of when
you should add more (as the blue fades, add more).
- approximately 1 gallon natural seawater; water from subtropical
or temperate regions works best because it contains higher
initial levels of phytoplankton. The best time to collect
is summer, as this is when levels are highest. several gallons
new artificial seawater; you will need to use new artificial
seawater as opposed to old tank water because tank water
can contain zooplankters that will feast on your algae cultures,
reproduce like mad, and cause the culture to crash. THIS
IS VERY IMPORTANT!
Once you've found each of the above items, follow these