I do think that you will find that the pipefish accept smaller frozen Mysis better than the large Piscine Energetics Mysis relicta, which works so well for the Mustangs and Sunbursts. I would suggest the Mini Mysis by H2O Life or perhaps the Hikari brand frozen Mysis, which are also relatively small, for feeding your new pipefish. The pipefish will readily eat adult live brine shrimp mentioned, which will give you plenty of time to line up a smaller brand of frozen Mysis.

Information on Red Banded Pipefish

Ocean Rider’s cultured banded pipefish (Doryrhamphus dactyliophorus) are very hardy and much easier to feed than wild-caught pipes, and they certainly do make wonderful companions for Mustangs and Sunbursts (Hippocampus erectus).

Once they have settled into a new aquarium, they will accept a variety of frozen foods and nonliving foods, but they are not dish trained. The food for them needs to be carefully dispersed or you can target feed the pipefish with a baster or something similar. As you know, seahorses are accustomed to plucking small invertebrates from the vegetation are the substrate, which is a feeding habit that makes it easy to train them to take frozen Mysis from a feeding station. But the pipefish are accustomed to plucking zooplankton suspended in the water column while they are swimming, and they therefore need to be target fed rather than coming to a feeding station.

They do readily accept small frozen Mysis or minced Mysis once they are accustomed to their surroundings and feel at home, but their food needs to be presented to them from above so that it drifts down right in front of their snouts, whereupon they will snatch it from the water column and dart around cleaning up the remaining pieces that drifts down.

However, several hobbyists that keep their red banded pipefish with their seahorses have reported that the pipes eventually learned to take frozen Mysis from the feeding station by following the seahorses’ example. That was true for Ann Marie Spinella and Lisa Parnpichate, for example, as you can see below:

The left-hand photo above shows Ann Marie Spinella’s custom-made seahorse tank, which measures 16″L x 18″W x 27″H and holds approximately 34 gallons of saltwater. Notice the orange cup coral she has mounted on the live rock to serve as a feeding station for her ponies. The close-up on the right shows her new pair of Ocean Rider seahorses helping themselves to frozen Mysis from their cup coral feeding dish. Ann Marie likes to point out that her new Sunbursts began using the cup coral feeding station on their own, with no training whatsoever, a few hours after being introduced to the aquarium, despite just having been acclimated to their new home with a feeding dish they had never seen before. Photos by Ann Marie Spinella.

Ann Marie’s cup coral feeding station can get a little crowded at mealtime since the seahorses’ tankmates soon learned to follow their example. Her tank-raised Psychedelic Mandarin Goby (Pterosynchiropus picturatus) now comes to the cup coral to partake, and even her Ocean Rider red banded pipefish (Doryrhamphus dactyliophorus) have learned to clean up scraps of Mysis from the feeding station. Photo by Ann Marie Spinella

Other hobbyists prefer a more whimsical approach to their feeding stations. For instance, the two photographs above show Lisa Parnpichate’s 75-gallon hexagonal seahorse setup. The close-up on the right reveals that she has chosen a plastic soap dish in the shape of a sea turtle to serve as her feeding station. Notice how she has cleverly attached the “swimming sea turtle” to the formation of stag horn coral so that it looks like the turtle is suspended in midwater, leisurely gliding past the coral. Photos by Lisa Parnpichate

How do Lisa’s Mustangs feel about their adorable sea turtle feeding station? As you can see from the four photographs below, it suits them very well indeed! Even her Ocean Rider red banded pipefish (Doryrhamphus dactyliophorus) will snatch a piece of frozen Mysis from the feeding station on occasion.

This is what I normally advise home hobbyists with regard to the new cultured pipefish:

Red Banded Pipefish (Doryrhamphus dactyliophorus)

A new strain of hardy captive-bred-and-raised has finally arrived on the market in the United States! Ocean Rider has developed a beautiful line of cultured Red Banded Pipefish that are every bit as hardy and easy to breed as the ever-popular Mustangs and Sunbursts seahorses for which they are famous! That’s welcome news for hobbyists and seahorse lovers who have struggled with delicate wild-caught pipefish in the past that have long been regarded as suitable “for experts only” because they are so difficult to keep healthy in captivity. By comparison, Ocean Rider’s Red Banded Pipefish are accustomed to aquarium life and are very well adapted to captive conditions, thereby providing pathogen-free pipefish that are perfect companions for their High Health seahorses for the first time.

Ocean Rider’s Red Banded Pipefish are a new color variety of the common Banded Pipefish or Ringed Pipefish (D. dactyliophorus) and are even more beautiful than their ordinary black-banded relatives. Rather than the black bands or rings, the new strain of pipefish sport maroon bands or dark red rings instead, as their common name suggests.

Preferred Parameters (Water Conditions)

  • Water Temperature:
  • 72°F to 78°F

  • pH:
  • 8.1 to 8.4

  • Specific Gravity:
  • 1.020 to 1.025

  • Ammonia:
  • zero at all times

  • Nitrite:
  • zero at all times

  • Nitrate:
  • less than 20 ppm (optimal <10 ppm)

  • Maximum Size:
  • up to 8 inches in total length; 3-5 inches is typical for new aquarium specimens, but they will continue to grow all of their lives.

  • Social or Territorial: Highly social; does best in mated pairs or small groups of its own kind.

Breeding Habits:

Banded pipefish are livebearers that form mated pairs; they are pouch breeders (females attach their eggs to the brood patch on the underside of their mates and the males then carry the eggs and developing young until birth).

The Red Banded Pipefish is one of the highly prized reef pipefish or flag tail pipefish from the tropical Indo-Pacific. It is a relative of the seahorse with a very long, slender, cylindrical body that resembles a colorful pipe cleaner (hence the name pipefish). This species is boldly marked, with dark reddish to maroon vertical rings running the length of its body and a very striking flag-like tail that is used to propel it horizontally through the water. The tail is a bright red oval with a brilliant white margin all around and a distinctive yellow mark in the center that is often shaped like a cube or rectangle rather than a round dot. This brilliant tail fin makes the Red Banded Pipefish a faster, stronger swimmer than its seahorse cousins and it rarely comes in direct contact with the substrate. Unlike the slowpoke seahorse, which moves through the water vertically (head up and tail down) with a stately, dignified swimming style, the Red Banded Pipefish propels itself horizontally through the water like a torpedo with powerful strokes of its oar-like tail and sinuous body when swimming.

Feeding and Diet:

The Red Banded Pipefish is a carnivore that needs a meaty diet but it’s tiny, tubular mouth severely limits the size of the prey items it can consume. In the wild, its diet consists primarily of copepods and in the aquarium it will thrive in a well-established tank with lots of live rock and macroalgae that houses a large pod population. Hobbyists will find it convenient to supplement its diet with Nutramar Tigrio Bottled Live Copepods, which are an ideal food for this fastidious feeder. Over time, as it becomes accustomed to its new surroundings, the Red Banded Pipefish will be content eating nonliving food such as frozen CYCLOP-EEZE®, very small frozen Mysis, and Nutramar Ova.

When it comes to frozen food, stick with the smallest brands of frozen Mysis (e.g., Mini Mysis by H2O Life) and bars of frozen Cyclop-Eeze for best results. Bars of frozen Cyclop-Eze work especially well because they will shed copious amounts of the bite-size frozen cyclops. Brands of larger frozen Mysis can also be used for feeding the pipefish, and hobbyists tell me that their red banded pipes can even handle the jumbo Piscine Energetics frozen Mysis relicta, looking a bit like a sword swallower in the process, as they gradually gulp down the king sized Mysis shrimp in several bites. But the brands of bigger frozen Mysis often work better after they have been minced or shaved. The frozen Mysis that works best for most hobbyists when minced is Hikari in frozen blocks rather than trays. The Hikari Mysis is much smaller than Piscine Energetics Mysis relicta and that makes it easier to shave off bite-sized pieces for the pipefish.

When it comes to shaving the Mysis, a technique that works well for many home hobbyists is to use a potato peeler to shave off bits of the Hikari Mysis from a frozen block, and then use a single edged razor blade to further mince the frozen bits the potato peeler has removed.

Small, frequent feedings are best. Try to feed your pipefish at least three times daily and be careful not to overfeed at any single feeding, especially with the frozen Cyclop-eeze, which tends to be messy because significant amounts of it go uneaten.

Aquarium Decor:

A well-planted “Fish-Only-with-Live-Rock” (FOWLR) seahorse setup or seahorse-safe reef tank is the ideal habitat for the Red Banded Pipefish. Plenty of live rock, lots of macroalgae, colorful artificial corals, or seahorse-safe soft corals are all very appropriate forms of decor. Is In the wild, these pipefish can be found swimming under rocky overhangs, corals, or close to the floor of its reef habitat, and in the aquarium they will appreciate live rock arrangements that form caves, arches, and overhanging ledges. (Pipefish will often swim upside down along the roof of a cave or overhang.)

In a tank with lots of live rock and a thriving pod population, you may sometimes see the red banded pipefish slithering along the bottom of the tank in a very serpentine fashion, as it hunts for copepods and amphipods and all the nooks and crannies in the rock work.

And in an aquarium with tall plants and tall hitching posts, such as artificial gorgonians, the pipefish may adopt a vertical, tail-up, head-down microflora posture and sidle up alongside the branches of the plants or gorgonians in an effort to simulate their surroundings, the better to ambush unsuspecting prey.

So, depending on the aqua-scaping in your aquarium, you will see your pipefish displaying a number of different behaviors – crawling along the bottom, snakelike while hunting pods; orienting themselves alongside and amidst vertical structures in the tank, tail up and head downwards, hoping to ambush unsuspecting prey; in addition to darting about horizontally like miniature torpedoes when snatching prey from the water column with lightning speed.

Tank Conditions:

The Red Banded Pipefish is a tropical species that does best at water temperatures between 72°F-77°F. The Ph balance of the water should also be maintained between 8.1 and 8.4 as they prefer alkaline content of the water to be high (dKH 8-12). The specific gravity should be maintained ideally between 1.020-1.025. Strive to provide them with multiple cave-like structures or overhangs in a well-planted aquarium with lots of colorful macroalgae that simulates their natural habitat and provides shelter for abundant population of copepods and amphipods.

Compatible Tank Mates:

Red Banded Pipefish born and raised at the High-Health Ocean Rider aquaculture facility make ideal companions for large tropical seahorses such as Mustangs and Sunbursts (Hippocampus erectus). Otherwise, be sure to stick with seahorse-safe tank mates for your pipefish. Small, shy fish that are deliberate feeders such as small gobies, mandarins or dragonets, and fire fish are best. Avoid aggressive, territorial fish and fast-moving fish that will outcompete the pipefish at feeding time. Seahorse-safe soft corals are fine but avoid anemones and stony corals with stinging tentacles.

Courtship and Breeding:

After an elaborate courtship dance, the female Red Banded Pipefish will attach her adhesive eggs to the flat area on the underside of the male’s trunk (known as the brood patch). Pairs of these pipefish will mate regularly in the aquarium if well fed and provided with optimum water quality. Unlike seahorses, it is not easy to determine gender in pipefish, but mature males typically have a flattened appearance due to the brood patch during the breeding season, while females are more round in circumference.

Like the seahorses, these pipefish are livebearers and give birth to independent babies that are miniature replicas of themselves, except that the newborn pipes are totally transparent. They look like glass splinters or tiny transparent threads. The newborns can be raised using the same techniques for rearing seahorse fry but the aquarist needs to be diligent and Johnny-on-the-spot when rescuing the babies or the aquarium residents will make short work of them. (Like black mollies and swordtails, some pipefish parents will cannibalize their young.)

Red Banded Pipefish are gregarious and this social species is best kept in mated pairs or groups of its own kind in an aquarium that is 30 gallons or larger.

Acclimation Procedures (make sure your aquarium is fully cycled!)

Please check that your basic water quality parameters are within acceptable range.

  • Temperature range: 72°F-78°F
  • Ammonia 0
  • Nitrites 0
  • Nitrates 1-10ppm
  • pH 8.1-8.4
  • Specific gravity 1.022-1.025

Acclimate your pipefish is slowly, just as you would acclimate seahorses, but do not take more than 30 minutes to complete the procedure. Open your box away from any bright lights. Check temperature and PH upon arrival in both the shipping water and in the tank. Turn off aquarium lights and follow this procedure :

  1. Float the bag in your tank for about 10 minutes to equalize temperatures.
  2. Partially open the bag and add 1 cup of tank water. (Do NOT aerate the shipping bag during acclimation)
  3. Wait 10 minutes.
  4. Remove 1 cup of water and add another cup of water from the tank.
  5. Wait 10 minutes.
  6. Repeat this procedure again.
  7. Gently use your hand to transfer the seahorses or pipefish into the tank, discarding the water left in the bag.

Okay, that’s the rundown on the new pipefish. They definitely do make terrific tank mates for Mustangs and Sunbursts. The pipefish are ideal for home hobbyists that are breeding and raising seahorses, in particular, since they are already culturing copepods and/or hatching out baby brine shrimp on a daily basis, which makes it a simple matter to feed the pipefish with some of their excess baby brine shrimp every day. But otherwise, you should be prepared to target feed the pipes with suitably small frozen Mysis or with Cyclop-Eeze, as previously described, at least until they get the hang of snatching Mysis from the feeding station.

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