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by Alisa Abbott and Carol Cozzi-Schmarr – from the June 2004 issue of FAMA

Dear Alisa,

I currently have a 10-gallon nanotank with healthy growing coral. The tank has a plentiful supply of copepods. I have been very interested in seahorses and I know that the tank is too small for the larger seahorses, but I would like to know if I am able to keep possibly a pair or two of dwarfs. I have no other fish in the tank that would compete for food. I guess my biggest hope would be to allow for a self feeding tank for the seahorses, but I also have concerns about the higher current in the tank. Please advise if you can and let me know if this would be a good setup for a few dwarfs.

Thanks a lot,

Jim W.

Dear Jim,

Nanotanks, would appear to be a most favorable setup for dwarfs as they seem to be the perfect size. It is true that dwarf seahorses do best in smaller setups for optimal feeding concentrations and easier viewing. However, your concern about the strong current is an issue that needs to be regarded as a potential hazard for these miniature equines of the sea. Strong currents can interfere with feeding or over power them, which can result in injuries from the surrounding rock. Also the intense lighting required by many corals may promote algae growth on these typically sedentary fish. As a rule seahorses are often leisurely, preferring to hitch in one spot waiting patiently for a tasty morsel to swim under their snout. Some coral may injure and sting dwarves, especially their vulnerable fry. Dwarves are quite prolific and generally reproduce readily in the aquarium. Although some hobbyists may desire to separate fry from their parents, I generally observe this as an unnecessary risk and prefer to keep the fry with the parents. Their requirements are the same as the parents and it can be stressful to the seahorses being transferred.

A well established nanotank with plenty of rock produces an abundance of beneficial creatures. Among these are the copepods, which would initially provide a great feast for your herd, but it would be unrealistic to anticipate this as a constant food source for your seemingly bottomless pits. In just a matter days your dwarves can graze through and exhaust a hefty population of copepods. To establish a self-sufficient closed system, you would need a much larger tank and I would not even consider the possibility of breeding.

As if the discussed potential hazards are not intimidating enough we also run the risks of others. In a contained system such as a nanotank and the benefits of live rock one must consider also the possible dangers that lurk from within. Without a constant self supplying food source, you as the hobbyist will need to supply this. At the present the most common and widely available food source is brine shrimp that you hatch yourself. Although innocent sounding alone and hey, what harm can newly hatched brine cause anyway? Right? True enough, brine shrimp will not actually hurt your dwarves and it’s equally true that your ponies can live well on a staple of baby brine, but not only will the brine feed your prized companions it will also feed and colonize other inhabitants as well. I can almost associate this with Frankenstein, “it’s alive, it’s alive!” because soon enough what lurks from within may come forth with a shocking surprise. Alright, it may not really be Frankenstein, but it can be deadly for your unsuspecting companions. Although you may have not noticed these potentially destructive pests before, once you start supplying a healthy amount of brine you begin providing the perfect atmosphere for hydroids as well. Hydroids are colonial stinging animals that form clusters or colonies on all types of substrates. These harmful pests look sort of like pinkish hair algae and often have what appears like spider webs attaching to other groups. The “spider webs” are generally seen on the glass surface inside of tanks, but the pinkish stalks can be seen anywhere. In nature, the right conditions for hydroid reproduction are seasonal and rather sporadic. But in the aquarium, conditions are always ideal for them: the water temperature is always optimum, the currents are always favorable, the rich supply of brine is inexhaustible, and hydroid predators are nonexistent. Under such perfect conditions, hydroids can reach plague proportions in the aquarium very quickly. Growing on these hydroid stalks are the mobile bell-shaped medusa, which will grow and eventually break off becoming a free floating reproduction machine. These stinging critters are responsible for a great amount of deaths especially for the vulnerable seahorse fry. It is also unfortunate that many hobbyists are late to recognize the threat and eradicating these creatures can be very difficult. In their natural environment it is not uncommon for dwarfs to be seen feeding among colonies of hydroids where food is ample, but in a contained system your ponies lack the ability of escape.

Sadly Jim, I cannot truly encourage anyone to consider adding dwarves into their nanotanks. The dangers are often too great and hydroids are not the only pests to be feared. Aiptasia or rock anemones can be just as deadly as well as many other critters that often hitch rides on rock. Mechanical filtration and skimmers that are often used can suck up dwarves, their fry and also their food supply. Live sand or rock can introduce organisms and critters that may cause headaches later on. The plentiful supply of brine can feed other critters than can be dangerous and grow to plague proportions. The currents may often be too strong, which may cause injury or death; it may also prevent your tiny seahorse from eating. The lighting may cause algae growth. Your coral may sting and I am certain, I am almost out of breath here. My point being is that the risks seem to outweigh the benefits and chances are you will not see your seahorses often anyway because they will have too many places to hide. I would not even deem the chances of observing any fry.

No doubt; that I probably described a picture of total dwarf “doomage” here, as I am cringing myself. However, on the good side of things Jim, many hobbyists successfully keep and reproduce their seahorses. I suggest uncomplicated systems with sand, some hitching posts and simple a sponge filter that will not suck up your dwarfs or their food sources. By keeping potential risks to a minimum you can spend more time enjoying than worrying about your growing equine herd.

Best of Fishes,

Alisa Wagner Abbott


Dear Carol,

I have four seahorses right now and they are growing like weeds. I just ordered 2 more seahorses that I think will arrive at a much smaller size than the ones I have now. I have been thinking that maybe I should put the new seahorses in their own tank until they get settled. If so, I want to get that tank set up and settled well in advance. I have a five gallon tank I could use,just until they get settled, or I could go ahead and put them in the 25 gallon tank with the other four.

When I move this summer, I’m building in a much larger tank, like 75-100 gallons so by the time everyone is grown up, I should be in great shape. How many seahorses would you put in a tank that size? The four we have are Ingens and I think they are going to get rather large.

The only other thing I wondered about is whether I should be getting pairs of seahorses. Do you think its important that they have the same species to bond with? I know the ones that seem happier are the ones that pair bond.

Well, thanks for your help and aren’t these wonderful creatures. We’ve been using a feeding station very successfully…these guys know when I turn off the water flow that its time to head to the feeding spot…sure makes it easier to feel confident they are eating well. Feeding and watching them is a great way to start the day!

I’d appreciate your feedback.

Thanks, Mary

Dear Mary,

As long as you are not going to be mixing tropical lines such as H.erectus with temperate lines such as H. abdominalis that have distinctly different temperature requirements or large breeds such as H. ingens with miniatures such as H. Zosterae (dwarfs) which have drastically different feeding requirements you should be fine mixing your older and larger seahorses with the smaller and younger new arrivals. In fact I would recommend that you mix them in the same large tank.

Unlike most fish, seahorses are rather shy yet friendly and gregarious at the same time. They are not aggressive towards one another or towards other fish at all. Even younger smaller specimens are not fearful of older and larger individuals regardless if they are of the same species or not. I have never seen an adult seahorse eat or attack seahorse fry or juveniles, nor have I ever seen seahorses of different species act strangely when put together in the same aquarium, although it is true that seahorses do not like to be moved to new habitats. Like most animals they find security and comfort in surroundings that they know. They also seem to find comfort in simply being with other seahorses, regardless of the species, sex or size. These are just a few more of those amazing behavioral traits that make seahorses so special.

The advantage of putting the new arrivals in your established tank with the older seahorses right away is that the younger seahorses will learn from the larger ones how to eat like you want them to. You have already trained your older ones to eat frozen feed from your feeding station. The younger ones will pick up this same behavior quickly, you will see. The younger the better for this. If you need to feed a smaller chopped mysis or even if you are using Cyclops for the younger seahorses and large whole mysis for the older animals they can all be fed together in the same tank. Before you know it the smaller seahorses will also be growing like weeds and will be eating the larger mysis so you can feed everyone the same feed in no time at all.

Another advantage is that the new arrivals do not have to adjust to 2 different environments (or three different environments if you count your new tank) so it will be less stressful on them and less work for you!

Unless you really want to feed a lot of baby seahorses I would not worry about getting pairs of seahorses. They may or may not pair bond the way you want them to in a group tank anyways. If you want to have a bonded pair that only mates with his or her mate you really need to set up a tank just for them. I think that half the fun of having seahorses is to watch their interactive behaviors when in a large group. They will be just as happy…..if not happier in a group situation.

There will be a lot more chasing, mating, and general activity in the group tank. They will provide you with hours of entertainment every day!

H ingens is one of the largest breeds of seahorses found in our oceans today. If you keep these giants in a small tank their growth may be stunted or at least slowed quite a bit. But, if you put them in the 100 gallon…..you are going to have a lot of fun watching them get quite REAL BIG!! Even so the 100 gallon can hold a lot of seahorses easily. I would say you could easily stock 6-8 H erectus and 6-8 H ingens and 6-8 H redi in this large tank. You will really have a spectacular seahorse exhibit that is for sure!!

Have Fun!

Aloha, Carol


Dear Alisa,

I am hoping that you can help me with some confusing information here. I currently have a pair of seahorses in a 29 gallon tank. When I bought them, they were labeled as Brazilian seahorses. One is bright yellow and the other is orange. A friend of mine said that the actual name of the seahorse is reidi. I guess what I am trying to get at here is what their actual technical name is; I really don’t want to look stupid when other people ask me what kind of seahorse I have and cannot answer them.

Thanks so much,

Gina

Dear Gina,

You are not the only person that gets confused with the different types of seahorses and their scientific names. Years ago before I even ventured into the hobby, I figured a seahorse was just a seahorse. A scientific name to me meant no more than the fictional cartoonish image of what a seahorse should look like to me. In fact, I truly did not believe that this fish was real although I always knew I wanted one. I would have never imagined then that there would be so many diverse species.

Since most people now have computers or access to the internet, we are at a greater advantage than before. Answers to our questions are often just a few keystrokes away. There is also much more for us to read about them in our favorite magazine and even more books are coming out on seahorses as well. The “salty” hobby as a whole is booming at an alarming rate and because of this more and more people are benefiting from the information being shared. I can certainly understand anyone’s concern about wanting to be a bit savvy now, so many seem to be. We commit a lot of time and care into our tanks and we are very proud. So why shouldn’t we want to display a little knowledge.

I am concluding enough scientific information about your seahorses so you can be just as savoir-faire.

Best of Fishes,

Alisa Wagner Abbott
Kingdom: Animalia (animals)
Phylum: Chordata (all of those having a dorsal nervous cord)
Subphylum: Pisces (fish)
Class: Actinopterygii (ray-finned fish)
Superorder: Teleostei (large diverse group of bony fishes)
Order: Gasterosteiformes (armored belly fish)
Suborder: Syngnathoidei (fused jawed fish)
Family: Syngnathiformes (seahorses and pipefish)
Subfamily: Hippocampinae (seahorse)
Genus: Hippocamous (Horse monster)
Scientific Name: Hippocampus reidi (Ginsburg, 1933.)
Common Names: Brazilian Seahorse, Long Snout Seahorse.

 


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