Reply To: New horse problems

Pete Giwojna

Dear Eric:

If it’s only been a few days, the reluctant eater most likely just needs a little more time to get adjusted to it strange new surroundings before it starts to feel more at home and resumed its normal feeding habits. If you happen to already done so, I would suggest target feeding the newcomer to see if you can tempt him to eat. Let me know if you need some instructions on the best methods for target feeding frozen Mysis to seahorses and I will get some suggestions about that to you right away, sir.

Ugh — I know just what you mean when you say that your seahorse’s preferred hitch unfortunately seems to be the heater. I don’t know how many times over the years I’ve had seahorses ignore all my artfully arranged aquascaping and handpicked, thoughtfully placed finger sponges, colorful branching corals, lush beds of macroalgae, and gorgeous gorgonia, only to adopt an unsightly siphon tube or the dang heater cord as their favorite hitching posts instead!

As you know, our amazing aquatic equines — especially the stallions — will often choose one particular hitching post as their home base and spend much of their time perched right there (think of your Dad hunkered down in his favorite easy chair in the den). Once they adopt a favorite base of operations like this, they will often proceed to change coloration to match their preferred resting spot. So I always take great pains to encourage my ponies to adopt one of the more vivid pieces as a favorite holdfast. Needless to say, it’s tremendously frustrating and annoying when they eschew all the primo hitching posts I’ve so carefully selected and arranged for them in favor of some piece of mechanical apparatus haphazardly dangling inside their tank!

You’ll want to break them of the habit of perching on your heater, of course, Eric. Not only to avoid the slight risk of a heater burn, but more importantly, to encourage them to perch near the bottom of the aquarium where the extra hydrostatic pressure will help protect them from depth-related problems such as certain forms of gas bubble disease. Perhaps you can shield the heater from the seahorses by placing it in the corner of your tank and screening it off behind a tank divider or a piece of window glass cut to size that you have placed diagonally across that corner of the aquarium.

Seahorses can be susceptible to heater burns under certain circumstances. Such accidents are most likely to happen during the winter when the heater is running more or less continuously. I should think that the risk from a heater burn this time of year would be pretty low. A heater guard is a wise precaution nonetheless, and if you want to play it safe and leave your heater turned off until you can obtain a heater guard, that should not be a problem, Eric.

Mustangs and Sunbursts (Hippocampus erectus) can tolerate a wide range of temperatures, and handle cooler temperatures better than high temperatures. They would not have any problem at all if the water temperature in their aquarium gradually dropped to below 70°F. In fact, this species is often kept in temperate aquariums at temperatures in the low to mid 60s.

Of course, it’s always best to maintain stable temperatures and if your aquarium typically holds at 72°F-75°F, that is ideal for Mustangs and Sunbursts. Once you get your heater guard, your seahorses should thrive at that temperature.

You can obtain heater guards on line, including at, such as the one offered at the link below:

Of course, you need to obtain one that would fit your particular aquarium heater. (You might want to contact the manufacturer about that…)
As for the heater guards, it you cannot find one for your particular brand and model of aquarium heater, then I can tell you that they are also simple to fabricate. All you need to do is obtain a length of PVC tubing that is wide enough to accommodate your aquarium heater with about a quarter inch of spare room on all sides, and that is long enough to contain the full length of the heater. Then all you have to do is drill plenty of holes all up and down the length of the PVC pipe so that water can circulate freely through the holes and all around the heater, but so that the PVC pipe will prevent the seahorses from perching on the heater tube that contains the heating element. That’s basically all there is to it.

Best of luck with your new seahorses, Eric! Here’s hoping they will soon eschew your heater and adopt new favorite hitching posts at the bottom of the aquarium.

Pete Giwojna, Ocean Rider Tech Support

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