Yes, sir, I think it would be very intelligent of you to start out with hardy captive-bred-and-raised seahorses, which will give you the best chance for success.
In that case, you won’t find better cultured seahorses anywhere than Ocean Rider (www.seahorse.com), Joe, and they have been shipping their seahorses throughout the continental United States very successfully since 1998. Live delivery is ALWAYS guaranteed!
Since these would be your first seahorses, then I can heartily recommend Ocean Rider Mustangs and Sunbursts (Hippocampus erectus), which are ideal for beginners. Commonly known as the Lined Seahorse or the Northern Giant or Florida Giant, Hippocampus erectus was the first seahorse to be commercially raised for the aquarium hobby. Mustangs and Sunbursts have been captive-bred and raised for more generations than any other seahorse, and have now achieved a level of domestication that makes them better adapted to aquarium conditions and life in captivity than other seahorses.
The Ocean Rider aquaculture facility in Hawaii that raises H. erectus selects them for traits such as adaptability, vigor, disease resistance, fast growth and aggressive feeding habits — traits that increase the fitness of each line over time. After numerous generations of strengthening and improvement, the current breeds of farm-raised erectus are tough as nails. Very hardy and very impressive, Mustangs and Sunbursts are great choices for a novice seahorse keeper who is still learning the ropes. They are very adaptable and have led the on-going trend toward keeping captive-bred seahorses only. Simply put, more hobbyists keep captive bred erectus than any of the other greater seahorses, and rightly so.
Ocean Rider now offers two different types of both their trademark Mustangs and their patented Sunbursts, which have been achieved after many dozens of generations of selective breeding.
The regular Mustangs are dark brown to black in coloration, often with an underlying pattern of parallel pinstripes, and therefore display the typical dominant coloration pattern of wild Hippocampus erectus. Their dark brown or black background coloration is also often further adorned with white blazes, saddles, and tail bands.
The Silver Mustangs have a much lighter, whitish background coloration, which is again overlaid with a pattern of fine lines in the form of darker parallel pinstripes. The combination of this lighter background color plus the pinstripes gives them a silvery appearance, and makes them very distinctive from the regular Mustangs with the darker background coloration.
Likewise, the regular Lemon Sunbursts are typically a solid bright yellow coloration from head to tail. Their coloration can vary from a golden yellow to a bright canary yellow, and a few of the Sunbursts also display the white blazes, saddles, and tail bands, although such markings are less common in Sunbursts than the Mustangs.
The Orange Sunbursts display various shades of orange (e.g., peach, pumpkin, tangerine), just as their name suggests. They are very beautiful and will virtually glow when displayed under the right type of lighting that produces light shifted towards the red end of the visible spectrum. (Both Osram GroLux fluorescents and Aqueon ColorMax T5 fluorescent lights will bring out the true brilliance in Orange Sunbursts.)
You can see all of the many different types of beautiful cultured seahorses offered by Ocean Rider at the following link, Joe, and many of the special packages and bargain offers that are currently available include three long-distance shipping all the way from Hawaii directly to your doorstep:
All of the seahorses offered by Ocean Rider (seahorse.com) are born and raised at the seahorse farm in Hawaii — the world’s only High-Health aquaculture facility, sir.
That’s one of the greatest advantages of Ocean Rider seahorses. Many hobbyists may not be fully aware of what that means or why it is so important, Joe. High Health certification is very difficult to achieve and very expensive to maintain, which is why Ocean Rider is the one and only seahorse farm to be awarded High Health status.
In order to earn High Health Certification, an aquacultural facility must first prove that it enforces a strict biosecurity program with rigorous quarantine protocols, and that at no stage in the breeding and rearing process are its livestock ever exposed to open systems or wild-caught seahorses or livestock from any other source. Secondly, it must withstand intense scrutiny by outside agencies — in this case, primarily from the Controlling State Aquatic Veterinary industry. The monitoring done by these Aquatic Health Specialists includes regular sampling of Ocean Rider livestock for complete necroscopic examinations. Periodically, OR seahorses are selected at random by the State Controlling Vet, euthanized, and autopsied. Their internal organs are examined, tissue sections are taken (multi-organ histopathology), and examined microscopically, along with other laboratory analyses. Only then can Ocean Rider seahorses be certified free of specific pathogen and parasites.
There is a reason that Ocean Rider is the only High-Health seahorse farm in the world, Joe, and that is because high health certification is very difficult and expensive to attain. It is very costly in terms of the time, energy, resources, and the increased size of the aquaculture facility it requires to meet the demanding high-health standards. You must provide a biosecure area for each species you are working with, follow very rigorous quarantine protocols, and periodically sacrifice a portion of the healthy, mature seahorses you have raised for so many months — just when they are ready to go to market — for complete necroscopic examinations in order to make certain they are free of pathogens and parasites. All of which makes achieving and maintaining High-Health Certification a very expensive proposition. Ocean Rider does it to assure that they are providing the best possible livestock for hobbyists. As always, their primary concerns are not profits but the health and welfare of their seahorses and the benefits cultured seahorses provide in terms of conserving wild populations.
This assures that when you purchase livestock from Ocean Rider, you will be receiving healthy, well-fed seahorses in peak condition that have been handled by professional breeders and mariculturists right up until they are shipped to your doorstep. Every step of the way, from the moment they are born until they are shipped to the hobbyist, ORs are handled by experts who specialize in raising seahorses. So when you place an order for Ocean Rider captive-bred-and-raised seahorses, and they are delivered overnight directly to your door from Hawaii’s state-of-the art aquaculture facility, they reach you well fed and in optimum condition. They arrive disease-free and relatively unstressed, at the peak of their health and coloration.
I’m sure you can appreciate the fact that raising seahorses in captivity requires a great deal of time and hands-on effort, and that seahorse ranchers necessarily develop an attachment to the ‘horses they raise as a result, Joe.
For instance, here’s a quote from Carol Cozzi-Schmarr (co-owner and operator of Ocean Rider) that appeared in an article about seahorses and FAMA magazine in 1990: “The fact is that raising seahorses on the scale we do requires a tremendous amount of work, love, and energy. Seahorse farming is not like a ketchup factory where there is no relationship between the workers and the end product they deliver. Imagine carefully collecting thousands of seahorse babies, feeding and caring for them every day, and watching them grow for 12 months or more! Believe me, you get very attached to them! We want them to go to good homes where they will get the same care and where they will reward the owner with as much happiness and joy as they bring ourselves and our staff.”
I can assure you that once you’ve painstakingly raised a seahorse to maturity and provided it with the best possible nutrition and TLC for six months to a year, just as you did with its parents and grandparents and great-grandparents before it, all the way back to its original Adam-and-Eve, which you personally handpicked, you do everything in your power to assure that it thrives once you send it off to the eagerly awaiting aquarist. And when something goes wrong and a seahorse is lost despite your best efforts, it’s every bit as devastating to the folks that raised it as it is to the hobbyist.
That’s why Ocean Rider goes to such great lengths to provide the hobbyist with such a wealth of information and resources on the care and keeping of seahorses completely free of charge. There is no other breeder or aquaculture facility that provides the kind of detailed information on every aspect of the seahorse’s life and care that Ocean Rider does. I feel strongly that combining the vastly superior Ocean Rider livestock with the best possible tech support is in the best interests of the hobbyist, the seahorses, and seahorse conservation in general.
A perfect example of this is the fact that all newbies and first-time customers are required to complete the Ocean Rider Seahorse Training Manual to my satisfaction before they can earn their certification and become authorized to purchase seahorses, Joe. I should explain that the seahorse training manual – which I personally write and administer on behalf of Ocean Rider – is very comprehensive, consisting of several hundred pages of text with more than 250 full-color illustrations. It explains everything that a home hobbyist needs to know in order to keep seahorses successfully in a home aquarium and is provided completely free of charge to all Ocean Rider clients and customers. In this way, Ocean Rider assures that all of their customers are well prepared to give their seahorses the best possible care before they make a purchase.
If you would like to receive your own free copy of the seahorse training manual, Joe, just send a brief e-mail to me at the following address expressing your interest, and I will send you the complete manual right away:
Best wishes with all your fishes, sir!
Pete Giwojna, Ocean Rider Tech Support