Dear Darrell:

Pete Giwojna

Dear Darrell:

You have a good eye, sir! The Finger Claw Sponges you found are manufactured by Ocean Aquaria and will make great hitching posts for Mustangs and Sunbursts (Hippocampus erectus).

In fact, I know many seahorse keepers who purchased those same items for their aquariums with excellent results, and the manufacturer of the Finger Claw Sponges recently sent me a photograph from a home hobbyist that shows one of these very sponges festooned with seahorses like the ornaments on a Christmas tree.

In short, Darrell, you needn’t be concerned about the diameter of the Finger Claw Sponges (they are actually a bit larger in diameter than you estimated), and they are popular perches that seahorses seem to find irresistible.

I highly recommend the bright orange Finger Claw Sponge #12 from Ocean Aquaria. It is also available in bright yellow and I would suggest that you purchase two of the Finger Claw Sponges #12 so that you can have one in each color. As you know, Darrell, tree sponges like these are also huge favorites of seahorses, whether they are real or artificial, and the bright orange and bright yellow Finger Claw Sponges are perfect pieces for encouraging colorful seahorses such as Ocean Rider Sunbursts to display their brightest colors.

You can also purchase the Finger Claw Sponges #12 online, Darrell, and you will find they are real seahorse magnets and relatively inexpensive compared to the artificial gorgonians from other sources. Just copy the following URL, paste it in your Web browser, and press the “Enter key, and it will take you directly to the proper webpage where you can order the Finger Claw Sponge #12: – Finger Claw Sponge #12

You can examine all of the different corals available from Ocean Aquaria and order any of them that you would like to include in your seahorse tank at that website, sir.

When having your corals made up from Ocean Aquaria, Darrell, bear in mind that the colors that are generally best for encouraging seahorses to look their best and brightest are bright yellow, orange, red, coral pink, and even some shades of blue and purple. (Ocean aquaria will cast most of their corals in any color you care to specify for a very small extra fee.)

For future reference, this is what I normally advise home hobbyists regarding the hitching posts for their ponies, sir:

Hitching Posts

When it comes to hitching posts and decorations, seahorses in general tend to prefer perches that are bigger in diameter over skinnier ones that are a bit more difficult to get a good grip on with their tails, but other than that, it’s very difficult to predict what they’ll go for. I have noticed that tree sponges and tube sponges — both the real thing (which are difficult to keep healthy) and the lifelike artificial versions (a better choice for most tanks) — almost always seem to be particular favorites. Very often such sponges are bright red or yellow or brilliant orange in coloration, but I think it is the structure and texture of the sponges that attracts the seahorses more than the color.

Tree sponges in particular are veritable seahorse magnets and the ponies really do love them. They are usually brightly colored (red and orange shades are common) and their shape and texture seem to make them irresistible to seahorses as hitching posts. Very often, all the seahorses in the tank can be found clinging to the same tree sponge together, eschewing other nearby holdfasts that appear every bit as comfy and attractive to human eyes.

So selecting a colorful tree sponge or two may be an excellent way to stimulate color changes in your seahorses. Collectors will often find bright red or vivid orange seahorses living in beds of colorful sponges in the wild.

However, hobbyists need to be aware that live sponges do contain toxins and incorporate glassy spicules into their fibrous bodies in order to deter fish predators. (Many marine angelfish love to graze on sponges, and in some species sponges comprise the bulk of their diet.) But, as a rule, this never causes any problems in a seahorse tank because it’s entirely a passive defense mechanism — the sponges have to be attacked and torn open in order to release the toxins and that just never happens under normal aquarium conditions.

I can see how it might become a problem, however, if a sponge died undetected in the aquarium and began to break down or decompose, releasing its toxins in the process. As with many sessile life forms, it can sometimes be difficult to tell if a sponge is healthy and thriving or if it’s doing poorly and should be removed as a precaution. Live sponges do best in well-established reef tanks and often have difficulty getting enough to eat in a conventional community aquarium or seahorse tank, but usually the sponge colony will simply shrink in size as a result. If they become fungused or smothered under algae growth, it’s best to remove them as soon as possible. (Don’t try to scrape off the algae growth from a sponge or scrub it clean or cut away the affected portions of the sponge — all of those procedures could release the toxins into your aquarium with deadly results.) So when you keep live sponges, place them in areas with low light levels where they will receive moderate water flow to discourage algae grow. Or better yet, use a colorful lifelike tree sponge instead of the real thing, such as the ones offered by Ocean Aquaria (

Seahorses often tend to gravitate towards gorgonians as well, and the big purple gorgonians that are large in diameter are also usually very popular with seahorses. Otherwise, they seem to like genuine corals and synthetic corals about equally well. The colorful artificial sea rods and gorgonians provided by Living Color, in particular, are real seahorse magnets — every bit as popular with our ponies as tree sponges.

Pay special attention to the hitching posts you select for your seahorse tank. Strive for bright reds, oranges, and yellows — even shades of pink or purple — in anything your seahorses may adopt as a holdfast. These 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 sometimes proceed to change coloration to match their preferred resting spot. So you want to encourage them to adopt one of the more vivid pieces as a favorite holdfast.

Mildred Bellomy provide the s a perfect example of how this works in the Encyclopedia of Seahorses:

[open quote]
Elizabeth Goetz of Miami, Florida has kept one or more seahorse stables in her home for many years. She wrote the following anecdote about one of her seahorses that “turned red with envy.”

“About five or six years ago, it was just about this time of year, [Christmas], we began our holiday decorating. Our own is not the simplest place to decorate for special occasions in that we have so many aquariums — approximately 35 at the time. Fourteen of these tanks were the homes of seahorses (Hippocampus hudsonius). [Editor’s note: Hippocampus hudsonius is an outdated synonym for Hippocampus erectus.]

“After completing the superficial home decorating, we decided it would be a grand idea to really go all-out with the holiday scheme and include the aquariums. On checking through our collection of assorted Christmas bric-a-brac, we found a number of ceramic items suitable for display in sea water. There were Christmas trees in north-woods green, gaily ornamental angels lovely enough to have stepped from the very gates of Heaven, winged carolers, haloed mermaids, etc., and lo and behold! — one, red-robed, sitting Santa Claus, with the most adorable facial expression one could imagine. Here, then, was ample material to decorate to one’s heart’s content.

“The walls of the dining room are lined with 10- and 15-gallon aquariums so we chose the most prominent 15-gallon tank for this pixie-like Santa. This was the home of five seahorses and they, too, seemed really happy with the decorating idea. We will not argue the point that any other smooth ceramic piece would have pleased them equally, but it is more satisfying to believe that the seahorses joined in with the holiday spirit. Nevertheless, almost as soon as their former hitching posts were removed and a Christmas item put in its place, the seahorses wrapped their respective tails around the new items and were completely at home again. Though scientists may adamantly disagree, we firmly believe fish do have varied personalities, even within their own species. Ask any hobbyist. We have had friendly seahorses, unfriendly ones, and downright cussed critters; the timid, placid, bold, and boisterous, and all of these and more personality traits were observed in H. hudsonius alone.

“All of the foregoing is merely to set the stage for our tale of the seahorse that turned red with envy.

“Our little seahorse star of this story was the most calm and timid of the five in our Santa aquarium. He would cruise calmly from his hitching post for exercise and return to his own station a short distance from the Santa, never trying to usurp the throne of another of his tankmates. The others did claim Santa as a resting place. Seldom was the time when Santa didn’t have the tail of a seahorse wrapped gently around an arm that rested on his pack, or around the tipped-up tassel of his toboggan. Our calm but “envious one” would stare in Santa’s direction almost constantly, while resting. It might be well, at this point, to emphasize that Santa was the only red-colored object or part of this aquarium. This previously dark (brownish) seahorse — originally colored the same as the other four — turned bright red. His change occurred gradually, over a period of about a week and it is quite true, he became a most beautiful red for the holidays.”

Now we are well aware of color changes in nature, assumedly for protective measures, and being mindful of the fact that this timid little fellow did not cling to red-robed Santa, but remained some distance away, what then could the whimsical-minded, season-inspired person presume other than that the most peace-loving seahorse in the aquarium bathed himself in the reflected glory of the mythical man-of-the-hour, the one and only Santa Claus.
[close quote]

Notice that the seahorse reverted to its usual dark brown coloration when the scarlet-clad Claus figurine was removed from the aquarium after the holidays.

The moral of this story is that you can never tell what might catch your seahorse’s eye and trigger a corresponding color change in response to a change in its immediate environment. With that in mind, some hobbyists have experimented with brightly colored aquarium backgrounds and achieved surprising results. For instance, I have received reports that a bright orange aquarium backing can stimulate vivid color changes in some seahorses, although the result is often not what you would expect. (One wonders if Hippocampus perceives all colors the same way we do.) Don’t hesitate to experiment until you find the right combination that works well for both you and your seahorses.

Transitory color changes can be achieved rapidly, in a matter of moments, but long lasting transformations occur gradually, and may take days to complete. This is often the case when a seahorse adopts a favorite hitching post and makes it his home base or center of operations. When that happens, the seahorse will often assume a color that closely matches its chosen resting spot so it blends in with its background when hanging out at headquarters. This is akin to the situation with the ceramic Santa; the color matching occurs slowly and, once the transformation is complete, the seahorse intends to keep its new coloration indefinitely.

Hitching posts for your seahorses can thus be either live or artificial marine sea grasses, algae and corals. If you decide to try an assortment of colorful artificial corals, seahorses often prefer red or orange pieces, and bright yellow, pink, and purple corals are also popular with the ponies. Many hobbyists report good results using artificial tree sponges, gorgonians and sea rods, staghorn coral, artificial Acropora corals, octopus coral and pillar coral in the appropriate colors to keep their seahorses looking their brightest. They look entirely natural and lifelike, with lots of branching projections that make great hitching posts for seahorses. Oh, and cup coral often makes a great ready-made feeding station! Living Color, Ocean Aquaria, and perhaps the Signature Coral Corporation are the best sources for artificial corals, in my opinion.

Okay, Darrell, it’s the quick rundown on hitching posts for seahorses. A larger diameter is generally preferable to really slender perches, but anything approaching half an inch in diameter or greater will be acceptable for large seahorses such as Ocean Rider Mustangs and Sunbursts (Hippocampus erectus).

Go ahead and get yourself a couple of those Finger Claws Sponges at your earliest opportunity, sir, and I would recommend one of each color (bright orange and bright yellow) for best results.

Happy Trails!
Pete Giwojna, Ocean Rider Tech Support

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