Dear David:

Pete Giwojna

Dear David:

That’s an interesting development, sir. Usually it’s the other way around when it comes to mating problems in Hippocampus; normally, it’s an over-eager stallion that is having difficulty attracting the attention of a blasé, nonchalant, disinterested female.

In most cases, the oversexed males basically try harder to get pregnant than female seahorses try to give their eggs away. In the kinky world of seahorse sex, typically the boys still chase the girls, even though it’s the boys who get pregnant as a result!

It sounds like you have a young, inexperienced male who hasn’t quite figured things out yet, Mr. Cox. I suspect that’s an issue that will correct itself before too long and that it’s only a matter of time before your young stud takes the hint and begins to reciprocate and perform his pouch displays for your mare as a prelude to mating.

There’s not really much you can do to hasten the process in the meantime except to maintain optimum water quality, make sure you’re providing your ponies with a nutritious diet, and provide them with plenty of peace and quiet while they work things out…

I’m thinking you may not have long to wait before your young stallion catches on, David, because the genetic imperative to reproduce is very strong in Hippocampus, to say the least. For example, solitary males often go through the motions of courtship when there are no other seahorses present in their aquarium (Abbott, 2003). They may court their own reflection and sometimes even direct their courtship displays toward their keepers (Abbott, 2003). If no females are present, over-stimulated stallions will sometimes soothe themselves by basking in the air stream from an airstone, content with the tactile stimulation provided by the gentle barrage of bubbles. They may even flirt with inanimate objects. If all else fails, a hitching post may actually suffice as a suitable surrogate when no better alternative is available (Abbott, 2003)!

Same-sex courting displays (both male and female) are also common when no member of the opposite sex is present. Under such circumstances, these passionate ponies are not picky about their partners — males will dance with other stallions and frustrated females will sometimes flirt with other fillies (Abbott, 2003)!

Captive-bred seahorses are far more social and gregarious than their wild conspecifics, so it’s not surprising that cultured seahorses are particularly irrepressible in that regard. They seem to court constantly and the urge to procreate dominates their lives. If given a choice, they are apt to change partners often, and courtship, flirting and dancing are the activities that consume their days. Long before they are sexually mature, juvenile males will often spend hours dancing with one another, just horsing around, practicing their moves and perfecting their technique for the real thing to come. Likewise, mature males often compete actively and aggressively with one another through harmless pouch displays and tail-wrestling tug-o-wars whether or not there is a female nearby to appreciate their efforts.

As Carol Cozzi-Schmarr of Ocean Rider, the premier aquaculture facility in Hawaii, puts it, “As far as mating is concerned, it is important to understand that because these sea horses are farm raised and therefore “domesticated” they will be breaking a lot of the rules previously established for wild caughts. They will require less horizontal as well as vertical space and they no longer tend to be shy or picky! In other words they will show off to and mate with whomever they can, even if it means leaving behind the sea horse they mated with last time! It does not matter if their selected partner appears too short or too tall or of a different color or even of the same sex!! They want to dance and court more than anything else (Cozzi-Schmarr, May 2002)!!”

Be careful what you wish for, however, Dave! The Brazilian seahorse is a renowned breeding machine, and once they begin reproducing, pair-bonded Hippocampus reidi have a well-deserved reputation for churning out brood after brood with clocklike regularity throughout the breeding season, which can be year round in captivity.

And the brood size can number in the thousands for these remarkably prolific ponies, so you’d better be prepared for a population explosion when both the female and the male get things right! You may eventually be dealing with a new batch of hundreds of babies every couple of weeks, and wishing you could invent some foolproof means of Brazilero birth control…

Please keep us posted on the progress of your ponies, sir. If your precocious female remains receptive yet your young male continues to be unresponsive towards her persistent advances, just let us know, and there are one or two things I can suggest that are often helpful for stimulating breeding.

But first you must make sure that your young male is sexually mature and up to the task…

Best wishes with all your fishes, Mr. Cox!

Pete Giwojna, Ocean Rider Tech Support

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