Dear Diane:

Pete Giwojna

Dear Diane:

Yeah, Galene was certainly loaded with personality and I completely understand the sentiments you expressed in your tribute to her memory, Diane.

One thing I have learned after being around seahorses for more than 25 years is that they definitely do have distinct personalities, Diane, and Galene’s amazing affinity for music and for dancing out of pure joy made her unique. Females do generally tend to be more active and outgoing than the males. Females will often swim around more and explore the aquarium to a greater extent than the males, which tend to pick out a favorite perch or home base and hang around in the same general area most of the time.

Just like people, some seahorses are shy and retiring (introverted, I guess you could say) while others are real busybodies, that insist on being right in the thick of things and helping you out whenever you are working in the tank or performing aquarium maintenance. These extroverts will often perch on your hand or whatever aquarium utensil you may be using and watch intently as you finish your chores, apparently enjoying the ride and the company. Others will gladly interact with you at feeding time, but prefer to keep their distance otherwise. Galene seems to have been a very talented extrovert who was always very attuned to your presence and to your music, Diane.

And, of course, the individual personalities of seahorses naturally extend to their feeding habits, Diane. Some are aggressive feeders that will boldly snatch food from your fingers, while some are shy and secretive at mealtime, feeding only when they think they’re not being observed. Some like to slurp up Mysis while it’s swirling through the water column, and some will only take Mysis off the bottom of the tank. Some are voracious pigs that greedily scarf up everything in sight, and some are slow, deliberate feeders that painstakingly examine every morsel of Mysis and stare it down forever before they accept or reject it. Some eat like horses and some eat like birds.

I have known a lot of seahorses that would interact with their keepers at mealtime, dancing in the front of the aquarium to make it clear that they were hungry and ready for their next meal, and betraying their excitement by brightening in coloration when their keeper – the giver of gourmet delights – approached the tank, but I have never experienced a pony that was as strongly attuned to auditory stimuli as Galene…

No doubt your training and conditioning have a lot to do with that, Diane, but there’s no denying that Galene had a gift for dance and powerful attraction for certain kinds of music.

Seahorses are one fish that can become a true pet, and I’m convinced this is because they are more intelligent than most fishes, Diane, and Galene seem to be very much in sync with you as her keeper right from the start.

The highly domesticated Ocean Rider Mustangs and Sunbursts are real personality fish and many of them actually enjoy being handled. Unlike most other fish that back off when you approach the aquarium and flee in terror if you place your hand in the tank, seahorses soon learn to recognize their keeper and will come out to meet you. They quickly learn to take food from your fingers, and as you will discover, having your pet ponies literally eating out your hand is a very rewarding experience. When one of these shy, enchanting creatures — whose very survival in the wild depends on concealing itself from predators at all times — comes trustingly up to the surface to eat right out of your palm, it’s a thrill you won’t soon forget. The training sessions and daily feedings required for this tend to forge a close, personal relationship between the aquarist and his charges, and hand-fed seahorses often become special pets. Many times they will even include you in their daily greeting, flashing their recognition colors and parading back and forth and at the front of the tank, performing their dancelike displays for your benefit.

So when you lose a seahorse to an illness or injury, it has more of an impact and is harder to accept than the passing of most wet pets. It’s not at all like that dimestore goldfish that you can unceremoniously flush without a second thought when it goes belly up…

And, of course, the more exceptional a particular seahorse happened to be, the more it affects you when they pass on, so I can understand why losing Galene is such a crushing blow. But I promise you the same things that make the loss of a pet seahorse so devastating are the very things that make them so rewarding to keep in the first place, Diane, and I am hoping that some of her mature offspring have inherited her gift for music and dancing and will be able to carry on the tradition of their mother.

Best of luck with all of your projects, Diane!

Pete Giwojna, Ocean Rider Tech Support

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