Ocean Rider Seahorse Farm and Tours | Kona Hawaii › Forums › Seahorse Life and Care › HELP seahorse won’t eat › Dear Julia:
Most likely your new male simply needs more time to get adjusted to his strange new surroundings before he resumes feeding normally again, Julia.
In the meantime, here are some suggestions for feeding new arrivals that might help get him back on track in that regard, Julia:
When it comes to feeding, give new arrivals time to recover and settle into their new surroundings before you force the issue.
That’s a long haul from Hawaii, and it sometimes take new arrivals a good week or two to settle in, make themselves at home, and start feeding normally afterwards. For that reason, I suggest the hobbyist have a supply of live food on hand whenever acclimating new additions to his herd. The tiny red feeder shrimp from Hawaii (Halocaridina rubra) are ideal for this, but live Gammarus, ghost shrimp, or even adult brine shrimp will do. The live shrimp help them adjust during the initial acclimation period when you first introduce your seahorses to your tank. The live foods will give the new arrivals a head start, help them recover from shipping stress quickly, and get them through the difficult period of adjustment in tiptop condition.
Don’t worry about feeding your seahorses immediately after they arrive. Give them a good 24 hours to adjust and settle down first. After the adjustment period, go ahead and offer some carefully thawed Mysis to your seahorses each day. Many seahorses handle shipping and acclimation with ease and never miss a beat, gobbling up frozen Mysis from Day One. Others will need more time before they feel at home in their new surroundings, and may not feel comfortable enough to accept frozen Mysis from their keeper until a week or two has passed. So keep offering Mysis each day, but feed it sparingly at first and remove any uneaten Mysis after an hour or so. Once the seahorses that start eating the Mysis first have had their fill, add some live feeder shrimp for the others that are lagging behind.
Many times all the seahorses resume feeding on the frozen Mysis right away and the live red feeder shrimp aren’t needed; in that case, simply keep them on hand for use as occasional treats. They last indefinitely in a clean, aerated plastic bucket at room temperature with a pinch of flake food sprinkled in sparingly a few times a week.
Be patient with the ones that seem more reluctant to resume feeding on frozen Mysis. Don’t isolate them from the others, don’t pester them by persistently trying to target feed them at this point, and don’t keep dropping frozen shrimp on their heads! That can spook a high-strung seahorse and stress him out all the more, setting him back further. Just give them time and they will soon join the others, scarfing down frozen Mysis greedily again. This can sometimes take a couple of weeks. (Mature males often lag behind at first; for some reason, they seem to be shyer and more retiring than females, which can be quite brazen at times. I suspect this is due to their parental duties — during the breeding season, pair-bonded males are ordinarily ALWAYS pregnant, and they can’t risk exposing their precious cargo to any more risk than absolutely necessary.) Make a note of the reluctant eaters; the ones that are slow to take frozen Mysis now may require target feeding later on.
Also, I recommend NOT fortifying the thawed Mysis with Vibrance or another enrichment formula when you are feeding new arrivals. Wait until the newcomers have had a chance to adjust to their strange surroundings the new tankmates, and are eating the frozen Mysis greedily again, before you begin enriching the Mysis for their meals. This precaution will help to protect your water quality should the new arrivals refuse the frozen Mysis at first.
Okay, Julia, here’s a good explanation of the best methods for offering the frozen Mysis to your seahorses so that they will eat aggressively:
Target Feeding Seahorses with Frozen Mysis
The individual personalities of seahorses naturally extend to their feeding habits. Some are aggressive feeders that will boldly snatch food from your fingers, while some are shy and secretive, 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. So how does the seahorse keeper make sure all his charges are getting enough to eat at mealtime? How does the hobbyist keep the aggressive eaters from scarfing up all the mouth-watering Mysis before the slower feeders get their fair share? And how can you keep active fishes and inverts with seahorses without the faster fishes gobbling up all the goodies before the slowpoke seahorses can grab a mouthful?
Target feeding is the answer. Target feeding just means offering a single piece of Mysis to one particular seahorse, and then watching to see whether or not the ‘horse you targeted actually eats the shrimp. Feeding each of your seahorses in turn that way makes it easy to keep track of exactly how much each of your specimens is eating.
There are many different ways to target feed seahorses. Most methods involve using a long utensil of some sort to wave the Mysis temptingly in front of the chosen seahorse; once you’re sure this has attracted his interest, the Mysis is released so it drifts down enticingly right before the seahorse’s snout. Most of the time, the seahorse will snatch it up as it drifts by or snap it up as soon as it hits the bottom.
A great number of utensils work well for target feeding. I’ve seen hobbyists use everything from chopsticks to extra-long tweezers and hemostats or forceps to homemade pipettes fashioned from a length of rigid plastic tubing. As for myself, I prefer handfeeding when I target feed a particular seahorse.
But no doubt the all-time favorite implement for target feeding seahorses is the old-fashioned turkey baster. The old-fashioned ones with the glass barrels work best because the seahorses can see the Mysis inside the baster all the way as it moves down the barrel and out the tip. By exerting just the right amount of pressure on the bulb, great precision is possible when target feeding with a turkey baster. By squeezing and releasing the bulb ever so slightly, a skillful target feeder can keep a piece of Mysis dancing at the very tip of the baster indefinitely, and hold the tempting morsel right in front of the seahorse’s mouth as long as necessary. Or if the seahorse rejects the Mysis the first time it drifts by, a baster makes it easy to deftly suck up the shrimp from the bottom so it can be offered to the target again. In the same way, the baster makes it a simple matter to clean any remaining leftovers after a feeding session. (You’ll quickly discover the feeding tube is also indispensable for tapping away pesky fish and invertebrates that threaten to steal the tempting tidbit before an indecisive seahorse can snatch it up. And it’s great for tapping on the cover to ringing the dinner bell and summon the diners for their gourmet feast!)
Other hobbyists prefer a large glass eyedropper or disposable plastic laboratory pipettes for target feeding frozen Mysis to their ponies. Such utensils are considerably smaller and lighter than a cooking baster, making them easier to maneuver and control with one hand. Because of their smaller size, they may appear to be less intimidating to new seahorses when they are first learning your new feeding regimen, and timid seahorses are therefore less likely to be leery of them or to shy away from them. In the case of the disposable laboratory pipettes, they can simply be discarded at the end of the day, which simplifies cleaning. As a rule, anything you can do to make the feeding process cleaner and more sanitary will be beneficial to your ponies.
The disposable plastic pipettes are available from Amazon.com in several different sizes and lengths, and they are sold in various quantities (25/100/500) for very reasonable prices. For example, you can purchase 500 of the 3 mL plastic transfer pipettes for $19.95, so for less than $20, you can get a supply of the disposable plastic pipettes for feeding your seahorses that will last more than a year and a half, allowing you to simply dispose of the pipette you used for the daily feedings at the end of the day. Very neat and very sanitary – perfect for target feeding!
Depending on the size of the plastic pipettes you purchase, you may want to consider partially trimming the tip of the pipette to increase the size of the opening, allowing you to control the release of the frozen Mysis from the tip of the pipette more easily (Annamarie Curry, pers. com.). Here is a link where you can find the disposable plastic pipettes:
For these reasons, many hobbyists find large eyedroppers made of glass or disposable laboratory pipettes to be ideal for target feeding their seahorses.
Okay, Julia, that’s the quick rundown on target feeding seahorses with frozen Mysis.
I will attach a document to an e-mail that includes suggestions I’ve made to other hobbyists who were having difficulty coaxing new arrivals to eat the frozen Mysis, so that you can download the document, save it on your computer, and read through the information at your convenience.
Hopefully, you will find some recommendations and suggestions in the document that will help you to get your new ponies back to eating like horses again, Julia.
Pete Giwojna, Ocean Rider Tech Support