Hey there, Georgie Girl!
Congratulations on your pair prolific ponies! It’s always great fun to have an established pair of experienced breeders so that you can predict when mating will occur, calculate your stallion’s gestation period, and no with confidence when he will deliver his next brood of babies. Courtship and mating, as well as the birthing process, are wonderful spectacles to behold and I always find these landmark events to be thrilling and spellbinding.
But successfully raising seahorse fry is indeed a Herculean task that is very often beyond the resources of the home hobbyist, and having to deal with a new brood of babies every two or three weeks can quickly become overwhelming. Finding a surrogate parent who is willing to try raising the offspring is a good way out of that dilemma, Janet.
I have a few suggestions regarding how to handle the newborns in order to transfer them safely to your local fish store that may be helpful.
First of all, let me just say that Ocean Rider does allow hobbyists to freely disburse their fry any way they see fit up until they reach the age of 30 days. If they are overburdened with a baby boom, the best bet for most hobbyists is to adopt the newborns out to surrogate parents who live within driving distance. Of course, this works best if they have a friend or neighbor or know a fish guy down at your LFS who are interested in rearing and can take the excess fry off your hands. It is more difficult to ship seahorse fry to interested parties long distance and the newborns often don’t tolerate long-distance shipping well.
But for the hobbyist whose only other recourse is to euthanize the fry and sacrifice the entire brood, shipping newborn fry overnight is still preferable to the alternative. However, shipping is definitely a better option for fry that have grown a little. Seahorse fry that are 2-4 weeks old are tougher and withstand shipping much better than newborns. (This is true when it comes to disease treatments as well; once fry have reached the age of 2-4 weeks, the can generally tolerate the same medications/chemotherapeutics and treatments as the adults.) So, if possible, I like to wait until the newborns have reached 2-4 weeks of age before I ship them off to surrogate parents if need be and clear out my nursery tanks just in time for my seahorses’ next brood.
If that’s not possible, then I try to ship newborns immediately, as soon as possible after they are born. This is because the newborns typically have a limited yolk supply and can therefore go without eating for the first 24 hours or so. If you can ship them during this time, or, better yet – deliver them to their surrogate parents personally within the first 24 hours after delivery – they will not suffer unduly due to the lack of feeding opportunities while in transit.
Either Way, Janet – whether you are shipping them immediately after birth while they still have a limited yolk supply, or raising the youngsters until they are 2-4 weeks old before you ship them off to their surrogate parents – the recipient should make sure that suitable nursery tanks are ready and waiting and must begin hatching out Artemia nauplii immediately so that he will have some fry food ready for the young as soon as they arrive. I’m sure that’s the case with your local fish store, so the only thing remaining is to explain how to carefully round up the newborns so that they can be delivered to your LFS without gulping air or suffering any other complications.
As you know, Janet, you must NEVER lift the newborns out the water when transferring them. They will swallow air and develop fatal buoyancy problems that leave them bobbing helplessly at the surface, unable to submerge or eat (Giwojna, Jan. 1997). Netting them out or otherwise exposing the newborns to the air is one of the most common mistakes inexperienced breeders make, and it often results in the loss of the entire brood (Giwojna, Jan. 1997).
The proper way to move the babies is to carefully scoop them up in a small cup or bowl, and gently immerse the cup in the nursery tank (or a shipping bag filled 2/3 of the way to the top with aquarium water, or some other suitable container for transporting them to the LFS) to release the fry (Giwojna, Jan. 1997). Or a common turkey baster sometimes works well, if it has a large enough bore, for gently sucking up one or two of the fry at a time along with a little water, and then releasing them into their nursery (Giwojna, Jan. 1997).
As for preparing the seahorse fry for delivery, they are best transported by bagging them up in a plastic shipping bag the same way you bring fish home from your local fish store. Unless it’s a very large brood, keep all of the babies together in the same bag that you have filled with the same water from their nursery tank, and use a double bag to safeguard against a leak. Include a sprig or two of Caulerpa or something similar in the bags so that the babies have something to hitch onto during the journey if they are so inclined. Some hobbyists have reported that the new “breathable” shipping bags would be ideal for this, Janet, as discussed below.
Seahorses have been transported long distances successfully using breathable bags. The bags that have been used successfully are Kordon Breathable bags, which can be obtained at the following URL:
These bags do much better for long distances than the standard bags with oxygen. No oxygen is added to these bags, and the top of the bag is tied off at the surface of the water. Seahorses shipped this way do not get sloshed out of the water in transit and pipefish and seahorses shipped this way do not accidentally ingest air from snapping at the water line in the bag.
Perhaps you can obtain a couple of the breathable shipping bags from your LFS. If not, perhaps your LFS will pack the Mustang babies for for you as a favor using ordinary plastic shipping bags that they charge with oxygen and seal tightly. Try to minimize water sloshing around in the babies’ shipping bag during the move.
The babies will have to go without feeding during the move, of course. As previously discussed, avoid exposing the newborns to the air when you are transferring them from the nursery tank to their shipping bags.
Best of luck delivering the newborns to their surrogate parents, Georgie Girl!
Pete Giwojna, Ocean Rider Tech Support