Re:aquapods for new born

Pete Giwojna

Dear ageber:

I am unfamiliar with Aquapods so I can’t say for certain if they would be useful as a first food for your newborn Sunbursts (Hippocampus erectus). To be of much use for pelagic seahorse fry, the Aquapods would need to be free swimming, high in lipids and proteins, and small enough for the newborns to swallow. If the aquapods are significantly bigger than newly-hatched Artemia nauplii, many of the newborns will be unable to swallow them. Likewise, if the aquapods inhabit the substrate, orient to the bottom, and seek out whatever shelter is available rather than swimming in the water column, then be will be pretty useless as food for pelagic fry.

However, I can tell you that seahorse fry love to eat free swimming copepods that are at the right stage of development, and copepods are the most nutritious food that seahorse fry can eat. The right type of marine copepods are the ideal food for rearing seahorses fry. They are a natural prey item that constitutes a large portion of the diet of fish larvae in the ocean, and many marine fishes have evolved efficient feeding strategies for preying on them as their primary foods. This includes seahorses, whose tubular snouts are adapted specifically for feeding on tiny crustaceans such as ‘pods, and which have developed a sedentary lifestyle as ambush predators that allows them to capture them with maximum efficiency and a minimum expenditure of energy. The tiny size of the copepod nauplii allows even the smallest seahorse fry to eat them, and they are a feed-and-forget food that will survive in the nursery tank until eaten. The distinctive swimming style of copepod nauplii triggers a strong feeding response from seahorse fry, and ‘pods have naturally high levels of essentially fatty acids. They are superior to rotifers in all these respects (seahorse fry often reject rotifers because they don’t move in the "right" way and simply don’t trigger their feeding instincts) and I recommend that aquarists who are raising pelagic fry concentrate on culturing copepods.

Seahorse fry alter their diet as they grow (Vincent, 1990). This may be due to the fact that they change microhabits as they develop (e.g., when pelagic fry complete their planktonic stage and begin to feed at the bottom as they begin orienting to the substrate). Or it may simply be due to the fact that they become better hunters and perfect their feeding skills as they grow, thus enabling them to tackle larger, more active prey (Vincent, 1990). Whatever the cause, one good way to keep up with the fry’s changing dietary requirements is by providing them with cultured copepods at progressively later stages of development.

So I would say the aquapods are certainly worth a try. You will just have to see whether or not they are the right size and swim in the right manner to elicit a strong feeding response from your newborn Sunbursts. If they do, then there’s no reason not to take advantage of them to supplement the fry’s diet. Whether or not they can constitute the bulk of the newborns diet or merely supplement it will then depend on whether or not you can provide aquapods at the right size and stage of development in sufficient quantity to keep the newborns well-fed.

Best of luck keeping up with the endless appetites of your voracious Sunburst fry, ageber!

Happy Trails!
Pete Giwojna

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