Re:baby seahorses!!!

Pete Giwojna

Dear hobbyist:

You’re very welcome! It sounds like you’re doing a great job of absorbing all of the information and learning as you go — so far, so good.

As you know, Artemia nauplii (baby brine shrimp) are filter feeders that will ingest whatever is suspended in the water with them. This makes it easy to enrich the nauplii with everything from Vibrance to yeast cells to microalgae to fatty acids and vitamins and minerals, greatly enhancing their nutritional profile in the process.

The problem with such traditional enrichment methods is that only older nauplii at advanced stages of development can be fortified this way. Newly hatched brine shrimp nauplii (1st instar) lack mouthparts and derive their nourishment from a yolk sac. They are incapable of ingesting particles in the water. Consequently, only bigger nauplii that have molted once or twice (2nd instar and beyond) are suitable for this type of enrichment. This is a serious drawback since these older, larger Artemia nauplii have already grown beyond the size that most newborn seahorse fry are capable of swallowing.

Many breeders feel that the best way around this problem, is to feed newly-hatched brine shrimp without any enrichment that all. The newly hatched brine shrimp (Artemia nauplii) have a large yolk sac that sustains them until they develop mouthparts, and the nutrition contained in the exact makes them a highly nutritious meal for dwarf seahorses without any need for enrichment. The trick is to set up to separate brine shrimp hatcheries and then alternate which one you harvest the bbs from each time you feed the dwarf seahorses. This will ensure that you are feeding brine shrimp that have recently emerged from their egg cases or cysts, and are therefore at the peak of their nutritional value with their yolk supply largely intact.

Decapsulating the brine shrimp before you hatch it produces the best results because the baby brine shrimp don’t have to use up any of their energy reserves or yolk supply struggling to break free from their egg cases.

Here’s an article from Neil Garrick-Maidment, a very successful seahorse breeder in the UK, that explains how to use this method for best results:

<Open quote>
Rearing Seahorse Fry on Artemia.

Neil Garrick-Maidment


The Seahorse Trust.

It has long been thought that rearing Seahorse fry on Artemia is impossible because they do not hold enough nutritional value. This is partially true but if dealt with in the correct way then artemia can be used very successfully.

Artemia is highly nutritious when it is first hatched out but the nutritional value drops very quickly to virtually nothing within 3 hours; added to this the carapace (shell) hardens during this 3 hour period and makes it very difficult to digest by all but the most harden fish fry.

The traditional way of cultivating artemia is to put the eggs into a pot of seawater, aerated at 80’ and wait for them to hatch 24 hours later. This one pot of artemia is usually used for a 24 hour period and quite often is stored in a refrigerator until it is used; this is where the nutritional problems occur unless the artemia is enriched. Once enriched (often for another 24 hours as the mouth parts do not form until 10 hours old) it often proves to be a poor source of food as it is by this point either too large or the carapace (shell ) of the artemia is too hard. By being too large or having too hard a carapace it means that fish fry like Seahorses cannot digest it as they have an extremely poor digestive system; which is not long enough to allow it to digest the hard carapace and derive enough nutrition from the naupilli. .

By changing the protocol of hatching the artemia it is possible to use it as a highly successful form of food especially for Seahorses; the only draw back with this system is that it is labour intensive.

The set up:

We use a 5 pot system for the hatchery, each one labelled 1 to 5; all five pots sit in a glass fish tank with 4 inches of water in it. This water is heated by heater/thermostat to 80’ and each of the pots is heated in turn by this hot water. Each pot also has an airline with an airstone into it.

The protocol:

Start with pot 1 and fill it with saltwater and add your artemia eggs (you can use unshelled eggs to increase the nutritional value higher.). 2 hours later repeat the process with pot 2 and then each 2 hours after repeat with the rest of the pots; it is possible to use more pots if your needs require it.

If you have set up pot 1 at 8am then 24 hours later at 8am the artemia should have just hatched out, this is then the time to feed pot one to your fry; it is crucial that the time between hatching out and feeding is kept to a minimum.

Harvest the artemia by letting the pot stand and the artemia will sink to the bottom and the egg shells will rise to the surface. Use a siphon through a very fine mesh trap to siphon them out of the pot, once you have enough artemia then give them a quick wash under a freshwater tap and then feed the artemia to your Seahorse fry.

It is crucial that you only feed a small amount of artemia to the Seahorse fry; enough to be eaten by the time the next pot is fed to the fry (2 hours later).

Once you have fed this pot of artemia to the fry do not be tempted to keep what’s left over, use it for some other fish species but don’t be tempted to feed it later on to the Seahorse fry.

Once you have harvested pot 1 immediately set it up again ready for the next 24 hour period.

Every time you go to feed the next pot of artemia be sure to siphon the tank of any debris from the bottom of the tank and crucially remove any left over artemia from the tank. This can be done by putting a light to the side of the tank to attract the artemia to it then siphon them from the tank. This is important as you do not want the Seahorse fry to be eating older hardened and nutritionally low value artemia.

After feeding the artemia remember to top up the water you have removed from the fry tank, this way you will be changing water throughout the day lessening the build up of harmful nitrites and ammonia in the water which is better for the Seahorse fry.

As a side note we usually use water from the adult’s tank to replace and indeed start up the fry tank; this is already filtered and as we use natural seawater it is a better source of water for the fry; they appear to do better in natural seawater than artificial.

These steps should be repeated every 2 hours with pots 2 then 3 then 4 then 5 and any others you add to the system.

This process should be repeated on time every 2 hours as the age of the artemia naupilli is important for its nutritional value and carapace hardness.

<Close quote>

So, basically, you will need to either feed the bbs to your seahorses immediately after hatching, when their yolk supply is virtually intact and they have their maximum nutritional value, or feed bbs that are 2-days old or older and have been enriched prior to feeding. If you want to go that route once the newborns are large enough to accept the second instar Artemia nauplii, the lipid-rich Vibrance 1 formulation is ideal for this but the no-fat Vibrance 2 formula should be avoided.

Here are the instructions for enriching brine shrimp that are more than one day old and have developed their mouthparts. As I mentioned, and the original Vibrance formula that is rich in highly unsaturated fatty acids and other lipids (i.e., Vibrance I) works best for fortified brine shrimp:

Enriching Artemia with Vibrance I

For enriching or "gut packing" live Artemia (brine shrimp), or other live shrimp or live food of all sizes. Blend 1 teaspoon of Vibrance into 1 cup of water for 3 minutes. Add this to the live food vessel for 30 minutes, or until you see the gut of the animal turn red. Rinse the animals with clean salt water and feed immediately to your seahorses or other fish.

When I am gutloading adult brine shrimp either to bioencapsulate medications or to enrich the brine shrimp hired to feeding I soak them in freshwater for around 30 minutes as explained below.

Soak the adult brine shrimp in freshwater treated with the antibiotic or the enrichment formulation of your choice for 15-30 minutes and then feed the gut-loaded shrimp to your seahorses immediately. (Don’t let your pumps and filters "eat" all the brine shrimp!)

The brine shrimp are soaked in freshwater, not saltwater, because in theory the increased osmotic pressure of the freshwater helps the antibiotic solution or enrichment product move into their bodies via osmosis. But in fact nobody knows for sure whether the antibiotic/enrichment is diffusing into the brine shrimp or they are ingesting it in very fine particles (brine shrimp are filter feeders and will take in whatever is suspended in the water with them) or whether the brine shrimp merely become coated with the medication or enrichment formula while they are soaking in it. But that’s not important — all that really matters is that gut-loading adult brine shrimp in this manner is very effective.

Best of luck keeping up with the endless appetites of your seahorse fry!

Happy Trails!
Pete Giwojna

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