Re:Book by Mr. Giwonja

Pete Giwojna

Dear Judi:

No, not at all — picking up a copy of my old seahorse book would be a very poor choice. It came out way back in 1990 and has been out of print for a long time. Nowadays, I always warn hobbyists against acquiring a copy of my old Step-By-Step Book about Seahorses. That book is now very badly outdated. It was written well before the advent of captive-bred-and-raised seahorses and therefore applies only to wild seahorses. At the time they commissioned it, TFH was looking for a book about seahorses for rank beginners who may never even have kept an aquarium before, so it is geared very much for novices. And since dwarf seahorses (Hippocampus zosterae) were the most popular seahorses back then, and the easiest ones to feed, it is useful primarily to dwarf seahorse keepers.

In short, it has nothing to offer the 21st century seahorse keeper, Judi. Hobbyists should avoid that book at all costs!

There are a number of more up-to-date guide books devoted for seahorses that would be a better choice for your needs, Judi. I would say the most useful of these for your needs is Seahorses: How to Care for your Seahorses in the Marine Aquarium by Tracy Warland (95 pages). But either of Neil Garrick-Maidment’s two latest books, Seahorses: Conservation & Care or the Practical Fish-Keeper’s Guide to Seahorses would also be good choices. And Seahorses: Complete Pet Owner’s Manual by Frank Indiviglio is another worthwhile book for someone new to seahorses.

Both of the marine aquarium guides I have mentioned and many of the seahorse guides listed should be available from your local library or can be purchased from Jim Forshey at the Aquatic Bookshop <;, or any of the other major booksellers, but Tracy Warland’s seahorse guidebook is only available from Australia. Here in the US, your best bet is to borrow a copy of her book from the library.

There are a number of more advanced books about seahorses that are also very worthwhile, two of which I have listed below:

TITLE: Seahorses: an Identification Guide to the World’s Species and their Conservation
AUTHOR: Sara A. Lourie, Amanda C.J. Vincent, and Heather J. Hall
PUBLISHER: Project Seahorse (1999)
ISBN: 0-9534693-0-1
REASON FOR IMPORTANCE: the first comprehensive guide to seahorse species world-wide. The heart of the book presents descriptions of each species supported by full illustrations, photographs, distribution maps and a pictorial key. Excellent identification key and introduction to meristic counts, morphometrics, taxonomy and classification. Unfortunately, there is no information at all on aquarium requirements, maintenance, feeding, breeding, rearing or aquaculture, which limits the usefulness of this book for hobbyists.
HARDCOVER/SOFTCOVER AVAILABILITY: Soft Cover (spiral bound) only, 214 pages

TITLE: Seahorses, Pipefishes and Their Relatives: a Comprehensive Guide to Syngnathiformes
AUTHOR: Rudie H. Kuiter
PUBLISHER: TMC Publishing (2000)
ISBN: 0-9539097-0-0
REASON FOR IMPORTANCE: detailed information on over 350 different species, including Seahorses, Pipefishes, Seadragons, Shrimpfishes, Trumpetfishes and Seamoths as well as a list of all known species of Sygnathids. With more than 1000 spectacular photographs, most taken in the fishes’ natural habitats, the book contains a wealth of information about habitats and behavior, including details of ideal aquarium set ups for each species. However, it is primarily a picture book, with very little information devoted to the aquarium care of the various seahorses. It does do a very nice job of discussing the natural history of many of the specimens and certainly contains the best illustrations of seahorses to date, including courtship, breeding, birth and predation. The detailed coverage of pipefishes is unprecedented. The pictures are breathtaking and it is well worth owning for that reason alone.

Both the seahorse identification guide and Rudie Kuiter’s photo book are outstanding in their own right, but they are both fairly expensive, so I would suggest checking them out at your local library before you decide if you want to invest in them and add them to your collection.

I am also putting the finishing touches on a new book that will be devoted entirely to captive-bred-and-raised seahorses. It asexually picks up where the old Step-by-Step book left off and is much more comprehensive (over 600 pages, fully illustrated) but it will be a while yet before that book is ready for publication. In the meantime, Judi, by all means check out some of the books I mentioned above and read all you can about seahorses well you are doing your research. The best approach by far is always to do your homework ahead of time and learn all you can about the care and keeping of seahorses before you take the plunge.

But the best resource for anyone who is thinking about giving seahorses a try would be to participate in Ocean Rider’s training program for new seahorse keepers. This basic training is very informal and completely free of charge. The lessons include a total of 180 pages altogether, with over 100 full-color illustrations. Ocean Rider provides the free training as a service to their customers and any other hobbyists who are interested in learning more about the care and keeping of seahorses. It’s a crash course on seahorse keeping consisting of 10 separate lessons covering the following subjects, and is conducted entirely via e-mail. There is no homework or examinations or anything of that nature — just a lot of good, solid information on seahorses for you to read through and absorb as best you can, at your own speed:

Aquarium care and requirements of seahorses;
Selecting a suitable aquarium for seahorses;
size (tank height and water volume)
aquarium test kits
Optimizing your aquarium for seahorses;
water movement and circulation
hitching posts (real and artificial)
Cycling a new marine aquarium;
The cleanup crew (aquarium janitors & sanitation engineers);
Water Chemistry
optimal parameters
water quality & water changes
aquarium maintenance schedule
Feeding seahorses;
Compatible tank mates for seahorses;
Courtship and breeding;
Rearing the young;
Disease prevention and control;
Hippocampus erectus
natural history
professional rearing protocols
Acclimating Ocean Rider seahorses.

If you’re interested, Judi, I will be providing you with detailed information on these subjects and answering any questions you may have about the material I present. I will also be recommending seahorse-related articles for you to read and absorb online.

In short, the training course will teach you everything you need to know to keep your seahorses happy and healthy, and it will arm you with the information you need in order to tackle your first ponies with confidence.

How long this training will take to complete depends on your experience level as an aquarist to a large extent. For example, if you have never kept seahorses before and you do not already have a suitable saltwater aquarium up and running, it will take at least eight weeks for your training and preparations to be completed before you can be certified. It will take that long to learn the basics of seahorse keeping, set up a suitable aquarium, cycle the tank from scratch to establish the biological filtration, and optimize the tank to create an ideal environment for seahorses. Only then can you be certified ready to receive your first seahorses.

On the other hand, experienced marine aquarists and hobbyists that have had seahorses before and already have a suitable saltwater aquarium up and running can be certified much more quickly. I will run through the same basic information with them, but most of the information I provide will be familiar material for such hobbyists and they should be able to review it and get up to speed quickly, plus they should have well-established aquariums ready, fully matured that they can fairly quickly adapt in order to make them more ideal for seahorses. In a case like that, certification can be completed as soon as they have absorbed the material I provide and are confident they have a good grasp of the specialized requirements and aquarium care of the seahorses.

So in order to get started, Judi, the first thing I need to know is how experienced you are with saltwater aquariums. Have you ever kept a marine aquarium before? If so, how long have you been involved with the saltwater aquarium hobby? Do you have one or more marine aquariums up and running at this time? If so, how long have the tanks been in operation?

Do you have an aquarium up and running at this time that you intend to use as a seahorse tank? If so, can you please describe the aquarium system you will be using for your seahorse tank? How large is the aquarium (length, width, and height)? What kind of filtration equipment is installed and running on the aquarium? What type of lighting system does the tank you? How long has the proposed seahorse tank been up and running? Please list all of the current inhabitants of the aquarium you will be using as your seahorse tank, if any.

If not, if you don’t have an aquarium for your seahorses as of yet, Judi, that’s just fine. I will be providing you with lots of recommendations and options in that regard so that you can pick out a tank that is just right for your needs and interests. And I will be working with you personally every step of the way until your new aquarium is ready for seahorses and you are well prepared to give them the best of care, regardless of how long that may take.

If you would like to give the training program a try, Judi, just contact me off list ([email protected]) with your full name (first and last) and I will get you started off with the training course right away.

Best wishes with all your fishes, Judi!

Happy Trails!
Pete Giwojna

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