Re:Feeding Ocean Rider Pipefish

Pete Giwojna

Dear Mardean:

The Red Banded Pipefish (Doryrhamphus dactyliophorus) are trained to eat frozen Mysis but they are not trained to take it from a feeding station. Once they have settled into a new aquarium, the domesticated banded pipefish will accept a variety of frozen foods and nonliving foods, but they are not dish trained. The food needs to be carefully dispersed or you can target feed the pipefish with a baster or something similar. As you know, seahorses are accustomed to plucking small invertebrates from the vegetation are the substrate, which is a feeding habit that makes it easy to train them to take frozen Mysis from a feeding station. But the pipefish are accustomed to plucking zooplankton suspended in the water column while they are swimming, and they therefore need to be target fed rather than coming to a feeding station. They do readily accept small frozen Mysis or minced Mysis once they are accustomed to their surroundings and feel at home, but their food needs to be presented to them from above so that it drifts down right in front of their snouts, whereupon they will snatch it from the water column and dart around cleaning up the remaining pieces that drifts down.

This is normally what I advise home hobbyists regarding the feeding habits of the Red Banded Pipefish (Doryrhamphus dactyliophorus):

Feeding and Diet:

The Red Banded Pipefish is a carnivore that needs a meaty diet but it’s tiny, tubular mouth severely limits the size of the prey items it can consume. In the wild, its diet consists primarily of copepods and in the aquarium it will thrive in a well-established tank with lots of live rock and macroalgae that houses a large pod population. For best results, start it off with a diet of enriched live baby brine shrimp (Artemia nauplii) until new arrivals have had a chance to settle in, which usually only takes a few days at most. Hobbyists will find it convenient to supplement its diet with Nutramar Tigrio Bottled Live Copepods, which are an ideal food for this fastidious feeder. Over time, as it becomes accustomed to its new surroundings, the Red Banded Pipefish will resume eating nonliving food such as frozen CYCLOP-EEZE®, very small frozen Mysis, and Nutramar Ova.

When it comes to frozen food, stick with bars of frozen Cyclop-Eeze and the smallest brands of frozen Mysis (e.g., Mini Mysis by H2O Life) for best results. Bars of frozen Cyclop-Eze work especially well because they will shed copious amounts of the bite-size frozen cyclops.

Brands of larger frozen Mysis can also be used for feeding the pipefish but only after they have been minced or shaved. The frozen Mysis that works best for most hobbyists when minced is Hikari in frozen blocks rather than trays. The Hikari Mysis is much smaller than Piscine Energetics Mysis relicta and that makes it easier to shave off bite-sized pieces for the pipefish.

When it comes to shaving the Mysis, a technique that works well for many home hobbyists is to use a potato peeler to shave off bits of the Hikari Mysis from a frozen block, and then use a single edged razor blade to further mince the frozen bits the potato peeler has removed.

Best of luck with the hardy, cultured banded pipefish, Mardean!

Happy Trails!
Pete Giwojna

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