Re:Gigantes & Holdfasts

Pete Giwojna

Dear Don:

Yes, sir – that’s correct. I don’t have any specific recommendations regarding suitable natural hitching posts, either macroalgae or gorgonia, that are good options for Gigantes (Hippocampus ingens) considering their size and the powerful grip that large specimens can exert with their muscular tails.

Although the largest specimens of Hippocampus ingens are true giants among seahorses that can reach up to 14 inches in total length, Don, the medium specimens you will be receiving from Ocean Rider are young adults just approaching sexual maturity. At this age, they are no larger or more muscular than medium Mustangs or Sunbursts or medium Pintos, so any of the macros or gorgonians that are well suited for Hippocampus erectus, or other large tropical seahorses such as Hippocampus reidi, will also serve just as well for the medium Gigantes.

Although they can reach very impressive dimensions when they’re fully grown, the Gigantes are not the musclebound King Kong’s of seahorses that you might be expecting, Don. They are actually quite svelte and graceful in their physique, and you would do well to think of them as a scaled-up version of Hippocampus reidi, the species that is their closest relative. To put it in common, everyday terms that all of us guys can easily relate to, you might say that the body build of H. ingens has more in common with the streamlined lines of a Corvette Stingray than the brick-like contours of a Mac Truck.

As you know, Hippocampus ingens have been reported to reach a length of 36 cm or more than 14 inches when fully grown, making them the world’s largest seahorses, rivaled only by the biggest examples of H. abdominalis. The prehensile tail of a large adult has a powerful grip like an anaconda, and they can exert enough pressure to leave you counting your fingers afterwards when they squeeze down.

But despite their great size and power, these gentle giants are not at all the brutes you might imagine. As Alisa Abbott points out, they are close relatives of the Brazilian seahorse (H. reidi), and share their slender profile and graceful proportions (Abbott 2003). Imagine a seahorse with the same sleek silhouette as reidi, but which reaches twice their size, and you will have a pretty good picture of what H. ingens is like (Abbott 2003). They are stately steeds, which carry their size very well, built like thoroughbred racehorses rather than Clydesdale workhorses. The crowning touch for the King of all the seahorses is a tall, backward-swept, five-pointed coronet, which adds to their majestic appearance (Abbott 2003). They have very prominent eye spines but are otherwise relatively smooth bodied with small blunt spines.

Regarding the species of macroalgae that you are specifically concerned about, Don, I did not mention Blue Ochtodes in my discussion of the macros commonly used to aquascaped seahorse setups because it is a rare, highly prized macroalgae that would be difficult for the home hobbyist to obtain. When it is available, small colonies of Blue Ochtodes that are just the size of a golf ball command very high prices. As you are no doubt aware, sir, it is an exceptionally beautiful macroalgae with very unusual coloration for a marine plant. Most specimens I have seen were an intense purple in color rather than bluish, but always extremely striking – a real eye-catcher!

However, Blue Ochtodes is an encrusting macroalgae, which means it is low growing, rather than an upright species of macroalgae. As such, it is not very well suited as a hitching post for large seahorse species, Don. You would need to have a very large colony before it could be considered a convenient perch for a large seahorse, and the only examples of Blue Ochtodes that I have seen offered for sale were small colonies perhaps the size of a golf ball. If you started with such a small colony, it would have to do a lot of growing in order to become a decent hitching post for the ponies in which you are interested.

But I would not let that discourage you from keeping Blue Ochtodes in your seahorse setup, sir. If you have a chance to obtain Blue Ochtodes, I would do so whether or not your seahorses might use it as a hitching post, Don. It is a hardy species of macroalgae and it is a stunning aquarium specimen.

If you are planning on aquascaping your seahorse setup using macroalgae, gorgonians, and soft corals – a sort of a modified reef tank, Don – then you might consider obtaining a large tree sponge in bright red, orange, or yellow. I can guarantee that the Gigantes would be attracted to it as a hitching post, and the sponge would do much better in a reef-type setting than a FOWLR tank.

Best wishes with all your fishes, Don!

Pete Giwojna, Ocean Rider Tech Support

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