Re:Hi and feeding station

Pete Giwojna

Dear Caropr:

It sounds like you are doing a wonderful job with Claire and Snoopy and that they are quite contented under your diligent care.

Please let me know if you have any difficulty locating a retailer who carries the Velvet Stone Corals from Living Color that make such good elevated feeding stations. I would be happy to recommend a reliable source for them if you have any trouble locating them locally. You can reach me at the following e-mail address anytime: [email protected]

Don’t worry that the dark pink Velvet Stone Coral is going to be down too low or will be too inconvenient to use to full advantage, Carolina. It is only elevated a few inches from the bottom on the stock that supports the coral colony, but that’s plenty high enough to prevent pesky bristleworms, microhermit crabs, or nassarius snails from invading the feeding station. And you can easily deliver the frozen Mysis directly into the center of the feeding station even in a taller tank such as yours simply by using a feeding tube or feeding guide to place the Mysis where you want them.

In your case, I suggest trying a feeding tube or feeding guide for the feeding sessions, Caropr. At feeding tube or guide is simply a length of rigid plastic tubing (clear or transparent) that has been cut to the right length so that the will reach from the top of the aquarium to where the seahorses are accustomed to feeding, and a diameter of anywhere from 1/2 inch to 2 inches works well. The rigid plastic tubing is available in three-foot lengths from many pet stores and fish stores, or can also be found at the local hardware store, and is quite inexpensive.

To use the feeding tube, you simply thaw and prepare the frozen Mysis as usual, submerge the feeding tube in the upright position so that the uppermost end is just beneath the surface, and place a few of the Mysis in the open end of the tube. They will drift slowly down the feeding tube via gravity and you can place the other end of the feeding tube a couple of inches above the seahorse(s) heads and a short distance in front of them, where they can see it easily. The seahorses will be able to track the frozen Mysis as it moves all the way from the top of the feeding tube down to the opposite end you have strategically positioned near the seahorses heads. They will be able to see the Mysis coming as it progresses down the transparent feeding guide, and should be ready to strike at it as it emerges from the end of the feeding tube an inch or two above their heads and drifts down right past their snouts the rest of the way. (That’s why it’s sometimes necessary to turn off the pump/powerheads for target feeding — otherwise when the frozen Mysis friendly emerges from the end of the feeding tube nearest the seahorses, and the food is no longer protected from currents within the tube, the water flow may intercept the drifting Mysis and carry it away from the seahorses beyond their reach, or swirl it past them too fast to be eaten.) You can then repeat the process with the rest of the Mysis, introducing a few pieces at a time into the feeding tube and guiding them directly to the seahorses as the Mysis slowly drift down the transparent tube, until the seahorses have eaten their fill.

This method of target feeding usually works quite well, Caropr, especially since your ponies already recognize you as their feeder, and the appearance of yourself with the feeding tube will be quickly associated with good things — their gourmet goodies — after which feeding time should go very smoothly. Just be very diligent about plugging in the filters and/or powerheads again after each feeding session — it’s all too easy to forget to turn them on again, which can leave your seahorse tank without filtration or circulation, to the detriment of all the inhabitants.

One of the added benefits of target feeding the seahorses with a feeding guide is that it makes it easier to train the ponies to use a feeding station, once they have become accustomed to eating the Mysis as it drifts out of the end of the feeding tube. Here are some additional tips for setting up a feeding station and training the seahorses to come to a new feeder, Caropr:

There are a few factors to bear in mind when choosing the location for your feeding station.

First of all, it must be in a location that’s convenient for you to reach and observe, since you will be depositing the enriched Mysis in the feeding tray, watching closely to make sure that all your seahorses show up for chow and are feeding normally, with healthy appetites, and then removing any uneaten leftovers when the seahorses have eaten their fill, if necessary.

Secondly, the feeding station should be located in an area with relatively low flow so that the seahorses can approach it easily, and more importantly, so that brisk currents don’t whisk the frozen Mysis out of the feeding tray or make it too difficult to guide the enriched Mysis into the feeding dish in the first place.

Setting up your feeding station is simply a matter of selecting the type of feeding dish (the Velvet Stone Coral from Living Color, in your case, Caropr) you prefer and setting it in place in the desired location, which should meet all the criteria discussed above. All that remains is to train your seahorses to come to the feeding station and eat, which normally is a very simple process that they often take care of on their own.

For example, most hobbyists use a feeding tube of some sort to deliver the enriched frozen Mysis to their feeding station. The feeding tube is simply a length of rigid, clear-plastic tubing, perhaps 1-2 inches in diameter, that’s long enough to reach all the way from the surface down to the feeding station. When the food is ready, they place the thawed enriched frozen Mysis in the top of the feeding tube, and it sinks slowly down the length of the tubing to be deposited in the feeding bowl or tray below. Often the seahorses will track the Mysis all the way down the tube to the end and be ready to snap it up as soon as it emerges over the feeding station, which is an added benefit of this method since it eliminates the need to train the seahorses to come to the feeding dish. The hungry horses will just naturally follow the sinking Mysis to its destination.

When you set up a feeding station, most seahorse pick up on it right away and respond to the new feeding method very well, as described above. However, sometimes there is a slow learner that needs to be trained to come to the new feeder. There are a couple of fairly simple ways to accomplish that, which usually work pretty well.

One way to get your seahorses up to speed on a new feeding station station is to target feed them with a turkey baster, and once they are eating from the baster well, use it to lead them to the new feeding station. The old-fashioned ones with the glass barrels work best because the seahorses can see the Mysis inside the baster all the way as it moves down the barrel and out the tip. By exerting just the right amount of pressure on the bulb, great precision is possible when target feeding with a turkey baster. By squeezing and releasing the the bulb ever so slightly, a skillful target feeder can keep a piece of Mysis dancing at the very tip of the baster indefinitely, and hold the tempting morsel right in front of theseahorse’s mouth as long as necessary.

If you can do that, it is an easy matter to hold a morsel of Mysis at the end of the baster, and use this tantalizing tidbit to lure the seahorse toward the new feeders by holding it just out of reach and leading the hungry seahorse in the direction you want him to go before you allow him to take the bait. This may have to be done in several steps, and it may take a while for you to get the seahorses accustomed to taking food from the baster before you start making much progress, but eventually you’ll have the pupil perched close enough to the new feeder for you to drop the dangling Mysis inside the feeding station before you allow them to slurp it up. This method takes time and patience, but it allows you to make sure the seahorses are getting plenty to eat while they make the transition to the new feeding station. And it’s a gradual conditioning process that will eventually work with even the slowest learners.

Best wishes with all your fishes, Caropr! I don’t think you’ll have any difficulty at all training Clara and Snoopy to use any particular feeding tray are feeding station you have in mind — they are already primed to take that step.

Happy Trails!
Pete Giwojna, Ocean Rider Tech Support

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