Re:how long is thier pregnancy/mustangs

Pete Giwojna

Dear Kathy:

Okay, it sounds like there hasn’t been a successful mating yet, just a lot of nonstop courtship going on for now, but with the female playing hard to get at the moment. That could change anytime now and the stallion is likely to keep trying his luck until the female is finally in the mood. In fact, it would not be uncommon for your young male to be engaging in courtship behavior even if there was not a female present in the aquarium, as discussed below.

The genetic imperative to reproduce is very strong in Hippocampus, to say the least. For example, solitary males often go through the motions of courtship when there are no other seahorses present in their aquarium (Abbott, 2003). They may court their own reflection and sometimes even direct their courtship displays toward their keepers (Abbott, 2003). If no females are present, over-stimulated stallions will sometimes soothe themselves by basking in the air stream from an airstone, content with the tactile stimulation provided by the gentle barrage of bubbles. They may even flirt with inanimate objects. If all else fails, a hitching post may actually suffice as a suitable surrogate when no better alternative is available (Abbott, 2003)!

Same-sex courting displays (both male and female) are also common when no member of the opposite sex is present. Under such circumstances, these passionate ponies are not picky about their partners — males will dance with other stallions and frustrated females will sometimes flirt with other fillies (Abbott, 2003)!

Captive-bred seahorses are far more social and gregarious than their wild conspecifics, so it’s not surprising that cultured seahorses are particularly irrepressible in that regard. They seem to court constantly and the urge to procreate dominates their lives. If given a choice, they are apt to change partners often, and courtship, flirting and dancing are the activities that consume their days. Long before they are sexually mature, juvenile males will spend hours dancing with one another, just horsing around, practicing their moves and perfecting their technique for the real thing to come. Likewise, mature males often compete actively and aggressively with one another through harmless pouch displays and tail-wrestling tug-o-wars whether or not there is a female nearby to appreciate their efforts.

As Carol Cozzi-Schmarr of Ocean Rider, the premier aquaculture facility in Hawaii, puts it, "As far as mating is concerned, it is important to understand that because these sea horses are farm raised and therefore "domesticated" they will be breaking a lot of the rules previously established for wild caughts. They will require less horizontal as well as vertical space and they no longer tend to be shy or picky! In other words they will show off to and mate with whomever they can, even if it means leaving behind the sea horse they mated with last time! It does not matter if their partner appears too short or too tall or of a different color or even of the same sex!! They want to dance and court more than anything else (Cozzi-Schmarr, May 2002)!!"

So it’s not unusual for an amorous male to go at it all day and all evening, Kathy, and if you provide your seahorses with a nutritious diet, optimal water quality, and the stress-free environment, sooner or later his efforts will be rewarded.

When that time comes and the female is more receptive to his advances, you could certainly try keeping at least some of the newborn Mustangs it with your dwarf seahorses. Your dwarf seahorse setup could make a fine nursery tank for some of the baby Mustangs if it has newly hatched brine shrimp in it all day long.

Dwarf seahorses typically never learn to eat frozen foods consistently, so you should count on providing your Hippocampus zosterae with plenty of newly hatched brine shrimp on a daily basis, Kathy. Newborn Mustangs (Hippocampus erectus) will be ready to be weaned onto frozen Mysis after several weeks of growth, and I would be happy to explain how to go about weaning them onto frozen foods when the time comes.

Also, Kathy, please let me know if you would like to participate in Ocean Rider’s free training program for seahorse keepers. One of the lessons in the training course is devoted entirely to courtship and breeding in seahorses, and will explain all of the courtship displays you are likely to observe as pair bonding and ultimately mating occur. Another of the lessons is devoted entirely to raising baby seahorses, including a detailed discussion of nursery tanks and feeding regimens for the newborns, so the training program could answer a lot of the questions and concerns you have right now. It’s a correspondence course conducted entirely by e-mail, and if you would like to give it a try, just send me a quick e-mail off list ([email protected]) with your full name (first and last), and I will get you started out with the first lesson right away.

Best of luck with all of your seahorses, Kathy!

Happy Trails!
Pete Giwojna

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