Re:Hungry picky sunburst?!

Pete Giwojna

Dear Pug Fish:

I would not be overly concerned about the behavior of your male Sunburst at this point. As you have probably observed by now, seahorses definitely do have distinct personalities. Females generally tend to be more active and outgoing than the males. They will often swim around more and explore the aquarium to a greater extent than the males, which tend to pick out a favorite perch or home base and hang around in the same general area most of the time. Just like people, some seahorses are shy and retiring (introverted, I guess you could say) while others are real busybodies, that insist on being right in the thick of things and helping you out whenever you are working in the tank or performing aquarium maintenance. These extroverts will often perch on your hand or whatever aquarium utensil you may be using and watch intently as you finish your chores, apparently enjoying the ride and the company. Others will gladly interact with you at feeding time, but prefer to keep their distance otherwise.

The individual personalities of seahorses naturally extend to their feeding habits, Pug Fish. Some are aggressive feeders that will boldly snatch food from your fingers, while some are shy and secretive, feeding only when they think they’re not being observed. Some like to slurp up Mysis while it’s swirling through the water column, and some will only take Mysis off the bottom of the tank. Some are voracious pigs that greedily scarf up everything in sight, and some are slow, deliberate feeders that painstakingly examine every morsel of Mysis and stare it down forever before they accept or reject it. Some eat like horses and some eat like birds.

It sounds like your male Sunburst is fairly shy and reserved, as well as a deliberate feeder who likes to take his time and carefully scrutinize everything he slurps up. That’s okay – that’s normal behavior for some seahorses who are more introverted – and it doesn’t mean that he’s going to starve himself or that he’s not happy in your surroundings. It just indicates that his personality is somewhat different than the rest of your ponies, which seem to be little more active, aggressive, and outgoing.

You mentioned that your male Sunburst has a sunken abdomen compared to the other fat-and-happy ponies, Pug Fish, but that could be primarily due to his pouch. When stallions are not actively breeding, their flaccid brood pouch may look pinched in, giving them the appearance of being emaciated or underfed. That could be natural in this case, since your male Sunburst has not yet been in the mood for romance whereas the Mustangs have been actively breeding, although their inexperience has thus far prevented a successful egg transfer in pregnancy. In other words, your male Sunburst may look as though his abdomen is sunken compared to the Mustang male who has been busily trying to get pregnant, but that could be largely because of the Sunburst’s flaccid brood pouch.

Target feeding usually works well with finicky eaters, Pug Fish, but if it’s been unsuccessful for you thus far, then you might want to consider setting up a feeding station for your seahorses. That way, you can deposit all of the frozen Mysis in the feeding station, and your male Sunburst can take all the time he wants to slurp it up from the feeding dish after the others have had their fill and moved on. That is a strategy that sometimes works well with picky eaters, and some hobbyists will even set up two separate feeding stations at opposite ends of the aquarium. That way, if the aggressive seahorses are dominating one of the feeders, the finicky eater can have the other feeding dish all to himself and take all the time he wants to examine and slurp up the choices pieces of frozen Mysis. Let me know if you would like to try setting up a feeding station, Pug Fish, and I can provide you with lots of suggestions and information you may find helpful in that regard.

The other thing that could improve your results with the finicky eater is to obtain the same sort of frozen Mysis that the Mustangs and Sunbursts are accustomed to eating at the Ocean Rider aquaculture facility. All Ocean Riders are trained to eat frozen Mysis relicta from glacial lakes in Canada at an early age, and there are two good brands of frozen Mysis that include nothing but Mysis relicta – Piscine Energetics and Ocean Nutrition. I would call around to all of the pet shops and local fish stores in your area and ask if any of them carry either Ocean Nutrition frozen Mysis or Piscine Energetics frozen Mysis relicta, Pug Fish.

Both Piscine Energetics Frozen Freshwater Mysis Relicta and Ocean Nutrition Frozen Mysis are composed of freshwater Mysis with an exceptional nutritional profile that have been harvested from pristine glacial lakes in Canada (Mysis relicta). The Ocean Nutrition Mysis relicta is well-fortified with vitamins and amino acids and needs no further enrichment; it can be thawed and used as is, right out of the package, which is very convenient and simplifies feeding your seahorses. The PE Energetics is also naturally rich in Omega-3’s and other fatty acids, and is fortified naturally with phytoplankton.

The brands that use the freshwater Mysis relicta (Piscine Energetics and Ocean Nutrition) have a couple of built-in advantages over other brands of Mysis of marine origin. Because the Mysis relicta are from glacial freshwater lakes, they cannot transfer any sort of parasites or disease organisms to seahorses or other marine fish. Secondly, because they originate in freshwater, they are sodium free, which means that saltwater fish do not need to spend as much energy on osmoregulation and eliminating excess salt after eating their fill of the freshwater Mysis.

Here is some additional information about the Ocean Nutrition and the Piscine Energetics brands of frozen Mysis relicta, Pug Fish:

Ocean Nutrition Frozen Mysis Shrimp

Freshwater Mysis relicta from Canada packed in convenient pre-measured cubes. Specially sealed for freshness, premium quality nutritionally fortified mysis shrimp that have been enriched with vitamins and amino acids. Great way to increase variety to the diet of fresh and saltwater fishes.

Ingredients: Mysis shrimp (Mysis relicta), water, vitamins (ascorbic acid, beta carotene, biotin, hydroxocobalamin (source of Vitamin B12), niacin, riboflavin, thiamine HCL), amino acids (dl-methionine, l-lysine, taurine), and trace elements (calcium chloride, potassium iodide, ferrous sulfate, manganese sulfate, magnesium carbonate, and zinc sulfate).

Guaranteed Analysis:

Crude Protein 4.7% min
Crude Fat 0.3% min
Crude Fiber 0.8% max
Moisture 97.0% max

(Protein as a percentage of dry matter 61.5%)

Piscine Energetics Frozen Freshwater Mysis

Freshwater Mysis relicta from Canada.

Encourage exceptional appetite and growth – even in the most finicky eaters! Piscine Energetics (PE) Mysis relicta boast naturally higher fatty acid profiles and Omega-3’s than enriched brine shrimp. PE Mysis are harvested live from pristine glacial lakes in Canada, flash frozen in premium condition with no binding agents or fillers. PE Mysis induce an energetic feeding response in aquarium fish.

Ingredients: 100% Mysis relicta

Guaranteed Analysis (from dry weight)

Crude Protein 69.5% min.
Crude Fat 8.35% min.
Crude Fiber 2.75% max.
Ash 5.5% max.

Feeding Directions:
If clouding is a concern, rinse PE Mysis under cold running water or thaw in water and then pour off water prior to feeding. Please remember to not to over feed. Only feed as much shrimp as your fish will eat in 2 or 3 minutes. Remove any uneaten food.

General Information

PE Mysis Are:

The Curator’s Choice: Used by over 90% of public aquariums in North America.
Freshwater Mysis (Mysis relicta): This eliminates the possibility of parasite or disease transfer to marine fish.
Sodium Free: As fish don’t need to eliminate excess salt, it’s easier on their systems. Most other brands offer a coastal or marine cousin of Mysis relicta.
Alive on harvest and immediately flash frozen in premium condition: That’s why PE MYSIS is clean and intact.
High in Fatty Acid Profiles (EPA and DHA) related to the food chain found in deep cold waters, where PE MYSIS is harvested.
High in Omega-3’s: Greater values of Omega-3 can be found in PE MYSIS than krill and enriched brine shrimp.
Free of Binding Agent: No fillers or water added to packaging.
Nutritionally Complete: PE MYSIS does not require the addition of vitamin or color enhancement products.

What is Mysis relicta?
Mysis are not a true shrimp though they do closely resemble and are, in fact a primitive relative of the shrimp found in the oceans. There are 58 genuses of mysis which make up the Mysidae family.

PE MYSIS is 100% Mysis relicta which is one of the two types of freshwater Mysidae. All other species of Mysis are either saltwater or estuarine (i.e., brackish water) species.

PE MYSIS are part of the zooplankton, the small invertebrate animals found in lakes that feed on microscopic algae (phytoplankton) as well as other zooplankton. In turn these organisms form the basis of the food supply for many fish.

There are two differences between PE MYSIS and the other zooplankton typically found in lakes.

1.) PE MYSIS have a longer lifespan and usually live upwards of two years. The typical zooplankton, composed of animals known as copepods, cladocerans, and rotifers, live anywhere from only several days to several months. PE MYSIS is a nutritionally complete food. PE MYSIS is a natural product enriched by the food chain of the lakes from which it is harvested. This is because of Mysis relicta’s highly diversified eating habits. The extremely high levels of EPA and DHA (fatty acids) is related to the food chain found in deep cold waters, such as those where Mysis is harvested. These fatty acids not only provide your fish with essential nutrition, but also stimulate an energetic feeding response.

2.) PE MYSIS range in size from newly released young of about one-eight inch to adults of up to 3/4 inch. The other zooplankton are normally much smaller ranging from one one-hundredth to one tenth of an inch in total length. It is the size of the Mysis that makes them of interest as a fish food. Fish that consistently feed on Mysis grow much faster than those feeding strictly on the other smaller zooplankton. Mysis are extremely high in nutritional value and are salt free.

Okay, that’s the rundown on Ocean Nutrition and Piscine Energetics frozen Mysis relicta, Pug Fish. If you can call around and obtain either of those brands of frozen Mysis, even your finicky male Sunburst may be inclined to eat it more aggressively.

Please keep me informed on your Sunburst stallion’s progress. If he is losing weight and having trouble competing with the more aggressive eaters, there are a few other things we can do to help fatten him up a bit and resolve this problem.

Best wishes with all your fishes!

Pete Giwojna, Ocean Rider Training Program Advisor

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