Re:I have alot of questions about my new ponies

#2682
Pete Giwojna
Guest

Dear Cherie:

Congratulations on your new seahorse! Going with captive-bred-and-raised specimens was absolutely the best choice you could’ve made, and doing your homework and research ahead of time before you take the plunge is always the best approach!

As Leslie said, it may be difficult to identify your black seahorses if they are only 6-weeks old. However, I can say that the most commonly cultured seahorses here in the US are Hippocampus erectus, a large robust species that is commonly black or dark brown in coloration. Hippocampus erectus has a preponderance of melanophores or black pigment cells in its skin, so it may well be the "basic black seahorse" you are talking about. If you can provide us with a good picture, Leslie and I should be able to identify the species for you.

It’s great that your new seahorses are eating frozen Mysis, which will make a superb staple diet for them. For best results, however, I would suggest enriching the frozen Mysis before you feed it to them. There are a number of commercially made food supplements for marine fish that will work well for enriching frozen Mysis, but in my opinion, Vibrance is the best of these since it was developed specifically to provide a long-term balanced diet for seahorses. It includes additional highly unsaturated fatty acids (especially the DHA Omega 6 DHA series), along with Vitamin C and essential minerals, in the proper proportions to further enhance the nutritional profile of the protein-rich frozen Mysis. Studies indicate the DHA it includes is essential for high survivability, nerve development, stress management, and proper reproduction. Vibrance is a bright red-orange powder that gets its characteristic color due to its high content of carotenoids, which are an abundant source of Vitamin A and act as natural color enhancers for yellow and red pigmentation.

Vibrance is the supplement that produces the best results for me. It was designed by a research team of nutritionists and fish biologists for use with frozen mysid shrimp in order to meet the dietary requirements of these unique fishes, and it comes in two different formulations — Vibrance I (the original Vibrance) and Vibrance II — which are indeed tailored for seahorses with different needs.

Among other things, Vibrance II includes beta-glucan, pure Astaxanthin, carotenoids, water-soluble vitamin C, and various other vitamins and minerals in the proper proportions. It is a no-fat formulation intended for enriching frozen Mysis. As such, it’s perfect for fortifying frozen Mysis, further enhancing their nutritional value while safeguarding against hepatic lipidosis (fatty liver disease).

The original Vibrance (i.e., Vibrance I) is a lipid-rich formula including beta-glucan, the proper balance of long chain fatty acids (DHA and EPA) derived from natural schizochytrium algae, and color-enhancing carotenoids, all combined with just the right amount of vitamins, minerals and water-soluble stabilized vitamin C. It is perfect for enriching live foods with poor nutritional value that are naturally low in lipids, such as adult Artemia.

Personally, aside from enriching live foods, I prefer the high-fat formula (Vibrance I) for young seahorses that are still growing, and for adult seahorses that are actively breeding, churning out brood after brood, since they need all the calories and energy they can get. On the other hand, I like the low-fat formula (Vibrance II) for mature seahorses that are no longer breeding. This includes younger adults that are taking a break from breeding during the off-season, unpaired adults that have no mates at the moment, and older individuals that have been retired and put out to pasture. No longer growing and no longer producing clutch after clutch of eggs (or nourishing a pouch full of babies, in the case of males), these older specimens don’t need as much fat in their diets. Switching them to a low-fat formulation can help protect them from age-related conditions such as fatty liver disease (hepatic lipidosis).

Vibrance I, the high-fat formulation, is ideal for enriching newly-hatched brine shrimp that will be fed seahorse fry, so it’s especially useful for hobbyists that are into breeding and rearing their seahorses.

But for me, what really sets Vibrance apart from other enrichment products is that it is the only one that includes beta-glucan as a primary ingredient. Beta-glucan is a potent immunostimulant that provides important health benefits for fishes. Thanks to Vibrance, we can now boost our seahorse’s immune systems and help them fight disease as part of their daily feeding regimen. Enriching our galloping gourmets’ frozen Mysis with Vibrance will give them a daily dose of Beta Glucan to stimulate phagocytosis of certain white cells (macrophages). If the research on Beta Glucan is accurate, this could be a great way to help prevent infections from bacteria, fungus, and viral elements rather than attempting to treat disease outbreaks after the fact.

Not only should Vibrance + Beta Glucan help keep healthy seahorses healthy, it should also help ailing seahorses recover faster. Research indicates that it helps prevent infections and helps wounds heal morfe quickly (Bartelme, 2001). It is safe to use in conjunction with other treatments and has been proven to increase the effectiveness of antibiotics (Bartelme, 2001). It will be great for new arrivals recovering from the rigors of shipping because Beta Glucan is known to alleviate the effects of stress and to help fish recover from exposure to toxins in the water (Bartelme, 2001) . Good stuff!

For more information on the potential benefits of Beta Glucan for aquarium fish, please see the following article:

Click here: Advanced Aquarist Feature Article
http://www.advancedaquarist.com/issues/sept2003/feature.htm

Adminstering Beta Glucan orally via Vibrance-enriched frozen Mysis, which are so naturally rich in highly unsaturated fatty acids (HUFA), is the perfect way to boost the immune response of our seahorses since vitamins and HUFA enhance the capacity of immune system cells that are stimulated by the use of beta glucan (Bartelme, 2001).

If your seahorses are only six weeks old, Vibrance I would be a good choice for enriching their frozen Mysis at this right stage of their development, since they are still growing rapidly. If they are six months old, however, then Vibrance II would be a better choice for fortifying the Mysis.

Red feeder shrimp or volcano shrimp, as they are sometimes known, prefer brackish conditions and breed best at reduced salinity (1.0145-1.0168) but they adapt well to full strength saltwater and will survive indefinitely is a marine aquarium. They are a perfect "feed-and-forget" treat for large seahorses! As a rule they don’t need a great deal of room. The size of the tank you’ll need depends on the number of shrimp your dealing with and whether you want to maintain and ongoing culture or simple keep them alive until needed. Your
one gallon aquarium should be sufficient for perhaps 100-200 of the red feeder shrimp. A 5-10 gallon tank will generally suffice for 500-600 of these shrimp and biological filtration of some sort is desirable for keeping them long term. A simple sponge filter will do.

Here is some additional information about these shrimp that may be of interest to those of you who are interested in keeping or culturing these colorful little crustaceans:

RED FEEDER SHRIMP from Hawaii (Halocaridina rubra)

Pros:
* Excellent nutritional value
* Irresistible to all the greater seahorses.
* Feed-and-Forget — lasts forever in saltwater!
* Easy to enrich.
* Simple to gut-load.
* Can be cultured using simple techniques and the most basic setups.

Cons:
* Reproduces slowly; difficult to build up a large population.

Collecting Tips:
None.

Culture Instructions:
Specific gravity: 1.0145-1.0168; pH: 8.0-8.3
Temperature: 68 degrees F – 73 degrees F (20 degrees C – 23 degrees C)

These fabulous little feeder shrimp can be kept indefinitely in a spare 2-10 gallon tank, or even a clean, plastic bucket, that has be filled with clean saltwater and equipped with an airstone for aeration. Neither a heater nor a fancy filtration system is required. They thrive at room temp and reduced salinity (1.015-1.016), and all they require is an airstone (or a simple air-operated foam filter at most) to keep the water oxygenated, with perhaps a little coral rubble as substrate and a clump or two of macroalgae (sea lettuce, Ogo, Caulerpa) to shelter in. They’re easy to feed — they feed primarily on algal mats and bacteria — but they will accept vegetable-based flake foods and pellets such as various Spirulina products. They are filter feeders and can also be fed with yeast or commercially prepared foods for filter-feeding invertebrates. Many people find an easy way to feed them is to place a small piece of algae-encrusted live rock in their holding tank; once they clean it off, simply replace it with a new piece of algae rock. But if you want to culture them, I’d recommend ordering the special shrimp food formulated just for them when you order your feeder shrimp from Hawaii. It’s designed to meet all their needs and requirements.

Comments:

These tiny red feeder shrimp (Halocaridina rubra) are native to Hawaii where they inhabit underground lava tubes. Brackish pools collect in the cracks, crevices and depressions in the lava below the water table, thus forming the habitat for the shrimp. The brackish water that fills these pools consists of intrusive seawater diluted by freshwater that percolates downward. Because of their lava-tube habit, they are sometimes called Hawaiian Volcano Shrimp.

Native Hawaiians call them Opa’e-ula, and they are unique among the several different species anchialine pond shrimp in being small, social, herbivorous shrimp that feed mainly on algae and bacteria. They are known to feed on insects that drown in the lava tubes. When conditions are favorable, they may feed en masse at the surface in swarms of countless individuals that turn the water red.

Halocaridina rubra look like miniature, bite-size Peppermint Shrimp, and all seahorses save the miniature species go absolutely nuts for them! They are very nutritious and eat almost anything, making it easy to gut-load them for additional enrichment. They are perfect for seahorses in every way.

Unfortunately, it is very difficult to culture these shrimp in any quantity, since they reproduce slowly and the females only carry 12 to 14 eggs. They spawn but 4 or 5 times and produce an average of only 5-10 larvae per spawn. The larvae hatch as free-swimming, yolked zoeae after a brooding period of 38 days. Larval development is abbreviated with four zoeal stages and one megalopial stage occurring before they reach the first juvenile stage. Duration of the larval stages in the aquarium is 24 to 27 days at 22 to 23 degrees C.

However, they can be purchased in quantity (up to 500 shrimp) at very reasonable prices from Hawaii, and they are easy to keep alive indefinitely, making them ideal to keep around as an occasional treat for your seahorses. Most of the time they ship very well, but occasionally when the weather is extreme, your live feeder shrimp will be delivered DOA. No problem — simply rinse them well and freeze the freshly killed feeder shrimp in a quantity of clean water. Seahorses eat these shrimp without the slightest hesitation, even when frozen. Thaw them as needed.

Ocean Rider provides a line of colorful captive-bred and raised Hippocampus erectus (i.e., Mustangs and Sunbursts) that are extremely hardy and would make good companions for your black seahorses. Crossbreeding or intraspecific hybridization does occasionally occur, but it is quite uncommon, especially when seahorses have potential partners of their own species available to them. The prolonged, elaborate courtship ritual that seahorses go through before mating occurs generally prevents seahorses from different species from breeding successfully. Suffice it to say that seahorses are much, much better at species recognition than we are, and that given a choice, they almost always prefer to mate with their own kind. Almost always.

However, the urge to reproduce is very strong in seahorses. For example, solitary males often go through the motions of courtship when there are no other seahorses present in their aquarium. They may court their own reflection and sometimes even direct their courtship displays toward their keepers. Dwarf seahorse stallions in particular are irrepressible in that regard, and a hitching post may suffice for them as a surrogate, when no better alternative is available! Homosexual mating attempts (both male and female) are also common when no member of the opposite sex is present. (Fielder reported a case where two male Hippocampus hippocampus courted one another for over two hours and unsuccessfully attempted at least 20 copulatory rises together.)

Now, where a male and female seahorse of different species are confined together, they may simply ignore one other. But many times the instinct to breed overwhelms any interspecific inhibitions, and with no other available partner, the male will attempt to flirt with the female regardless of their differences. For example, H. erectus will interbreed freely with H. reidi under those circumstances and I also know of at least one case where it a female H. barbouri mated with a male Tigertail seahorse (H. comes) and produced inviable offspring.

In your case, even if you decided to add another pair of seahorses that were a different species, in all probability, you wouldn’t need to be concerned about crossbreeding. When your seahorses pair off, it will almost certainly be males and females of the same species that bond.

There have been a few other threads on the Ocean Rider Club discussion board at seahorse.com from hobbyists who were just starting out with seahorses that you should also find to be of interest. They discuss setting up an ideal system for seahorses, filtration, feeding, lighting, circulation and so on. I’ve provided links to those discussions for you below, so please check them out. I think they will answer many of your questions about keeping seahorses:

Re:Hello, newbie here! – O http://www.seahorse.com/option,com_simpleboard/Itemid,144/func,view/id,1004/catid,2/

Click here: Seahorse.com – Seahorse, Sea Life, Marine Life, Aquafarm Sales, Feeds and Accessories – Re:Setting up a 100gal for
http://www.seahorse.com/option,com_simpleboard/Itemid,144/func,view/id,1382/catid,2/

Re: Guidance on Keeping Seahorses:
http://www.seahorse.com/option,com_simpleboard/Itemid,144/func,view/id,639/catid,2/

Re: New to seahorses and I have lots of questions!
http://www.seahorse.com/option,com_simpleboard/Itemid,144/func,view/id,152/catid,2/

Re: Tank set-up advice
http://www.seahorse.com/option,com_simpleboard/Itemid,144/func,view/id,715/catid,2

Re:New with lots of questions 🙂
http://www.seahorse.com/option,com_simpleboard/Itemid,144/func,view/catid,2/id,1050/#1050

Please let us know if you have any other questions that haven’t been covered in those previous discussions, Cherie!

Best of luck with your new seahorses, Cherie! Please provide us with some pictures for better identification.

Happy Trails!
Pete Giwojna


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