Re:Lonely males

Pete Giwojna

Dear Carrie:

I don’t think there is an urgent need for you to replace the female Hippocampus erectus in order to provide Zack and Jack with mates again as soon as possible. It is customary for this species to take a break from breeding in the wild when the falling water temperatures and decreasing hours of daylight alter their levels of gonadotropin and other hormones, and the lack of breeding opportunities and pouch displays during the off-season doesn’t seem to pose a health risk.

In fact, in some seahorse species, adult males and females can be very difficult to tell apart when they are not breeding because the male’s pouch shrinks to almost nothing in the offseason and does not become obvious again until hormonal changes triggered by courtship and mating cause it to grow and expand (Bull and Mitchell, 2002). These types of pouch changes are normal and not a cause for concern.

There is some evidence that suggests enforced abstinence can be undesirable for seahorses, however.

For example, Heather Hall reports that the London Zoo was so successful in breeding and raising the prolific Cape Seahorse (Hippocampus capensis) that, at one point, they were forced to separate the males and females in order to bring a halt to the population explosion that resulted (Bull and Mitchell, 2002, p 30). The Zoo was eventually forced to abandon this approach to birth control because segregating the sexes proved stressful to the seahorses in the long run. There was more twitching and scratching in the isolated seahorses, males displayed increased aggression toward one another, and the females faced an increased risk of egg binding when deprived of the opportunity to breed in a same-sex environment (Bull and Mitchell, 2002, p 30). The lack of breeding seemed to increase tension levels among the seahorses in general.

So, it’s a good idea to provide Zack and Jack with new mates at some point, Carrie, but being deprived of female companionship shouldn’t cause problems in the short-term. I think you can afford to wait until you have the red slime algae under control again. Replacing the membrane in your reverse osmosis filter could make a big difference in that regard, but let me know if that doesn’t do the trick and I would be happy to help you overcome the nuisance algae. There are run number of other things that can also be helpful if you haven’t are ready seen my suggestions for controlling cyanobacteria and nuisance algae.

Best of luck eradicating the red slime from your seahorse tank so you can provide your stallions with prospective partners and restore harmony to your seahorse setup, Carrie!

Pete Giwojna

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