Re:Male seahorse loses mate

Pete Giwojna

Dear Lynne:

I’m very sorry to hear that you lost Sally, your female — all my condolences on your loss!

Sally’s mate should be just fine in the long run, Lynne. Although it’s certainly true enough that a widowed seahorse can be traumatized by the loss of its mate, such tragedies do not necessarily doom the survivor of the pair by any means.

Over the years, I have heard many anecdotal reports that indicate that the health of a pair-bonded seahorse often suffers when it loses its mate. Widowers are thus said to languish, experience loss of appetite, and lapse into a general state of decline. Many hobbyists equate this to a state of depression or melancholy. While it’s safe to say that widowed seahorses don’t die from a broken heart, there may well be a kernel of truth at the heart of such accounts. It’s very likely that a pair-bonded seahorse suddenly separated from its mate will experience altered hormonal secretion as a result. This can cause low levels of certain hormones that are known to have a profound influence on both mental state and physical well being in humans and animals alike, affecting everything from the immune response to sperm production and sex drive.

So the loss of Sally is not a life-threatening development for your male Hippocampus erectus, Lynne, but domesticated seahorses like Mustangs and Sunbursts are highly social, gregarious animals that very much enjoy the company of others of their kind, and your male may be happier in the long run if you can provide him with some company. In your case, the young Hippocampus reidi should suffice. These two species coexist in the wild in parts of their range, and Hippocampus erectus and H. reidi seahorses have even been known to interbreed, so they should make fine companions. There is no need to worry that your male Mustang will be too lonely or that its health will suffer if you do not replace Sally with a female Mustang, under these circumstances.

In short, there is no need to rush out and get a replacement for Sally, Lynne. Your male Mustang still enjoys the company of other compatible seahorses and that should more than suffice.

Best wishes with all your fishes!

Pete Giwojna

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