Re:New erectus

Pete Giwojna

Dear hold your horses:

Boy, it’s very difficult to predict when your new pair of seahorses will begin breeding for you. The conditions in your home aquarium are much different than conditions the seahorses are accustomed to at the aquaculture facility. At Ocean Rider, the seahorses enjoy an open system featuring pristine water quality, natural ocean water and natural sunlight, in huge holding tanks with lots of room to roam. Now they are adjusting to a small, closed-system aquarium with artificial saltwater and artificial lighting. As a result, many times seahorses don’t immediately set up housekeeping and begin breeding in a home hobby tank. It may be many months or years before your pair produces their first brood, or they may begin courting and breeding tomorrow. There is no way to know for sure.

But I can tell you for certain that the genetic imperative to reproduce is very strong in Hippocampus, and that with mated pairs of highly domesticated ponies like your Ocean Riders it doesn’t matter in the least if one of the partners is bigger than the other. Captive-bred seahorses are far more social and gregarious than their wild conspecifics, and cultured seahorses are particularly irrepressible with regard to their sex drive. 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 normally 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 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 selected 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)!!"

Just be patient, maintain optimum water quality, provide your seahorses with a nutritious diet and a stress-free environment, and sooner or later they will reward your diligence by breeding in your aquarium. And once they do begin to breed, they will normally produce a new brood for you every month thereafter during the breeding season.

In short, your new pair of seahorses could set up housekeeping and begin to breed anytime, but this is not the peak breeding season for Hippocampus erectus, and you may have to wait until next Spring before they get down to business.

As you know, breeding in Hippocampus is often seasonal, regulated by cyclical changes in water temperature, day length, and salinity (monsoons). In the wild, both temperate and tropical seahorses breed best during the summer months and typically take a break from breeding during the offseason. For example, the breeding season for our native American H. erectus begins in April and lasts until the seahorses move into deep water with the onset of winter. Although domesticated seahorses that have been born and bred for aquarium life for generation after generation are no longer as strongly dependent on such environmental cues and will often breed year-round in captivity, even captive-bred seahorses sometimes experience a lull in the festivities at this time of year. That’s just their natural breeding cycle, the rhythm of life built into their genes.

Seahorses are benthic animals by nature that orient to the substrate and typically spend their days anchored to hitching posts on the bottom. So the fact that your female tends to hang out near the bottom of the tank is SOP for Hippocampus. As long as she can swim normally and moves from one hitching post to another from time to time, it sounds like her behavior is nothing out of the ordinary at all. It’s unnatural for a seahorse to be laying prone on the bottom, of course, but as long as your female is anchoring to the hitching posts in your tank using her prehensile tail, her bottom-hugging behavior is pretty normal. In fact, it is troublesome when seahorses develop a bad habit of perching high up in their aquariums near the surface, because the reduced hydrostatic pressure near the top of the tank can leave them more vulnerable to depth-related problems such as certain forms of gas bubble syndrome.

Best of luck with your new pair of seahorses, hold your horses! Here’s hoping they set up housekeeping and begin to breed in your aquarium sooner rather than later.

Pete Giwojna

Post edited by: Pete Giwojna, at: 2008/10/06 23:36

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