Re:New to the idea – wow!

Pete Giwojna

Dear Angela & Heidi:

Howdy! Welcome to the Club!

I don’t know if we have any members from your neck of the woods offhand, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there were a few lurking about. In the meantime, one good way to find out if there are any seahorse keepers in your area would be to contact your local aquarium society (or the aquarium society in the nearest major city). They will be able to tell you which of their active participants are marine aquarists and keep seahorses, and their members are only too happy to show off their aquariums to anyone who may be interested.

It’s easy for me to understand the irresistible appeal of these enchanting creatures, Angela, and I can certainly understand why your daughter Heidi find seahorses to be so engrossing. Some folks are simply fascinated by the outlandish appearance, complex behaviors, and surprising habits of these amazing animals. They get a kick out of having a pet that’s truly a marvel of nature, an anatomical oddity to top them all. These are the aquarists that are bored by average, everyday, run-of-the-mill specimens that are pet-store staples. They’re always on the lookout for something new and different, something extraordinary. When it comes to fishkeeping, they favor the oddballs over the ordinary, and the elevated curiosity quotient of these marine marvels is what attracts them about seahorses. There’s a little of that childlike wonder in all of us. Heck, what red-blooded American kid wouldn’t give his two front teeth to keep such curious critters for pets?

Others are attracted by the legendary status of the seahorse. They’re captivated by the chance to keep a fabled beast of mythical proportions that seems more like something out of a fairy tale or a Disney movie than a real, flesh-and-blood animal. For them, a seahorse tank is the next best thing to having a genuine unicorn or keeping winged Pegasus himself in their living room. There’s still a little of the enchanted kingdom in every seahorse keeper, too. Everyone would like to believe in magic, and Hippocampus is living proof that some fairy stories do come true.

Many aquarists are excited by the challenge of breeding and rearing these legendary livebearers. Seahorses are easy to sex, they pair up and mate in captivity readily, and their fry are relatively easy to raise compared to other marine fishes. There is nothing more rewarding than a tankful of healthy, homegrown Hippocampus and many hobbyists feel that seahorse husbandry is the key to assuring their ongoing survival. The prospect of culturing these captivating creatures is thus the clincher for many enterprising individuals.

And a lot of seahorse lovers find it especially satisfying to keep a fish that can become a true pet. Seahorses are real personality fish and many of them actually enjoy being handled. Unlike most other fish that back off when you approach the aquarium and flee in terror if you place your hand in the tank, seahorses soon learn to recognize their keeper and will come out to meet you. They quickly learn to take food from your fingers, and having your pet ponies literally eating out your hand is a very rewarding experience. When one of these shy, enchanting creatures — whose very survival in the wild depends on concealing itself from predators at all times — comes trustingly up to the surface to eat right out of your palm, it’s a thrill you won’t soon forget. The training sessions and daily feedings required for this tend to forge a close, personal relationship between the aquarist and his charges, and hand-fed seahorses often become special pets. Many times they will even include you in their daily greeting, flashing their recognition colors and parading back and forth and at the front of the tank, performing their dancelike displays for your benefit.

So I think it’s a fine idea if you and Heidi would like to pursue setting up a seahorse tank as a long-term goal. The best approach is always to do your homework ahead of time and learn as much as you can about the care and keeping of seahorses before you take the plunge, so making this a two-or three-your project while you and your daughter study up on marine aquariums and seahorse keeping seems sensible. Take it easy and learn at your own speed.

Reading everything pertinent you can get your hands on is a good way to get started, Angela, and there are a couple of books that I recommend for all inexperienced marine aquarists. An excellent place to start would be to read the book "The New Marine Aquarium" by Michael Paletta. Next I would suggest you follow that up by perusing "The Conscientious Marine Aquarist: A Commonsense Handbook for Successful Saltwater Hobbyists" by Bob Fenner. Those are both outstanding books for a beginner that will give you an excellent grasp of the basic things you need to know to maintain a marine aquarium.

After you’ve had a chance to digest The New Marine Aquarium and The Conscientious Marine Aquarist, and have a better understanding of the basic principles involved in keeping a saltwater aquarium, you should next study a good guide book devoted for seahorses. I would say the most useful of these for your needs is "How to Care for your Seahorses in the Marine Aquarium — A Stable Environment For your Seahorse Stable" by Tracy Warland. All of the books I have mentioned should be available from your local library or can be purchased from any of the major booksellers, Angela.

There are also a number of interesting articles about seahorses available online that would be helpful for your research. For example, I wrote an article in Conscientious Aquarist called "Feeding Stations : A Better Way to Feed Seahorses" that you may find useful. It discusses all the different kinds of feeding stations, including natural feeding stations, and explains how to do keep seahorses to use a feeding tray in considerable detail. It’s available online at the following URL:

Click here: Seahorse Feeders

And I know you and Heidi would enjoy the two-part article on coloration in seahorses that I recently wrote for Conscientious Aquarist online magazine. You can read the articles at the following URL’s and enjoy Leslie Leddo’s magnificent photographs:

part one:

part two:

In the meantime, be sure to read through any of the discussion threads on this forum that catch your interest, and search through the archives for any additional information you may be seeking.

Best of luck learning all about seahorses and their fascinating behaviors, Angela and Heidi!

Happy Trails!
Pete Giwojna

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