Re:Newbie Questions

Pete Giwojna

Dear Angel:

Many hobbyists share your concerns about breeding and raising seahorses, Angel, and would prefer to keep the seahorses while not having to worry about rearing any offspring that may result. There are a number of good options you can consider in such a case aside from segregating the sexes and keeping all males are all females, which is undesirable for number of reasons. For instance, it is certainly possible to manipulate the environmental cues in order to prevent the seahorses from breeding so that you do not have to deal with any newborns unless and until you feel you are ready for the challenge of rearing. On the other hand, you can allow the seahorses to breed freely and then disperse the newborns to other hobbyists, friends, and aquarists who are interested in rearing the young. I know a number of hobbyists, including myself, who have no problem finding surrogate parents for their newborn Mustangs and Sunbursts. Finally, if your main tank is large enough, you can mount nursery tanks inside the main tank and raise the babies in separate nurseries within the same aquarium as their parents. Let’s examine each of these options in more detail below.

It is certainly possible to keep seahorses successfully in a same-sex setup, Angel, and a number of home hobbyists do so for various reasons. The highly domesticated Ocean Rider Mustangs and Sunbursts (Hippocampus erectus) are typically very gregarious, sociable animals that very much appreciate the company of others of their kind, so a tank that houses only females is doable. The females are subject to fewer health problems in many cases, because they lack a heavily vascularized brood pouch and never suffer from any of the complications of pregnancy, but I am much less certain as to whether the seahorses are truly happy when the sexes are segregated over the long term, and there is some strong evidence that suggests otherwise…

A group of males can also be kept together successfully if necessary, and maintaining a group of stallions together often makes for a very entertaining exhibit and allows the aquarist to observe dynamic social interactions that do not take place when a group of females are confined together. For example, the urge to reproduce is very strong in the young studs and they will often go through all the motions of early stage courtship, even when confined with other stallions. This includes brightening, head tucking, and quivering, as well as some of the dancelike displays.

In short, Angel, it’s not uncommon to see same-sex courting behavior or even homosexual mating attempts in male seahorses maintained in the same-sex environment. Even solitary males often go through the motions of courtship when there are no other seahorses present in their aquarium (Abbott, 2003). They may court their own reflection and sometimes even direct their courtship displays toward their keepers (Abbott, 2003). If no females are present, over-stimulated stallions will sometimes soothe themselves by basking in the air stream from an airstone, content with the tactile stimulation provided by the gentle barrage of bubbles. They may even flirt with inanimate objects. If all else fails, a hitching post may actually suffice as a suitable surrogate when no better alternative is available (Abbott, 2003)!

In addition to courtship activities between the irrepressible males, the aquarist is also often privileged to witness competitive behaviors between the stallions that are not displayed among females, Angel. This includes sparring, headbutting, and tail wrestling as the males sort out a dominance hierarchy of sorts, all of which are fascinating to observe. I should emphasize that such competitive behaviors are highly ritualized in Hippocampus. The idea behind such harmless tussles is to assert dominance, not inflict bodily harm. Tail wrestling and snapping are forms of ritual combat — little more than glorified shoving matches and tug of wars — with clear-cut submission signals that are always honored. They seldom do any real damage and the combatants are so well protected that serious injuries are virtually unknown when these armor-plated adversaries throw down the gauntlet. In short, intrasexual competition among the stallions in a same-sex tank can sometimes be intense, but it’s normally nothing to be concerned about and is always extremely interesting to observe. However, when males are segregated from females for a long period, there tends to be an increase in such aggression and a corresponding increase in stress levels.

Whenever possible, Ocean Rider prefers to sell their ponies as male/female pairs, Angel. The mated pair is the natural social unit for seahorses in the wild, and, although it is quite possible to keep seahorses successfully in same-sex setups, and I know several home hobbyists who have done so, that is generally not desirable solution over the long term.

For one thing, Angel, I feel that the ponies are happiest when they are kept as male/female pairs. The seahorses certainly enjoy a richer, more natural life when they have the opportunity to interact, court one another, pair up and reproduce. And the hobbyist has a chance to observe social interactions and behaviors he would otherwise never see, such as competition for mates and daily greetings and birthing, including one of the grandest spectacles in all of nature — the colorful courtship and mating ritual of the seahorse!

The many colorful courtship rituals and dancelike displays that lead up to mating are an amazing experience you won’t want to miss, Angel. Once a pair has bonded, these fascinating maneuvers and displays are repeated regularly in a daily greeting ritual that strengthens and reinforces the pair bond. In my opinion, the seahorses have a better quality of life when they are allowed to engage in these activities in the aquarium, Sam, and the aquarist benefits from the opportunity to observe these wonderful displays and interesting breeding behaviors up close and personal.

But the primary reason I would suggest trying a mated pair is that there have been one or two studies done on segregating the sexes in seahorses (Bull and Mitchell, 2002, p 30), Angel, and these indicated the potential for some problems when males and females are separated for the long term. To be more specific, an increase in stress and aggression was observed between segregated males, with an increased incidence of bacterial infections as a result. There was no increase in aggression or antagonistic behavior between segregated females, and they were not more susceptible to bacterial infections, but there was a significant increase in the incidence of egg binding among females that did not have an opportunity to mate.

All things considered, it is generally preferable to obtain pairs of ponies, Angel. If you are concerned that the pair-bonded seahorses will produce babies that you are unprepared to deal with, there are usually better ways to deal with that possibility than segregating the sexes.

First and foremost, Ocean Rider allows hobbyists to freely disburse their fry any way they see fit up until they reach the age of 30 days. If they are overburdened with a baby boom, the best bet for most hobbyists is therefore to adopt the newborns out to surrogate parents who live within driving distance. Of course, this works best if they have a friend or neighbor or know a fish guy down at your LFS who are interested in rearing and can take the excess fry off your hands. It is more difficult to ship seahorse fry to interested parties long distance and the newborns often don’t tolerate long-distance shipping well.

But for the hobbyist whose only other recourse is to euthanize the fry and sacrifice the entire brood, shipping newborn fry overnight is still preferable to the alternative. However, shipping is definitely a better option for fry that have grown a little. Seahorse fry that are 2-4 weeks old are tougher and withstand shipping much better than newborns. (This is true when it comes to disease treatments as well; once fry have reached the age of 2-4 weeks, the can generally tolerate the same medications/chemotherapeutics and treatments as the adults.) So once your fry have reached 2-4 weeks, you can ship them off to surrogate parents if need be and clear out your nursery tanks just in time for your seahorses’ next brood.

If there is a Marine Aquarium Society in your area, Angel, you can bet that they will have members who would love to get their hands on some of Mustang or Sunburst babies and take a crack at rearing them if your pair of ponies proved to be prolific breeders. In most cases, that’s an excellent option and worth a try when it comes to distributing the offspring from a new brood of babies.

If dispersing the young to surrogate parents is not a practical alternative for you, Angel, then I am told that it is relatively easy to alter the photoperiod and water temperature in your seahorse tank in order to mimic seasonal cues in order to shut down the breeding behavior in your ponies.To be more specific, if you gradually gradually drop the water temperature (no more than 2°F per day) to as low as 68°F-72°F, if possible, and provide the seahorses no more than eight hours of light each day, you can in effect duplicate the seasonal cues that cause the seahorses to lose interest in courtship and mating after the breeding season has passed.

I have never tried manipulating the environmental cues in order to prevent my ponies from breeding, since I’m always happy to have another brood of babies on my hands. (If I don’t have the time for rearing personally, I have lots of friends who love to serve as surrogate parents when I have a surplus of babies.) But if you deny the seahorses sufficient daylight and keep their aquarium darkened long enough each day, that should shut down the production of key hormones and prevent your seahorses from breeding, Angel, as explained in more detail below by Steven Young, the Aquarium Biologist at the Seattle Aquarium:

<open quote>
I haven’t altered temp and lighting seasonally but I have done so to control mating behaviour in my erectus. I’ll usually drop temps down to 74 and light cycle to 10 hrs when I don’t want mating. Normal parameters are 78 and 12 hrs. I don’t do much in terms of salinity, but since we do use NSW, we get fluctuations from 26-31ppt depending on rainfall.

Steven Yong
Aquarium Biologist
AZA PMP Leader and Studbook Keeper – Lined Seahorse
Seattle Aquarium
1483 Alaskan Way, Pier 59
Seattle, WA 98101
<close quote>

To understand why the photoperiod is so important for regulating breeding, we must first understand how the light-dark cycle regulates the levels of key hormones that control breeding. Gonadotropin (GtH) is a hormone that stimulates the growth and activity of the gonads and thus controls reproductive activity in vertebrates. It is secreted by the pituitary gland and stimulates the growth and function of the ovaries and testes. The levels of gonadotropin in the body are in turn regulated by melatonin, a hormone secreted by the light-sensitive pineal gland in response to darkness. Among a great many other functions, melatonin switches on a recently discovered enzyme known as gonadotropin inhibitory hormone, thus reducing the levels of gonadotropin in the body and shutting down reproduction (Sanders, 2005).

In other words, when the days are shortest and there is less sunlight, melatonin secretion is high and the levels of gonadotropin are reduced accordingly, causing the gonads to shrink and turning off reproduction. Likewise, when the days are longest and there is more sunlight, melatonin secretion is low and the levels of gonadotropin are high, stimulating the gonads and triggering reproductive activity (Sanders, 2005). So that’s something to keep in mind when you are hoping to curb the romantic tendencies of your Hippocampus erectus, Angel – you need to make sure that the main tank is darkened enough to trigger the secretion of melatonin by the pineal gland in response to the hours of darkness.

Manipulating the seasonal cues in this way is very effective in shutting down the breeding of wild-caught Hippocampus erectus seahorses, Angel, and it should also be very useful in controlling breeding in captive-bred-and-raised Mustangs and Sunbursts (Hippocampus erectus). However, in order to effectively control the water temperature, and aquarium cooler is usually required to gradually lower the water temperature in order to signal the end of the breeding season.

Finally, Angel, although the babies cannot be raised in the same tank with the adults because it is impossible to maintain an adequate feeding density of live foods within the large main tank, and the newly hatched brine shrimp (Artemia nauplii), clouds of larval copepods and/or rotifers that are suitable prey for the newborns are a source of irritation for the adult seahorses, the main tank can be used to house nurseries that prevent such problems, as discussed below.

The In-Tank Nursery.

In-tank nurseries enjoy all the advantages of divided nurseries and then some. For example, like divided nurseries, the tank-within-a-tank design makes it much easier to provide seahorse fry with stable conditions and optimum water quality, vastly increases filtration and equipment options, simplifies maintenance and offers enormous versatility. The idea behind the in-tank nursery is to confine the seahorse fry in a small, flow-through enclosure that can then be attached securely inside a larger aquarium. The in-tank fry enclosure must allow water to pass through it freely but not fry food such as copepods, rotifers or Artemia nauplii. The enclosure thus allows the food to be concentrated in a small space to maintain the proper feeding density, while at the same time providing the fry with all the benefits of living in a much larger volume of water. This includes greater stability in terms of water temp, pH, oxygen levels, salinity and so on.

But by far the biggest advantage of the in-tank nursery is the superior water quality it provides. The larger tanks that accommodate the fry enclosures are normally in the 10-20 gallon range, but there is no upper limit to the size of the host aquarium — the bigger, the better. Of course, for starters, the larger volume of water is naturally more resistant to pollution from the mass consumption and elimination one must deal with when rearing seahorse fry. But more importantly, with the fry safely sheltered in their nursery, the main tank can be equipped with any kind of filtration and filter media you can think of to improve water quality or safeguard the health of the fry. This includes heaters, sponge filters, inside box filters or external power filters with activated carbon, polyfilter pads, or ion-exchange resins, micron-level mechanical filtration, bio-wheels, wet/dry filtration, protein skimmers, UV sterilizers, ozonizers — you name it. Airstones, bubble wands, powerheads, filters and the like can operated full blast without worrying that they’ll buffet the fragile fry or that they filters may ‘eat’ the newborns or consume all their food. Use your imagination — anything goes!

Water quality benefits as a result, and the added filtration reduces the need for frequent water changes. When substantial water changes are called for, the main tank makes the whole process easier.

The first in-tank nurseries were ready-made breeder nets intended for livebearing freshwater tropicals (Abbott, 2003). These breeder nets worked very well for dwarf seahorses, which produce small numbers of babies (Abbott, 2003), but they are not well suited for the huge broods of fry many of the greater seahorses produce. Hobbyists soon began to improvise in order to overcome the limitations of such breeder nets and accommodate larger broods in their fry enclosures. Breeders began to experiment with in-tank refugia, “critter keepers,” and various plastic containers to meet their needs. They modified these by drilling them full of holes and covering the holes with plastic mesh. If necessary, an airline is added to the fry enclosure for better circulation and a drip line brings filtered water in from the main tank or an external power filter.

The versatility of in-tank nurseries is one of their biggest assets. They allow almost any existing aquarium to “host” a fry enclosure and there is also great flexibility in the design of the inner nursery tank. They can easily be modified to accommodate either benthic or pelagic seahorse fry, and multiple in-tank nurseries can be housed in one big main aquarium. Endless variations on this basic concept are possible. The in-tank nursery is simply a much more versatile and adaptable design than the divided nurseries that preceded it.

Liisa Coit is one of the innovative aquarists who have experimented with several different in-tank nursery designs. She is a successful private breeder whom has closed the life cycle with Hippocampus erectus and H. zosterae. Liisa is also an accomplished do-it-yourselfer, and she has raised fourth-generation homegrown erectus in a very efficient nursery that combines the benefits of the best static kreisels with the advantages of in-tank nurseries (Coit, pers. com.).

She uses the plastic drum-style goldfish bowls as the fry enclosures. As with the usual goldfish bowl kreisels, a slow trickle of bubbles running up the middle of one of the curved sides creates the desired top-to-bottom circular current (Coit, pers. com.). This is accomplished by drilling a small hole through the side of the plastic bowl at the proper position — exactly midway, front to back, and precisely halfway down the side of the goldfish bowl. A plastic airline tube connector is glued into the bowl though this hole and plastic airline hosing is attached to the outside from an air pump, allowing a gentle stream of air bubbles to be pumped into the goldfish bowl at that point (Coit, pers. com.). This aerates the bowl and establishes the circular flow (i.e., the kreisel effect). The bubble stream is adjusted so it produces a smooth, gently rotation that keeps the fry suspended evenly at the center of the vortex (Coit, pers. com.).

The plastic goldfish bowls are further modified by drilling 1-1/2” holes near the top, which are then covered with silk screen mesh that is glued over them (Coit, pers. com.). This allows the goldfish-bowl kreisels to be submerged up to the rim within a much larger aquarium, an innovation first built and implemented by David Mulcahy. Liisa find that this design is easier to make and accomplishes the same result as the completely submerged “critter keeper” she originally used as her in-tank fry enclosure.

The goldfish-bowl kreisel nurseries are supported on a shelf that runs the length of the host aquarium they are submerged in (Coit, pers. com.). The shelf is very easy to construct from three pieces of plastic “egg crate” light diffuser, which simply snap together (no glue needed). First the shelf itself is cut to the right length. It should be wide enough to accommodate the goldfish bowls and as long as the host aquarium. Next the two legs are cut to support the shelf. The legs should cut to whatever height is needed to raise the goldfish bowls to the desired water level. The bottom of each leg should be smooth but the ridges should be left on the top of each leg. The long shelf can then be placed on top the legs and the ridges will snap in place (Coit, pers. com.). The entire shelf and the goldfish bowls it supports can be pushed back and forth when performing water changes or cleaning the host tank (Coit, pers. com.). For further stability, plastic electrical ties can be used to fasten the legs to the shelf (Coit, pers. com.).

As with any other in-tank nursery, the large host tank can be equipped with whatever supplemental filtration you desire in order to provide optimum water quality to the fry enclosures. This can include a protein skimmer, ultraviolet sterilizer, or external power filter equipped with bio-balls, polyfilter pads, ammonia absorbers, and the like.

Lengths of airline tubing are used to siphon filtered water from the power filter into each of the goldfish-bowl kreisels (Coit, pers. com.). (Since the goldfish bowls are lower that the level of the water in the external filter, gravity keeps the siphons flowing.)

At feeding time, the siphon tubes feeding filtered water to the bowls are removed so they don’t force the brine shrimp nauplii out through the mesh-covered holes (Coit, pers. com.). This assures that a good feeding density of baby brine shrimp is maintained, concentrated with the fry at the center of the bowl and held in suspension by the circular flow. After the fry have had their fill, the water lines are put back in place and soon flush the excess, uneaten Artemia out of the bowls into the main tank, which facilitates the cleaning of the fry enclosures (Coit, pers. com.).

Coit prefers to keep pelagic fry in the goldfish-bowl, in-tank kreisel nurseries until they begin to hitch and orient themselves toward the bottom. At that point, she transfers them into more spacious “critter keeper” in-tank nurseries for further rearing, and finally into 10-gallon grow-out tanks (Coit, pers. com.). As one example of the versatility of in-tank nurseries, the large host aquariums can do double duty as grow-out tanks for the juveniles as long as all of the filter intakes are screened off.

Pat Feeback is another home breeder who employs in-tank goldfish bowl kriesel nurseries with good results for raising the ever-challenging Hippocampus reidi fry. Her basic system is very similar to the one used by Lisa Coit, but Pat uses Mag-Floats (i.e., magnets designed for cleaning aquarium glass) to hold the goldfish bowl kriesels at the water line of the host tank (see photo below), rather than propping them up on egg-crate shelves. This innovation simplifies the procedure and makes it much easier to hold the goldfish bowls in the proper position in a large, tall host aquarium.

Pat has found that a large host tank with well-established filtration produces much better results than smaller host tanks. She started out with the goldfish bowl kriesels mounted in 10-gallon tanks and eventually moved to larger host aquariums, finally finding the best results came from using her 75-gallon seahorse tank to house the in-tank goldfish bowl kriesel nurseries. The larger water volume in the 75-gallon aquarium provides better water quality and stability for the nurseries it houses, and is large enough to accommodate several goldfish bowl kriesels at one time. This has a number of advantages, especially with the prolific H. reidi, which deliver a new brood of young about every two weeks. For one thing, it allows broods of different ages to be maintained in the different goldfish bowl kriesels within the host tank at the same time. As they grow, the H. reidi juveniles are simply transferred from one goldfish bowl kriesel to the next, making room for a new brood in the goldfish bowl that was vacated. When they have grown sufficiently and made it past the pelagic stage of development, the older juveniles in the last goldfish bowl kriesel are transferred out into a separate grow-out tank for further rearing (Feeback, pers. com.).

Another advantage of Pat’s method is that a larger two-gallon goldfish bowl kriesel nursery within the 75-gallon tank can serve as a paternity ward for her pregnant male. Her reidi stallion produces broods with clocklike regularity, making it easy to determine when he is due to deliver. The night before he is due, she transfers the pregnant male to the 2-gallon kriesel paternity ward after lights out, which she finds is less stressful for the seahorse. The next day he will give birth in the goldfish bowl kriesel and is then released back into the main tank with his mate. Since Pat’s 75-gallon seahorse tank serves as the host aquarium for the goldfish bowl kriesels, her H. reidi stallion never has to be removed from the main tank in order to deliver his young. He remains in visual contact with his mate all the while, and can detect her pheromones (and vice versa) throughout his delivery. In short, with this technique, the pregnant male never has to be separated from his mate and transferred to a strange, new environment in which to give birth, making it a very stress-free procedure. No acclimation whatsoever is involved, since the 2-gallon kriesel goldfish bowl paternity tank shares the same water supply as a 75-gallon main tank (Feeback, pers. com.).

Furthermore, when he gives birth, the newborn H. reidi are delivered directly within the goldfish bowl kriesel nursery tank, so they never have to be handled, transferred to a new tank, or acclimated to differ water quality parameters, which makes the entire process very easy on the delicate newborns as well (Feeback, pers. com.).

Okay, those are some of the options you can consider if you would like to keep seahorses but don’t have space to set up separate nursery and rearing tanks in addition to the main tank for the parents, Angel.

If you are serious about doing your homework and learning all of the basics before you decide whether or not to take the plunge with seahorses, Angel, then I would like to invite you to participate in the Ocean Rider training program for new seahorse keepers.

The purpose of this training is twofold: (1) to assure that the hobbyist has a suitable aquarium, completely cycled and with the biofiltration fully established, ready and waiting when his seahorses arrive, and (2) to assure that the hobbyist has a good understanding of the aquarium care and requirements of Ocean Rider seahorses by the time he or she has completed the training and been certified. All of which will help to ensure that things go smoothly and that the home aquarist’s first experience with Ocean Rider seahorses is rewarding and enjoyable.

This basic training is very informal and completely free of charge, yet quite comprehensive, Angel. Ocean Rider provides the free training as a service to their customers and any other hobbyists who are interested in learning more about the care and keeping of seahorses. It’s a crash course on seahorse keeping consisting of 10 separate lessons covering the following subjects, and is conducted entirely via e-mail. There is no homework and there are no examinations or classes to attend or anything of that nature — just a lot of good, solid information on seahorses for you to read through and absorb as best you can, at your own speed, working from your computer in the comfort of your own home. The training course consists of several hundred pages of text with more than 230 full color illustrations, broken down into 10 lessons covering the following subjects:

Lesson 1: Selecting a Suitable Aquarium & Optimizing It for Seahorses.
Tank dimensions and specifications (why height is important);
Tank location and aquarium stressors;
Setting up a SHOWLR tank to create ideal conditions for seahorses;
filtration options
protein skimmers
UV sterilizers
titanium grounding probe
water circulation
Test kits for monitoring water quality;
Aquascaping the seahorse tank;
artificial hitching posts
Basic aquarium setups for seahorses;
undergravel filters
sponge filters

Lesson 2: Cycling a New Aquarium & Installing the Cleanup Crew.
The nitrogen cycle;
nitrification and denitrification
Step-by-step instructions for cycling a new marine aquarium;
Seahorse-safe sanitation engineers and aquarium janitors;
microhermit crabs
cleaner shrimp
Starter seahorses (hardy, highly domesticated, high-health ponies)

Lesson 3: Reading Assignments (books, articles, and columns devoted to seahorses).

Lesson 4: Water Chemistry, Aquarium Maintenance, & Maintaining Optimum Water Quality.
Basic water quality parameters (acceptable range and optimum levels);
specific gravity
dissolved oxygen
Advanced water chemistry for reef keepers;
Performing partial water changes to maintain good water quality;
Aquarium maintenance schedule;

Lesson 5: Feeding Seahorses.
Frozen Mysis serves as their staple, everyday diet;
brands of frozen Mysis
thawing and preparing frozen Mysis
enriching with Vibrance
Recommended feeding regimen;
how to tell if your seahorse is getting enough to eat
Feeding tips for seahorses;
preparing and serving the frozen Mysis
feeding new arrivals
secretive feeders
morning feedings
setting up a feeding station
training the seahorses to use a feeding tray
artificial feeding stations
natural feeding stations
purchasing a ready-made feeding station
elevating the feeding station
fasting seahorses
target feeding
Mysis relicta from Piscine Energetics
Broadcast feeding or scatter feeding — just say no!

Lesson 6: Compatible Tankmates for Seahorses.
Safe and unsafe companions — no guarantees;
Tropical tankmates;
fish to avoid
seahorse-safe fish
seahorse-safe invertebrates
Feeding seahorses in a community tank;
Seahorse-proofing a reef tank
safe corals
unsafe corals
lighting the seahorse reef
managing water circulation for a seahorse reef

Lesson 7: Courtship & Breeding.
Courtship displays in Hippocampus (fully illustrated)
tilting and reciprocal quivering
pouch displays (pumping and ballooning)
copulatory rise and the egg transfer
Pair formation
Morning greetings
Male brooding — a true pregnancy
Giving birth — dawn deliveries

Lesson 8: Raising the Young.
Seahorse fry
Determining ease of rearing
Setting up a basic nursery for benthic babies
Advanced nursery tank options for pelagic fry
the shaded nursery
kriesel and pseudokreisel nurseries
the divided nursery
in-tank nurseries (illustrated)
the greenwater "starter" nursery
hyposalinity for pelagic fry
Delivery day
Culling the fry (if necessary)
Feeding the fry
hatching and enriching brine shrimp (Artemia)
decapsulated brine shrimp eggs
culturing rotifers and copepods
Fry feeding schedule

Lesson 9: Disease Prevention and Control.
Captive bred vs. wild-caught seahorses
Importance of High-Health seahorses
Seahorse anatomy illustrations
external anatomy
internal anatomy
Screening seahorses from your LFS
Quarantine tank
Quarantine protocol for pet-shop ponies and wild seahorses
Beta glucan boosts immunity to disease
Early detection of health problems
aquarium stressors
disease symptoms in seahorses
What to do at the first sign of a health problem
The seahorse-keepers medicine chest
first aid kit for seahorses
must-have medications to keep on hand
properties of the main medications
Life expectancy
Hepatic lipidosis (prevalence of fatty liver disease)
Seahorse disease book

Lesson 10: Mustangs and Sunbursts (Hippocampus erectus) & Acclimating New Arrivals.
Nature of Mustangs and Sunbursts
multi-generational approach to rearing
hybrid vigor
genetic diversity
selective breeding
Hippocampus erectus species summary
scientific name and common names
meristic counts and morphometric measurements (illustrated)
climate and distribution
color and pattern
breeding habits
breeding season
gestation period
brood size
pelagic/benthic fry
onset of sexual maturity
ease of rearing
natural habitats and natural history
preferred parameters and aquarium requirements
suggested stocking density
successful rearing protocols
feeding the fry
nursery tank designs
rearing and grow out tanks
diet and nutrition
color variations
temperature requirements
wide ranging species with different races
recommended reading
Acclimating new arrivals (step-by-step instructions)
Keeping and culturing red feeder shrimp (Halocaridina rubra)

The seahorse training program is a correspondence course that is conducted entirely via e-mail, Angel, and once we begin the lessons, I will be providing you with detailed information on all of the subjects above and answering any questions you may have about the material I present so that everything is perfectly clear to you. I will also be recommending seahorse-related articles for you to read and absorb online.

In short, Angel, the training course will teach you everything you need to know to keep your seahorses happy and healthy, and it will arm you with the information you need in order to tackle your first ponies with confidence. It will explain how to set up a new aquarium and optimize it to create ideal conditions for your seahorses.

How long this training will take to complete depends on your experience level as an aquarist to a large extent. For example, if you have never kept seahorses before and you do not already have a suitable saltwater aquarium up and running, it will take at least eight weeks for your training and preparations to be completed before you can be certified. It will take that long to learn the basics of seahorse keeping, set up a suitable aquarium, cycle the tank from scratch to establish the biological filtration, and optimize the tank to create an ideal environment for seahorses. Only then can you be certified ready to receive your first seahorses.

On the other hand, experienced marine aquarists and hobbyists that have had seahorses before and already have a suitable saltwater aquarium up and running can be certified much more quickly. I will run through the same basic information with them, but most of the information I provide will be familiar material for such hobbyists and they should be able to review it and get up to speed quickly, plus they should have well-established aquariums ready, fully matured that they can fairly quickly adapt in order to make them more ideal for seahorses. In a case like that, certification can be completed as soon as they have absorbed the material I provide and are confident they have a good grasp of the specialized requirements and aquarium care of the seahorses.

So in order to get started, Angel, the first thing I need to know is how experienced you are with saltwater aquariums. Have you ever kept a marine aquarium before? If so, how long have you been involved with the saltwater aquarium hobby? Do you have one or more marine aquariums up and running at this time? If so, how long have the tanks been in operation?

Do you have an aquarium up and running at this time that you intend to use as a seahorse tank? If so, can you please describe the aquarium system you will be using for your seahorse tank? How large is the aquarium (length, width, and height)? What kind of filtration equipment is installed and running on the aquarium? What type of lighting system does the tank you? How long has the proposed seahorse tank been up and running? Please list all of the current inhabitants of the aquarium you will be using as your seahorse tank, if any.

It doesn’t matter if you don’t have a suitable aquarium for your seahorses up and running at this time, Angel. I will be providing you with lots of recommendations and options in that regard so that you can pick out a tank that is just right for your needs and interests. And, of course, once we begin, I will be working with you personally every step of the way through our ongoing correspondence until your new aquarium is ready for seahorses and you are well prepared to give them the best of care, regardless of how long that may take.

All we ask in return is that you stick with the highly domesticated Ocean Rider Mustangs or Sunbursts when you are finally ready to stock your tank, Angel. As you know, Mustangs and Sunbursts are the perfect ponies for beginners. They are hardy, highly adaptable, easy to feed, and perfectly adapted for aquarium life — the world’s only High-Health seahorses, guaranteed to be free of specific pathogens and parasites.

If you would like to give the seahorse training program a try, Angel, please send me a brief e-mail with the additional information requested above, including your full name, and I will get you started off with all the material for the training program as soon as we have established e-mail communication. You can contact me off list at the following e-mail address at any time:

[email protected]

Best wishes with all your fishes, Angel!

Pete Giwojna, Ocean Rider Tech-Support

America's Only Seahorse Aqua-Farm and One of Hawaii's Most Popular Attractions

Ocean Rider seahorse farm is a consistent Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence Award Winner and "Top 10 Things To Do" Kona, Hawaii attraction. Our "Magical Seahorse Tours" are educational and fun for the whole family.

Tour tickets are available for Purchase On-Line. Space is limited and subject to availability.

small seahorse Ocean Rider, Inc. is an Organic Hawaiian-Based Seahorse Aqua-Farm & Aquarium that Follows Strict Good Farming Practices in Raising Seahorses and Other Aquatic Life.

Seahorse Hawaii Foundation

Inspiring ocean awareness by saving the endangered seahorse and sea dragons around the world from extinction through conservation, research, propagation, and education.

Help us save the seahorse and the coral reefs they live in with a tax deductible contribution to the Seahorse Hawaii Foundation. You will be helping to protect and propagate over 25 species of endangered seahorses, sea dragons and friends.

Make A Tax-Deductible Donation Today!

A Different Kind of Farm (Video) »

Ocean Rider Kona Hawaii

Ocean Rider Kona Hawaii
Seahorse Aqua-Farm & Tours

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Kailua Kona, Hawaii 96740

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