Re:pony help please

#4781
Pete Giwojna
Guest

Dear seasons:

You’re very welcome! Good work installing the airstone to increase the amount of dissolved oxygen and drive out more of the dissolved carbon dioxide — that will have a positive effect in the long run.

Yes, that’s correct — if you want your seahorses to look their best and brightest, it’s important to provide them with a good assortment of colorful hitching posts. It’s not unusual for a seahorse to adopt a favorite hitching post as its home base, and they will sometimes than change coloration to match their preferred perch. You can never tell what might catch a seahorse’s eye and trigger a corresponding change in coloration, so including some brightly colored aquarium decor in your seahorse tank was a good thought.

If you read the post at the top of this forum titled "Best Artificial Corals and Hitching Posts for Seahorses?," you will find some suggestions regarding the types of artificial corals and decorations that make good hitching posts and welcome additions to a seahorse tank.

Likewise, if you read through the two-part article on coloration in seahorses that I recently wrote for Conscientious Aquarist online magazine, it will explain how seahorses accomplish their color changes and the sort of factors that can influence coloration in seahorses.. The first article explains how seahorses use their amazing color changing ability, while the second article explains how they accomplish their color changes and is loaded with tips for keeping colorful seahorses such as Sunbursts looking their best and brightest. You can read the articles at the following URL’s and enjoy Leslie Leddo’s magnificent photographs. Just copy the following URL’s and paste them into your web browser, and it will take you directly to the articles:

part one:
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/ca/volume_4/V4I1/hippocampus_color/Color_In_Hippocampus.htm

part two:
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/ca/volume_4/V4I2/hippocampus_color2/Color_In_Hippocampus2.htm

Yes, both the males and the females perform the characteristic color changes for their species when courting or conducting their daily greeting ritual (if they have pair bonded). Tropical seahorses typically lighten or brighten coloration when they are courting. For example, dark colored Hippocampus erectus typically turn a silvery white or pale cream color when courting, and may also assume pastel yellow coloration when displaying. They will retain this light coloration for several days throughout the courtship process during initial pair formation, as well as for a short period (10-30 minutes) during their daily greeting ritual thereafter.

This change in coloration is known as "Brightening," and typically involves the seahorse turning much paler or later in coloration, with the exception of the head or face and dorsal surface of the seahorse, which usually remain quite dark. This has the effect of making the seahorse more conspicuous and signals its interest in mating.

So it is normal for your female H. erectus to show the same sort of transitory color changes during courtship or morning greetings. When you get to Lessen 7 in the seahorse training course, which is devoted entirely to courtship and breeding, it includes a detailed discussion of all the courtship rituals seahorses display (complete with illustrations). Completing that lesson will make it easy for you to recognize courtship and mating behavior in your seahorses.

It’s good to hear that your seahorses appear to be eating, albeit reluctantly, but I would still try to obtain some live foods for them to ease their transition into their strange new surroundings. It can sometimes take a week or two for new arrivals to start to feel comfortable in a new aquarium before they resume their normal feeding habits, and you don’t want your new seahorses to lose conditioning in the meantime.

When it comes to training your seahorses to use a feeding station, seasons, the first step is to choose the right place for the feeding trough. There are a few factors to bear in mind when choosing the location for your feeding station.

First of all, it must be in a location that’s convenient for you to reach and observe, since you will be depositing the enriched Mysis in the feeding tray, watching closely to make sure that all your seahorses show up for chow and are feeding normally, with healthy appetites, and then removing any uneaten leftovers when the seahorses have eaten their fill.

Secondly, the feeding station should be located in an area with relatively low flow so that the seahorses can approach it easily, and more importantly, so that brisk currents don’t whisk the frozen Mysis out of the feeding tray or make it too difficult to guide the enriched Mysis into the feeding dish in the first place.

Finally, if the aquarium has a heavy population of bristleworms, micro-hermit crabs, or miniature brittle stars (micro stars), all of which have a liking — perhaps even an addiction — to that gourmet frozen Mysis we provide our seahorses, and they tend to converge on the feeding station at mealtime and steal the Mysis or just generally get in the way, many hobbyists find it useful to elevate their feeding tray in order to keep it out of the reach of such bottom scavengers.

Setting up your feeding station is simply a matter of selecting the type of feeding dish you prefer and setting it in place in the desired location, which should meet all the criteria discussed above. All that remains is to train your seahorses to come to the feeding station and eat, which normally is a very simple process that they often take care of on their own.

For example, most hobbyists use a feeding tube of some sort to deliver the enriched frozen Mysis to their feeding station. The feeding tube is simply a length of rigid, clear-plastic tubing, perhaps 1-2 inches in diameter, that’s long enough to reach all the way from the surface down to the feeding station. When the food is ready, they place the thawed enriched frozen Mysis in the top of the feeding tube, and it sinks slowly down the length of the tubing to be deposited in the feeding bowl or tray below. Often the seahorses will track the Mysis all the way down the tube to the end and be ready to snap it up as soon as it emerges over the feeding station, which is an added benefit of this method since it eliminates the need to train the seahorses to come to the feeding dish. The hungry horses will just naturally follow the sinking Mysis to its destination.

When you set up a feeding station, most seahorse pick up on it right away and respond to the new feeding method very well, as described above. However, you cannot begin the training process until the seahorses are already eating frozen Mysis well on their own, and sometimes there is a slow learner that needs to be trained to come to the new feeder. There are a couple of fairly simple ways to accomplish that, which usually work pretty well.

One way to get your seahorses up to speed on a new feeding station station is to target feed them with a turkey baster, and once they are eating from the baster well, use it to lead them to the new feeding station. The old-fashioned ones with the glass barrels work best because the seahorses can see the Mysis inside the baster all the way as it moves down the barrel and out the tip. By exerting just the right amount of pressure on the bulb, great precision is possible when target feeding with a turkey baster. By squeezing and releasing the the bulb ever so slightly, a skillful target feeder can keep a piece of Mysis dancing at the very tip of the baster indefinitely, and hold the tempting morsel right in front of theseahorse’s mouth as long as necessary.

If you can do that, it is an easy matter to hold a morsel of Mysis at the end of the baster, and use this tantalizing tidbit to lure the seahorse toward the new feeders by holding it just out of reach and leading the hungry seahorse in the direction you want him to go before you allow him to take the bait. This may have to be done in several steps, and it may take a while for you to get the seahorses accustomed to taking food from the baster before you start making much progress, but eventually you’ll have the pupil perched close enough to the new feeder for you to drop the dangling Mysis inside the feeding station before you allow them to slurp it up. This method takes time and patience, but it allows you to make sure the seahorses are getting plenty to eat while they make the transition to the new feeders. And it’s a gradual conditioning process that will eventually work with even the slowest learners.

Net training is a similar technique to baster feeding that also works well and may be even easier to execute because it doesn’t require any skill with the baster or syringe. It involves first training the seahorses to eat the frozen Mysis from a small fish net (a fine-meshed brine shrimp net works best for this), which they learn to do rather readily. Once that is accomplished, the net serves as a portable feeding trough, which the seahorses will come to and follow anywhere in order to eat, so you simply use it to lead them to the new feeders. Your next step is to rest the net inside a feeding trailer feeding station while they eat from it. After a few days of feeding them like that, you simply dump the Mysis from the net into the new feeder, and they will happily dine from there from then on. The net or feeding tray contains the frozen food neatly and keeps it from getting strewn around the tank.

For example, here’s how Patti (one of our Club members) describes her net training process: "I use a small brine shrimp net — it is white. When I first got my seahorses I would target feed from this net — they lean in and take the shrimp. Once I got them to recognize that this net meant food, I started to sit the net down inside the bowl and let them eat from it there. After a few days I simply started to drop the shrimp from the net into the bowl. Now, they see the net and either jump on the net or go directly to the bowl. When they are hungry and I have not fed yet, they go to the bowl as if to say "Hey where is our breakfast?". It seems to work very well for us, it is also a good way to make sure they have food while I am at work. The tricky part was getting them to eat from the net at first but once they realized that it held the food they overcame any fear they had. It just takes about a week of patience…."

Believe me, training the seahorses to eat from your feeding station sounds a great deal more difficult than it actually is, Tiffany. In most all cases, all you have to do is get one of the seahorses to snick up that first piece of shrimp from the feeding tray and your mission is accomplished. That first bold individual will happily continue to eat from the feeding station thereafter, and more importantly, very often the rest of the herd plays follow-the-leader and quickly learns from his example. Seahorses are real seagoing gluttons, ruled to a very large extent by their stomachs, and once the rest the seahorses see that first fast learner pigging out on gourmet shrimp, they usually can’t wait to get their share of the goodies too.

But training the ponies to use your feeding station isn’t feasible until they are taking frozen Mysis readily, and you may need to work with your new seahorses by carefully target feeding them for a few days before you attempt to lead them to a feeding station. I wouldn’t try to train them at this time — give them a week or two to settle into their new surroundings and provide them with live foods if necessary before you press the issue.

Have you seen the Club’s usual feeding tips yet, seasons? In case you haven’t, I’ll paste the suggestions regarding feeding stations and target feeding with a baster for you below. They should help you decide what type of feeding station you might want to use and help you get the hang of target feeding:

(5) Use a feeding station.

Seahorses respond very well when they are fed at the same time and place each day. They quickly learn the routine and will come to recognize their keeper as the one who feeds them — the giver of gourmet delights! Once that happens, they will often beat you to the spot, gathering around their feeding station as soon as they see you approach.

In fact, the aquarist can easily condition his seahorses to come a running at feeding time. Before you open the aquarium cover, make a point of lightly tapping it a few times or rapping on it gently. The seahorses will quickly learn to associate the tapping with the mouthwatering morsels that follow, and before you know it, they will respond by gathering at the feeding station as if you were ringing the dinner bell.

To facilitate this process and make feeding them easier, choose a feeding station that’s convenient for you in a relatively uncluttered part of the aquarium, and give your seahorses their meal right there every day. The feeding station should have some convenient hitching posts situated nearby as well. Avoid using an area where currents might whisk the food away from the seahorses before they can eat it.

I know one hobbyist who uses a toadstool leather coral as his feeding station. He places the Mysis on the bowl-shaped top of the toadstool, which contains them nicely while his seahorses perch around the edges and scarf up the shrimp as if dining at a lunch counter.

Not everyone has a toadstool coral to serve as a natural feeding station, of course, but it’s easy to make your own lunch counter that will work just as well. Get a small Pyrex bowl or a similar shallow container made of clear glass or plastic (a large petri dish works great for this) and fill it about halfway with your tank substrate (Mike Kelly, pers. com.). Then sink the bowl into your sand bed until the substrate you placed in the bowl is level with the substrate in the tank (Mike Kelly, pers. com.). Leave the rim sticking up above the sand bed about a 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch or so (Mike Kelly, pers. com.). The clear glass rim of the bowl is transparent and virtually unnoticeable, so don’t worry that it will detract from the appearance of your display tank. Artfully position a few natural hitching posts around the bowl to provide your seahorses with a handy perch from which to snick up their dinner.

At feeding time, place the frozen Mysis on the sand or gravel inside the bowl. A long tube of clear plastic 1/2′ to 1′ in diameter facilitates this. The bottom of the tube is placed in the middle of the bowl and the enriched Mysis are then placed in the top of the tube, which guides them exactly where you want them as they sink. The rim sticking above the sand bed will then keep the food in place while your seahorses dine at their leisure. Afterwards, any leftovers are neatly contained, making cleanup a breeze!

Or you can always purchase a seahorse feeding station off the shelf, ready to go, as is. Artificial cup coral makes an attractive elevated "lunch counter" that does the job nicely. Elevated on a pedestal, the seahorses can perch around the edge of the cup, which contains the frozen shrimp nicely until eaten. The coral cups are very lifelike and make nifty ready-made feeding stations if positioned at a convenient (for you and your galloping gourmets) spot in your tank where currents won’t whisk the Mysis away.

For example, one of the artificial Velvet Stone Corals offered by Living Color (<http://www.livingcolor.com/coral.cfm&gt;), in particular, makes an absolutely superb natural-looking feeding station for seahorses! The inner whorls of the colorful coral form a deep bowl to contain the frozen Mysis and protect it from being swept away by water currents, whereas the outer whorls provide convenient places for several seahorses to perch while they wait to eat:

Item number 360 DPK Velvet Stone Coral (Montipora sp.) from Living Color (11"L x 8"W x 7.5"H)

Another handy item that makes a great ready-made feeding station for seahorses are the conical worm feeders designed for offering bloodworms and tubifex worms to fish. They may require a little modifying since many of them are designed to float. Depending on the type of feeder, you may have to perforate air filled chambers around the collar, weigh it down to submerge it, or cut the conical worm trap free from the rest of the feeder. Worm feeders come with a suction cup, so once you’ve overcome the buoyancy problem, they can be secured anywhere in the aquarium you want, and they work just as well with frozen Mysis as with worms. If you position the conical feeder where a slight current hits it, gently jostling and agitating the frozen Mysis inside, it is even more effective. The flow of water imparts a bit of movement to the frozen Mysis, causing it to twitch or swirl about just a bit periodically inside the feeder. This makes the thawed Mysis look all the more lifelike and quickly attracts the interest of the seahorses. They will gather around the feeder and snick up Mysis through the open top. The conical shape of these feeders contains the frozen Mysis even better than most other feeding stations.

Some hobbyists prefer a more natural looking, aesthetically pleasing feeding station, which they fashion themselves to suit their own tastes. They start with a piece of well-cured live rock that’s approximately the right size and shape, and painstakingly hollow out the center to form a shallow concave depression. This shallow bowl is fashioned by grinding it out, using an electrical moto-tool (available at any craft store or hardware store) with a carbide burr or sometimes even a shop grinder. Once the bowl has been hollowed out, a series of holes are then drilled around the circumference of this depression. Red, brown or purple Gracilaria, green Caulerpa and/or gorgonian branches are planted in these holes to create natural hitching posts. As the macroalgae takes hold and fills out, this produces an attractive feeding station that looks completely natural. It’s a great do-it-yourself project for the handy hobbyist.

An upturned clamshell also makes a nifty natural feeding station that fits in perfectly in your seahorses’ setup. Choose a colorful natural seashell for this, such as one valve of a Tridacna clam or perhaps a Lion’s Paw Scallop shell, and you have an attractive feeding station that’s perfectly appropriate for your tank. The concave interior of the bivalve shell acts as a shallow bowl to contain the frozen Mysis until it’s eaten, and unlike some feeding stations that look out of place and detract from the appearance of your tank, a seashell looks as natural as can be in a marine aquarium. My favorite for this type of feeding station is a medium-sized Abalone shell. The iridescent, opalescent colors of the upturned interior, with its magnificent polished surface of mother-of-pearl, are spectacular! An upturned abalone shell requires no further modification whatsoever, making it the ideal feeding station for the unhandy hobbyist who’s all thumbs.

Other aquarists reserve a small, transparent glass bowl or clear plastic receptacle for feeding their seahorses. They merely place the bowl or plastic container on the bottom of the tank at feeding time, add the enriched Mysis, and let their seahorses gather round and dine at their leisure as though eating from a feeding trough. A few hours later, the feeding container is removed, along with any leftovers. Quick and easy!

For more information, see my article in Conscientious Aquarist which explains exactly how to set up a feeding station and train your seahorses to use a in greater detail.. It’s available online at the following URL:

Click here: Seahorse Feeders
<<http://www.wetwebmedia.com/ca/volume_2/cav2i5/seahorse_feeders/seahorse_feeders.htm>&gt;

For best results, I recommend elevating the feeding station, which provides several benefits for our galloping gourmets:

(1) First and foremost, it isolates the feeding trough from the bacteria-laden substrate and provides the seahorses with a sanitary lunch counter from which to feed.

(2) Secondly, it keeps the feeding station beyond the reach of bottom scavengers such as bristleworms, Nassarius snails and hermit crabs, which are attracted to the frozen Mysis.

(3) Finally, it provides a sterile feeding surface for the ponies that is easy to remove and keep clean, thereby making it a breeze to dispose of leftovers, which safeguards your water quality. Keeping the feeding tray elevated makes it convenient to clean and sterilize between feedings.

Some creative hobbyists elevate their feeding stations by attaching an upturned seashell or an improvised feeding tray to a strong aquarium magnet. This allows them to move the feeding station to any location within the tank quickly and easily, and to adjust its height as desired without ever putting their hands in the aquarium. How nifty is that? And you thought those magnetic glass cleaners were only useful for cleaning algae from the aquarium glass…

You can also buy ready-made feeding stations if you feel that would be easier than improvising one of your own. For example, the Aquarium Fish Dish sold here works well in some seahorse tanks, if you don’t mind adding that particular piece of apparatus to your tank:

<http://www.thatpetplace.com/pet/group/10853/product.web&gt;

And don’t forget to check out the ultra-cool feeding station shown in the picture at the link below, which was fashioned from a seashell by a very clever seahorse keeper. Notice how the hobbyist inverted a Lambis shell or scorpion seashell and then used a Dremel tool to cut away part of the main body whorl, creating a perfect feeding trough. As you can see, the fingerlike projections that extend from the aperture of the Lambis shell (and all other scorpion shells) make handy hitching posts for a hungry Hippocampus. This enterprising aquarist has also attached a convenient suction cup for elevating and mounting his fancy feeding station to the wall of the tank. Outstanding! So be creative when you’re setting up a feeding station and you can come up with a design that looks great and is also very functional:

http://www.greenighs.com/seahorses/tank/first_snick.jpg

However you go about it, and whatever sort of feeding dish or trough you fancy for your seahorse tank, setting up a feeding station is a convenient, sanitary method of feeding seahorses that works very well for most home hobbyists.

(6) Target feed your seahorses and remove uneaten leftovers promptly.
The individual personalities of seahorses naturally extend to their feeding habits. Some are aggressive feeders that will boldly snatch food from your fingers, while some and shy and secretive, feeding only when they think they’re not being observed. Some like to slurp up Mysis while it’s swirling through the water column, and some will only take Mysis off the bottom of the tank. Some are voracious pigs that greedily scarf up everything in sight, and some are slow, deliberate feeders that painstakingly examine every morsel of Mysis before they accept or reject it. Some eat like horses and some eat like birds. So how does the seahorse keeper make sure all his charges are getting enough to eat at mealtime? How does the hobbyist keep the aggressive eaters from scarfing up all the mouth-watering Mysis before the slower feeders get their fair share? And how can you keep active fishes and inverts with seahorses without the faster fishes gobbling up all the goodies before the slowpoke seahorses can grab a mouthful?
Target feeding is the answer. Target feeding just means offering a single piece of Mysis to one particular seahorse, and then watching to see whether or not the ‘horse you targeted actually eats the shrimp. Feeding each of your seahorses in turn that way makes it easy to keep track of exactly how much each of your specimens is eating.
There are many different ways to target feed seahorses. Most methods involve using a long utensil of some sort to wave the Mysis temptingly in front of the chosen seahorse; once you’re sure this has attracted his interest, the Mysis is released so it drifts down enticingly right before the seahorse’s snout. Most of the time, the seahorse will snatch it up as it drifts by or snap it up as soon as it hits the bottom.
A great number of utensils work well for target feeding. I’ve seen hobbyists use everything from chopsticks to extra long tweezers and hemostats or forceps to homemade pipettes fashioned from a length of rigid plastic tubing. As for myself, I prefer handfeeding when I target feed a particular seahorse.
But no doubt the all-time favorite implement for target feeding seahorses is the old-fashioned turkey baster. The old-fashioned ones with the glass barrels work best because the seahorses can see the Mysis inside the baster all the way as it moves down the barrel and out the tip. By exerting just the right amount of pressure on the bulb, great precision is possible when target feeding with a turkey baster. By squeezing and releasing the bulb ever so slightly, a skillful target feeder can keep a piece of Mysis dancing at the very tip of the baster indefinitely, and hold the tempting morsel right in front of the seahorse’s mouth as long as necessary. Or if the seahorse rejects the Mysis the first time it drifts by, a baster makes it easy to deftly suck up the shrimp from the bottom so it can be offered to the target again. In the same way, the baster makes it a simple matter to clean any remaining leftovers after a feeding session. (You’ll quickly discover the feeding tube is also indispensable for tapping away pesky fish and invertebrates that threaten to steal the tempting tidbit before an indecisive seahorse can snatch it up. And it’s great for tapping on the cover to ringing the dinner bell and summon the diners for their gourmet feast!)
In short, target feeding allows the hobbyist to assure that each of his seahorses gets enough to eat without overfeeding or underfeeding the tank. And it makes it possible to keep seahorses in a community tank with more active fishes that would ordinarily out-compete them for food, since the aquarist can personally deliver each mouthful to the seahorses while keeping more aggressive specimens at bay.
The key to keeping active specimens like firefish or cleaner shrimp successfully with seahorses is to feed the other fish and inverts with standard, off-the-shelf aquarium foods first, and once they’ve had their fill, then target feed the seahorses.

Before I sign off, I would also like to re-emphasize one more point regarding feeding frozen foods. Whether it is a tank with lots of live rock, a modified minireef, a seagrass system or a mangrove biotype, a well-designed seahorse setup is an elaborate environment. A certain level of complexity is necessary in order to assure that our seahorses behave naturally (Topps, 1999) and to provide our ponies with plenty of hitching posts and shelter, and enough sight barriers to assure them a little privacy when they feel the need to be alone. Their homemade habitat may thus take the form of a labyrinth of live rock, an intricate arrangement of corals and gorgonians, a well-planted bed of seagrass or macroalgae, or a full-fledged reef face. When feeding seahorses in such intricate surroundings, the worst thing you can do is to scatter a handful of frozen Mysis throughout the tank to be dispersed by the currents and hope that the hungry horses can track it all down. Inevitably some of the frozen food will be swept away and lodge in isolated nooks and crannies where the seahorses cannot get it. There it will begin to decompose and impair your water quality, which is why ammonia spikes are common after a heavy feeding. Or it may be wafted out into the open again later on and eaten after it has gone bad. Either outcome can lead to dire problems. Target feeding the seahorses or training them to use a feeding station are the best ways to avoid such complications.

Best of luck with your new seahorses, seasons!

Respectfully,
Pete Giwojna


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