Re:Seahorse arrival question & challenge

#3765
Pete Giwojna
Guest

Dear Laurie:

You bet — the Hikari frozen Mysis will do splendidly in the meantime. In fact, young seahorses sometimes prefer the smaller Hikari Mysis to the jumbo PE Mysis.. You’re new seahorses will do fine feeding on the Hikari frozen Mysis for as long as necessary…

The live red shrimp are real easy to keep, Laurie. These fabulous little feeder shrimp can be kept indefinitely in a spare 2-10 gallon tank, or even a clean, plastic bucket, that has been filled with clean saltwater and equipped with an airstone for aeration. Neither a heater nor a fancy filtration system is required. They thrive at room temp and reduced salinity (1.015-1.016), and all they require is an airstone (or a simple air-operated foam filter at most) to keep the water oxygenated, with perhaps a little coral rubble as substrate and a clump or two of macroalgae (sea lettuce, Ogo, Gracilaria) to shelter in. They’re easy to feed — they feed primarily on algal mats and bacteria — but they will accept vegetable-based flake foods and pellets such as various Spirulina products. They are filter feeders and can also be fed with yeast or commercially prepared foods for filter-feeding invertebrates. Many people find an easy way to feed them is to place a small piece of algae-encrusted live rock in their holding tank; once they clean it off, simply replace it with a new piece of algae rock.

You can feed your new arrivals 3-5 of the live shrimp each every day until they settled in and resume feeding on the frozen Mysis, and then just use them for an occasional treat thereafter.

When it comes to feeding the seahorses with frozen Mysis, give new arrivals time to recover and settle into their new surroundings before you force the issue.

That’s a long haul from Hawaii, and it sometimes take new arrivals a good week or two to settle in, make themselves at home, and start feeding normally afterwards. For that reason, I suggest the hobbyist have a supply of live food on hand whenever acclimating new additions to his herd. The tiny red feeder shrimp from Hawaii (Halocaridina rubra) are ideal for this, but live Gammarus, ghost shrimp, or even adult brine shrimp will do. The live shrimp help them adjust during the initial acclimation period when you first introduce your seahorses to your tank. The live foods will give the new arrivals a head start, help them recover from shipping stress quickly, and get them through the difficult period of adjustment in tiptop condition.

Don’t worry about feeding your seahorses immediately after they arrive. Give them a good 24 hours to adjust and settle down first. After the adjustment period, go ahead and offer some carefully thawed Mysis to your seahorses each day. Many seahorses handle shipping and acclimation with ease and never miss a beat, gobbling up frozen Mysis from Day One. Others will need more time before they feel at home in their new surroundings, and may not feel comfortable enough to accept frozen Mysis from their keeper until a week or two has passed. So keep offering Mysis each day, but feed it sparingly at first and remove any uneaten Mysis after an hour or so. Once the seahorses that start eating the Mysis first have had their fill, add some live feeder shrimp for the others that are lagging behind.

Many times all the seahorses resume feeding on the frozen Mysis right away and the live red feeder shrimp aren’t needed; in that case, simply keep them on hand for use as occasional treats. They last indefinitely in a clean, aerated plastic bucket at room temperature with a pinch of flake food sprinkled in sparingly a few times a week.

Be patient with the ones that seem more reluctant to resume feeding on frozen Mysis. Don’t isolate them from the others, don’t pester them by persistently trying to target feed them at this point, and don’t keep dropping frozen shrimp on their heads! That can spook a high-strung seahorse and stress him out all the more, setting him back further. Just give them time and they will soon join the others, scarfing down frozen Mysis greedily again. This can sometimes take a couple of weeks. (Mature males often lag behind at first; for some reason, they seem to be more shy and retiring than females, which can be quite brazen at times. I suspect this is due to their parental duties — during the breeding season, pair-bonded males are ordinarily ALWAYS pregnant, and they can’t risk exposing their precious cargo to any more risk than absolutely necessary.) Make a note of the reluctant eaters; the ones that are slow to take frozen Mysis now may require target feeding later on.

Be aware of secretive feeders and give them plenty of room at first.

It’s quite common for new arrivals to display shy, secretive behavior. I have found that some of my seahorses, especially newly acquired specimens, are reluctant to eat while they know they are being observed. That doesn’t mean they are starving themselves, however, just that they tend to feed in secret. Rather than feeding from your hand or gobbling up the Mysis when you first offer it, they will prey upon the natural fauna in the tank, slurping up copepods and amphipods from hiding, or snatch up leftover frozen Mysis when they think no one is looking. Some of the seahorses that don’t appear to be eating at first may actually be feeding on the sly.

When that’s the case, it’s best to back off a bit and leave the tank alone as much as possible for the time being. It’s okay to observe the tank discretely but try to avoid flat-nose syndrome, and keep feeding your other specimens as usual, of course, but don’t try to force the issue with the shy ones. Just leave them be, give the seahorses plenty of peace and quiet, and let the secretive feeders adjust to their new environment and get used to the daily routine at their own speed. Before too long, they’ll begin sneaking leftover Mysis when they think you’re not watching and feel safe. Once they feel at home, the shy specimens will start exploring their tank freely and displaying themselves openly. Before you know it, they’ll come to recognize you as their feeder and begin interacting with you at dinnertime. And from there, it’s just one short step until you have them literally eating from your fingers.

Be sure to check the online Care Sheet for your seahorses and familiarize yourself with the acclimation instructions ahead of time so you’ll know just how to proceed when the seahorses arrive, Laurie.

For example, here is the pertinent information for Mustangs:

http://www.seahorse.com/Aquarium_Life/Care_Sheets/Mustangs/

Please check that your basic water quality parameters are within acceptable range which are: Temperature range: 68F –82F, optimum temperature 75- 78F, Ammonia 0, Nitrites 0, Nitrates 1-10ppm, PH 8.2 – 8.4, Specific gravity 1.022-1.025.

Acclimate your seahorses slowly, but do not take more than 30 minutes to complete the procedure. Open your box away from any bright lights. Check temperature and PH upon arrival in both the shipping water and in the tank. Turn off aquarium lights and follow this procedure :

1. Float the bag in your tank for about 10 minutes to equalize temperatures.
2. Partially open the bag and add 1 cup of tank water. (Do NOT aerate the shipping bag during acclimation)
3. Wait 10 minutes.
4. Remove 1 cup of water and add another cup of water from the tank.
5. Wait 10 minutes.
6. Repeat this procedure again.
7. Gently use your hand to transfer the seahorses into the tank, discarding the water left in the bag.

Best of luck with your new arrivals, Laurie!

Happy Trails!
Pete Giwojna


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