Re:seahorse not eating :/

Pete Giwojna

Dear Chelsea:

Do you know what species of seahorses your new ponies are? Sometimes that can make a difference — Brazilian seahorses (Hippocampus reidi), for instance, have a well-deserved reputation as very finicky eaters and can often be difficult to wean onto frozen foods. Hippocampus barbouri seahorses are often especially fond of adult brine shrimp, whereas other species will turn their snouts up at the Artemia and reject them out of hand…

It sounds like you are taking the right approach with the newcomers and that you have done a fine job getting the female to begin accepting the frozen Mysis again. This is what I normally advise when it comes to feeding new arrivals, Chelsea:

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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 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.
<Close quote>

I’ll try my best to answer your remaining questions one by one below, Chelsea:

A. I need any tips I can get regarding feeding a very stubborn seahorse that rejects frozen mysis from a turkey baster, but whom I have seen eat ghost shrimp.

Patients and painstaking persistence are the keys when dealing with a newcomer that is still going through the process of adjusting to its strange new surroundings, as described above. But if the stubborn stallion is still refusing frozen Mysis and dependent on small ghost shrimp after two weeks have gone by, then you may need to resort to more subtle methods to wean your new male back onto frozen Mysis.

The first thing I would do is to try him with a different type of frozen Mysis, if possible, Chelsea. As you know, frozen Mysis is available in several different brands from many different sources. Gamma brand frozen Mysis is good, Hikari frozen Mysis is quite acceptable (although often fragmentary) as is San Francisco Bay brand frozen Mysis and the Omega One Mysis, whereas the Mini Mysis by H2O Life is great for small seahorses, and Piscine Energetics frozen Mysis is no doubt the best in terms of nutritional content and quality control. Your local fish stores should carry one or more of these brands.

I have noticed that seahorses can sometimes be very selective when it comes to the size of the prey they prefer. For instance, the jumbo PE Mysis relicta are of course quite large, and in it’s certainly possible that young seahorses may balk at the jumbos simply because of their size. Some seahorses are very particular in that regard, and tend to reject food items that are significantly larger or smaller than their preferred range of prey. For example, I’ve seen some seahorses that rejected the smaller Hikari Mysis with great disdain, yet which greedily gulped down the jumbo Piscine Energetics Mysis relicta. On the other hand, I’ve had small seahorses turn up their snouts at the jumbo PE frozen Mysis because it’s too large for their liking, and attack the small Hikari frozen Mysis with great gusto.

So it may be that your new male is watching the frozen food intently, but refusing to eat it because he is accustomed to eating another type of Mysis and/or because it is not the right size to suit him and therefore does not elicit a strong feeding response. If possible, find out what brand of frozen Mysis your new seahorses were accustomed to eating before you brought them home, and offer them the same kind. If you can’t find out what brand of frozen Mysis they were raised on, then experiment and try offering him other types of frozen Mysis that are significantly larger (e.g., Piscine Energetics Mysis relicta) or significantly smaller than the ones you have been using (e.g., Mini Mysis by H2O Life or to the tiny Hikari frozen Mysis).

If changing the brand of Mysis you are using doesn’t produce any better results, Chelsea, then I would recommend a more gradual weaning procedure in which you start out by providing the finicky seahorse with live Mysis and then slowly convert him back to frozen Mysis instead.

I would recommend that you order some of the live Mysis from Sachs Systems Aquaculture and have them delivered directly to your door. All seahorses find live Mysis to be absolutely irresistible. The live Mysis shrimp are what I’d like to call a "feed-and-forget" food. They are tough, rugged little shrimp that you can toss in your tank with no acclimation whatsoever. They are agile and elusive enough that your filters won’t eat them and the seahorses won’t be able to capture them all right away. Some will hide and evade well enough that your seahorses will still be hunting down the stragglers for a while after each feeding. Best of all, you can toss a nice batch of them in your aquarium, secure in the knowledge that they won’t perish and pollute it, but thrive and survive as real, live, "catch-me-if-you-can" prey items that seahorses cannot resist. Nothing stimulates a seahorse’s feeding instinct like the frantic movements and evasive maneuvers of natural, living prey.

You can obtain 200 live Mysidopsis bahia for $35 from Sachs (priority shipping included) and your seahorses will love them. They will be delivered right to your doorstep and arrive quickly because the price includes next-day priority shipping:


Once your stubborn stallion has fattened up a bit on the live Mysis from Sachs, you can safely concentrate on weaning him onto frozen Mysis instead. The best way to accomplish that is to gradually start mixing in a little frozen Mysis along with the live Mysidopsis bahia once your seahorses is eating the live Mysidopsis really well. Use small frozen Mysis for this that are similar in size to the live Mysidopsis (I’m thinking the frozen Mini Mysis by H2O Life might be a good match or else the Hikari frozen Mysis). If all goes well, your new male will begin to eat one or two of the frozen Mysis almost instinctively in his eagerness to slurp up all of the live Mysis. You can then gradually increase the portion of the frozen Mysis in each feeding, and hopefully by the time the supply of live Mysidopsis has been exhausted, your stubborn stallion will have been successfully weaned onto frozen Mysis instead.

B. Does anyone have experience adding Ocean Riders to a tank of store-bought seahorses that are wary of frozen food, and do you think the Ocean Riders might lead by example on accepting and liking frozen food?

Yes, Chelsea, that’s a good thought. For example, that is a very effective technique when weaning juvenile seahorses off of their dependence on baby brine shrimp (enriched Artemia nauplii) and onto frozen foods for the first time: adding one or two older juveniles that are already eating the frozen Mysis well to the nursery tank along with the inexperienced fry in order to act as their mentors can indeed hasten the transition. Many hobbyists report that fry learn to take frozen minced mysids much faster and easier when they are provided with teachers to show them the way. These teachers are usually a few of the older fry from a previous brood, which have already become proficient at feeding on the frozen mysids (Liisa Coit, pers. com.). The younger fry are quick to copy them, learning from their example.

And I have found the same thing to be true when training the seahorses to eat from a feeding station, Chelsea. 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.

So adding a pair of Ocean Riders to act as mentors for your finicky seahorses and provide them with a good example might help them to get the hang of eating the frozen Mysis a little more quickly. A little competition for the food sometimes does wonders for breaking reluctant eaters of their finicky feeding habits.

Best of luck getting your new arrivals back onto a staple diet of frozen Mysis, Chelsea!

Pete Giwojna

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