Re:Sealed Palmtop reef for h. zosterae

Pete Giwojna

Dear Brandon:

Thank you for all of your kind words, sir! Anyone with an interest in the care and keeping of seahorses is always welcome to post on this forum; it does not matter how many other discussion boards or forums you may participate in, or where else you may choose to post, now or in the future — you are always welcome here.

Regarding raising dwarf seahorses (Hippocampus zosterae) using frozen Cyclop-Eeze, I have serious reservations about its usefulness as a food for this species, Brandon. The problem is that dwarf seahorses are pretty lazy hunters (actually the technical term is "ambush predators"). They like to anchor their tails to a convenient hitching post and wait for their food to come to them, rather than chasing after potential prey. If a food item drifts by them outside of easy reach, they normally won’t swim after it or make any attempt whatsoever to pursue it; rather, they will typically simply ignore it and wait for another morsel to come their way that’s within striking distance. That’s okay with live foods such as newly hatched brine shrimp (Artemia nauplii), since they will survive indefinitely in saltwater and swim around until they blunder within striking distance of one of the dwarfs and get eaten. But it’s a big problem with nonliving food which drifts slowly down to the bottom once it’s added to the aquarium — unless it just happens to drift right by the snout of one of the hungry dwarf seahorses, it won’t get eaten and will just accumulate on the bottom of the tank. As you can imagine from what I’ve already told you, dwarf seahorses have no interest whatsoever in food after it has settled to the bottom, so it gets ignored until it begins to decay and degrade the water quality (which can go downhill awfully fast in the small dwarf seahorse setups, such as a pico tank.) Although if it is prepared and offered properly, the Cyclop-Eeze may stay suspended in the water column pretty well in reef tanks, which feature very vigorous water movement for the sake of the live corals, the circulation in dwarf seahorse tanks must be very gentle, which usually means that the frozen Cyclops settles to the bottom all too quickly.

I can tell you that many attempts have been made in the past to get dwarf seahorses to eat frozen baby brine shrimp or frozen Cyclop-eze, and these experiments almost always fail for the reasons mentioned above. In most cases, attempting to get them to eat frozen food or nonliving prey just results in polluting your aquarium. I don’t believe the Cyclop-Eeze would fare much better than the frozen baby brine shrimp or the Instant Baby Brine Shrimp others have tried in that regard, Brandon. You just cannot count on adult Pixies or dwarf seahorses to eat frozen baby brine shrimp or any other frozen foods consistently.

It can sometimes be done with lots of time, patience, and perseverance, and it isn’t really as difficult as most folks imagine to train adult dwarves to eat frozen foods IF you have a role model to teach them. Zulus, tubers, barbs, young erectus, etc. all make great teachers, and most adult zosterae will learn to take bits of frozen mysis or sometimes the frozen form of Cyclop-eeze readily enough with such role models to show them the way. But some dwarves just don’t get it and never learn to eat frozen fodder and, in my opinion, it’s just not worth the effort of trying to train any of them.

Why? Because training adults to eat frozen food by no means frees the dwarf seahorse keeper from the need to hatch out huge amounts of baby brine shrimp every single day. Think about it. Anybody who keeps any amount of dwarf seahorses always has zosterae fry on his hands. The fry need copious amounts of newly hatched Artemia nauplii daily anyway, so it’s simply easier and more efficient to hatch out enough bbs for the adults at the same time. Many hobbyists prefer to raise dwarf fry in the same tank as their parents, so maintaining an adequate feeding density of Artemia nauplii for the newborns automatically assures that the adults are equally well fed. For me, there’s just no percentage in spending a lot of time and effort trying to train adults to eat frozen food when I still have to keep a battery of brine shrimp hatcheries cranked up full blast for the babies anyway. (It is normally not feasible to train newborn dwarf seahorses to feed on nonliving foods until they are several weeks old.)

In short, Brandon, it would be an interesting experiment to try to teach dwarf seahorses to eat the Cyclop-Eeze, which they may recognize as potential prey. It could possibly work out if you could achieve just the right balance of gently up-swelling water flow to keep the Cyclop-Eeze spend and slowly circulating through the tank, rather than settling to the bottom right away, but that’s a tricky proposition that would likely require a lot of trial and error to figure out before you got it just right…

It’s worth a try, but you shouldn’t count on such of feeding regimen to be successful. If you’re going to set up a tank of Pixies or dwarf seahorses, you must be willing to provide them with daily feedings of newly hatched brine shrimp should the experiment fail at some point, which I suspect would be the case.

Anyway, those are my thoughts on the matter for what ever it’s worth, Brandon.

Dwarf seahorses survive in the wild despite the presence of hydroids, anemones, and other stinging animals because the density of these cnidarians is so low in the vastness of the ocean. In a small aquarium — particularly a nursery tank or a dwarf seahorse setup that is receiving daily feedings of rotifers, copepods, or newly hatched brine shrimp (Artemia nauplii) — hydroids grow and multiply rapidly, to the point where it is very difficult for the dwarf seahorses or their fry to avoid coming in contact with them (especially the mobile hydromedusae stage). In the vastness of the sea, this does not happen — the hydroids are dispersed far and wide by the ocean currents and tides and the hydroids have many natural predators in the wild, such as nudibranchs and certain gastropods, which feed on the adult colonies (the nudibranchs will even absorb the stinging nematocysts from the hydroids and incorporate them into their own bodies as a means of defense), as well as many fishes and invertebrates that prey on the mobile hydromedusae (the reproductive stage of the hydroids). As a result, the hydroid colonies in the limitless coastal seas are relatively few and far between, and dwarf seahorses do not often come in contact with.

In other words, Brandon, hydroids, anemones, and other cnidarians don’t pose a serious threat to dwarf seahorses in the wild because of the patchy distribution of the stinging animals and the mobility of the pigmy ponies, which are always free to move away from an area where hydroids are present. It is much the same reason that marine fish in the wild are not wiped out by outbreaks of Cryptocaryon or Amyloodinium or any of the other parasitic infections that are the scourge of so many marine aquariums. In the vastness of the ocean, the fish that are parasitized by these pests are not continually reinfected as the protozoan parasites go through their life cycle. In the confines of the aquarium, however, the infectious stage of the parasite readily reinfests the same fishes that are contained within a small volume of water with them again and again until the fish are simply overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of the parasites that come to infest their gills. In the vastness of the ocean, these parasites do not pose a serious risk to marine fish, whereas in the limited water volume of a marine aquarium, they multiply rapidly and are soon out of control, killing off the fish via asphyxiation or secondary infections.

If you are willing to use lifelike artificial corals rather than living corals, Brandon, then there is an easy solution to the hydroid problem. In a case like that, you could simply maintain a very low dose of the fenbendazole (brand name Panacur) in your dwarf seahorse setup, which will effectively eliminate hydroids, Aiptasia rock anemones, and bristleworms from the aquarium without harming the dwarf seahorses and their babies in the least. You would have to do without the sort of live corals that are sensitive to the fenbendazole, as well as avoiding feather duster worms and certain snails that would be harmed by the Panacur, but you would have no concerns about hydroids or other stinging animals taking a toll on the dwarf seahorses.

I find the best approach for dwarf seahorses is to include the live rock, treat the tank with a regimen of fenbendazole (brand name Panacur), and allow the porous live rock to gradually leach out small amounts of the fenbendazole thereafter to provide the dwarf tank with foolproof hydroid protection for the next several months. The fenbendazole also destroys Aiptasia rock anemones and bristleworms, which are the other problematic pests which might present a problem in a dwarf seahorse tank that includes live rock. So keeping live rock in your dwarf tank and treating it with fenbendazole renders the live rock pest-free and perfectly safe for use with dwarf seahorses, allowing you to take advantage of the many benefits live rock provides for the aquarium, including the control of nitrates and offering stability to the inherently unstable small dwarf seahorse tanks.

In my experience, including live rock in your dwarf seahorse tank and treating it with fenbendazole is absolutely far and away the best method to prevent an outbreak of hydroids or Aiptasia rock anemones or hydromedusae jellyfish or other cnidarians, and is therefore the best way to protect your dwarf seahorses from these omnipresent pests.

Best of luck with your interested in dwarf seahorse project, Brandon.

Pete Giwojna

Post edited by: Pete Giwojna, at: 2009/11/27 23:03

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