Re:Second seahorse species?

Pete Giwojna

Dear Teena:

It’s good to hear that your 37-gallon (Tall) community tank is doing so well, and that your Ocean Rider Hippocampus erectus and their tankmates are thriving together peacefully. Your tank is fairly well established at this point and it is large enough to safely accommodate another pair of seahorses, so you may certainly consider expanding your herd if you wish.

I agree with Leslie, as long as you are getting your seahorses directly from the breeder, you can safely keep different seahorse species that have been raised by that breeder together in the same aquarium. If you like the look of the H. barbouri, they should do well with your H. erectus and I don’t see any reason why you shouldn’t give them a try now that you have gained some tribal firsthand experience keeping seahorses.

I think you’re right, Teena — Ocean Rider’s strain of captive-bred-and-raised H. barbouri are beautiful animals and would make a nice addition to your aquarium. All seahorse keepers are familiar with these thorny beauties. They are the pretty, prickly, tropical seahorses we all used to know and love as Hippocampus histrix until the histrix complex was revised and taxonomists officially changed their name to H. barbouri (Abbott, 2003). They are readily identified by their sharp, very well developed spines, their prominent five-pointed crown, and their boldly striped snouts (Abbott, 2003). The latter is one of their most attractive features and is responsible for one of their common names — the zebra-snout seahorse. Cultured specimens range from pale yellow to a brilliant red-orange, often further adorned with reddish brown spots and lines.

Like all captive-bred-and-raised seahorses, Ocean Rider Spikeys (H. barbouri) are much hardier than wild-caught barbs and will thrive in the aquarium when provided with favorable conditions. However, they are not quite as hardy as Mustangs and Sunbursts (H. erectus) just yet, simply because the Barbs or Spikeys (H. barbouri) haven’t been selectively bred as long as the Mustangs and Sunbursts. So the OR line of domesticated H. barbouri hasn’t gone through as many generations of strengthening and improvement at this point.

But they are certainly not delicate by any means, and they have a couple of advantages over the Mustangs and Sunbursts. For one thing, the Spikeys (H. barbouri) can be a little more tolerant of summertime temperature spikes. But the main advantage of the Barbs is that they produced large benthic babies that are considerably easier to raise than the pelagic H. erectus fry.

Newborn Barbs are suitable for the easy rearing method. H. barbouri produce modest broods (about 100 fry on average) of large, well-developed, benthic fry. They will orient to the substrate and seek out hitching posts from the very first day. They can take newly hatched brine shrimp (Artemia nauplii) as their first food and enriched Artemia alone is generally sufficient to sustain them through the fry stage (Goedegebuur, pers. comm.). They are not quite as easy to raise as H. zosterae, H. capensis or H. fuscus, but they are far behind those species in terms of ease of rearing. All in all, barb babies are fairly easy to rear.

So all things considered, a pair of Spikeys (H. barbouri) should make a very nice complement for your yellow and orange H. erectus, Teena. Their tall crowns, prickly spines and striped snouts will set them apart from the H. erectus and add a little more diversity to your tank.

Best of luck with your seahorse setup and the new additions you are planning, Teena!

Happy Trails!
Pete Giwojna

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