Re:set up for pixies

Pete Giwojna

Dear Katie:

If you are used to hatching out live brine shrimp, then I agree that Pixies or dwarf seahorses (Hippocampus zosterae) are a good choice for a small aquarium such as your five-gallon eclipse. (Zulu-lulus would be a good choice for a 12-gallon aquarium, but you would probably require a many aquarium chiller to keep the water temperature in the comfort zone for the temperate Hippocampus capensis.)

The small eclipse tanks aren’t my favorite setup for Pixies, however, because they tend to overheat and require substantial modification like screening off the filter intake before they are ready for your seahorses.

Pixies reach a maximum height of approximately 1½ inches. They are highly prolific and their gestation is only about ten days long. Average number of fry can be anywhere from 3-35; the average brood size is about 20. When born, Pixies are ¼ of an inch long and grow amazingly fast, doubling their size in about three weeks and reaching sexual maturity at 3-4 months old. They are also benthic, which means they orient to the substrate and are able to hitch right away, thus making them much easier to rear. Their typical colors are mottled brown or white, but they can often be black, yellow or green. Sometimes you can find them in a mix of colors such as black and yellow, polka dotted, and even sporting saddles or a pinto pattern! Their main diet will be Artemia that you can easily hatch at home.

Pixies should be fed twice a day with enough brine to give the tank a light snowy effect. The Artemia can be enriched with Vibrance®, which will make them more nutritious. Pixies are able to actually consume brine shrimp from all stages up to adult Artemia, but seem to enjoy the newly hatched brine nauplii the most. Brine cysts should also be decapsulated, if at all possible. This will eliminate the eggshells and help prevent any pathogens from entering your tank with the food. It also produces a higher hatch rate and there is less effort required for the brine to hatch, which increases their nutritional value up to 20%. Hatching time also slightly decreases. Decapsulating your brine is actually quite easy and does not take up much additional time. Easy-to-follow instructions for decapsulating are provided here:

Pixies will also happily eat a variety of other shrimp larvae such as Gammarus, Mysids, red shrimps and ghosts.

In the wild, dwarf seahorses live approximately 1 year, but in captivity, healthy farm-raised Pixies can live 2-3 years and even longer! In their natural environment they are also commonly found with organisms that can be harmful to them, especially when introduced into the aquarium, where various parasites such as nematodes and hydroids can reach epidemic proportions. These types of organisms can often shorten their life span considerably. Pixies are bred parasite and hydroid free, greatly reducing the chances of such problems, and keeping them does not deplete declining dwarf seahorse populations in the wild. You also have the comfort of knowing that Pixies are healthy and acclimated to aquarium life so there is no need to fresh water dip them or quarantine them as you would with wild-caught seahorses!

When you are considering an aquarium for your Pixies, keep in mind how many you want to keep. This will help determine the size of tank that is most appropriate. For a few pairs – say 4 pairs and under — the best size tank is a 2-gallon. You can also have more in a tank of this size, and their fry can safely remain with them. Just keep in mind the smaller the tank, the closer you need to monitor your water quality! More frequent water changes will probably be necessary as well and close supervision of temperature is important as well. I have kept them in setups ranging from 1 gallon all the way to 10 gallons and have been successful with all sizes of aquaria. If you would like several pairs, you can keep them in a 5 or 10-gallon tank. This helps with water quality issues and it also allows plenty of room for the growth of your herd. Pixies love company and the more pairs you have the more they reproduce. Reproduction is most productive with at least 3 pairs, and new additions to the herd often result in a renewed flurry of courtship and breeding.

The set-up of the tank should be simple. I find a sponge filter the best selection for your filtration needs. They are very effective even in a 10-gallon tank. Pixies will also need a place to hitch, and plastic plants or live Caulerpa make great hitching posts. The Caulerpa will even help keep your water quality balanced. Live rock or live sand is generally not a good choice as these types of biological filtration can contain critters and hydroids that can be harmful or even deadly. Simplicity is your best choice. Substrate can be your preference, but ordinary sand often seems to be the best choice, and black sand will bring out the colors of your seahorses and it is very attractive in the tank.

Like any other setup, your Pixie tank needs to be fully cycled prior to adding the seahorses. There has been a rumor stating that dwarf seahorses can tolerate high levels of ammonia and nitrites, but that is not true. Toxic levels of ammonia or nitrite can kill your Pixies, and if they are forced to endure unacceptable levels of ammonia or nitrites they will display signs of distress, such as respiratory problems, lethargy and decreased or no appetite. Death can follow if the conditions are not corrected!

If you would like some tank mates to go along with your Pixies, the best choices are red shrimp or volcano shrimp (Halocaridina rubra), Scarlet reef hermit crabs (Paguristes cadenati), snails and sea bunnies. Pixies are small and can be easily out-competed for food, while more aggressive tank mates can also pick on them and even kill their fry. Sea bunnies and red shrimps will also offer occasional snacks with the larvae they produce, thereby helping to supplement their diet.

Pixie fry can be safely kept with their parents; their diet will be the same. Although they are born at only about ¼ of an inch, they have large mouths and are fully developed and totally independent from birth. You can choose to keep them separately, in which case the rearing requirements are the same as the needs of the adults. Lighting requirements are also basically the same, and standard fluorescent tubes work well. If you have fry, you can keep the lighting on for up to 14 hours a day. This is also fine for the adults and the increased amount of lighting will also help with breeding. You do not have to keep the lighting on for 24 hours — a condition the fry never experience in nature either.

Ocean Rider Pixies® are bred for quality and not quantity. They are an excellent choice for beginners into the hobby, those with limited space, and for conservation-minded hobbyists who want only the best without depleting the sea of such charming creatures. They are small, enchanting, and have wonderful personalities. Best of all you know that they are healthy!

Please contact me off list at the following e-mail address , Katie, and I will send you lots of additional information on dwarf seahorses and lots of suggestions on the ideal setup for the miniature marvels that will help you decide if they are the right choice for you and your five-gallon eclipse tank at this time: [email protected]

In the meantime, there have been a couple of other discussions on the Ocean Rider Club message board regarding dwarf seahorses that you might also find to be of interest, so please check out the following links when you have a chance, Katie. Just copy and paste the following http addresses below and they will direct you to the information:

Click here: – Seahorse, Sea Life, Marine Life, Aquafarm Sales, Feeds and Accessories – Re:Setting up my very firs,com_simpleboard/Itemid,144/func,view/catid,2/id,1394/#1394

Click here: – Seahorse, Sea Life, Marine Life, Aquafarm Sales, Feeds and Accessories – Re:Dwarfs – Ocean Rider Cl,com_simpleboard/Itemid,/func,view/catid,2/id,1000/#1000

Click here: – Seahorse, Sea Life, Marine Life, Aquafarm Sales, Feeds and Accessories – Re:pixies – Ocean Rider Cl,com_simpleboard/Itemid,/func,view/catid,2/id,1216/#1216

In addition, be sure to pick up a copy of Alisa Abbott’s guidebook (Complete Guide to Dwarf Seahorses in the Aquarium, 2003, 144 pages). That’s one book every Pixie owner and dwarf seahorse keeper should have on hand. I proofed Alisa’s dwarf seahorse book for TFH publications and wrote the preface for it, so I’m quite familiar with her guide, and I highly recommend it.

Best of luck with your miniature seahorse setup, Katie!

Happy Trails!
Pete Giwojna

Post edited by: Pete Giwojna, at: 2006/11/13 18:43

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