Re:Spikeys (H. barbouri) vs. spiky Sunbursts

Pete Giwojna

Dear Ramil:

Like all captive-bred-and-raised seahorses, Ocean Rider’s strain of cultured Hippocampus barbouri or much hardier than wild-caught H. barbouri 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 swim to the surface in order to inflate their swim bladders, and then immediately orient to the substrate and seek out hitching posts after the 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.

In short, Ramil, once you gain a little first-hand experience working with Mustangs or Sunbursts (H. erectus), you can confidently add a pair of Spikeys (H. barbouri) to your herd.

Barbs or Spikeys (H. barbouri) are unlikely to interbreed with Mustangs or Sunbursts (H. erectus) as long as the seahorses are provided with mates of their own kind. At least I have never heard of that particular cross (erectus + barbouri) before.

However, H. barbouri has been known to crossbreed with other species of seahorses under certain circumstances. Such unusual pairings usually produce perfectly viable, healthy hybrid offspring that show a mixture of traits from their parents.

As a rule, we don’t want to encourage interspecific hybridization, but the results of such crosses can sometimes be quite striking. For example, I know of one case where a female H. barbouri mated with a male H. comes in a hobbyist’s tank (Greg Hiller, pers. com.) and produced offspring. Hiller succeeded in raising one of these hybrid fry well into the juvenile or subadult phase, and it was a very beautiful specimen indeed. The hybrid barbouri-comes youngster showed the pale color, crownlike coronet, increased spininess and boldly striped snout of its H. barbouri mother, while retaining the splendid mottling and tiger stripes on its tail and body that it inherited from its H. comes father. Outstanding!

Best of luck with your seahorses, Ramil!

Happy Trails!
Pete Giwojna

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