Re:Stocking first Seahorse tank…

#3250
Pete Giwojna
Guest

Dear Reverend:

Okay, sir, it sounds like you’re doing a very good job of feeding your new arrivals. Just keep feeding the seahorses that are already eating the frozen Mysis again their fill first, and then provide some of live feeder shrimp for the benefit of the female that is still reluctant to resume feeding on frozen foods. This is what I usually advise in that regard concerning feeding newcomers:

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 red 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.

Yup, sometimes bottom scavengers such as micro-hermit crabs or Nassarius snails or bristleworms will sort of monopolize a station that’s placed on the bottom. For this reason, if the aquarium has a heavy population of bristleworms, micro-hermit crabs, Nassarius snails, or miniature brittle stars (micro stars), and they tend to converge on the feeding station at mealtime and steal the Mysis or just generally get in the way, many hobbyists find it useful to elevate their feeding tray in order to keep it out of the reach of such bottom feeders.

There are a number of ways this can be accomplished. For example, artificial cup coral makes an attractive elevated "lunch counter" that does the job nicely. Elevated on a pedestal, the seahorses can perch around the edge of the cup, which contains the frozen shrimp nicely until eaten. The coral cups are very lifelike and make nifty ready-made feeding stations if positioned at a convenient (for you and your galloping gourmets) spot in your tank where currents won’t whisk the Mysis away.

Or you can modify one of the conical worm feeders designed for offering bloodworms and tubifex worms to fish to serve as an elevated feeding station instead. They may require a little modifying since many of them are designed to float. Depending on the type of feeder, you may have to perforate air filled chambers around the collar, weigh it down to submerge it, or cut the conical worm trap free from the rest of the feeder. Worm feeders come with a suction cup, so once you’ve overcome the buoyancy problem, they can be secured anywhere in the aquarium at any height you want, and they work just as well with frozen Mysis as with worms. If you position the conical feeder where a slight current hits it, gently jostling and agitating the frozen Mysis inside, it is even more effective. The flow of water imparts a bit of movement to the frozen Mysis, causing it to twitch or swirl about just a bit periodically inside the feeder. This makes the thawed Mysis look all the more lifelike and quickly attracts the interest of the seahorses. They will gather around the feeder and snick up Mysis through the open top. The conical shape of these feeders contains the frozen Mysis even better than most other feeding stations.

Or a tall clump of suitable macroalgae can make a very effective elevated feeding station. If the macroalgae has the right texture and enough densely packed branches, the frozen Mysis will adhere to the upper branches of the cluster out of the reach of the bottom feeders where your seahorses can happily dine on at their leisure. Judging from the pictures, you have a number of colonies of macroalgae that could make suitable natural feeding stations, so this might be a good option for you, Reverend.

Surprisingly, a good cluster of red grape Caulerpa also makes a superb natural feeding station (Leslie Leddo, pers. com.)! Seahorses love to perch on the Caulerpa and are naturally attracted to it as a convenient hitching post. Release a baster full of frozen Mysis over the grape Caulerpa, and you will find that the Mysis becomes trapped amongst the tightly packed branches of the algae, clinging to the cluster of fronds wherever it happens to settle (Leddo, pers. comm.). The hungry seahorses will then carefully scour the branches of the Caulerpa for the Mysis just as if they were hunting live shrimp amid the beds of seagrass in the wild. Grape Caulerpa is ideal for this because the seahorse’s tubular snout is adapted for suctorial feeding, perfectly designed for plucking small invertebrates from amongst dense foliage.

For more information on natural feeding stations, see my article in Conscientious Aquarist which claims exactly how to set up a feeding station and train your seahorses to use a feeder in some detail . It discusses all the different kinds of feeding stations, including natural feeding stations. It’s available online at the following URL:

Click here: Seahorse Feeders
<http://www.wetwebmedia.com/ca/volume_2/cav2i5/seahorse_feeders/seahorse_feeders.htm&gt;

Best of luck finding just the right spot and type of feeding station for your tank and getting all of your new arrivals accustomed to eating from it, Reverend!

Happy Trails!
Pete Giwojna


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