Re:What would we do without you!!

Pete Giwojna

Dear seahorse7:

You’re very welcome!

Congratulations on raising the three young Hippocampus kuda! And that’s a nice haul of four week old Mustang juveniles — well done!

Good job setting up a feeding station for your Sunbursts — that’s going to make mealtime a lot more sanitary for your galloping gourmets.

As you know, all kinds of different objects will make a suitable feeding post or feeding trough. The following link will take you to a site with photographs of different types of feeding stations that seahorse keepers have devised to give you a better idea of the possibilities:

You can also buy ready-made feeding stations if you feel that would be easier than improvising one of your own. For example, the Aquarium Fish Dish sold here works well in some seahorse tanks:

Or better yet, you could try the following feeder that was designed specifically for seahorses:

Once you have devised of suitable elevated feeding station, all that remains is to train your seahorses to come to the feeding station and eat, which normally is a very simple process that they often take care of on their own.

For example, most hobbyists use a feeding tube of some sort to deliver the enriched frozen Mysis to their feeding station. The feeding tube is simply a length of rigid, clear-plastic tubing, perhaps 1-2 inches in diameter, that’s long enough to reach all the way from the surface down to the feeding station. When the food is ready, they place the thawed enriched frozen Mysis in the top of the feeding tube, and it sinks slowly down the length of the tubing to be deposited in the feeding bowl or tray below. Often the seahorses will track the Mysis all the way down the tube to the end and be ready to snap it up as soon as it emerges over the feeding station, which is an added benefit of this method since it eliminates the need to train the seahorses to come to the feeding dish. The hungry horses will just naturally follow the sinking Mysis to its destination.

When you set up a feeding station, most seahorse pick up on it right away and respond to the new feeding method very well, as described above. However, sometimes there is a slow learner that needs to be trained to come to the new feeder. There are a couple of fairly simple ways to accomplish that, which usually work pretty well.

One way to get your seahorses up to speed on a new feeding station is to target feed them with a turkey baster, and once they are eating from the baster well, use it to lead them to the new feeding station. The old-fashioned ones with the glass barrels work best because the seahorses can see the Mysis inside the baster all the way as it moves down the barrel and out the tip. By exerting just the right amount of pressure on the bulb, great precision is possible when target feeding with a turkey baster. By squeezing and releasing the the bulb ever so slightly, a skillful target feeder can keep a piece of Mysis dancing at the very tip of the baster indefinitely, and hold the tempting morsel right in front of theseahorse’s mouth as long as necessary.

If you can do that, it is an easy matter to hold a morsel of Mysis at the end of the baster, and use this tantalizing tidbit to lure the seahorse toward the new feeders by holding it just out of reach and leading the hungry seahorse in the direction you want him to go before you allow him to take the bait. This may have to be done in several steps, and it may take a while for you to get the seahorses accustomed to taking food from the baster before you start making much progress, but eventually you’ll have the pupil perched close enough to the new feeder for you to drop the dangling Mysis inside the feeding station before you allow them to slurp it up. This method takes time and patience, but it allows you to make sure the seahorses are getting plenty to eat while they make the transition to the new feeders. And it’s a gradual conditioning process that will eventually work with even the slowest learners.

Net training is a similar technique to baster feeding that also works well and may be even easier to execute because it doesn’t require any skill with the baster or syringe. It involves first training the seahorses to eat the frozen Mysis from a small fish net (a fine-meshed brine shrimp net works best for this), which they learn to do rather readily. Once that is accomplished, the net serves as a portable feeding trough, which the seahorses will come to and follow anywhere in order to eat, so you simply use it to lead them to the new feeders. Your next step is to rest the net inside a feeding trailer feeding station while they eat from it. After a few days of feeding them like that, you simply dump the Mysis from the net into the new feeder, and they will happily dine from there from then on. The net or feeding tray contains the frozen food neatly and keeps it from getting strewn around the tank.

For example, here’s how Patti (one of our Club members) describes her net training process: "I use a small brine shrimp net — it is white. When I first got my seahorses I would target feed from this net — they lean in and take the shrimp. Once I got them to recognize that this net meant food, I started to sit the net down inside the bowl and let them eat from it there. After a few days I simply started to drop the shrimp from the net into the bowl. Now, they see the net and either jump on the net or go directly to the bowl. When they are hungry and I have not fed yet, they go to the bowl as if to say "Hey where is our breakfast?". It seems to work very well for us, it is also a good way to make sure they have food while I am at work. The tricky part was getting them to eat from the net at first but once they realized that it held the food they overcame any fear they had. It just takes about a week of patience…."

Believe me, training the seahorses to eat from your feeding station sounds a great deal more difficult than it actually is. In most all cases, all you have to do is get one of the seahorses to snick up that first piece of shrimp from the feeding tray and your mission is accomplished. That first bold individual will happily continue to eat from the feeding station thereafter, and more importantly, very often the rest of the herd plays follow-the-leader and quickly learns from his example. Seahorses are real seagoing gluttons, ruled to a very large extent by their stomachs, and once the rest the seahorses see that first fast learner pigging out on gourmet shrimp, they usually can’t wait to get their share of the goodies too.

For more information on natural feeding stations, check out 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

In the meantime, keep a close eye on your Sunbursts and let me know right away if there is any change in the whitening or any swelling or inflammation or other indications of tissue erosion of the affected areas of their snouts.

Furan2 is a good antibiotic for snout rot and it’s readily available at pet shops and fish stores, so you might want to pick up some for your fish room medicine cabinet when you have a chance. I’m confident that your Sunbursts aren’t having any snout problems at this point, but it’s always better to have a medication and not need it, then to need a medication and not have it.

Best wishes with all your fishes! And good luck rearing your prolific ponies!

Pete Giwojna

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