Re:Which filter to choose??

Pete Giwojna

Dear Claire:

No, I am not familiar with Riverfront Aquariums, but I have become aware of another possible source for captive-bred-and-raised seahorses for Canadian hobbyists since the last time we corresponded. It is called Canada Seahorse and it currently offers the following species of CBs seaorses, which are imported from Seahorse Australia:

Southern Knights (Hippocampus abdominalis/bleekeri)
Southern Champions (Hippocampus breviceps) — short-headed seahorses
Chargers (Hippocampus barbouri) — zebra-snout seahorses
Asian Emperors (Hippocampus kuda) — yellow seahorse

You may want to check out their online site ( and see if they can ship their specimens to you in Calgary before you decide which ponies to purchase.

There are a couple of good ways to tell if the seahorses available from Riverfront Aquariums come from a good breeder. First of all, if they were born and raised in captivity, the pet shop or fish store should be able to tell you which species of seahorse they are (if the staff at Riverfront Aquariums isn’t sure, they should be able to easily find out from the breeder that provides them with the seahorses). If they cannot identify the species of seahorse they are selling, then it’s very likely that the seahorses are wild-caught specimens and you should pass them by. Likewise, if the seahorses turn out to be Hippocampus kelloggi, you should avoid them. H. kelloggi seahorses are being imported in large numbers from fish farmers in Southeast Asia and Vietnam these days, and they have proven to be very delicate specimens that are extremely demanding to keep. Nobody has been having any long-term success with the H. kelloggi seahorses.

The second thing you can do to confirm that they are quality seahorses is to ask the shopkeeper to feed them. If they are indeed eating the frozen Mysis readily, that’s a good sign that they are captive-bred-and-raised seahorses that will be easy to feed in your aquarium. If not — if they refuse to eat the frozen Mysis, you should cross them off your list — very likely they are either ailing or wild caught specimens dependent on live foods, or both.

Finally, the seahorses from Riverfront Aquariums should be given a close visual examination to verify that they are in good health before you consider making a purchase. Here are the warning signs and symptoms to check for when you’re giving a seahorse at your LFS a visual inspection or screening, Claire, as outlined in "Syngnathid Husbandry for Public Aquariums:"

Physical Examination

Visual Assessment

When performing an initial physical exam, the posture and buoyancy of the seahorse should be closely scrutinized. A seahorse bobbing at the surface is abnormally and positively buoyant. Buoyant animals will often struggle to maneuver deeper into the water column. They should be evaluated for air entrapment problems such as air in the brood pouch (males) or hyperinflated swim bladders. If the tail is extended outward caudodorsally or ‘scorpion-style,’ examine the subcutis of the tail for gas bubbles (subcutaneous emphysema). Subcutaneous emphysema of tail segment also appears to be a condition restricted to males.

Just as abnormal is a seahorse that is lying horizontally at the tank bottom for extended time periods. This may be an indication of generalized weakness or it may indicate negative buoyancy associated with swim bladder disease or fluid accumulation in the brood pouch or the coelomic cavity.

Evaluate the seahorse’s feeding response. Seahorses normally forage almost constantly during daylight hours. An individual that consistently refuses appropriately sized live food is behaving very abnormally and should receive nutritional support to meet its caloric needs.

The rate and pattern of breathing should also be evaluated. Rapid breathing and ‘coughing’
(expulsion of water in a forceful manner through the opercular opening or the mouth) suggest gill disease.

The entire body surface including the fins should be examined for hemorrhagic regions,
erosions, ulcerations, excessive body mucus, unusual spots, lumps or bumps as well as the presence of subcutaneous gas bubbles. Evaluate both eyes for evidence of periorbital edema, exophthalmia, and any lenticular or corneal opacities. Since seahorses are visual predators, maintaining normal vision is absolutely essential to successful foraging. The tube snout is also very important to normal feeding activity. It is utilized like a pipette to literally suck prey out of the water column.

Evaluate the tube snout for evidence of edema, erosions, and successful protraction/retraction of the small, anterior, drawbridge-like segment of the lower jaw. Close evaluation of the tail tip for erosive/necrotic lesions should also be performed.

Finally, the anal region should be closely evaluated for redness, swelling, or tissue prolapse. For closer evaluation it may require getting the seahorse in hand. If this is the case, wear non-powdered latex gloves to prevent injury to the integument of the animal.

If the seahorses pass this visual examination, and are eating well and behaving normally, with none of the red flags or warning signs discussed above, only then should you consider taking them home with you, Claire. That’s a quick checklist you can use to determine if the seahorses at your LFS appeared to be healthy or not before you make a purchase.

Best of luck finding the perfect captive-bred-and-raised seahorses for your needs and interests, Claire!

Happy Trails!
Pete Giwojna

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