- This topic has 6 replies, 3 voices, and was last updated 17 years, 7 months ago by dafuzz305.
July 21, 2006 at 1:01 am #859dafuzz305Member
I am new to sea horses, but received my first pair yesterday and could not be happier! they are beautiful and eating well. I have a 24 gallon nano cube that they are in. I have one problem. today I tried to feed them the frozen mysis shrimp for the first time and the shrimp went every where. I tried placing a small cup with the shrimp in the bottom of the tank, but the current spread the shrimp around the tank. What can I do to keep the shrimp in a centralized area to make clean up easy.
I have taken the nozzel off of the filter return to difuse the current a little. Could the current still be too strong?
sandyJuly 21, 2006 at 1:35 am #2659HaynesGuest
If current is the problem you could always try turning the filters off while feeding. Just remember to turn it back on when you are done!! Good Luck!
HaynesJuly 21, 2006 at 1:42 am #2660dafuzz305Guest
I tried that, but my mustangs did not seem very interested if the food was not moving. Several peices got behind my live rock. when I turned the filter back on the shrimp came out from behind the live rock and they were all over it. I guess I will give them (and me)several days to settle in and see if it improves.
thanksJuly 21, 2006 at 3:13 pm #2665Pete GiwojnaGuest
Congratulations on your new seahorses! I’m happy to hear that they arrived in good shape and are eating well. I have a few suggestions that may help you overcome the problem the swirling currents are causing with the frozen Mysis.
When feeding seahorses in intricate surroundings, the worst thing you can do is to scatter a handful of frozen Mysis throughout the tank to be dispersed by the currents and hope that the hungry horses can track it all down. As you have discovered, Sandy, inevitably some of the frozen food will be swept away and lodge in isolated nooks and crannies where the seahorses cannot get it. There it will begin to decompose and degrade the water quality, which is why ammonia spikes are common after a heavy feeding. Or it may be wafted out into the open again later on and eaten after it has begun to spoil. Either outcome can lead to dire problems.
You were on the right track, Sandy, when you quickly realized that scatter feeding or broadcast feeding was not going to work under the circumstances, and decided to try to confining the frozen Mysis in a small cup to act as a feeding trough or feeding station instead. That was a very good idea. Seahorses will learn to eat from a feeding station quite quickly, Sandy, and the only thing that thwarted your plan was that the swirling currents wafted the frozen shrimp right out of the cup.
It’s very desirable to avoid dead spots and stagnant areas in the aquarium, so it’s a good thing that your seahorse setup is so well circulated. I often find that Nano cubes in particular tends to be under circulated, with poor oxygenation and aeration, so it’s refreshing to see that your setup does not have that all-too-common problem, Sandy.
However, if the water flow is still swirling the frozen Mysis right up out of your feeding cup, then you definitely going to need to tone things down a bit at feeding time. It was a good idea to remove the nozzle from the discharge of your water pump or filter, but it appears that you need to further diffuse the outflow to produce the desired results. A spray bar return, such as is found on many canister filters, is an excellent way to accomplish this. You can turn over the entire volume of your aquarium 10-20 times every hour with a spray bar return and still not generate too much turbulence or current for a seahorse setup, so that’s one option you might consider for your Nano cube. However, converting your output or discharge tube to a spray bar return may not be feasible depending on the type of filter or water pump you are currently using on your 24-gallon tank.
If that’s the case, Sandy, then it may be necessary to turn off the filter at feeding time while the seahorses eat. I know you’ve already tried this and your seahorses didn’t seem to be interested in the frozen food while it wasn’t moving and being swirled around. You can overcome that problem very easily by target feeding your seahorses with a baster, as described below. The baster can be used to impart movement to the frozen Mysis by dangling them from the tip of the baster enticingly, and then releasing them right in front of the seahorses snouts. If the seahorses don’t snap them up while they are drifting down through the water right in front of their noses, then you can use the baster to gently blow or swirl the frozen Mysis around a bit after it has settled on the bottom to attract their interest. This usually works like a charm. Here is some additional information on target feeding seahorses with a baster that should give you a better idea of how to proceed, Sandy:
The individual personalities of seahorses naturally extend to their feeding habits. Some are aggressive feeders that will boldly snatch food from your fingers, while some and shy and secretive, feeding only when they think they’re not being observed. Some like to slurp up Mysis while it’s swirling through the water column, and some will only take Mysis off the bottom of the tank. Some are voracious pigs that greedily scarf up everything in sight, and some are slow, deliberate feeders that painstakingly examine every morsel of Mysis before they accept or reject it. Some eat like horses and some eat like birds. So how does the seahorse keeper make sure all his charges are getting enough to eat at mealtime? How does the hobbyist keep the aggressive eaters from scarfing up all the mouth-watering Mysis before the slower feeders get their fair share? And how can you keep active fishes and inverts with seahorses without the faster fishes gobbling up all the goodies before the slowpoke seahorses can grab a mouthful?
Target feeding is the answer. Target feeding just means offering a single piece of Mysis to one particular seahorse, and then watching to see whether or not the ‘horse you targeted actually eats the shrimp. Feeding each of your seahorses in turn that way makes it easy to keep track of exactly how much each of your specimens is eating.
There are many different ways to target feed seahorses. Most methods involve using a long utensil of some sort to wave the Mysis temptingly in front of the chosen seahorse; once you’re sure this has attracted his interest, the Mysis is released so it drifts down enticingly right before the seahorse’s snout. Most of the time, the seahorse will snatch it up as it drifts by or snap it up as soon as it hits the bottom.
A great number of utensils work well for target feeding. I’ve seen hobbyists use everything from chopsticks to extra long tweezers and hemostats or forceps to homemade pipettes fashioned from a length of rigid plastic tubing. As for myself, I prefer handfeeding when I target feed a particular seahorse.
But no doubt the all-time favorite implement for target feeding seahorses is the old-fashioned turkey baster. 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 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 the seahorse’s mouth as long as necessary. Or if the seahorse rejects the Mysis the first time it drifts by, a baster makes it easy to deftly suck up the shrimp from the bottom so it can be offered to the target again. In the same way, the baster makes it a simple matter to clean any remaining leftovers after a feeding session. (You’ll quickly discover the feeding tube is also indispensable for tapping away pesky fish and invertebrates that threaten to steal the tempting tidbit before an indecisive seahorse can snatch it up.)
In short, target feeding allows the hobbyist to assure that each of his seahorses gets enough to eat without overfeeding or underfeeding the tank. And it makes it possible to keep seahorses in a community tank with more active fishes that would ordinarily out-compete them for food, since the aquarist can personally deliver each mouthful to the seahorses while keeping more aggressive specimens at bay.
The key to keeping active specimens like firefish or cleaner shrimp successfully with seahorses is to feed the other fish and inverts with standard, off-the-shelf aquarium foods first, and once they’ve had their fill, then target feed the seahorses.
I have no doubt that target feeding your seahorses with a baster would work well in your Nano cube, Sandy. The main problem with this approach will be that is so easy to get distracted and forget to turn your filter back on again after each feeding, and that simple oversight is a disaster just waiting to happen. To prevent that from happening, you might consider using a simple timer to automatically turn the filter back on after 15-20 minutes.
Another option is to try using macroalgae as a natural feeding station instead of the small cup you experimented with previously. The right type of macroalgae will trap the frozen Mysis neatly within its branches and prevent it from being whisked away by swirling currents.
For example, a good cluster of red grape Caulerpa works great for this (Leslie Leddo, pers. com.)! Seahorses love to perch on the red grape Caulerpa and are naturally attracted to it as a convenient hitching post. Release a baster full of frozen Mysis immediately above the grape Caulerpa, and you will find that the Mysis becomes trapped and entangled 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 further information on setting up a natural feeding station for your seahorses, see the following online article I wrote for Conscientious Aquarist:
Click here: Seahorse Feeders
Hopefully, one of these options will work out well for you, Sandy. I suspect that once your seahorses have had a little more time to adjust to their new surroundings, they will begin to unhesitatingly scarf up the frozen Mysis right from the bottom whether or not it happens to be moving, and your feeding problems will be over.
Best of luck with your new seahorses, Sandy! Here’s hoping they are soon pigging out on the frozen Mysis with no further difficulties.
Pete GiwojnaJuly 21, 2006 at 10:02 pm #2667dafuzz305Guest
Jessica and Pete,
Thank you all for your replies! Pete I think that I actually read your article yesterday and as soon as I got home from work I tried it. Turning off the filter and using the baster did the trick. I too have a shy one, but he took to the baster immediately. I also found that my pipe fish will gladly take the left overs and the tidbits that are missed.
I am now just worried about the current. I want to provide the best enviornmet I can for them. How do you know if the current is too strong?
I am going to try your idea on difusing the water even further. I talked to the owner of my local pet shop and he said that he might have something that will fit. We will see.
thank you both,
SandyJuly 22, 2006 at 3:10 am #2668Pete GiwojnaGuest
You’re very welcome! It’s encouraging that your new seahorses took to the baster feeding so quickly, and it sounds like your pipefish is doing a great job of cleaning up the leftovers. That will be very helpful in maintaining good water quality with these messy eaters.
With regard to the current in your Nano tank, Sandy, time and time again I find that home hobby tanks have far too little water movement. In my experience, most seahorse setups are chronically undercirculated, a serious mistake for small, closed-systems aquaria, and our pampered pets often suffer as a result. Many hobbyists are overly conscious of the seahorse’s inactive life style and limited swimming ability, and have adjusted their flow rates accordingly, resulting in less water movement than desirable. In actuality, seahorses prefer moderate water movement, including some areas of brisk current, providing there are also sheltered spots and some areas of relatively slack water they can move to when desired. Slack water means comparatively low flow, NOT stagnant conditions! Avoid dead spots and stagnant areas at all costs.
I have often discussed this matter with professional divers and collectors who regularly encounter seahorses in the ocean, and they report that the horses are often found where you would least expect them — well offshore and thriving in areas with powerful currents. For example, here is how Paul Baldassano, a commercial diver in New York who makes his living collecting sea urchins, describes the behavior of his local seahorses:
"In regard to seahorses in the wild, I occasionally see Hippocampus erectus in the wild while SCUBA diving but never in the places where they are supposed to be. I see them in the open sea far from shore and also in areas with large rocks and very strong currents. The last one I saw was in a channel off the south shore of Long Island New York in water about 12 feet deep. The current was so strong that I had to hold on to the rocks so as not to be swept away. This Hippocampus erectus was having no trouble staying there munching on the abundant plankton. Apparently they find places near the rocks where there is no current because as you know they are lousy swimmers. There is also a large population of seahorses in a similar area in another part of the New York shore, but I think it is best not to divulge that location for obvious reasons (Baldassano, pers. com.)."
Neil Garrick-Maidment, a very successful seahorse breeder in the UK, reports much the same thing, noting that seahorses in the wild seem to thrive amid strong currents:
"Whenever I have dived on Seahorse sites I have always been amazed by the currents and tides that this very fragile looking Seahorse lives in. We often find Seahorses in flat muddy/silt areas nowhere near rocks or weed. These areas are often scoured by strong currents and the Seahorses do well in them and seem completely unperturbed by the current. In setting up a tank for them I try to remember the feeling I had in those areas and replicate them. I have now started to use wave surge devices, so that the current in the tank, although strong (they seem to thrive in strong currents) varies in its direction (Garrick-Maidment, Jun. 2002)."
Likewise, David Warland, a fish farmer and commercial seahorse breeder in Port Lincoln, Australia, reports he often finds Hippocampus abdominalis perching on the tuna net enclosures at the farm in deep water:
"The Horses that are around the farms have traveled vast distances over plain sand/mud to get to the farms, which are in at least 20 meters of water, and are miles from the nearest land or shallow water (Warland, pers. com.)."
And Jorge Gomezjurado, the Senior Aquarist at the National Aquarium in Baltimore, recommends the following when it comes to water movement:
"I personally believe that current and water dynamics are very important for Syngnathids. In nature they live in areas with active water movement.(i.e., tides in mangrove lagoons and estuaries, coral reefs, kelp forests, etc.). Why don’t we give them the same environmental conditions in captivity? Our small tanks (90 gallons) have large turnovers on an average of 5 gpm (or 300 gph). It is very important that the current is steady and directionally constant, which allows the animals to find a good spot to hold and they will not be pulling in different directions all the time."
The point is that, as long as slack-water retreats are available, the greater seahorses can tolerate far more current than most folks suspect and good circulation is as important for a seahorse setup as any other aquarium. I cannot emphasize that enough. What they lack as swimmers is not agility, but rather stamina (Evans, 1998). They can hold their own against strong currents, but not indefinitely, so low flow areas where they can move out of the current and hold when they want to rest must be provided in addition to good circulation.
One good way to accommodate both the need for good water flow and circulation and the seahorse’s need for slack-water retreats is to create tall rock formations a foot or two down current from the strongest outflow to intercept and deflect or divert that strong flow of water, thereby creating eddies and slack-water zones where there is relatively little water movement downstream. Seahorses will hold in these low flow areas when they want to move away from the current, so it’s a good idea to position convenient hitching posts in the lee or down-current side of such formations.
In addition to an external power filter, my SHOWLR system also has a 200 gph powerhead with a sponge pre-filter positioned right near the top for surface agitation and extra water movement, with additional small powerheads used as needed to eliminate any dead spots along the substrate or behind the rockwork. I like to give my seahorses as much current as they can handle without getting blown around.
In short, if your filtration is not turning over the entire volume of the aquarium a MINIMUM of 5 times per hour, your seahorse setup is undercirculated. With a spray bar return raised above the surface of the water to diffuse the outflow, you can achieve turnover rates of up to 10-20 times the volume of your tank every hour without producing too much turbulence or current for seahorses. A waterfall return is another good way to diffuse the output from your filter, and also works well for seahorses. There will be an area of relatively vigorous water movement at one end of the aquarium underneath and nearby the waterfall, while the other end of the tank is a relatively low flow area.
But as with anything, too much of even a good thing can be undesirable, and too much current can overwhelm the limited swimming ability of Hippocampus. One indication that you may have too much water movement in your seahorse tank is if the seahorses are getting buffeted around by the currents, and whisked away uncontrollably when they tire of fighting the current. Or alternatively, they may stay perched in one place all the time and refuse to swim around and explore their tank for fear of getting swept away by the current if they relax their grip on their hitching posts. So you can get a pretty good gauge of how well the seahorses are able to cope with the water movement than their tank by observing how the current affects the swimming ability.
Likewise, if a mated pair of seahorses is consistently spilling eggs during the copulatory rise, that’s another pretty good indication that there may be too much turbulence or water movement in the upper reaches of their aquarium.
If the seahorses are having difficulty tracking their prey and eating because the current whisks the frozen Mysis past them too quickly to target it accurately and slurp it up, that’s another red flag. Often that situation can be corrected simply by adjusting the output from your filter to reduce the current during feeding time or turning it off altogether while a seahorses are eating.
But as long as your seahorses aren’t getting buffeted around, aren’t routinely dropping eggs during disrupted mating attempts, and aren’t having difficulty targeting their prey and eating, there’s really no such thing as too much water movement. In general, the stronger the water flow, the more important it is to keep the water currents steady and unvarying so the seahorses can establish holding areas in the sheltered spots and low-flow zones without getting blindsided by unpredictable currents. Just make sure your seahorses are not getting trapped against overflows and be sure to screen off the intakes for any powerheads. Powerheads can be switched off at feeding time, if necessary.
Best of luck with your new seahorse setup, Sandy! If you can convert the output from your filter to a spray bar return with the help from the guys at your LFS, that should correct the situation and minimize any problems you may be having with excessive currents.
Pete GiwojnaJuly 22, 2006 at 4:37 am #2669dafuzz305Guest
Thanks again for all the informtion. I think after reading your last reply I am not going to change a thing! I am right where I need to be. I have the slack areas as well as places of moderate current and the horses do not seem to be stressed and are eating great.
thanks and take care,
- You must be logged in to reply to this topic.