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Feeding seahorses

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  • #1635

    I have had what I believe are common yellow seahorses (they started off bright yellow but promptly became the color of the live rock in the tank) for about 4 months now and they seem fine. I feed them enriched frozen mysis shrimp which they eagerly take. The trouble is that in a month\’s time I will be away for 2 weeks and will not be able to feed them the regular fare. Can I train them on freeze dried shrimp so that they can get that from the auto feeder while I\’m away?

    #4712
    Pete Giwojna
    Guest

    Dear Kraut:

    Unfortunately, there aren’t too many really good options for those times when you’re going to be out of town for an extended period. Automatic feeders just aren’t feasible for the frozen foods or live prey seahorses require, and you likely aren’t going to have much luck treating your seahorses to eat the freeze dried shrimp readily. If they don’t take a liking to the freeze dried shrimp, which is likely, you will only end up with two weeks worth of freeze-dried shrimp degrading the water quality in your seahorse tank, and the resulting pollution will kill the seahorses a lot quicker than starvation might.

    When you’re going away, underfeeding is vastly preferable to overfeeding. Your seahorses (and aquarium fish, in general) can fast for a long weekend with no problem at all. So just adjust the seahorses’ feeding schedule so their normal fast day falls on the weekend, give them a generous feeding before you leave, and they will be just fine over the weekend. But of course that’s not an option when you’re going to be gone for a couple of weeks.

    In that event, I would recommend ordering some hardy live feeder shrimp, some of which can safely be added to the tank every couple days, knowing they will survive in the aquarium until eaten. Ocean Rider’s red feeder shrimp (Red Iron Horse Feed, Halocaridina rubra) are ideal for this as are the live Mysis (Mysidopsis bahia) From Sachs Systems Aquaculture. They are what I’d like to call a "feed-and-forget" food. They are tough, rugged little shrimp that you can toss in your tank with no acclimation whatsoever. They are agile and elusive enough that your filters won’t eat them and the seahorses won’t be able to capture them all right away. Some will hide and evade well enough that your seahorses will still be hunting down the stragglers for the next day or two. Best of all, you can toss a nice batch of them in your aquarium, secure in the knowledge that they won’t perish and pollute it, but thrive and survive as real, live, "catch-me-if-you-can" prey items that seahorses cannot resist. Nothing stimulates a seahorse’s feeding instinct like the frantic movements and evasive maneuvers of natural, living prey.

    So if you are planning on being away for an extended period of time, I would suggest ordering a generous supply of the Red Iron Horse Feed From Ocean Rider or a 200-400 count of live Mysis from Sachs in advance, and setting them up in a small tank of their own with a small algae-covered live rock before you leave. That way, when your "fish sitter" checks in on your aquarium every so often, he can just add another netful of red feeder shrimp to the tank and that should take care of your seahorses’ feeding requirements until he stops by again.

    Aside from adding the live shrimp, your fish sitter’s duties will be extremely simple, mainly just checking to see that everything is operating properly. Power outages, equipment failures, or the untimely death of a specimen can wipe out your tank if they happen while you’re away. Consider recruiting a friend, neighbor or coworker to look in on your tank at least a few times while you’re gone. They needn’t be aquarium savvy at all, since you will be assigning them only the simplest of tasks: (1) check to see if the equipment is on and operating properly; (2) add freshwater to replace water lost via evaporation; and (3) toss in a netful of live feeder shrimp. And that’s all. In fact, it’s a good idea to forbid them to touch anything or do anything other than those 3 very basic duties. And, of course, you will be familiarizing them with your setup beforehand, leaving them a plastic gallon jug of dechlorinated tapwater or RO/DI water with which to top off the tank, and providing a supply of live feeder shrimp and a net so all they have to do is scoop some of the shrimp and dump them in the tank. (Stick with the live food if you recruit a fish sitter, Kraut. That way they won’t have to deal with preparing frozen Mysis and there’s no danger they’ll overfeed it. I learned the hard way that inexperienced seahorse keepers ALWAYS have a tendency to grossly overfeed, but that’s not a concern with live feeder shrimp.)

    Ocean Rider’s red feeder shrimp are easy to keep on hand. They are extremely hardy and very easy to care for. They can be kept indefinitely in a spare 2-10 gallon tank, or even a clean, plastic bucket, that has be filled with clean saltwater and equipped with an airstone for aeration. Neither a heater nor a fancy filtration system is required. They thrive at room temp and tolerate a very wide range of salinity and all they require is an airstone (or a simple air-operated foam filter at most) to keep the water oxygenated, with perhaps a little coral rubble as substrate and a clump or two of macroalgae (sea lettuce, Ogo, Gracilaria) to shelter in and dine upon.

    Or the live Mysis from Sachs Systems Aquaculture would also be a good choice for this. You can obtain 200 live Mysidopsis bahia for $35 (priority shipping included) from Sachs and your seahorses will love them. They are a natural food source for seahorses in the wild and fairly easy to maintain in a suitable holding tank for short periods:

    <http://www.aquaculturestore.com/swinverts.html&gt;

    Another option would be to hire a local aquarium maintenance business to service your seahorse setup a few times while you’re gone. Having professionals service your tank can be expensive, Kraut, but it shouldn’t be too costly as long as it’s just for a few service calls on those rare occasions when you’ll be away for an extended period, and it’s mighty reassuring to know your fish are in good hands. Might be worth it to have that peace of mind.

    Best of luck with your seahorses while you are away!

    Happy Trails!
    Pete Giwojna, Ocean Rider Tech Support

    #4715
    kraut3253
    Guest

    Thanks for the reply. I certainly won’t try the dried shrimp. I am a little worried about the use of live shrimp though because there is already a large population of shrimp (several hundred for sure) living in that tank because I use local inter-tidal mud to help establish my salt water systems and the shrimp come with the mud. The seahorses hunt these shrimp continuously but since there are lots of spots for the shrimp to hide, I’m not sure that the seahorse get enough of them each day. I also have three other fish in the tank (it’s 55 gallons) so I feed frozen mysis which the sea horses eagerly participate in. The refugium for my other reef tank is 30 gallons and has very large shrimp populations with less places to hide. What if I place the sea horses in there while I’m away? I’m fundamentally mistrustful of having a friend take care of my tanks because I’ve had some well meaning disasters from that. My other option would be to engineer up a automatic frozen shrimp feeder which is interesting from a DIY point of view but not without risk of course.

    #4719
    Pete Giwojna
    Guest

    Dear Kraut:

    You’re very welcome, sir!

    That’s very interesting that you have such a large shrimp population from the use of the intertidal mud, and your seahorses must be happy campers with lots of live shrimp to hunt and stalk between meals.

    Yeah, I think transferring the seahorses to the 30-gallon refugium while you are away for a couple of weeks is an excellent idea. Your refugium sounds like my idea of seahorse Heaven and the ponies should thrive in their little personal patch of paradise, with all the live shrimp they can eat. That sounds like an ideal solution, sir.

    I agree with you about the fish sitters — generally, the less you ask them to do, the better things will fare while you are away. Maybe just have your friend stop by once in a while while you are away to make sure all of your equipment is operating properly and to top off the tanks with freshwater as needed, and pretty much forbid him or her to do anything more, and you should be fine.

    Best wishes with all your fishes, Kraut! It sounds like you have set up some outstanding aquarium systems, sir.

    Happy Trails!
    Pete Giwojna

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