- This topic has 3 replies, 2 voices, and was last updated 17 years, 6 months ago by Pete Giwojna.
May 30, 2006 at 12:32 am #830jenpoMember
Hello, very new here and requesting help. Was at the Florida gulf on vacation and found a 3inch brown seahorse washed up on shore. Wanted to return it to the water but the waves kept flipping it about. Did not have high hopes for it but put it in a cup and took it home to a well established 12 gallon Eclipse system with live rock and sand which was a quarentine tank of sorts for my larger 125 and 55 gallon saltwater tanks. To my surprise after a day it immediately went after and ate some forzen mysis shrimp, I thought for sure it would be a goner or only want live foods. Question, I think while stranded on shore it gulped a lot of air because when it swims it is always at the surface, kind of lopsided. Can I do anything for this? Also, I have to put ALOT of shrimp in the tank for it to catch anything to eat – with live sand and rock it it hard to siphon out the excess – any advice to improve the seahorse\’s acess to the food without toxifying my tank – I have 3 small 1 1/2 inch gobies and a small 2 inch angel I\’m growing out already in the tank. Thanks so much.May 30, 2006 at 9:17 pm #2560Pete GiwojnaGuest
Wow, that stranded seahorse was awfully lucky that you came along when you did to rescue him from his plight! If you found him washed up on the Gulf Coast, he has to be a Lined Seahorse (Hippocampus erectus) — what a wonderful find! It’s encouraging that he survived the trip home and it’s a very good sign that a wild seahorse that had just been through such an ordeal has begun eating frozen Mysis for you right away.
You’re absolutely correct, Jen — when feeding seahorses in intricate surroundings like a full-gallon tank full of live rock, 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 your hungry horse can track it all down. Inevitably some of the frozen food will be swept away and lodge in isolated nooks and crannies where the fishes cannot get it. There it will begin to decompose and impair your 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 gone bad. Either outcome can lead to dire problems. The best way to avoid that sort of problem is to target feed your new seahorse, as described below:
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. And it’s great for tapping on the cover to ringing the dinner bell and summon the diners for their gourmet feast!)
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.
This is especially important if your rescue seahorse is having problems with positive buoyancy (i.e., the tendency to float), which is hindering his swimming and interfering with his ability to track down the frozen Mysis shrimp.
Another thing that will help clean up the leftovers in your 12-gallon tank is 5-10 Nassarius snails.Nassarius snails are terrific detritivores and amazingly active for snails. They’ll bury themselves until they detect the scent of something edible, and then erupt from the sand and charge out to clean it up. They are great and scavenging the leftovers like frozen Mysis shrimp.
It sounds like your rescue horse is suffering from positive buoyancy — the tendency to float. If he is a male, as indicated by the presence of a pouch on its abdomen at the base of its tail, the problem is most likely to to gas building up within his pouch. This can happen when seahorses are stressed, or kept in an aquarium that’s too shallow, or for quite a number of reasons. Sometimes the gas that builds up is confined to one hemisphere of the pouch only, giving it a lopsided or asymmetrical appearance.
There are a number of ways to release this trapped gas, or flush out the male’s pouch, and I would be happy to discuss them with you, Jen, if you can confirm for me that the seahorse you rescued is indeed a male. The build up of pouch gas is one form of a condition known as Gas Bubble Syndrome (GBS), which can also be treated via a medication known as Diamox (the tablet form of acetazolamide), or even by pressurization in a homemade decompression chamber.
If you can tell me whether or not your seahorse is a male, and also what the water depth is in your 55-gallon and 125-gallon aquaria (i.e., how tall they are), Jen, I can help you determine which of these treatment options might work the best for you and provide you with complete instructions for carrying it out.
Best of luck with your rescue horse, Jen! I hope your back to you again soon.
Pete GiwojnaMay 31, 2006 at 2:50 am #2561jenpoGuest
Thank you for the response. I am happy to report the seahorse is doing much better now. It is swimming erect and has learned to take mysis out of a feeder I rigged together from a plastic cap and a suction cup. I am surprised how fast it learned. It is your advice as well as other research forums which brought me up to speed – thanks again! I do not think I can ever put it in my 55 or 125 tanks though. The fish there are just too agressive. I am sure if it continues to live in a few months I will get it a taller/larger home. Such a sucker for a little fighter I am.May 31, 2006 at 4:57 pm #2562Pete GiwojnaGuest
Excellent news! I’m delighted to hear that your rescue horse is doing so well! He certainly is a little fighter!
It is unusual for wild seahorses to take to frozen food so well, let alone to quickly learn to use a feeding trough. For your rescue seahorse to do so after the trauma of being washed ashore and his subsequent ordeal is all the more unexpected. It sounds like your little H. erectus is making great strides, no doubt due to all the TLC you have lavished on him, Jen. Keep up the good work!
Using a feeding station is another good way to avoid the spillage and wastage that occurs when broadcast feeding or scatter feeding seahorses in an intricate environment. It sounds like the plastic cap and suction cup makes an efficient improvise feeding station, but you may want to consider a more aesthetically pleasing natural feeding station at some point. I wrote an article in Conscientious Aquarist explaining exactly how to set up a feeding station and train your seahorses to use a feeder in some detail that you may find to be of interest, Jen. It discusses all the different kinds of feeding stations in some detail, including natural feeding stations. It’s available online at the following URL:
Click here: Seahorse Feeders
I wasn’t thinking of making your rescue seahorse a resident of your 55-gallon or 125 gallon aquariums, Jen, but rather considering using them to pressurize and decompress the seahorse if they were sufficiently deep in the event that his positive buoyancy didn’t resolve itself. But you’re right, it would be very desirable to move him out of the 12-gallon aquarium into more spacious quarters when you have an opportunity.
Best wishes with all of your fishes, Jen! Good luck with your rescue horse!
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