- This topic has 5 replies, 2 voices, and was last updated 8 years, 9 months ago by Pete Giwojna.
October 19, 2014 at 2:39 pm #2066capt238Member
Okay, so I just had an Erectus have babies on Friday. I probably have between 2-300 of them. I have them in a nursery tank with a covered filter so they don’t get sucked into the system. I am feeding them newly hatched brine shrimp and rotifers and the majority seem to be eating like pigs! I have little hitching posts and macro algae in there from a well established refugium. So, here are a couple of questions:
- everything sound good as far as what I am doing?
- is there a time frame that I should be looking for, such as maybe when the greatest danger to them dying is?
- any signals, signs or symptoms I should be on the lookout for?
- Id put up photos, but I cant figure out how in this system.
- I am feeding them two to three times a day, is that enough or too much?
At this point, they seem to be happy, based on eating habits, hitching up and looking for food. Any help and suggestions would be greatly appreciated. This is sooooo cool!
Proud seahorse papa!
RoyOctober 20, 2014 at 9:07 pm #5738Pete GiwojnaGuest
Congratulations on the brood of Hippocampus erectus fry, sir! It sounds like you have set up a suitable nursery tank and the live foods you are providing are more than adequate, Roy, but I would recommend adjusting your feeding schedule somewhat, as explained at the end of this message.
But first, I wanted to address your question about the danger periods for the newborns. In my experience, there are two high risk periods when rearing during which there tends to be a spike in the mortality rates. The first of these high mortality peaks occurs when seahorse fry that undergo a pelagic phrase are going through their free-swimming stage of development. As you know, during their pelagic period, the newborns drift freely with the plankton and are attracted to sunlight (phototactic), which draws them up to the surface during the day in order to feed on the abundant zooplankton. This is a risky stage of life because the surface huggers tend to gulp air while feeding at the surface and often suffer fatal buoyancy problems as a result, and may even become entrapped by surface tension. For these reasons, most hobbyists find that mortality is very high during the pelagic phase.
The newborns that will survive this stage can usually be readily identified because they often suffer from buoyancy problems, which is why they are commonly referred to as “floaters,” and you can often make out a distinct air bubble lodged in the area of the upper neck.
For Mustangs and Sunbursts (Hippocampus erectus) fry, the pelagic phase may last for two weeks or more, but is often abbreviated, and many of the newborns are ready for a benthic way of life after the first day or two.
In general, the older the fry are and the more that they grow, the more survivorship improves and the fewer mortalities there will be among the juveniles. But there is often a second peak in the mortality rates at the time when the juveniles are making the difficult transition from live prey to frozen foods. Some of them just seem to have a difficult time making the adjustment to nonliving food and are lost as a result.
This second spike in the mortality rates usually occurs around 3-6 weeks of age when the youngsters are ready to be weaned onto frozen foods. So that’s a girl you will have to face the before you can start to feel like the youngsters are out of the woods and facing better odds of surviving to maturity.
Probably the greatest risk facing your fry in the months ahead is that the demands of your daily life are simply going to intrude more and more, and eventually force you to begin to neglect the brood of young as a result. Or the Herculean task that lies ahead may simply wear you down until you begin to skimp on the water changes, feedings, and maintenance of your nursery and rearing tanks, to the detriment of the juveniles. Many times that’s all but inevitable for the home breeder. And there is always the chance that an outbreak of disease or parasites can wipe out a crowded nursery tank at any time. Things can go south in our hurry when you’re dealing with such a small volume of water with such limited filtration options…
For these reasons, it is very rare for home hobbyists to have much success during their first attempts at rearing, Roy. There is a always a steep learning curve when it comes to rearing the newborns, and it’s quite common — perhaps even the rule — for the home breeder to lose the entire brood during his first few tries. But as you refine your methods and become more proficient at providing suitable live foods for the newborns and work out the feeding regimen that’s most efficient for your particular circumstances, your results will get better. You will have more of the fry surviving for longer periods, until eventually you are able to raise a few of the fry from a few of the broods to maturity. I know many Ocean Rider owners that are successfully raising at least some of their offspring.
When feeding baby brine shrimp (bbs) or Artemia nauplii to seahorse fry, you want to avoid overfeeding (feeding them too much at a single feeding) as well as feeding them newly hatched bbs which have depleted their yolk supply and are nutritionally barren. The best way to do that is provide the fry with many small feedings throughout the course of the day, each of which they can clean up fairly quickly, rather than one or two massive feedings.
I suggest feeding the fry 3-5 times daily, at least 2-3 hours apart. When you are feeding the right amount, the fry should consume most of the nauplii within the first 20-30 minutes, but give them 3 hours to finish the rest and digest it fully before you feed them again. Ideally some brine shrimp will remain throughout each 3-hour feeding session, albeit at a greatly reduced feeding density after the first half-hour.
In other words, your ideal fry feeding schedule should go something like this: 8 AM feed, 11 AM feed, 2 PM feed, 5 PM feed, 8 PM feed, lights out at 11 PM. Harvest the baby brine shrimp for each feeding session in succession from each of the jars you started hatching at 3-hour intervals. This will assure that the Artemia nauplii you are feeding to the fry are no more than 3 hours old and thus at the peak of their nutritional value.
Like all babies, seahorse fry exist only to eat and poop. To say they are voracious is a gross understatement — at this stage of their development, the newborns have but one mission in life: to eat and thus to grow. Researchers have found that a single seahorse only a few weeks old can consume 3000-4000 newly hatched brine shrimp in a single day! Milligram for milligram, a great white sharks feeding habits appear downright dainty and positively anorexic compared to a baby seahorse on the prowl for live prey. And as you can imagine, when well-fed fry eat that much, defecation is amazingly rapid, with each newborn producing an average of one fecal pellet every 25-30 minutes.
One of the many quirks of seahorse anatomy is that they lack a true stomach like ours with the capacity to store food between meals, Roy (Bellomy, 1969). Rather, they are endowed with a rudimentary “stomach” that is little more than a pouchlike expansion of their intestine with no distinct separation between it and the rest of their digestive tract (Tamaru, Aug. 2001). Food passes continuously through this simple stomach instead of being stored therein. This is an adaptation to a sedentary lifestyle in which seahorses feed while at rest (as ambush predators that wait for their prey to come to them) more or less continuously throughout the daylight hours, rather than storing food or stockpiling energy in fat reserves (Tamaru, Aug. 2001). And like other carnivorous fishes, their intestinal tract is also relatively short (Tamaru, Aug. 2001).
Therefore, think of their digestive tract as a short continuous tube. When a seahorse is full, nothing more can be taken in at one end of its digestive tract without something being passed out of the other end. Seahorse fry don’t stop eating once they are full — the feeding instinct of these seagoing gluttons is so strong it compels them to keep eating as long as suitable prey is present. Baby seahorses, not sharks, are the ocean’s “remorseless eating machines!”
When they are overfed, particularly on hard-to-process Artemia nauplii, food passes through their system too fast to be digested properly. Because they swallow their prey whole and intact, this can actually reach the absurd point where they are passing live Artemia in their fecal pellets (Warland, 2003)! When that happens they are getting virtually no nourishment from their food and are literally starving in the midst of plenty. Here’s how Tracy Warland, a commercial seahorse farmer in Port Lincoln, Australia, describes this feeding dilemma and how to deal with it:
“We feed by looking closely at the ponies feces under a microscope, (a cheap dissecting microscope is ample); we breed 5 different species and all the ponies are the same, in as much as they are total gluttons. Baby seahorses (ponies) will eat so much instar 2 Artemia that they will pass out live Artemia in their feces, and they will of course not get any nutritional value from any feeds, so by over feeding you will starve them to death. We have done this. So if you feed them too much you will just love them to death as they will starve due to inability to digest. We look at the feces to determine the level of digestion and feed accordingly. Usually a feed is what the biomass of the tank can clean up in a 20-minute session, after which we leave them alone for about 2 hours and then feed them again. As soon as they defecate, we use a pipette to gather up the droppings and examine them under the microscope to check digestion levels and adjust our feeding accordingly. This is not necessary for every feed as you can soon learn the quantity required for each feeding; just make sure that the Artemia is digested fully (Warland, 2003).”
So if you have a microscope, you can easily verify that you are feeding enough but not too much at any given feeding by visual examination of the fry’s fecal pellets. Otherwise, you will eventually learn the right amount to feed and how often to feed from experience. The right feeding regimen varies according to species, the size of the brood and the size of your nursery tanks, as well as the type of food you are providing, so it is difficult to make generalizations in that regard. But Tracy Warland recommends the following:
“You need to add enough food for your fry to eat for about 15-20 minutes (75%
of the food should have been consumed within that time). If it is not, then you have added too much. The fry then should have some time to digest this food, about 2 – 3 hours is plenty. Provide at least 3-5 feedings daily. Only feed during daylight hours and turn off lights at night (Warland, 2003).”
Tracy’s feeding regimen may not be the best option for the home hobbyist, however. The average hobbyist has his hands full just trying to keep up with the demands of a brood of fry, doesn’t have access to a microscope to monitor the fecal pellets of the fry, and generally needs to be far more concerned about underfeeding than overfeeding. The salient point is that when rearing fry, many small feedings daily are vastly preferable to one or two large feedings. Most hobbyists are more successful at rearing when their goal is to assure that the fry have access to at least some food throughout the day. Many breeders accomplish this by adding small amounts of newly hatched Artemia to their nurseries whenever they walk by. For the sake of hygiene and water quality, its important to siphon off the bottom of the nursery tanks between feedings, whether or not you are able to do a microscopic examination of the fecal pellets.
It’s imperative that you work out the most efficient feeding regimen one way or another, Roy, since overfeeding is not only bad for the seahorse’s digestion, it also debilitates the fry because it is very energetically demanding for them to pursue prey and eat nonstop all day long (Warland, 2003). With a little experience, you will soon work out the feeding regimen that works best for you.
Many home hobbyists find an alternating 2-hour feeding schedule works well during the day. The fry are allowed to feed for 2 hours, then fasted for 2 hours, then given another feeding and fasted for 2 hours, and so on. The nursery is then darkened overnight and the seahorses are rested.
Best of luck with the babies, Roy!
Pete Giwojna, Ocean Rider Tech SupportOctober 21, 2014 at 12:59 pm #5739capt238Guest
Thank you Pete! Great information. I have changed the feeding schedule slightly to feed more often. I am doing water changes daily and so far so good. I will keep you apprised if I come across anything. I am planning on moving them to a larger tank this weekend so that I can minimize the cramped quarters and reduce the risk of disease, thereby, hopefully, I will also minimize my work to some degree.October 22, 2014 at 1:31 am #5740Pete GiwojnaGuest
You’re very welcome, sir!
Transferring the remaining young to a larger rearing tank may be helpful, Roy. It will provide a little more stability and a little bigger margin for error, and certainly could help make things a bit more sanitary, but it will also mean that the daily water changes will need to be correspondingly larger in order to replace the same percentage of water during maintenance.
And, the larger volume of water will also make it more difficult to maintain an adequate feeding density of the newly hatched brine shrimp (Artemia nauplii). It’s important to maintain a good feeding density so that the fry do not have to waste energy chasing after live prey that is more widely dispersed, so you’ll need to hatch out even more brine shrimp in order to maintain the same feeding density in the larger rearing tank that the newborns were accustomed to in the smaller nursery tank.
So those are a couple of factors to keep in mind when deciding how big you might want to make the rearing tank(s), Roy. Don’t go overboard because the larger rearing tank can quickly reach a point of diminishing returns and eventually becomes counterproductive for the home hobbyist with limited time and resources.
Pete Giwojna, Ocean Rider Tech SupportDecember 4, 2014 at 6:49 pm #5744Seahorse wannabeGuest
I have an all male seahorse tank and everyone is thriving and seem to be growing. My question is how often should I be enriching their mysis with vibrance? Currently I’m doing it 2 to 3 feedings per week. Otherwise it’s a straight mysis feeding. Is this often enough?
I’m still trying to figure out the best method to use with the vibrance as it doesn’t always seem to absorb into the mysis well enough to turn the heads a little red tint.
Just checking to make sure I’m feeding them correctly.December 7, 2014 at 2:18 am #5745Pete GiwojnaGuest
Dear Seahorse WannaBe:
I normally enrich the frozen Mysis with Vibrance for at least one feeding every day and then fast the seahorses one day a week.
I like to carefully thaw the frozen Mysis so that the individual Mysis are released whole, intact, and lifelike. Then I will place the thawed Mysis on a paper towel or piece of wax paper and add a very light dusting of the Vibrance powder to the Mysis while it is still slightly moist and damp, mixing in the Vibrance powder very gently. I then allow the moist Mysis to dry with the dusting of Vibrance in place, and I find that usually adheres very well once the Mysis have dried sufficiently. I usually prepare enough enriched Mysis for one day’s feedings and keep it refrigerated until it is used.
If you find that the Vibrance powder is still getting washed off when you added to the aquarium to feed the seahorses, you may be using too much of the enrichment powder at one time, or you may be using an inferior brand of frozen Mysis. I find that the frozen Mysis relicta from Piscine Energetics is very high quality and usually produces excellent results for me. The only drawback is that they are relatively large Mysids and may not be suitable for very young seahorses.
I like to use the low-fat formulation (i.e., Vibrance 2) for mature seahorses that are not actively breeding, such as the stallions in your all-male seahorse tank, Wannabe. However, I always use the lipid-rich original Vibrance (i.e., Vibrance 1) for juvenile seahorses and for breeding pairs. The rapidly growing youngsters need all the calories they can get, as do adult seahorses that are actively breeding and churning out brood after brood of young.
If you contact me via e-mail, I will send you a reply and attach a document to my e-mail for you to download, save on your computer, and look through at your leisure that explains all about feeding seahorses with frozen Mysis in considerable detail, sir. It explains some of the favorite techniques for enriching frozen Mysis with Vibrance in more detail than I can go into in this post, as well as explaining the preferred methods for feeding seahorses (target feeding handfeeding, or training them to use feeding stations), and it discusses the different brands of frozen Mysis that are available nowadays so that you can make an informed decision in that regard.
One thing I should emphasize, however, is that it’s very important to fast the seahorses for one day a week when you are feeding them a staple diet of enriched frozen Mysis.
That’s a very important step because it’s entirely possible to kill these amazing animals with kindness by feeding them too much of a good thing.
Because of their lazy lifestyle, our pampered pets are susceptible to a debilitating affliction commonly known as “fatty liver disease” or hepatic lipidosis when they are given a diet that’s excessively rich in HUFA (highly unsaturated fatty acids) and other lipids. Mature seahorses that are no longer breeding are at greatest risk from hepatic lipidosis. Young seahorses need a high-fat diet to sustain their rapid growth and development, and breeding pairs that are churning out brood after brood of fry likewise need all the energy they can get. But once they reach sexual maturity, their growth rate slows markedly, and nonbreeding adults that receive a high-fat diet will begin to store excess fat in specialized cells called adipose tissue (Tamaru, Sep. 2001). Eventually these fatty deposits will begin to infiltrate the liver cells, hence the name fatty liver disease (Tamaru, Sep. 2001). In severe cases, adipose tissue can become so thick that it can literally hides the internal organs, cloaking them within a cocoon of fat, and distending the abdomen (Tamaru, Sep. 2001). When the seahorse’s liver or hepatopancreas becomes badly infiltrated with fatty deposits, it interferes with the organ’s ability to perform its vital role in digestion, food absorption, and detoxification of the blood, which has dire consequences for the affected seahorse.
Hepatic lipidosis normally does not kill its victims quickly. Ironically, due to the impairment of digestion and food absorption it causes, fatty liver disease is typically associated with chronic wasting and emaciation. Most often, the affected seahorses literally wastes away and eventually succumbs to some opportunistic disease in their weakened state.
Unfortunately, hepatic lipidosis is far more common than most seahorse keepers suspect. Of the necropsies Dr. Martin Belli has performed on hobbyist’s seahorses, fully 38% of them had fatty livers (Belli, per. com.).
Avoiding overfeeding, fasting adults once a week and using relatively low-fat enrichment products such as Vibrance II for mature seahorses that are no longer breeding are simple ways to prevent fatty liver disease.
If, like me, you find that fasting your seahorses is stressful on the aquarist, there is another alternative that both you and your seahorses may find more palatable. Fasting day always made me feel like a heartless heel, as I described in my new book on seahorses:
“The only thing I don’t like about this extremely nutritious diet is the obligatory fast day. The problem with fasting is that my Mustangs don’t seem to realize it’s good for them — that it’s absolutely in their own best interests, essential for their long-term health. Whenever I make an appearance on fast day, they insist on parading back and forth in front of the glass in their greeting colors, begging for a handout. Before my butt hits the upholstery, both of them will be dancing at the feeding station, impatiently awaiting their gourmet shrimp dinner. When it doesn’t materialize, they forlornly abandon their post at the lunch counter, and come up to stare at me through the front glass. When I still don’t take the hint, the female paces back and forth at the front, looking her brightest and most conspicuous, as though trying to attract my attention, while the male reverts to his drab everyday attire and dejectedly resumes his futile vigil at the feeding station. If not for their well-rounded cross-sections, one would think they were dying of hunger, making it difficult to resist their puppy-dog antics. Just sitting there ignoring them makes me feel like a first-class heel. Sheesh–talk about your guilt trips…Dang! I hate fast days.” (Giwojna, Jun. 2002)
Lately, however, I’ve found a way out of that dilemma. It’s a fun alternative to fast days that I feel is far easier on the hobbyist and his pampered pets alike. Nowadays, rather than fasting my seahorses, I offer them a meal with a nutritional value that’s virtually nil instead: unenriched, unfed adult brine shrimp. As you can imagine, brine shrimp in this condition have very little fat content and should be considered nutritionally barren for all intents and purposes.
So once a week, instead of depriving my seahorses, I now serve them up a generous portion of unenriched adult brine shrimp. They get the thrill of hunting and eating live food and I get the fun of watching them chase after it. Instead of going hungry, my seahorses get to fill up on empty calories, while I get to avoid a guilty conscience. It’s a win-win situation. Everybody’s happy.
It’s a neat way of “fasting with a full belly,” which I feel is healthy for the seahorses in more ways than one. Not only does it help guard against hepatic lipidosis from a high-fat diet, it also provides a little extra excitement for the seahorses and helps improve their quality of life in captivity.
However, if you want to try this, it’s important to observe a couple of important precautions. Remember, there is always the chance that you can introduce disease into your aquarium along with the live brine shrimp. Live Artemia (brine shrimp) are known disease vectors for a long laundry list of fish pathogens, and should be treated with caution in that regard – especially if obtained from your local fish store (LFS). The aquarist who relies on live foods for his seahorses MUST take special precautions to eliminate this potential danger!
Fortunately, there are a couple of simple measures that can minimize such risks. If you raise your own brine shrimp, remember that decapsulating Artemia cysts, removes all known parasites and pathogens, effectively sterilizing brine shrimp eggs. Large public aquaria routinely go a step further, disinfecting live foods by administering a 10-minute freshwater bath and then rinsing it thoroughly through a 100-micron strainer before offering it to their seahorses. Home hobbyists should do the same (a brine shrimp net will suffice for the strainer). Brine shrimp — the chief offender as a disease vector — tolerate this disinfection process extremely well. Many of the preferred live foods, such as Red Feeder Shrimp from Hawaii (Halocaridina rubra), Post Larval Shrimp (PLS), brine shrimp (Artemia sp.) and live Mysis are now available from High-Health facilities, which greatly minimizes the risk of disease contamination, and seahorse keepers should take full advantage of these safe vendors when purchasing live foods.
So there is an entertaining way us seahorse lovers can avoid the fast-day blues — just be sure to take sensible precautions when you do so!
Pete Giwojna, Ocean Rider Tech Support
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