- This topic has 8 replies, 4 voices, and was last updated 16 years, 6 months ago by jarabas.
May 25, 2007 at 4:34 am #1211jarabasMember
As a new seahorse keeper I am not familiar with the range of normal behaviors for my mustangs. The girl and the boy aer acting very differently. The girl, who I am thinking of calling Chloe in honor of Zoe swims all over the tank. She has a hearty appetite and will dance at the front of the tank when she sees me. She already knows to swim over to her feeding station for her meals. The boy, who I think I will call Harve, is very retiring. He has been hitched to the same plastic coral for the past two days–it\’s a very shady, private spot under some plastic plants and macroalgae, quite close to the intake for the filter. So far, I cannot entice him to the feeding station, which is a natural bowl in one of the rocks.
I\’ve been offering them the larger PE mysis in the am and some smaller Hikari mysis in the pm. Chloe will eat about five of the big mysis and ten of the smaller ones each feeding–she really gobbles them up. Harve watches the mysis dangling at the end of my turkey baster. He won\’t even try to eat it until I pop it into the water and it sinks to the bottom of the tank. He has to watch it for a few minutes. He finally slurps it up after it\’s been lying on the bottom for a while. He only eats about 3-4 large mysis and 4-5 small ones even though he is larger than Chloe.
I just want to check if this seems within the normal pattern of behaviors. The tank had low pH for a day and a half which I know can put stress on my ponies.
JAnMay 25, 2007 at 4:50 am #3630LeslieGuest
Yes that sounds pretty normal. They do have a wide range of behaviors with males typically being less active that the females. Eating behaviors vary as well…. some will actually swim after the food eating it out of the water column and others staring at it for what seems like hours before snicking it up off the substrate.
I had a male once that I did not see eat for 6 months. He stayed hidden in the back of the tank and he was eating "in the closet". He drove me nuts with worry for a long time. He perked up when I moved them to a larger tank with better lighting go figure, not something I would have ever imagined.
LeslieMay 25, 2007 at 6:53 pm #3631jarabasGuest
It’s reassuring to hear from you! Harve is one of the stare at the food for hours before snicking types. He looks a little thin to me compared to his girlfriend, but his belly has been round after the scond feeding each day, so I hope he is getting enough to eat. I am going to add some grammaticus to the tank today for a snack. Hopefully, he will like that.
JanMay 25, 2007 at 8:13 pm #3633Reverend_MaynardGuest
I too have noticed that my females are a little more active and outgoing than the males. Even between the 2 males, there are differences though. I guess they each have their own personalities in that area.May 25, 2007 at 11:27 pm #3634jarabasGuest
This morning when I got up, Harve was hitched in the middle of the culerpa bed, hunting for pods. He stayed there while Chloe went to the feeding station, but when I offered him some mysis from the baster, he snicked it right up. In fact, I think he ate more than Chloe did. I dumped about 20 large grammaticus in the tank and they are both hunted pretty intently for most of the morning. Now it seems to be nap time. Harve is back in his shady retreat.
Thanks for all the reports, Leslie and Reverand.May 26, 2007 at 4:07 am #3636Pete GiwojnaGuest
Leslie on the Reverend are correct — it’s quite normal for males to be a bit more sedentary than the females. Males tend to be real homebodies that will often choose one particular hitching post as their home base and spend much of there time perched right there (think of your Dad hunkered down in his favorite easy chair in the den). Researchers studying seahorses in the field therefore refer to males as "site-specific" because they can be found at the same tiny patch of reef or seagrass day after day, rarely straying from their chosen spot. Mature males are often naturally more shy and retiring than females, which can be quite brazen at times. I suspect this is due to their parental duties — during the breeding season, pair-bonded males are ordinarily ALWAYS pregnant, and they can’t risk exposing their precious cargo to any more risk than absolutely necessary.) The unfettered females tend to be far more footloose and fancy free, and in the wild they typically roam over a home territory of up to 100 square meters. So I wouldn’t worry if your male only tends to wander around the tank on occasion, whereas your female is more active and explores more.
The individual personalities of seahorses naturally extend to their feeding habits as well. Some are aggressive feeders that will boldly snatch food from your fingers, while some are 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 and stare it down forever before they accept or reject it. Some eat like horses and some eat like birds.
Your male seems to be a more deliberate feeder that your female, but it sounds like you are doing a good job of target feeding him and making sure that he is well fed at the end of the day, and I’m sure he’ll begin showing up at the feeding station to get his fair share before long.
Best of luck with your seahorse tank, Jan! You’re doing just great for a first-time seahorse keeper.
Pete GiwojnaMay 26, 2007 at 8:14 am #3637jarabasGuest
Thanks Pete. I hope I am doing a good job.
Now, I have a new question–how can you tell if a male is in early pregnancy? How log is a pregnancy. I’m asking because Harve’s puoch sem just a little larger than when he first got here–it looks like he has a very small pea n there.
JanMay 26, 2007 at 11:10 pm #3639Pete GiwojnaGuest
There are some characteristic changes in the brood pouch and the behavior of the male that can tip off the alert aquarist to an impending pregnancy. As their pregnancy progresses, gravid males are less mobile and become real home bodies, since they cannot expose their developing brood to any unnecessary risks. They tend to hole up and may even go into hiding; they may go off to feed and miss a meal or two or fail to show up at the feeding station now and then.
Here are some other indications to look for that indicate mating has occurred and that the pregnancy is progressing normally:
Indications of Pregnancy.
If you witness the copulatory rise and exchange of eggs there is no doubt that mating has occurred and, knowing the date of conception, you can confidently begin the countdown toward the maternal male’s delivery date. Knowing approximately how long the gestation period will be allows plenty of time to prepare nursery tanks, set up a battery of brine shrimp hatcheries, and culture rotifers and ‘pods for the insatiable fry.
But what if you missed the big moment? How do you proceed if you missed the actual mating and transfer of eggs, and you’re not sure if you will soon be dealing with a gravid male and hordes of hungry newborns?
There are no aquatic obstetricians, underwater ultrasounds, blood tests or over-the-counter pregnancy tests to perform, and I shudder to think how one might go about collecting a urine specimen to dip! No worries. Fortunately, there are subtle signs and suggestions that indicate a pregnancy is underway. There are number of changes in the parents’ appearance and behavior to look for. For instance, the male and female will still continue to flirt, but the nature a their displays will change from full-blown courtship to regular greeting rituals.
After mating, in subsequent days the couple will continue to change colors and brighten up when in close proximity and dance together in an abbreviated version of courtship known as the Morning Greeting or Daily Greeting. The pair exhibits the same basic behaviors and maneuvers as when they were courting with one big difference — the male never "pumps" and the female does not "point."
In addition, as the pregnancy progresses, the male’s pouch darkens due to the proliferation of epithelial and connective tissue and the placenta-like changes taking place in the wall of the marsupium, and the pouch gradually swells and expands according to the number of young developing within. The latter is not always a reliable indicator, however. Inexperienced couples often spill eggs during the exchange and a male’s first few broods are often inordinately small. The brood pouch of a male that is carrying only a few fetal fry is hardly any larger than normal, and hobbyists have often been surprised by unexpected births under such circumstances.
On the other hand, an experienced male carrying a large brood can be easily distinguished by his obviously expanding pouch. These mature breeders may carry broods numbering over 1600 fetal fry, depending of course on the species. A stallion incubating hundreds of fry will have an enormously distended pouch by the time his due date approaches.
Gravid males often become increasingly reclusive and secretive as their pregnancy advances. When the onset of labor and birth is imminent, the male will begin to shows signs of distress and his respiration rate will increase to 70-80 beats per minute. The fully developed young become very active and shake loose into the lumen of the pouch shortly before delivery. In some cases, the writhing of the young can be detected through the stretched membrane of the pouch, which causes the male considerable discomfort. He may become restless and agitated as a result, swimming slowly to and fro and pacing back and forth like, well — an expectant father. The fry are usually born in the early morning hours between midnight and dawn, arriving all at once or in multiple batches 24 hours apart.
So if you happen to miss the exchange of eggs, watch closely for the following indications that mating has occurred:
(1) A change in the physical appearance of the parents. The gravid male’s pouch will change from a light opaque color to a dark brown due to the elaboration of the internal structures and thickening of the walls of the pouch. It will enlarge steadily over the next few weeks as the young grow and develop, and the aperture will change from fully dilated to a tightly closed vertical slit. The female’s trunk will change from rotund, full with ripe eggs, to noticeably shrunken and pinched in immediately after the exchange of eggs.
(2) A change in the seahorses’ courtship displays. The pair will continue to flirt and dance and brighten in coloration as part of their Daily Greetings, but the male will no longer pump (no pouch displays) and neither the female nor the male will point. The pair will make no more copulatory rises.
(3) A change in the behavior of the male. He may become increasingly shy and reclusive. Gravid males may go off their feed as the delivery date approaches, missing meals or even going into hiding. When birth is imminent, he will become agitated and distressed and his respiration will increase markedly.
When you notice these telltale signs of pregnancy, it’s time to kick your brine shrimp hatchery into high gear and start some microalgae and rotifer cultures brewing.
At this point, Jan, it’s difficult to say whether the pea-sized swelling you noticed in the brood pouch is an early indication of bigger things to come or if it’s just a sign that your male is maturing or preparing his pouch for courtship displays.
One rule of thumb the pros sometimes rely on in such situations is that if the male’s pouch remains swollen and distended for more than three consecutive days, then he is likely pregnant and not merely performing pouch displays.
Good luck with your new seahorses, Jan! Here’s hoping they soon provide you with a brood of healthy babies.
Pete GiwojnaMay 27, 2007 at 3:58 am #3640jarabasGuest
You are unfailingly helpful! I suspect that "pea" was just a full stomache, because it was gone this morning, but reappeared after breakfast. I have to learn my seahorse anatomy a little better. It will be fun to watch for courship, however. I have seen Harve do some rapid color changes at Chloe–almost a pulse– of lighter, brighter orange and then back to his basic brown. His pouch is dark but it was like that when he got here, I think. She dances quite a lot in front of him–and me too. We will wait and see!
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