Seahorse Club
Aquarium & Livestock

Feed Ezy Frozen Mysis

Seahorse Club
Aquarium & Livestock

Feed Ezy Frozen Mysis

Seahorse Club
Aquarium & Livestock

Feed Ezy Frozen Mysis

Seahorse Club
Aquarium & Livestock

Feed Ezy Frozen Mysis

Seahorse Club
Aquarium & Livestock

Feed Ezy Frozen Mysis

Seahorse Club
Aquarium & Livestock

Feed Ezy Frozen Mysis

Live feeder shrimp recommendation

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  • #75300
    aguilarpat7
    Participant

    Hello, other that the red Hawaiin shrimp, can you recommend/suggest any other feeder shrimp? Looking for some that are readily available at any most LFS, such as pinto or ghost shrimps?
    I am feeding PE Mysis with Vibrance on a regular basis as recommended, so this would just be for a treat every once in a while.

    #75312
    Pete Giwojna
    Moderator

    Dear Pat:

    There are indeed quite a number of other live foods which you can offer your seahorses from time to time in order to provide them with the more varied diet, and which you can collect yourself or culture at home so that they do not have to be purchased. Here’s an excerpt from an article I wrote that discusses that very topic, including more information about the live Mysis, ghost shrimp, glass shrimp, and Gammarus amphipods. The material also explains how these live foods can be collected and/or cultured, where feasible:

    [Open quote]
    LIVE FOODS

    Live foods are not nearly as important for the 21st-Century seahorse keeper as they were in bygone days when wild specimens were the only game in town. Nowadays they are primarily useful for easing the adjustment of new arrivals after acclimating them to the aquarium, providing monthly treats for our pampered pets, for introducing a little variety into their staple diet of frozen Mysis, and perhaps for populating refugia.

    They can also be invaluable for those rare occasions when seahorses are ailing. Many medications have the unfortunate side effect of suppressing appetite, so when treating sickly seahorses, it’s a good idea to tempt them with choice live foods in order to keep them eating and help build up their strength while recuperating.

    In addition, a number of important drugs are only effective in saltwater if administered orally, and gut-loading live shrimp with these meds is a great way to get seahorses to ingest them. Gut-loading live food with antibiotics and then feeding the medicated shrimp to your seahorses can also be a useful way to treat them in your main tank without impairing your biofiltration or subjecting the patients to the added stress of isolation. Separating an ailing seahorse from its mate and herdmates and transferring it to a strange new environment for treatment can be a traumatic experience, especially since the Spartan surroundings in the sterile environment of a sparsely furnished hospital tank can leave seahorses feeling vulnerable and exposed.

    Most hobbyists are quite content to feed captive-bred seahorses their standard diet of enriched frozen mysids. It’s a highly nutritious diet that satisfies their long-term needs, the seahorses are accustomed to eating it, and the convenience of such a feeding regimen is unsurpassed. But if convenience is not your overriding concern, feel free to consider live foods for your seahorses. Providing you can afford the added expense, and you can spare the time and effort to culture live foods and/or collect them from the seashore, then there’s really no compelling reason not to use them.

    And there are few advantages to offering your seahorse a diet of live foods. It can be a wonderfully varied diet since there are so many different live foods are available to aquarists nowadays: live Mysis shrimp, Gammarus amphipods, red feeder shrimp (Halocaridina rubra), Caprellids, Ghost shrimp and Grass shrimp, post-larval shrimp (PLS), various copepods, and so on. Variety is the spice of life, and there’s no denying that seahorses naturally prefer to hunt living prey rather than foraging for nonliving prey.

    On rare occasions, even farm-raised seahorses sometimes lose interest in a steady diet of frozen fare over time and begin to eat it half-heartedly. This is quite uncommon with captive-bred seahorses that eat frozen Mysis relicta, which is loaded with natural odor attractants that stimulate the seahorse’s feeding instincts, but it still happens from time to time, especially when genuine Mysis relicta is not available.

    Live foods are the answer to this problem. When sea horses tire of the same old, boring frozen food and refuse to eat their “veggies,” living prey is what they crave: Mysids, ghost shrimp, Gammarus or adult Artemia — the type of food isn’t really as important as the fact that it’s alive and kicking (Giwojna, Nov. 1996). Nothing stimulates a sea horse’s feeding instincts like the frantic movements and evasive maneuvers of real, live, “catch-me-if-you-can” prey items (Giwojna, Nov. 1996). Live foods are guaranteed to perk up an ailing appetite and excite the interest of the most jaded “galloping gourmets.” When it comes to a hunger strike, living prey is the only sure cure for the “Bird’s Eye blues.” (Giwojna, Nov. 1996)

    One of the reasons I prefer to liven up my seahorses’ monotonous existence by providing them with unenriched adult Artemia on fast days, is that I find it flat out fascinating to watch them hunting live prey. Whenever I see a hungry seahorse patiently stalking its prey, I am always reminded of a Japanese sniper in a WWII John Wayne movie (Giwojna, Oct. 1996). With a lush growth of leaves and foliage draped over his helmet and extra shrubbery strapped to his back, the cunning jungle fighter literally melts into the shadowy undergrowth. From his strategically selected vantage point, the sharp-eyed sentry waits for his unsuspecting victims to come to him, picking off hapless GIs one by one as they pass his secret hideout (Giwojna, Oct. 1996).

    That’s a pretty fair description of a hungry Hippocampine on the lookout for its supper. Masters of camouflage, seahorses are the snipers of the grassblade jungle into which they blend so well, and their preferred hunting technique is the ambush (Giwojna, Oct. 1996). Concealed absolutely motionless amidst a clump of Caulerpa or a patch of gorgonians, only a flicker of its busy, watchful eyes ever betrays its presence. Patiently lying in wait for its next meal, one of its independent eyes scans upward while the other scrolls downward so as not to miss any potential prey passing nearby (Giwojna, Oct. 1996).

    When some unwary victim does blunder within range of one of these seagrass snipers, the seahorse tracks it intently, stalking its prey in ultra-slow motion (Giwojna, Oct. 1996). With its tail securely anchored in place, it stretches its body in the direction of its chosen quarry ever so s-l-o-w-l-y, making itself seem like a harmless frond of algae or a natural extension of the coral (Giwojna, Oct. 1996). But when this painstaking pursuit finally brings it within striking distance, it’s all over in a hurry! Drawing a bead on its ”dinner” exactly as if its snout were the barrel of a high-powered rifle, the seahorse gives a sudden jerk of its head, accompanied by a distinctly audible ”click,” and its hapless victim disappears as if by magic, sucked up faster than the eye can follow (Giwojna, Oct. 1996).

    Anyone who has ever collected fishes with a slurp gun knows exactly how a feeding seahorse accomplishes this vanishing act. The toothless jaws at the end of its snout operate with a rapid springlike action, and the spasmodic jerk of the seahorse’s head as it snatches its prey represents the cocking and firing of this muscular “spring-loaded” mechanism (Giwojna, Oct. 1996). Thus, when a seahorse points the barrel of its snout at its intended victim, lining up the target in its sights, and pulls the trigger, well-developed muscles depress the hyoid bone, enlarging its mouth (buccal) cavity and expanding its gills (opercular cavities) sharply, creating a strong inrush like an expanding bellows, and the powerful suction pulls in its prey irresistibly along with a little water. The seahorse’s mousetrap jaws spring open and snap shut again, and it literally inhales its victim in the blink of the eye (Giwojna, Oct. 1996). One moment the prey is there, and the next it’s gone. (For more detailed information regarding the seahorses’ remarkable feeding mechanism, including the exact bones and muscles involved in the operation of the buccal and opercular suction pumps, refer to the discussion of “weak snick” in the disease chapter.)

    Feeding seahorses are entertaining to watch, and the attentive aquarist can learn a lot about his pets from watching them eat. For instance, if they’re really hungry, seahorses will take off in hot pursuit when some mouth-watering morsel wanders by just beyond reach (Giwojna, Oct. 1996). No longer content to wait for their supper to come to them, they’ll launch themselves on a ”high-speed” chase at a blistering pace that’s just about capable of overtaking a lumbering brine shrimp or weary water flea (Giwojna, Oct. 1996). Once they’ve closed to within about one-quarter inch of their target — often prodded along by their tails to gain a final burst of added propulsion — that distinctive ”snick!” will announce the sudden demise of their quarry (Giwojna, Oct. 1996).

    And when no prey is evident, seahorses will sometimes set off on hunting expeditions in a effort to scare up a meal on their own (Giwojna, Oct. 1996). A seahorse on safari will patrol the perimeter of its aquarium, carefully searching every nook and cranny as it skims along just above the bottom (Giwojna, Oct. 1996). (This behavior is often displayed when seahorses are hunting Gammarus, since the side-swimmers hug the bottom and seek shelter under every scrap of cover they can find. These amphipods are a favorite food of seahorses, which will often resort to amazing acrobatics in an attempt to winnow them out of their hiding places.) Suffice it to say, when you see your seahorses conducting these search-and-destroy missions, it’s time to feed them (Giwojna, Oct. 1996)!

    For best results, live foods should be fortified before the seahorses are fed, and there is one final precaution the hobbyist can take during the enrichment process. Soaking live foods in DC-DHA SELCO, which is said to have antimicrobial properties, can help disinfect the food as well as enriching it (Bull and Mitchell 2002).

    Therefore, although they play a much-diminished role when keeping captive-bred seahorses, it is still important for the aquarist to understand the benefits and limitations various live foods have to offer. Listed in order of their desirability from most useful to least helpful, the following live foods still deserve a prominent place in the seahorse keeper’s larder of tempting taste treats.

    MYSIDS (Opossum Shrimp)

    Pros (Giwojna, Oct. 1996):
    · Excellent food value.
    · A favorite natural food that all large seahorses attack greedily.
    · Thrives in saltwater: feed and forget — will survive until eaten.
    · Can be easily collected at times.
    · Cultured Mysis are available.

    Cons:
    · Challenging to culture for the home hobbyist.
    · Inland hobbyists have no opportunity to collect them.

    Collecting Tips:

    Mysis shrimp follow a daily rhythm in their movements, regularly forming dense shoals over sandy bottoms or amidst seaweeds10, and they can sometimes be collected in vast numbers while shoaling by seining or dragging a large aquarium net through mats of vegetation (Giwojna, Oct. 1996). Look for a shallow, sandy, weedy area at low tide during the day, and you can often see them swimming in the weeds or settling on the sand. If there is a significant current, they will congregate in slack water areas on the down-current side of objects. Once you have spotted a likely location, return at dusk when they are more active and net them as described above (Bentley, 2002).

    A large net with very fine mesh works best for collecting mysids. I suggest a net with a mouth at least a foot square and mesh less than 1 mm square (Bentley, 2002).

    Likewise, mysids are sometimes concentrated in large numbers in tidal pools on mudflats and grassflats by the falling tide. The stranded Mysis can easily be netted from these pools at low tide.

    Culture Instructions (Bentley, 2002):

    Specific gravity: 1.016 for estuarine species;
    pH: 7.8-8.3 (reproduction stops if the pH falls lower than 7.4);
    Photoperiod: 14 hours of daylight provided by two Gro-lux fluorescent tubes.
    Temperature: 77 degrees F (25 degrees C)

    The following guidelines are based on Maureen Bentley’s methods for culturing Mysis (Bentley, 2002). The main culture tank should be large, well aerated, and heavily filtered. I suggest undergravel filtration in conjunction with external biological filters. Mysids are extremely sensitive to water quality, and a good protein skimmer is vital for this reason (Bentley, 2002). Natural seawater is much preferable to artificial, and if you are using a synthetic mix, it’s best to allow the artificial saltwater to age at least one month before use (Bentley, 2002).

    When stocking the main tank, introduce the shrimp gradually until you’ve reached a density of about 20-40 adults per gallon (Bentley, 2002). Overcrowding leads to fighting and dead broodstock. If you notice lots of mysids jumping out of the water, the tank is very likely overstocked (Bentley, 2002).

    Small quantities of mysids can be harvested daily using a small glass tank equipped with an air-operated undergravel filter. Place 15 to 20 large gravid females in the small tank, returning them to the main tank as soon as they have released their young (Bentley, 2002). (Mysis are cannibalistic and the young must be separated from the adults.) The young can then be raised in the small tank for a short period.

    Feed them newly hatched Artemia nauplii or rotifers twice daily until they are a few days old (Bentley, 2002). After a few days, begin supplementing their feedings with marine flake food on occasion, especially brine shrimp flake food (Bentley, 2002).

    A feeding frenzy will follow the introduction of live food, which can help you determine the right amount to feed. When fed the proper amount, this frenzy should last around 15 minutes, during which all the live food should be eaten (Bentley, 2002). You will know you have fed enough when the normally transparent mysids have orange stomachs after feeding on the baby brine shrimp (Bentley, 2002). If the adults — especially the males – start eating numbers of the younger Mysis, that’s a sure sign of underfeeding (Bentley, 2002).

    Comments:

    Mysidacea, or Opossum Shrimps, are found worldwide. They are small shrimplike crustaceans with a heavy carapace covering their thorax. They are commonly called opossum shrimp because the females carrying their developing young in a bulging pouch or marsupium formed by thoracic plates at the base of their legs (Giwojna, Oct. 1996). The average life span is about 12 months and adult mysids seldom exceed 1 inch in length. At least 460 Mysis species are found around the world (Bentley, 2002), and wherever opossum shrimp occur, they form a large part of the indigenous seahorses’ natural diet. They are snapped up greedily by even the most finicky syngnathids, including the fabulous but delicate Seadragons (Phycodorus and Phyllopteryx sp.). In fact, large seahorses are so fond of these crustaceans that they scarf up frozen Mysids with relish. This is superb food that should form the basis of your seahorses’ diet if you can possibly obtain it–live, fresh, or frozen (Giwojna, Oct. 1996).

    POST LARVAE SHRIMP (PLS): Ecuadorian White Shrimp (Penaeus vannamei, a.k.a. Litopenaeus vannamei)

    Pros:
    · Feed-and-forget — thrive until eaten in full-strength saltwater.
    · High Health — guaranteed disease-free feeder shrimp for our ponies!
    · Natural, highly nutritious food seahorses are accustomed to eating in the wild.
    · Easy to feed and maintain.
    · Long lasting — remain in the bite-sized larval stage for months.

    Cons:
    · Only available if purchased in huge quantities.
    · PLS are notorious cannibals– will fatten up on each other if not well fed.

    Collection Tips:
    None.

    Culture Instructions:
    Post Larvae Shrimp are not suitable for batch cultures and self-sustaining cultures are not possible, but home hobbyists can easily maintain them. A 10 to 15-gallon tank is sufficient for up to 1,000 larval shrimp (Cheryl Colburn, pers. com.). The culture tank can be either an aquarium or any other inert container of sufficient volume. For example, rubbermaid containers work well as long as they are equipped with adequate filtration.

    Feeding PLS is a breeze. They will eat just about anything. They’ll take flake food and frozen foods and are especially fond of frozen Mysis relicta, which makes a superb staple diet for them (Cheryl Colburn, pers. com.). Whatever you feed them as their everyday diet, however, be sure to fortify the PLS with a good enrichment product. Enriching PLS with formulas that are rich in HUFA and long-chain fatty acids will assure that the larvae have maximum nutritional value when they are fed to your seahorses (Cheryl Colburn, pers. com.).

    PLS will be 4-7 mm in length when you receive them, and at standard aquarium temps of 24 C (74-75 F) they will remain small enough to be eaten by large seahorses for at least 1-2 months (Cheryl Colburn, pers. com.). PLS are thus useful as fry food when they first arrive and are suitable for feeding small ponies for the next 3-4 weeks at 74 F.

    Their growth rate is dependent on water temperature. If you can chill their tank, and maintain 60-70 F, they will grow at an extremely slow rate and remain in the larval stage for several months.

    Cheryl Colburn is one hobbyist who has worked extensively with PLS and she reports they are almost indestructible in the aquarium. If fact, she has never lost one of her larvae for any other reason than predation by another PLS.

    Comments:
    If you can obtain them, PLS are the ideal live food for seahorses. They are the larvae of Ecuadorian White Shrimp (Penaeus vannamei), which are cultured in enormous numbers on shrimp farms for human consumption (Cheryl Colburn, pers. com.). Since they are destined to become people food, White Shrimp are raised at High-Health aquaculture facilities and are certified to free of specific pathogens and parasites. You couldn’t ask for a healthier, more nutritious food for your seahorses and all Hippocampines devour them greedily. They can be raised in hobby tanks to provide perfect fodder for any seahorses from fry to young ponies to mature adults, so they are suitable for every aquarist’s needs. Any of the larval shrimp that are able to hide out and evade capture long enough to mature, will eventually breed and provide nutritious nauplii for all your reef inhabitants (Cheryl Colburn, pers. com.).

    The only problem is that PLS farmers deal in volume and a shipment of 40,000 larvae is their minimum order (Cheryl Colburn, pers. com.). They are accustomed to dealing with aquaculture facilities that order in the millions. So individual hobbyists are out of luck, but collectively, hobbyists have a perfect opportunity to pool their resources together and provide their seahorses with an unsurpassed live food source quite inexpensively (Cheryl Colburn, pers. com.). Split an order for 40,000 PLS between 40 different hobbyists, and each participant can provide his ponies with the perfect natural food very affordably. This is a great project for marine aquarium societies and the seahorse hobbyist community, in general. Popular groups such as the Ocean Rider Club, Ultimate Seahorse, <http://www.seahorse.org/&gt; and <http://www.syngnathid.org/&gt; could make the necessary arrangements easily and efficiently and provide a wonderful service for members who are interested, as advocated by Cheryl Colburn.

    GHOST SHRIMP or GLASS SHRIMP

    Pros (Giwojna, Oct. 1996):
    · A highly nutritious, natural food for large seahorses.
    · Available from pet shops or aquarium stores as well as through the mail.
    · Very easy to gut-load and enrich with various supplements
    · Good tolerance for saltwater: brackish ghosts last surprisingly long, and even freshwater ghost shrimp survive long enough to be a very useful food.

    Cons (Giwojna, Oct. 1996):
    · Suitable only for the largest specimens.
    · Often too expensive to use more than occasionally.

    Collecting Tips:
    Ghost Shrimp are seasonally abundant along the Gulf Coast of the US in salt marshes, rivers that empty into the sea, tidal creeks and brackish bays (Ricketts, Robert T. 2003). Brackish Ghosts can be collected easily at low tide by vigorously shaking clumps of floating seaweed into a bucket of seawater, or by dragging a small seine or large aquarium net through tidal creeks or the grass flats just offshore (Giwojna, Oct. 1996). Similar techniques will often produce freshwater Ghost Shrimp from fresh streams or waterways, including grassy canals and ditches (Giwojna, Oct. 1996). Harvest only specimens that are small enough for your seahorses to swallow whole.

    Aquarium specimens are available year round. Fish stores carry Ghost Shrimp both as feeders and as oddball pets for freshwater hobbyists (Giwojna, Oct. 1996).

    Culture Instructions:
    Ghosts do not thrive in soft water, so for best results keep them in slightly hard to alkaline water (Ricketts, Robert T. 2003). Like all crustaceans, these see-through shrimp shed their exoskeletons in order to grow. They may have difficulty molting and become stuck halfway through the process of extricating themselves from their old exoskeletons, particularly in soft water that is deficient in calcium (Ricketts, Robert T. 2003). For this reason, I recommend gradually converting your holding tank for Ghost shrimp to brackish conditions, using a high-quality marine salt mix to slowly raise the salinity (Ricketts, Robert T. 2003).

    There are at least two distinct types of Ghost Shrimp (very likely more), which are very difficult to distinguish by casual examination (Ricketts, Robert T. 2003). One category of Ghost appears to be a true freshwater species. The freshwater Ghosts do not tolerate full-strength saltwater for any length of time but withstand brackish conditions without difficulty (Ricketts, Robert T. 2003). The other category of Ghost Shrimp is a brackish species that can be converted to full-strength saltwater, but which also tolerates freshwater for extended periods (Ricketts, Robert T. 2003).

    One possible way to determine which type of Ghost Shrimp you have is to examine females that are “in berry” (carrying eggs attached to their swimmerets). The saltwater or brackish Ghosts carry huge numbers of extremely tiny eggs (Ricketts, Robert T. 2003). So small are these that individual eggs cannot be seen with the naked eye. The eggs of freshwater Ghosts are said to be much bigger so that separate eggs are visible (Ricketts, Robert T. 2003).

    The freshwater Ghosts breed more readily in the aquarium, and the larval shrimp are somewhat easier to raise (Ricketts, Robert T. 2003), but home culture of Ghost Shrimp is not really practical regardless of which variety you obtain.

    Feed Ghosts small amounts of dry food once daily. The fine, leftover particles that accumulate on the bottoms of nearly empty flake food containers are great for feeding Ghosts, or crumble fresh flakes between your fingers to create particles of that same consistency (Ricketts, Robert T. 2003). Soak these fine flakes in a good enrichment formula and then feed them to the shrimp about 30 minutes before feeding the Ghosts to your seahorses (Ricketts, Robert T. 2003). This will gut-load the shrimp and fortify them for maximum nutritional value. (You will actually be able to see the enriched flakes accumulate in the hindgut through the shrimp’s transparent body.)

    A 10-15 tank will hold quantities of ghost shrimp, and smaller numbers will do fine in a 5-gallon bucket equipped with an airstone or air-driven foam filter (Ricketts, Robert T. 2003). Sponge filters will suffice; change water once a week to maintain water quality (Ricketts, Robert T. 2003).

    Comments:
    These shrimp are all but transparent, which explains why they are universally called ghost shrimp or glass shrimp. Their exoskeletons are perfectly clear, the underlying muscles nearly transparent, thus clearly revealing their internal organs and GI tract (Ricketts, Robert T. 2003). A loss of transparency is a sign of severe stress and poor health; upon death, Ghosts typically turn an opaque white like their namesakes (Ricketts, Robert T. 2003). Ghost shrimp are acrobatic swimmers, which propel themselves backward with amazing speed by flexing their tails beneath them.

    Fully-grown Ghosts can reach two inches in length, but the best feeder shrimp for the greater seahorses are 1/10 to 1/4 that size, so select your specimens accordingly (Ricketts, Robert T. 2003). Hobbyists estimate that 100 eating-size Ghost shrimp is roughly a one-week supply for two large seahorses. With the high unit cost per shrimp, it’s easy to see than keeping your herd on a staple diet of store-bought ghosts is a very expensive proposition!

    GAMMARUS AMPHIPODS

    Pros (Giwojna, Oct. 1996):
    · Highly nutritious, hard-bodied crustaceans.
    · Favorite food of many larger seahorse species.
    · Good tolerance for saltwater (marine Gammarus survive indefinitely and even freshwater Gammarus will last until eaten if your sea horses are fond of them).
    · Live Gammarus are increasingly available as fish food.
    · Starter cultures are widely available through the mail.

    Cons (Giwojna, Oct. 1996):
    · Slow reproductive rate makes it difficult to raise them in large quantities.
    · Slight risk of introducing disease with Gammarus collected in the wild.

    Collecting Tips:
    Marine Gammarids–Gammarus locusta, a marine amphipod, can often be found in large numbers at the seashore by overturning rocks and coral rubble at low tide (Giwojna, Oct. 1996). Also know as scuds or beach-hoppers, scads of the land-dwelling form of these amphipods (Talitrus saltator) can often easily be collected from the mats of seaweed washed up on shore at the tide line. Simply gather up clumps of the freshly deposited seaweed and shake it vigorously over your collecting bucket to dislodge the amphipods.

    Freshwater Gammarids–Gammarus fasciatus can be collected from vegetation and leaf litter on the bottoms of ponds and slow-moving streams (Giwojna, Oct. 1996).

    Culture Instructions:
    Marine Gammarus will maintain a self-sustaining colony if established in a standard saltwater aquarium with coral gravel and rubble and left undisturbed while their population grows (Giwojna, Oct. 1996). Encourage a lush growth of green algae and restock periodically.

    Under the right conditions, these small, shrimplike crustaceans mate and reproduce readily in captivity. Provide them with a lush green mat of Ulva macroalgae as natural habitat, and they will soon take up residence and establish a breeding colony of amphipods (Indo-Pacific Sea Farms, 2003). Provide them with low light levels, good aeration, and a pinch of flake food twice a week and you’ll soon have a growing population of Gammarus to dole out to your seahorses (Indo-Pacific Sea Farms, 2003).

    Freshwater Gammarus can be cultured in a plastic wading pool or similar spacious receptacle equipped with an airstone (Giwojna, Oct. 1996). Feed sparingly with chopped raw spinach, Spirulina, or a pinch of dry fish food. Include plenty of algae-covered rocks and driftwood for shelter, and position where strong direct sunlight will produce heavy algal growth (Giwojna, Oct. 1996).

    Comments:
    To feed these 1/4″-5/16″ crustaceans to your fish, siphon water from around the rocks, shells, and gravel in the culture tank and strain it through a net to separate the Gammarus from the debris (Giwojna, Oct. 1996). Commonly known as side-swimmers, these hard-shelled amphipods have a herky-jerky, sidestroke swimming style that most large sea horses find irresistible (Giwojna, Oct. 1996). Their seemingly frantic movements and tendency to dart out from hiding suddenly seldom fail to trigger a sea horse’s feeding response, and this is one food hungry Hippocampines will actively pursue and search out. Some sea horses will even accept freshly killed or dead Gammarus (Giwojna, Oct. 1996). An ideal food: substantial enough to be your sea horses’ staple diet, if you can obtain it in sufficient quantity!

    When mating, the male amphipod carries the smaller female grasped between its legs, a breeding method known as amplexus (Biology of Amphipods, 1996). Thus, when you see pairs swimming together while locked in amplexus, it’s a sure sign your amphipod colony is growing. The female subsequently releases the fertilized eggs into a ventral brood chamber where the unattached eggs are held by extra branches of her walking legs and incubated during development (Biology of Amphipods, 1996).

    Unlike crab and shrimp larvae, baby amphipods are not released as zoea that develop into adults after several stages of metamorphosis (Biology of Amphipods, 1996). Instead, the young look like miniature versions of their parents when released, and some species even show parental care of their young after they leave the brood chamber (Biology of Amphipods, 1996).

    Different types of amphipods move differently, depending on the arrangement of their legs. Most species can walk upright, scuttling along by using most of their thoracic legs, but this is a slow, rather cumbersome method of locomotion (Biology of Amphipods, 1996). Practicing their sidestroke and swimming along using three pairs of pleopods is much faster (Biology of Amphipods, 1996). But the true specialty of amphipods is the tail-flip, a rapid escape response where the abdomen flicks the animal away after the uropods are dug into the substrate (Biology of Amphipods, 1996). Terrestrial amphipods (scuds, sand fleas, beach hoppers, etc.) are especially adept at this startling maneuver. It is this variety of frantic movements and escape maneuvers that triggers the seahorse’s feeding response and makes amphipods so irresistible to Hippocampus. Seahorses love to hunt them!

    As we’ll see below, Caprellids cannot use any of the amphipod’s usual methods of locomotion. They are restricted to slow-motion somersaults and painstakingly stepping along like an inchworm.

    CAPRELLID AMPHIPODS (Caprella acutifrons)

    Pros:
    · Relished by all the greater seahorses.
    · Excellent nutritional value.
    · Feed-and-forget: survive indefinitely in saltwater until eaten.

    Cons:
    · Difficult to obtain.
    · Preferred habitat is branching, fernlike hydroid colonies.
    · Cannot be cultured in quantities.

    Collection Tips:
    Large numbers of Caprellid skeleton shrimp colonize fouling growths and organisms such as sponges, tunicates, and especially large colonial hydroids such as Obelia (Rudloe, 1971). At some times of year, these sessile organisms will be alive with swarms of skeleton shrimp. The best way to collect them is thus to look for such fouling growths on man-made objects (docks, wharves, jetties, breakwaters, buoys, etc.) and harvest the sessile animals complete with all the Caprellids inhabiting them (Rudloe, 1977). (The skeleton shrimp attach themselves tightly to such growths with grasping hooks and they will cling tightly to the hydroid colony and come along for the ride when you carefully place it in your collecting bucket.)

    Culture Instructions:
    They cannot really be cultured in any numbers, but you might try placing a heavily colonized clump of hydroids or two in a refugium and hope for the best.

    Comments:
    Skeleton shrimp are amphipods like Gammarus, but the Caprellids are very different in habits and appearance from Gammarids (The Caprellid, 2004). Whereas Gammarus are flat-bodied and seek shelter beneath vegetation and coral rubble, Caprella amphipods are thin and wiry (i.e., skeletal) and display themselves openly (The Caprellid, 2004). They have a long, slender thorax and almost no abdomen (The Caprellid, 2004). The spindly brown skeleton shrimp (Caprella acutifrons) are in constant slow motion, bending, stretching, somersaulting, and flexing languidly as they forage throughout the large hydroid colony they inhabit, gleaning diatoms from the stems and polyps and snatching up zooplankton (Rudloe, 1971). Thanks to their transparent bodies one can easily see the food particles streaming down their gut (The Caprellid, 2004). They owe their agility and acrobatic antics to the incredible flexibility of their slender, wire-like bodies and the fact that they have terminal hooks at their tail end and large grasping claws (gnathopods) like a praying mantis at the other end (Rudloe, 1971). Like a mantis, they often assume a prayerful attitude, slowly and reverently bobbing, then bowing their heads piously while clasping their “hands” together at their chests (Rudloe, 1971). They have two pairs of antennae and can turn their heads from side to side. Solemnly, they sway side to side, nodding and bowing down with great dignity.

    Periodically they will interrupt their penitent meditation to begin actively foraging, and then they move altogether differently, with a unique method of locomotion that seems totally out of place in such clumsy looking creatures. Displaying surprising agility, they bend forward into a loop in order to get a good grip with their front claws. Then they swing their entire body over their heads, tail first, until their terminal hooks can grab a new hold, allowing them to release their grip with their claws and repeat the entire procedure (Rudloe, 1971). They are accomplished acrobats, advancing themselves end-over-end in a series of cartwheels and somersaults in this unorthodox manner. With the nimbleness and flexibility of a contortionist, skeleton shrimp can actually swing from limb to limb in this fashion (Rudloe, 1971), and it’s a comical sight to see them moving through the stems and branches and polyps of a bushy hydroid like a troop of drunken spider monkeys!

    Thousands upon thousands of these tiny shrimp many inhabit a large clump of hydroids, and at first glance the entire hydroid colony appears to be writhing and crawling and pulsing with an eerie, unnatural life of its own (Rudloe, 1977). It is the tantalizing movement of these multitudes that apparently makes skeleton shrimp so irresistible to many fishes, and Jack Rudloe has often described how tossing a hydroid colony swarming with Caprellids into a seahorse tank will trigger a feeding frenzy worthy of a school of bloodthirsty sharks:

    “Fish love to eat caprellid amphipods. Often we would tear off a clump of hydroids, toss it in the aquarium, and see even the most finicky reluctant feeders go wild and gobble up the tiny crustaceans as fast as they could pick them out of the hydroids. Sea horses especially love to eat them” ((Rudloe 1977, p100).

    GRASS SHRIMP/RIVER SHRIMP

    Pros (Giwojna, Oct. 1996):
    · A highly nutritious, natural food for large seahorses.
    · Available from bait shops or aquarium stores in some areas.
    · Can be collected locally by many aquarists.
    · Good tolerance for saltwater: marine grass shrimp are a “feed-and-forget” food and freshwater grass and river shrimp last surprisingly long as well.

    Cons (Giwojna, Oct. 1996):
    · Suitable only for the largest specimens.
    · Cannot be cultured in home aquaria.
    · Marine grass shrimp are unavailable to inland aquarists.

    Collecting Tips:
    Grass shrimp can be collected easily at low tide by vigorously shaking clumps of floating seaweed into a bucket of seawater, or by dragging a small seine or large aquarium net through tidal creeks or the grass flats just offshore (Giwojna, Oct. 1996). Similar techniques will often produce freshwater grass shrimp and river shrimp from freshwater streams or waterways (Giwojna, Oct. 1996). Remember, keep only shrimp that are small enough for your seahorses to swallow whole.

    Comments:
    “Grass shrimp” is an all-purpose term loosely applied to several species of small marine shrimp as well as the young of a variety of larger shrimp (Giwojna, Oct. 1996). River shrimp are simply the freshwater equivalent of marine grass shrimp.

    All in all, these crustaceans are ideal foods for the bigger breeds of seahorses. Just be sure to select shrimp of suitable size for your seahorses (Giwojna, Oct. 1996).

    Seahorses are so fond of these shrimp that they often attack specimens that are far too big to swallow. They will attempt to break the back of the shrimp by snapping repeatedly at the carapace. If they are successful in severing the abdomen from the cephalothorax, the seahorses will then slurp up the tail section and head half of the shrimp separately. Or should their victim be so large it cannot even be swallowed in sections, they will snick out mouthfuls of the soft tissue exposed inside the abdomen or thorax. At times, several seahorses will gang up on one big shrimp this way, like a pack of lions teaming up to bring down a water buffalo that’s too big for any one of them to tackle alone. Under the right circumstances, a sort of slow-motion feeding frenzy may then ensue, with the seahorses playing tug-of-war over the pieces of their prize.

    Grass shrimp that are too large to be overcome by such tactics may survive to become long-term residents of the seahorse tank, coexisting with their reluctant tankmates in a sort of uneasy truce. Such die-hard shrimp provide a useful service as scavengers from then on.

    We tend to think of our seahorses as gentle, nonaggressive creatures that wouldn’t harm a fly, but in reality they are surprisingly fierce predators in their own right. To small crustaceans, seahorses are the tigers of the grassblade jungle, striking without warning from ambush and devouring anything of the right size that moves.

    BRINE SHRIMP (Artemia spp.)

    Pros (Giwojna, Oct. 1996):
    · Adult Artemia are readily available from your fish store or through the mail.
    · Easily raised from cysts to provide nauplii of all sizes and stages of development.
    · Excellent tolerance for saltwater: feed and forget–survives until eaten.
    · Easy to gut-load and enrich.
    · Accepted greedily by most seahorses (except Hippocampus reidi and H. ingens).

    Cons (Giwojna, Oct. 1996):
    · Poor food value–good source of protein, but lacking in other essential nutrients.
    · Must be fortified or enriched to increase nutritional content.
    · Cannot be used as staple diet.

    Collecting Tips:
    None

    Culture Instructions:
    Specific gravity: 1.020-1.026; pH: 8.0-9.0;
    Temperature: 77 degrees F (25 degrees C)

    An easy way to raise small quantities of brine shrimp is to set up a 10-20 gallon tank in a location where it receives natural sunlight to promote the growth of green algae, and provide gentle aeration using a length of airline tubing as a bubbler (avoid fine bubbles and the use of airstones; Giwojna, Oct. 1996). Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon of eggs on the surface of the water. The nauplii will hatch 24-36 hour later, and the day after they emerge, they can be fed sparingly with various additives and enrichment products (Giwojna, Oct. 1996). Adjust the amount so a slight haze barely clouds the water for a few hours each day. Do not feed again until the water is crystal clear, and avoid overfeeding at all costs. Maintain constant aeration to keep the food in suspension, and feed very small amounts fairly often — never a large quantity at any given time (Giwojna, Oct. 1996). The first generation of brine shrimp will reach maturity after 2-3 weeks, and the culture will then be self-sustaining (Daleco Aquarists Supply Manual, 1995). Add more eggs as needed to supplement natural reproduction and bolster the population of brine shrimp. Top off the tank with freshwater regularly to make up for evaporation, and replace about 25% of the culture water on a monthly basis (Giwojna, Oct. 1996).

    It’s a good idea to set up 2 or more culture tanks for adult Artemia at the same time so you can harvest a little from each culture and prevent the population of shrimp in any one tank from being depleted to the extent it can no longer sustain itself.

    Rearing Artemia this way makes it easy to select nauplii at just the proper stage of development and size for your sea horses (Giwojna, Oct. 1996).

    Comments:
    Brine shrimp are no doubt the most widely used live foods for sea horses. They are convenient, always available, easy to hatch and raise, and adults can be bought by the pint or quart at many fish stores (Giwojna, Oct. 1996).

    However, commercially raised brine shrimp have one big drawback. By the time they are purchased and released in the aquarium, they usually have not eaten for several days, and starved brine shrimp are nutritionally barren. It is therefore imperative that brine shrimp be fortified before they are fed to your sea horses. (As discussed earlier, unfortified adult brine shrimp are useful for feeding to captive-bred seahorses on a staple diet of enriched frozen Mysis on their fasting days precisely because the brine shrimp have nonexistent nutritional value.)

    Fortunately, brine shrimp are filter feeders and will take in whatever is suspended in the water with them that has a manageable particle size. This can be yeast cells; unicellular algae; rotifers; micronized rice bran, whey, wheat flour, or egg yolk; dried Spirulina algae; water-soluble vitamin and mineral formulations designed for marine fish; or whatever else the aquarist cares to add to their culture water (Daleco Aquarists Supply Manual, 1995).

    I recommend using one of the concentrated food additives or enrichment products that have recently been developed specifically for mariculturists. The best additives are rich in lipids, especially highly unsaturated fatty acids (HUFA), and vitamins such as stabilized Vitamin C and cyanocobalmin (B-12) (Giwojna, Oct. 1996). Adding such enrichment products to a 6-ounce portion of brine shrimp, and then allowing at least 12 hours for the shrimp to ingest it can fortify store-bought adult Artemia (Giwojna, Oct. 1996)

    Liquid vitamin formulations can also be added, and the ability to enrich their lipid and vitamin content this way allows us to treat brine shrimp as animated vitamin pills for seahorses (Lawrence, 1998). The savvy seahorse keeper should regard enriched Artemia as bio-encapsulated food for his charges and take full advantage of every opportunity to fortify the shrimp (Lawrence, 1998).

    The survival rate of marine fish fry improves dramatically when they are fed lipid-enriched brine shrimp nauplii, and the importance of fortifying Artemia in this manner cannot be overemphasized (Forrest Young, pers. com.). In fact, the Steinhart Aquarium in San Francisco has successfully raised Hippocampus erectus from birth to maturity on a diet consisting solely of brine shrimp (Herald and Rakowicz, 1951). For best results, however, brine shrimp should be considered only a dietary supplement, with of the bulk of your sea horses’ diet consisting of hard-bodied crustaceans such as Mysids, feeder shrimp or Gammarids.

    MARINE COPEPODS

    Pros:
    · Naturally high levels of essentially fatty acids.
    · Natural food that forms a large portion of the seahorses’ diet in the wild.
    · Elicits a strong feeding response.
    · Perfect first food for seahorse fry.
    · Feed-and-forget: marine species survive until eaten and will colonize live rock, filters and refugia.
    · Starter cultures readily available.
    · Easily collected by hobbyists with access to the seashore.

    Cons:
    · Complex life cycle complicates home culture.
    · Many species too small to interest adult seahorses.
    · Some species are parasitic — can be difficult to tell the good guys from the bad boys.

    Collecting Tips:
    Free-swimming copepods can easily be collected by anyone who lives within a reasonable distance of the ocean (in parts of the sea, larval calanoid copepods comprise the bulk of the zooplankton). Simply tow a plankton net (an elongated conical net made of fine material) slowly behind a boat in an area well away from possible sources of pollution, stopping periodically to empty its contents into a collecting container. (A mesh size of 250-500 microns will collect ‘pods that are about the right eating size for medium seahorses.) Cover the collecting bucket with a damp towel to keep it cool during the heat of the day and provide aeration to make sure the plankters stay alive until you get home.

    Culture Instructions:
    Suitable for batch culture with greenwater (phytoplankton). See the rearing chapter for complete directions for culturing copepod nauplii.

    Comments:
    Providing copepod nauplii as the first food for pelagic seahorse fry results in faster growth and often dramatically increases survivorship.

    Copepods are an extremely diverse group of Crustacea with more than 10,000 known species with different lifestyles filling a great variety of environmental niches, both marine and freshwater (Dürbaum and Künnemann, 2000). There are three major groups of free-living copepods that are useful in aquaculture (Dürbaum and Künnemann, 2000): the Calanoida (primarily free-swimming planktonic animals), the Cyclopoida (either planktonic or demersal), and the Harpacticoida (entirely benthic).

    Copepods undergo a remarkably complex life cycle. After hatching from the egg, they pass through six distinct nauplius stages, undergo a metamorphosis that completely transforms their body shape, and then go through six additional copepodid stages, culminating with the mature adult (Dürbaum and Künnemann, 2000). The first nauplius stages have only 3 pairs of appendages, which are used for locomotion and feeding (Dürbaum and Künnemann, 2000). The 6th and final naupliar stage molts into the first of the copepodid stages, and important development marked by major morphological changes (Dürbaum and Künnemann, 2000). The emerging copepodid larvae resemble the adults in large part. With the increasing number of body segments in the copepodid, more of their appendages become fully functional (Dürbaum and Künnemann, 2000). After the fifth copepodid molt adulthood is reached and the mature copepods are able to reproduce. There are two different sexes and reproduction is sexual (Dürbaum and Künnemann, 2000).

    Growth is very rapid, with most species going from the embryo to mature adult in 10-12 days at 25-degrees C. The free-swimming nauplii are attracted to light, becoming less phototropic as they mature, until the adults begin to settle and attach to the substrate. As adults they swim less, remaining attached to substrates for anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes at a time.

    GULF KILLIFISH FRY (Fundulus grandis)

    Pros:
    · Great food value: high in protein and lipids — complete nutritional package.
    · Extremely hardy in the aquarium.
    · Feed-and-forget — last indefinitely in full-strength saltwater.
    · Easy to breed and raise from eggs.
    · Available from bait shops in many coastal areas.

    Cons:
    · Difficult to acquire for inland aquarists.
    · Seasonal availability.
    · Not eaten by all seahorses.

    Collecting Tips:
    In most locations they are most abundant in late spring and early summer. Gulf Killifish are best collected using minnow traps baited with crushed crab or bread and positioned in likely areas such as brackish streams, tidal creeks, and grassy ditches and canals. They can also be taken using large dip nets or small seines in the same waterways or from shallow brackish backwaters in salt marshes and grassy tidal areas.

    Culture Instructions:
    Specific Gravity: 1.011-1.019 (15-25 ppt)
    pH 7.6-8.0
    Temperature: 75-degrees F (24 C)

    Sharyl Crossley has been very successful at culturing Gulf Killifish fry for seahorses using the following methods. Adults are kept in a bare-bottom, 30-gallon breeder tank at a ration of 5 males to 3 females (5 M: 3 F). Sharyl notes that the ratio isn’t really that important as long as you maintain multiples of each sex. The male killis do their part by displaying constantly while breeding (helping to entice the females) and Crossley finds that more females translates to more eggs. She uses an external bio-wheel power filter for good circulation and filtration, along with an air stone for extra oxygenation and surface agitation and a heater to keep the tank from falling below 72 F. Sharyl maintains a weekly water changing schedule and reports that Fundulus grandis are VERY hardy fish that seem to thrive on a little benign neglect (Sharyl Crossley, pers. com.).

    The eggs are laid and then collected in a funnel trap that floats around in the tank, and approximately every other day the eggs are collected from the funnel and transferred to a hatchery bottle (Sharyl Crossley, pers. com.). The hatchery is basically just a 2-liter bottle filled with 15-25 ppt saltwater (sg = 1.011-1.019) and equipped with a bubbler. There are usually fry in the hatchery bottle every other day, which are collected using a 500um sieve and moved to a grow out tank with a sponge filter until they are fed to the seahorses (Sharyl Crossley, pers. com.). A minimum of 50-100 killifish fry are usually produced every other day using this technique (Sharyl Crossley, pers. com.).

    Sharyl reports the newly hatched killi fry are about 5-mm long and are great for feeding larger seahorse fry and pipefish. They are easily grown out for a week or two using daily feedings of Artemia nauplii or other standard fry foods until they reach a suitable size for larger seahorses (Sharyl Crossley, pers. com.).

    Comments:
    When it comes to feeding seahorses, Gulf Killifish fry are superior to livebearer fry in every respect. They are smaller than livebearer fry, making them more bite-sized morsels for most seahorses. In fact, they can be cultured to any desired size in order to tailor them to any seahorses from small fry to juveniles to fully-grown adults. That makes them suitable prey for the smallest species such as Hippocampus breviceps and H. tuberculatus or true giants like over-grown Pots (H. abdominalis) alike. As a result, killifish fry are generally eaten much more readily than newborn guppies or mollies.

    Common known as Mud Minnows, these killifish are much tougher and far more adaptable aquarium specimens than tropical livebearers (Poecilids). Not only are they easier to keep, they thrive in full-strength saltwater and can be produced in much greater numbers. For example, with just one tank of breeders and eight adult Fundulus grandis, the Crossley culture method typically produces several hundred killifish fry every week!

    POECILID LIVEBEARER FRY (newborn Gambusia, Guppies, Mollies, Platys, Swordtails, Japanese Medaka fry
    etc.)

    Pros (Giwojna, Oct. 1996):
    · Excellent food value: high in protein, lipids, and other essential nutrients–a complete package of vitamins and minerals.
    · Available in all pet shops and aquarium stores.
    · Easy to breed and maintain at home.

    Cons (Giwojna, Oct. 1996):
    · Poor tolerance for saltwater (except for mollies adapted to brackish conditions).
    · Not acceptable to all sea horses–refused by many specimens.
    · Slow rate of reproduction limits usefulness.

    Collecting Tips:
    None

    Culture Instructions:
    Set up breeding groups (trios or harems consisting of several mature females for every male) in a standard aquarium for tropical fish (Giwojna, Oct. 1996). Feed and maintain exactly as if keeping them as pets. Mollies require a vegetable-based diet and do best with a little non-iodized salt or sea salt added to their water (about 1/4 teaspoon per gallon). Isolate obviously pregnant females in breeding traps to prevent cannibalism of the fry (Giwojna, Oct. 1996).

    Comments:
    Offer your sea horses only a few fry at a time, since the delicate newborns won’t last long in saltwater. The fry should be used immediately after they are born (Giwojna, Oct. 1996), since they grow rapidly and may be too large to eat a few days after birth (remember sea horses must swallow them whole). Newborn guppies and Gambusia are smallest and the easiest for sea horses to handle (Giwojna, Oct. 1996). Molly fry are bigger, but they can be gradually acclimated to brackish or even full-strength saltwater, allowing them to survive indefinitely in your sea horse tank (Giwojna, Oct. 1996).

    In my experience, the biggest problem with newborn fishes is that many sea horses simply refuse to eat them. The fry tend to hug the surface, where sea horses are unaccustomed to feeding, and some Hippocampines are put off by their size (Giwojna, Oct. 1996). However, some large sea horses attack them voraciously, and the San Antonio Aquarium in Texas has successfully maintained sea horses on an exclusive diet of newborn mollies (Herald and Rakowicz, 1951). Likewise, from France, Thierry Schmidt reports good success raising Hippocampus kuda, supplementing their diet with newborn guppies as the juveniles grow (Schmidt, 1995).

    In short, if you can spare the time and expense necessary to provide your seahorse with a varied diet of choice live foods, that is an excellent option. Indeed, combining hardy farm-raised seahorses with a staple diet of nutritious live foods can be a recipe for success. Neil Garrick-Maidment is a very successful breeder in the UK who believes strongly in providing live food for his seahorses. He reports keeping captive-bred seahorses for as long as seven years and 3 months simply by maintaining excellent water quality and providing them with a good live diet consisting largely of Mysis shrimp (Garrick-Maidment, pers. com.).

    ©Copyright 2009. All rights reserved. Permission to reproduce is granted by the author (Peter Giwojna) for your personal use only and is not transferable without written permission by Ocean Rider and the original author.
    [Close quote]

    Okay, hobbyists, that’s the rundown on live foods that may be useful as occasional treats for your seahorses (or regular meals for your finicky red female). You may want to consider culturing the red volcano shrimp from Hawaii or Gammarus amphipods or the live Mysis at home, among other suitable live prey.

    Good luck!

    Happy Trails!
    Pete Giwojna, Ocean Rider Tech Support

    ©Copyright 2009. All rights reserved. Permission to reproduce is granted by the author (Peter Giwojna) for your personal use only and is not transferable without written permission by Ocean Rider and the original author.

    Please contact the author ([email protected]) immediately if you notice the material from these lessons posted on the Internet on any websites other than Ocean Rider (seahorse.com).

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