- This topic has 1 reply, 2 voices, and was last updated 10 years, 5 months ago by Pete Giwojna.
May 15, 2013 at 11:30 am #2000fiskybiznizMember
Hi all, I’m Debi. I’ve been wanting to get a Seahorse for a long time. Before I get off to my story of the Seahorse that found me…please obtain your Seahorses from Ocean Rider!! I don’t work for them and highly doubt they remember my husband and I taking their tour back in 2008, I’m just giving this testimonial because Ocean Rider is a research center so the animals and their care are outstanding. You will get a top of the line animal. We toured their facility and highly recommend you stop in for the tour if you ever visit Kona, HI. With Pete as their trainer and moderating here, you will have a healthy Seahorse(s) and excellent advice to make sure you have the most wonderful underwater experience! Ok, now for my story…..
My husband and I have been in the salt water tank hobby for 8 years. We have a 180 gal. FOWLR (Fish Only With Live Rock) set up. It’s 6 ft wide, 32” tall and 18”. It’s a see through that use as a room divider. We call it our living wall. Visiting Ocean Rider made me fall in love with the idea of having a Seahorse in our tank so we got certified by Pete upon return of our trip. But after learning what I needed to know, I wasn’t convinced our community of fish were going to work for the Seahorse. A few months ago I wrote Pete to say I think our tank is finally ready for a Seahorse. But instead of me getting one from Ocean Rider, a little guy we’ve named Pokey found us.
Here’s what you need to know. Now that Seahorses can be captive bred we have people breeding them that are only in it for the $$$. They are sending Seahorses out to people without asking any questions about their knowledge or set ups nor giving the any direction of the care needed. They could care less if the animal lives. And this is why I did my little commercial message about Ocean Rider. I received an e-mail from family letting me know a pair of Kuda’s needed a home and them knowing we wanted Seahorses, would I take them. How could I say no? The story was, the people who bought them changed their minds. And so the adventure begins. First off, the people shipping them to us went ahead and shipped instead of waiting during a freezing snow storm wherein all planes were grounded. So instead of the ponies shipping overnight, they were detained in their box at the airport and there was no way to know if the box was on the plane or inside the airport. I didn’t expect them to arrive alive, but they did. Knowing that ordeal could take a huge toll, I took a long time acclimating them. After getting a good look at them, it was obvious to me they were too young to have been adopted out or sold and probably why the people didn’t want them. Young Seahorses are more like taking on a puppy or kitten. Also, the female didn’t look healthy to me. She was drawn as if she were dehydrated whereas the male was nice and plump. But they were with me so I was going to give them my best. After acclimation, I have a large jug I can use to float new comers in our tank so they and the tank mates can visually acclimate to each other. As you can imagine these young Kuda ponies in a 180 gallon aquarium went from being small to looking tiny so I kept them in the jug a few days to be sure they were eating. Pokey ate well, but the female was picky and not eating as much as I would have liked. I already had an Estuary set up to bring the ponies in so after the release, I was right that they loved the area I had set up. The female wanted to stay there but Pokey took off like he was trying to find Nemo. He quickly found out the current in the tank could make him move at speeds unknown to seahorses and I could tell he liked it. He was hilarious to watch. He looked like he was a practicing trapeze act as he went back and forth. And we’re talking a 6ft run which is a huge ride for this little guy. Then he went to get his girl friend to take her for a ride. She didn’t like it at all so she let go. I was surprised they managed to keep track of each other given the amount of space a being new. I don’t know if the female couldn’t shake off her bad shipping experience or her health was not steady, but she passed away 2 days later. Pokey was clearly upset. He didn’t eat or swim or anything. All he did was sit in the Estuary and sulk. Not knowing exactly who or how he came into being a captive seahorse, we expected we may lose him. On the third day he snapped out of it and joined in the scatter feed with the other fish. Huh, a Seahorse swimming around with the other fish doing the trapeze thing was pretty funny. He would snap up food upside down, on his back, didn’t matter…if he saw it, in his snout it would go. Not able to control himself, it was also funny to see his tail slapping our other fish out of the way. I noticed he was not only eating mysis but one of my smaller treats. It looks like he was eating the Arcti pods or Nutramar ova or maybe both? Pete might know?
Being that we have a community tank, my mix is pretty diverse. My daily gruel is a mix that includes Mega Marine (plankton, krill, shrimp, sea urchin, sea worms, clam, mussel, squid, spirulina), PE mysis, Arcti pods, Nutramar ova and oyster eggs. The tank mates are 9 Firefish, 3 clowns, 2 cleaner shrimp and 1 Regal Tang. The next mistake for Pokey was our doing. When we saw how small he was, we put a skirt on our power head to keep them from getting sucked into it. I came home one afternoon to find Pokey caught by his tail in it. I shut the system down and when he broke free the pump I could see it had clipping the tip of his tail off. I felt so bad 🙁 and again afraid we would lose him. But a few days later his tail was as good as new. Putting another skirt on, we thought we had things fixed but he somehow got trapped in it again only this time his whole back was sucked up to it. Upon release his dorsal fins were gone!! The area was so chewed up I was not only afraid we were going to lose him, but concerned they would ever grow back. I had noticed our Tang was picking on him. It never struck him with me around, but it shoved him around. At that point I thought it was making sure he would be submissive. And it was obvious I needed to unplug the power head. But we found out the next day, the power head didn’t chew his fins off. The next morning he had another chunk out of his back below the missing dorsal fin area. The moment I came up to the tank, the Regal Tang hid in his coral. He just as well put a guilty sign all over his face! He wouldn’t come out, but kept peeping up to see if I was still there. He knew he did it and knew I wouldn’t like it. Yes fish can be like children if you pay attention. So I spent a half day installing our fence to separate Pokey to the Estuary area. I estimated his area was around 49 gallons. Our clowns and Firefish were small enough to pass thru the fence but the Tang couldn’t. I researched and it was estimated the dorsal fins could take as long as 3 months to grow back. While eating breakfast the next morning my husband announces that Pokey just figured out how to get through that fence. We had a double fence (smaller holes) but that would block the clowns from their sleeping area. My husband announces, forget this, we’re letting one fish control the tank. :dry:
In all our years of owning our tank, I was in charge of selecting our fish and my husband was in charge of systems and maintenance. Every time we ended up with an out of control bully or fish getting too big for the tank I had a fight on my hands to get him to concede we needed to get the fish to our local store to whom we trusted could sell to another keeper. You could of knocked me over with a feather when my husband ‘called it’ that the Regal had to go. Say what??….We raised the Regal with his 2 brothers from a baby and he’s willing to give him up? It was obvious Pokey had captured his heart. So how are things now? Well, Pokey has his skin all healed up and now growing new dorsal fins. Thank God it all worked out without infection. He’s not as pretty as Ocean Rider’s sea horses. He looks more like a little water lizard, but he’s ours and we adore him and he’s holding his own in this huge aquarium. He’s got a long ways to go to be full grown, but once he’s full size he should be strong enough to have mastered all of his cool moves he works on to get around in our tank. Oh, and in case you wonder how he got the name Pokey, after feedings he spends his time poking his nose in live rock and hard coral looking for leftovers. He does a pretty good job. It’s hard to appreciate how delightful Seahorses are to own until you have one. They are like little water dogs. They have adorable personalities and will interact with you. Pokey is not trained to hand feed and because he lives in a community tank I think it’s best to let him continue the routine he set out for himself. As for his other tank mates, the clowns could care less about him and when he’s poking around for food if a Firefish comes near him he pokes his nose at them shooing them away. He’s quite a character!! He has purposely put himself into the main intake spillway to take naps. He’s coiled up sideways which is safe but when he’s corralled himself in with only his head hanging out just like you would see with real horses in their stalls, I’m not comfortable with that so I push at his tail to move him out. But at bedtime, he always returns to his Estuary. Right now we have what we call a circus theme going. We have the high wire acts by Pokey, clowns clowning around and Firefish doing their darting dances. Thanks for reading this. I would love to hear about your tanks, what your Seahorses do or just exchange info about landscape etc. 🙂June 28, 2013 at 4:14 am #5555Pete GiwojnaGuest
Thank you for sharing your experiences with playful Pokey with the rest of us seahorse fanatics, Debi! He is very fortunate to have made his way into the tanks and hearts of two such diligent aquarists as your husband and yourself.
As for Pokey’s diet in your large community tank, Debi, it’s difficult to say for sure what he may have been selecting from the diverse daily mix of prepared foods you provide for the compatible fish aside from the Piscine Energetics (PE) frozen Mysis relicta. There are number of other items included in your daily mix that might be of interest to seahorses if they fall within their preferred size range of prey items. This includes zooplankton that are large enough and krill or portions thereof (especially the anterior end with the eyes) if they are small enough. Arctic pods are definitely a possibility, and juvenile seahorses might also regard Nutramar Ova with a culinary eye, although mature seahorses usually find them too insignificant to trigger a feeding response. Regardless of which of the prepared foods he was sampling, the fact that Pokey had access to such a diverse diet may well have played a role in his ability to recover from minor injuries.
I think your observation that taking on a seahorse is a lot like adopting a puppy or kitten is spot on, Debi! No doubt there is a lot of puppy dog in the average pony that has been born at the Ocean Rider seahorse farm and raised by hand from birth.
And like Pokey, one thing I have learned after being around seahorses for more than 25 years is that they definitely do have distinct personalities, Debi. Females generally tend to be more active and outgoing than the males, which makes Pokey’s adventures all the more remarkable. Females will often swim around more and explore the aquarium to a greater extent than the males, which tend to pick out a favorite perch or home base and hang around in the same general area most of the time. Just like people, some seahorses are shy and retiring (introverted, I guess you could say) while others are real busybodies, that insist on being right in the thick of things and helping you out whenever you are working in the tank or performing aquarium maintenance. These extroverts will often perch on your hand or whatever aquarium utensil you may be using and watch intently as you finish your chores, apparently enjoying the ride and the company. Others will gladly interact with you at feeding time, but prefer to keep their distance otherwise.
And, of course, the individual personalities of seahorses naturally extend to their feeding habits, Debi. Some are aggressive feeders that will boldly snatch food from your fingers, while some are shy and secretive at mealtime, 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.
Seahorses are one fish that can become a true pet, and I’m convinced this is because they are more intelligent than most fishes. The highly domesticated Mustangs and Sunbursts are real personality fish and many of them actually enjoy being handled. Unlike most other fish that back off when you approach the aquarium and flee in terror if you place your hand in the tank, seahorses soon learn to recognize their keeper and will come out to meet you. They quickly learn to take food from your fingers, and as you will discover, having your pet ponies literally eating out your hand is a very rewarding experience. When one of these shy, enchanting creatures — whose very survival in the wild depends on concealing itself from predators at all times — comes trustingly up to the surface to eat right out of your palm, it’s a thrill you won’t soon forget. The training sessions and daily feedings required for this tend to forge a close, personal relationship between the aquarist and his charges, and hand-fed seahorses often become special pets. Many times they will even include you in their daily greeting, flashing their recognition colors and parading back and forth and at the front of the tank, performing their dancelike displays for your benefit.
The first pair of captive-bred seahorses I ever owned were Mustangs, and my ‘stangs quickly learned to recognize me as their feeder, whereupon they would often interact with me at dinnertime by turning on their greeting colors. My original pair are still going strong several years later, and I have watched them go through a number of color phases from month to month. One has settled on gray-green as its base coloration for the moment, and the other ranges between rust, burnt umber, and orange, but always with contrasting beige bands. Last season, the male adopted a rich ochre yellow as his everyday attire (still with the same beige bands, though), while the female displayed a dark purplish ensemble with definite greenish highlights. When courting, they consistently brighten to a pearly white and a creamy yellow respectively. They make a handsome couple, and I find my erectus to be very attractive specimens in all their guises.
I set up my pair of these spirited steeds in a brand-new 30 gallon (tall) aquarium all their own, and that tank has been my most entertaining, trouble-free exhibit ever since. With a simple setup like theirs, I prefer to target feed my seahorses. That allows me to observe them closely on a daily basis, monitor their health, keep track of exactly how much each specimen is eating, and remove any leftovers immediately.
Led by the female — by far the bolder and most outgoing of the two — the Mustangs were soon literally eating right out of my hands. (I know, I know — sensible aquarists should always strive to keep their mitts out the aquarium as much as possible, but handfeeding is a thrill I find difficult to resist, and hey — nobody ever said I was sensible!) Of course, I’m very well aware of the risks involved and extremely diligent about taking all the necessary precautions beforehand. And besides, there are major advantages to handfeeding that more than offset any minor risks.
For one thing, the seahorses seem to enjoy the experience every bit as much as I do. They head for the feeding station as soon as I approach the tank, a series of color changes betraying their excitement, and queue up at the dinner table looking their best and brightest. Of course, they both try to snap up the first morsel — even pair-bonded ponies are not big on sharing or waiting turns — so I no longer offer them one mysid at a time. I offer them a handful of individually thawed Mysis in my upturned palm instead. They know the drill and happily perch on my fingers while snicking up the shrimp as fast as they can.
Secondly, feeding your seahorses by hand permits the aquarist to conduct a close-up, daily inspection of every specimen in his tank, and I like to use the opportunity to give ’em a good once over. These detailed examinations make it difficult not to notice any subtle changes in my seahorse’s appearance or behavior that might signal impending problems with disease or the water chemistry. That’s a big advantage, since the sooner such potential problems are detected, the easier they are to cure or prevent, and I recommend other hobbyists do the same.
Take a moment to enjoy the show when feeding your seahorses. Make sure they’re all eating well, and use this opportunity to look them over closely for wounds, injuries, or signs of disease. Seahorses are natural-born gluttons. Ordinarily, these galloping gourmets are ALWAYS hungry, so when a seahorse is off its feed, that’s often an excellent early indicator that something’s amiss in the aquarium. Early detection of a potential problem can be the key to curing it, so it’s a good idea for the alert aquarist to observe his prize ponies while they put on the ol’ feed bag. Make sure they all show up for mess call, are acting normally, and have a well-rounded abdomen when they’re done eating. Handfeeding makes it hard to miss when one these chow hounds is off its feed, tipping off the alert aquarist to a potential problem.
Best of all, handfeeding is pure, sure-fire, 100% unadulterated fish-keeping fun! Feeding time for my seahorses is always a high point in my day. Having your pet ponies literally eating out your hand is a very rewarding experience. These daily feedings tends to forge a close, personal relationship between the aquarist and his charges, and hand-fed seahorses often become special pets.
As much as feeding time brightens up my day, I have no doubt it livens things up for my seahorses even more. They genuinely appear to enjoy interacting with me, and I believe in enriching their captive environment as much as possible. No doubt it’s the food they’re looking forward to, not the food giver, but our daily encounters are always eagerly awaited and they like to linger on my hand long after all the food is gone. They would allow me to lift them out of the water when I withdraw my hand if I didn’t gently shoo them away first.
The only thing I don’t like about handfeeding frozen Mysis to my seahorses is the obligatory fast day. The problem with fasting is that the 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.
I feel Hippocampus is intelligent enough to become bored or jaded in captivity at times, and for this reason I try to provide a little behavioral enrichment for my seahorses whenever possible. The handfeeding sessions I’ve already described are an example of this, and I also try to provide my seahorses with live foods regularly so they have an opportunity to experience the thrill of the hunt and the chase once in a while as they do in the wild.
So 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. Feeding them the brine shrimp a fun alternative to fast days that I feel is far easier on the hobbyist and his pampered pets alike.
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 at some point, Debi, 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, Debi — just be sure to take sensible precautions when you do so! That’s why many seahorse keepers prefer to provide their ponies with unenriched adult brine shrimp, or similar live fodder, once a week rather than fasting them — it’s fun for both the seahorses and their owners, and does just as good a job of helping to prevent fatty liver disease.
I’m glad you mentioned the misadventures Pokey had with the powerhead in your 180-gallon community tank, Debi, since that’s a common problem for seahorse keepers. You had the right idea by screening off the intake for the powerhead to help make it inaccessible and I’d like to offer some additional suggestions in that regard.
First of all, not all powerheads are created equal when it comes to seahorses. For example, the Hydor Koralia powerheads are relatively safe compared to other types of powerheads, Debi, which is one reason I like the Hydor Koralia Nano Powerheads for use in seahorse tanks. For one thing, since they are not impeller-operated, the intake or suction is fairly weak compared to a normal powerhead, and there is therefore no danger that a curious seahorse will have its tail injured or amputated by an impeller.
Secondly, the "egg" or basket-like structure that covers the powerhead often offers sufficient protection so that an adult seahorse really cannot injure its tail. For example, the gaps in the Koralia 1 are only 1/8 of an inch wide, which is too small for grown seahorse’s tail to fit through the gaps.
Just to be on the safe side, some seahorse keepers will encase the entire egg for a Koralia powerhead in a veil-like material, especially if they have smaller ponies, as explained below:
"I have a Koralia that works great in my anemone tank (no seahorses). Just in case I bought a piece of Tulle (bridal veil material) to cover it. I got the purple tulle that looks just like coralline algae. Just cut it into a square and put it over the Koralia and secure the ends with a zip tie. Think of it like a lollipop wrapper-if the pump is the lollipop the tulle is the wrapper and instead of twisting the paper at the bottom like a lollipop you secure with a zip-tie. I have H. fuscus and H.barbouri and they could definitely hitch on the Koralia (and I have the nano) The pump still works great and nothing can get in it."
The Tulle trick will work just as well for screening the intakes of other types of powerheads or circulation pumps as well, and the bridal veil material is not so fine that it will easily get clogged up or impede the flow through the device.
Also, Debi, Koralias have a sort of "flow focuser" that you can snap on the front of the egg to help direct the flow. I would recommend keeping this collar on in a large tank such as yours, since it will act as an additional barrier if a seahorse was to try and hitch to the very front of the egg. (Which seems improbable given the strength of the flow, but it’s better to be safe than sorry!)
However, with the flow focuser in place, you will likely find that the water flow from a Koralia is concentrated in a smaller stream and is therefore considerably stronger, so make sure that there’s no danger of overpowering your seahorses with the flow focuser in place, which is a risk in smaller aquariums. If that’s the case, that would be better to leave the flow focuser off, since that will diffuse or moderate the water flow from the powerhead.
Best wishes with all your fishes, Debi! Here’s hoping the irrepressible Pokey has a long happy life ahead of him!
Pete Giwojna, Ocean Rider Tech Support
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