- This topic has 3 replies, 2 voices, and was last updated 15 years, 8 months ago by Pete Giwojna.
June 16, 2008 at 10:34 pm #1474SindyMember
I have had my Reidis for two weeks and they had been eating fine. Last Thursday I added caulerpa. Friday they ate fine and I had them fast on Saturday. They ate little on Sunday and will not eat today. They are hitched on the bottom and will have not moved yet? I checked my water and everything was alright except the ph was 8.2 which is a little low for me. I have a 50 gal tank. There is live rock, gorgonian, a couple of feather dusters and three mushrooms. I have a banded shrimp and snails for cleanup crew. I hand feed them frozen mysis. I fed my corals plankton on Saturday. Any suggestions?June 17, 2008 at 3:12 am #4273Pete GiwojnaGuest
I’m sorry to hear that your new Brazilian seahorses (Hippocampus reidi) have stopped eating. It’s very difficult to say what may be bothering them, but I can tell you that what ever the problem may be, it is probably not related to your pH or the new Caulerpa that you added recently. A pH of 8.2 is just fine, and the only time Caulerpa is troublesome for seahorses is one goes sexual and dies off en masse.
Mushroom corals don’t require supplemental feeding, although the feather dusters are filter feeders and the gorgonian may require occasional feedings. But they don’t need to be fed every day and the gorgonian should only be fed when its polyps are out and it is actively feeding. So keep the plankton feedings in moderation.
The first things to consider that can often make a great deal of difference when a seahorse goes off its feed is to perform a series of water changes and try tempting the seahorse with live foods, as discussed in greater detail below:
For starters, I have listed some of the factors that are commonly known to contribute to a loss of appetite in seahorses:
(1) deteriorating water quality.
(2) low oxygen and/or high CO2 levels.
(3) a deficiency of trace elements and minerals.
(4) various disease processes — in particular, internal parasites.
Regardless of how your water chemistry appears right now, a good place to start addressing this problem would be to perform a 25%-35% water change immediately to safeguard the water quality and replenish depleted trace elements and minerals. (At first glance your aquarium parameters may look great, but there are some water quality issues that are difficult to detect with standard tests, such as a decrease in dissolved 02, transitory ammonia/nitrite spikes following a heavy feeding, pH drift, a deficiency and trace elements/minerals, or the gradual accumulation of detritus. A water change and cleanup is a simple preventative measure that can help defuse those kinds of hidden factors before they become a problem and stress out your seahorses. These simple measures may restore your water quality as well as your seahorses’ appetite.)
Be sure to check your dissolved oxygen (O2) level in addition to the usual pH, ammonia, nitrite and nitrite readings.. A significant drop in O2 levels (6 – 7 ppm is optimal) or rise in CO2 levels is very stressful yet easily corrected by increasing surface agitation and circulation to promote better oxygenation and gas exchange. Add a shallow airstone just beneath the surface if necessary and increase the circulation throughout your tank it possible.
Whether the beneficial effects are due to improving water quality or replenishing depleted trace elements or something else altogether, performing a major water change as described above often sets things right when seahorses are off their feed for no apparent reason.
In the meantime, while you are working on your water quality, by all means get some live foods to keep your seahorses and see if you can fatten them up a bit. When the seahorses stopped eating, the most important thing is to get some food into them one way or another. You’ve got to keep their strength up and give them a chance to recover before you can worry about weaning them back onto frozen foods again. Hawaiian red feeder shrimp or volcano shrimp (Halocaridina rubra) are ideal for this — seahorses find them utterly irresistible! But anything that’s readily available — enriched adult brine shrimp, live ghost shrimp that are small enough to be swallowed, newborn guppies or mollies, Gammarus amphipods, copepods, you name it — is worth a try. Just get some good meals into your H. reidi ASAP to build up their strength and help them regain their conditioning.
I could simply be a hunger strike, Sindy — Hippocampus reidi seahorses can be finicky eaters, and they may may merely have grown a bit tired of eating the same old thing day after day. Vibrance-enriched frozen Mysis is a wonderfully nutritious diet, and Piscine Energetics Mysis relicta has natural order attractants that normally trigger a strong feeding response in seahorses. But that may be a lot like eating sirloin steak for every meal day after day, week after week, and month after month. No matter how nutritious the meal may be or how much you may love sirloin steak, there comes a point when you would welcome something else just for a change of pace.
When seahorses 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. 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, 1996).
That’s why I like to use occasional treats of live food as behavioral enrichment for my seahorses. They get the thrill of hunting after and chasing down live prey, which livens things up for them in more of ways than one and is a nice change of pace from their daily routine in captivity. 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, 1996)
I also find live foods to be especially useful for those rare occasions when seahorses are ailing and must be treated. Many medications (e.g., Diamox) 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. 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 a seahorses feeling vulnerable and exposed. Live foods can counteract these negative affects to a certain degree, and offer a little excitement that distracts the isolated seahorse temporarily at least from its melancholy.
Adult brine shrimp (Artemia spp.) can certainly be used as occasional treats or dietary supplements, or to help break a hunger strike, providing you enrich it to fortified nutritional content. Here are the instructions for enriching brine shrimp, in case you that’s the most convenient live food for you to provide, Sindy. The original Vibrance formula that is rich in highly unsaturated fatty acids and other lipids (i.e., Vibrance I) works best for fortified brine shrimp:
Enriching Artemia with Vibrance I
For enriching or "gut packing" live Artemia (brine shrimp), or other live shrimp or live food of all sizes. Blend 1 teaspoon of Vibrance into 1 cup of water for 3 minutes. Add this to the live food vessel for 30 minutes, or until you see the gut of the animal turn red. Rinse the animals with clean salt water and feed immediately to your seahorses or other fish.
Some of the choice live foods that sea horses find irresistible are Ocean Rider’s red feeder shrimp (Red Iron Horse Feed, Halocaridina rubra), the post-larval white shrimp (i.e., "snicking shrimp") from Seawater Express, and the live Mysis from Sachs Systems Aquaculture. These live shrimp are what I’d like to call a "feed-and-forget" food. They are tough, rugged little shrimp that you can toss in your tank with no acclimation whatsoever. They are agile and elusive enough that your filters won’t eat them and the seahorses won’t be able to capture them all right away. Some will hide and evade well enough that your seahorses will still be hunting down the stragglers for the next day or two. Best of all, you can toss a nice batch of them in your aquarium, secure in the knowledge that they won’t perish and pollute it, but thrive and survive as real, live, "catch-me-if-you-can" prey items that seahorses cannot resist.
So in your case, Sindy, I would suggest ordering perhaps 100-200 of the Red Iron Horse Feed from Ocean Rider or a similar amount of the Snicking Shrimp from Seawater Express or live Mysis from Sachs Aquaculture for starters, and setting them up in a small tank of their own with a few small algae-covered live rock as for them to feed on and use for shelter. That would solve your feeding problems and give you a chance to enjoy your seahorses while they are stalking and hunting live prey, which is fascinating to watch, while you work on making the water changes to assure optimal water quality for your seahorses.
The Ocean Rider Aquaculture Facility in Hawaii (http://seahorse.com/) is a good source for the following live foods:
Green Iron Horse Feed (Gammarus amphipods)
Red Iron Horse Feed or Volcano Shrimp (Halocaridina rubra)
Seawater Express is an excellent source for post-larval white shrimp. They provide bite-sized white shrimp (Penaeus vannamei) in batches of anywhere from 50 to 1000 each. They are hardy, easy-to-keep and disease free. I recommend getting the smallest of the "Snicking Shrimp" they offer:
Seawater Express Inc.
Organic Shrimp Farm / Hatchery
Or the live Mysis from Sachs Systems Aquaculture would also be a good choice for this. You can obtain 200 live Mysidopsis bahia for $35 from Sachs and your seahorses will love them:
All of the sources listed above are high-health aquaculture facilities that provide disease free live foods.
If your seahorses’ loss of appetite is associated with a change in their fecal pellets, that could indicate a problem with internal parasites. For example, a change from fecal pellets of normal color and consistency to white, stringy feces accompanied by hunger strike is often an indication of intestinal flagellates (Kaptur, 2004). If you think that this could be a factor in your case, Seaboy, then treatment with metronidazole or praziquantel is usually an effective remedy (Kaptur, 2004). Let me know if your seahorses to not respond to the water change and increased aeration and surface agitation, and I will be happy to run through the suggested treatment measures for internal parasites, Sindy.
If all else fails, you can always try tube feeding the seahorses. Force feeding can save a seahorse’s life in an emergency, but it’s best reserved as a last resort. It is appropriate when a seahorse has gone without eating for a prolonged period and has exhausted its energy reserves. This can happen when a seahorse is beset with internal parasites and stops eating, or perhaps when a seahorse is undergoing extended treatment with a medication that suppresses the appetite. And, of course, it is very common — perhaps even the rule — in wild-caught seahorses that have run the gauntlet from collector to wholesaler to retailer before finally reaching the hobbyist (Lidster, 1999). In such cases, tube feeding can help strengthen the seahorse and keep it going until it has a chance to recover and resume feeding on its own. Let me know if nothing else works and you feel tube feeding is appropriate in your case, and I’ll send you details instructions explaining several different techniques for force feeding seahorses safely, but it’s way too early to consider force feeding at this point.
In short, Sindy, in the absence of any other symptoms other than a loss of appetite, I would perform a series of partial water changes and concentrate on tempting your seahorses to eat with some of their favorite live foods.
Pete GiwojnaJune 17, 2008 at 6:36 am #4274SindyGuest
I did a partial water change. Should I do another tomorrow? My temp is 76. I ordered Mysidopsis bahia today and they will be here on Wednesday. I ordered 200. Do I out them all in the tank at the same time? Should I try to put some frozen mysis in with the Mysidopsis? Sorry to keep writing but I am worried and really enjoyed these seahorses. I am going out of town starting Friday and want them to be back on track by then.
Thank you so much,
SindyJune 17, 2008 at 11:19 pm #4275Pete GiwojnaGuest
Okay, that all sounds very good. A partial water change should help and the live Mysis are very hard for even the most fastidious feeders to resist.
Yes, I would perform a series of small partial water changes, perhaps one every other day until the seahorses are eating again.
No, don’t put all of the live mysids into the aquarium at once. The seahorses might gorge themselves and then proceed to hunt and kill the remaining Mysis even after they are stuffed to the gills and can’t swallow another bite. With irresistible live prey, sometimes the seahorses can’t resist stalking and striking at the live shrimp even after they’re filled to capacity. When that happens, they will slurp up the live shrimp only to spit it out again immediately afterwards, and repeat the process until the shrimp is dead and has stopped moving. Then they’ll move on to the next live shrimp and repeat the process even know they are so full they can’t actually consume the prey they have just killed.
To prevent that from happening and makes the live mysids last as long as possible, you’ll want to set them up in a separate tank or bucket of their own, and then dole them out a little at a time. For two Brazilian seahorses (Hippocampus reidi), I would suggest adding about 10-12 of the live Mysis twice a day, assuming they eat the first batch greedily, which I expect will happen. That will be plenty to sustain the seahorses and keep them healthy while you are working on weaning them back on to the frozen food again.
Yes, you can try mixing a little of the frozen Mysis in with the live mysids to see if they seahorses will go ahead and eat the frozen shrimp as well as the live ones. Just add the frozen shrimp sparingly and if it goes on uneaten, be sure to remove any leftovers promptly so that they don’t begin to degrade your water quality or get slurped up after they have begun to spoil.
For best results, Sindy, try imparting a little movement to the frozen Mysis to make it appear as if it’s alive and kicking. Many times seahorses that don’t seem to be interested in the frozen food while it isn’t moving and being swirled around can be tricked into eating it by making it moves. You can overcome that problem very easily by target feeding your seahorses with a baster, as described below. The baster can be used to impart movement to the frozen Mysis by dangling them from the tip of the baster enticingly, and then releasing them right in front of the seahorses snouts. If the seahorses don’t snap them up while they are drifting down through the water right in front of their noses, then you can use the baster to gently blow or swirl the frozen Mysis around a bit after it has settled on the bottom to attract their interest. This usually works like a charm. Here is some additional information on target feeding seahorses with a baster that should give you a better idea of how to proceed, Sindy:
The individual personalities of seahorses naturally extend to their feeding habits. Some are aggressive feeders that will boldly snatch food from your fingers, while some and shy and secretive, feeding only when they think they’re not being observed. Some like to slurp up Mysis while it’s swirling through the water column, and some will only take Mysis off the bottom of the tank. Some are voracious pigs that greedily scarf up everything in sight, and some are slow, deliberate feeders that painstakingly examine every morsel of Mysis before they accept or reject it. Some eat like horses and some eat like birds. So how does the seahorse keeper make sure all his charges are getting enough to eat at mealtime? How does the hobbyist keep the aggressive eaters from scarfing up all the mouth-watering Mysis before the slower feeders get their fair share? And how can you keep active fishes and inverts with seahorses without the faster fishes gobbling up all the goodies before the slowpoke seahorses can grab a mouthful?
Target feeding is the answer. Target feeding just means offering a single piece of Mysis to one particular seahorse, and then watching to see whether or not the ‘horse you targeted actually eats the shrimp. Feeding each of your seahorses in turn that way makes it easy to keep track of exactly how much each of your specimens is eating.
There are many different ways to target feed seahorses. Most methods involve using a long utensil of some sort to wave the Mysis temptingly in front of the chosen seahorse; once you’re sure this has attracted his interest, the Mysis is released so it drifts down enticingly right before the seahorse’s snout. Most of the time, the seahorse will snatch it up as it drifts by or snap it up as soon as it hits the bottom.
A great number of utensils work well for target feeding. I’ve seen hobbyists use everything from chopsticks to extra long tweezers and hemostats or forceps to homemade pipettes fashioned from a length of rigid plastic tubing. As for myself, I prefer handfeeding when I target feed a particular seahorse.
But no doubt the all-time favorite implement for target feeding seahorses is the old-fashioned turkey baster. The old-fashioned ones with the glass barrels work best because the seahorses can see the Mysis inside the baster all the way as it moves down the barrel and out the tip. By exerting just the right amount of pressure on the bulb, great precision is possible when target feeding with a turkey baster. By squeezing and releasing the bulb ever so slightly, a skillful target feeder can keep a piece of Mysis dancing at the very tip of the baster indefinitely, and hold the tempting morsel right in front of the seahorse’s mouth as long as necessary. Or if the seahorse rejects the Mysis the first time it drifts by, a baster makes it easy to deftly suck up the shrimp from the bottom so it can be offered to the target again. In the same way, the baster makes it a simple matter to clean any remaining leftovers after a feeding session. (You’ll quickly discover the feeding tube is also indispensable for tapping away pesky fish and invertebrates that threaten to steal the tempting tidbit before an indecisive seahorse can snatch it up.)
In short, target feeding allows the hobbyist to assure that each of his seahorses gets enough to eat without overfeeding or underfeeding the tank. And it makes it possible to keep seahorses in a community tank with more active fishes that would ordinarily out-compete them for food, since the aquarist can personally deliver each mouthful to the seahorses while keeping more aggressive specimens at bay.
The key to keeping active specimens like firefish or cleaner shrimp successfully with seahorses is to feed the other fish and inverts with standard, off-the-shelf aquarium foods first, and once they’ve had their fill, then target feed the seahorses.
Here is some additional information on culturing the live Mysis in case you would like to try maintaining them long term in order to supplement your seahorses’ diet. It’s an excerpt from my new book (Complete Guide to the Greater Seahorses in the Aquarium, unpublished) that discusses the pros and cons of live Mysis, and outlines one method for culturing them that is suitable for the home hobbyist:
MYSIDS (Opossum Shrimp)
• 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.
• Challenging to culture for the home hobbyist.
• Inland hobbyists have no opportunity to collect them.
Mysis shrimp follow a daily rhythm in their movements, regularly forming dense shoals over sandy bottoms or amidst seaweeds, 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).
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).
So that’s one method of going about it, Sindy. If you search the Net, you’ll find scads of information on culturing Mysis, which should give you a pretty good idea whether or not it’s practical in your case. For example, he sure to check out the following to online articles:
Best of luck getting your finicky H. reidi back onto a staple diet of frozen Mysis, Sindy!
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