Reidi or Fuscus

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  • #53975
    joedinsmore
    Participant

    Hi there
    I have recently setup a new marine tank for seahorses as I have kept marine fish for a few years now and was wanting to try something new. My LFS Is able to get me captive bred h.Reidi or captive bred h.Fuscus and was wandering which species would be best for beginners. Keep in mind that I may be interested in breeding further down the road.
    Many thanks
    Joe

    #53977
    Pete Giwojna
    Moderator

    Dear Joe:

    That’s an easy choice, sir – Hippocampus reidi is one of the most difficult species of seahorses to raise in the world (virtually impossible for a home hobbyist), whereas Hippocampus fuscus is perhaps the easiest of all seahorse species to raise. Go with the Hippocampus fuscus, Joe.

    For example, this is what my new book says regarding the difficultly level of raising newborn Hippocampus reidi seahorses:

    Ease of Rearing:
    Hippocampus reidi fry are notoriously difficult to raise. Along with the closely related H. ingens, these Brazilian beauties are considered the second hardest species to rear after the Hawaiian seahorse (Hippocampus fisheri). The Brazilian breeding machine – Hippocampus reidi – is the most prolific of all the seahorses (Abbott 2003). They have a well-deserved reputation for churning out brood after brood every two weeks with relentless regularity, and hold the world record for delivering ~1600 young in a single brood (anecdotal reports of broods up to 2000 fry are not uncommon)! Not bad for a livebearer. But with that many fetal fry crammed into one incubator pouch, the inevitable tradeoff is that the young are born at a considerably smaller size than most seahorses (Abbott 2003). The newborns are too small to accept newly hatched Artemia nauplii as their first food, and must therefore be fed on copepods and rotifers initially, which are much more difficult to culture and provide in large numbers. They also go through a lengthy pelagic phase, drifting freely with the plankton for up to 1-2 months, which makes H. reidi fry notoriously difficult to raise (Abbott 2003).

    Contrast that with what my new book has to say regarding the ease of rearing billboard at the Hippocampus fuscus:

    Ease of Rearing:
    About as easy as it gets! H. fuscus fry are suitable for the easy rearing method. Small broods of large, well-developed benthic fry that can take Artemia nauplii (newly hatched brine shrimp) as their first foods make this one of the very easiest seahorses to raise. H. fuscus is quite comparable to H. zosterae and H. capensis in ease of rearing.

    In short, Joe, if breeding is a consideration, then Hippocampus fuscus wins hands down!

    Here is my complete species summary for Hippocampus fuscus, sir:

    Hippocampus fuscus (Tropical, Benthic)
    Common name: Sea Pony, Black Sea Pony or Black Seaponie.
    Scientific name: Hippocampus fuscus Ruppell 1838
    Synonyms:
    Hippocampus brachyrhynchus
    Hippocampus natalensis
    Maximum size: 5 inches (12.5cm).
    Climate: tropical: 20 degrees S to 20 degrees N
    Distribution:
    Indian Ocean (Sri Lanka) and Red Sea.

    Meristic Counts:
    Rings: 11 trunk rings + 34 tail rings (tail rings vary from 33-37).
    Dorsal fin rays: 16 rays (varies from 14-17) spanning 2 trunk rings + 1 tail ring.
    Pectoral fin rays: 15 soft rays (varies from 14-16).
    Morphometrics:
    Snout Length: 2.7 (2.4-3.0) in head length.
    Other distinctive characters:
    Coronet: usually low and insignificant so that the arch of the neck forms a smooth unbroken curve; sometimes slightly raised and rough in texture.
    Spines: low to slightly developed (smooth bodied).
    Key Features: head appears large compared to the size of the body.
    Adult Height: 3 to 4-3/4 inches (8-12cm).

    Color and Pattern:
    As its common name suggests, the Black Sea Pony (H. fuscus) is usually dark in color but bright yellow specimens also occur. Background coloration varies from pale yellowish brown to dark gray to black, often with large pale areas or saddles on its back. A large whitish patch on the back of the neck is typical of many specimens and may be diagnostic for this species in some areas (Kuiter 2000).

    Breeding Habits:
    Breeding Season: unknown; may breed year round in captivity.
    Gestation Period: about 18-24 days (varies with water temperature).
    Egg Diameter: 1.8 mm.
    Brood Size: 10-120 fry; typical brood size is about 80.
    Size at Birth: about ~1/2” (10 mm).
    Onset of sexual maturity: 4 months at about 2 inches (4-5 cm) in length.
    Pelagic/Demersal (benthic): fry are benthic from birth.
    Ease of Rearing:
    About as easy as it gets! H. fuscus fry are suitable for the easy rearing method. Small broods of large, well-developed benthic fry that can take Artemia nauplii (newly hatched brine shrimp) as their first foods make this one of the very easiest seahorses to raise. H. fuscus is quite comparable to H. zosterae and H. capensis in ease of rearing.

    Natural Habitat: algal reefs or eelgrass beds (Zostera sp.) in shallow protected lagoons from 3-33 feet (1-10 meters) deep.
    Natural History:
    The Sea Pony has not been studied in the wild and little is known about the natural history of H. fuscus. It is believed to be monogamous since adults pair bond and conduct daily greetings in the aquarium (Lourie, Vincent & Hall 1999). These are diurnal seahorses that are active by day.
    Females produce large eggs 1.8 mm in diameter with clutches ranging from 30-140 eggs. After receiving these ova, males give birth to broods of 10-120 young after a gestation period of 18-24 days.

    Preferred Parameters:
    Temperature = range 72F to 78F (22C-26C), optimum 75F (24C).
    Specific Gravity = range 1.022 – 1.026, optimum 1.0245
    pH = 8.2 – 8.4
    Ammonia = 0
    Nitrite = 0
    Nitrate = 0-20 ppm
    Suggested Stocking Density: 1 pair per 5 gallons (20 liters).

    Aquarium Requirements:
    The Sea Pony (H. fuscus) has no special care requirements and is generally quite tolerant regarding aquarium parameters. These hardy little seahorses should thrive in a standard SHOWLR tank equipped with a good protein skimmer and heavily planted with Caulerpa and other macroalgae to simulate its natural eelgrass habitat.

    Juvenile Rearing Tanks:

    H. fuscus has proven to be very easy to raise. They can be raised in a basic benthic nursery using the easy rearing method and do well on newly hatched brine shrimp (Artemia nauplii). Survivorship is generally very good and success rates are high.

    Wolfgang Mai has been very successful rearing H. fuscus using the following methods described below. He prefers a bare-bottomed in-tank nursery about 4 by 12 inches (10 x 30 cm) suspended within a larger host aquarium (Mai 2004b). Mai finds a nursery this size will comfortably house up to 80 fry (Mai 2004b) providing there are plenty of artificial hitching posts (plastic grids). He cautions that the benthic fry will perch on each other if insufficient holdfasts are provided, thereby interfering with efficient feeding, and notes that artificial hitching posts are much easier to clean and sterilize than live Caulerpa (Mai 2004b).

    The tops of his in-tank nurseries are covered with mesh to allow uneaten Artemia nauplii that have lost most of their nutritional value to escape (Mai 2004b). Mai cleans out his suspended nurseries between feedings by lifting the inner fry tank halfway out of the host aquarium and then resubmerging it, which flushes out the detritus and debris that accumulates on the bottom (Mai 2004b). This has the added benefit of flushing any excess Artemia remaining from the last feeding out of the nursery. In between feedings, fecal pellets are siphoned off the bottom as often as possible using a length of airline tubing (Mai 2004b).

    Over the next 30 days, Mai keeps a close eye on the developing fry and separates the fast-growing young from the smaller fry that are lagging behind (Mai 2004b). The slow-growing fry are weeded out from their bigger brethren and transferred to separate grow-out tanks for further rearing, so that all the young have been segregated by size after the first month or so (Mai 2004b). Mai begins offering the young frozen food every now and then during this period to supplement their staple diet of live Artemia and gradually accustom them to nonliving food (Mai 2004b).

    He uses the smallest possible grow-out tanks at this point in order to maintain an adequate feeding density for the young. The bare-bottomed rearing tanks are siphoned off 2 or 3 times daily to remove fecal pellets and detritus (Mai 2004b). Once a week, the entire tank and all the artificial hitching posts are cleansed and scrubbed thoroughly with hot water and a brush (Mai 2004b). The young fuscus are removed with a strainer for this procedure, and Mai finds that exposing the juveniles to the air at this stage of their development causes them no harm whatsoever (Mai 2004b).

    At the age of two months, the juveniles need more room and are transferred to larger bare-bottom rearing tanks for further growth (Mai 2004b). Mai maintains the same regimen of daily siphoning and weekly tank (and hitching post) scrubbings (Mai 2004b). He warns that skimping on this regular maintenance will result in the formation of a bacterial slime that covers everything in the tank and sickens the seahorses (Mai 2004b).

    The juveniles mature at the age of about 4 months when they have reached a size of 4-5 centimeters or about 2 inches (Mai 2004b). They are ready to be transferred to the display tank when they are around 4-5 months old. Mai notes that transferring the young to a large, decorated aquarium too early will severely impact their growth and health (Mai 2004b).

    Diet, Nutrition, and Feeding Techniques:

    H. fuscus fry can be started on newly hatched Artemia nauplii. They grow rapidly and should be offered progressively larger (older) brine shrimp nauplii as they develop and mature. Its important to enrich brine shrimp older than 8 hours once they reach Instar II and beyond.

    Mai has determined that the best growth is achieved newly hatched Artemia nauplii12-16 hours old that have refrigerated at 41-45 F (5-7 C) for 24-36 hours to keep them in an arrested state of development and enriched with fatty acids and vitamins throughout this period of suspended animation (Mai 2004b). The metabolism and growth of the Artemia slows to a virtually standstill when refrigerated, allowing the nauplii to retain most of their yolk sacs and remain small enough for even newborn fry to accept even after 2 to 3 days of continuous enrichment (Mai 2004b). This method of enrichment produces brine shrimp nauplii with unsurpassed nutritional value. See the chapter on rearing for more information on the refrigeration method of fortifying brine Artemia nauplii.

    The fry grow rapidly on this diet, putting on their most substantial growth from days 6 to 25, during which time they gained an average of 1 millimeter in total length per day (Mai 2004b). After this initial growth spurt, the growth rate of the fuscus fry slowed again, so they grew about 2 millimeters per week between day 25 and day 40 (Mai 2004b).

    The young are ready to be weaned onto defrosted Artemia nauplii and chopped frozen Mysis by the age of 6-8 weeks and rapidly learn to eat such nonliving prey. By the age of 2 months, most of the juvenile fuscus should be eating frozen baby brine shrimp and small defrosted mysids as their staple diet (Mai 2004b).

    Adult H. fuscus are aggressive feeders that are very easy to feed. They greedily accept all the usual live foods and frozen fodder, thriving on enriched frozen Mysis as their staple diet. Mai reports that the adults thrive when feed frozen foods 3 times a day (Mai 2004b). He feeds a combination of freshly thawed Mysis shrimp and defrosted adult brine shrimp, and notes that his seaponies much prefer the Mysis (Mai 2004b). This means the 2 types or frozen foods should never be offered at the same time or the seahorses will concentrate on the mysids and ignore the Artemia. For best results, he recommends providing each adult with 10-20 Mysis shrimp or adult shrimp over the course of the day, with the Artemia comprising about 20% of their daily diet (Mai 2004b).

    Discussion:

    H. fuscus is very similar to the charming Cape Seahorse (H. capensis) in appearance and behavior. Both species are closely related to H. kuda and are likely offshoots of the kuda complex. It may be helpful for hobbyists to think of H. fuscus as a warm-water version of H. capensis that shares its many desirable traits.

    As such, this is the perfect seahorse for the aquarium. Even wild-caught H. fuscus are very hardy (Garrick-Maidment 1997). Once they have been captive-bred for a few generations, these sea ponies will be all but bulletproof. Wild specimens are very easy to wean onto to a diet of nonliving foods and captive-bred H. fuscus thrive on a staple diet of frozen Mysis (Garrick-Maidment 1997).

    H. fuscus is seldom seen in the US and captive-bred specimens have never been available to hobbyists. This prolific species is ideally suited for aquaculture and has long been raised on a limited basis in Europe and the UK. In view of this, I am always amazed that H. fuscus is not already being worked by one of large seahorse farms in Australia or the USA. That will surely change and it is only a matter of time before a line of captive-bred H. fuscus appears on the market. In this case, perhaps it will be Kealan Doyle at Seahorse Ireland who leads the way.

    One thing is for certain — once Carol Cozzi-Schmarr in Kona, Hawaii or Tracy Warland in Port Lincoln, Australia get their hands on sufficient H. fuscus broodstock, they will have an instant hit on their hands. Hobbyists will find a tropical seahorse that has all the virtues of captive-bred H. capensis but without any temperature concerns whatsoever to be virtually irresistible. A multigenerational line of H. fuscus has unlimited potential and could quickly become the most popular seahorse in the ornamental fish industry, surpassing even such perennial favorites as H. erectus and the ever-popular dwarf seahorse (H. zosterae) in that regard. (H. fuscus is much easier to breed and raise than H. erectus and both larger and easier to feed than H. zosterae.)

    Bottom Line:

    Nearly indestructible when farm-raised, H. fuscus is the ideal “starter” seahorse, and is highly recommended for beginners. A great choice for breeding projects.

    Together with H. erectus and H. zosterae, the Sea Pony (H. fuscus) gets my top recommendation. If you ever have a chance to acquire captive-bred fuscus, snap them up!

    Additional Information (to learn more about Hippocampus fuscus, please consult the following references):

    Hippocampus fuscus, Sea pony. 27 Feb. 2004. Fish Base.
    <http://www.fishbase.org/Summary/SpeciesSummary.cfm?id=25955&gt;

    Mai, Wolfgang. 2004b. “Improved Techniques for Raising Hippocampus kuda and H. fuscus.” Coral. Vol. 1, Num. 1. February/March 2004.

    ©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.

    #53978
    joedinsmore
    Participant

    Hi
    Thanks so much for all the information. I was just wondering if h. Fuscus is a species that has been fed using a feeding station. I would also like to inquire about what people have done when they have gone on holidays.
    Many thanks
    Joe

    #53980
    Pete Giwojna
    Moderator

    Dear Joe:

    Yes, of course, Hippocampus fuscus can easily be trained to eat from a feeding station, if you wish.

    Here are some suggestions explaining how most seahorse keepers handle trips away from home:

    VACATION TIPS

    Going on holiday or taking a vacation always presents a problem for the seahorse keeper, who must make provisions to keep his or her prized ponies well fed during his or her absence.

    In this document, we will discuss how best to handle this difficult dilemma during different situations. As you can imagine, the best approach will depend on whether you will be gone for only a day or two, taking a long weekend off, or setting out on a full-fledged vacation for a week or two or several weeks.

    For example, during short trips you can simply add a batch of red feeder shrimp (Halocaridina rubra) to your seahorse tank right before you leave, and the seahorses will be very happy hunting down and scarfing up all of the stragglers for the next two or three days. The red feeder shrimp, also known as Hawaiian volcano shrimp or Opa’e-ula (their native Hawaiian name), are rugged, highly adaptable, and very tough – nearly indestructible, really – and are absolutely irresistible to seahorses. They are what I call a “feed-and-forget” live food that will survive indefinitely in a saltwater aquarium until they are eventually gobbled up by the seahorses. Ocean Rider (www.com) markets them under the brand name of “Red Iron Horse Feed,” indicating their extreme hardiness and the outstanding nutrition they provide for our ponies. Red feeder shrimp are easy to culture in a small 5-10 gallon aquarium of their own, as we will discuss in more detail at the end of this article.

    In short, tossing a generous portion of live red feeder shrimp into your seahorse tank just before you depart is a very effective method of managing things when you will be away on short trips — say for a long weekend, when you would be away from home for 3-4 days or so.

    For even briefer trips — a quick weekend jaunt — fasting your seahorses is often the best option. As long as you will only be out of town for a couple of days on rare occasion, and not regularly, week after week, the best approach is often simply to fast the seahorses for the entire 2-3 days. Well-fed seahorses in good condition can fast for 2-3 days with no ill effects whatsoever (indeed, Ocean Rider seahorses are typically in transit for 48 hours when shipped from Hawaii directly to their destinations on the mainland, and, of course, the ponies go unfed during this entire period), and if the aquarium is well established, it often houses copepods and amphipods that the seahorses can graze on to supplement their diet, which they will happily do when the regular feedings of Mysis are not forthcoming.

    So fasting the ponies is often the best option for 2-day trips. It’s preferable to teaching a “fish sitter” to feed the ponies with frozen Mysis, since they always have a pronounced tendency to overfeed, and overfeeding will result in wastage and spoilage that can degrade the water quality, pollute the aquarium, or cause transient ammonia spikes, all of which will be much more harmful for the seahorses than a two or three day fast…

    But for longer trips, a somewhat different strategy is called for, as explained below:

    Vacation Tips for Long Trips Away from Home

    Unfortunately, there aren’t too many great options for those times when you’re going to be out of town for an extended period. Automatic feeders just aren’t feasible for the frozen foods or the live prey seahorses require, but traveling for a week or two is certainly not an insurmountable problem and I would be happy to suggest a couple of possible solutions for any seahorse keepers facing such an obstacle that have proven to work quite well.

    First of all, whenever you’re going away, underfeeding is vastly preferable to overfeeding. Your seahorses (and aquarium fish, in general) can fast for a long weekend with no problem at all. So just adjust the seahorses’ feeding schedule so their normal fast day falls on the weekend, give them a generous feeding before you leave, and they will be just fine over the weekend. In short, getting away for a weekend is usually not a problem at all for the seahorse keeper. But of course that’s not an option when you’re going to be gone for a week or two.

    In that event, I would recommend ordering some hardy live feeder shrimp, some of which can safely be added to the tank every two or three days, knowing they will survive in the aquarium until eaten. As we’ve already discussed, Ocean Rider’s red feeder shrimp (Red Iron Horse Feed, Halocaridina rubra) are ideal for this, as are the live Mysis (Mysidopsis bahia) From Sachs Systems Aquaculture. They are good examples of what I like to call “feed-and-forget” foods. 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 usually 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. Nothing stimulates a seahorse’s feeding instinct like the frantic movements and evasive maneuvers of natural, living prey.

    So if you are planning on being away for an extended period of time, I would suggest ordering a generous supply of the Red Iron Horse Feed From Ocean Rider or a 200-500 count of live Mysis from Sachs in advance, and setting them up in a small tank of their own with a small algae-covered live rock before you leave. That way, when your “fish sitter” checks in on your aquarium every so often, he or she can just add another netful of live feeder shrimp to the tank and that should take care of your seahorses’ feeding requirements until he or she stops by again. (The live Mysis are fairly inexpensive and you can obtain 200 of them for about $35-$50, depending on the source.)

    When the live Mysis from Sachs arrive, use a fine fishnet or kitchen strainer to remove them from the shipping bag(s) after acclimation so that they can be introduced directly into your well-aerated holding tank. This will help to ensure that none of the polluted water from the shipping bags gets into the clean bucket or small tank you will be housing the live Mysis in for the next 7-10 days or so.

    Aside from adding the live shrimp, your fish sitter’s duties will be extremely simple, mainly just checking to see that everything is operating properly. Power outages, equipment failures, or the untimely death of a specimen can wipe out your tank if they happen while you’re away. Consider recruiting a friend, neighbor or coworker to look in on your tank at least a few times while you’re gone. They needn’t be aquarium savvy at all, since you will be assigning them only the simplest of tasks: (1) check to see if the equipment is on and operating properly; (2) add freshwater to replace water lost via evaporation; and (3) toss in a netful of live feeder shrimp. And that’s all. In fact, it’s a good idea to forbid them to touch anything or do anything other than those 3 very basic duties. And, of course, you will be familiarizing them with your setup beforehand, leaving them a plastic gallon jug of dechlorinated tapwater or RO/DI water with which to top off the tank, and providing a supply of live feeder shrimp and a net so all they have to do is scoop up some of the shrimp and dump them in the tank. (Stick with the live food if you recruit a fish sitter. That way they won’t have to deal with preparing frozen Mysis and there’s no danger they’ll overfeed it. I have learned the hard way that inexperienced seahorse keepers ALWAYS have a tendency to grossly overfeed, but that’s not a concern with live feeder shrimp.)

    Ocean Rider’s red feeder shrimp are easy to keep on hand. They are extremely hardy and very easy to care for. They can be kept indefinitely in a spare 2-10 gallon tank, or even a clean, plastic bucket, that has be filled with clean saltwater and equipped with an airstone for aeration. Neither a heater nor a fancy filtration system is required. They thrive at room temp and tolerate a very wide range of salinity and all they require is an airstone (or a simple air-operated foam filter at most) to keep the water oxygenated, with perhaps a little coral rubble as substrate and a clump or two of macroalgae (sea lettuce, Ogo, Gracilaria) to shelter in and dine upon. However, the red feeder shrimp (a.k.a. Hawaiian volcano shrimp or “red iron horse feed”) are often more costly because the shipping from Hawaii is expensive, and they are becoming harder to obtain it quantity.

    For these reasons, the live Mysis from Sachs Systems Aquaculture are often a better choice for seahorse keepers on the mainland while they are traveling or on vacation. You can obtain 200 live Mysidopsis bahia for $35-$50 from Sachs and your seahorses will love them. They are a natural food source for seahorses in the wild and fairly easy to maintain in a suitable holding tank for short periods:

    If you are unable to get the red feeder shrimp from Hawaii or the live Mysis from Sachs Systems Aquaculture, then the live Mysis or post-larval feeder shrimp from Drs. Foster and Smith (www.liveaquaria.com) are another good choice for seahorse keepers while they are traveling or on vacation. You can obtain 100 live Mysidopsis bahia or 100 Penaeus vannamei live feeder shrimp for about $35 from Drs. Foster and Smith and your seahorses will love them. They are a natural food source for seahorses in the wild and fairly easy to maintain in a suitable holding tank for short periods. Just copy the following URL (i.e., everything between the angle brackets below), paste it in your web browser, and press the “Enter” key, and it will take you to the right webpage to order the live feeder shrimp online:

    < http://www.liveaquaria.com/product/aquarium-fish-supplies.cfm?c=2190&gt;

    Another option would be to hire a local aquarium maintenance business to service your seahorse setup a few times while you’re gone. Having professionals service your tank can be expensive, Lorrie, but it shouldn’t be too costly as long as it’s just for a few service calls on those rare occasions when you’ll be away for an extended period, and it’s mighty reassuring to know your fish are in good hands. Might be worth it to have that peace of mind.

    However, if you go that route, make sure you find an aquarium servicing and maintenance business with employees who are experienced with seahorses. Most of them know very little about seahorses, in which case you are much better off saving your money and recruiting your own fish sitter, as previously explained.

    So that’s the story for looking after the seahorses when one is away from home traveling, folks. There are a few options that usually work well under those circumstances, as outlined above, but the simplest approach for short weekend trips would certainly be to give the ponies a good feeding before you leave and then allow them to fast for the 2-3 days while you are away. You can give them another good meal first thing when you return home, and they should be just fine in the interim.

    Best wishes with all your fishes, Joe!

    Happy trails!
    Pete Giwojna, Ocean Rider Tech Support

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