- This topic has 5 replies, 3 voices, and was last updated 13 years, 3 months ago by Pete Giwojna.
February 4, 2006 at 10:48 pm #734SEAGAZERMember
Good day all,
The strangest thing just happened in my reef. One of my pairs has been courting for about 2 days now. Today they had stopped, and I assumed they were successful some time this morning. My male is much smaller than my female. I just noticed a number of small orange obejects looking like little tiny eggs of some sort. I immediatly began looking for the culperate. To my surpise my female that has just mated (I beleive), had a string of about 4-5 of these little orange egg looking things hanging from her femail part. She looks fine, and all seems well.
Is it possible that she had too many eggs for my male to handle, and he didn\’t get them all. Could she be purging left over eggs?
I also can\’t get my male past 15 days of gestation. My tank is warm, about 78-80 degrees. I can\’t seem to get that down.
Does anyone have any suggestions?
Have a great day.
:ohmy:February 5, 2006 at 5:35 am #2276LeslieGuest
Egg transfers are not always successful. The pair has to be alligned just right for a transfer to be completed. Young less experienced seahorses will often miss or have partial egg transfers.
Small 6 to 8 inch plastic clip on fans work wonderfully well to keep temps down. Place them so the air flow from the fan blows across the water surface. I can use 2 on a 50g and can keep the temp at 72. You will need to top off much more frequently due to the increased evaporation. It is also a good idea to keep a heater set to turn on at the low end of your desired temp range.
LeslieFebruary 5, 2006 at 2:50 pm #2277SEAGAZERGuest
Thanks for the reply.
So there is a chance my male could still be pregnant? What do you think about the gestation period being only 15 days? Is it possible to have a live birth in such a short period of time?
Also, The fans. Where would you recomend purchasing them from? I am really frustrated with my lfs’s. It seems everything I get there I pay twice as much as I would have somewhere else online.
You & Pete are our lifesavers!
seagazer;)February 5, 2006 at 6:40 pm #2278Pete GiwojnaGuest
Yup, it sounds very much like your seahorses spilled some of the eggs during their mating attempt. Hippocampus erectus ova are bright orange ovoids about 1.5 mm in diameter. Unlike most fish eggs, which are round or nearly so, seahorse eggs are pear-shaped. They are full of oil droplets and rich in carotenoids (yellow to red pigments), which help to provide an intracellular source of oxygen for the fetal fry. The presence of these pigments gives the eggs their characteristic orange coloration.
Female seahorses lack a true ovipositor or intromittent organ with which to deposit their eggs (Lawrence, 2003). Rather than a long egg tube, a nipple-like genital papilla (everted oviduct) is extended slightly (3-5mm) when the female is ready to mate, and she extrudes her eggs in a long sticky string through this simple structure (Lawrence, 2003). The entire clutch — up to 1600 eggs in some species — is transferred in one brief midwater embrace lasting a mere 5-10 seconds (Vincent, 1990). A ripe female loses up to 30% of her body weight after depositing her eggs (Vincent, 1990). The swelling of the female’s abdomen and slight protrusion of the oviduct are unmistakable indications that mating is imminent.
As Leslie mentioned, it is not uncommon for an inexperienced pair to spill some eggs during the copulatory rise while they are trying to execute the tricky, maneuvers required to successfully transfer the eggs. And if your female is considerably larger than the male, it’s certainly possible that she may have ripen more eggs than his pouch could accommodate, in which case she would have no recourse but to dump the excess eggs.
In order to ensure fertilization, the female must add water to her mature oocytes (egg cells) just prior to mating (Vincent, 1990). A ripe female is committed to mating once she has hydrated her clutch of eggs. She cannot retain the hydrated eggs indefinitely (Vincent, 1990). They can only be retained for approximately 24 hours, before they must be released. She must transfer these eggs to a receptive male within 24 hours of hydration, or lose the entire clutch. Should she be unable to transfer them to a receptive male within that time, she risks becoming egg bound, and her only recourse is to release them into the water column, spilling her eggs onto the substrate.
So under certain circumstances, it’s not at all unusual for eggs to be spilled while mating or even for a female to drop her entire clutch of eggs, if necessary. As long as your tank is tall enough to allow your seahorses to mate comfortably, you shouldn’t be at all concerned at discovering a few spilled eggs or for that several stray eggs remained dangling from your female’s vent afterwards. Practice makes perfect, and sooner or later your pair will get it right and begin producing broods with clocklike regulary.
Hippocampus erectus has an enormous range of the wild, crossing many lines of latitude, with a normal gestation period of anywhere from 14-30 days, depending primarily on water temperature. In the aquarium, gestation for erectus is usually 2-3 weeks. Under the current conditions in your seahorse setup, Seagazer, it sounds like the typical gestation period for your Hippocampus erectus is going to be around 15 days.
Are you concerned about the slightly abbreviated gestation period because your male has been unable to carry a brood of fry full term at your current water temperatures? Gestation in seahorses can be influenced by a number of factors, some of which can disrupt the pregnancy and prevent the embryonic young and fetal fry from developing normally. For instance, gestation is largely determined by water temperature, is controlled by the levels of key hormones, and can be influenced to a lesser degree by diet and nutrition.
As previously mentioned, Hippocampus erectus has a very wide range which encompasses different climate belts and it can adapt to a wide rage of temperatures. Different public aquarium keep erectus successfully at temps ranging from 55 F-82 F (13 C-28 C). In general, the warmer the water the shorter the gestation period, and vice versa. Here in the US, most hobbyists keep Sunburst at around 75 F, and a 2-3 week gestation period is about average for those conditions.
However, gestation may vary due to hormonal influences as well. For example, in seahorses, a hormone known as fish isotocin, which is the equivalent of oxytocin in mammals, triggers parturition or giving birth. Thus anything that stimulates excess secretion of isotocin can result in premature births, whereas anything which decreases or delays the secretion of isotocin can postpone delivery and prolong a pregnancy abnormally.
In a similar manner, disruption of other hormones can cause a male to spontaneously abort a pregnancy or to actually resorb the eggs. The placenta-like changes that take place in brood pouch, the development of the embryonic young, and the pregnancy itself are all controlled by various hormones — testosterone, adrenal corticoids, prolactin, and isotocin — so basically anything that influences the secretion of those key hormones can have a profound effect on the pregnancy. Because of such disruptions, hobbyists should beware that not all pregnancies will come to fruition.
Some of the factors that influence these hormonal responses are the presence of the female, low oxygen levels, and diet. The presence of the female most definitely influences the gestation and brood success of her mate. Numerous studies indicate that the presence of female fishes visually or hormonally stimulates male sexual activity such as courtship, nest building, and the development of androgen-dependent sexual characteristics. Research has also shown conclusively that male seahorses which have been with the same female for more than one mating cycle are markedly more successful in brooding young. It is believed that one of the reasons for this is that the presence of their mate stimulates the secretion of the corticoids (steroid hormones produced by the adrenal cortex) and prolactin that control the pouch environment and maintain the incubation. The male is thought to further expand his pouch and develop the placenta-like internal structures to a greater degree as a result. More of the eggs can then be successfully implanted and carried to full term. Separating a gravid male from his mate can therefore have a negative impact on his pregnancy and should be strictly avoided.
Low oxygen levels during pregnancy can likewise be disastrous. They result in respiratory distress for the gravid male, putting the embryonic young at risk, as well as directly altering the hormones we have been discussing, which can further disrupt the pregnancy.
An inadequate diet can also be detrimental to a gravid male for obvious reasons. Maintaining a large brood of developing young can be a big drain on the male’s bodily resources, and a nutritious diet rich in HUFA and essential fatty acids is necessary at this time to help the male keep up his strength. That is why male seahorses have an intestinal tract that’s 50% longer than that of females. They need the extra food absorption ability and digestion a longer intestine provides in order to sustain the metabolic demands of up to 1600 rapidly growing fry.
So the gestation period for a given species can vary according to a number of factors, Seagazer, and you’ll want to avoid those conditions we’ve been discussing which can be detrimental to the pregnancy.
Best of luck with your courting seahorses, Seagazer! Here’s hoping they get it right and provide you with a healthy brood of fry very soon.
Pete GiwojnaJune 18, 2010 at 1:54 pm #5144CaspianGuest
Can i ask you something? How do I know wheter my male has eggs in his pouch? I got some info from the internet but i don’t really understand what they’re saying. And can they eat frozen brine shrimp? I just got my seahorses 6 days ago and they do merely the same thing everyday. Then one night they turned white color. I didn’t know why but can you explain to me why seahorses change color sometimes? And also when the seahorses are doing the egg transfer from the female to the male,how do i know when all the eggs are deposited in the pouch?
plz reply soon!June 19, 2010 at 4:25 am #5145Pete GiwojnaGuest
I’m not Leslie but I’ll do my best answer your questions nevertheless.
In nearly stages of pregnancy, it can be very difficult to tell whether a male is carrying developing eggs in his pouch or not. But one rule of thumb to keep in mind is that if a stallion’s pouch remains enlarged for more than three or four days in a row, there is a good chance that an egg transfer may have taken place rather than that the male is simply showing off for the females by pumping up his brood pouch.
In addition, as the pregnancy progresses, the male’s pouch will often darken due to the proliferation of epithelial and connective tissue and the placenta-like changes taking place in the wall of the marsupium, and the pouch gradually swells and expands according to the number of young developing within. The latter is not always a reliable indicator, however. Inexperienced couples often spill eggs during the exchange and a male’s first few broods are often inordinately small. The brood pouch of a male that is carrying only a few fetal fry is hardly any larger than normal, and hobbyists have often been surprised by unexpected births under such circumstances.
On the other hand, an experienced male carrying a large brood can be easily distinguished by his obviously expanding pouch. These mature breeders may carry broods numbering over 1600 fetal fry, depending of course on the species. A stallion incubating hundreds of fry will have an enormously distended pouch by the time his due date approaches.
Gravid males often become increasingly reclusive and secretive as their pregnancy advances. When the onset of labor and birth is imminent, the male will begin to shows signs of distress and his respiration rate will increase to 70-80 beats per minute. The fully developed young become very active and shake loose into the lumen of the pouch shortly before delivery. In some cases, the writhing of the young can be detected through the stretched membrane of the pouch, which causes the male considerable discomfort. He may become restless and agitated as a result, swimming slowly to and fro and pacing back and forth like, well — an expectant father. The fry are usually born in the early morning hours between midnight and dawn, arriving all at once or in multiple batches 24 hours apart.
In short, if you suspect that your stallion may be pregnant, the first things to look for are changes in his pouch (size and coloration) and changes in his behavior. A stallion may become increasingly shy and reclusive when he is carrying developing young. Gravid males may go off their feed as the delivery date approaches, missing meals or even going into hiding. When birth is imminent, he will become agitated and distressed and his respiration will increase markedly.
When it comes to their coloration, Caspian, seahorses are not like most other marine fish — rather, they are truly the chameleons of the sea with a propensity for changing color in response to a wide range of environmental factors, hormonal influences, and behavioral interactions.
For instance, they may change coloration for camouflage purposes, in order to better blend into their background, which helps conceal them both from potential predators and their prey. Likewise, the color a seahorse displays at any given moment also reflects its emotional state. As an example, seahorses often brighten in coloration when excited or aroused, whereas they tend to darken in response to fear or stress. And, of course, a whole range of other factors such as the aquarium lighting, water quality, diet, and medicines, to name just a few, can also have a marked influence on the coloration of seahorses.
But I suspect you are primarily interested in the color changes seahorses undergo when they are courting and mating, Caspian. Tropical seahorses will often brighten or lighten up in coloration dramatically when they are courting and mating. In Hippocampus erectus, for example, the normally dark colored seahorses will often adopt shades of white — anywhere from a pearly white to a chalky white or chalk yellow — during courtship and mating. However, regardless of the colors involved, the head, dorsal surface (i.e., back), and ventral line (keel) of the seahorse normally remain quite dark while the rest of the body becomes lighter and dramatically intensifies in color during courtship displays (Vincent, 1990).
For a more complete discussion of how and why seahorses change color, Caspian, see the two-part article on coloration in seahorses that I recently wrote for Conscientious Aquarist online magazine. The first article explains how seahorses use their amazing color changing ability, while the second article explains how they accomplish their color changes and is loaded with tips for keeping colorful seahorses such as Sunbursts looking their best and brightest. You can read the articles at the following URL’s and enjoy Leslie Leddo’s magnificent photographs. Just copy the following URL’s and paste them into your web browser, and it will take you directly to the articles:
There is a relatively easy way to tell when the female has transferred all of her eggs to the pouch of the male, Caspian. When a female ripens a clutch of eggs in preparation for mating, her lower abdomen becomes noticeably swollen, particularly around the area of the vent. When she subsequently mates and passes her eggs along to the male, she may then lose up to 30% of her body weight as a result. So if you are lucky enough to watch the egg transfer, you’ll be able to see the female’s body slim down dramatically during the mating attempt, which is a good indication of a successful egg transfer.
As you know, the actual transfer of eggs takes place while the couple is suspended in midwater or slowly descending toward the bottom — a maneuver that is every bit as tricky as it sounds. Coitus is marked by an extremely awkward, fleeting embrace, aptly described as little more than a brief belly-to-belly bumping (Vincent, 1990). (Brief and fleeting as in if one dares to blink, take a bathroom break, or run for your camera you may miss what you have waited all this time to witness!) As you can imagine, many difficult and delicate maneuvers are required to bring the pair into proper position for this most improbable merging. The female will attempt to insert her oviduct into the gaping aperture of the male’s inflated brood pouch. An inexperienced pair will often end up misaligned, perhaps at right angles to one another or with one of the partners too high or too low to join. This is very typical of the many false starts and abortive attempts that are ordinarily involved. The frustrated couple will separate to rest on the bottom prior to successive attempts. They may require many such rises before the proper positioning is achieved and the crucial connection is finally made.
The female will eventually succeed, with the full and active cooperation of her mate. He positions himself slightly below his mate, with the aperture of his pouch fully dilated and gaping open, ready to receive her eggs. The female will hover directly over the aperture until she can actually insert her oviduct into the opening at the top of his brood pouch or drop her eggs into the basket while hovering directly above the pouch. Pairs occasionally entwine tails when joined, but more often than not their tails will be stretched back behind them, out of the way.
If she makes a good connection, she will extrude her eggs in one long, sticky string, and the pair will hang together in midwater while the transfer is completed, drifting slowly downward as the eggs surge downward deep inside the pouch (Vincent, 1990). The entire clutch — up to 1600 eggs — is transferred in one brief embrace lasting a mere 5-10 seconds (Vincent, 1990). Sperm streams from the male’s urogenital pore into the pouch opening as the eggs are deposited (Vincent, 1990). The couple separates as they descend, drifting slowly toward the substrate. Exhausted by their efforts, the pair seek out comfortable hitching posts for a well-deserved rest. One almost expects to see them light up cigarettes at this point.
Young ponies and inexperienced pairs often find coitus awkward and difficult to accomplish successfully, and when they don’t make the crucial connection smoothly, it’s not unusual for some of the eggs to be lost during the transfer. So under certain circumstances, it’s not at all unusual for eggs to be spilled while mating or even for a female to drop her entire clutch of eggs.
Hippocampus erectus ova are bright orange ovoids about 1.5 mm in diameter. Unlike most fish eggs, which are round or nearly so, seahorse eggs are slightly pear-shaped. They are full of oil droplets and rich in carotenoids (yellow to red pigments), which help to provide an intracellular source of oxygen for the fetal fry. The presence of these pigments gives the eggs their characteristic orange coloration. The eggs are negatively buoyant and sink to the bottom when released. The eggs are also very sticky or adhesive.
Seahorse roe is indeed very nutritious due to the rich yolk supply, and the scavengers in the tank typically make short work of them, scarfing them up like caviar.
Best of luck with your new seahorses, Caspian!
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