Seahorse Club
Aquarium & Livestock

Feed Ezy Frozen Mysis

Seahorse Club
Aquarium & Livestock

Feed Ezy Frozen Mysis

Seahorse Club
Aquarium & Livestock

Feed Ezy Frozen Mysis

Seahorse Club
Aquarium & Livestock

Feed Ezy Frozen Mysis

Seahorse Club
Aquarium & Livestock

Feed Ezy Frozen Mysis

Seahorse Club
Aquarium & Livestock

Feed Ezy Frozen Mysis

Seahorse Breathing Question

  • This topic has 19 replies, 2 voices, and was last updated 16 years ago by Pete Giwojna.
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  • #4251
    Pete Giwojna
    Guest

    Dear Grant:

    Well, yeah, you could always obtain a young Hippocampus erectus to keep your female company knowing that they would be unlikely to breed successfully, but the long-term health of the H. erectus would suffer in a 12-gallon Biocube, so I wouldn’t recommend that you experiment along those lines.

    But a pair of pipefish would be an excellent option for your 12-gallon nano reef if you can obtain the right species. The ones I recommend are the small Gulf pipefish or dwarf pipefish that are available from Florida. They are very hardy and breed readily in the aquarium, and shouldn’t be bothered by the lack of water depth in your Biocube. They have a lot of interesting behaviors and make excellent tankmates for even the pipe-size dwarf seahorses.

    For example, when they’re just trying to blend into their surroundings, the pipes orient themselves vertically, heads up and tails down, and sidle up alongside a fake gorgonian or a tall clump of sea cactus, imitating one of the branches. It’s not a bad bit of camouflage, and once in a while one of the dwarf seahorses will perch on a pipefish by mistake and get taken for a wild ride, like a bareback bronco rider at a rodeo.

    But when they’re hunting, the pipes slip into the beds of macroalgae horizontally, and launch themselves like torpedoes at passing prey (Giwojna, 2005). Unlike the dwarf seahorses, which prefer to wait for their prey to come to them, the pipes dart out from hiding and snatch up brine shrimp right and left. It’s amazing how much faster and more agile they are than the pigmy ponies. At feeding time, the pipes go blasting around the tank like little guided missiles. The pipefish thrive on newly hatched brine shrimp but some hobbyists also have good luck teaching them to eat frozen Cyclop-eze instead.

    Like the seahorses, these pipefish are livebearers and give birth to independent babies that are miniature replicas of themselves, except that the newborn pipes are totally transparent (Giwojna, 2005). They look like glass splinters or tiny transparent threads. Although I never made a serious attempt to raise them, a number of them survived for several weeks when left to their own resources in my dwarf tank. They were very good at concealing themselves amid the macroalgae, and especially liked to take refuge amongst the "bristles" of my Merman’s Shaving Brushes. The dwarf seahorses have no interest in them whatsoever, but I strongly suspect the parent pipes are cannibals. All in all, Gulf pipefish are inexpensive and entertaining additions to a nano tank.

    The following vendors are a good source for these small pipefish, Grant:

    Florida Pets
    <http://www.floridapets.com/&gt;

    Florida Pets is a good source for macroalgae and marine plants, and especially for the dwarf pipefish and micro brittle starfish that would make nice additions to your mini reef.

    Aqualand
    <http://www.seahorseworld.com/&gt;
    [email protected]

    Aqualand offers small Gulf pipefish as well as dwarf seahorses, so that’s another option you can consider.

    Whether or not you could keep seahorses in your 75-gallon reef tank would depend on the type of corals in the aquarium, how strong the water flow and currents are, and whether the high intensity lighting tends to keep the aquarium unacceptably warm (most tropical seahorses prefer temperatures in the 72°F-75°F range and will experience heat stress at temperatures approaching 80°F). Here is some information that discusses how to make a reef tank safe for seahorses, Grant:

    Seahorse-Proofing the Reef Tank

    When designing a reef tank that will include seahorses, one must anticipate the different ways they might be injured in such a setup and then take precautions to prevent them from coming to harm. The process of rendering your reef system seahorse safe is much like the measures new parents take to childproof their house when they are expecting their first child. Intake tubes for the filters should be shielded, siphon tubes should be equipped with filter baskets or screens, and so on…

    For instance, when powerful water movement is combined with overflows, there is a risk that seahorses could become pinned against an overflow or even go over it (Delbeek, Oct. 2001). Therefore, in the seahorse reef, overflows must be baffled and/or screened off, or the water flow should be adjusted sufficiently to prevent that from happening.

    Likewise, although seahorses have no problem with strong currents in the wild, in the confines of aquarium, it is possible for them to come in contact with stinging corals if they are struck by a sudden powerful wave or surge, or are overwhelmed by a strong, unexpected current (Delbeek, Oct. 2001). The hobbyist needs to take this into consideration when placing water returns and corals in the seahorse reef (Delbeek, Oct. 2001). If possible, keep the water currents steady and unvarying so the seahorses can establish holding areas in the sheltered spots and low flow zones without getting blindsided by unpredictable currents.

    One good way to accommodate both the needs of corals that prefer brisk currents and the seahorse’s need for slack-water retreats is to create tall rock formations a foot or two down current from the strongest water flows to intercept and deflect or divert that strong flow of water, creating eddies and slack-water zones where there is relatively little water movement down current. Seahorses will hold in these low flow areas when they want to move away from the current, so it’s a good idea to position convenient hitching posts in the lee or down-current side of such formations..

    Another excellent way to accomplish the same thing is to use small powerheads to create and direct current wherever needed. A properly positioned powerhead can thus bathe your prized Acropora formations in a brisk water stream precisely without generating too much water movement elsewhere in the aquarium. Just be aware that powerheads can become death traps for seahorses if their intakes are not properly shielded or screened off, and take the necessary precautions (Delbeek, Oct. 2001). Carefully conceal the intakes amidst the rockwork where they will be completely inaccessible to seahorses, otherwise shield them, or screen them off with a sponge prefilter.

    In short, the hobbyist who wants to keep seahorses in a reef system must be willing to make some concessions and modifications to accommodate their special needs nonetheless. For example, the reef keeper must be willing to limit himself to corals and invertebrates that meet the following criteria:

    1) Avoid any stinging animals with powerful nematocysts. This means fire corals (Millepora spp.) and anemones should be excluded from the seahorse reef, and any corals with polyps that feel sticky to the touch should be used with discretion and only after careful planning. When a seahorse brushes up against them or attempts to perch on them, the nematocysts or stinging cells of these animals can penetrate the seahorse’s skin and damage its integument. Needless to say, this causes pain and discomfort and can leave the seahorse vulnerable to secondary bacterial and fungal infections, which may take hold at the site of injury. Short polyped stony (SPS) corals are generally fine, but large polyped stony (LPS) corals should be regarded with caution, as discussed in more detail below.

    2) Water movement and circulation must be managed as previously described. Corals that require powerful surge or overly strong water currents could overtax the limited swimming ability of Hippocampus unless slack water areas the seahorses can retreat to when needed are also provided.

    3) The corals must be able to withstand being used as hitching posts by the seahorses from time to time; that is, they cannot be so delicate that having a seahorse’s grasping tail anchored around them could cause them any harm. For instance, soft corals may retract their polyps when a seahorse perches on them. This can be harmful to their health if it becomes a chronic problem, because many corals rely on their polyps to absorb light and convert it to energy via photosynthesis. Be sure to watch any soft corals and hermatypic corals to make sure they are not closed up for extended periods. Normally, they adjust to the seahorses’ presence and unwelcome attention after a while, and remain contracted only briefly after each contact. After repeated exposures to grasping tails, each such incident elicits a weaker response, so they tend to extend their polyps sooner and sooner after being disturbed (Delbeek, Oct. 2001).

    4) Avoid Tridacna clams and similar bivalve mollusks. Sooner or later a seahorse will perch on them with its tail between the valves and the clam’s powerful adductor muscle will clamp down on it like a vise. At best this will be a very stressful experience for the unfortunate seahorse, since it can be the devil’s own business trying to persuade the stubborn mollusk to release its struggling victim! At worst, it can result in serious injury or permanent damage to the seahorses tail (Giwojna, unpublished text).

    5) Beware of unwanted hitchhikers that may have come in on your live rock unbeknownst to you and which can harm seahorses, such as fireworms, mantis shrimp, or Aptasia rock anemones. When setting up a reef system for seahorses, it’s a wise precaution to pre-treat your live rock with a hypersaline bath to drive out such pests beforehand because they can be very difficult to remove or eradicate once they make themselves at home in your aquarium (Giwojna, unpublished text).

    As long as the specimens you are considering for your seahorse reef satisfy these requirements, anything goes! Some of the good and bad candidates for such a reef system are discussed below:

    Seahorse-Safe Corals

    Soft corals have very little stinging ability and generally make good choices for a modified mini reef that will include seahorses (Delbeek, Oct. 2001). This includes most mushroom anemones (corallimorpharians). However, as Charles Delbeek cautions, "One notable exception is the elephant ear mushroom anemone (Amplexidiscus fenestrafer). This animal is an active feeder on small fish and will envelope them whole with its mantle then slowly digest them by extruding its digestive filaments into the space created. No small fish are safe with these animals in the tank (Delbeek, Oct. 2001).".

    Hippocampus also does very well with zooanthids and colonial polyps in general. But the hobbyist must be sure to observe a couple of precautions when handling the zoanthids and placing them in your aquarium.

    First and foremost, many of the commonly available Zooanthus (button polyps) and Palythoa (sea mats) species contain a very toxic substance in their mucous coat known as palytoxin, which is one of the most poisonous marine toxins ever discovered (Fatherree, 2004). Palytoxin can affect the heart, muscles, and nerves, resulting in paralysis or possibly even death, and many hobbyists have reported numbness, nausea and/or hallucinations after merely touching these corals (Fatherree, 2004). When you handle zoanthids and palythoans, you cannot help picking up some of their protective slime on your fingers, and so much as rubbing your eye, picking your nose, or a small cut on your finger can be enough to land you in the hospital. When handling Zooanthus are Palythoa species, it’s very important to wear disposable latex gloves, avoid touching your mouth or eyes, and carefully dispose of the gloves immediately afterwards (Fatherree, 2004).

    Secondly, zoanthids and other soft corals such as mushrooms may wage border battles if you place them in close proximity to each other (and the zoanthids almost always lose out to the mushrooms in these skirmishes). So be sure to allow adequate space between the colonies. Some rapidly growing Zooanthus colonies can be aggressive to soft and stony corals alike as they rapidly spread over the rockwork, but in general they are quite peaceful, and you can always slow down their rate of growth by reducing the nutrient loading in the aquarium.

    Other low light corals that should be suitable for a seahorse reef include genera such as Cynarina, Scolymia and Trachyphyllia, as well as non-photosynthetic gorgonians such as Subergorgia and Didogorgia, and perhaps wire corals such as Cirripathes spp. (Delbeek, Nov. 2001).. However, supplemental feedings of zooplankton may be required to maintain these corals in good health.

    The hard or stony corals fall into two categories depending on the size of their polyps. The small polyped stony (SPS) corals have tiny polyps that extend out of minute openings in the stony skeleton, and generally have weak stings that should not pose a threat to seahorses. Depending on conditions in the tank, SPS corals such as Acropora, Montipora, Pocillipora, Porities, Seriatopora and Stylophora can be tried freely at your discretion (Delbeek, Oct. 2001).

    The large polyped stony (LPS) corals, however, are generally best avoided altogether. These include genera such as Catalaphyllia, Cynarina, Euphyllia and Trachyphyllia that have large fleshy polyps which often have tentacles equipped with powerful stinging cells. The Euphyllia and Catalaphyllia have the most powerful nematocysts among the LPS corals, and can deliver stings that are stronger than most anemones (Delbeek, Oct. 2001).

    Some of the soft corals and stony corals that generally do well with seahorses in a modified reef tank are listed below. (By no means is this intended to be a comprehensive list, but rather just a few examples of suitable corals to serve as general guidelines when stocking a reef tank that will house seahorses):

    Finger Leather Coral (Lobophyton sp.)
    Flower Tree Coral – Red / Orange, (Scleronephthya spp.)
    aka: Scleronephthya Strawberry Coral, or Pink or Orange Cauliflower Coral
    Christmas Tree Coral (Sphaerella spp.)
    aka: the Medusa Coral, Snake Locks Coral, or French Tickler
    Cauliflower Colt Coral (Cladiella sp.)
    aka: Colt Coral, Soft Finger Leather Coral, Seaman’s Hands or Blushing Coral.
    Toadstool Mushroom Leather Coral (Sarcophyton sp.)
    aka: Sarcophyton Coral, Mushroom, Leather, or Trough Corals.
    Bullseye Mushroom Coral (Rhodactis inchoata)
    aka: Tonga Blue Mushroom, Small Elephant Ear Mushroom (rarely)
    Clove Polyps (Clavularia sp.)
    Stick Polyp (Parazoanthus swiftii)
    Green Daisy Polyps (Clavularia sp.), Indonesia
    Orange & Green Colony Button Polyps (Zooanthus sp.), Fiji
    Pulsing Corals (Xenia spp.)
    Red Ricordea (Ricordea sp.), Indonesia, occasionally Solomon Islands
    Lavender Hairy Mushroom (Actinodiscus sp.), Tonga
    Pimpled Mushroom (Discosoma sp.), Indonesia
    Purple Gorgonians

    For additional information regarding seahorse-safe corals and invertebrates, please see Will Wooten’s guide to tankmates for seahorses at the following URL:

    http://www.seahorse.org/library/articles/tankmates.shtml

    If there is too much current in your 75 gallon reef tank for seahorses, or if it contains LPS corals that might present a risk to the seahorses, then the refugium may be a possibility for the seahorse instead. What are the dimensions of your refugium, sir? If it is large enough and the water temperature is acceptable, it might make a wonderful place for a seahorse or two to set up housekeeping.

    At any rate, there’s no reason to feel flustered by this situation or that you have run out of options, Grant. Judging from your photograph, the female seahorse is still pretty young, so you have some time before she starts to feel cramped in your 12-gallon Biocube. And when that time comes, you may be able to relocate her to your 75-gallon reef system or its refugium.

    Best wishes with all your fishes (and invertebrates), sir!

    Respectfully,
    Pete Giwojna

    #4252
    BigGrantman
    Guest

    Thanks a lot that makes me feel better. I don’t have the deminsions of the refugium yet it is a hang on though. I have switch my sump fuge out for a hang on. Would the pipefish or even the dwarf seahorses live on enriched brine shrimp, because I don’t have the room to keep a constant supply of newly hatched brine. if I went with dwarf seahorses or pipefish what would you suggest the stocking level be?
    Thanks
    Grant

    #4259
    Pete Giwojna
    Guest

    Dear Grant:

    It is possible to keep dwarf seahorses (Hippocampus zosterae) in a mini reef in some circumstances. For example, this is what Joanne Heuter reports in that regard:

    " I have never kept dwarfs in a reef tank environment, but I have talked to people who do. They tell me that dwarfs are well suited for reef tanks that have less active fish, shrimp, or crabs. The reef should not contain any large sea anemones or the seahorses could become food for them. In a quiet reef with lots of live rock, sometimes the dwarfs can become self sustaining living off the small creatures that inhabit the rocks."

    However, you cannot count on adult Pixies or dwarf seahorses to eat frozen baby brine shrimp or any other frozen foods consistently. Dwarf seahorses are pretty lazy hunters. They like to anchor their tails to a convenient hitching post and wait for their food to come to them, rather than chasing after potential prey. In most cases, attempting to get them to eat frozen food just results in polluting your aquarium.

    It can sometimes be done with lots of time, patience, and perseverance, and it isn’t really as difficult as most folks imagine to train adult dwarves to eat frozen foods IF you have a role model to teach them. Zulus, tubers, barbs, young erectus, etc. all make great teachers, and most adult zosterae will learn to take bits of frozen mysis or sometimes the frozen form of Cyclop-eeze readily enough with such role models to show them the way. But some dwarves just don’t get it and never learn to eat frozen fodder and, in my opinion, it’s just not worth the effort of trying to train any of them.

    Why? Because training adults to eat frozen food by no means frees the dwarf seahorse keeper from the need to hatch out huge amounts of baby brine shrimp every single day. Think about it. Anybody who keeps any amount of dwarf seahorses always has zosterae fry on his hands. The fry need copious amounts of newly hatched Artemia nauplii daily anyway, so it’s simply easier and more efficient to hatch out enough bbs for the adults at the same time. Many hobbyists prefer to raise dwarf fry in the same tank as their parents, so maintaining an adequate feeding density of Artemia nauplii for the newborns automatically assures that the adults are equally well fed. For me, there’s just no percentage in spending a lot of time and effort trying to train adults to eat frozen food when I still have to keep a battery of brine shrimp hatcheries cranked up full blast for the babies anyway.

    In my experience, Artemia nauplii are the best food for Hippocampus zosterae in any case. Either 1st-instar nauplii from decapsulated cysts, fed to the seahorses immediately after hatching while the nauplii’s yolk sacs are virtually intact, or 2nd-instar nauplii that have been enriched, make a highly nutritious diet that meets all the dwarf seahorse’s requirements.

    Be that as it may, Grant, I don’t think it will be possible for you to keep dwarf seahorses in your 12-gallon Biocube simply because the water current will be too strong for these pint-size pigmy ponies. As you know, the new nano tanks and BioCubes are designed with reef keepers in mind and therefore feature brisk circulation and strong water flow. That’s simply not acceptable for dwarf seahorses. The vigorous water currents will swirl potential prey past them way too fast for them to target and eat, with the results that the dwarfs will gradually starve to death in your reef tank regardless of the type of food you provide.

    The Gulf pipefish we discussed in my previous post are much better swimmers and should be able to handle the currents in your Biocube with no problem. And they can often be converted to frozen Cyclop-eze as their staple diet, so you would be better off forgetting about dwarf seahorses for your nano reef and concentrate on the small Gulf pipefish instead.

    Best of luck with your 12-gallon reef system, Grant!

    Respectfully,
    Pete Giwojna

    #4266
    BigGrantman
    Guest

    I have a few more questions again. What is the height requirements to breed the seahorses. Also my pony has algae growing on her is this normal. Can I at least put in another seahorse to keep her company. And lastly my local dealer got some new seahorses in and they look like shortsnouts but thy said they are from the coast of north carolina. Oh i forgot if you buy a pregnant male will he ever pair with another or will he be at risk of death or will he pair. Thanks
    Grant

    #4267
    Pete Giwojna
    Guest

    Dear Grant:

    A simple rule of thumb to apply regarding the water depth required for seahorses to breed successfully is that most species require vertical swimming space equivalent to about three times their total length in order to accomplish the copulatory rise and transfer of the eggs comfortably, as discussed below:

    Water Depth:

    Some breeding projects are doomed to failure from the moment the aquarist picks out the aquarium for his seahorses (Giwojna, Jan. 1999). This can happen when a hobbyist selects a tank that is simply too shallow for the type of ‘horses he wants to raise (Giwojna, Jan. 1999). Seahorses are vertically oriented, and their upright swimming style is best suited to tall aquaria. More importantly, they rise vertically through the water column in order to mate, and if the aquarium is too shallow, they may be physically unable to copulate and transfer the female’s eggs into the male’s pouch for fertilization (Vincent. 1995b). This is an important consideration when breeding the largest species such as Hippocampus ingens, H. abdominalis, H. erectus and H. reidi. For instance, Australian breeders report that reducing the water level to below 500cm or about 20 inches deep can completely interrupt reproduction in Potbelly seahorses (H. abdominalis; Michael Dickson, pers. com.).

    As a general rule of thumb, seahorses must have a minimum of 3 full body lengths of open water (top-to-bottom swimming space) above the substrate in order to mate comfortably (Giwojna, Jan. 1999). This will allow them to swim upwards for one or two full body lengths when they rise from the bottom and attempt to transfer the eggs. In other words, if you want to breed that prize 10-inch Potbelly seahorse of yours, you will need to provide him and his mate with a tank that is at about 30-inches tall (Giwojna, Jan. 1999). Or, in order for a pair of 6 inch Mustangs to mate comfortably, you should provide them with 18 inches of unencumbered swimming space.

    When selecting a breeding tank, bear in mind that the ”three-body-lengths” rule applies to the depth of the water in the aquarium, not the height of the tank per se (Giwojna, Jan. 1999). If you keep the water level in the tank an inch from the top and have an inch of calcareous gravel or crushed coral on the bottom, a 12-inch tall aquarium only has 10 inches of vertical swimming space. With such a tank, the hobbyist would thus be restricted to one of the smaller seahorse species that attain an adult height of no more than about 3 inches from the tip of their coronet to the tip of their tail. For example, a pair of 6 inch Hippocampus erectus may have difficulty mating in a tank that is only 16-inches high, since they need around 18 inches of vertical swimming space for the copulatory rise, and you must account for the air space at the top of the tank as well as the depth of the substrate (Giwojna, Jan. 1999).

    This is where your 14-gallon Biocube is problematic, Grant. Those tanks are a bit less than 17 inches (16.7") tall to begin with, and if you have your mini reef established with a deep live sand bed (DLSB), you will have 3 or 4 inches of sand on the bottom plus a 1 inch air gap at the top of the tank, meaning the water depth of the tank is only 12-13 inches at best. And that’s in an area of the aquarium where there would be no live rock or corals or decorations of any kind above the level of the sand bed, which probably is a situation that does not even exist in a nano reef which is chock-full of life.

    The urge to breed is very strong in Hippocampus, however, and if kept in a shallow tank, pairs will do their best to improvise, adapt, and overcome such depth limitations. I have seen experienced pairs whose copulatory "rise" was more horizontal than vertical due to a lack of water depth, yet which eventually managed to mate successfully. Typically, the shallower the tank, the more difficult coitus is to achieve and the more likely it becomes that eggs will be spilled during the transfer. Eventually this reaches the point where entire clutches are being lost, which is when most pairs cease trying and no longer attempt to breed (Giwojna, Jan. 1999).

    Worse still, shallow tanks increase the danger that an overripe female may become egg bound. In a tank with inadequate water depth, a courting female that has hydrated her clutch may be unable to make the egg transfer, yet she will be reluctant to dump the eggs while a receptive male is still standing by eager to receive them. If she is overly optimistic and retains her clutch too long, hoping to pull off the tricky egg transfer despite the lack of depth, she may become egg bound. Her lower abdomen will become very swollen and prolapsed tissue may protrude through the vent as the pressure builds up. If she is unable to release the eggs at this point and relieve the pressure, death will result. An egg-bound female is thus a very serious complication of depth limitations (Leslie Leddo, pers. com.).

    Worst of all, even if the seahorses can manage to mate successfully in your Biocube, we are still disregarding the more serious problem of gas bubble syndrome (GBS). As you know, the shallower the aquarium, the more likely chronic problems with GBS are to occur, which is a very dangerous situation because GBS is a fatal condition if untreated. In a nutshell, large seahorses in aquariums less than 20 inches tall are very susceptible to various forms of gas bubble syndrome. So in a 14-gallon Biocube set up as a mini reef, which may have only 12-13 inches of water depth, seahorses will be predisposed to problems with GBS in the long run.

    As I said before, you may certainly add another seahorse to your 14-gallon Biocube to keep your female company, even if they don’t mate successfully, but to do so will not be conducive to the long-term health of the seahorses due to the increased risk of egg binding and the likelihood that chronic problems with GBS will develop sooner or later. The small Gulf pipefish we discussed earlier are a much better bet for your particular system, sir.

    There is only one species of seahorse that can be found in the coastal waters of North Carolina, and that is the lined seahorse (Hippocampus erectus), Grant. That is one of the larger species that can grow to well over 6 inches in length at maturity, so it is not a good candidate at all for a 14-gallon Biocube. A juvenile specimen may be comfortable in such an aquarium for a matter of months, but H. erectus normally achieves its maximum size at an age of 6-12 months, so the long-term prospects for such seahorses in a small tank like yours are very poor.

    Yes, pregnant males are likely to pair up eventually with an available female of the same species at some point after they deliver their brood. They do not remain faithful to an absentee partner indefinitely. They will often miss the next breeding cycle (usually about a month) waiting to see if their missing partner reappears, but usually begin to seek out a new mate in the subsequent months. But, as I said, I would not count on any breeding taking place in a shallow tank like yours, and adding a mature male from a large species like H. erectus would be over stocking your mini reef and increasing the bioload in the tank to a precarious level.

    The problem of algae growing on your seahorse is a common occurrence, especially in shallow aquariums with high-intensity lighting such as your nano reef, Grant. Algae often grows on the exoskeleton of seahorses, typically on their head and neck which are closest to the light source. That’s perfectly normal and nothing at all to be concerned about. Seahorses often encourage algae to grow on them as a protective device to enhance their camouflage, and it’s often best simply to ignore any such growth.

    We are all well aware that seahorses can change color to blend into their backgrounds, and that Hippocampus is capable of growing or shedding dermal cirri, which are long filaments and branching extensions of its skin, as called for in order to match its environment. To complete its disguise, the seahorse allows algae, bryozoans and other encrusting organisms to grow on its body, thereby rendering it all but invisible in its natural habitat. In fact, its skin contains polysaccharides which are believed to encourage algal growth, thereby helping it disappear into its surroundings. This vanishing act is so convincing that, even when they are collected by hand seining, seahorses often go undetected amidst the plant matter that accumulates in the net. Unless the collector is really diligent, he will lose a large proportion of his catch simply because many specimens will be overlooked and thrown back with the debris. In short, it’s perfectly normal for algae to grow on seahorses.

    If you find the algae growth to be unsightly, you can certainly brush it off using a soft camel’s hair artist’s paint brush. Just be very careful when you are handling the seahorse and gently brushing away the algae so that you don’t remove any of the seahorse’s protective slime coat if you can possibly avoid it.

    The seahorse’s pliant skin or integument is of course its first line of defense against disease. It contains mucus glands, and the slime covering the skin acts as a barrier to ectoparasites and infection. The protective slime can contain antibodies and antibacterial substances, and excessive mucus production is often the first sign of an infection or parasite problem. On the other hand, healthy seahorses often have small bright dots on their heads and torsos, which are actually mucus deposits. These beads of mucus glisten like little diamonds and are a sign of vibrant good health. When handling a seahorse, it’s important to wet your hands first in order to avoid removing too much of the protective slime coat.

    Marine fish are always in danger of dehydration because the seawater they live in is saltier than their blood and internal body fluids. As a result, they are constantly losing water by diffusion (osmosis) through their gills and the surface of their skin, as well as in their urine. The mucus layer acts as a barrier against this, waterproofing the skin and reducing the amount of water that can diffuse across its surface.

    So feel free to very gently brush away the algae as long as you take the necessary precautions and don’t disturb your seahorses’s protective slime coat any more than necessary, but you should be aware that the algae is very likely to regrow if you don’t also address the conditions that are promoting the algae growth. Reducing the photoperiod and/or switching to fluorescent lights or a combination of fluorescent and actinic bulbs would help to eliminate the algae growths on your seahorse, but adjusting the light levels in your reef tank may not be an option. However, mushrooms and soft corals usually don’t require high-intensity lighting, so reducing the photoperiod and intensity of the lighting would be the first option I would explore.

    Best of luck with your 14-gallon nano reef, Grant!

    Respectfully,
    Pete Giwojna

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