- This topic has 3 replies, 2 voices, and was last updated 12 years, 9 months ago by Pete Giwojna.
January 26, 2011 at 10:42 pm #1866kichikoiMember
Is there a time frame on removing the fry to the kreisel system?
The first batch I did not have that system set up and the fry had migrated to the bottom of the tank before I removed them to the nursery.
I removed the 2nd and 3rd right away while still on the top of the water to the kreisel, but they still showed signs of air snicking.
karenJanuary 27, 2011 at 7:17 am #5261Pete GiwojnaGuest
That’s a very good question and I can understand why this is a confusing issue for so many seahorse keepers. Yes, in most species, newborn seahorses need to have an opportunity (access to the surface) in order to properly inflate their swim bladders. At the same time, pelagic seahorse fry that go through a free swimming or planktonic phase of development need to be drawn away from the surface of the aquarium as soon after they have inflated their air bladders as possible, in order to prevent them from swallowing access their and developing buoyancy problems once their pneumatic duct has closed off.
The reason for this, and the reason that exposure to the air is a serious problem for newborn seahorses but of no concern at all for older seahorses, is due to the presence or absence of the pneumatic duct. Allow me to elaborate.
In seahorses as in other fish, the gas bladder arises as a simple pouch or outgrowth from the foregut (Evans, 1998). In newborn seahorses, this connection with the gut is retained as an open tube, called the pneumatic duct, and seahorse fry gulp air at the surface to fill their gas bladder initially. There is only a short window of opportunity to do this, since the fry lose this open connection very early in life. As a result, the air bladder is often completely closed off (physoclistous) in fry that are more than a few days old (sometimes after they are only a few hours old), and they can no longer inflate their gas bladders this way.
Newborn seahorses are therefore physosymotous, and their gas bladders open into their esophagus via the pneumatic duct. If they are exposed to the air for any length of time in this condition, chances are great that they will swallow too much air and overinflate their gas bladders. Or they may accidentally ingest air when feeding at the surface, after they have already inflated their air bladders. When that happens, the fry develop fatal buoyancy problems and become the infamous "floaters" that bob helplessly at the surface until they starve to death. If you examine a floater carefully, you can actually see its overinflated swim bladder, which appears as a silvery bubble in its neck at the base of the throat.
In seahorses, the pneumatic duct closes off after a few days of development, and this open connection to the esophagus is lost. At that point, exposure to the air is no longer a great threat to the physoclistous fry since they can no longer overinflate their gas bladders by gulping air.
I don’t have any data indicating at what age the pneumatic duct closes off in various species of seahorses, so I cannot answer your question much more precisely than that. Most likely, any seahorse fry that are more than several days old are safe in that regard.
Interestingly, denying newborn seahorses access to the surface after birth is just as harmful to them as lifting them out of the water and exposing them to the air. This is because newborns that miss the opportunity to gulp air at the surface while their pneumatic duct is still open — perhaps as the result of an oily or greasy film at the surface of the water — suffer from underdeveloped swim bladders. As they grow and become heavier, they sink to the bottom and are unable to swim or feed normally.
If denied access to the surface to inflate their swim bladders, the fry behave normally while they are small and their weight is still negligible. But over the weeks, as they grow and put on weight, their underdeveloped swim bladders and inability to achieve neutral buoyancy increasingly handicap them. Once they gain a little weight, they sink like rocks. Unable to swim, they are reduced to slithering along the bottom on their bellies and are commonly referred to as sliders. This deficiency does not become apparent until the fry are several weeks old. Needless to say, this hinders their swimming ability and severely limits their feeding opportunities, delaying their growth and development, and rendering entire broods useless. In several cases, the problem was traced back to an oily film on the surface of the nursery tank, which prevented the newborns from filling their swim bladders with air (Silveira, 2000). A protein skimmer will prevent this by removing filmy surface layers and surfactants in general.
All of this creates a tricky situation for the seahorse keeper. Newborns that are unable to reach the surface and inflate their gas bladders suffer from negative buoyancy and become sliders. On the other hand, seahorses that are exposed to the air may swallow too much air and develop positive buoyancy as a result of their overinflated gas bladders, becoming floaters. It can sometimes be difficult to achieve the right balance between these two extremes because physosymotous fry can also accidentally ingest air while feeding on newly-hatched brine shrimp which tend to congregate at the surface where they are drawn by the light.
The situation is often more complicated for the home hobbyist because many times the aquarist is not present when a gravid male delivers his brood. For example, when rearing seahorses that go through a pelagic stage, the problems often begin even before the aquarist realizes the fry have been born. Gravid males normally give birth in the early morning hours (Vincent, 1990), and the hapless hobbyist is apt to be confronted with his first crisis immediately upon arising in the form of a writhing mass of newborn sea horses, hopelessly tangled together at the top of the tank (Giwojna, Jan. 1997).
This dangerous situation develops because a newborn’s first instincts are to head to the surface to fill its air bladder and then to anchor itself to something solid. In the vastness of the ocean this is not a problem, since strong currents rapidly disperse the young, but in the confines of an aquarium, the first hitching post it finds will very likely be the tail or snout of one of its siblings (Giwojna, Jan. 1997). The same mistake is apt to be repeated by the rest of the pelagic fry, as they cluster at the surface, until the entire spawn is snarled together tail-to-tail, head-to-tail, tail-to-snout and so on (Giwojna, Jan. 1997). This is a very common experience when raising seahorses such as Hippocampus erectus, H. reidi, and H. ingens, which produce large broods of pelagic fry.
So if you should awaken to find a swarm of newborn seahorses in the aquarium, or return home from work or school only to discover the newborns clustered at the top of your tank, go ahead and transfer them to your nursery tank at once. They will already have had ample time to fill their air bladders and the danger is that they may continue to gulp air accidentally while feeding at the surface.
However, if you should be fortunate enough to witness your pregnant male giving birth, give the newborns perhaps an hour and then transfer them to your nursery tank, if they are pelagic fry. (If you’re fortunate enough to have benthic babies, which orient to the substrate and begin hitching near the bottom shortly after birth, you need not take immediate action. The benthic babies are in no danger of gulping too much air and cannibalism is an extreme rarity among seahorses, so the benthic fry can remain in the main tank until you have a chance to transfer them to your nursery at your leisure. That is one reason that seahorses which produce benthic fry, such as Hippocampus zosterae, H. fuscus, H. capensis, H. barbouri, etc., are considered so much easier to raise than seahorses that produce fry that go through an extended pelagic phase.)
When transferring the newborns into the waiting nursery tanks, take care NEVER lift the newborns out the water. They may swallow air and develop fatal buoyancy problems that leave them bobbing helplessly at the surface, unable to submerge or eat (Giwojna, Jan. 1997). Netting them out or otherwise exposing the newborns to the air is one of the most common mistakes inexperienced breeders make, and it can result in the loss of the entire brood (Giwojna, Jan. 1997). The proper way to move the babies is to carefully scoop them up in a small cup or bowl, and gently immerse the cup in the nursery tank to release the fry (Giwojna, Jan. 1997). Or a common turkey baster works well for gently sucking up one or two of the fry at a time along with a little water, and then releasing them into their nursery, but you may have to cut off the tip of the baster to increase the size of the opening when using this technique (Giwojna, Jan. 1997).
Okay, Karen, those are some guidelines you can use when it comes to moving the newborns to the nursery tanks. It’s very difficult to determine why many of the newborn H. reidi from your first brood had descended to the bottom so quickly, whereas very few of the newborns from your second and third broods have done so. Hippocampus reidi fry normally go through a prolonged pelagic phase and it usually takes weeks before they begin to settle down and orient to the bottom.
Best wishes with all your fishes, Karen!
Post edited by: Pete Giwojna, at: 2011/01/27 07:18February 21, 2011 at 11:41 pm #5287kichikoiGuest
Still working on trying to get some of the Reidi fry to survive…
So far a week is the best we’ve done.
Up until this point all of the previous fry have succumbed to the "air bubble."
I have not given up yet!
The 4th batch was born in the wee hours and was a very stressful time for me. While I was calmly suctioning out the fry with a turkey baster I noticed one of the males hunting in the back corner of the tank. Evidently the two larger males of a different species that are also in the tank have decided that the fry are food! At that point as quickly as the fry popped up from daddy’s delivery hiding spot, I removed them to the kreisel nursery.
However, using a pump with water or the air pump it didn’t seem to matter.
I sadly lost them to the "air bubble."
We’re on our 5th batch of fry born on Sunday 2/20 very early in the morning.
This time both mom and dad were removed to a 20 gal. nursery tank (with water taken from their tank) late Saturday night. After delivery they were returned to the main tank. I don’t know for sure who was more stressed with this, them or me! However, within a few of hours of delivery they were once again in their mating mode and seemed to be ok.
The 20 gal is sectioned off with a divider. The fry were born in, and are in the narrow section with a spray bar to mimic the Kreisel effect.
However, even with more depth to help keep them from staying on the surface, I still found within a few hours that a large majority of the fry once again have the air bubble!
Thanks for all of the information you’ve sent! Hopefully It’ll pay off sometime in the near future!
KarenFebruary 25, 2011 at 6:27 am #5289Pete GiwojnaGuest
Thanks for sharing your experience in breeding the Brazilian seahorse (Hippocampus reidi) with us on the forum!
I’m sorry to hear that you have had such limited success with the newborns thus far, Karen, but that is often the case with the challenging H. reidi fry. The good thing about this species is that, once you obtain a mated pair, the Brazilian breeding machine will continue to churn out brood after brood with clockwork regularity, providing the aquarist with plenty of opportunities to experiment and improve at rearing the young. The bad thing about H. reidi, of course, is that they produce such large numbers of tiny fry in each brood, and that the undersized newborns must then undergo a prolonged pelagic phase of development, which is a very high risk for the fry. That is why H. reidi is considered to be one of the most difficult species to raise, Karen, and the number one cause of mortality is the air bubbles that plague the unfortunate "floaters" when they ingest air while feeding at the surface.
I like the idea of trying a larger, deeper, 20-gallon aquarium for your nursery tank, and using a spray bar return to provide the kriesel effect and to help keep the newborns away from the surface. What you might want to concentrate on now is to produce just the right rate of circular flow and the proper degree of turbidity in the nursery tank, Karen. Jorge Gomezjurado finds that the optimal water flow for rearing reidi fry is 10 mm/sec, and he notes that feeding decreases at lower or higher flow rates (Bull and Mitchell, 2002, p51).
Jorge also advises that turbidity is an important factor in the fry’s rearing environment. He uses a technique similar to greenwater nurseries to maintain the proper level of turbidity by adding algae (Nannochloropsis and Isochrysis) at a concentration of about 150,000 cells per ml (Bull and Mitchell, 2002, p51). However, that’s difficult for the home aquarist to duplicate since it requires maintaining "green water" phytoplankton cultures, so you might consider using methylene blue to darken the aquarium instead. Just add enough of the methylene blue, carefully proceeding drop by drop, to turn the nursery tank a nice shade of blue. You don’t want to produce a dark blue that would make it difficult for the newborns to see and target their tiny prey; rather, the idea is to achieve a blue tint that is just dark enough to help keep the phototactic newborns away from the surface without interfering with their vision (or with the vision of the aquarist, for that matter). You need the water to be clear enough to be able to easily see the newborns and the amount of nauplii in the water so that you can maintain the optimal feeding density, but blue enough to discourage the fry from gathering at the surface in one spot.
As an added benefit, the methylene blue will also help prevent fungal problems and discourage protozoan parasites in the nursery tank.
Also, Karen, it will be helpful if you provide your broodstock with the best possible nutrition. Keeping the parents in tiptop condition will result in newborns that are larger than normal and which enjoy improved survivorship as a result: Adult H. reidi at the National Aquarium in Baltimore receive a staple diet of frozen mysid shrimp (Mysis relicta) coated with essential vitamins and amino acids, Astaxanthin Natu-Rose, and Canthaxanthin (Bull and Mitchell, 2002, p51). They receive 3 feedings of day of the enriched frozen Mysis relicta, and this highly nutritious diet is one of the keys to their successful breeding and rearing program for H. reidi (Bull and Mitchell, 2002, p51). Jorge Gomezjurado finds that providing his broodstock with a well rounded, nutritious diet increases the size of the fry they produce (Bull and Mitchell, 2002, p51). Consequently, his reidi fry are closer to 10mm in length than the usual 6-7mm (Bull and Mitchell, 2002, p51). The larger reidi are able to feed more efficiently and can ingest larger prey items, including Artemia franciscana Instar I nauplii, thus giving them a considerable advantage over the smaller fry (Bull and Mitchell, 2002, p51).
If you can manage it, providing your newborn H. reidi with rotifers or larval copepods for the first week of their life, is another factor that may help improve survivorship.
I found your account of how to of the larger male seahorses in the same tank have learned to prey on the newborn H. reidi fry as they are delivered to be particularly fascinating, Karen.
Cannibalism in seahorses is very uncommon. It does occasionally occur among seahorses with pelagic fry, but such episodes are normally rare exceptions. Hippocampus erectus is not typically known for this, but it does take place in very isolated incidents. I have never personally witnessed a case of cannibalism in H. erectus. Hippocampus erectus fry undergo an abbreviated pelagic phase and ever once in a while there are reports of cannibalism, but 99.99 % of the time erectus make model parents. And the same thing is generally true for Hippocampus reidi parents.
However, some species are more prone to this aberrant behavior than others. For example, unlike most seahorses, captive-bred Hippocampus abdominalis are confirmed cannibals under certain circumstances. This unusual behavior does not appear to be a consequence of dietary deficiencies or overcrowding. Rather, it seems to be due to the simple fact that cultured Pots are accustomed to being fed; rather than hunting for live prey along the bottom, they expect their prey to be introduced from the surface and come down to them like manna from heaven. They are thus conditioned to take anything above them in the water column within the right size range that drifts past, and unfortunately this includes surface-hugging pelagic fry.
As a case in point, David Warland experienced cannibalism of fry by young Potbelly adults 18-24 months old maintained at a stocking density of 30 seahorses per 800 liters (211 gallons). Since that’s one seahorse for every 26.6 liters (7 gallons), he does not believe over stocking was a factor in the cannibalism, nor did hunger play a role since the H. abdominalis were fed to capacity 4-5 times daily during daylight hours (sunup to sundown).
It was also interesting that it was the biggest males that began predating the newborns in your case, Karen. Surprisingly, when cannibalism does occur, it is often the female that’s the culprit. That is the case with H. comes, one of the few seahorses species that is known to cannibalize its young on occasion (Neil Garrick-Maidment, pers. comm.). When this happens with Tigertails, it is typically the accompanying female who begins predating the fry as her mate gives birth (Lesley Holland, pers. comm.). The male may then follow suit as well and the entire brood can quickly be destroyed (Lesley Holland, pers. comm.). Once a pair of Tigertails turns cannibal, this unnatural behavior is likely to become habitual, putting their future offspring at risk.
Cannibalism is really quite rare in seahorses, so the hobbyist need not be overly concerned by this possibility, although there are a few species such as H. abdominalis and H. comes that seem to be a bit more predisposed to this bizarre behavior. Seahorse keepers, and Potbelly and Tigertail breeders in particular, should simply be aware that cannibalism could occur and be on guard lest it becomes a problem.
On those rare occasions when cannibalism does become an issue with Hippocampus, it is appropriate to transfer the gravid male to a paternity tank for the safety of the newborns, Karen, so that was good thinking on your behalf. And, should you transfer the male to the nursery tank to deliver his young in safety, it is always best to transfer his mate along with him so that the two are never separated for any significant period of time. Very often, a stallion will remate scant hours after delivering his latest brood, so you do not want to interfere with their breeding cycle by separating the male and female. So it sounds like you handled the situation very well, Karen.
Here’s hoping that your diligence is soon rewarded with increasing survivorship among the young, Karen!
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