- July 17, 2010 at 11:15 am #5159chancesGuest
I would love to take your training course. I have had many fresh water tanks and a couple brackish our smallest being one gallon and the largest being a hundred gallon and we have been considering starting a marine tank for years. Thank youJuly 17, 2010 at 9:21 pm #5160Pete GiwojnaGuest
Excellent! Your experience keeping freshwater aquariums and working with brackish setups should be very helpful and I agree that completing the seahorse training program will be a great way to learn the basics of marine aquarium keeping.
However, the seahorse training program is a correspondence course that is conducted entirely via e-mail, so in order to get started I need you to contact me off list at the following e-mail address: [email protected]
Just send me a brief message to the e-mail address above stating that you are interested in enrolling in the Ocean Rider seahorse training program, and I will make all of the necessary arrangements and get you started off with the first lesson right away, as soon as we have established e-mail communication.
In the meantime, best wishes with all your fishes!
Pete GiwojnaAugust 17, 2010 at 6:58 am #5180Leeannakg87Guest
Hello, I am very new to the whole saltwater aquariums. I have a 15g JAD aquarium. It has been up for 12 weeks now. I have 1 turbo snail, 3 nassarius snails, 2 red-legged hermits, 1 blue-legged hermit, 1 scarlet skunk cleaner shrimp(who is about to spawn), 1 fire shrimp, 1 emerald crab, 2 FP clownfish, 3 soft corals, and 1 long tentacle anemone. I am going to be moving everthing into a 30g and getting maybe two more fish. I also have a 65g glass aquarium with a 20g sump. Its been going for about 2 weeks, in this one I have 2 turbos, 2 blue-legged hermits, 1 azure damsel, and 1 black & white O. clownfish. We will be adding more fish, but slowly. I would like to know as much about seahorses as possible. I will be getting a tank for them and I want it to be prefect for them. I was also wondering when you buy the horses, do you get to pick the color and sex or no? I was hoping that I could get a couple of pairs when I was ready for them, but I also would love to have a varity of colors. And what do you do with the babies? I was just wondering. Please let me do this training, because as I said I want to learn as much as possible before I get my. Leeanna.August 18, 2010 at 6:37 am #5183Pete GiwojnaGuest
Yes, of course — I would be very happy to enroll you in my Ocean Rider seahorse training program, but it is a correspondence course that is conducted entirely via e-mail, so before we can get started with the lessons we need to establish communication via e-mail off list. We’ll be all set if you can just prepare a very brief e-mail message that includes your full name (first and last) stating that you would like to participate in the seahorse training course and send it to me at the following e-mail address: [email protected]
I will then respond to that e-mail, enter you in the training program, and send you the first lesson right away. From then on, I will be working with you personally as we go through the lessons and I will be answering any further questions or concerns you may have until you are ready for your first seahorses.
Yes, when you place an order for seahorses with Ocean Rider you can certainly request seahorses of a certain sex or with the desired coloration, Leeanna. When you place an online order for highly domesticated, High-Health seahorses with Ocean Rider (seahorse.com), just be sure to fill out the "Comments" section of the online order form. That is the place where you can request seahorses with special traits when you place your order. This includes coloration, gender, or perhaps requesting a pregnant male, if you so desire. The "Comments" section on the online order form is also for any such special instructions you may have regarding your order, such as delivering the seahorses on a specific date.. When Ocean Rider subsequently fills your order, they will look over the current crop of seahorses and do their very best to select specimens that meet your specifications from their available livestock.
Be sure to point out specifically what you’re looking for in your seahorses. If you want active specimens that tend to swim a lot and explore their surroundings, say so. Or if you want ponies with lots of personality that will interact freely with their keeper, tell them that. If your main goal is to obtain colorful seahorses, then ask for yellow or orange Sunbursts was the most vivid, intense coloration. If you want two pairs of seahorses with different coloration, then I would suggest ordering a pair of Mustangs with bold markings and a nice lined pattern as well as a pair of brightly colored Sunbursts. (Mustangs and Sunbursts are different color morphs of Hippocampus erectus, so they have identical aquarium requirements and will even interbreed freely but typically have different coloration.)
You can always get male/female pairs, and you can usually get either males or females, and if you’re willing to pay a little extra, you can often obtain a pregnant male. Ocean Rider will then try their hardest to pick out the seahorses that are the closest possible match for your preferences, although there may not always be specimens available with all of the particular features you are looking for when your order is filled. It’s the next best thing to handpicking the seahorses yourself.
When it comes to babies, Ocean Rider seahorses are prolific breeders and Mustangs and Sunbursts are considered moderately easy to raise, although that is always a challenge for the home aquarist. There is a always a steep learning curve when it comes to rearing newborn seahorses, and it’s quite common — perhaps even the rule — for the home breeder to lose the entire brood during his first few attempts at rearing. But as you refine your methods and become more proficient at providing suitable live foods for the newborns and work out the feeding regimen that’s most efficient for your particular circumstances, your results will get better. You will have more of the fry surviving for longer periods, until eventually you are able to raise a few of the fry from a few of the broods to maturity. That is a realistic goal for any home hobbyist working with Mustangs and Sunbursts who is willing to put in the necessary time and effort, which can be accomplished using a basic nursery tank and a staple diet of newly hatched brine shrimp. (Lesson 8 of the seahorse training program is devoted entirely to raising the babies and includes comprehensive information and instructions in that regard.)
If you feel that you are not up to the challenge of raising the babies, Leeanna, Mustangs and Sunbursts can easily be prevented from breeding by adjusting the environmental parameters in the aquarium (i.e., water temperature and the photoperiod). Just gradually reduce the water temperature to 74°F or below and keep the aquarium lighted for 10 hours a less each day, and the seahorses will not breed because these environmental cues affect their hormonal levels. If you want to stimulate breeding in your Mustangs and seahorses, on the other hand, gradually raise the water temperature to 77°F-78°F and keep the aquarium lighted for 12 hours or more daily and your seahorses will respond accordingly.
Best wishes with all your fishes, Leeanna! I hope to be hearing from you via e-mail off list very soon so that we can begin the training program.
Pete GiwojnaAugust 26, 2010 at 11:00 am #5187JLynGuest
I’ve completed the training and purchased several books that you’ve suggested. I’ve also looked into tanks and have found some seahorses at a local pet store. They look healthy and the pet store has everything I need for a seahorse tank. Is there anything I should look for at the pet store on Oahu that sells seahorses?
From JLynAugust 27, 2010 at 3:00 am #5188Pete GiwojnaGuest
Okay, it sounds like you are really making good progress!
If your local fish store has everything you need to set up a suitable seahorse tank, then pick out an aquarium you like that meets the specifications we discussed in Lesson 1. Of course, you’ll need to get your seahorse tank up and running, with the aquarium completely cycled and the biological filtration fully established, as explained in Lesson 2, before you bring home any seahorses from your LFS.
When you are ready to add the seahorses, there are two things you must be sure to do before you bring them home. The first is to give them a thorough visual inspection to make sure that the ponies are healthy, and the second thing is to make sure that the seahorses at your LFS are not the delicate Hippocampus kelloggi seahorses that have been widely imported during the last year or two.
Here are the warning signs and symptoms to check for when you’re giving a seahorse at your local fish store (LFS) a visual inspection, JLyn , as outlined in the "Sygnathid Husbandry Manual for Public Aquariums, 2005 Manual":
Physical Examination — Visual Assessment
When performing an initial physical exam, the posture and buoyancy of the seahorse should be closely scrutinized. A seahorse bobbing at the surface is abnormally and positively buoyant. Buoyant animals will often struggle to maneuver deeper into the water column. They should be evaluated for air entrapment problems such as air in the brood pouch (males) or hyperinflated swim bladders. If the tail is extended outward caudodorsally or ‘scorpion-style,’ examine the subcutis of the tail for gas bubbles (subcutaneous emphysema). Subcutaneous emphysema of tail segment also appears to be a condition restricted to males.
Just as abnormal is a seahorse that is lying horizontally at the tank bottom for extended time periods. This may be an indication of generalized weakness or it may indicate negative buoyancy associated with swim bladder disease or fluid accumulation in the brood pouch or the coelomic cavity.
Evaluate the seahorse’s feeding response. Seahorses normally forage almost constantly during daylight hours. An individual that consistently refuses appropriately sized live food is behaving very abnormally and should receive nutritional support to meet its caloric needs.
The rate and pattern of breathing should also be evaluated. Rapid breathing and ‘coughing’
(expulsion of water in a forceful manner through the opercular opening or the mouth) suggest gill disease [or gill parasites].
The entire body surface including the fins should be examined for hemorrhagic regions,
erosions, ulcerations, excessive body mucus, unusual spots, lumps or bumps as well as the presence of subcutaneous gas bubbles. Evaluate both eyes for evidence of periorbital edema, exophthalmia, and any testicular or corneal opacities. Since seahorses are visual predators, maintaining normal vision is absolutely essential to successful foraging. The tube snout is also very important to normal feeding activity. It is utilized like a pipette to literally suck prey out of the water column.
Evaluate the tube snout for evidence of edema, erosions, and successful protraction/retraction of the small, anterior, drawbridge-like segment of the lower jaw. Close evaluation of the tail tip for erosive/necrotic lesions should also be performed.
Finally, the anal region should be closely evaluated for redness, swelling, or tissue prolapse. For closer evaluation it may require getting the seahorse in hand. If this is the case, wear non-powdered latex gloves to prevent injury to the integument of the animal.
If the seahorse passes this visual examination, and is eating well and behaving normally, with none of the red flags or warning signs discussed above, only then should you consider taking him home. That’s a quick checklist you can use to determine if the seahorses at your LFS appear to be healthy or not before you make a purchase.
The next most important thing is to double check with the dealer to identify the seahorses you are interested in so that you can make sure they are not the delicate Hippocampus kelloggi seahorses, which are utterly unsuitable for beginners.
Unfortunately, the Hippocampus kelloggi that are available nowadays have proven to be very problematic. For more than two years now, I have been getting numerous e-mails from H. kelloggi owners urgently requesting help with treating various health problems, so it doesn’t appear to be a particularly hardy strain of seahorses at this stage in its development. I believe part of the problem is simply that H. kelloggi have not been cultured or selectively bred for aquarium life as other species that have been around much longer, and as a result, the kelloggi are just not as well adapted to aquarium conditions as of yet. Whatever the reason, hobbyists should beware that H. kelloggi seahorses seem to be very disease prone and appear to have very little resilience when they develop a health problem.
Many people suspect that the H. kelloggi are merely pen raised, and have therefore not benefited from the sort of intensive aquaculture and selective breeding that produces superior captive-bred livestock here in the US. Net pens are a low-tech, low-maintenance method of farming seahorses that basically involves raising them in large enclosures in coastal waters. It is a common practice in Indonesia, many Asian countries, and the Philippines. In some cases, entire lagoons may be fenced off for that purpose. In the simplest form of pen rearing, broodstock are released into these enclosures, and then they and their progeny are pretty much allowed to fend for themselves thereafter. Any offspring that survive to marketable size are periodically harvested from the holding pens or lagoons.
The benefit of this technique is that it allows seahorses to be raised cheaply, and therefore produces specimens for the aquarium trade that are relatively inexpensive. (It is the low-cost of the H. kelloggi that attracts most hobbyists.) The downside is that pen raising does not strengthen and improve the seahorses generation after generation, making them ever better adapted for aquarium conditions, as does Western-style aquaculture. So the pen raised ponies are not generally as hardy and adaptable as captive-bred-and-raised seahorses.
Such operations (net pens) are controversial with environmentalists for a number of reasons. Since the enclosures are open to the ocean, there is a real risk that adults or their fry may escape from the pens and establish colonies in the wild that may pose a threat to endemic seahorse populations. The pens are no barrier to disease organisms or parasites, so pathogens and parasites imported on foreign broodstock may spread to fishes in the wild (or vice versa). Wastes from the high density of penned animals are carried directly to ocean on prevailing tides and currents and may have a negative environmental impact on the surrounding area. There is no way to monitor the penned animals, hence no way to determine whether the seahorses they contain are actually born and raised in the enclosures or are merely wild-caught seahorses maintained in holding pens prior to being shipped off to unsuspecting consumers.
Pen-grown ponies can thus be risky for the hobbyist because of the circumstances under which they were raised. In essence, a mesh barrier is all that separates them from wild seahorses. There is no guarantee they will be disease free. Although many of them learn to accept frozen Mysis, there is no guarantee they will eat frozen foods since they are often accustomed to foraging for live prey. There is no guarantee they will be able to adjust to aquarium conditions since they are essentially raised in the sea. There is no guarantee that they are even captive bred, since the pens are not secure and livestock is introduced and removed from the pens and lagoons on a continuous basis. There is no guarantee they will be friendly and sociable rather than shying away from their keepers, since they are unaccustomed to the human presence. Pen-raised ponies are particularly misleading because they are almost never advertised as such — they are typically called captive raised or even captive bred seahorses, which can lead the unwary consumer to assume that they have been painstakingly raised using intensive mariculture techniques and rearing protocols. Nothing could be further from the truth.
In light of the health problems so many home hobbyists have been having with their H. kelloggi for some time now, I have been discussing the needs and requirements of this species with advanced aquarists and experts that have worked with H. kelloggi in the past. The consensus seems to be that the current crop of H. kelloggi are being shipped out to hobbyists while they are still too young (the two-inch long juveniles are no more than 3-4 months old) and that they are not well adapted to aquarium conditions because they are likely being pen raised. The tiny H. kelloggi juveniles would fare better if they allowed them to grow up for a few more months and shipped them at the age of around six months.
However, the primary problem folks have been having with their H. kelloggi may be due to their temperature requirements. The people I conferred with maintained that H. kelloggi is a deepwater seahorse and is therefore adapted for lower light levels than most seahorses and also requires cool water temperatures (Lisa Coit et al., pers. com.). They feel that this species should be maintained in temperate tanks rather than tropical aquaria, and that H. kelloggi will only thrive if they are maintained at a water temperature of 68°F or less (Lisa Coit et al., pers. com.). They report that if the H. kelloggi are maintained at standard aquarium temperatures for a tropical marine aquarium (i.e., 75°F-78°F) they will be plagued by various bacterial infections and suffer over the long term as a result.
In short, there are several problems with the H. kelloggi that are currently reaching the United States. They are likely being pen raised in Asia, they are being shipped to the consumer while they are way too young and small to thrive, and they are being kept in tropical aquariums rather than the cool water or temperate tanks that they need. This combination of unfavorable circumstances is quite deadly and is dooming most all of the H. kelloggi that come into this country to an early demise. Heat stress is making the H. kelloggi susceptible to a variety of health problems, but especially bacterial infections, most often Vibrio in one form or another.
It doesn’t seem to matter much where they were purchased here in the US, because they are all coming from the same breeders overseas, with the types of problems we have discussed, and are not being raised here in the USA. As a result, at this time, Hippocampus kelloggi is a seahorse that is best suited for expert aquarists and experienced seahorse keepers who can’t provide them with well-established aquarium equipped with chillers that can maintain a constant water temperature of 68°F or less.
Unfortunately, the juvenile H. kelloggi are being marketed here in the states as "captive raised" seahorses and many inexperienced seahorse keepers are giving them a try because they are offered at a bargain price. At first glance, they appear to be an economical way to get started with seahorses, and when they sicken and die after being maintained in a tropical tank, many beginners are discouraged as a result and are ready to abandon the hobby when the inevitable happens. Don’t make the same mistake! Leave the delicate H. kelloggi seahorses to the experts that can provide them with a large, well-established temperate aquarium and with the best possible care.
That’s the best advice I can give you at this point, JLyn. Make sure you have a suitable seahorse tank fully established before you go shopping for your ponies, give the seahorses you are interested in a very thorough visual examination and make sure they are eating before you consider making a purchase, and avoid H. kelloggi seahorses at all costs.
Best of luck with your first seahorses, JLyn!
Pete GiwojnaOctober 17, 2010 at 5:08 am #5201fiskybiznizGuest
Hi Pete, my husband toured the Kona facility and super impressed with their efforts and results. Because we’ve enjoyed fish keeing since 2005 we would love to know if our tank would make a suitable home for a pair? It may help you to know we are Bob Fenner followers so we’ve lived by his rules understanding it’s best to accept more NO’s than a YES in what we would like to have in our tank vs. what is really best to put in it. Our stock is limited to animals he has recommended to adapt well and we do feed the highest quality diet because it makes too much sense to work hard at keeping the animals healthy and alive. Oh duh!
TANK: The tank is 72 inches long, 18 inches wide & 32 inches deep. We’re using a proteien skimmer for filtration. I can’t recall the turnovr rate of our pump, but as you know you purchase based on tank size and what you’ll be keeping. It’s the one they make in it. Our goal was to have a darn good FOWLR system keeping peaceful reef safe type fish. We house two live rock stacks that we call our inner and outer reef towers. The remainder landscape is baracles, fake plants and corals that we rotate and sun for cleaning.
TANK RESIDENTS: A dozen or so Scarlet hermits & cleaner crabs (pinkie finger size), 2 cleaner shrimp, 2 low light corals, 1- 5 inch Foxface, 1- 3 inch Percula Clown, 1- 2 inch six line wrasse, 1- 3.5 inch diamond Goby and 2- Lyretail Anthia’s. The larger female Anthia is 2.5 inches and making the turn to male. The smaller is 1 inch. We would like to add another female Anthia to restore our harem of 3. So the seahorses would be a last add in if you think they would work out.
FEEDING SCHEDULE: We do feed twice a day and easy to add mysis to each feeding. Right now, our current a.m. cups include bio plankton, nori and we rotate mysis, crab or plankton as the meat of the day. Our p.m. cups include frozen formula II and dry formula 1, II and thera A soaked in a combination of marine plankton, zoo plankton and cromoplex. We haven’t seen baby shrimp with this pair of cleaner shrimp but if they mate that will be an added snack for everyone as they cycle. The food cups are dumped into a feeding tube we installed in the sump directing it to the intake which shoots it out our bulk heads. Food goes everywhere to assure needless competition during eating.
The tank is peaceful and except for getting checked out at first we expect our fish would be more inclined to ignore sea horses but figure you would know best. The observation at the farm that concerned us in putting sea horses in our tank was the feeding method. We would consider that diretional feeding. We do have a directional feeder that we use to stock the tank with pods but I’m putting a huge amount of work into the food cups so I don’t have to spend a lot of time on each individual feeding. Do these seahorses grab food floating by? All we saw was a glob of mysis right in front of their face fall to the tank bottom waiting for them. That would not work in our tank. We do have a dead area in the tank that would allow food to mimic what we saw but our tank is too large to assure the sea horses would always be there so still best to assume they could be out anywhere enjoying a fair amount of territitory when a feeding comes up.
Your feedback would be most appreciated.
Debi Stanley-ViloriaOctober 20, 2010 at 5:54 am #5202Pete GiwojnaGuest
I am pleased to hear that your husband enjoyed the tour of the Ocean Rider aquaculture facility and seahorse farm during his visit to Hawaii — that is an experience that anyone with an interest in seahorses would find thrilling and thoroughly fascinating (the spectacular seadragons alone are worth the price of admission)!
When considering whether or not your particular community tank would be suitable for a pair of large seahorses, Debi, the two primary concerns we must examine our behavioral issues and feeding issues. Physically, the actual setup of your marine aquarium is excellent for seahorses. It has the superior height that is so important for seahorses as well as plenty of water volume for the community of fish you are keeping, meaning that there should be plenty of room to accommodate a pair of seahorses as far as the carrying capacity of your aquarium goes, and my preferred setup for seahorses is a FOWLR supplemented with a good protein skimmer, so I foresee no problems in that regard.
Regarding the specimens you are keeping, soft corals in general, Scarlet reef hermit crabs (Paguristes cadenati), cleaner shrimp (Lysmata amboinensis), and gobies in general make fine tank mates for large seahorses. And "Nemo clownfish" — percula clowns (Amphiprion Percula) and false percula clowns (Amphiprion occelaris) — are the ONLY clownfish that I recommend keeping with seahorses. Behaviorally, I agree with your assessment — the six line wrasse, Foxface rabbitfish, and lyretail Anthias will most likely simply ignore the seahorses, rather than reacting to them territorially or aggressively. The seahorses are so different in appearance and behavior that they are unlikely to be regarded as unwelcome competitors or unwanted intruders.
So in terms of the other inhabitants behavior, I believe that a large pair of seahorses such as Mustangs or Sunbursts (Hippocampus erectus) could do well in a tank like yours. I am a little leery of the pinkie-finger sized cleaner crabs simply because I don’t know which type of crabs you actually have, and crustaceans in general are not trustworthy with seahorses once they grow to a certain size. It would be helpful to know what species your cleaner crabs are, Debi, so that I will have an idea what size they may grow to. (Crabs and crustaceans in general are opportunistic predators that are likely to attack anything they can overpower. They may be entirely peaceful and inoffensive when they are small, but even a small crab can cause a lot of trouble as it grows. They may double in size following a molt (i.e., ecdysis) so they grow surprisingly fast, and even a tiny crab that’s completely docile at first can grow large enough to turn predatory almost literally overnight if it’s a species that reaches a respectable size. One day it’s a miniature crab that’s cute and entertaining in its own bumbling sort of way, and the next day following a successful molt, it can become a dangerous bully that regard its tankmates with a culinary eye.)
If you can identify your cleaner crabs for me, Debi, I can give you a better answer as to their compatibility; otherwise, be prepared to relocate the cleaner crabs if you want to give seahorses a try in your community tank.
That brings us to the feeding issues, Debi, which are definitely an area of concern with your particular tank. The clownfish, six line wrasse, Foxface, and Anthias are all active, aggressive feeders that will have a great liking for the frozen Mysis that will be the staple diet of your seahorses. Since the seahorses orient to the substrate of the aquarium, and must wait for the frozen Mysis to drift down to them within reach, the other fish are going to have first crack at the food while it is suspended in the water column.
The feeding system you are currently employing in your community tank is what I call "scatter feeding" or "broadcast feeding," which is frowned on by seahorse keepers under most circumstances because target feeding the ponies or teaching them to eat their frozen Mysis from a feeding tray are much better options for most hobbyists. Seahorses certainly do grab frozen Mysis as it is floating by, and they will carefully search over the bottom for leftover frozen Mysis when they are scatter fed, Debi. In fact, seahorses are more apt to aggressively snap up the frozen Mysis when it is moving, drifting by a lifelike manner. But seahorses are deliberate feeders that must track their prey carefully and then slurp it up from a very short distance away, and if the frozen Mysis is whisked past them too fast, they will be unable to target it properly and feed until it has settled on the bottom.
With this feeding method, Debi, the problem is not going to be getting the seahorses to eat the frozen Mysis when it is broadcast fed, but rather to make sure that they get their fill at feeding time, since the other fish are much faster and can easily outcompete them for the leftovers. You’re going to have to experiment to determine the right amount of frozen Mysis to add to your feeding cups in order to assure that the seahorses get enough to eat during the feeding frenzy.
That’s not as easy as it sounds, since if you go overboard and add too much of the frozen Mysis, overfeeding will cause a whole new set of problems. The worst thing you can do when feeding the seahorses in a intricate reef or live rock environment is to overfeed the tank and scatter a handful of frozen Mysis throughout the aquarium to be dispersed by the currents and hope that the hungry horses can track it all down. Inevitably some of the frozen food will be swept away and lodge in isolated nooks and crannies where the seahorses cannot get it (Giwojna, 2005). There it will begin to decompose and degrade the water quality, which is why ammonia spikes are common after a heavy feeding. Or it may be wafted out into the open again later on and eaten after it has begun to spoil. Either outcome can have dire consequences.
So the challenge you’re going to face when feeding the seahorses is to determine the right amount of frozen Mysis to add to your feeding cups in order to make sure that the seahorses are getting enough to eat at mealtime WITHOUT overfeeding the tank in the process. A good cleanup crew can be enormously helpful for cleaning up leftovers when you are broadcasting the food throughout the tank, Debi, so you may want to bolster your cleanup crew by adding lots of nassarius snails and more microhermit crabs.
Providing you can work out the proper amount to feed during each meal, I do feel that a pair of seahorses could do well in a community tank such as yours, as long as you stick with hardy, highly domesticated seahorses like Ocean Rider Mustangs and Sunbursts that are hearty heaters and can hold their own in mixed company.
It’s usually best to avoid otherwise docile tankmate for seahorses if they are aggressive feeders that could out-compete them for food, Debi. However, I find that such concerns are generally unwarranted when it comes to farm-raised seahorses that eat frozen foods. In the bad old days of seahorse keeping, it was indeed absolutely imperative to avoid keeping active fishes that were greedy eaters with wild-caught seahorses that were dependent on live foods. It was difficult enough to come up with sufficient live food for the seahorses in the first place, and active fishes would greedily dart around the tank and busily scarf up all the live food before the horses got much more than a taste. But that is no longer the case with Ocean Rider seahorses, and the feeding habits of potential tankmates need no longer be an overriding concern (Delbeek, Oct. 2001).
Although competition for food is always an issue with seahorses, it is no longer sufficient reason to automatically exclude entire categories of fishes as potential tankmates. There’s no denying that your Foxface and Anthias, for example, are active feeders; they will definitely love the taste of frozen mysis and can complicate feeding your seahorses. Same with your clownfish and six line wrasse and even the cleaner shrimp. But there are ways around that…
For instance, the same thing is true with regard to pipefish and decorative shrimp, yet no one disputes that they make splendid companions for seahorses. Nowadays, almost every seahorse setup includes a few Peppermint Shrimp (Lysmata wurdemanni), Scarlet Cleaner Shrimp (Lysmata amboinensis), or Fire Shrimp (Lysmata debelius). They are popular additions to a seahorse tank because hobbyists like to use them to augment their cleanup crews and add a splash of color and activity to their tanks. Aside from their utility as attractive scavengers, they often perform a useful service by grooming the seahorses, which is fascinating to watch, and regularly reproduce, releasing swarms of nauplii many seahorses love to eat. Peppermint Shrimp are especially popular because they are natural predators of Aiptasia rock anemones and do a wonderful job of eradicating these pests from the aquarium.
Yet once established in the aquarium, those beautiful red shrimp species are much more active feeders than seahorses. They’ll come flying across the tank the moment that enticing scent of frozen mysids hits the water, raiding the feeding station and snatching mysis right out of the ‘horse’s snouts. Does that mean they’re incompatible with seahorses? Heck no, you just shoo the pesky shrimp out of the way at dinnertime and target feed the seahorses, making sure each of them gets its fill. Well, a percula clownfish, Lyretail Anthias, (or a Foxface RabbitFish) is no more of an aggressive feeder than the ever-popular cleaner shrimp are, and no more difficult to deal with than the mischievous shrimp at feeding time.
For captive-bred seahorses, which eat enriched frozen mysis as their staple diet, it is customary to feed the more active fish and inverts their fill of standard aquarium foods first, and then target feed the seahorses with frozen mysis, using the feeding wand or baster to discourage any fishes that might try to steal a bite while the seahorses are eating (Delbeek, Oct. 2001). This works quite well providing the fishes are suitable tankmates for seahorses.
That’s SOP for many seahorse keepers and is not much different than the situation in a species tank when one of your seahorses is an aggressive eater with an insatiable appetite that tends to monopolize the feeding station, and one of your other seahorses is a deliberate feeder that has to examine every morsel of mysis forever before he finally eats it.
And if you scatter feed the frozen Mysis and figure out the proper amount to add to your feeding comes so that you avoid underfeeding or overfeeding the ponies, that can also work well. Hardly an insurmountable problem.
Aquarists that are accustomed to catering to the demands of delicate wild-caught seahorses routinely exclude all butterflies, tangs, rabbitfish and wrasses as a matter of course, and rightly so. But as long as your tank is big enough, such precautions are no longer strictly necessary when it comes to farm-raised seahorses that are born and bred for life in the aquarium. For example, here’s an example of such a mixed community including Ocean Rider seahorses that’s proven to be very successful for a home hobbyist:
“My tank is a 150 gallon tall (3 1/2 feet) with a 50 gallon sump system giving me 200 gallon volume of water!! a good amount of live rock (approximately 125 pounds)! I use Aragonite sugar sized oolitic sand. For filtration and circulation I use a Rio 3500 with a backpack overflow and I have a protein skimmer, UV sterilizer, two sponge filters, a magnum 350, an emperor 400 and I use purigen — NO carbon.
I house approximately 30 sea horses along with a lot of snails both turbo grazers and Nassarius for detritus! I keep two scooter blennies, several wrasses, 3 butterfly fish, and a naso and kole tang! I also have 3 clowns. Usually you don’t see sea horses in a tank with fish and normally this might be a problem! However, I have ONLY … captive raised sea horses and they were in the tank first and I decided to try the fish with a second tank cycled and in the wings to move the fish to should it have been an issue! Well the … horses were not ill effected at all — in fact the truth be told the sea horses were somewhat bullish with the fish (Susan, 2003).”
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: wild-caught seahorses and their captive-bred counterparts are very different animals. These differences extend to the types of fishes that make satisfactory tankmates for each. The feeding habits of farm-raised seahorses make it possible to keep them with fishes that would be absolutely out of the question for wild horses.
In short, Debi, I do think it’s worth trying a pair of Mustangs or Sunbursts in your community tank, providing you are willing to target feed the seahorses or to work out the proper amount of frozen Mysis to use when scatter feeding them. Ideally, the seahorses would be the first fish to be introduced to the aquarium, rather than the last, but as we have already discussed, I don’t believe the fish in your marine aquarium are likely to react aggressively towards the seahorses at all.
If you want to give the seahorses a try, go ahead as long as you stick with hardy, highly domesticated, High-Health Mustangs or Sunbursts, but have a Plan B ready to put into action just in case things don’t go as planned. In your case, that could be relocating the seahorses to a sheltered area in your sump temporarily if they are being harassed in any way by the established residents of the tank.
Also, before you give it a go, I would encourage you and your husband to complete the Ocean Rider training program for new seahorse keepers. It’s completely free of charge at this correspondence course that is conducted entirely via e-mail. If you want to give the training course to try, just contact me off list ([email protected]) with a quick e-mail that includes your full name (first and last), and I will get you started off with the first lesson right away.
Best wishes with all your fishes, Debi!
Pete GiwojnaOctober 26, 2010 at 3:48 am #5205jdude12345Guest
hi my name is jules i happen to love sygnathids i have a red sea max that has been runing for five years now and we have had many pairs of seahorses wwhen can i start the course? because i wanted to get the first buyers special before the sale ends. thanks:woohoo:October 26, 2010 at 4:15 am #5206Pete GiwojnaGuest
You can get started on the seahorse training course as soon as you contact me off list with your full name (first and last), which I need in order to enroll you in the training program. Just send a brief e-mail to the following address, and I will reply and send you the first lesson right away: [email protected]
The training program is a correspondence course that is conducted entirely via e-mail, so we need to establish e-mail communication in order to proceed.
Best wishes with all your fishes, Jules! I hope to be hearing back from you off list shortly so that we can get you started out with the seahorse training.
Pete GiwojnaDecember 4, 2010 at 6:34 am #5225Mac831Guest
I would love to go through the course! I have a 14 gallon tank set up with water already cycling.
About my current 14 gallon tank- its depth is 10 1/2 , width is 20 , and height is 16 1/2 . Currently it holds 2 of crushed coral as its substrate. The water temp is a steady 76 degrees (I have a heater). I test my ph, nitrite, nitrate etc with a strip test that I use also on my 29gallon tank all levels are in the correct range. (I also get both tanks tested with tubes and such at my local LFS every two weeks). Currently my tank has one fake plant and an aqua blue hanging filter.
I am an avid fan of fish raising freshwater fish since I was young and have moved on to saltwater in my adult life. It is a hobby I share with my children whom love fish as well. I can’t wait to get started!December 4, 2010 at 6:45 am #5226Pete GiwojnaGuest
No problem, sir — I would be very happy to enroll you in the Ocean Rider seahorse training program and get you up to speed on the care and keeping of seahorses as soon as possible.
The only additional information I require is your full name and your e-mail address, which you can provide for me when you contact me off list via e-mail, as explained below, Mac:
You can get started on the seahorse training course as soon as you contact me off list with your full name (first and last), which I need for my records. Just send a brief e-mail to the following address, and I will reply and send you the first lesson right away: [email protected]
The training program is a correspondence course that is conducted entirely via e-mail, so we need to establish e-mail communication in order to proceed.
Best wishes with all your fishes, Mac! I hope to be hearing back from you off list shortly so that we can get you started out with the seahorse training.
Pete GiwojnaDecember 21, 2010 at 11:47 pm #5233zack168Guest
HI Pete I would like your training coarse .thanks TomDecember 31, 2010 at 2:02 pm #5241JLyn13Guest
I’ve been really busy lately with school work and I’ve just finished reading through all ten lessons again. I’m still working out the finer details of keeping and maintaining a seahorse tank in my home, but I’m still looking forward to a tank in the future! Thanks so much for the lessons and I’m still doing some extra research.
Please feel free to e-mail me at [email protected]
From, Jocelyn LouieJanuary 3, 2011 at 7:37 am #5242Pete GiwojnaGuest
You’re most welcome! I know that you will put all the information and advice that I provide to very good use, Jocelyn!
Now that you have finished all of the lessons in the training program, I can go ahead and certify you whenever you please. Let me know if you want to receive the certification at this time, and I will be delighted to oblige.
Best wishes with all your fishes, Jocelyn, as well as your ongoing studies!
Happy Trails & Happy New Year!
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