- This topic has 35 replies, 3 voices, and was last updated 15 years, 6 months ago by seahorse love.
March 17, 2008 at 8:24 am #1378seahorse loveMember
I had the joy of seeing two of my seahorses actually mate but unfortunately it was an incomplete transfer. I saw the eggs spill from his pouch. It was their first time so I know this is not abnormal. Is it possible some entered the pouch and the male will be pregnant or when you see eggs spill does that mean it was a total failure?
Thank you.March 17, 2008 at 9:10 pm #4024Pete GiwojnaGuest
Dear seahorse love:
Nope, when you see eggs that have been spilled that doesn’t necessarily mean that the female’s entire clutch of ripe ova has been dropped. With young pairs, it’s not at all uncommon for the male to receive some of the eggs, or even the bulk of the eggs, but for some of them to be spilled as well. Your stallion may well have received a number of the eggs and fertilized them as they were transferred to his brood pouch. If so, he will undergo pregnancy as usual but the number of young he gives birth to baby smaller than normal.
Hippocampus erectus ova are bright orange ovoids about 1.5 mm in diameter. Unlike most fish eggs, which are round or nearly so, seahorse eggs are pear-shaped. They are full of oil droplets and rich in carotenoids (yellow to red pigments), which help to provide an intracellular source of oxygen for the fetal fry. The presence of these pigments gives the eggs their characteristic orange coloration. The eggs are negatively buoyant and sink to the bottom when released.
Young ponies and inexperienced pairs often find coitus awkward and difficult to accomplish successfully, and when they don’t make the crucial connection smoothly, it’s not unusual for some of the eggs to be lost during the transfer. As you know, the actual transfer of eggs takes place at the apex of the copulatory rise while the couple is suspended in midwater or slowly descending toward the bottom — a maneuver that is every bit as tricky as it sounds. Coitus is marked by an extremely awkward, fleeting embrace, aptly described as little more than a brief belly-to-belly bumping.
As you can imagine, many difficult and delicate maneuvers are sometimes required to bring the pair into proper position for this most improbable merging, and inexperienced pairs often struggle to get it right. The female will attempt to insert her oviduct into the gaping aperture of the male’s inflated brood pouch. An inexperienced pair will often end up misaligned, perhaps at right angles to one another or with one of the partners too high or too low to join. This is very typical of the many false starts and abortive attempts that are ordinarily involved. The frustrated couple may even separate to rest on the bottom briefly between mating attempts. They may require many such rises before the proper positioning is achieved and the crucial connection is finally made.
So under certain circumstances, it’s not at all unusual for eggs to be spilled while mating or even for a female to drop her entire clutch of eggs, if necessary. As long as your tank is tall enough to allow your seahorses to mate comfortably, you shouldn’t be at all concerned because some of the eggs were dropped. Practice makes perfect, and sooner or later your pair will get it right and begin producing full broods with clocklike regularity.
At any rate, the spilled eggs are a sure sign that one or more of your stallions is trying hard to get pregnant and that at least one of the females is receptive and doing her best to oblige him, so if your male is not actually pregnant at the moment, chances are good that he will be before too long. However, a female that has dropped her clutch of eggs normally won’t hydrate more eggs and attempt to mate again until the next breeding cycle, so if the stallion missed all of the eggs, your pair may have to wait a few more weeks before they try again.
Congratulations on witnessing the mateship ritual and transfer of the eggs! Here’s hoping that a healthy brood of babies will soon be forthcoming.
Pete GiwojnaMarch 17, 2008 at 9:17 pm #4025seahorse loveGuest
Thank you Pete for all of the great information. If, in deed, some of the eggs were fertilized, I assume his pouch won’t swell quite as large as it would with the entire batch. He is a hippo erectus and massively handsome and quite girthy. Will I know in time he is pregnant? I do have everything ready in case he is or will be one day.March 17, 2008 at 9:43 pm #4026seahorse loveGuest
Sorry to bother you again, but is it true if the water is kept cooler, around 75 degrees the gestation period is about 21 days?
DonnaMarch 18, 2008 at 12:14 am #4027Pete GiwojnaGuest
Dear seahorse love:
Gestation times for Mustangs and Sunbursts (Hippocampus erectus) can be anywhere from 14-30 days days, dependent on water temperature and a number of other factors, but an average gestation of around 2-3 weeks at around 75°F is fairly typical.
You’re correct — if your young male receive some of the eggs and fertilizedthem but spilled a number of the others, his brood is likely to be smaller than normal and his brood pouch may not expand very noticeably as the pregnancy progresses. It’s very difficult to judge how far along a pregnancy may be simply from the outward appearance and behavior of the male. He will give some clear indications when he is experiencing labor pains and birth is imminent, as discussed below, but other than that there won’t be much warning.
Gravid males do behave somewhat differently; as their pregnancy progresses, they are less mobile and become real home bodies, since they cannot expose their developing brood to any unnecessary risks. They tend to hole up and may even go into hiding; they may go off to feed and miss a meal or two or fail to show up at the feeding station now and then.
Here are some other indications to look for that indicate mating has occurred and that the pregnancy is progressing normally:
Indications of Pregnancy.
If you witness the copulatory rise and exchange of eggs there is no doubt that mating has occurred and, knowing the date of conception, you can confidently begin the countdown toward the maternal male’s delivery date. Knowing approximately how long the gestation period will be allows plenty of time to prepare nursery tanks, set up a battery of brine shrimp hatcheries, and culture rotifers and ‘pods for the insatiable fry.
But what if you missed the big moment? How do you proceed if you missed the actual mating and transfer of eggs, and you’re not sure if you will soon be dealing with a gravid male and hordes of hungry newborns?
There are no aquatic obstetricians, underwater ultrasounds, blood tests or over-the-counter pregnancy tests to perform, and I shudder to think how one might go about collecting a urine specimen to dip! No worries. Fortunately, there are subtle signs and suggestions that indicate a pregnancy is underway. There are number of changes in the parents’ appearance and behavior to look for. For instance, the male and female will still continue to flirt, but the nature of their displays will change from full-blown courtship to regular greeting rituals.
After mating, in subsequent days the couple will continue to change colors and brighten up when in close proximity and dance together in an abbreviated version of courtship known as the Morning Greeting or Daily Greeting. The pair exhibits the same basic behaviors and maneuvers as when they were courting with one big difference — the male never "pumps" and the female does not "point."
In addition, as the pregnancy progresses, the male’s pouch darkens due to the proliferation of epithelial and connective tissue and the placenta-like changes taking place in the wall of the marsupium, and the pouch gradually swells and expands according to the number of young developing within. The latter is not always a reliable indicator, however. Inexperienced couples often spill eggs during the exchange and a male’s first few broods are often inordinately small. The brood pouch of a male that is carrying only a few fetal fry is hardly any larger than normal, and hobbyists have often been surprised by unexpected births under such circumstances.
On the other hand, an experienced male carrying a large brood can be easily distinguished by his obviously expanding pouch. These mature breeders may carry broods numbering over 1600 fetal fry, depending of course on the species. A stallion incubating hundreds of fry will have an enormously distended pouch by the time his due date approaches.
Gravid males often become increasingly reclusive and secretive as their pregnancy advances. When the onset of labor and birth is imminent, the male will begin to shows signs of distress and his respiration rate will increase to 70-80 beats per minute. The fully developed young become very active and shake loose into the lumen of the pouch shortly before delivery. In some cases, the writhing of the young can be detected through the stretched membrane of the pouch, which causes the male considerable discomfort. He may become restless and agitated as a result, swimming slowly to and fro and pacing back and forth like, well — an expectant father. The fry are usually born in the early morning hours between midnight and dawn, arriving all at once or in multiple batches 24 hours apart.
So if you happen to miss the exchange of eggs, watch closely for the following indications that mating has occurred:
(1) A change in the physical appearance of the parents. The gravid male’s pouch will change from a light opaque color to a dark brown due to the elaboration of the internal structures and thickening of the walls of the pouch. It will enlarge steadily over the next few weeks as the young grow and develop, and the aperture will change from fully dilated to a tightly closed vertical slit. The female’s trunk will change from rotund, full with ripe eggs, to noticeably shrunken and pinched in immediately after the exchange of eggs.
(2) A change in the seahorses’ courtship displays. The pair will continue to flirt and dance and brighten in coloration as part of their Daily Greetings, but the male will no longer pump (no pouch displays) and neither the female nor the male will point. The pair will make no more copulatory rises.
(3) A change in the behavior of the male. He may become increasingly shy and reclusive. Gravid males may go off their feed as the delivery date approaches, missing meals or even going into hiding. When birth is imminent, he will become agitated and distressed and his respiration will increase markedly.
When you notice these telltale signs of pregnancy, it’s time to kick your brine shrimp hatchery into high gear and start some microalgae and rotifer cultures brewing.
The brood pouch enfolds, protects, aerates, osmoregulates, and nourishes the developing embryos as the male undergoes a true pregnancy (Vincent, 1990). The volume of the pouch normally increases dramatically as the pregnancy progresses. A male that is carrying a significant number of young becomes very rotund so that only a very thin layer of epithelium and connective tissue separates the interior of the pouch from the outside world by the time birth is imminent (Vincent, 1990).
The fully developed young emerge from their individual compartments and shake loose into the lumen of the pouch prior to birth (Vincent, 1990). They become very active toward the end of the pregnancy and can sometimes be seen wriggling about through the membrane of the swollen brood pouch at this time. This appears to be every bit as uncomfortable as it sounds, since expecting males become agitated and distressed as the big moment approaches. They experience definite labor pains when birth is imminent, evident as a series of powerful contractions, and soon begin pumping in time with these birth spasms in order to forcibly eject the fry from their pouches. Labor usually begins well after dark in the early morning hours (Vincent, 1990). The distraught male may pump and thrust vigorously for hours before finally ejecting the first of the newborns (Vincent, 1990). The fry are expelled singly or in ones and twos at first, but are soon spewing forth in bunches and bursts of a half dozen or more.
Delivering a large brood this way is hard work, and the exhausted male will pause periodically to recover from his exertions, gathering his strength until he is caught in the throes of another round of contractions. In some cases, it takes 2-3 days for the entire brood to be delivered in this manner.
No matter how often I see a male giving birth, it never ceases to amaze me. Watching the fry erupt into existence that way is an incredible sight. They are perfect miniature replicas of their parents, able to fend for themselves from the first. It seems a brutal beginning, a ruthlessly rude awakening, to be violently thrust into the world in such an abrupt fashion, but the newborns hit the water swimming without missing a stroke. It’s a thrill to be witnessing such a miracle of nature and always leaves me awed and exhilarated!
If you want to catch the big event, this is what Carol Cozzi-Schmarr at Ocean Rider recommends in that regard:
"In my experience, I have seen that 90% of the time the male seahorse will give birth right at the crack of dawn. For example, in one section of our hatchery we have over 50 pairs of seahorses. On any given morning if you show up just before dawn, you will witness at least 5 males giving birth at exactly the same time which is right at dawn. It is spectacular!! So, I would bet that if you set your alarm to 1 hour before sunrise you just might get lucky!! But of course, you will have to ask Mr. seahorse to be sure!!!"
Best of luck with your seahorses! There certainly demonstrating a healthy interest in courtship and mating, so if your male is not already pregnant, it’s only a matter of time before they produce their first batch of babies.
Pete GiwojnaMarch 18, 2008 at 12:15 am #4028Pete GiwojnaGuest
Dear seahorse love:
Yes, it’s certainly true that water temperature influences the gestation period in seahorses, along with quite a number of other factors, such as the level of key hormones as well as diet and nutrition. Let’s review some of the environmental factors that can influence gestation in a gravid male.
In general, the warmer the water the shorter the gestation period, and vice versa. (We’ll discuss how water temperatures can affect the pregnancy in more detail later in this post.).
Aside from water temperature, gestation may vary due to hormonal influences as well. For example, in seahorses, a hormone known as fish isotocin, which is the equivalent of oxytocin in mammals, triggers parturition or giving birth. Thus anything that stimulates excess secretion of isotocin can result in premature births, whereas anything which decreases or delays the secretion of isotocin can postpone delivery and prolong a pregnancy abnormally.
In a similar manner, disruption of other hormones can cause a male to spontaneously abort a pregnancy or to actually resorb the eggs. The placenta-like changes that take place in brood pouch, the development of the embryonic young, and the pregnancy itself are all controlled by various hormones — testosterone, adrenal corticoids, prolactin, and isotocin — so basically anything that influences the secretion of those key hormones can have a profound effect on the pregnancy
Some of the factors that influence these hormonal responses are the presence of the female, low oxygen levels, diet and, of course, stress. The presence of the female most definitely influences the gestation and brood success of her mate. Numerous studies indicate that the presence of female fishes visually or hormonally stimulates male sexual activity such as courtship, nest building, and the development of androgen-dependent sexual characteristics (Vincent, 1990). Research has also shown conclusively that male seahorses which have been with the same female for more than one mating cycle are markedly more successful in brooding young (Vincent, 1990). It is believed that one of the reasons for this is that the presence of their mate stimulates the secretion of the corticoids (steroid hormones produced by the adrenal cortex) and prolactin that control the pouch environment and maintain the incubation (Vincent, 1990). The male is thought to further expand his pouch and develop the placenta-like internal structures to a greater degree as a result (Giwojna, Feb. 2002). More of the eggs can then be successfully implanted and carried to full term (Giwojna, Feb. 2002). Separating a gravid male from his mate can therefore have a negative impact on his pregnancy and should be strictly avoided.
Low oxygen levels during pregnancy can likewise be disastrous. They result in respiratory distress for the gravid male, putting the embryonic young at risk, as well as directly altering the hormones we have been discussing, which can further disrupt the pregnancy.
Poor water quality — especially ammonia and/or nitrite spikes — are one of the most common aquarium stressors that can disrupt hormones and interrupt a pregnancy. Stress hormones such as cortisol will be released in response to such stressors, at the expense of other adrenal hormones, which can have a negative impact on the pregnancy and the developing fry.
Heat stress is doubly bad news for gravid males. Not only can abnormally warm temperatures disrupt the secretion of these key hormones and shut down breeding, they can also directly denature long chain polymers and macromolecules (e.g., proteins, enzymes and hormones) by altering certain bonds and changing the three-dimensional shape of the molecule on the atomic level. And, of course, water temperature also directly affect the metabolism of the seahorse and therefore its gestation period. Up to a certain point, increasing water temperatures will shorten the normal gestation period, just as decreasing water temperature will prolong or extend gestation.
Past a certain point, however, when the increasing temperatures exceed the comfort range for the seahorses, elevated temperatures will bring reproduction to an abrupt halt. For example, the Mexican population of H. ingens begins breeding in late September when the water temperatures decreases below 81°F (27°C), and keep breeding until late May when the water temperatures increase above 80°F again (Eliezer Zúñiga, pers. comm.).
An inadequate diet can also be detrimental to a gravid male for obvious reasons. Maintaining a large brood of developing young can be a big drain on the male’s bodily resources, and a nutritious diet rich in HUFA and essential fatty acids is necessary at this time to help the male keep up his strength. That is why male seahorses have an intestinal tract that’s 50% longer than that of females (Tamaru, Aug. 2001). They need the extra food absorption ability and digestion a longer intestine provides in order to sustain the metabolic demands of up to 1600 rapidly growing fry.
So the actions of the aquarist and the aquarium conditions can have a big effect on gestation, how well a pregnancy progresses, and whether or not the fetal fry develop normally and are brought to full term, or are aborted, delivered prematurely, or resorbed as embryos. So be sure to maintain optimum water quality, keep the male and his mate together, providing good aeration and oxygenation, and keep your stallion well fed through all the pregnancy.
Here’s hoping your seahorses soon present you with a brood of healthy young!
Pete GiwojnaMarch 20, 2008 at 8:20 am #4033seahorse loveGuest
Thank you again Pete for all of the information. I have a couple of questions. I have enrichment I am using for brine and mysis but I would like to use yours. There are quite a few, so what should I purchase, both Vibrance I and II and the spirulina or just the Vibrance? Also, do you have feeding stations I can purchase through your store?
Thank you.March 21, 2008 at 5:45 am #4034Pete GiwojnaGuest
Dear seahorse love:
As you know, the two different Vibrance formulations are intended for entirely different purposes. The lipid-rich formulation (Vibrance 1) was designed for enriching live foods that are low in lipids or fat content, such as brine shrimp (Artemia spp.), whereas the low-fat formulation (Vibrance 2) was designed to enrich frozen Mysis which are naturally rich in HUFAs, thereby protecting adult seahorses from hepatic lipidosis (fatty liver disease).
I keep both Vibrance 1 and Vibrance 2 on hand at all times, and which formula I used to enrich the frozen Mysis depends more on the behavior of my ponies than their age. I like to use the lipid-rich Vibrance 1 as long as the seahorses are actively breeding, whether they be yearlings or old reliable pairs. Likewise, I prefer to use the low-fat Vibrance 2 for mature seahorses that are not currently breeding, whether they are five months old or five years old. And, of course, Vibrance 1 is perfect for enriching baby brine shrimp for newborn seahorses. Finally, regardless of which type of Vibrance I am using for any particular seahorses, I always observe fast days in one form or another religiously as part of my feeding regimen.
There are a number of commercially made food supplements for marine fish that will work well for enriching frozen Mysis, but in my opinion, Vibrance is the best of these since it was developed specifically to provide a long-term balanced diet for seahorses. It includes additional highly unsaturated fatty acids (especially the DHA Omega 6 DHA series), along with Vitamin C and essential minerals, in the proper proportions to further enhance the nutritional profile of the protein-rich frozen Mysis. Studies indicate the DHA it includes is essential for high survivability, nerve development, stress management, and proper reproduction. Vibrance is a bright red-orange powder that gets its characteristic color due to its high content of carotenoids, which are an abundant source of Vitamin A and act as natural color enhancers for yellow and red pigmentation.
In short, Vibrance is the supplement that produces the best results for me. It was designed by a research team of nutritionists and fish biologists for use with frozen mysid shrimp in order to meet the dietary requirements of these unique fishes, and it comes in two different formulations — Vibrance 1 (the original Vibrance) and Vibrance 2 — which are tailored for seahorses with different needs.
Among other things, Vibrance 2 includes beta-glucan, pure Astaxanthin, carotenoids, water-soluble vitamin C, and various other vitamins and minerals in the proper proportions. It is a no-fat formulation intended for enriching frozen Mysis. As such, it’s perfect for fortifying frozen Mysis for adult seahorses, further enhancing their nutritional value while safeguarding against hepatic lipidosis (fatty liver disease).
The original Vibrance (i.e., Vibrance 1) is a lipid-rich formula including beta-glucan, the proper balance of long chain fatty acids (DHA and EPA) derived from natural schizochytrium algae, and color-enhancing carotenoids, all combined with just the right amount of vitamins, minerals and water-soluble stabilized vitamin C. It is ideal for enriching live foods with poor nutritional value that are naturally low in lipids, such as newly hatched brine shrimp or adult Artemia.
Personally, aside from enriching live foods, I prefer the high-fat formula (Vibrance 1) for young seahorses that are still growing, and for adult seahorses that are actively breeding, churning out brood after brood, since they need all the calories and energy they can get. On the other hand, I like the low-fat formula (Vibrance 2) for mature seahorses that are no longer breeding. This includes younger adults that are taking a break from breeding during the off-season, unpaired adults that have no mates at the moment, and older individuals that have been retired and put out to pasture. No longer growing and no longer producing clutch after clutch of eggs (or nourishing a pouch full of babies, in the case of males), these older specimens don’t need as much fat in their diets. Switching them to a low-fat formulation can help protect them from age-related conditions such as fatty liver disease (hepatic lipidosis).
Vibrance 1, the high-fat formulation, is ideal for enriching newly-hatched brine shrimp that will be fed seahorse fry, so it’s especially useful for hobbyists that are into breeding and rearing their seahorses. Vibrance 1 is the formulation you want for fortifying newly hatched brine shrimp (Artemia nauplii) to feed the seahorse fry, and it’s also the one I use for my breeding pairs.
Here are the instructions for enriching baby brine shrimp with Vibrance 1:
For enriching or “gut packing” live Artemia (brine shrimp), or other live shrimp or live food of all sizes. Blend 1 teaspoon of Vibrance into 1 cup of water for 3 minutes. Add this to the live food vessel for 30 minutes, or until you see the gut of the animal turn red. Rinse the animals with clean salt water and feed immediately to your seahorses or other fish.
Storage instructions: Please store in a cool dark place. The freezer or refrigerator is fine, but not necessary. Because Vibrance is packaged in a bag that does not allow light to penetrate and is a dry product the shelf life is indefinite as long as the bag is stored in a cool place and kept sealed. Once the bag is opened the shelf life is approximately one year
What really sets Vibrance apart from other enrichment products is that it is the only one that includes beta-glucan as a primary ingredient. Beta-glucan is a potent immunostimulant that provides important health benefits for fishes. Thanks to Vibrance, we can now boost our seahorse’s immune systems and help them fight disease as part of their daily feeding regimen. Enriching our galloping gourmets’ frozen Mysis with Vibrance will give them a daily dose of Beta Glucan to stimulate phagocytosis of certain white cells (macrophages). If the research on Beta Glucan is accurate, this could be a great way to help prevent infections from bacteria, fungus, and viral elements rather than attempting to treat disease outbreaks after the fact.
Not only should Vibrance + Beta Glucan help keep healthy seahorses healthy, it should also help ailing seahorses recover faster. Research indicates that it helps prevent infections and helps wounds heal more quickly (Bartelme, 2001). It is safe to use in conjunction with other treatments and has been proven to increase the effectiveness of antibiotics (Bartelme, 2001). It will be great for new arrivals recovering from the rigors of shipping because Beta Glucan is known to alleviate the effects of stress and to help fish recover from exposure to toxins in the water (Bartelme, 2001)
For more information on the potential benefits of Beta Glucan for aquarium fish, please see the following article:
Click here: Advanced Aquarist Feature Article
Adminstering Beta Glucan orally via Vibrance-enriched frozen Mysis, which are so naturally rich in highly unsaturated fatty acids (HUFA), is the perfect way to boost the immune response of our seahorses since vitamins and HUFA enhance the capacity of immune system cells that are stimulated by the use of beta glucan (Bartelme, 2001).
Ocean Rider (seahorse.com) doesn’t offer any sort of feeding stations, but they are easy to contrive and readily available from a number of other sources. And certain forms of macroalgae make great natural feeding stations that seahorses are naturally drawn to, so that’s another good option.
As you know, once your seahorses have adjusted to their new home and they are eating well, you will find that it’s fun and easy to train them to take frozen Mysis from a feeding station. I wrote an article in Conscientious Aquarist explaining exactly how to set up a feeding station and train your seahorses to use a feeder in some detail that you may find to be helpful in that regard. It discusses all the different kinds of feeding stations, including natural feeding stations. Please check it out when you have the chance. It’s available online at the following URL:
Click here: Seahorse Feeders
All kinds of different objects will make a suitable feeding post or feeding trough. The following link will take you to a site with photographs of different types of feeding stations that seahorse keepers have devised to give you a better idea of the possibilities:
You can also buy ready-made feeding stations if you feel that would be easier than improvising one of your own. For example, the Aquarium Fish Dish sold here works well in some seahorse tanks:
Or better yet, you could try the following feeder that was designed specifically for seahorses:
Best of luck with your new seahorses and their future progeny!
Pete GiwojnaMarch 21, 2008 at 9:32 am #4038seahorse loveGuest
I am going to purchase both of the Vibrance products. Since I live in Florida how many bags of each should I buy to last for a while? Also, where can I find RED GRAPE CAULERPA?
Again THANKS!!!March 21, 2008 at 11:00 pm #4040Pete GiwojnaGuest
Dear seahorse love:
One packet of Vibrance last a long, long time when you are just using it to enrich frozen Mysis or other frozen foods. You just give the frozen Mysis a very light dusting of the enrichment powder, and a pinch of it goes a long way for this purpose. Depending on the size of your herd, I would say one packet of the Vibrance 2 should last you for several months if you are just using it to fortify frozen Mysis.
However, when you are gut loading live brine shrimp with Vibrance 1 on a daily basis, you’ll go through it much more quickly. Since each packet can be stored indefinitely, you may want to order several packets Vibrance 1 if you are rearing a brood of youngsters and gutloading Artemia nauplii at advanced instars everyday.
Artemia nauplii (baby brine shrimp) are filter feeders that will ingest whatever is suspended in the water with them. This makes it easy to enrich the nauplii with everything from Vibrance to yeast cells to microalgae to fatty acids and vitamins and minerals, greatly enhancing their nutritional profile in the process.
The problem with such traditional enrichment methods is that only older nauplii at advanced stages of development can be fortified this way. Newly hatched brine shrimp nauplii (1st instar) lack mouthparts and derive their nourishment from a yolk sac. They are incapable of ingesting particles in the water. Consequently, only bigger nauplii that have molted once or twice (2nd instar and beyond) are suitable for this type of enrichment. This is a serious drawback since these older, larger Artemia nauplii have already grown beyond the size that most newborn seahorse fry, including baby dwarf seahorses, are capable of swallowing.
As a result, some breeders prefer to feed seahorse fry with the tiny newly hatched brine shrimp (1st instar Artemia) that still have their yolk sacs intact and are therefore very nutritious without any need for enrichment. This works very well if you decapsulate the Artemia cysts and then feed the baby brine shrimp to the newborn seahorses immediately after the Artemia has hatched out. This is the method that Neil Garrick-Maidment, an extremely successful breeder in the UK, prefers for rearing seahorses, as he explains below:
Rearing Seahorse Fry on Artemia.
The Seahorse Trust.
It has long been thought that rearing Seahorse fry on Artemia is impossible because they do not hold enough nutritional value. This is partially true but if dealt with in the correct way then artemia can be used very successfully.
Artemia is highly nutritious when it is first hatched out but the nutritional value drops very quickly to virtually nothing within 3 hours; added to this the carapace (shell) hardens during this 3 hour period and makes it very difficult to digest by all but the most harden fish fry.
The traditional way of cultivating artemia is to put the eggs into a pot of seawater, aerated at 80’ and wait for them to hatch 24 hours later. This one pot of artemia is usually used for a 24 hour period and quite often is stored in a refrigerator until it is used; this is where the nutritional problems occur unless the artemia is enriched. Once enriched (often for another 24 hours as the mouth parts do not form until 10 hours old) it often proves to be a poor source of food as it is by this point either too large or the carapace (shell ) of the artemia is too hard. By being too large or having too hard a carapace it means that fish fry like Seahorses cannot digest it as they have an extremely poor digestive system; which is not long enough to allow it to digest the hard carapace and derive enough nutrition from the naupilli. .
By changing the protocol of hatching the artemia it is possible to use it as a highly successful form of food especially for Seahorses; the only draw back with this system is that it is labour intensive.
The set up:
We use a 5 pot system for the hatchery, each one labelled 1 to 5; all five pots sit in a glass fish tank with 4 inches of water in it. This water is heated by heater/thermostat to 80’ and each of the pots is heated in turn by this hot water. Each pot also has an airline with an airstone into it.
Start with pot 1 and fill it with saltwater and add your artemia eggs (you can use unshelled eggs to increase the nutritional value higher.). 2 hours later repeat the process with pot 2 and then each 2 hours after repeat with the rest of the pots; it is possible to use more pots if your needs require it.
If you have set up pot 1 at 8am then 24 hours later at 8am the artemia should have just hatched out, this is then the time to feed pot one to your fry; it is crucial that the time between hatching out and feeding is kept to a minimum.
Harvest the artemia by letting the pot stand and the artemia will sink to the bottom and the egg shells will rise to the surface. Use a siphon through a very fine mesh trap to siphon them out of the pot, once you have enough artemia then give them a quick wash under a freshwater tap and then feed the artemia to your Seahorse fry.
It is crucial that you only feed a small amount of artemia to the Seahorse fry; enough to be eaten by the time the next pot is fed to the fry (2 hours later).
Once you have fed this pot of artemia to the fry do not be tempted to keep what’s left over, use it for some other fish species but don’t be tempted to feed it later on to the Seahorse fry.
Once you have harvested pot 1 immediately set it up again ready for the next 24 hour period.
Every time you go to feed the next pot of artemia be sure to siphon the tank of any debris from the bottom of the tank and crucially remove any left over artemia from the tank. This can be done by putting a light to the side of the tank to attract the artemia to it then siphon them from the tank. This is important as you do not want the Seahorse fry to be eating older hardened and nutritionally low value artemia.
After feeding the artemia remember to top up the water you have removed from the fry tank, this way you will be changing water throughout the day lessening the build up of harmful nitrites and ammonia in the water which is better for the Seahorse fry.
As a side note we usually use water from the adult’s tank to replace and indeed start up the fry tank; this is already filtered and as we use natural seawater it is a better source of water for the fry; they appear to do better in natural seawater than artificial.
These steps should be repeated every 2 hours with pots 2 then 3 then 4 then 5 and any others you add to the system.
This process should be repeated on time every 2 hours as the age of the artemia naupilli is important for its nutritional value and carapace hardness.
In short, if you will be rearing baby seahorses and feeding them with older Artemia nauplii that you have enriched with Vibrance 1, then it would be a good idea to order several packets of the Vibrance 1. But if you will be rearing the seahorse fry by feeding them newly hatched Artemia nauplii with their yolk sac intact, that need no further enrichment, then one or two packets of Vibrance 1 should be plenty.
In summation, one or two packets of the no-fat Vibrance 2 should last you a long time. But if you are going to be enriching baby brine shrimp regularly using the lipid-rich Vibrance 1, then you’ll want to order several packets at once. Otherwise, if you’ll just be using the Vibrance 1 to enrich frozen Mysis for mature seahorses that are actively breeding, then one or two packets should hold you for quite a while.
Caulerpa can be difficult to obtain these days since it is now illegal to keep for aquarium use in some coastal areas, so it’s hard to say where you may be able to obtain any of the red grape Caulerpa. Where it’s legal, red grape Caulerpa will show up in local fish stores that carry a marine fish from time to time, and that’s where most hobbyists obtain it.
Inland Aquatics (www.inlandaquatics.com) carries quite a variety of macroalgae, so you might try contacting them to see if they can provide red grape Caulerpa.
Best of luck with your new seahorses!
Pete GiwojnaMarch 28, 2008 at 8:03 am #4052seahorse loveGuest
I read how to ‘gut pack’ the artemia but with the dusting of the mysis with Vibrance I, how long do I leave it on the mysis before feeding?
DonnaMarch 29, 2008 at 1:25 am #4060Pete GiwojnaGuest
Fortifying frozen Mysis with a light dusting of Vibrance 1 or 2 is an entirely different procedure then gutloading live brine shrimp (Artemia sp.). In case you haven’t seen them before, here are the Club’s usual feeding tips, including suggestions for enriching frozen Mysis properly:
Feeding & Enriching Tips
In addition to cycling your aquarium and setting it up to create an ideal environment for seahorses, you will also need to line up a good source of frozen Mysis before you place an order, Joseph. Frozen Mysis is available in several different brands from many different sources. Gamma brand frozen Mysis is good, Hikari frozen Mysis is quite acceptable as is San Francisco Bay brand frozen Mysis, the Mini Mysis by H2O Life is great for small seahorses, and Piscine Energetics frozen Mysis is no doubt the best in terms of nutritional content and quality control. Your local fish stores should carry one or more of these brands.
Whatever brand of frozen Mysis you obtain, for best results, it’s a good idea to fortify it with Vibrance before feeding it to your seahorses. Vibrance is an enrichment formulation that was designed by a research team of nutritionists and fish biologists especially for use with frozen Mysis shrimp in order to meet the dietary requirements of seahorses, and it has been developed specifically to provide a long-term balanced diet for these unique fishes. depending on which Vibrance formulation you use, it includes additional highly unsaturated fatty acids (especially the DHA Omega 6 DHA series), along with Vitamin C and essential minerals, in the proper proportions to further enhance the nutritional profile of the protein-rich frozen Mysis. Studies indicate the DHA it includes is essential for high survivability, nerve development, stress management, and proper reproduction. Vibrance is a bright red-orange powder that gets its characteristic color due to its high content of carotenoids, which are an abundant source of Vitamin A and act as natural color enhancers for yellow and red pigmentation. It is the only enrichment product that includes beta glucan as an active ingredient. That’s important because beta glucan is a potent immunostimulant that provides important health benefits for fish.
In order to enrich it, the frozen Mysis is carefully thawed out and rinsed well to remove any excess shrimp juices, and then a VERY light dusting of the Vibrance is added to the Mysis while they are still just a bit moist. The Vibrance is then gently worked into the frozen Mysis and it usually adheres very well. The end result should be whole, completely intact Mysis shrimp that have acquired a reddish tinge to their head or anterior end, which are ready to be fed to your seahorses without further ado. In actual practice, there are probably as many different ways of successfully thawing and enriching frozen Mysis as there are aquarists that use them; most everybody works out their own method of preparing the frozen Mysis that works best for their needs and busy schedule.
In general, it’s a good idea to offer one morning feeding and one mid-to-late afternoon feeding, if possible, but there are no hard-and-fast rules when it comes to easy-to-feed, farm-raised horses. Some hobbyist prefer to give their seahorses two feedings a day, while others prefer to give them their quota of frozen Mysis in one big meal. As long as they get their fill, there is really no right or wrong way to go about this — just do whatever works bests for your seahorses and your schedule.
As you know, the feeding regimen that generally works best for most captive-bred seahorses is to provide each of them with 2-7 frozen Mysis relicta twice a day, enriched with Vibrance, and then to fast your seahorses entirely once a week. In other words, your seahorses should each be eating a total of around 4-14 frozen Mysis each day, depending on the size of the seahorse and the size of the Mysis. But those are just rough guidelines and there is a lot of variation in how much Mysis healthy seahorses eat each day.
A large seahorse naturally eats more than a smaller pony. And jumbo-sized Mysis will fill up a hungry seahorse faster than smaller shrimp. So a seahorse that’s scarfing up king-sized Piscine Energetics Mysis relicta does indeed need to eat fewer shrimp than a pony that’s dining on the tiny Hikari Mysis or the miniscule H2O Mini Mysis.
Aside from size, some of the other factors that determine how much a seahorse eats are water temperature, the age of the seahorse, and whether or not it is actively breeding at the moment. The warmer the water temperature (within the seahorse’s comfort zone), the higher it’s metabolism, and the more calories it needs to eat as a result. Young seahorses that are still growing rapidly typically eat more than mature seahorses that have reached their full growth. As you might expect, breeding pairs that are producing brood after brood every few weeks need to eat a lot because so much of their bodily resources go towards producing clutches of eggs or nourishing a pouch full of developing young.
So don’t get hung up trying to count every morsel every seahorse in your tank scarfs down. Just make sure all your seahorses have full bellies at the end of the day, as indicated by their well-rounded abdomens. After a good feeding, the seahorses belly rings should be flush or even slightly convex in cross section when viewed from head on. (We never want to see sunken, severely pinched-in abdomens on our seahorses! Concave belly rings are a sure sign of an underfed seahorse, with the sole exception of a female that has just transferred her eggs.)
So if you want to check whether your seahorses are eating well or not, don’t look at their profile — just examine them head-on and check out their gut. Their abdomens or belly plates should bulge out slightly or at least be flush with their flanks, not pinched in or sunken. In other words, when viewed from the back or from head-on, the cross-section of their abdomens should appear concave "( )" or flush "l l" rather than concave ") (" or pinched in.
Feeding Frozen Mysis
(1) Tips for thawing and enriching frozen Mysis.
In order to prevent wastage and obtain the maximum benefit from this superb food, it must be thawed properly. This is especially important because once the Mysis are fully thawed, they are not refreezable (Adib, 2004). Most hobbyists tend to simply thaw their mysids in aquarium water, which has the virtue of thawing it quickly but is not the best approach. The faster the frozen shrimp is thawed, the more likely it is to be damaged in the process. We want the mysids to remain intact and lifelike; we don’t want the tissue of the Mysis to begin to breakdown in the process of freezing/thawing. The goal is to preserve the Mysis and retain all those precious shrimp juices when we thaw it, not to release their fluids into the aquarium water where it will only degrade the water quality and do your seahorses no good!
So don’t thaw frozen Mysis in 75-80 F aquarium water. Don’t nuke it in the microwave to defrost it! And don’t simply toss a chunk of frozen Mysis in your tank and let it float around until it thaws and releases individual mysids!
Nor should you thaw it in tap water, distilled water, or any other source of freshwater. You want to thaw the shrimp in water that is about as salty as their own bodily fluids so there is little or no difference in osmotic pressure. Freshwater will tend to move into the mysids as they thaw and can break down their integument and rupture cell walls as they swell; excessively salty water will tend to draw water out of the Mysis as they thaw, desiccating them in the process. Normal strength seawater is just right for thawing.
So the recommended method for thawing frozen Mysis is to use refrigerated saltwater from your aquarium. Keep a small jug of your artificial saltwater in your refrigerator and reserve this for thawing your mysids (Adib, 2004). Place a couple of ounces of the chilled saltwater in a small cup or similar receptacle and use that to thaw the shrimp. Break off a small chunk from the mass of frozen Mysis — just enough for one feeding or a day’s worth at most (with experience, you will soon learn exactly how much to use) — place it in the cup of saltwater and allow the Mysis to slowly thaw in the refrigerator for 30-45 minutes (Adib, 2004). Then take the cup out of the refrigerator and allow the thawed Mysis to warm up at room temperate for another 15 minutes (Adib, 2004). This method leaves the mysids perfectly intact and lifelike, and produces immaculate shrimp that need no further rinsing. (If you use another method for thawing the Mysis, it’s generally advisable to rinse the thawed shrimp in a brine shrimp net to prevent fouling of the aquarium water.) You are now ready to fortify the Mysis with the enrichment formula of your choice.
Carefully remove the individual thawed mysids from the thawing container using a plastic fork or a toothpick and gently deposit them in the bowl of a plastic spoon. The idea is to handle the shrimp as little as possible during the thawing and enriching process, since rough handling can cause the mysids to break apart. If your enrichment product is in powder form such as Vibrance (which I recommend), take a pinch of the formula, sprinkle it on the Mysis, and mix it in very gently (a plastic knife or similar instrument works well for this step). The orange power will adhere to the moist Mysis, and when you’re done, the head region (cephalothorax) of the mysids should be stained reddish. (If your preferred supplement is a liquid formula, just add a few drops to the Mysis and let it soak in.)
With a little practice, most hobbyists quickly work out their own technique for preparing enriched Mysis. The method outlined above works well for me and many other aquarists, but there are many other ways of defrosting and enriching the Mysis that work equally well. For instance, other hobbyists prefer to add a dusting of enrichment powder (or a few drops of a liquid supplement) to a chunk of frozen Mysis and gently mix it in (or allow it to soak in) as it thaws. One nifty way to do this is to break off my little chunk of frozen shrimp and place it on a square of wax paper, allow it a while to defrost, and then add a pinch of enrichment formula and roll the Mysis and power in the wax paper as though making a cigarette. This technique is trickier and takes a little experience before you can pull it off properly. The thawing and rolling/mixing process must be done very, very carefully or you may crush some of the Mysis and lose a lot of shrimp juice while preparing it. As always, if you’re doing it right, the heads of the individual Mysis shrimp should end up stained red, which is a feeding "trigger" captive-bred chowhounds find hard to resist. With a little practice, you will soon refine your own method for preparing frozen Mysis that works the best for your schedule and the needs of your herd.
But however you prepare it, it’s important to keep the enriched Mysis refrigerated until it’s used, and to use all the Mysis you thawed and enriched within 24 hours. For best results, the enriched Mysis should be used immediately after it’s prepared. Whether it’s been refrigerated or not, avoid using thawed and prepared Mysis that is 2 or 3 days old. We don’t want to offer our seahorses food that might have become laden with bacteria.
(2) When it comes to feeding, give new arrivals time to recover and settle into their new surroundings before you force the issue.
That’s a long haul from Hawaii, and it sometimes take new arrivals a good week or two to settle in, make themselves at home, and start feeding normally afterwards. For that reason, I suggest the hobbyist have a supply of live food on hand whenever acclimating new additions to his herd. The tiny red feeder shrimp from Hawaii (Halocaridina rubra) are ideal for this, but live Gammarus, ghost shrimp, or even adult brine shrimp will do. The live shrimp help them adjust during the initial acclimation period when you first introduce your seahorses to your tank. The live foods will give the new arrivals a head start, help them recover from shipping stress quickly, and get them through the difficult period of adjustment in tiptop condition.
Don’t worry about feeding your seahorses immediately after they arrive. Give them a good 24 hours to adjust and settle down first. After the adjustment period, go ahead and offer some carefully thawed Mysis to your seahorses each day. Many seahorses handle shipping and acclimation with ease and never miss a beat, gobbling up frozen Mysis from Day One. Others will need more time before they feel at home in their new surroundings, and may not feel comfortable enough to accept frozen Mysis from their keeper until a week or two has passed. So keep offering Mysis each day, but feed it sparingly at first and remove any uneaten Mysis after an hour or so. Once the seahorses that start eating the Mysis first have had their fill, add some live feeder shrimp for the others that are lagging behind.
Many times all the seahorses resume feeding on the frozen Mysis right away and the live red feeder shrimp aren’t needed; in that case, simply keep them on hand for use as occasional treats. They last indefinitely in a clean, aerated plastic bucket at room temperature with a pinch of flake food sprinkled in sparingly a few times a week.
Be patient with the ones that seem more reluctant to resume feeding on frozen Mysis. Don’t isolate them from the others, don’t pester them by persistently trying to target feed them at this point, and don’t keep dropping frozen shrimp on their heads! That can spook a high-strung seahorse and stress him out all the more, setting him back further. Just give them time and they will soon join the others, scarfing down frozen Mysis greedily again. This can sometimes take a couple of weeks. (Mature males often lag behind at first; for some reason, they seem to be more shy and retiring than females, which can be quite brazen at times. I suspect this is due to their parental duties — during the breeding season, pair-bonded males are ordinarily ALWAYS pregnant, and they can’t risk exposing their precious cargo to any more risk than absolutely necessary.) Make a note of the reluctant eaters; the ones that are slow to take frozen Mysis now may require target feeding later on.
(3) Be aware of secretive feeders and give them plenty of room at first.
It’s quite common for new arrivals to display shy, secretive behavior. I have found that some of my seahorses, especially newly acquired specimens, are reluctant to eat while they know they are being observed. That doesn’t mean they are starving themselves, however, just that they tend to feed in secret. Rather than feeding from your hand or gobbling up the Mysis when you first offer it, they will prey upon the natural fauna in the tank, slurping up copepods and amphipods from hiding, or snatch up leftover frozen Mysis when they think no one is looking. Some of the seahorses that don’t appear to be eating at first may actually be feeding on the sly.
When that’s the case, it’s best to back off a bit and leave the tank alone as much as possible for the time being. It’s okay to observe the tank discretely but try to avoid flat-nose syndrome, and keep feeding your other specimens as usual, of course, but don’t try to force the issue with the shy ones. Just leave them be, give the seahorses plenty of peace and quiet, and let the secretive feeders adjust to their new environment and get used to the daily routine at their own speed. Before too long, they’ll begin sneaking leftover Mysis when they think you’re not watching and feel safe. Once they feel at home, the shy specimens will start exploring their tank freely and displaying themselves openly. Before you know it, they’ll come to recognize you as their feeder and begin interacting with you at dinnertime. And from there, it’s just one short step until you have them literally eating from your fingers.
(4) Morning feedings are best.
The recommended feeding regimen is to provide each of your seahorses with 4-14 frozen Mysis shrimp daily, enriched with a good food supplement, and then to fast your seahorses entirely once a week. Some hobbyist prefer to give their seahorses two feedings a day, while others prefer to give them their quota of frozen Mysis in one big meal. As long as they get their fill, there is really no right or wrong way to go about this — just do whatever works bests for your seahorses and your schedule.
However, many hobbyists find that their seahorses feed best during the morning, so if you can only feed your seahorses once a day, try to make it a morning meal. Whether it’s their biological clocks, something built into their natural circadian rhythm, or whether they’re simply hungriest shortly after waking up, seahorses do seem to feed more aggressively in the morning, and hobbyists should try to accommodate them, if possible. Breakfast, it seems, is the most important meal of the day for our aquatic equines as well as ourselves.
If you can only manage one feeding a day, DO NOT make it an evening meal. The worst thing you can do is to feed your seahorses late in the day when there will likely still be leftovers remaining at lights out. The uneaten Mysis will begin decaying overnight and put your water quality at risk. Worse still, the next morning, when they are hungriest, your seahorses may discover the bacteria-laden Mysis and snap them up off the bottom. This is an excellent way to spread disease and make your seahorses sick. Feeding your seahorses early in the day, so they have plenty of time to clean up leftovers, is a good way to prevent this. An efficient clean-up crew of scavengers also helps.
(5) Use a feeding station.
Seahorses respond very well when they are fed at the same time and place each day. They quickly learn the routine and will come to recognize their keeper as the one who feeds them — the giver of gourmet delights! Once that happens, they will often beat you to the spot, gathering around their feeding station as soon as they see you approach.
In fact, the aquarist can easily condition his seahorses to come a running at feeding time. Before you open the aquarium cover, make a point of lightly tapping it a few times or rapping on it gently. The seahorses will quickly learn to associate the tapping with the mouthwatering morsels that follow, and before you know it, they will respond by gathering at the feeding station as if you were ringing the dinner bell.
To facilitate this process and make feeding them easier, choose a feeding station that’s convenient for you in a relatively uncluttered part of the aquarium, and give your seahorses their meal right there every day. The feeding station should have some convenient hitching posts situated nearby as well. Avoid using an area where currents might whisk the food away from the seahorses before they can eat it.
I know one hobbyist who uses a toadstool leather coral as his feeding station. He places the Mysis on the bowl-shaped top of the toadstool, which contains them nicely while his seahorses perch around the edges and scarf up the shrimp as if dining at a lunch counter.
Not everyone has a toadstool coral to serve as a natural feeding station, of course, but it’s easy to make your own lunch counter that will work just as well. Get a small Pyrex bowl or a similar shallow container made of clear glass or plastic (a large petri dish works great for this) and fill it about halfway with your tank substrate (Mike Kelly, pers. com.). Then sink the bowl into your sand bed until the substrate you placed in the bowl is level with the substrate in the tank (Mike Kelly, pers. com.). Leave the rim sticking up above the sand bed about a 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch or so (Mike Kelly, pers. com.). The clear glass rim of the bowl is transparent and virtually unnoticeable, so don’t worry that it will detract from the appearance of your display tank. Artfully position a few natural hitching posts around the bowl to provide your seahorses with a handy perch from which to snick up their dinner.
At feeding time, place the frozen Mysis on the sand or gravel inside the bowl. A long tube of clear plastic 1/2′ to 1′ in diameter facilitates this. The bottom of the tube is placed in the middle of the bowl and the enriched Mysis are then placed in the top of the tube, which guides them exactly where you want them as they sink. The rim sticking above the sand bed will then keep the food in place while your seahorses dine at their leisure. Afterwards, any leftovers are neatly contained, making cleanup a breeze!
Or you can always purchase a seahorse feeding station off the shelf, ready to go, as is. Artificial cup coral makes an attractive elevated "lunch counter" that does the job nicely. Elevated on a pedestal, the seahorses can perch around the edge of the cup, which contains the frozen shrimp nicely until eaten. The coral cups are very lifelike and make nifty ready-made feeding stations if positioned at a convenient (for you and your galloping gourmets) spot in your tank where currents won’t whisk the Mysis away.
Another handy item that makes a great ready-made feeding station for seahorses are the conical worm feeders designed for offering bloodworms and tubifex worms to fish. They may require a little modifying since many of them are designed to float. Depending on the type of feeder, you may have to perforate air filled chambers around the collar, weigh it down to submerge it, or cut the conical worm trap free from the rest of the feeder. Worm feeders come with a suction cup, so once you’ve overcome the buoyancy problem, they can be secured anywhere in the aquarium you want, and they work just as well with frozen Mysis as with worms. If you position the conical feeder where a slight current hits it, gently jostling and agitating the frozen Mysis inside, it is even more effective. The flow of water imparts a bit of movement to the frozen Mysis, causing it to twitch or swirl about just a bit periodically inside the feeder. This makes the thawed Mysis look all the more lifelike and quickly attracts the interest of the seahorses. They will gather around the feeder and snick up Mysis through the open top. The conical shape of these feeders contains the frozen Mysis even better than most other feeding stations.
Some hobbyists prefer a more natural looking, aesthetically pleasing feeding station, which they fashion themselves to suit their own tastes. They start with a piece of well-cured live rock that’s approximately the right size and shape, and painstakingly hollow out the center to form a shallow concave depression. This shallow bowl is fashioned by grinding it out, using an electrical moto-tool (available at any craft store or hardware store) with a carbide burr or sometimes even a shop grinder. Once the bowl has been hollowed out, a series of holes are then drilled around the circumference of this depression. Red, brown or purple Gracilaria, green Caulerpa and/or gorgonian branches are planted in these holes to create natural hitching posts. As the macroalgae takes hold and fills out, this produces an attractive feeding station that looks completely natural. It’s a great do-it-yourself project for the handy hobbyist.
An upturned clamshell also makes a nifty natural feeding station that fits in perfectly in your seahorses’ setup. Choose a colorful natural seashell for this, such as one valve of a Tridacna clam or perhaps a Lion’s Paw Scallop shell, and you have an attractive feeding station that’s perfectly appropriate for your tank. The concave interior of the bivalve shell acts as a shallow bowl to contain the frozen Mysis until it’s eaten, and unlike some feeding stations that look out of place and detract from the appearance of your tank, a seashell looks as natural as can be in a marine aquarium. My favorite for this type of feeding station is a medium-sized Abalone shell. The iridescent, opalescent colors of the upturned interior, with its magnificent polished surface of mother-of-pearl, are spectacular! An upturned abalone shell requires no further modification whatsoever, making it the ideal feeding station for the unhandy hobbyist who’s all thumbs.
Other aquarists reserve a small, transparent glass bowl or clear plastic receptacle for feeding their seahorses. They merely place the bowl or plastic container on the bottom of the tank at feeding time, add the enriched Mysis, and let their seahorses gather round and dine at their leisure as though eating from a feeding trough. A few hours later, the feeding container is removed, along with any leftovers. Quick and easy!
For more information, see my article in Conscientious Aquarist which explains exactly how to set up a feeding station and train your seahorses to use a in greater detail.. It’s available online at the following URL:
Click here: Seahorse Feeders
(6) Target feed your seahorses and remove uneaten leftovers promptly.
The individual personalities of seahorses naturally extend to their feeding habits. Some are aggressive feeders that will boldly snatch food from your fingers, while some are shy and secretive, feeding only when they think they’re not being observed. Some like to slurp up Mysis while it’s swirling through the water column, and some will only take Mysis off the bottom of the tank. Some are voracious pigs that greedily scarf up everything in sight, and some are slow, deliberate feeders that painstakingly examine every morsel of Mysis before they accept or reject it. Some eat like horses and some eat like birds. So how does the seahorse keeper make sure all his charges are getting enough to eat at mealtime? How does the hobbyist keep the aggressive eaters from scarfing up all the mouth-watering Mysis before the slower feeders get their fair share? And how can you keep active fishes and inverts with seahorses without the faster fishes gobbling up all the goodies before the slowpoke seahorses can grab a mouthful?
Target feeding is the answer. Target feeding just means offering a single piece of Mysis to one particular seahorse, and then watching to see whether or not the ‘horse you targeted actually eats the shrimp. Feeding each of your seahorses in turn that way makes it easy to keep track of exactly how much each of your specimens is eating.
There are many different ways to target feed seahorses. Most methods involve using a long utensil of some sort to wave the Mysis temptingly in front of the chosen seahorse; once you’re sure this has attracted his interest, the Mysis is released so it drifts down enticingly right before the seahorse’s snout. Most of the time, the seahorse will snatch it up as it drifts by or snap it up as soon as it hits the bottom.
A great number of utensils work well for target feeding. I’ve seen hobbyists use everything from chopsticks to extra long tweezers and hemostats or forceps to homemade pipettes fashioned from a length of rigid plastic tubing. As for myself, I prefer handfeeding when I target feed a particular seahorse.
But no doubt the all-time favorite implement for target feeding seahorses is the old-fashioned turkey baster. The old-fashioned ones with the glass barrels work best because the seahorses can see the Mysis inside the baster all the way as it moves down the barrel and out the tip. By exerting just the right amount of pressure on the bulb, great precision is possible when target feeding with a turkey baster. By squeezing and releasing the bulb ever so slightly, a skillful target feeder can keep a piece of Mysis dancing at the very tip of the baster indefinitely, and hold the tempting morsel right in front of the seahorse’s mouth as long as necessary. Or if the seahorse rejects the Mysis the first time it drifts by, a baster makes it easy to deftly suck up the shrimp from the bottom so it can be offered to the target again. In the same way, the baster makes it a simple matter to clean any remaining leftovers after a feeding session. (You’ll quickly discover the feeding tube is also indispensable for tapping away pesky fish and invertebrates that threaten to steal the tempting tidbit before an indecisive seahorse can snatch it up. And it’s great for tapping on the cover to ringing the dinner bell and summon the diners for their gourmet feast!)
In short, target feeding allows the hobbyist to assure that each of his seahorses gets enough to eat without overfeeding or underfeeding the tank. And it makes it possible to keep seahorses in a community tank with more active fishes that would ordinarily out-compete them for food, since the aquarist can personally deliver each mouthful to the seahorses while keeping more aggressive specimens at bay.
The key to keeping active specimens like firefish or compatible clownfish or cleaner shrimp successfully with seahorses is to feed the other fish and inverts with standard, off-the-shelf aquarium foods first, and once they’ve had their fill, then target feed the seahorses.
(7) If possible, stick with frozen Mysis relicta from Canada.
Although there are several types of frozen Mysis on the market, the deep, cold water habitat and the unique way its captured and prepared makes Mysis relicta far superior to the others for feeding seahorses due to a variety of reasons (nutritional value, each individual shrimp is frozen whole and intact, the most lifelike in appearance, natural odor attractants, etc.). The fatty acid profiles of Mysis relicta are higher than that of enriched brine shrimp and it has more than three times the fatty acid content of ocean krill (Piscine Energetics. 2003). These high levels of fatty acids not only provide seahorses with essential nutrition, but also stimulate a positive feeding response (Piscine Energetics. 2003). Mysis relicta are high in protein and high in animal fat, yet are sodium free. The lack of salt intake is desirable for marine fishes, which are constantly working to expel salt from their bodies (Piscine Energetics. 2003). Suffice it to say that almost all farm-raised seahorses are pretrained to eat frozen Mysis relicta, and that’s the species they will eat the best in the hobbyist’s home aquarium as well.
One big reason for this is Mysis relicta’s highly diversified eating habits. The food chain in the deep, cold waters that this species prefers gives it extremely high levels of EPA and DHA (fatty acids), which are not only important for the nutrition they provide, but also act as natural appetite stimulants, triggering a positive feeding response in seahorses (Piscine Energetics. 2003).
Another reason Mysis relicta is eaten so greedily by seahorses is that it is virtually identical in appearance to the mysids that are a favorite food of all Syngnathids in the wild. Equally important, the Mysis relicta are flash-frozen after harvesting while they are still alive and kicking (Piscine Energetics. 2003). Their lifelike appearance is thus perfectly preserved, and they reach the consumer as whole intact shrimp. This is very important because seahorses accept frozen shrimp much more readily when the eyes and head are intact. I have observed on many occasions that when frozen Mysis are broken and fragmented, as is common with some brands, the seahorses will often eat the anterior portion with the eyes and antennae still present, and totally ignore the rest of the parts. Needless to say, that’s not only wasteful but also bad for your water quality. Mysis relicta thaws as whole, intact, individual shrimp, preventing such problems.
In short, Piscine Energetics frozen Mysis relicta has a superior nutritional profile and is a very desirable food source for large seahorses and other marine fish. But the PE frozen Mysis is by no means a prerequisite for keeping Ocean Rider seahorses. If you find the PE Mysis difficult to obtain locally, your seahorses will be quite content with another good brand of frozen Mysis that is readily available in your area. In fact, young seahorses often prefer the smaller Hikari frozen Mysis until they have grown large enough to handle the jumbo PE frozen Mysis.
I normally obtain my PE frozen Mysis from Premium Aquatics because they offer it online in small quantities, and they offer it graded for size (when they have it in stock, you can obtain either small Piscine Energetics Mysis relicta or the usual king-sized PE Mysis relicta).
If you want to go with the PE Mysis relicta, you can order it online from Premium Aquatics (see link below).
Click here: Frozen Foods: Premium Aquatics
If Premium Aquatics is out of the PE Mysis relicta, which happens at certain times of year, your next best bet is to contact Piscine Energetics and obtain a list of the retail outlets that carry their Mysis relicta, as Leslie explained. Depending on where you live, you may be able to obtain the PE Mysis relicta from a local fish store in your area:
Click here: Mysis Relicta — Natural fish food,for finicky saltwater and freshwater fish, by Piscine Energetics
if piscine energetics frozen Mysis relicta proves to be difficult to obtain in your area, frozen Mysis is available in several different brands from many different sources, and one of the other brands will suffice. Gamma brand frozen Mysis is good, Hikari frozen Mysis is quite acceptable as is San Francisco Bay brand frozen Mysis, and Piscine Energetics frozen Mysis is, of course, perhaps the best in terms of nutritional content and quality control. Your local fish stores should carry one or more of these brands. One way or another, you need to line up a good source of frozen Mysis to serve as the staple, everyday diet for your domesticated seahorses.
(8) Observe fast days and don’t overfeed.
One of the most common mistakes hobbyists make is to overfeed their seahorses. Any excess Mysis that’s not eaten within an hour or two of a feeding can become a threat to your seahorses. Either it will find its way into some inaccessible nook of the aquarium and begin to decay, degrading your water quality, or it may be noticed by a hungry seahorses hours later or perhaps even the next day, and eaten after bacteria have gone to work on it. The best way to avoid such problems is to target feed and remove leftovers promptly, as soon as you’re sure all the seahorses have had their fill. If you can only feed once a day, make it a morning meal before you leave for work, so the seahorses have the rest of the day to glean their leftovers. A good cleanup crew can also help by taking care of any uneaten morsels that slip past the aquarist.
It’s equally important to observe the once-a-week fast day. Fasting helps prevent any potential problems with hepatic lipidosis (fatty liver disease) and keeps your seahorses feeding aggressively rather than losing interest in frozen foods. The problem is that although fasting is very healthy for seahorses on a staple diet of enriched Mysis, it can be very hard on the hobbyist. Here’s how I described this dilemma in a recent aquarium magazine article (Giwojna, Jun. 2002):
"The only thing I don’t like about this extremely nutritious diet is the obligatory fast day. The problem with fasting is that my mustangs don’t seem to realize it’s good for them — that it’s absolutely in their own best interests, essential for their long-term health. Whenever I make an appearance on fast day, they insist on parading back and forth in front of the glass in their greeting colors, begging for a handout. Before my butt hits the upholstery, both of them will be dancing at the feeding station, impatiently awaiting their gourmet shrimp dinner. When it doesn’t materialize, they forlornly abandon their post at the lunch counter, and come up to stare at me through the front glass. When I still don’t take the hint, the female paces back and forth at the front, looking her brightest and most conspicuous, as though trying to attract my attention, while the male reverts to his drab everyday attire and dejectedly resumes his futile vigil at the feeding station. If not for their well-rounded cross-sections, one would think they were dying of hunger, making it difficult to resist their puppy-dog antics. Just sitting there ignoring them makes me feel like a first-class heel. Sheesh–talk about your guilt trips…Dang! I hate fast days." (Giwojna, Jun. 2002)
There you have it, Donna — everything you need to know about feeding Ocean Rider seahorses. If you follow these feeding tips, it should help keep your next seahorses eating their best and you will soon find that keeping them well fed is fun and easy. Feeding time for my seahorses is always a high point in my day. They do appear amazingly like fire-breathing Dragons when they eat frozen Mysis — it looks for all the world like smoke is shooting out of their "ears" when they eat enriched Mysis, due to the pulverized particles they expel from their gills after slurping it up (Gilchrist, 2002).
So take a moment to enjoy the show when feeding your seahorses. Make sure they’re all eating well, and use this opportunity to look them over closely for wounds, injuries, or signs of disease. Seahorses are natural-born gluttons. Ordinarily, these galloping gourmets are ALWAYS hungry, so when a seahorse is off its feed, that’s often an excellent early indicator that something’s wrong. Early detection of a potential problem can be the key to curing it, so it’s a good idea for the alert aquarist to observe his prize ponies while they put on the ol’ feed bag. Make sure they all show up for mess call, are acting normally, and have a well-rounded abdomen when they’re done eating.
Before we move on, I would also like to emphasize one more point regarding feeding frozen foods. Whether it is a tank with lots of live rock, a modified minireef, a seagrass system or a mangrove biotype, a well-designed seahorse setup is an elaborate environment. A certain level of complexity is necessary in order to assure that our seahorses behave naturally (Topps, 1999) and to provide our ponies with plenty of hitching posts and shelter, and enough sight barriers to assure them a little privacy when they feel the need to be alone. Their homemade habitat may thus take the form of a labyrinth of live rock, an intricate arrangement of corals and gorgonians, a well-planted bed of seagrass or macroalgae, or a full-fledged reef face. When feeding seahorses in such intricate surroundings, the worst thing you can do is to scatter a handful of frozen Mysis throughout the tank 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. There it will begin to decompose and impair your 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 gone bad. Either outcome can lead to dire problems. Target feeding the seahorses or training them to use a feeding station are the best ways to avoid such complications.
Best of luck enriching your frozen Mysis and feeding your seahorses, Donna!
Pete GiwojnaMarch 30, 2008 at 12:18 am #4063seahorse loveGuest
Well Pete, the brewd is here. It is small as you imagined, probably 50-75 fry. Wish me well or rather the little guys.March 30, 2008 at 3:09 am #4064Lisa AieaGuest
You have been so good to answer all my questions. Thank you for your quick responses. I wrote to you a few weeks ago because my Sunburst male was almost two weeks pregnant. You gave me wonderful advice. Tomorrow my male will be 4 weeks pregnant!! Is he going to survive? His pouch is enormous!!!! I thought for sure he’d have given birth in the past week. Is he alright? Do they ever die because they haven’t been able to give birth? Last night and this morning I could only coax him to eat one shrimp. I’m getting really worried about him. I’d appreciate any advice. If he doesn’t give birth by Tuesday, which will be 30 days, what do I do?
Lisa EnsignMarch 30, 2008 at 5:03 am #4066Pete GiwojnaGuest
Congratulations on your new brood of ponies! Keep track of how long your male’s gestation was this time, and then you can very accurately predict when his next brood will be due, providing conditions in the aquarium remain the same.
Also, you can expect your stallion to remate now within the next day or so, if he is not already done so, and you won’t want to miss the ensuing courtship and transfer of the eggs, so keep a close eye on the happy couple.
A brood of 50-75 newborns is quite respectable for your young stud’s first mating. Subsequent broods should increase in number as the pair becomes more experienced in executing the copulatory rise, but that’s not bad at all for their first attempt.
Best of luck keeping up with the endless appetites of the voracious newborns, Donna!
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