- This topic has 35 replies, 3 voices, and was last updated 15 years, 6 months ago by seahorse love.
March 30, 2008 at 6:32 am #4067Pete GiwojnaGuest
Hold fast! As long as your gravid male is not experiencing problems with positive buoyancy, which might indicate that his pouch is swollen with excess gas rather than developing young, chances are that all is well and you just need to be patient a little while longer.
It’s not unusual for expecting males to go off their feed a bit as their pregnancy progresses, and my best guess is that your stallion is just about ready to pop. Keep an eye on his breathing rate. 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 at normal aquarium temperatures (~75°F). Parturition is released by the hormone isotocin and there’s not much you can do to induce labor in a male that is overdue.
As you know, Lisa, 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.
In short, I wouldn’t be overly concerned about the situation at this point, Lisa. As I discussed with Donna earlier in this thread, there are many factors that can influence the gestation of a pregnant male, and I have seen several instances where a gravid Hippocampus erectus experienced an unusually prolonged pregnancy and ultimately delivered a healthy brood of babies after many more than 30 days had elapsed.
Having said that, males do occasionally have complications during their pregnancy that can cause serious problems. Some of the embryonic young or fetal fry may expire at some stage of their development. When this happens early in the pregnancy, the failed embryos are simply resorbed, and when it happens late in the pregnancy, they are normally delivered as stillborn young along with the healthy newborns. But in rare instances, the decomposition of the unsuccessful embryonic young and fetal fry can result in the build up of gas within the marsupium. This is usually evident because the male will have buoyancy problems as a result and begin to struggle increasingly against a tendency to float. As long as your male can swim normally when he wants to, and can remain at the bottom of the tank as usual, then you can be confident that his brood pouch is swollen with developing young rather than the gases of decomposition. And, in that case, Lisa, I expect it will be just a matter of time before the newborns are eventually forthcoming.
In the meantime, just hold fast, continue to encourage him to eat, maintain optimal water quality and good aeration/oxygenation, don’t separate him from his mate, and provide him with a stress-free environment in which to complete his pregnancy.
Best of luck with your overdue dad and his subsequent brood of babies, Lisa!
Pete GiwojnaMarch 30, 2008 at 12:02 pm #4069seahorse loveGuest
I am keeping a journal of the daily condition of the fry, how many die etc. How do I know I am feeding them enough? I feed them two to three times a day correct and take out a total of 10% of the water per day through syphoning up feces and the deceased? I have two 5.5 gallon tanks sitting inside a heated bath inside a 30 gallon tank. The temp is about 74 degrees. I am using a sponge filter. Once the fry get larger, if I am lucky this first time around, I will split them up between the two 5.5 gallon tanks so they don’t become over crowded. I know to slowly ween them off the brine onto mysis but when they get to be a good size but still not big enough to go into a regular reef tank what is the best way to filtrate the fry tanks and how often do I do water changes with the bigger fry? When do I put something in the tank for them to hold onto? And, how old should they be when they go into a regular reef tank with filter and protein skimmer? Sorry for all of the questions.
Thank you, as always.
DonnaMarch 31, 2008 at 2:45 am #4072seahorse loveGuest
I have the newly hatched brine in the tank and it doesn’t seem as if they are eating them. I can’t tell. The fry is so small but I see them tracking. How do I know if they are eating?
DonnaMarch 31, 2008 at 5:36 am #4075Pete GiwojnaGuest
The newly hatched brine shrimp (1st instar Artemia nauplii) certainly are pretty small and it can be difficult to see them being slurped up, but you should be able to see the fry tracking and snicking at the live food. If you are not able to tell conclusively that they are eating just from watching the fry’s behavior, then checking their fecal pellets is another good way to tell if they are eating enough, or perhaps are even getting too much to eat.
When the fry are well fed and eating well, defecation is amazingly rapid, with each newborn producing an average of one fecal pellet every 25-30 minutes. So watch the fry to make sure they are eliminating regularly and check the bottom of the tank for numerous fecal pellets. (You’ll want to vacuum up any fecal pellets from the bottom when you make the water changes in the nursery tank.) If the newborns are not producing regular feces, or there is only a light defecation occurring, then they may not be eating or may simply not be getting enough to eat.
Many breeders will examine the fry’s fecal pellets under a microscope to determine how well they are digesting the baby brine shrimp. If the fry are eating too much too quickly, deification is so accelerated that the newborns cannot adequately digest the hard bodied Artemia nauplii before it’s a lemonade, so they will actually begin passing living brine shrimp in their feces. But most home hobbyists have a hard time keeping up with the endless appetites of the fry, and underfeeding is the primary concern for home breeders.
Mustang and Sunburst (Hippocampus erectus) babies should have a hitching post of some sort available to them from day one. The newborns are phototactic and will be attracted to the light, hugging the surface by day, but will often begin seeking out hitching posts after dark straightaway. Cured ”seahorse trees” make good hitching posts, as do artificial aquarium decorations such as small seafans and soft plastic plants with fine, branching leaves (Giwojna, Jan. 1997). Strips, sections, and cylinders of plastic window screen or the plastic mesh sold in craft stores for needlepoint projects also work well. Short lengths of polypropylene rope (the kind sold at hardware stores and marine outlets for boating purposes) are another good option for hitching posts in the nursery. They come in many different colors, can be cut to any desired length, and are buoyant so if one end is anchored and the other end is unraveled, they will wave gently in the current like natural plants. (Avoid nylon rope, however — it bleeds in saltwater and will leech color and who knows what else into your tank!) If necessary, the holdfasts can be secured to the bare glass with silicone aquarium cement or suction cups designed for use in marine aquaria, or secured to a piece of coral rubble to anchor them in place.
As for filtration, sponge or foam filters generally work well for the type of nursery tank as you describe, Donna. The simplest nursery tank setup is a bare bottom 5 to 10-gallon glass tank equipped with suitable hitching posts, an air-operated sponge or foam filter, and nothing else (Giwojna, Jan. 1997). Add a cartridge of activated carbon to the airlift tube of the sponge filter(s) to provide a little chemical filtration.
Keep the sponge filters in such nurseries elevated or prop them up off of the bottom. Otherwise they can become death traps for unwary benthic fry, which can become wedged beneath them and trapped. Adjust the airflow through the sponge so it produces a stream of small, steady bubbles. You want to create a slow, gentle flow through the foam filter without generating overly fine or excessively large bubbles (Giwojna, Jan. 1997). Seahorse fry may accidentally ingest fine bubbles, mistaking them for food, while large bubbles can buffet the newborns with harmful results (Giwojna, Jan. 1997). Too much airflow through the sponge filters will leave them prone to "eating" the fry’s food (newly hatched Artemia, copepods, rotifers, etc.).
At the same time, however, you want the air stream to break up surface tension and provide adequate surface agitation. This is important not only for efficient oxygenation and gas exchange at the air/water interface, but also to allow the fry easy access to the surface. A newborn’s first instinct is to head to the surface to fill its swim bladder. (Physosymotous fishes have a connection between their gas bladder and the gut in the form of an open tube called the pneumatic duct, and are thus able to fill the swim bladder by gulping air at the surface. Like many teleost fishes, seahorses lose this connection very early in life, so that their swim bladders are completed closed as adults.) In many species, gulping air is the way in which gas is first introduced into the larvae’s bladder, and if denied an opportunity to do so, their development is hampered due to uninflated swim bladders (Silveira, 2000).
This is the case with seahorse fry. If denied access to the surface to inflate their swim bladders, the fry behave normally while they are small and their weight is still negligible. But over the weeks, as they grow and put on weight, their underdeveloped swim bladders and inability to achieve neutral buoyancy increasingly handicap them. Once they gain a little weight, they sink like rocks. Unable to swim, they are reduced to slithering along the bottom on their bellies and are commonly referred to as sliders. This deficiency does not become apparent until the fry are several weeks old. Needless to say, this hinders their swimming ability and severely limits their feeding opportunities, delaying their growth and development, and rendering entire broods useless. In several cases, the problem was traced back to an oily film on the surface of the nursery tank, which prevented the newborns from filling their swim bladders with air (Silveira, 2000). A protein skimmer will prevent this by removing filmy surface layers and surfactants in general.
The same sort of sponge filters that work well for dwarf seahorse tanks are also ideal for nursery tanks. Be sure to avoid sponge filters with weighted bottoms or other metal components since they will rust when exposed to saltwater. Sooner or later this will cause problems in a marine aquarium (sooner in the small nursery tanks). Select a sponge filter that has no metal parts and is safe for use in saltwater. The proper units will have suction cups to anchor them in place rather than a weighted bottom.
The sponge filters I find that work well are the Oxygen Plus Bio-Filters (models 2, 3, 4, or 5) or the Tetra Brilliant foam filters. They have no metal components, making them completely safe for use in saltwater, and just one of these foam filters will do the job on a tank of 5 gallons or less. They do not have a weighted bottom but are equipped with suction cups instead.
Click here: Foam Aquarium Filters: Oxygen Plus Bio-Filter 2
Avoid the Oxygen Plus Bio-filter 6, 11, and the Multi sponge, which all have a weighted bottom (metal), that rusts when exposed to saltwater. If you want more filtration, you’re better off going with two of the smaller suction cup sponge filters rather than any of the models with weighted bottoms. For instance, for a 10-gallon tank, I’d suggest using two well-established foam filters, one at either end of the tank for the biofiltration, just as you are planning, Alex.
All you need to operate sponge or foam filters is an inexpensive, diaphragm-operated air pump (whatever is available at a reasonable price from your LFS will do just fine), a length of airline tubing to connect the air pump to the foam filter(s), and a set of air valves (gang valves) to regulate the air flow to the filters. That’s all — nothing to it! The inexpensive Apollo 5 air pumps work great for sponge filters, but whatever air pump you have on hand should certainly do the job.
Cleaning the foam filters is a snap. Simply immerse them in a bucket of saltwater and gently squeeze out the sponge until it’s clean and releases no more sediment or debris. (I use the saltwater I siphoned out of my aquarium when performing a water change for this, and clean my sponge filters whenever I change water.) Run a bottlebrush through the inside of the tube, wipe off the outside of the tube, and you’re done. The filter is ready to go back in the aquarium with no impairment at all of the biofiltration. Takes only a couple minutes.
When weaning the youngsters off of live brine shrimp onto frozen food, it’s still important to make daily water changes and siphon off the bottom of the tanks to clean up leftovers when you do so, since much of the frozen food will go unbeaten at first and you don’t want it to begin to breakdown, incourage bacterial growth, and degrade your water quality. Here are some additional tips for training the youngsters to take frozen food when the time comes, Donna:
Making the Transition to Frozen Foods:
Converting the Fry to Frozen Foods
The current thinking is that the fry can remain on a steady diet of newly hatched Artemia until you are ready to begin weaning them onto a diet of frozen foods (usually minced Mysids and/or Cyclop-eeze). Aquaculturists are now converting the fry to frozen foods earlier than ever, often beginning around 3-4 weeks old. Jeff Mitchell reports that the fry are healthier and grow faster the sooner they make the transition to enriched frozen foods, and he expects the young seahorses to have made the transition to frozen foods by the age of 4-1/2 weeks.
I generally have the best results using frozen Mysis. The best way to prepare the Mysis for the juvenile seahorses is to mince the frozen Mysis coarsely rather than putting it through a blender. How fine or coarse you need to chop it depends on the size of your fry, since you want to wind up with bite-size pieces of Mysis. Initially, many breeders prefer to shave small pieces of Mysis off of a cube while it’s still frozen.
The frozen Mysis that works best for most hobbyists is Hikari in frozen blocks rather than trays. The Hikari Mysis is much smaller than Piscine Energetics Mysis relicta and that makes it easier to shave off bite-sized pieces for the young seahorses. Some hobbyists report even better results using the new Mini Mysis offered by H2O Life, which is small enough that it often doesn’t need to be minced or shaved before offering it to the juveniles.
When it comes to shaving the Mysis, a technique that works well for many home hobbyists is to use a potato peeler to shave off bits of the Hikari Mysis from a frozen block, and then use a single edged razor blade to further mince the frozen bits the potato peeler has removed.
Try offering the minced Mysis exclusively for their first feeding of the day when the youngsters are the hungriest. Watch the juveniles closely to see if any of them begin to pick pick at the minced Mysis or pick it up from the bottom. If they still aren’t having any of it, siphon up the uneaten frozen Mysis after about half an hour and offer them newly hatched brine shrimp soaked in Mysis juice so that they have something to eat, and intermingle some freshly minced Hikari frozen Mysis or Cyclop-eeze in with the bbs.
When the fry have grown a little larger and can accommodate bigger pieces of Mysis, I find it convenient to carefully thaw whole Mysis individually and then carefully chop them into several pieces. Or the Mini Mysis by H2O Life can be fed to the larger juveniles whole and intact, if you can obtain it.
Either way, it is very important to be extra diligent about vacuuming up leftovers (and any fecal pellets) while the fry are making the transition to frozen Mysis. Otherwise, the minced Mysis that doesn’t get eaten right away while it’s still suspended in the water column or shortly after it has settled on the bottom will begin to degrade the water quality in your nursery tank.
It’s important to overlap the fry food when they are making the transition. Offer them shaved or minced Mysis along with the newly hatched brine shrimp they are accustomed to eating. (Many times it’s better to offer the minced Mysis first, while the fry is still the hungriest, and then add the baby brine shrimp.) Once they begin eating the bits of frozen Mysis well, gradually increase the amount of minced Mysis and decreased the amount of baby brine shrimp you offer at every feeding until they are finally eating the shaved Mysis almost entirely.
Overlapping the feedings this way, offering newly-hatched brine shrimp as usual along with just a little frozen Mysis at first, assures that there is familiar food available to the fry while they are making the transition and makes sure that the slow learners still get enough to eat.
Some hobbyists find it helpful to begin soaking the newly hatched brine shrimp in Mysis juice for a week or two before they actually began offering the bits of minced Mysis along with the bbs. That way, the juveniles get used to the scent of the frozen Mysis and associate it with food before you start to add the bits of frozen Mysis.
Here’s a previous post from Patti that describes how she weaned her erectus fry onto frozen to Kari Mysis:
I’m wondering if nutrition is your problem.
Could you train them onto frozen mysis? My 4 week old erectus are
eating shaved Hikari frozen mysis already. They started not eating
much of the BBS and looking around the bottom of the bowl. I
enriched the shaved mysis w/Vibrance & put it in the bowl. It goes
to the bottom and they’re on the hunt. They’ll look at it a good
while and then snick. It only took 1 day to train them. I swish it
around a little at first to get them interested.
I think the mysis is better for them nutritionally and they don’t
have to spend so much energy eating all those tiny BBS. Give it a
try. It may take a few days. I gave mine the mysis 1st – before
adding the BBS. That way they were pretty hungry. Then I gave them
some BBS for desert to make sure each one got something to eat if
they weren’t eating enough mysis yet.
Patti [close quote]
Notice that Patti’s erectus fry were all hitching and beginning to look around on the bottom for things to eat, indicating that they were ready to give up their planktonic existence (i.e., the high-risk pelagic phase) and make the transition from live brine shrimp suspended in the water column to frozen foods.
Other breeders go a step further and begin adding a little of the minced Mysis to their nursery tanks with the newborns right from the start to help build up their intestinal flora and ultimately enable them to better digest the frozen Mysis when they start eating it. they feel that this helps the babies get them used to the scent of the Mysis and conditions them to associate it with food, which helps to make the transition from live food to frozen Mysis easier later on when they’re the right age.
For example, here’s how Neil Garrick-Maidment, a very successful breeder in the UK, describes this technique:
Hi Peter and all,
I tend to put in a very small amount of finely chopped mysis in with the fry
from day 1. The idea behind this is to create a bacterial soup in the fry
water to help load the fry gut with the right bacteria to break up the mysis
shrimp which tends to be quite hard.
It makes it easier to get them to switch to dead mysis later on BUT it is
crucial to clean the tank daily and water change to stop a problem with
The Seahorse Trust
36 Greatwood Terrace
Cyclop-eeze is also worth considering when weaning the youngsters onto frozen fare. When the juveniles are the right age, don’t hesitate to try them on frozen Cyclop-eeze first if you aren’t having any luck with the frozen Mysis. Lelia Taylor is one hobbyist who has had good results using the Cyclop-eeze, as she described below:
I have had success placing BBS in Cyclop-eeze, then feeding the mixture to my babies. They readily take the Cyclop-eeze. As they get bigger I add frozen, enriched brine shrimp. they began eating the frozen food immediately. Using the same principle, I began adding Mysid shrimp, along with the brine shrimp and Cyclop-eeze. I have found, even very young babies, will pick the larger pieces of Mysid shrimp, into bite sized pieces. I have also had success culturing copepods in my baby and grow up tanks. The babies readily feed on these, as well. <close quote>
Hobbyists who have tried The Cyclop-eeze for their juveniles are unanimous in saying that the frozen Cyclop-eeze is far superior than the freeze dried product for this purpose. They report that the bars of frozen Cyclop-eeze in particular work well because they will shed copious amounts of the bite-size frozen cyclops into the water.
Once the juveniles reach the age of about six months, they will be hitting sexual maturity and should be ready to transfer into the main tank with regular filtration, protein skimmers, etc.
Best of luck with your first attempt at rearing, Donna! Here’s hoping all goes well and that you are able to raise some of the young to maturity.
Pete GiwojnaMarch 31, 2008 at 7:12 am #4078Pete GiwojnaGuest
Woohoo! Congratulations on a very nice brood of Sunburst babies!
Now that your overdue dad has finally delivered his brood of young, he should also have purged himself of any gas that may have built up in his pouch over the course of his pregnancy. If not, he will expel it while pumping to cleanse his pouch when he re-mates within the next day or two.
Yes, you are correct regarding a four-week pregnancy. A prolonged pregnancy does indeed have benefits for the developing young. For example, the Birch Aquarium at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography finds that maintaining locally obtained H. ingens at cooler water temperatures extends the gestation of gravid males and increases survivorship of their pelagic fry (Liisa Coit, pers. com.). Lowering the water temperature, hence prolonging the gestation, increases the incubation period for the fetal fry and embryonic young the gravid male is carrying, which in turn translates into larger, more developed fry. The bigger, better developed newborns that result can feed and swim more efficiently and their survival rates are increased accordingly (Liisa Coit, pers. com.)
The downside for the home breeder, of course, is that an extended pregnancy reduces the chances of premature newborns, or "half-cooked" babies that are still attached to their yolk sacs, and therefore makes it very challenging to identify and cull out the weaker fry from among a large brood. In your case, Lisa, it sounds like there are no obvious runts, preemies, or deformed newborns to weed out. When that’s the case, it’s cool to attempt to raise all of the healthy offspring. It just means that there are more mouths to feed, so you need to work that much harder in order to keep all of the newborns well fed.
As you know, the recommended stocking density for pelagic seahorse fry such as Mustangs or Sunbursts is no more than 6 fry per liter, or a maximum stocking density of about 25 fry per gallon. If your nursery tank holds 10 gallons, for example, it can hold about 200 newborns when stocked to capacity, and for best results I would keep it understocked. So for the time being, there should be no need to worry about larger accommodations for a healthy brood of over 100 fry, if you want to try to rear them all, Lisa.
Best of luck with your new Sunburst babies!
Subject: ‘Over 100 babies!!!’ in Forum: ‘Seahorse Life and Care’
Posted by: Lisa Aiea
We had a successful delivery this morning of well over 100 Sunburst babies. Yea!!!! They are all in their nursery, being gently swirled around. Earlier you counciled me to weed out the still-borns, those with yolk sacs, etc. Here’s my problem: They all are alive and all look healthy and strong! Maybe a 4 week pregnancy was beneficial. On the other hand, that sure makes it hard to decide who to keep. I’m afaid I am going to be like the typical new breeder and try to keep them all alive, thereby harming all. Any advice?
LisaMarch 31, 2008 at 8:00 am #4079seahorse loveGuest
Thank you. I have so many questions that keep coming up as we go along. I know the chances of this first brood surviving is minimal because we are so new at this. I am extremely confused about how to get the old brine out of the fry tank that is nutritionally null and void. Also, in our hatchery we have brine that has hatched and brine that is still hatching. How do we separate them or how do I know the fry is getting the nutritious brine? Do I partially drain the hatchery each day continuosly adding decapsulated eggs to it so brine is constantly hatching? The fry is tracking and I can see them snicking. What do their feces pellets look like? When I add the brine there are still unhatched eggs with it that I can’t separate and it falls to the bottom. Help!
P.S. We are going to buy a few of the filters you gave us the link to because we are having a hard time making the air bubbles the correct size. Also, you mentioned putting a charcoal cartridge in the filter. How do we do that? We cannot put the young in a regular reef tank until 6 months? Do you suggest what kind of tank we keep them in until that time?April 1, 2008 at 12:21 am #4081Pete GiwojnaGuest
Okay, let’s see if we can get you straightened out a bit regarding feeding the newborns.
First of all, it’s encouraging that you can see the fry tracking their prey and snickingat it. That means that they are almost certainly feeding, and they have voracious appetites, as you will discover. If you watch the fry closely, you should be able to see them defecating. The fecal pellets are eliminated from the vent, which is located at the base of the abdomen near the tail in the front. The fecal pellets are tiny darkish blobs that often have an orangeish coloration when the newborns are feeding on a strict diet of baby brine shrimp.
There are a couple of good ways to separate the newly hatched brine shrimp from the empty egg shells and unhatched eggs. The best approach to this problem is to decapsulate the eggs before you hatched them, which eliminates the egg shells altogether and increases the nutritional value of the Artemia nauplii at the same time, as we’ll discuss below later in this post. Other than that, a simpler method that works well for me is to shine a light on the hatching jar in order to concentrate the newly hatched brine shrimp in the middle, where they can be sucked up with the baster are siphoned up using a length of airline tubing.
The brine shrimp nauplii can be separated from the eggs simply by turning off the air for a few minutes and allowing the water to settle. The unhatched eggs will sink to the bottom of the hatching jar while the empty egg shells will float to the top. The nauplii can then be concentrated in the center of the jar by darkening the room and shining a flashlight on the jar’s midsection. (Brine shrimp are attracted to light and will be drawn together in midwater where the light is focused.) Harvest the nauplii by using a siphon or turkey baster to suck up the concentrated mass of shrimp. The shrimp-laden water can then be strained through a plankton screen or fine-meshed brine shrimp net.
Return the strained water to the hatching container, add more eggs, and readjust the aeration. The same hatching solution can be used for a week’s worth of hatchings before it has to be replaced.
Alternating the hatching container from which you harvest each day’s supply of nauplii will assure that you have a nonstop supply of newly hatched brine shrimp available at all times. That’s the best way to assure that the newborns are receiving nutritious Artemia nauplii for each feeding, Donna. You want to feed them the right amount of newly hatched brine shrimp at each feeding so that they have cleaned up the majority of the brine shrimp before their next feeding. It takes a while to determine what the right amount of shrimp that at each feeding – that depends on the size of the brood, the appetite of the fry, and the type of Artemia you are using – but you will eventually work that out over the days ahead. It doesn’t matter if there are some leftover brine shrimp when you add more for the next feeding. That’s fine, as long as the bulk of the shrimp are newly hatched.
There is no good way to assure that all of the brine shrimp you are feeding our nutritious newly hatched Artemia if you just have one hatching container. The idea is to setup a battery of different hatching containers, and then stagger the hatch between them and alternate which of the jars you harvest for each feeding to assure that you are always using relatively newly hatched brine shrimp. The five-pot system used by Neil Garrick-Maidment that we discussed in an earlier post on this discussion thread is one good way to achieve that goal, and I will provide you with additional suggestions along those lines later in this post as well.
As you know, the best eggs or cysts to use for your brine shrimp factory are decapsulated eggs which have had their hard, outer shells stripped away. These shell-less eggs have many advantages over ordinary Artemia cysts. For starters, they simplify the task of separating the live nauplii from the unhatched eggs, since there are no empty shells, and the decapsulated eggs eliminate the possibility of clogged intestines due to the indigestible cysts. Secondly, the decapsulation process destroys virtually all known pathogenic organisms. Since the shell-less eggs have been disinfected, there is much less risk of introducing disease or parasites to the aquarium when you feed your seahorses with brine shrimp from decapsulated cysts. More importantly, the nauplii produced from decapsulated eggs have greater caloric value than the nauplii from unaltered cysts. This is because the nauplii from decapsulated eggs do not have to waste energy struggling to break free of their shells, and thus emerge with 20% greater food value, primarily in the form of additional amino acids and essential fatty acids. This extra nutritional value can make a crucial difference to the rapidly growing seahorses.
Decapsulated brine shrimp eggs are now available from some manufacturers. Although the shell-less eggs are expensive to buy, it is easy for the serious hobbyist to decapsulate his own brine shrimp eggs at home.
Decapsulating Brine Shrimp Eggs.
Decapsulating brine shrimp cysts — the process of dissolving away their hard outer shell — may sound intimidating at first and may seem awkward when you first attempt it. No doubt you will have these instructions open, your eyes glued to the page, with all of your supplies at the ready the first few times you perform this procedure. Relax, this is not difficult at all, and after you’ve done it a couple of times, you will see how truly easy it is and realize decapping is well worth the extra few steps. I will walk you through each numbered step. Measurements do not have to be exact. Regular strength bleach is best, but ultra bleach can be used at lesser portions. You can estimate this yourself. Decapsulating your cysts is beneficial for a number of reasons:
• Reduces the risk of hydroids.
• Removes the outer shell, which means less mess and no fouling of your tank.
• Eliminates intestinal blockages from accidental ingestion of indigestible shells.
• Kills off any and all unwanted contaminants.
• Slightly quicker hatching times.
• Better hatch rates.
• Increased nutritional value secondary to less energy expenditure during hatching.
Supplies Needed for Decapsulating:
• Brine shrimp net
• Air pump
• plastic clip or paper clip wrapped in baggie to clip airline into the container
• Approximately 2 teaspoons brine cysts.
• Approximately 2/3 cup of bleach
• Approximately 2 cups of water
1. Pour your water into a container and clip airline tubing to the side. (No air stone is needed for this). This will keep the cysts in motion. Allow the cysts to aerate this way for approximately 1 hour or a little more.
2. Add in your bleach and continue aerating. As the outer shell gradually dissolves, the eggs go through a series of color changes from brown to gray to white and finally to orange–the color of the nauplii within. This process takes about 7 minutes. The decapsulation process is complete when your cysts become an orange-yellowish color.
3. Pour decapsulated eggs into a brine shrimp net. Add a dechlorination product if you want and rinse until you no longer smell bleach.
4. Drop eggs into your hatching container. You can also refrigerate eggs for about 1 week prior to use in a supersaturated saline solution.
In short, Donna, if you decapsulated your brine shrimp eggs then you don’t need to worry about separating the newly hatched Artemia nauplii from the egg shells.
Once you get your brine shrimp hatcheries cranked up and running in high gear, you’ll need to maintain frequent feedings in order for the newborns to do well. I’ve outlined the recommended fry feeding schedule for you below, which is based on Tracy Warland’s fry feeding regimen as a professional breeder. When looking over these recommendations, bear in mind that the home hobbyist almost always needs to be more concerned about underfeeding than overfeeding (it’s ordinarily only the pros that worry they might be feeding their fry too much). The humble home breeder will have his or her hands full just trying to keep up with the endless appetites of all those fry.
With that in mind, here are some suggestions and information to serve as guidelines when getting your rearing program started, Donna:
Fry Feeding Schedule
When feeding baby brine shrimp (bbs) or Artemia nauplii to seahorse fry, you want to avoid overfeeding (feeding them too much at a single feeding) as well as feeding them newly hatched bbs which have depleted their yolk supply and are nutritionally barren. The best way to do that is provide the fry with many small feedings throughout the course of the day, each of which they can clean up fairly quickly, rather than one or two massive feedings.
I suggest feeding the fry 3-5 times daily, at least 2-3 hours apart. When you are feeding the right amount, the fry should consume most of the nauplii within the first 20-30 minutes, but give them 3 hours to finish the rest and digest it fully before you feed them again. Ideally some brine shrimp will remain throughout each 3-hour feeding session, albeit at a greatly reduced feeding density after the first half-hour.
In other words, your ideal fry feeding schedule should go something like this: 8 AM feed, 11 AM feed, 2 PM feed, 5 PM feed, 8 PM feed, lights out at 11 PM. Harvest the baby brine shrimp for each feeding session in succession from each of the jars you started hatching at 3-hour intervals. This will assure that the Artemia nauplii you are feeding to the fry are no more than 3 hours old and thus at the peak of their nutritional value.
Like all babies, seahorse fry exist only to eat and poop. To say they are voracious is a gross understatement — at this stage of their development, the newborns have but one mission in life: to eat and thus to grow. Researchers have found that a single seahorse only a few weeks old can consume 3000-4000 newly hatched brine shrimp in a single day! Milligram for milligram, a great white sharks feeding habits appear downright dainty and positively anorexic compared to a baby seahorse on the prowl for live prey. And as you can imagine, when well-fed fry eat that much, defecation is amazingly rapid, with each newborn producing an average of one fecal pellet every 25-30 minutes.
One of the many quirks of seahorse anatomy is that they lack a true stomach like ours with the capacity to store food between meals (Bellomy, 1969). Rather, they are endowed with a rudimentary "stomach" that is little more than a pouchlike expansion of their intestine with no distinct separation between it and the rest of their digestive tract (Tamaru, Aug. 2001). Food passes continuously through this simple stomach instead of being stored therein. This is an adaptation to a sedentary lifestyle in which seahorses feed while at rest (as ambush predators that wait for their prey to come to them) more or less continuously throughout the daylight hours, rather than storing food or stockpiling energy in fat reserves (Tamaru, Aug. 2001). And like other carnivorous fishes, their intestinal tract is also relatively short (Tamaru, Aug. 2001).
Therefore, think of their digestive tract as a short continuous tube. When a seahorse is full, nothing more can be taken in at one end of its digestive tract without something being passed out of the other end. Seahorse fry don’t stop eating once they are full — the feeding instinct of these seagoing gluttons is so strong it compels them to keep eating as long as suitable prey is present. Baby seahorses, not sharks, are the ocean’s "remorseless eating machines!"
When they are overfed, particularly on hard-to-process Artemia nauplii, food passes through their system too fast to be digested properly. Because they swallow their prey whole and intact, this can actually reach the absurd point where they are passing live Artemia in their fecal pellets (Warland, 2003)! When that happens they are getting virtually no nourishment from their food and are literally starving in the midst of plenty. Here’s how Tracy Warland, a commercial seahorse farmer in Port Lincoln, Australia, describes this feeding dilemma and how to deal with it:
"We feed by looking closely at the ponies feces under a microscope, (a cheap dissecting microscope is ample); we breed 5 different species and all the ponies are the same, in as much as they are total gluttons. Baby seahorses (ponies) will eat so much instar 2 Artemia that they will pass out live Artemia in their feces, and they will of course not get any nutritional value from any feeds, so by over feeding you will starve them to death. We have done this. So if you feed them too much you will just love them to death as they will starve due to inability to digest. We look at the feces to determine the level of digestion and feed accordingly. Usually a feed is what the biomass of the tank can clean up in a 20-minute session, after which we leave them alone for about 2 hours and then feed them again. As soon as they defecate, we use a pipette to gather up the droppings and examine them under the microscope to check digestion levels and adjust our feeding accordingly. This is not necessary for every feed as you can soon learn the quantity required for each feeding; just make sure that the Artemia is digested fully (Warland, 2003)."
So if you have a microscope, you can easily verify that you are feeding enough but not too much at any given feeding by visual examination of the fry’s fecal pellets. Otherwise, you will eventually learn the right amount to feed and how often to feed from experience. The right feeding regimen varies according to species, the size of the brood and the size of your nursery tanks, as well as the type of food you are providing, so it is difficult to make generalizations in that regard. But Tracy Warland recommends the following:
"You need to add enough food for your fry to eat for about 15-20 minutes (75%
of the food should have been consumed within that time). If it is not, then you have added too much. The fry then should have some time to digest this food, about 2 – 3 hours is plenty. Provide at least 3-5 feedings daily. Only feed during daylight hours and turn off lights at night (Warland, 2003)."
As I said, Tracy’s feeding regimen may not be the best option for the home hobbyist, however. The average hobbyist has his hands full just trying to keep up with the demands of a brood of fry, doesn’t have access to a microscope to monitor the fecal pellets of the fry, and generally needs to be far more concerned about underfeeding than overfeeding. The salient point is that when rearing fry, many small feedings daily are vastly preferable to one or two large feedings. Most hobbyists are more successful at rearing when their goal is to assure that the fry have access to at least some food throughout the day. Many breeders accomplish this by adding small amounts of newly hatched Artemia to their nurseries whenever they walk by. For the sake of hygiene and water quality, its important to siphon off the bottom of the nursery tanks between feedings, whether or not you are able to do a microscopic examination of the fecal pellets.
It’s imperative that you work out the most efficient feeding regimen one way or another, since overfeeding is not only bad for the seahorse’s digestion, it also debilitates the fry because it is very energetically demanding for them to pursue prey and eat nonstop all day long (Warland, 2003). With a little experience, you will soon work out the feeding regimen that works best for you.
Many home hobbyists find an alternating 2-hour feeding schedule works well during the day. The fry are allowed to feed for 2 hours, then fasted for 2 hours, then given another feeding and fasted for 2 hours, and so on. The nursery is then darkened overnight and the seahorses are rested.
The general idea is to set up multiple hatching containers so that you can harvest the newly hatched brine shrimp nauplii from a different hatchery for each feeding. Thus, if you’re going to be feeding five times a day (i.e., every three hours throughout the day), then you would set up a battery of five separate brine shrimp hatcheries, and you would start the brine shrimp cysts hatching in each of them at three hour intervals.
The reason you stagger the hatching jars that way, adding the eggs to each at three hour intervals, is to assure that you are feeding the fry newly-hatched Artemia nauplii that have just emerged from their eggs, and therefore are at the peak of their nutritional value, for each of the feedings. Right after the first instar Artemia nauplii have emerged from their shells, their yolk supply is completely intact and they are more nutritious, since when the seahorse fry eat them, they get the benefit of all the nutrients in the rich yolk supply. Several hours after the Artemia nauplii have hatched out, they will have consumed much of their yolk supply and have relatively little nutritional value as a result. So it is very desirable to feed the newborns seahorse fry first-instar Artemia nauplii that have just emerged from their shells, because the nauplii are the smallest at that stage and therefore the easiest for even the undersized fry (i.e., runts) to swallow and more importantly because the newly emerged nauplii retain their maximum nutritional value at that point.
Once the Artemia nauplii undergo their first molt and becomes second-instar nauplii, they have exhausted their yolk supply and develop mouthparts so they can begin feeding on their own. Baby brine shrimp at this stage are larger and and may be too large for the smallest newborns to eat, and the second-instar bbs must be fed or enriched (i.e., gut-loaded) at this stage or they have very poor nutritional value. So the idea is to assure that you are always feeding the newborn seahorses first-instar Artemia nauplii that have just hatched and retain their full supply of yolk.
That’s why it’s important to stagger the start of the hatch in each of the hatcheries. If you started the brine shrimp hatching at the same time in all five of the hatcheries, by the time you did your second feeding of the day, some of the brine shrimp would be three hours old. Likewise, some of the brine shrimp you fed for the third feeding would be six hours old, and some of the brine shrimp you offered at the fourth feeding that day would already be nine hours old, and so on. The older brine shrimp nauplii would have used up more and more of their yolk supply, or already entered the second-instar phase before they were fed to your seahorses, and not have been nearly as nutritious as the brine shrimp you offered for the first feeding that day.
Staggering the start of the hatch in each of the hatching containers therefore allows you to offer primarily newly-hatched first-instar Artemia nauplii with complete yolk supplies at each of the feedings throughout the day. In other words, for the first feeding of the day, you harvest the Artemia nauplii from the hatchery you started first. You harvest the nauplii for your second feeding from the hatching jar you started hatching three hours later, and you harvest the nauplii for the third feeding from the hatchery you added the Artemia cysts to six hours later, and so on.
In short, if you will be feeding your seahorse fry five times a day, your ideal fry feeding schedule should go something like this: 8 AM feed, 11 AM feed, 2 PM feed, 5 PM feed, 8 PM feed, lights out at 11 PM. Harvest the baby brine shrimp for each feeding session in succession from each of the jars you started hatching at 3-hour intervals. This will assure that the Artemia nauplii you are feeding to the fry are no more than 3 hours old and thus at the peak of their nutritional value.
Yes, I think it’s appropriate to wait until the newborns are 5-6 months old and beginning to hit sexual maturity before you try introducing them into a reef tank, Donna. The reason for this is that reef tanks normally have stronger circulation and water flow than an ordinary seahorse tank, and you want to make sure that your juveniles are big enough to handle the water movement in a reef tank. This is especially important considering that reef systems house various live corals all of which have some stinging ability, and you want the youngsters to avoid being swept up against the stinging corals.
However, if you have a regular seahorse tank available to receive the juveniles, rather than a reef system, then you can start thinking about transferring some of the juveniles into the main tank as soon as they have been weaned onto a staple diet of frozen foods. They need to be eating the frozen Mysis well and they need to be large enough to handle the stronger currents in the main tank, so keep a close eye on them at first to make sure they are able to handle the currents in the main tank and are able to get their fair share at feeding time (you may need to target feed the juvies individually at first to make sure that they are not being bullied or outcompeted at mealtime).
Ordinarily, once the newborns out grow their nursery tanks, they are transferred to larger grow-out tanks for further rearing.there are many different designs for these grow out tanks, but they can be set up much like the nursery tank only on a larger scale, say 15-20 gallons. For more information in that regard, check out the following online articles on rearing Hippocampus erectus and out the type of grow out tanks some other breeders prefer, Donna:
Fry Development Cycle – From Egg to Horse
Your best luck for obtaining the little cartridges of activated carbon is to visit your local fish store. Most any well-stocked LFS will have small perforated plastic cylinders available that are designed to be filled with charcoal or activated carbon and are made to fit on the bubbler stems or uplift tubes of undergravel filters. These can usually be modified to fit on the bubbler stem or airlift of the sponge filters I mentioned as well.
Best of luck working out the fried feeding schedule that’s best suited for your babies and the time you have available to devote to rearing. It takes time to work things out and much of it is simple trial and error, which is why results are often so poor during the first attempt at rearing. Just keep plugging away and your efforts will eventually be rewarded.
Pete GiwojnaMay 29, 2008 at 8:15 am #4209seahorse loveGuest
I forgot to tell you I am in Safety Harbor , Florida which is essentially Clearwater or better yet the Tampa Bay area.
DonnaMay 30, 2008 at 7:15 pm #4210seahorse loveGuest
One more question. Is it true that when livestock, seahorses, fish, etc.., are shipped that once the bag they are shipped in is opened a reaction occurs causing ammonia to be present?
DonnaMay 30, 2008 at 10:41 pm #4211Pete GiwojnaGuest
Okay, so far so good! A 57-gallon tall aquarium should make an excellent home for your seahorses when they arrive at their destination, Donna.
Ocean Rider seahorses are very well packaged for delivery. They come in the same sort of sealed, oxygenated, plastic bags as fish do when you buy them at your local fish store. These plastic shipping bags are then carefully packed in insulated shipping boxes with plenty of filler to make sure they cannot be jostled around unduly during shipping. They are then delivered directly to your doorstep for next day delivery via FedEx.
This has proven to be a very successful method of delivering seahorses all the way from Hawaii to the mainland, Donna. As you know, Ocean Rider has been shipping seahorses from Hawaii throughout the continental US this way since 1998 without any serious problems so it should work well for you as well. In fact, just prior to 9/11, Ocean Rider shipped a number of seahorses to customers in New York and other destinations on the East Coast and throughout the country. Because all air traffic was grounded for quite some time following the tragedy, some of those shipments were delayed as long as nine days, yet several of those unlucky seahorses still arrived at their destinations alive despite being en route for more than a week longer than normal.
If there is a good LFS in your area, I would ask them to bag up the seahorses for their trip for you, Donna. That way, they can pack them double-bagged to safeguard against leaks, charge the bags with oxygen, and then seal them with an airtight seal for you. For adult seahorses, it’s best to bag up to each seahorse by itself to minimize the amount of wastes that accumulate in the shipping bag during the journey. But make an exception for mated pairs and ship them together in the same plastic bag (it is always dramatic for mated pairs to be separated from one another). Just use a little bigger bag when you are sending a mated pair of seahorses in the same shipping bag. Don’t fill the bags with water all the way to the top. You need to allow a nice air gap at the top to help provide oxygenation. About two thirds water and one third air is about right, but if you can get the LFS to bag up the seahorses for you, they will know exactly how to do it just right.
A Styrofoam shipping box to pack the plastic bags in works very well, but in order to ship them via FedEx they must be in a cardboard carton. So you can either use a Styrofoam shipping box (provided by your LFS) and then pack the Styrofoam shipping carton inside a cardboard box, or you can just use a sturdy cardboard carton of appropriate size instead. Be sure to use plenty of Styrofoam peanuts or crumpled up newspapers to fill the shipping carton and provide insulation and to prop up the plastic bags in the upright position and hold them in place so that they don’t jostle around while they are en route.
Yes, you’re quite correct about the ammonia that occurs during long-distance shipping, Donna. Once the shipping bags are opened, the seahorses need to be acclimated to their new aquarium promptly to avoid ammonia poisoning. Here is a discussion of the proper way to acclimate seahorses following long-distance shipping that will explain this phenomenon in greater detail and help assure that your seahorses are acclimated properly when they arrive at their destination.
First of all, however, let me assure you that 9 times out of 10 the seahorses arrive in great shape without being unduly stressed by their long-distance shipping. And even in those rare instances when the seahorses do experience shipping stress and elevated ammonia levels while in transit, they almost always recover fully, none the worse for wear, within a short period provided they are acclimated properly.
The following information should make everything crystal clear, as well as explaining why it is important to acclimate your new arrivals according to the instructions:
Acclimating New Arrivals
Acclimating newly arrived seahorses properly after their transoceanic, cross-country journey is absolutely vital. It’s not like acclimating the new specimens you bring home after a quick trip back from your local fish store. The long distances and prolonged transit times involved make proper care of the new arrivals once they finally reach you a far more urgent matter. The reason for this is that all the while the seahorses are en route, they are excreting wastes and respiring in the dark shipping box — consuming oxygen (O2) and giving off carbon dioxide (CO2). That means two things: deadly ammonia is steadily building up in the shipping bag and the pH is steadily dropping, making the water more acidic.
This downward pH shift is actually helpful in that ammonia is less toxic at low pH and becomes much more toxic at higher pH. This is because ammonia exists in water in an equilibrium between two different forms — a nontoxic ionized form usually referred to as ammonium (NH4+) and an un-ionized form (NH3), which is highly toxic. Ammonium (NH4+) is completely harmless to fishes since the ionized ammonia molecule cannot cross the cell membrane and enter their cells. Note that only difference between harmless NH4+ and deadly NH3 is the addition of a hydrogen ion (H+), which converts toxic ammonia to nontoxic ammonium. At low pH, the extra hydrogen ions (H+) of acidic water are readily available to attach to the ammonia molecule, converting most of the ammonia to ammonium: NH3 + H+ —> NH4+. But at high pH, under alkaline conditions, exactly the opposite occurs. At high pH, the abundance of hydroxide ions (OH-) in alkaline water strips the extra hydrogen ion (H+) away from ammonium, rapidly converting most of it to deadly ammonia: OH- + NH4+ —> NH3 + H20. In other words, the higher (more alkaline) the pH, the more ammonia is present in the dangerous un-ionized form (NH3), which easily crosses cell membranes and enters the body.
This should make it easier to understand exactly what is happening in the shipping bag. As the seahorses breathe, consuming O2 and giving off CO2, the pH of the water drops and more of the ammonia (NH3) they produce is assimilated into harmless ammonium (NH4+). So the decrease in pH that occurs during long-distance shipping is actually protecting the new arrivals somewhat — until we open the shipping bag! Once the shipping bag is opened, CO2 begins offgassing from the bag water and fresh O2 begins entering the water, and as the pH begins to rise in response and return to normal, the ammonia in the water becomes increasingly poisonous. And when we begin to add alkaline water with a pH of 8.0-8.4 from the main tank to the shipping bag, we are accelerating the pH shift and converting ever more of the ammonium (NH4+) to deadly ammonia (NH3). The suddenly high concentration of ammonia in the water quickly diffuses into the seahorse’s cells, and acclimating the new arrivals becomes a race against ammonia poisoning just that quickly.
Acclimating seahorses following long-distance shipping properly is therefore the art of achieving the proper balance between two conflicting needs: the need to get them out of the toxic shipping water as quickly as possible and the need to allow them to adjust to tank conditions as gradually as is practical. Drip acclimating the seahorses over a period of hours would expose them to dangerous ammonia levels for an extended period with harmful results, and adding an airline or otherwise aerating the seahorses in the shipping bag while they are acclimating, would likewise increase the levels of ammonia they were exposed to. If all goes well, it’s therefore important for the acclimation process to take no more than 20-30 minutes before the seahorses are released into the main tank.
Whereas drip acclimating is definitely the way to go when you bring home delicate invertebrates that are highly sensitive to water quality from your LFS, such as live corals, starfish, and decorative shrimp, it would actually be quite counterproductive for seahorses that have just arrived all the way from Hawaii.
Here’s how to proceed:
1) Open the shipping box away from any bright lights. Remember that seahorses don’t have eyelids — removing them from total darkness and suddenly plunging them in bright light can be very stressful! Darken the room lights and turn off the aquarium lights before you remove the shipping bags from the box.
2) Float the unopened shipping bag(s) in your tank, or better yet in a clean container filled 2/3 of the way with water from the aquarium, for as long as necessary to equalize temperatures. (Those shipping bags can be dirty and germ laden!) In most cases, 10-15 minutes is all that’s necessary for the temperature adjustment, but during summertime heat waves or winter cold snaps it may take longer than that to equalize the temperature in the shipping bag with the aquarium water. As long as the shipping bags are unopened, you can take as much time as needed for this step of the acclimation process.
3) Once the temperature has been equalized, partially open the shipping bag and check the parameters of the shipping water (temperature, salinity or specific gravity, and especially the pH). Compare those readings to the conditions in the destination tank. That will tell how you quickly you can proceed with the acclimation process. The specific gravity is not that critical at all. Seahorses tolerate a wide range of salinities and are very adaptable in that regard. If the water in the shipping bag and the water in the destination tank are equal in temperature, and within 0.1-0.2 of each other in pH, you may introduce the seahorses to the tank right away without the need for any further acclimation. If the temp or pH are slightly off, you can acclimate the seahorses to tank conditions in one or two steps, as described below. And if the temp, pH, or specific gravity is off considerably, you will need to adjust the seahorses to tank conditions carefully in three or more steps.
4) The first of these steps is to add 1 cup of tank water to the shipping bag. Wait 10 minutes to allow the seahorses to adjust to any differences in tank water you just added.
5) Do NOT aerate the shipping bag while you are waiting. I know it seems a helpful thing to do, and your first inclination will be to add an airstone or airline to the shipping bag, but that can have disastrous consequences! Aerating the shipping water will accelerate the upward shift in pH and hasten the conversion of harmless ammonium (NH4+) to toxic ammonia (NH3). Aerating the shipping bag during acclimation will thus put the new arrivals at grave risk from ammonia poisoning! Don’t do it.
6) After 10 minutes have elapsed, remove 1 cup of water from the shipping bag and add another cup of water from the tank. Wait 10 minutes to allow the seahorses to adjust, and if they remain undistressed, repeat this procedure again. Judging from how great the initial discrepancy was in water quality parameters, this procedure can be repeated as often as necessary to adjust the seahorses to the tank conditions gradually, but try to complete the acclimation process within 30 minutes after the shipping bag was opened, if at all possible. In general, seahorses tolerate an accelerated acclimation procedure much better than prolonged exposure to ammonia in the shipping bag.
7) Observe the new arrivals closely for any signs of ammonia poisoning throughout the acclimation process. The symptoms to look are a loss of equilibrium, hyperexcitability, increased respiration and oxygen uptake, and increased heart rate. At extreme ammonia levels, fish may experience convulsions, coma, and death. Seahorses exposed to less extreme ammonia levels will struggle to breathe. They will be lethargic and exhibit rapid respiration. They may appear disoriented, periodically detaching from their hitching posts only to sink to the bottom. Don’t panic at the first sign of rapid breathing, but if you detect any of the more serious symptoms of ammonia toxicity, stop acclimating and get the seahorses into the destination tank immediately! Don’t hesitate! Your seahorses will tolerate an emergency transfer far better than they can withstand prolonged exposure to high levels of deadly ammonia in the shipping bag.
8) If all goes well, you can release the seahorses into the destination tank at your leisure following a 2- or 3-step acclimation process. I do not like to use an aquarium net to transfer seahorses, since their delicate fins and snouts can become entangled in the netting all too easily. I much prefer to transfer the seahorses by hand. Simply wet your hand and fingers (to avoid removing any of the seahorse’s protective slime coat) and scoop the seahorses in your hand. Allow them to curl their tail around your fingers and carefully cup their bodies in your hand to support them while you lift them out of the water. When you gently immerse your hand in the destination tank, the seahorse will release its grip and swim away as though nothing out of the ordinary has happened. Take care to get as little of the noxious water from the shipping bags as possible into the aquarium when you transfer the seahorses. Discard the impure shipping water when you are finished.
9) Leave the aquarium light off and let the seahorses settle down and adjust to their strange new surroundings at their own speed. Don’t attempt to feed them for the first day. Just give them plenty of room and allow them to settle in and investigate their new home in peace and quiet. Admire them from afar. The next morning you can turn on the aquarium light at the usual time and offer them their first meal.
Don’t let the discussion of ammonia poisoning and shipping stress above worry you, Diana. It’s not meant to alarm you in the least, only to explain why it’s important to complete the acclimation procedure quickly (which is why drip acclimating the seahorses is counterproductive and could even be harmful) and what to do in the extremely unlikely event an emergency should arise during acclimation. Ocean Rider stresses the proper acclimation procedure because they have occasionally had a problem in the past with experienced aquarists who felt they knew better and disregarded the acclimation instructions in favor of drip acclimation or a more prolonged process, to the detriment of their new arrivals. In all probability, your seahorses will arrive at their destination in excellent condition and not stressed out in the least, and even when shipping stress is a factor, the seahorses typically recover quickly and are back to normal by the following day.
Let me know if you have any difficulty finding a new home for the pregnant male and his two mates, Donna. If you don’t find a taker for them soon, I will be happy to post your message on the other seahorse forums and message boards I belong to and we should quickly find a good home for the rest of your herd.
Post edited by: Pete Giwojna, at: 2008/05/30 18:43June 1, 2008 at 7:41 am #4215seahorse loveGuest
You will probably get my other same message but go ahead and remove me from the forum regarding the need for my seahorses to be placed. I acutally got a call from a women in Washington State who has been raising all kinds of seahorses for 8 years and wanted all of them. she has two 30 gallon talls already for them and has no issue with the male being pregnant. She has corresponded with you quite frequently and I had to make a decision soley based on what I thought would be best for my kids. Unfortuneately the other person is dissapointed but they had never had seahorses before and I have to do what is best for them. I have a wonderful LFS 5 minutes away who will pack them properly for me. The owner wants to do it later in the day and then have me take them to FedEx so they are not sitting there all day long. Again, I cannot tell you how much I appreciate your help and hopefully one day I will be able to have seahorses again.
Bless you Pete,
DonnaJune 1, 2008 at 9:58 pm #4216Pete GiwojnaGuest
Yes, indeed, I did receive the earlier message and removed the post on the forum about finding a good home for your seahorses.
It’s great to hear that you have found an experienced seahorse keeper with good setups for all of the seahorses. And having a good local fish store nearby that can bag them up with oxygen and pack them properly will surely help get them to their new destination safely. That sounds like a good plan to do it later in the day so they can be delivered directly to FedEx as soon as they are bagged and packed. Send them via FedEx Priority for overnight delivery, and e-mail the person in Washington State regarding the acclimation instructions I sent you, and everything should go smoothly.
Yes, once you get settled in after the move to Connecticut, you can always consider setting up a good seahorse tank again, when the time is right.
Best of luck with the upcoming move and especially your child’s recovery from the surgical procedure, Donna. I will keep you and your family in my prayers.
Pete GiwojnaJune 2, 2008 at 7:46 am #4217seahorse loveGuest
Thank you, Pete,
I already called her with your instructions and she already knew all of it. That made me feel even more confident in my decision to send them to her. Like I said you have corresponded quite frequently with her and she said she can’t wait for your book to come out. She even has printed out other forum members problems and experiences and has made a journal out of them so she can reference them when necessary.
The only thing I am worried about is right now she is trying to figure out where she can get pc mysis. She doesn’t have access to them in Yakima and that is all my guys eat. I am going to also FedEx her a few large frozen slabs so she has it until she figures out where to get it.
Thanks again, and I hope to be corresponding with you in the near future about my new seahorses.
DonnaJune 3, 2008 at 3:52 am #4218Pete GiwojnaGuest
That sounds great! If she is already familiar with the acclimating instructions, I’m sure everything will go smoothly on her end once the seahorses arrive.
Tell her to try ordering the Piscine Energetics Mysis relicta from Premium Aquatics. 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).
She 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. Depending on where you live, you may be able to obtain the PE Mysis relicta from a local fish store in your area, and it’s possible that a pet store near Yakima may carry it:
Click here: Mysis Relicta — Natural fish food,for finicky saltwater and freshwater fish, by Piscine Energetics
Best of luck relocating your seahorses, Donna!
Pete GiwojnaJune 3, 2008 at 8:34 am #4222seahorse loveGuest
One more question. I am taking the seahorses tomorrow about 4 my time to be packaged up. I know to keep the stallion with his mate but before Maxine, the female he just mated with, he mated with Olivia and he is still very close to her. Do I still just put him and the last one he mated with , Maxine, together without Olivia? I know 3 adult mustangs would be a lot in one bag.
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