- This topic has 23 replies, 6 voices, and was last updated 13 years, 1 month ago by jdude12345.
December 27, 2006 at 12:13 am #1052Reverend_MaynardMember
I\’m about to venture into the world of seahorses for the first time, and would welcome any advice anyone has to offer. I have been surfing around the web gathering info, so I feel I know most of what I need to know, but you don\’t know what you don\’t know, you know?;)
I started a 29gallon tank about 10weeks ago, with a DSB (seeded from several established tanks), about 30lbs of LR (1/2 was dry base rock, the other half live from established tanks), an AC110 (currently running with a sponge, but will convert to a fuge once my skimmer is in action), 100w vsitherm stealth heater, and a 65w PC fixture with moonlight on a timer (12 on/12 off). I\’ve got an AquaC Remora skimmer on the way. There are a variety of mushrooms, zoas, and leather corals on the LR, and the sandbed is planted with red grape and blade caulerpa. It is swarming with pods of various types; on the galss, in the sand, on the rocks, everywhere. This is my second saltwater tank, as I also have a 125g reef tank that\’s been running for 1 year now.
I think I will be purchasing the special with 1 pair mustangs and 1 pair sunbursts. Once they get settled in, I\’d like to add a yellow headed jawfish (maybe a pair).
I do have a question about the red shrimp. The care sheets say they don\’t like much light, but doesn\’t light have to be provided for the algae they live in/feed on? Also, if I acclimate very slowly, is it possible to just keep them at normal salinity, perhaps in a fuge? Will they reproduce under any conditions?
I also have a question about aptasia. I have several in the tank now, and recognize that I need to do something to control them for the same reasons anyone with any type of tank should, but are they particularly dangerous to seahorses? How urgently do I need to attack the problem?
Thanks for checking out my thread. Any advice greatly accepted and appreciated.
Post edited by: Reverend_Maynard, at: 2006/12/26 19:16December 27, 2006 at 11:57 pm #3193Pete GiwojnaGuest
With your background as a reefer, I’m sure you’ll be very successful keeping seahorses, sir. Thus far, your 29-gallon aquarium sounds like a superb setup for Mustangs and Sunbursts (Hippocampus erectus)! The DLSB and live rock should provide efficient biological filtration, power compacts with automatic timers are my preferred method of lighting for a seahorse tank that will include soft corals such as mushrooms, zoanthids, and leathers, and you have equipped the tank a good protein skimmer. The seahorses are sure to appreciate the red grape Caulerpa and blade Caulerpa and should thrive in an aquarium swarming with assorted ‘pods. However, I do have a few suggestions for you to keep in mind in order to achieve the best possible results.
For one thing, although your zoanthids are seahorse safe, I want to remind you to handle them with all due care. As I am sure your already aware, it’s very important to observe a couple of precautions when you’re handling the zoanthids and placing them in your aquarium.
First of all, zoanthids and other soft corals such as mushrooms may wage border battles if you place them in close proximity to each other (and the zoanthids almost always lose out to the mushrooms in these skirmishes). So be sure to allow adequate space between the colonies.
Secondly, "Zooanthus and Palythoa both contain very toxic chemicals, that can be dangerous to both reef inhabitants and humans. The most well known is Palytoxin, which has been documented as one of the most poisonous marine toxins known (Mereish et al, 1991). Palytoxin can affect the heart, muscles, and nerves leaving its victim in paralysis, and possibly death. Because of the toxin, you should never handle Zoanthus or Palythoa with open wounds, nor should you touch your mouth or eyes after handling the species. (We recommend the use of disposable latex gloves) When propagating either of the species, it is critical to remember that the slightest rub of an itchy eye, or even a small cut from a hang nail, might be enough to land you in the hospital. In the aquarium, some rapid growing Zoanthus colonies can be aggressive to stony and soft corals, but in general, they are very peaceful, and you can slow the growth rate by the controlling the overall nutrient load of your tank."
So be sure to use protective gloves and observe the necessary precautions when you’re working with the zoos, Reverend.
If possible, I would also suggest adjusting the timers on your power compacts to provide your seahorses with a simulated dusk and dawn, as discussed below:
When ut comes to lighting, seahorses do not have any special requirements other than the fact that most species prefer low to moderate light levels rather than bright light. They have a corrugated retina especially rich in rods, which gives them excellent visual acuity under twilight conditions and low light levels in general. But this does not mean that they shun bright light, just that they appreciate shady retreats as well as brightly illuminated areas.
In actual practice, seahorses will do well under any type of lighting you prefer — from metal halides to power compacts or VHO lighting to daylight fluorescent tubes to ambient room light — providing shaded areas are available to them and overheating does not become a problem.
Personally, I like to provide my seahorses with a natural day/night period that includes twilight periods at "sunrise" and "sunset." To accomplish this, I like the power compact (PC) light fixtures that include two tubes — one actinic and one daylight fluorescent — with dual ballasts so that each ballast can be placed on a separate automatic timer. I like to have the bluish actinic come on before the daylight tubes and stay on after the daylights go off, thereby providing a simulated dusk and dawn (Giwojna, unpublished text). This is important for seahorses since they conduct most of their courting and breeding in the early morning hours under twilight conditions. It’s a neat effect and fish and invertebrates can then anticipate "lights out" rather than being plunged into total darkness at night or suddenly thrust into bright light in the morning. I also adjust the timers to lengthen or shorten the daylight periods in accordance with the changing seasons. I find that maintaining a natural cycle this way aids reproduction (Giwojna, unpublished text).
Basically, I find PC lighting to be a good compromise for a seahorse system. Power compacts provide plenty of light for macroalgae or the seahorse-safe soft corals in a modified reef system without being too bright or generating too much heat, and the dual ballast system allows for a natural day/night rhythm that changes with the seasons. The resulting dusk and dawn facilitate courtship and help the seahorses maintain a natural reproductive cycle (Giwojna, unpublished text).
For all intents and purposes, you really can’t go wrong no matter what lighting system you chose as long as you provide both shaded areas where your seahorses can escape from light altogether and well-lit areas where they can bathe in bright light as they please. You will find your seahorses will move into and out of the light often, seeking the comfort level that suits them at the moment.
Caulerpa and macroalgae in general do an excellent job of simulating the seagrass beds that are the natural habitat of many seahorses. Just be sure to prune and trim back the fast-growing Caulerpa regularly; when you remove the clippings, you’re exporting phosphates, nitrates and other nutrients from the tank, thereby helping to maintain good water quality, and pruning the runners helps keep it from going sexual.
When pruning or trimming back macroalgae, take care not to actually cut it. Remember, you’re not pruning hedges or trimming trees — the idea is to carefully pull up and remove continuous, unbroken fronds. Simply thin out the colony of excess strands, gently plucking up convenient fronds that can be readily removed intact. A little breakage is fine, but cutting or breaking too many strands will result in leaching undesirable substances into the aquarium water as the Caulerpa’s lifeblood drains away. Too much cutting or breaking can thus sap the colony’s strength and cause die offs or trigger the dreaded vegetative events that judicious pruning otherwise prevents.
In addition to the Caulerpa, you may also want to consider some red or gold Ogo (Gracilaria spp.) to add to the decor of your seahorse setup. The Gracilaria are less prone to vegetative events and generally less aggressive than the Caulerpa, which may exude chemicals that can inhibit the growth of other macroalge and certain corals under certain circumstances.
Before we move on, I would also like to emphasize one important point regarding feeding seahorses in a tank like yours, Reverend. Whether it is a SHOWLR tank, 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 feel secure and behave naturally (Topps, 1999), and to provide our ponies with plenty of hitching posts and shelter, as well as 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.
The best way to prevent such problems is by target feeding your seahorses or training them to use a feeding station, as discussed below:
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
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 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.
In addition, it’s a good idea to install an efficient cleanup crew in a seahorse tank to help clean up any leftovers. A stocking density of up to 1-2 janitors per gallon is appropriate for a seahorse setup that includes lots of live rock and live corals. The cornerstone of the cleanup crew in most seahorse setups is an assortment of snails. These may include bumble bee snails, trocha snails, margaritas, Astrea and Cerith snails, red foot Moon snails, etc., but especially Nassarius snails.
Nassarius snails are terrific detritivores/omnivores and amazingly active for snails. They’ll bury themselves until they detect the scent of something edible, and then erupt from the sand and charge out to clean it up.
A varied assortment of snails is very desirable because different types of snails have different habits, seek out various microhabitats within the aquarium, and prefer to eat different things. Some are herbivores that feed on microalgae, and some of the herbivorous snails prefer to graze on it from the substrate, others like to to clean it from the rocks, and still others love to scrape algae off the aquarium glass. Furthermore, the different herbivorous snails tend to specialize on different types of microalgae and have definite preferences as to the types of algae they will eat, so it’s important to have a nice variety of snails that cover all the bases in that regard. It’s equally important to include some omnivorous snails in your assortment, which will go after meaty leftovers, along with the vegetarians. And you’ll want to have plenty of detritivores, too, which will feed on detritus and decaying organic matter in the aquarium
With regard to the volcano shrimp from Hawaii, I know a great many hobbyists who have gradually adjusted the red feeder shrimp to full strength saltwater without any problems whatsoever. The volcano shrimp or red feeder shrimp (Halocaridina rubra) seem to do fine at normal aquarium salinities indefinitely and I believe they do reproduce under those conditions, albeit very slowly. You will find the red feeder shrimp (Halocaridina rubra) to be easy to keep and relatively undemanding to culture, although their numbers build up very gradually due to their naturally slow rate of reproduction.
Red feeder shrimp or volcano shrimp, as they are sometimes known, prefer brackish conditions and breed best at reduced salinity (1.0145-1.0168) but they adapt well to full strength saltwater and will survive indefinitely is a marine aquarium. They are a perfect "feed-and-forget" treat for large seahorses! As a rule they don’t need a great deal of room. The size of the tank you’ll need depends on the number of shrimp your dealing with and whether you want to maintain and ongoing culture or simple keep them alive until needed. A 5-10 gallon tank will generally suffice for 500-600 of these shrimp and biological filtration of some sort is desirable for keeping them long term. A simple sponge filter will do.
Here is some additional information about these shrimp that may be of interest to those of you who are interested in keeping or culturing these colorful little crustaceans:
RED FEEDER SHRIMP from Hawaii (Halocaridina rubra)
* Excellent nutritional value
* Irresistible to all the greater seahorses.
* Feed-and-Forget — lasts forever in saltwater!
* Easy to enrich.
* Simple to gut-load.
* Can be cultured using simple techniques and the most basic setups.
* Reproduces slowly; difficult to build up a large population.
Specific gravity: 1.0145-1.0168; pH: 8.0-8.3
Temperature: 68 degrees F – 73 degrees F (20 degrees C – 23 degrees C)
These fabulous little feeder shrimp can be kept indefinitely in a spare 2-10 gallon tank, or even a clean, plastic bucket, that has been filled with clean saltwater and equipped with an airstone for aeration. Neither a heater nor a fancy filtration system is required. They thrive at room temp and reduced salinity (1.015-1.016), and all they require is an airstone (or a simple air-operated foam filter at most) to keep the water oxygenated, with perhaps a little coral rubble as substrate and a clump or two of macroalgae (sea lettuce, Ogo, Gracilaria) to shelter in. They’re easy to feed — they feed primarily on algal mats and bacteria — but they will accept vegetable-based flake foods and pellets such as various Spirulina products. They are filter feeders and can also be fed with yeast or commercially prepared foods for filter-feeding invertebrates. Many people find an easy way to feed them is to place a small piece of algae-encrusted live rock in their holding tank; once they clean it off, simply replace it with a new piece of algae rock. But if you want to culture them, I’d recommend ordering the special shrimp food formulated just for them when you order your feeder shrimp from Hawaii. It’s designed to meet all their needs and requirements.
These tiny red feeder shrimp (Halocaridina rubra) are native to Hawaii where they inhabit underground lava tubes. Brackish pools collect in the cracks, crevices and depressions in the lava below the water table, thus forming the habitat for the shrimp. The brackish water that fills these pools consists of intrusive seawater diluted by freshwater that percolates downward. Because of their lava-tube habit, they are sometimes called Hawaiian Volcano Shrimp.
Native Hawaiians call them Opa’e-ula, and they are unique among the several different species anchialine pond shrimp in being small, social, herbivorous shrimp that feed mainly on algae and bacteria. They are known to feed on insects that drown in the lava tubes. When conditions are favorable, they may feed en masse at the surface in swarms of countless individuals that turn the water red.
Halocaridina rubra look like miniature, bite-size Peppermint Shrimp, and all seahorses save the miniature species go absolutely nuts for them! They are very nutritious and eat a varied, omnivorous diet. They are perfect for seahorses in every way.
Unfortunately, it is very difficult to culture these shrimp in any quantity, since they reproduce slowly and the females only carry 12 to 14 eggs. They spawn but 4 or 5 times and produce an average of only 5-10 larvae per spawn. The larvae hatch as free-swimming, yolked zoeae after a brooding period of 38 days. Larval development is abbreviated with four zoeal stages and one megalopial stage occurring before they reach the first juvenile stage. Duration of the larval stages in the aquarium is 24 to 27 days at 22 to 23 degrees C.
Like other shrimp, it is the complicated larval developmental period they undergo, with multiple zoea and megalops stages, that makes the larvae difficult to raise, Reverend. You certainly may keep them in a refuge after acclimating them to full strength seawater, sir, but it’s difficult for the home hobbyists to maintain a self-sustaining colony of them under any circumstances.
In summation, your 29-gallon seahorse setup should certainly be able to sustain a pair of Mustangs and they pair of Sunburst (Hippocampus erectus). Many hobbyists find jawfish to be fascinating tankmates for their seahorses, and the deep sand bed in your tank will be perfect for the jawfish to burrow in, so all should go well as long as you quarantine the jawfish to make sure it is healthy before introducing it to your seahorse tank.
Good luck with your new seahorse setup, sir! Best wishes with all your fishes (and invertebrates), Reverend!
Pete GiwojnaDecember 28, 2006 at 1:31 am #3194Reverend_MaynardGuest
Wow! That’s quite a response Pete! Thanks a lot.
In regards to lighting: Unfortunately, my fixture is only a single bulb/ballast so I won’t be able to get the dusk/dawn affect that you describe (and that I use in my reef tank). However, the tank is in a room with curtained windows, and the lights do not turn on until 11am, so there should be significant time in the morning where there is sufficient light for the seahorses to see. Also, it’s in the living room where the room lights are usually on for an hour or so after the tank lights go off.
On the volcano shrimp: I think I’ll acllimate them slowly over 1-2 weeks and then add them to my refuges. I’d really rather not spend any excess energy maintaining yet another tank.
Cleanup crew: Yup, I’ve already got a platoon of nasarius snails in there, which I’ve been feeding sparingly, both to keep them fed and also to keep the bio-filter in the tank active. I’ve also got a variety of algae eating snails.
I’m not sure if you missed my question on aptasia or not, but I would appreciate any insight you might have as to how dangerous they are to the health of my new seahorses.
Rev.December 28, 2006 at 7:16 am #3195Pete GiwojnaGuest
You’re very welcome, sir!
Okay, it sounds like you’ve got the cleanup crew covered and that a simulated dusk and dawn will not be a problem since the ambient room light can provide the twilight periods in the morning and the evening in your case. Everything is looking good so far, sir.
The stinging nematocysts from hydroids and Aiptasia rock anemones can injure or kill seahorse fry and miniature breeds such as Pixies or dwarf seahorses (Hippocampus zosterae). But a few Aiptasia won’t pose a serious threat to any of the larger seahorses such as Mustangs and Sunbursts (Hippocampus erectus). The greater seahorses are quite impervious to the stings of hydroids, nor are they normally troubled by Aiptasia, which they can easily avoid.
Several Aiptasia are not an urgent matter at all for adult Hippocampus erectus. However, Aiptasia rock anemones can rapidly increase in number and become a nuisance and a threat to seahorses when they become so numerous it is difficult for the seahorses to avoid coming in contact with them. For this reason, I would suggest that you take measures to control the Aiptasia now while there are still relatively few of the anemones.
Aiptasia rock anemones can easily be killed by injecting them with a number of solutions — Kalkwasser, boiling water, lemon juice, a number of commercial products — but I suggest using biological control to eradicate them.
Peppermint Shrimp (Lysmata wurdemanni) will do a fine job of controlling Aiptasia rock anemones and they do great with seahorses. They are popular additions to a seahorse tank because hobbyists like to use them to augment their cleanup crews and add a splash of color and activity to their tanks. Aside from their utility as attractive scavengers, they often perform a useful service by grooming the seahorses, which is fascinating to watch, and regularly reproduce, releasing swarms of nauplii many seahorses love to eat. Peppermint Shrimp are especially popular because they are natural predators of Aiptasia rock anemones and do a wonderful job of eradicating these pests from the aquarium.
One rule to keep in mind when buying your Peppermints is to select the largest possible cleaner shrimp for your seahorse tank(s). Seahorses will actively hunt small cleaner shrimp and they are quite capable of killing shrimp that are far too big to swallow whole, so the cleaners need to be large enough that they are not regarded as potential prey. Just add a few good-sized Peppermint Shrimp to your tank before you order your seahorses, sir, and your worries about rock anemones will be a thing of the past.
Best of luck with your new seahorse setup, Reverend!
Pete GiwojnaDecember 28, 2006 at 8:48 pm #3197Reverend_MaynardGuest
Thanks for another great response, Pete.
I think I will try the peppermints. I had avoided them because I heard it was pretty hit-or-miss on the aptasia eating, but if they will also function as cleaners then they’d be worth it anyway. My only concern is that they will raid the feeding station, possibly to the exclusion of the seahorses. However, if seahorses see smaller shrimp as prey, I imagine they won’t be too intimidated by ones that may be too large to eat.
Again, thanks for the great advice. I can’t wait ’til they arrive!December 28, 2006 at 11:39 pm #3198LeslieGuest
IME the Peppermint Shrimp are pretty shy. I have had several pairs over the years and rarely saw them. They should not pose any food competition issues. The red and white cleaner shrimp are however another story. I found them to be quite bold. I have always had Ocean Rider Seahorses and none of mine have ever shown any interest in the ornamental or cleaner shrimp they have cohabitated with.
LeslieDecember 29, 2006 at 12:02 am #3200Reverend_MaynardGuest
Thanks, Leslie. I’ve only had the skunk cleaners myself, and they can be terrors when trying to target feed corals, so I was afraid to add any shrimps or crabs for fear of them taking over the feeding station. It sounds like the peps will be ok though. It will be nice if they eat the aptasia.December 29, 2006 at 3:15 am #3202Pete GiwojnaGuest
In my experience, peppermint shrimp (Lysmata wurdemanni) do a nice job of controlling small specimens of Aiptasia. They are less apt to chow down on the largest of the rock anemones, however. An effective means of controlling Aiptasia rock anemones in the aquarium is for the hobbyist to eliminate the largest specimens by injecting them with Kalkwasser or boiling water or lemon juice, while relying on the peppermint shrimp to take care of any of the smaller Aiptasia.
Like most all shrimp, peppermints do have a great liking for frozen Mysis but they are not nearly as pesky at feeding time as the larger skunk cleaner shrimp, a.k.a. scarlet cleaner shrimp (Lysmata amboinensis). The peppermint shrimp are a bit smaller and tend to be more leery of large seahorses. Once your Mustangs and Sunbursts are accustomed to eating from the feeding station, they will have no trouble getting their share of the goodies at feeding time. You shouldn’t have to worry that your peppermint shrimp will outcompete the seahorses for food.
Best of luck keeping your population of Aiptasia rock anemones at manageable levels, Reverend!
Pete GiwojnaDecember 29, 2006 at 10:15 am #3203ramilmarceloGuest
I have a pair of OR Mustangs in a 24 gal setup along with 4 peppermint shrimp, an Ocellaris clown, a hermit crab, and a bunch of snails and soft corals (Xenia, mainly). The shrimp have learned to watch out for floating crumbs from the seahorses, but are not aggressive enough to approach them. I have seen an Aiptasia from the time I out in some macroalgae, but as soon as the peppermint shrimp came in, I haven’t seen any. The clown is the major food competitor for the horses, but calms down after he gets his fill. The hermit crab and snails go after the leftovers. At least one shrimp is also full of eggs at any given time, so hopefully, the shrimp larvae also become seahorse food on a regular basis. The adult shrimp don’t get any attention from the horses.
RamilDecember 30, 2006 at 9:06 pm #3207Reverend_MaynardGuest
Thanks for all the great advice everyone!
A couple of days ago I went to town with a syringe and some super strong kalkwasser. It’s not as easy as it seems like it should be, but it appears that about 50% of the ones I tried to get were killed.
I went and got 3 peppermint shrimp yesterday. I saw one start chowing on a smallish aptasia within minutes of introduction!
My skimmer arrived yesterday so I’ll be installing it today. It should be broken in by the time my horses arrive.
I have a new question…
Assuming that my horses settle in and start to breed, what do you do if you don’t want to raise the fry?December 31, 2006 at 3:46 am #3210Pete GiwojnaGuest
Excellent! It sounds like you’re doing a fine job of whittling down your population of Aiptasia rock anemones to manageable proportions and preparing for the arrival of your seahorses.
Many hobbyists share your concerns about breeding, sir. It’s such a common laundry for seahorse keepers that I devoted a section of my new book to that very topic; as you will see, there are a number of options for hobbyists with a breeding pairs who are not prepared for rearing the fry:
To Breed or Not to Breed? That is the question…
Many seahorse keepers are unable to provide the time and effort rearing requires, particularly since a breeding pair often produces a new brood of babies (hundreds of fry) every month. When they find themselves in that situation, some hobbyists choose to prevent their seahorses from breeding by segregating the sexes and keeping males and females in separate tanks, or by ordering seahorses that are all the same gender.
Others allow their seahorses to breed, which gives the aquarist a chance to observe their amazing courtship displays and mating rituals, as well the miraculous spectacle of the male seahorse giving birth, but sacrifice the newborn fry by allowing hungry tankmates (compatible fishes and inverts, such as cleaner shrimp or scooter blennies, not the other seahorses) to make a meal of them. It sounds heartless and cruel, I know, but that’s precisely the fate most seahorse fry suffer in the ocean. At very best, only one or two seahorses from each brood survive to maturity in the wild; the rest are lost to predators.
Most people feel the parents are much happier in the aquarium if allowed to pair off and mate, so when aquarists are too busy or inexperienced for rearing fry, most hobbyists simply let nature take its course and eliminate the newborns as forage for bigger fish or inverts.
In my opinion, the deciding factor is that we now have considerable evidence that segregating the sexes can actually be harmful to the health of Hippocampus. The Cape seahorse (Hippocampus capensis) is a prolific breeder that produces well-developed benthic fry that are fairly easy to raise. So much so, in fact, that experienced breeders sometimes find themselves overwhelmed by a population explosion of capensis. When this happened at the London Zoo, the curators decided to resort to enforced abstinence as a means of population control (Bull and Mitchell, 2002, p 30). They achieved this goal by isolating their adult capensis in same-sex groups. However, they soon began to notice serious stress-related problems with this arrangement (Bull and Mitchell, 2002, p 30). There was an increase in disease outbreaks and heightened aggression among their groups of males (Bull and Mitchell, 2002, p 30). The isolated females developed swollen abdomens and experienced difficulty with egg binding (Bull and Mitchell, 2002, p 30). Respiration rates increased and there was noticeably more twitching among the segregated seahorses (Bull and Mitchell, 2002, p 30). As a result, the Zoo soon stopped separating their males and females. They are now allowed to court and breed freely and the resulting offspring are simply left in the main tank with their parents and allowed to fend for themselves (Bull and Mitchell, 2002, p 30). Some of the exceptionally hardy capensis fry manage to make it on their own and reach adulthood without any special care at all (Bull and Mitchell, 2002, p 30).
In many cases, I feel that’s the best solution for the home aquarist as well, both for the seahorses and their keepers. The seahorses certainly enjoy a richer, more natural life when they have the opportunity to interact, court one another, pair up and reproduce. And the hobbyist has a chance to observe social interactions and behaviors he would otherwise never see, such as competition for mates and daily greetings and birthing, including one of the grandest spectacles in all of nature — the colorful courtship and mating ritual of the seahorse!
Over a period of days, the partners perform a series of ritualized maneuvers and distinct displays — brightening, reciprocal quivering, pumping, pointing, and several delightful dancelike displays (the carousel dance, Maypole dance, and the parallel promenade) — all culminating in the copulatory rise and exchange of eggs. Once a pair has bonded, these maneuvers are repeated regularly in a daily greeting ritual that strengthens and reinforces the pair bond. In my opinion, the seahorses have a better quality of life when they are allowed to engage in these activities in the aquarium, even if it means sacrificing their young.
Some hobbyists have a friend or neighbor or know a fish guy from the local pet shop who are interested in rearing, and allow them to take home their seahorse fry and raise them. Some hobbyists even ship the fry to breeders elsewhere who are set up for rearing. Those are other possibilities the overburdened home hobbyist can explore.
Allowing the seahorses to breed freely leaves the door open for aquarist to try his hand at rearing someday when he’s better prepared and equal to the task. Once the hobbyist gains a little more experience and confidence keeping seahorses, there will likely come a time when the aquarist feels he’s ready for the challenge of rearing. Sooner or later, most seahorse keepers decide to try their hand at rearing. This way, when that day arrives, a breeding pair of ponies will already be at hand, ready to give their owner plenty of fry to raise. <Close quote>
So if you’re new seahorses produce young that you are not prepared to raise, feel free to disperse the newborns to other aquarists who may be interested up until the fry are a month old. Otherwise, you can always keep a group of decorative shrimp (fire shrimp, peppermint shrimp, Scarlet cleaner shrimp, etc.) with your seahorses and allow them to intervene the natural way. The peppermint shrimp you have now for Aiptasia control will probably be quite sufficient to do the job. As heartless as that seems, it is a natural process and a very common occurrence in both freshwater and marine aquaria. For instance, it’s not really any different than when a guppy or black mollie gives birth in a community tank, and the angelfish or adult mollies and swordtails scarf up the newborns as fast as they are delivered. For that matter, it’s not much different than when the hermaphroditic peppermint shrimp or cleaner shrimp release their larvae and the seahorses happily feast on the larval shrimp. And I firmly believe it is healthier to keep the seahorses in pairs and allow them to mate and breed rather than segregating the sexes, so you certainly have nothing to feel guilty about, sir.
Best of luck with your new seahorse setup, Reverend!
Pete GiwojnaJanuary 5, 2007 at 10:09 am #3232Reverend_MaynardGuest
Thanks for the great info.
They love this coral.
I think this one’s the pregnant male sunburst.
January 6, 2007 at 7:10 am #3236Pete GiwojnaGuest
I’m glad to hear you’re new seahorses arrived safely and have settled in so nicely. I must say that it looks like you’ve created an ideal environment for your seahorses. That is just the sort of complex environment, with lots of convenient hitching posts of various shapes and sizes, and a variety of microhabitats that seahorses need to thrive. Your seahorses have beautiful markings and that’s a beautiful undersea gardens/reef you have created for their personal playground. Very nice! Thank you very much for sharing the pictures of your corral and your new livestock with the rest of the group, sir. How are the new arrivals eating?
Best of luck with your new seahorses, Reverend!
Pete GiwojnaJanuary 6, 2007 at 11:11 am #3238Reverend_MaynardGuest
Yesterday I only fed them about 10 of the live red shrimp, so it was hard to tell who was eating, although I did see some of them get eaten. Today I fed mysis twice. Most of them are eating very well, but the female sunburst did seem a little reluctant and only ate a couple that I saw. She may have been a little freaked out by the turkey baster. I’m trying to use a glass ashtray as a feeding station, and I did have a couple of them at it, but it’s too low and the nassarius snails are finding it first right now. I’d like to get something that’s a little more elevated so they can’t get to it so easily.
The seahorses are awesome. They’re so much fun to watch as the glide around the tank from post to post. They’ll try to hitch on anything, including each other’s heads! They seem to like the floating thermometer. They’ll hitch onto it and ride it around, try to pull it down with them. The way their color darkens and lightens is very cool too.
I’m very pleased with my new additions. 🙂January 8, 2007 at 8:23 am #3250Pete GiwojnaGuest
Okay, sir, it sounds like you’re doing a very good job of feeding your new arrivals. Just keep feeding the seahorses that are already eating the frozen Mysis again their fill first, and then provide some of live feeder shrimp for the benefit of the female that is still reluctant to resume feeding on frozen foods. This is what I usually advise in that regard concerning feeding newcomers:
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.
Yup, sometimes bottom scavengers such as micro-hermit crabs or Nassarius snails or bristleworms will sort of monopolize a station that’s placed on the bottom. For this reason, if the aquarium has a heavy population of bristleworms, micro-hermit crabs, Nassarius snails, or miniature brittle stars (micro stars), and they tend to converge on the feeding station at mealtime and steal the Mysis or just generally get in the way, many hobbyists find it useful to elevate their feeding tray in order to keep it out of the reach of such bottom feeders.
There are a number of ways this can be accomplished. For example, 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.
Or you can modify one of the conical worm feeders designed for offering bloodworms and tubifex worms to fish to serve as an elevated feeding station instead. 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 at any height 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.
Or a tall clump of suitable macroalgae can make a very effective elevated feeding station. If the macroalgae has the right texture and enough densely packed branches, the frozen Mysis will adhere to the upper branches of the cluster out of the reach of the bottom feeders where your seahorses can happily dine on at their leisure. Judging from the pictures, you have a number of colonies of macroalgae that could make suitable natural feeding stations, so this might be a good option for you, Reverend.
Surprisingly, a good cluster of red grape Caulerpa also makes a superb natural feeding station (Leslie Leddo, pers. com.)! Seahorses love to perch on the Caulerpa and are naturally attracted to it as a convenient hitching post. Release a baster full of frozen Mysis over the grape Caulerpa, and you will find that the Mysis becomes trapped amongst the tightly packed branches of the algae, clinging to the cluster of fronds wherever it happens to settle (Leddo, pers. comm.). The hungry seahorses will then carefully scour the branches of the Caulerpa for the Mysis just as if they were hunting live shrimp amid the beds of seagrass in the wild. Grape Caulerpa is ideal for this because the seahorse’s tubular snout is adapted for suctorial feeding, perfectly designed for plucking small invertebrates from amongst dense foliage.
For more information on natural feeding stations, see my article in Conscientious Aquarist which claims exactly how to set up a feeding station and train your seahorses to use a feeder in some detail . It discusses all the different kinds of feeding stations, including natural feeding stations. It’s available online at the following URL:
Click here: Seahorse Feeders
Best of luck finding just the right spot and type of feeding station for your tank and getting all of your new arrivals accustomed to eating from it, Reverend!
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