Pete Giwojna

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  • in reply to: Seahorse Training Program — get certified now! #85742
    Pete Giwojna
    Moderator

    Dear Alicia:

    Excellent! I would be very happy to enroll you in the Ocean Rider Seahorse Training Program!
    However, the seahorse training program is a correspondence course that is conducted entirely via e-mail, so I will need you to contact me off list with your e-mail address so that we can begin the training lessons. You can reach me at the following e-mail address any time:

    [email protected]

    I will be looking for your reply so that we can begin the training without any further delay, Alicia. Best wishes with all your fishes in the meantime!

    Happy Trails!
    Pete Giwojna, Ocean Rider Tech Support

    in reply to: Tigers tail laying on bottom #83509
    Pete Giwojna
    Moderator

    Dear Eric:

    Okay, that sounds encouraging, sir. If you have had the tiger tail for some time now, and it’s not losing weight, then it’s obviously getting nourishment one way or another.

    It sounds like you have a sizable pod population in your tank, if you have a mandarin Dragonet and a pipefish that are thriving, so I suspect that the tiger tail has also been supplementing its diet by hunting Tigger pods and Gammarus amphipods. In fact, that could well be what all the hanging upside-down acrobatics have been about.

    In short, Eric, if you don’t notice any other unusual symptoms, then I suspect all is well, and that your tiger tail is getting enough to eat, so keep on doing what you been doing, sir.

    One other thing you might consider is to install a refugium on that day with spaghetti algae and then seeding the refuge with additional pods, feeder shrimp, and larval shrimp. The pods and feeder shrimp can reproduce in the refugium and some of them will eventually find their way into the main tank to help sustain your mandarin, pipefish, and tiger tail seahorse.

    Let me know of who would like some pointers on how to set up such a refugium, and I would be happy to provide you with some additional information and guidelines.

    Best wishes with all your fishes, Eric! Keep up the great work!

    Respectfully,
    Pete Giwojna, Ocean Rider Tech Support

    in reply to: White clustering growths on seahorse #83507
    Pete Giwojna
    Moderator

    Dear Joel:

    I received the photographs you provided, and after examining the white pinhead spherules, I have narrowed the possibilities down to either lymphocystis or Glugea.

    There is no known effective treatment for either condition, unfortunately. Lymphocystis is unsightly, but rarely fatal or life threatening. While it is relatively harmless, Lymphocystis can affect marine fish of all kinds. Lymphocystis most often affects the fins of the fish, and in one of the photos, I can clearly see two of the white spherules on the pectoral fin of the pony.

    Glugea, on the other hand, is almost always deadly, with a mortality rate of nearly 100%. However, it is specific to Syngnathids, and should not affect any of your other aquarium fish, with the possible exception of the pipefish.

    Time should tell which of these possible afflictions is affecting your pony, Joel. If it continues to survive, eating and swimming, and generally behaving normally, despite the white growths, it is very likely suffering from lymphocystis.

    If its condition continues to worsen and it eventually succumbs to the affliction, then it was likely a victim of Glugea.

    I will provide you with additional information about both afflictions below, sir.

    First of all, here’s an excerpt from an old discussion thread on lymphocystis, Joel:

    ‹open quote›
    Lymphocystis is the most common viral infection of aquarium fish. Although lymphocystis disease has a low mortality rate, it may leave an individual disfigured. This disfigurement can have several consequences. If the gills are affected, the fish can have difficulty breathing. If the lesion is located around the mouth, the fish may have difficulty in feeding or may be unable to feed. In addition, lymphocystis may be complicated by secondary bacterial or mycotic infections.

    Lymphocystis is transmitted by direct contact with infected individuals. In aquaria, resident fishes are infected most commonly via the introduction of new infected fish or exposure to fish products that are contaminated with the virus. Trauma to the skin via handling or netting, mating, parasitism, and aggressive behavior accelerates viral transmission among fish. Increased water temperature and stocking density also may facilitate the development of lymphocystis. Visible lesions can develop from 1 week to >1 year following introduction of the virus.

    There really isn’t a treatment for it…. and for the most part there isn’t a need to treat either ’cause usually it is benign. But on another note… when my Reidi got sick with tail rot and he went through intense antibiotic treat for a prolonged amount of time, he did immerge from the ordeal spot free. It was weird. None of the treatments were suppose to affect this virus… but they were gone at any rate. [From seahorsedreams at seahorse.org]

    i’m familiar with Lymphocystis. it’s viral, and normally affects the fins, altho it can show up on the body. it does not tolerate hyposalinity. the treatment is keeping the fish in a hyposalinity tank for a week or two, depending on the severity of the Lympho. it’s not particularly contagious, nor is it usually life threatening. it just looks ugly.

    i had a problem with a lionfish in my FO tank. after treatment, i kept the tank at 1.019 SG just so it wouldn’t return.

    hope this helps. [from saxman at seahorse.org]
    ‹close quote›

    the whitish spherules are xenomas or glugeal cysts. In that case, we are talking about an outbreak of Glugea, an insidious disease caused by microsporidian parasites. It is highly contagious and causes a mortality rate of nearly 100%. Here’s an excerpt on Glugea from my new book (Complete Guide to the Greater Seahorses in the Aquarium, unpublished) which may help you determine if you are dealing with this condition:

    <open quote>
    Glugea heraldi (White Boil Disease)

    White boil disease is an insidious affliction that is specific to seahorses and pipefish. It is fatal, highly contagious, and incurable. In the older literature, Glugea is often referred to as “white spot disease,” since the first outward system is the appearance of tiny white spheres (pinhead to pin point in size) on the skin. Thus, Glugea may easily be mistaken for an outbreak of Cryptocaryon at this early stage of the disease. Indeed, you will sometimes read that Glugea can be treated with copper sulfate. That is untrue; such reports are based on misdiagnosed cases and confusion over which type of white spot disease is at work. Don’t make that mistake. Copper has no effect on microsporidians, which spread from within the host, and Glugea can readily be distinguished from Cryptocaryon as the disease progresses.

    The most commonly seen form of this dread affliction is caused by the microsporidian parasite, Glugea heraldi, which may attack any part of the body, including internal organs, depending on how the disease progresses. Spores enter the host after being accidentally ingested while feeding or simply breathing. When it spreads outward, the first symptoms of Glugea are often white spots that merge together and coalesce to form whitish, spore-filled ulcers called xenomas. When the tissue begins to break down and the xenomas rupture, they release new spores that infect additional hosts. This is what makes Glugea so contagious.

    When the parasites spread from within, they can attack any of the internal organs. In the initial stages of an internal infection, there may be no outward symptoms and the disease is not contagious. In such cases, the spores will not be released until the fish dies and its body begins to decay.

    Glugea heraldi appears to affect Hippocampus erectus only, but it is very likely that other microsporidians infect other seahorse species the same way.

    As I understand the progression of the disease, once a spore has been ingested, it attaches to the intestinal wall and penetrates the intestinal lining shortly thereafter, thus entering the bloodstream of the host. Transported via the bloodstream, it may lodge just about anywhere in its host’s body to start the cycle of multiplication and reinfection that eventually affects the surrounding tissue at the site of infection. But the insidious thing about it is that it progresses slowly at first so a healthy-looking seahorse can be carrying the infectious spore in its intestinal tract without showing any overt signs of disease.

    The first symptom is tiny white spots that may be so small they are unnoticed initially, or if noticed, may be mistaken for the seahorse’s natural markings; when these tiny spheres are embedded under the skin, there may be no noticeable symptoms until the disease is quite advanced. In later stages, the whitish spheres multiply rapidly and mushroom into the surrounding tissue, causing loss of pigment, and pale patches appear over areas of the body where the seahorse has lost its normal coloration.

    The uneven loss of coloration as the disease progresses is very characteristic of Glugea, an insidious microsporidian parasite that is responsible for many seahorse tank wipeouts. Although slow-moving at first, Glugea is virulent and deadly. Glugea is specific for syngnathids — other types of fishes are immune — and Glugea heraldi is specific to Hippocampus erectus. Amanda Vincent’s experience with Glugea heraldi is typical: as I recall, out of a shipment of 76 erectus from Florida Bay, only two survived the outbreak of Glugea (Clifton-Hadley and Vincent, 1989). That’s a mortality rate of over 97% and considered a good outcome — in most cases, G. heraldi is 100% fatal with erectus (Clifton-Hadley and Vincent, 1989).

    This is how Mildred Bellomy describes Glugea in The Encyclopedia of Seahorses (Bellomy, 1969): ”Tumor-like growths are familiar disease manifestations to many tropical fish hobbyists and aquarists, as well as many commercial tropical fish handlers and some research scientists. In seahorses, the disease in which such growths are seen is rather inappropriately called ”white spot disease.” In its early stage, extremely small white spheres, frequently no larger than a pinhead but sometimes as small as the point of a pin, will be seen on almost any part of the affected seahorse’s body — the fins, the snout, the crest, the cirri — or embedded beneath the skin anywhere on the tail and/or body segments.

    ”The term ”white spot disease” seems inappropriate because, within a month to six weeks following their appearance, the embedded spheres actually mushroom into surrounding tissue until, in some fish, almost the entire tail and/or body will be affected. In this stage, the disease no longer is restricted to ”spots (Bellomy, 1969).

    ”Seahorses have several different infections caused by microorganisms. Such infections may sometimes appear to affect only certain areas of the afflicted fish’s tail, body, or head but often, particularly in the final stages, the disease is generalized, involving not only the skin but also the gills and internal organs (Bellomy, 1969).

    ”White spot disease is caused by a microsporidian parasite of the genus Glugea, believed to be G. acuta, a parasite that is known to cause a similar, lethal disease in the European pipefish <now known to be G. heraldi in erectus>…microsporidians invade and destroy host cells. Usually, the infected cells are morbidly enlarged due to an enormous increase in the size of cellular components. This is characteristic of host reaction to these protozoan parasites (Bellomy, 1969).

    ”When a microsporidian spore is taken into the digestive tract of a specific host, the spore’s polar filament is extruded to anchor the spore to the intestinal lining. After a time, the filament becomes completely detached and the sporoplasm moves through the opening thus created. The sporoplasm penetrates the intestinal lining and enters the host’s blood stream or body cavity, eventually reaching a specific site of infection. The cells at the later site are entered and multiplication — at the expense of the host cells — begins. This is called the trophozoite stage wherein the protozoans are active, motile, and feeding. The trophozoite soon becomes what is called a sporont, which produces a number of spores (Bellomy, 1969).

    “Some spores seem capable of germinating within the same host’s body. Thus, the number of infected cells in such hosts may increase to an astounding total. The surrounding host tissue degenerates and becomes modified into an envelope or casing, frequently visible to the naked eye. This is usually referred to as the microsporidian cyst or a glugeal cyst in the case of white spot disease. The host fish, if heavily infected, dies as a result of the degeneration of nearly astronomical numbers of cells destroyed in the encysting process (Bellomy, 1969).

    “When the site of infection is near the surface of the body, head, or tail, the cyst usually ruptures. Mature spores then are released into the surrounding water and are free to seek out another host. It’s thus easy to understand the importance of isolated infected fish without delay (Bellomy, 1969).

    ”When the infection is confined to internal organs, the spores remain captive and will not be set free until the host fish expires. On disintegration of the host’s body, the spores are liberated, free to continue their deadly invasion of other fish hosts, becoming the source of one or more new infections (Bellomy, 1969).

    ”Seahorses with Glugeal infection rarely recover. There is no known cure at the time of this writing although in a few instances, prolongation of life has been claimed with the use of chemotherapeutic baths employing copper sulfate as a sporocidal agent. Some seahorses which seem to improve ultimately succumb to a recurring Glugeal infection, but in a different site, or to secondary bacterial infection. Even when the initial Glugeal attack is weathered, the infected fish seems to be left in a weakened condition that appears to invite attack by other diseases (Bellomy, 1969).”

    In short, Glugea is not caused by poor water, dietary deficiencies, or inadequate aquarium maintenance. It is caused by an infectious spore to which H. erectus have no resistance. If your seahorses have not been exposed to the disease, they will not develop Glugea; it is usually introduced to the tank inadvertently in its early stages on a new acquisition that has no obvious signs of disease. The best way to prevent this is to quarantine all new arrivals for a period of several weeks before adding them to your display tank. If they are carrying Glugea, the quarantine period will allow the disease to manifest itself before the healthy seahorses in your main display are exposed to it.

    If Glugea does rear its ugly head, you must isolate the afflicted specimen(s) at the first sign of the disease. When Glugea attacks eternally, the infectious spores are not released until the cysts burst. Thus, if you can remove a sick specimen in the initially stages of the disease, before the whitish spots or pimples rupture, you can keep the disease from spreading to the healthy ‘horses. When the disease attacks internally, the infectious spores are not released until the fish dies and its body begins to decompose. In that case, you can stop the infection from spreading by removing any afflicted specimens before they die.

    Isolating the ailing specimens as soon as possible is crucial. I learned this the hard way, having had some disastrous losses to Glugea myself over the years. Never buy a seahorse that has suspicious spots, bumps, or ”pimples” anywhere on its body. Beware of such markings when they are not symmetrical — not duplicated in the same place on both sides of its body.

    I should point out that although there was hope for the efficacy of copper sulfate in treating microsporidian parasites in Bellomy’s day, we now know copper has no effect on Glugea. In fact, there is no known cure. I have not had occasion to treat Glugea for many years, but if I were to devise a treatment for it nowadays, I would immediately isolate the infected individuals and elevate their water temperature into the low 80’s F, which has been shown to favor the host and destroy the parasite (Fenner, 2000). While holding the patients in isolation under stable conditions at elevated temps, I would then treat them with full strength metronidazole (both internally and as a bath) in conjunction with hyposalinity. I would try gut-loading shrimp with metronidazole to get it inside the seahorses, bathe the external cysts in full strength metronidazole, and hope the hyposalinity might rupture any spores that were released. Such a treatment regimen at least has the virtue of never having been tried before. Fortunately, I’ve never seen a case of Glugea in captive-bred seahorses.

    There is a good description of a case of G. heraldi, including photographs of the infectious stages of the microsporidian, in a paper titled ”Parasitic infection of the seahorse Hippocampus erectus–a case report” by Amanda Vincent and Clifton-Hadley which appeared in the Journal of Wildlife Disease in 1989 (Volume 25, Number 3, pages 404-408.) Aquarists with access to a good microscope may be able to compare notes and confirm their diagnosis through a microscopic examination.
    <Close quote>

    Okay, that’s the quick rundown on Glugea, Joel. If you suspect that is what you’re dealing with, sir, the best thing you can do is to isolate the affected seahorse immediately, if they have not already done so. The prognosis is very poor when dealing with this dread affliction, but you have nothing to lose by trying a treatment regimen such as the one outlined above. If possible, injecting the metronidazole would be a much better method of delivering the medication. With seahorses, this is usually accomplished by administering intramuscular injections of metronidazole at a dosage of 50mg/kg repeated every 72 hours for a total of 3 treatments.

    Best of luck treating this problem, Joel.

    Respectfully,
    Pete Giwojna, Ocean Rider Tech Support

    in reply to: Tigers tail laying on bottom #83445
    Pete Giwojna
    Moderator

    Dear Eric:

    Seahorses will often hang upside down from a convenient hitching post when they are hunting for pods and searching the substrate for suitable prey.

    Lying flat on the sandy bottom is unusual. As long as your water quality parameters are where they should be, and you have good surface agitation and oxygenation, the only other times a seahorse would be lying flat on the bottom of the tank is when it is so weak that it doesn’t have the energy and strength to perch normally and hold itself upright from its hitching post.

    How is your tiger tail (Hippocampus comes) eating, sir? Is it well fed and getting its share to eat at feeding time, or are the other fish out-competing it and stealing the frozen Mysis before your pony has a chance to slurp it up?

    Is your tiger tail breathing normally, Eric? No labored breathing or rapid respirations?

    No, sir, I know of no other breeders or dealers who are offering tiger tail seahorses (Hippocampus comes), sir.

    Best of luck with your young tiger tail.

    Respectfully,
    Pete Giwojna, Ocean Rider Tech Support

    in reply to: White clustering growths on seahorse #83392
    Pete Giwojna
    Moderator

    Dear Joel:

    One or two possibilities crossed my mind after reading through your post, but I don’t have enough information to determine what sort of affliction this may be, or if there is any sort of treatment available that might eliminate those white pinheads.

    If you have good photos and/or a short video clip that shows these growths clearly, please send them to me off list at the following e-mail address, and I will be happy to examine them and then give you my assessment of the situation:

    [email protected]

    Respectfully,
    Pete Giwojna, Ocean Rider Tech Support

    in reply to: Seahorse Training Program — get certified now! #83088
    Pete Giwojna
    Moderator

    Dear Hannah:

    I received your message off list at my personal e-mail address, and I would be very happy to help you get started off on the right foot with your seahorse project. In fact, you should already have received your copy of the Ocean Rider Seahorse Training Manual, and I am ready to respond whenever you have any questions or concerns.

    Best wishes with all your fishes, Hannah! Please let me know if I can be of any further service in the meantime.

    Happy Trails!
    Pete Giwojna, Ocean Rider Tech Support

    Pete Giwojna
    Moderator

    Dear Tamra:

    I’m very sorry to hear that you lost your juvenile male, and that your juvenile female is also affected and has now stopped eating.

    It’s very difficult to diagnose disease problems like this from afar, when you cannot observe the seahorse personally, have no access to clinical tests or cultures to test sensitivity, and cannot take samples for microscopic examination. However, I can tell you that pale areas of depigmentation are commonly seen in bacterial skin infections, such as vibriosis. And Vibrio infections are often secondary infections associated with protozoan parasites like Uronema.

    Many such pathogens (e.g., Vibrio, mycobacteriosis, Uronema, fungal infections, and even intestinal parasites) are ubiquitous, commonly found in any aquarium system, or sometimes even within the body of the fishes themselves, but are normally present in small numbers and cause no problems for healthy seahorses until something happens that stresses the seahorses, weakens their immune system, or creates conditions that favor the pathogen or trigger its virulence genes.

    For example, many species of Vibrio are natural aquatic flora that are present in all aquarium systems. They are opportunistic invaders that normally only get out of hand and cause problems when something tips the balance in their favor (e.g., deteriorating water quality or low dissolved oxygen levels), a wound or mechanical injury gets infected, or something stresses the seahorses to the point that their immune system is suppressed, leaving them vulnerable to disease. They are typically benign and nonpathogenic until something switches on their virulence genes or creates conditions that favor their growth.

    In many cases, it’s an environmental problem that triggers a disease outbreak, such as a spike in the ammonia or nitrite levels, a drop in dissolved oxygen levels due to overcrowding and a lack of aeration/surface agitation, a summertime temperature spike, or some such stressor. The water chemistry in a small, closed-system aquarium can go downhill so quickly and easily. The water quality may have gradually deteriorated in some such respect to the point where it dipped below a critical threshold of some sort and tipped the balance in favor of the pathogens that were present all along. When that happens, the population of opportunistic bacteria can very rapidly get out of control and change from benign to virulent literally like flipping a switch.

    Heat stress is a common precursor to many Vibrio infections. For example, here’s what Olin Feuerbacher reports regarding the effect of temperature on bacterial infections. Olin is a marine biologist who is now working as a Molecular Biologist and a member of the research staff at the Arizona Genomics Institute, and who runs a small aquaculture business raising clownfish, gobies, a bit of coral, and all sorts of odd food items including a lot of pods, microalgae, etc. He is also an avid seahorse keeper and has done a lot of research in tropical diseases. His field is marine microbiology, mainly ocean-borne human pathogens, and his specialty has been the Vibrio bacteria!

    In short, Olin really knows his stuff when it comes to this sort of thing. Here are his thoughts on bacterial infections in seahorses:

    “They (Vibrio infections) start as a secondary infection after either mechanical damage or parasites or cnidarian stings. Once established, they are difficult to control. This is due in part to the fact that they are typically normal flora in all tanks. They are generally benign until they get an opportunity to invade.”

    As for the importance of avoiding heat stress when it comes to bacterial infections (or the value of maintaining reduced temperatures when fighting a bacterial infection), this is what Olin has to say:

    <Open quote>
    It is interesting that you mentioned the elevated temperatures. I think this is a critical factor in a
    number of ways. First, elevated temperatures can have many adverse effects on the immune status of many organisms. Many of the enzymes and proteins involved in an immune response are very temperature sensitive. When studying an outbreak of vibriosis in echinoderms during an El Nino event in the Sea of Cortez, I found that several defensive enzymes in the echinoderms were inactivated by a rise of only a few degrees in water temperature.

    In addition to the effects on the hosts, water temperature may have very significant effects on the pathogens as well. First, elevated temperature will obviously increase the rate of microbial growth. Perhaps more importantly, recent research has implicated temperature as a major factor in the regulation of virulence genes. When in the cooler pelagic environment, a bacterium wants to conserve energy, so virulence genes will not be expressed since there is probably no host. However, in warmer temps, these genes can be turned on resulting in pathogenesis.

    This is especially true for bacteria such as Vibrio species which exist both as normal aquatic flora and as pathogens in many mammalian species with our nice warm digestive tracts etc. One particularly interesting study showed that the coral pathogen Vibrio strain AK1 was completely benign, despite heavy colonization, in corals at one temp (I forget exactly what, I think it was about 25C), but when temperature was raised by 3 degrees, all of the virulence genes in the Vibrio’s pathogenicity island were turned on. This resulted in severe infection and rapid death of the corals. Bad news for aquarists, but I still think this kind of gene regulation is really cool!
    Olin
    <close quote>

    In short, Tamra, heat stress is commonly associated with these types of infections, and that may have been a contributing factor in your case with the record temperatures we have seen across the country recently.

    In order to help assure that the rest of the seahorses in the main tank are not affected, be sure to make sure that the aquarium temperature remains at 75° F or below, consider installing a good ultraviolet sterilizer with the proper flow rate and dwell time on your main tank, and go ahead and feed the rest of your ponies with medicated Mysis (see my previous post on this discussion thread for instructions on how to prepare the medicated Mysis).

    If you are having difficulty keeping the water temperature at 75° F or lower, Tamra, just let me know and I would be happy to provide you with some suggestions for dropping the aquarium temperature.

    Good luck.

    Respectfully,
    Pete Giwojna, Ocean Rider Tech Support

    Pete Giwojna
    Moderator

    Tlskahan –

    I am sorry to hear about the loss of appetite in your juvenile seahorse. You have a good assortment of medications on hand, which will be very helpful if the issue is an illness or infection of some sort.

    In this case, I would avoid General Cure, which is an extremely effective antiparasitic medication. It is quite safe to use with seahorses, but it is unlikely to be helpful in this case since your juvenile seahorse is not scratching or showing any indications of infection with external parasites.

    Furan2 is a good broad-spectrum antibiotic that works well with seahorses, and which may be helpful if the loss of appetite is due to a bacterial infection of some sort.

    However, Furan2 is ideally administered orally via gutloaded adult brine shrimp, and this method of treatment relies on the medicated brine shrimp being ingested, which means that it will be problematic for treating a pony that has stopped eating…

    For whatever it’s worth, here are the instructions for gut loading live adult brine shrimp with the Furan2, sir, (courtesy of Ann at the org):

    FURAN-BASED MEDS (oral) Dosage and Preparation Instructions for a 10g/38L Hospital Tank
    Active Ingredients: Nitrofurazone and/or Furazolidone
    Indication: bacterial infection
    Brand Names: Furan-2, Furanase, Binox, BiFuran+, FuraMS, Furazolidone Powder
    Feed adult brine shrimp gut-loaded with medication to the Seahorse 2x per day for 10 days.
    • Add a small amount of the medication to one gallon of water and mix thoroughly.
    • Place the amount of adult brine shrimp needed for one feeding into the mixture. Leave them in the mixture for at least 2hrs.
    • Remove the adult brine shrimp from the mixture and add them to the hospital tank.
    • Observe the Seahorse to be certain it is eating the adult brine shrimp.

    In my experience, the best way to gutload the adult brine shrimp is to set up a clean plastic pail with 1 gallon of freshly mixed saltwater, add one packet of the Furan 2, add enough live adult brine shrimp for a generous feeding for all of your seahorses to the bucket after you have thoroughly and carefully rinsed them in freshwater to disinfect the shrimp. Leave the adult brine shrimp in the medicated bucket for at least two hours and then feed them directly to the seahorses. Repeat this procedure twice a day for 10 days.

    In this case, since your juvenile seahorse has stopped eating, I feel your best option will be to treat the pony in a 10-gallon hospital tank using the Triple Sulfa, which can be added directly to the water in the treatment tank, as explained below in more detail:

    A 10 day regimen of kanamycin + triple sulfa is appropriate. Here are the instructions for using the triple sulfa, which should be administered along with the kanamycin:

    TRIPLE SULFATE (Sulfa/Sulpha) Dosage and Preparation Instructions for a 10g/38L Hospital Tank
    Active Ingredient: Sodium Sulfathiazole, Sodium Sulfamethazine, and Sodium Sulfacetamide
    Indication: bacterial infection
    Brand Names: Triple Sulfa, Triple Sulpha, Trisulfa
    Dose per package instructions for 10 days. (Normally ~380mg per day for 10 days). Disregard package
    info concerning water changes.
    Replace the medication in ratio to the amount of water changed daily as needed to control ammonia.
    DAY 1 of Treatment
    • Thoroughly mix the medication with about 1 cup of marine water.
    • Pour the mixture into a high-flow area of the hospital tank.
    DAYS 2 – 10 of Treatment
    • Perform a 50% water change.
    • Thoroughly mix the medication with about 1 cup of marine water.
    • Pour the mixture into a high-flow area of the hospital tank.

    If the ailing seahorse(s) is/are still eating, tlskahan, then you could also treat them by combining KanaPlex with NeoPlex and Focus, applying this mixture of medications to frozen Mysis, and then feeding the medicated Mysis to the ponies.

    The following information will explain how to combine SeaChem KanaPlex (kanamycin sulfate) and Seachem Focus with frozen Mysis which can then be fed to your seahorses as usual, sir:

    The antibiotics that work best for most home hobbyists when treating seahorses are a group of medications by SeaChem that can be used together and mixed with frozen Mysis in order to administer the medications orally.

    The SeaChem medications that work best for this purpose are SeaChem KanaPlex, SeaChem NeoPlex, and Focus by SeaChem.

    The active ingredient in SeaChem KanaPlex is kanamycin sulfate, a potent aminoglycoside antibiotic that is a very broad spectrum, and which can be combined with the neomycin sulfate (another aminoglycoside antibiotic) in SeaChem NeoPlex to create a synergistic effect that is more effective than either of these antibiotics used by themselves.

    The SeaChem NeoPlex contains neomycin sulfate, a good aminoglycoside antibiotic that is very effective when ingested, and the SeaChem Focus contains a good nitrofuran antibiotics and is the perfect medium for mixing medications with frozen foods. I will explain more about how to use these two products together for you below.

    Both the KanaPlex and the Focus come with little scoops for measuring out the proper dose of the medication, tlskahan, and preparing the frozen Mysis with the medications is actually pretty easy. First, you want to find out how much of the Mysis you are using amounts to a tablespoon. I imagine that several of the cubes of Mysis would be needed to fill a tablespoon after you have thawed it out as usual, if that’s the form of frozen Mysis you happen to have. (It’s important to find out how much of the thawed Mysis constitutes 1 tablespoon because the correct dosage for KanaPlex is one scoop or measure per tablespoon of Mysis.)

    Once you have thawed out 1 tablespoon of the frozen Mysis, you then measure out one scoop of the KanaPlex and five scoops of the Focus and mix the two medications thoroughly so that they bind together. (You always add five times as much of the Focus as the amount of antibiotic you are using.) Once you have mixed the powdered KanaPlex and Focus together very well, you then add the resulting mixture to the tablespoon of thawed Mysis you have prepared and very gently but thoroughly mix the powder and Mysis together so that the medications bind to the shrimp. You can then either feed the medicated Mysis to your seahorses immediately or freeze it for later use.

    Once you have prepared the medicated Mysis, you feed it to your seahorses twice a day for at least five consecutive days or as long as is takes for the symptoms to clear up.

    Of course, you can prepare more than 1 tablespoon of the medicated Mysis at a time in order to make it more convenient, Dustin. For example, if you wanted to prepare 5 tablespoons of medicated Mysis at one time, you would thaw out 5 tablespoons worth of your Mysis in advance. Then you would take 5 scoops of KanaPlex (one scoop of KanaPlex per tablespoon) and 25 scoops of the Focus (5 times as many scoops of Focus as the antibiotic) and mix it together thoroughly with the five scoops of KanaPlex so that they blend together and bind. Finally, you would take the mixture of powders and gently but thoroughly combine the powdered medications with the thawed Mysis so that the medicine also binds with the shrimp.

    If you want to prepare extra medicated Mysis in advance, it’s best to spread it out on a piece of Saran wrap or Glad wrap or aluminum foil, or something similar, so that you can cover it completely to protect it from freezer burn until you’re ready to use it.

    Here is some additional information on the Focus by Seachem Laboratories, which explains how to use it to combine medication with food:

    <open quote>
    Seachem Laboratories Focus – 5 Grams Information

    Focus ™ is an antibacterial polymer for internal infections of fish. It may be used alone or mixed with other medications to make them palatable to fish and greatly reduce the loss of medications to the water through diffusion. It can deliver any medication internally by binding the medication to its polymer structure. The advantage is that the fish can be medicated without contaminating the entire aquarium with medication. Fish find Focus™ appetizing and it may be fed to fish directly or mixed with frozen foods. Focus™ contains nitrofurantoin for internal bacterial infections. Marine and freshwater use. 5 gram container.

    Types of Infections Treated:

    Fungal
    Bacterial

    Focus
    DIRECTIONS: Use alone or in combination with medication of your choice in a 5:1 ratio by volume. Feed directly or blend with fresh or frozen food. Feed as usual, but no more than fish will consume. Use at every feeding for at least five days or until symptoms clear up.

    Contains polymer bound nitrofurantoin.

    Active ingredient: polymer bound nitrofurantoin (0.1%). This product is not a feed and should not be fed directly. Its intended application is to assist in binding medications to fish food.
    <close quote>

    And here is an excerpt from an e-mail from another home hobbyist (Ann Marie Spinella) that explains how she uses the KanaPlex together with the Focus for treating her seahorses, Dustin that at an:

    “When I bought the KanaPlex yesterday I also picked up a tube of Focus. According to the instructions, it says it makes the medication more palatable to fish and reduces the loss of the medication once it’s in the water.

    So I followed the dosing instructions exactly. I used regular frozen Mysis instead of Piscine Energetics frozen Mysis. I figured it was softer and smaller. I was thinking along the lines of more surface area for the medication to adhere to, and with the softer shell, hopefully it would absorb into the shrimp a little better.

    I used 8 cubes which came to just about 1 tablespoon. I thawed and rinsed the shrimp thoroughly in a little colander and let it sit on a paper towel to remove as much water as possible.

    Then I put in it in a small dish and added the Focus and KanaPlex in the recommended ratio which is 5:1 (5 scoops Focus / 1 scoop KanaPlex). I mixed it thoroughly and added a few drops of Garlic Power.

    Then I measured out 5 – 1/4 tsp. servings and 4 servings I placed on a sheet of Glad Press & Seal, sealed them and put them in the freezer, since it says in the instructions that you can freeze what you don’t use right away, and the remaining 1/4 tsp. I split in half and fed to them this morning. The rest I’ll give to them this afternoon and I’ll do this every day with the remaining shrimp that I already prepared and froze.

    In the video you can see that the seahorses are eating it. Yea!!

    Thanks for all of your help & I’ll keep you posted.”
    Ann Marie

    Okay, tlskahan, that’s the rundown on using the KanaPlex together with the Focus so that you could administer the medication in the KanaPlex orally after adding it to the frozen Mysis for the seahorses’ daily meals. If you got the NeoPlex instead of the KanaPlex, it can be combined with Focus and administered in exactly the same way as outlined in the instructions for the KanaPlex above. Or, if you have both KanaPlex and NeoPlex, he can be used together safely and combined with the Focus, so that all three medications can be mixed with frozen Mysis together and then administered orally.

    Best of luck restoring your youngster’s appetite to normal again, sir.

    Respectfully,
    Pete Giwojna, Ocean Rider Tech Support

    in reply to: My seahorses are turning yellow. #77955
    Pete Giwojna
    Moderator

    Dear hobbyist:

    No, I think it’s unlikely that you are going to end up with all of your seahorses adopting yellow coloration. Mustangs are normally dark in coloration, displaying brown or black colors more frequently. On the other hand, Sunbursts tend to display the sunset colors, and are most often yellow or orange in coloration.

    But, as you know, seahorses are truly the chameleons of the sea with a propensity for changing color in response to a wide range of environmental factors, hormonal influences, and behavioral interactions. The mood of the seahorse is often reflected in the coloration it expresses at the moment. For example, when excited, seahorses typically brighten in coloration, reflecting a state of high arousal. They will often lighten in coloration or brighten up when eating, courting, or greeting, betraying their excitement. On the other hand, seahorses typically darken in response to stress, and fear, anxiety and distress are generally accompanied by dark, somber hues.

    So, I suspect that you may see your ponies displaying a variety of colors in the long run, although it’s likely that some of them will always them will always have dark brown or black as their base coloration, while other members of your herd will display various shades of yellow and/or different shades of orange coloration. Altogether, that should make for an attractive group of seahorses with varied coloration at any given moment.

    Best of luck with your outstanding herd of horses! I’m sure you will find them to be pretty ponies regardless of any transitory color changes they may display from time to time.

    Respectfully,
    Pete Giwojna, Ocean Rider Tech Support

    in reply to: Is this a bacterial infection? How do I treat him? #77249
    Pete Giwojna
    Moderator

    Dear Adam:

    Yes, sir, a prominent white lesion that has just appeared on the tail of your seahorse could be an indication of the tail infection or even the beginning of dreaded tail rot.

    To be on the safe side, I suggest that you administer a broad-spectrum antibiotic such as kanamycin sulfate to your seahorse orally by mixing it with frozen Mysis and Focus and then feeding the medicated Mysis to the affected seahorses as a precaution.

    The following information will explain how to combine SeaChem KanaPlex (kanamycin sulfate) and Seachem Focus with frozen Mysis which can then be fed to your seahorses as usual, sir:

    The antibiotics that work best for most home hobbyists when treating seahorses are a group of medications by SeaChem that can be used together and mixed with frozen Mysis in order to administer the medications orally.

    The SeaChem medications that work best for this purpose are SeaChem KanaPlex, SeaChem NeoPlex, and Focus by SeaChem.

    The active ingredient in SeaChem KanaPlex is kanamycin sulfate, a potent aminoglycoside antibiotic that is a very broad spectrum, and which can be combined with the neomycin sulfate (another aminoglycoside antibiotic) in SeaChem NeoPlex to create a synergistic effect that is more effective than either of these antibiotics used by themselves.

    The SeaChem NeoPlex contains neomycin sulfate, a good aminoglycoside antibiotic that is very effective when ingested, and the SeaChem Focus contains a good nitrofuran antibiotic and is the perfect medium for mixing medications with frozen foods. I will explain more about how to use these two products together for you below.

    Both the KanaPlex and the Focus come with little scoops for measuring out the proper dose of the medication, Adam, and preparing the frozen Mysis with the medications is actually pretty easy. First, you want to find out how much of the Mysis you are using amounts to a tablespoon. I imagine that several of the cubes of Mysis would be needed to fill a tablespoon after you have thawed it out as usual, if that’s the form of frozen Mysis you happen to have. (It’s important to find out how much of the thawed Mysis constitutes 1 tablespoon because the correct dosage for KanaPlex is one scoop or measure per tablespoon of Mysis.)

    Once you have thawed out 1 tablespoon of the frozen Mysis, you then measure out one scoop of the KanaPlex and five scoops of the Focus and mix the two medications thoroughly so that they bind together. (You always add five times as much of the Focus as the amount of antibiotic you are using.) Once you have mixed the powdered KanaPlex and Focus together very well, you then add the resulting mixture to the tablespoon of thawed Mysis you have prepared and very gently but thoroughly mix the powder and Mysis together so that the medications bind to the shrimp. You can then either feed the medicated Mysis to your seahorses immediately or freeze it for later use.

    Once you have prepared the medicated Mysis, you feed it to your seahorses twice a day for at least five consecutive days or as long as is takes for the symptoms to clear up.

    Of course, you can prepare more than 1 tablespoon of the medicated Mysis at a time in order to make it more convenient, Adam. For example, if you wanted to prepare 5 tablespoons of medicated Mysis’s at one time, you would thaw out 5 tablespoons worth of your Mysis in advance. Then you would take 5 scoops of KanaPlex (one scoop of KanaPlex per tablespoon) and 25 scoops of the Focus (5 times as many scoops of Focus as the antibiotic) and mix it together thoroughly with the five scoops of KanaPlex so that they blend together and bind. Finally, you would take the mixture of powders and gently but thoroughly combine the powdered medications with the thawed Mysis so that the medicine also binds with the shrimp.

    If you want to prepare extra medicated Mysis in advance, it’s best to spread it out on a piece of Saran wrap or Glad wrap or aluminum foil, or something similar, so that you can cover it completely to protect it from freezer burn until you’re ready to use it.

    Here is some additional information on the Focus by Seachem Laboratories, which explains how to use it to combine medication with food:

    <open quote>
    Seachem Laboratories Focus – 5 Grams Information

    Focus ™ is an antibacterial polymer for internal infections of fish. It may be used alone or mixed with other medications to make them palatable to fish and greatly reduce the loss of medications to the water through diffusion. It can deliver any medication internally by binding the medication to its polymer structure. The advantage is that the fish can be medicated without contaminating the entire aquarium with medication. Fish find Focus™ appetizing and it may be fed to fish directly or mixed with frozen foods. Focus™ contains nitrofurantoin for internal bacterial infections. Marine and freshwater use. 5 gram container.

    Types of Infections Treated:

    Fungal
    Bacterial

    Focus
    DIRECTIONS: Use alone or in combination with medication of your choice in a 5:1 ratio by volume. Feed directly or blend with fresh or frozen food. Feed as usual, but no more than fish will consume. Use at every feeding for at least five days or until symptoms clear up.

    Contains polymer bound nitrofurantoin.

    Active ingredient: polymer bound nitrofurantoin (0.1%). This product is not a feed and should not be fed directly. Its intended application is to assist in binding medications to fish food.
    <close quote>

    And here is an excerpt from an e-mail from another home hobbyist (Ann Marie Spinella) that explains how she uses the KanaPlex together with the Focus for treating her seahorses, Adam that at an:

    “When I bought the KanaPlex yesterday I also picked up a tube of Focus. According to the instructions, it says it makes the medication more palatable to fish and reduces the loss of the medication once it’s in the water.

    So I followed the dosing instructions exactly. I used regular frozen Mysis instead of Piscine Energetics frozen Mysis. I figured it was softer and smaller. I was thinking along the lines of more surface area for the medication to adhere to, and with the softer shell, hopefully it would absorb into the shrimp a little better.

    I used 8 cubes which came to just about 1 tablespoon. I thawed and rinsed the shrimp thoroughly in a little colander and let it sit on a paper towel to remove as much water as possible.

    Then I put in it in a small dish and added the Focus and KanaPlex in the recommended ratio which is 5:1 (5 scoops Focus / 1 scoop KanaPlex). I mixed it thoroughly and added a few drops of Garlic Power.

    Then I measured out 5 – 1/4 tsp. servings and 4 servings I placed on a sheet of Glad Press & Seal, sealed them and put them in the freezer, since it says in the instructions that you can freeze what you don’t use right away, and the remaining 1/4 tsp. I split in half and fed to them this morning. The rest I’ll give to them this afternoon and I’ll do this every day with the remaining shrimp that I already prepared and froze.

    In the video you can see that the seahorses are eating it. Yea!!

    Thanks for all of your help & I’ll keep you posted.”
    Ann Marie

    Okay, Adam, that’s the rundown on using the KanaPlex together with the Focus so that you could administer the medication in the KanaPlex orally after adding it to the frozen Mysis for the seahorses daily meals. If you got the NeoPlex instead of the KanaPlex, it can be combined with Focus and administered in exactly the same way as outlined in the instructions for the KanaPlex above.

    This is a very stress-free method of treatment that allows you to safely medicate your seahorse in the main tank where it is most comfortable. Don’t worry if all of the seahorses get some of the medicated Mysis; it won’t do them any harm whatsoever, and may even be useful in protecting them as I guess similar infections.

    Best of luck with your granddaddy, sir. Here’s hoping that he is soon good as new again.

    Respectfully,
    Pete Giwojna, Ocean Rider Tech Support

    in reply to: Diet enrichment while preventing Fatty Liver Disease #76829
    Pete Giwojna
    Moderator

    Dear munmachi:

    Sure, and as long as your ponies eat all three brands readily, alternating between Hikari, Ocean Nutrition, and San Francisco Bay Brand Frozen Mysis should work well.

    Likewise, the supplements you mentioned (Selcon, Paracoccus power, and Spirulina) are also good choices for fortifying frozen Mysis and I don’t foresee any problems with any of those particular supplements…

    As for the softgel capsules containing lutein and zeaxanthin, I think you can certainly try opening the softgel caps, squeezing out the contents, and applying a bit of it to frozen Mysis. It will all depend on whether or not seahorses will eat the frozen Mysis after you have applied some of the gel with lutein and zeaxanthin. There’s a chance that the seahorses will not like the taste of the lutein and zeaxanthin, or that the traces of safflower or sunflower oil will prove to be unpalatable to your ponies, causing them to refuse the Mysis. (To my knowledge, I don’t think that safflower oil or sunflower oil would necessarily be harmful to the seahorses, but those are things they do not normally ingest, and the ponies may simply not want to swallow it; I don’t know…)

    The best way to prevent fatty liver disease is to fast all of the seahorses one day a week. As an alternative, you can indeed provide unenriched adult brine shrimp on your fasting days, since they are just empty calories when they have not been fortified.

    However, if you go ahead and fortify the adult brine shrimp with Spirulina, that will increase its nutritional value, and therefore defeat your purpose, leaving your seahorses at risk for hepatic lipidosis. All things considered, it is usually simplest to fast your ponies for one day a week, especially if you don’t have a good source that can consistently provide you with clean, healthy adult brine shrimp.

    Best wishes with all your fishes!

    Respectfully,
    Pete Giwojna, Ocean Rider Tech Support

    in reply to: How many snails is too many? #76200
    Pete Giwojna
    Moderator

    Dear Logan:

    Yes, sir, 120 Nassarius snails are WAY too many for a 30-gallon aquarium. That’s a lot of biomass to add to a relatively small aquarium at one time, so you will need to be alert to the danger of a potential spite in the ammonia or nitrite levels in the tank. That’s the immediate danger…

    The second thing to beware of is that Nassarius snails are not grazers that feed on algae, but rather, they are meat eaters that will clean up leftover frozen Mysis. But there will not be enough leftover frozen Mysis from the ponies in a 30-gallon setup at mealtime to sustain 120 Nassarius snails, so there is a danger that they will begin dying off due to starvation.

    Of course, you could attempt to compensate by feeding additional frozen Mysis just for the snails once the seahorses have had their fill, but all of that extra frozen Mysis would again increase the risk of a dangerous spike in the ammonia or nitrate levels following a heavy feeding. So it’s going to be very tricky for you to keep all 120 snails adequately fed without overdoing it and triggering a spike in nitrogenous wastes. That would be a delicate balance to try to maintain for any significant period.

    In short, Logan, you don’t want to maintain more than 10-12 Nassarius snails in your 30-gallon seahorse tank for any length of time, so you should make plans to re-home 100+ Nassarius snails as soon as possible. Perhaps your local fish store would be happy to take the surplus off your hands since their regular supplier has not been able to get Nassarius for them recently.

    If not, you may have friends with saltwater aquariums who would love to get some free Nassarius snails, so maybe you can disperse many of them to your fellow hobbyists.

    Otherwise, you’ll have to set up some sort of additional aquarium to house the excess Nassarius so that they don’t become a potential risk to your seahorses in the 30 gallon setup. Nassarius snails like to bury in the sand, so this extra tank should have an inch or two of fine sand (preferably live sand, in my opinion) that they can burrow into; and this new tank will also need to have an efficient biofilter to sustain that many snails indefinitely. You can just feed the snail tank with a decent amount of frozen Mysis daily, and hopefully everything will go smoothly.

    Good luck!

    Respectfully,
    Pete Giwojna, Ocean Rider Tech Support

    in reply to: How to maintain bioload? #75515
    Pete Giwojna
    Moderator

    Dear Machi:

    Generally speaking, once you have cycled a new aquarium and built up a thriving population of beneficial nitrifying bacteria to provide biological filtration, it’s not necessary to provide additional ammonia sources, such as decaying frozen Mysis, in order to sustain the biofilter. Seahorses are messy feeders and their natural waste products will provide plenty of ammonia to sustain good populations of Nitrosomonas and Nitrobacter in your biofilter.

    It is true that the population of bacteria in your biofilter will adjust to the current bioload in the aquarium at any given time, and that you can further increase the population of nitrifying bacteria by adding additional ammonia to feed even more of them. But I don’t understand what your roommate hopes to gain by doing so. As long as you feed your seahorses properly and practice good aquarium maintenance, you should not have to worry about spikes in the ammonia or nitrite levels stressing your ponies.
    In any case, I believe that you are correct in removing the leftovers and uneaten frozen Mysis promptly after the seahorses have had their fill. In my opinion, it’s a bad idea to leave excess Mysis laying around for two or three days.

    For one thing, the uneaten Mysis will begin decaying overnight and put your water quality at risk. Worse still, the next morning, when they are hungriest, your seahorses may discover the bacteria-laden Mysis and snap them up off the bottom, which is the dirtiest area of the aquarium where all of the wastes accumulate. This is an excellent way to spread disease and make your seahorses sick.

    It would be helpful if you can tell me more about your seahorse setup. Maintaining stable water temperatures at 70° F-72° F is an excellent way to protect your ponies against heat stress, and you guys are doing a great job in that regard. And, of course, it’s a very good sign that your ammonia and nitrate levels are staying at zero.

    But I would like to know what sort of filtration you are using, what substrate you are using in your seahorse tank and what the depth of the sand bed may be, as well as whether or not your tank includes a sump and employees a protein skimmer and/or an ultraviolet sterilizer.

    Do you target feed your seahorses individually or use a feeding station for your ponies? Or are you scatter feeding frozen Mysis?

    How big is your seahorse tank? What are the dimensions of the tank (length, width, and height) and on many gallons/liters is the water volume of the aquarium system?

    I apologize for all the questions, but the more information I am about your seahorse setup, the better advice I will be able to provide.

    Best wishes with all your fishes!

    Respectfully,
    Pete Giwojna, Ocean Rider Tech Support

    in reply to: Live feeder shrimp recommendation #75312
    Pete Giwojna
    Moderator

    Dear Pat:

    There are indeed quite a number of other live foods which you can offer your seahorses from time to time in order to provide them with the more varied diet, and which you can collect yourself or culture at home so that they do not have to be purchased. Here’s an excerpt from an article I wrote that discusses that very topic, including more information about the live Mysis, ghost shrimp, glass shrimp, and Gammarus amphipods. The material also explains how these live foods can be collected and/or cultured, where feasible:

    [Open quote]
    LIVE FOODS

    Live foods are not nearly as important for the 21st-Century seahorse keeper as they were in bygone days when wild specimens were the only game in town. Nowadays they are primarily useful for easing the adjustment of new arrivals after acclimating them to the aquarium, providing monthly treats for our pampered pets, for introducing a little variety into their staple diet of frozen Mysis, and perhaps for populating refugia.

    They can also be invaluable for those rare occasions when seahorses are ailing. Many medications have the unfortunate side effect of suppressing appetite, so when treating sickly seahorses, it’s a good idea to tempt them with choice live foods in order to keep them eating and help build up their strength while recuperating.

    In addition, a number of important drugs are only effective in saltwater if administered orally, and gut-loading live shrimp with these meds is a great way to get seahorses to ingest them. Gut-loading live food with antibiotics and then feeding the medicated shrimp to your seahorses can also be a useful way to treat them in your main tank without impairing your biofiltration or subjecting the patients to the added stress of isolation. Separating an ailing seahorse from its mate and herdmates and transferring it to a strange new environment for treatment can be a traumatic experience, especially since the Spartan surroundings in the sterile environment of a sparsely furnished hospital tank can leave seahorses feeling vulnerable and exposed.

    Most hobbyists are quite content to feed captive-bred seahorses their standard diet of enriched frozen mysids. It’s a highly nutritious diet that satisfies their long-term needs, the seahorses are accustomed to eating it, and the convenience of such a feeding regimen is unsurpassed. But if convenience is not your overriding concern, feel free to consider live foods for your seahorses. Providing you can afford the added expense, and you can spare the time and effort to culture live foods and/or collect them from the seashore, then there’s really no compelling reason not to use them.

    And there are few advantages to offering your seahorse a diet of live foods. It can be a wonderfully varied diet since there are so many different live foods are available to aquarists nowadays: live Mysis shrimp, Gammarus amphipods, red feeder shrimp (Halocaridina rubra), Caprellids, Ghost shrimp and Grass shrimp, post-larval shrimp (PLS), various copepods, and so on. Variety is the spice of life, and there’s no denying that seahorses naturally prefer to hunt living prey rather than foraging for nonliving prey.

    On rare occasions, even farm-raised seahorses sometimes lose interest in a steady diet of frozen fare over time and begin to eat it half-heartedly. This is quite uncommon with captive-bred seahorses that eat frozen Mysis relicta, which is loaded with natural odor attractants that stimulate the seahorse’s feeding instincts, but it still happens from time to time, especially when genuine Mysis relicta is not available.

    Live foods are the answer to this problem. When sea horses tire of the same old, boring frozen food and refuse to eat their “veggies,” living prey is what they crave: Mysids, ghost shrimp, Gammarus or adult Artemia — the type of food isn’t really as important as the fact that it’s alive and kicking (Giwojna, Nov. 1996). Nothing stimulates a sea horse’s feeding instincts like the frantic movements and evasive maneuvers of real, live, “catch-me-if-you-can” prey items (Giwojna, Nov. 1996). Live foods are guaranteed to perk up an ailing appetite and excite the interest of the most jaded “galloping gourmets.” When it comes to a hunger strike, living prey is the only sure cure for the “Bird’s Eye blues.” (Giwojna, Nov. 1996)

    One of the reasons I prefer to liven up my seahorses’ monotonous existence by providing them with unenriched adult Artemia on fast days, is that I find it flat out fascinating to watch them hunting live prey. Whenever I see a hungry seahorse patiently stalking its prey, I am always reminded of a Japanese sniper in a WWII John Wayne movie (Giwojna, Oct. 1996). With a lush growth of leaves and foliage draped over his helmet and extra shrubbery strapped to his back, the cunning jungle fighter literally melts into the shadowy undergrowth. From his strategically selected vantage point, the sharp-eyed sentry waits for his unsuspecting victims to come to him, picking off hapless GIs one by one as they pass his secret hideout (Giwojna, Oct. 1996).

    That’s a pretty fair description of a hungry Hippocampine on the lookout for its supper. Masters of camouflage, seahorses are the snipers of the grassblade jungle into which they blend so well, and their preferred hunting technique is the ambush (Giwojna, Oct. 1996). Concealed absolutely motionless amidst a clump of Caulerpa or a patch of gorgonians, only a flicker of its busy, watchful eyes ever betrays its presence. Patiently lying in wait for its next meal, one of its independent eyes scans upward while the other scrolls downward so as not to miss any potential prey passing nearby (Giwojna, Oct. 1996).

    When some unwary victim does blunder within range of one of these seagrass snipers, the seahorse tracks it intently, stalking its prey in ultra-slow motion (Giwojna, Oct. 1996). With its tail securely anchored in place, it stretches its body in the direction of its chosen quarry ever so s-l-o-w-l-y, making itself seem like a harmless frond of algae or a natural extension of the coral (Giwojna, Oct. 1996). But when this painstaking pursuit finally brings it within striking distance, it’s all over in a hurry! Drawing a bead on its ”dinner” exactly as if its snout were the barrel of a high-powered rifle, the seahorse gives a sudden jerk of its head, accompanied by a distinctly audible ”click,” and its hapless victim disappears as if by magic, sucked up faster than the eye can follow (Giwojna, Oct. 1996).

    Anyone who has ever collected fishes with a slurp gun knows exactly how a feeding seahorse accomplishes this vanishing act. The toothless jaws at the end of its snout operate with a rapid springlike action, and the spasmodic jerk of the seahorse’s head as it snatches its prey represents the cocking and firing of this muscular “spring-loaded” mechanism (Giwojna, Oct. 1996). Thus, when a seahorse points the barrel of its snout at its intended victim, lining up the target in its sights, and pulls the trigger, well-developed muscles depress the hyoid bone, enlarging its mouth (buccal) cavity and expanding its gills (opercular cavities) sharply, creating a strong inrush like an expanding bellows, and the powerful suction pulls in its prey irresistibly along with a little water. The seahorse’s mousetrap jaws spring open and snap shut again, and it literally inhales its victim in the blink of the eye (Giwojna, Oct. 1996). One moment the prey is there, and the next it’s gone. (For more detailed information regarding the seahorses’ remarkable feeding mechanism, including the exact bones and muscles involved in the operation of the buccal and opercular suction pumps, refer to the discussion of “weak snick” in the disease chapter.)

    Feeding seahorses are entertaining to watch, and the attentive aquarist can learn a lot about his pets from watching them eat. For instance, if they’re really hungry, seahorses will take off in hot pursuit when some mouth-watering morsel wanders by just beyond reach (Giwojna, Oct. 1996). No longer content to wait for their supper to come to them, they’ll launch themselves on a ”high-speed” chase at a blistering pace that’s just about capable of overtaking a lumbering brine shrimp or weary water flea (Giwojna, Oct. 1996). Once they’ve closed to within about one-quarter inch of their target — often prodded along by their tails to gain a final burst of added propulsion — that distinctive ”snick!” will announce the sudden demise of their quarry (Giwojna, Oct. 1996).

    And when no prey is evident, seahorses will sometimes set off on hunting expeditions in a effort to scare up a meal on their own (Giwojna, Oct. 1996). A seahorse on safari will patrol the perimeter of its aquarium, carefully searching every nook and cranny as it skims along just above the bottom (Giwojna, Oct. 1996). (This behavior is often displayed when seahorses are hunting Gammarus, since the side-swimmers hug the bottom and seek shelter under every scrap of cover they can find. These amphipods are a favorite food of seahorses, which will often resort to amazing acrobatics in an attempt to winnow them out of their hiding places.) Suffice it to say, when you see your seahorses conducting these search-and-destroy missions, it’s time to feed them (Giwojna, Oct. 1996)!

    For best results, live foods should be fortified before the seahorses are fed, and there is one final precaution the hobbyist can take during the enrichment process. Soaking live foods in DC-DHA SELCO, which is said to have antimicrobial properties, can help disinfect the food as well as enriching it (Bull and Mitchell 2002).

    Therefore, although they play a much-diminished role when keeping captive-bred seahorses, it is still important for the aquarist to understand the benefits and limitations various live foods have to offer. Listed in order of their desirability from most useful to least helpful, the following live foods still deserve a prominent place in the seahorse keeper’s larder of tempting taste treats.

    MYSIDS (Opossum Shrimp)

    Pros (Giwojna, Oct. 1996):
    · Excellent food value.
    · A favorite natural food that all large seahorses attack greedily.
    · Thrives in saltwater: feed and forget — will survive until eaten.
    · Can be easily collected at times.
    · Cultured Mysis are available.

    Cons:
    · Challenging to culture for the home hobbyist.
    · Inland hobbyists have no opportunity to collect them.

    Collecting Tips:

    Mysis shrimp follow a daily rhythm in their movements, regularly forming dense shoals over sandy bottoms or amidst seaweeds10, and they can sometimes be collected in vast numbers while shoaling by seining or dragging a large aquarium net through mats of vegetation (Giwojna, Oct. 1996). Look for a shallow, sandy, weedy area at low tide during the day, and you can often see them swimming in the weeds or settling on the sand. If there is a significant current, they will congregate in slack water areas on the down-current side of objects. Once you have spotted a likely location, return at dusk when they are more active and net them as described above (Bentley, 2002).

    A large net with very fine mesh works best for collecting mysids. I suggest a net with a mouth at least a foot square and mesh less than 1 mm square (Bentley, 2002).

    Likewise, mysids are sometimes concentrated in large numbers in tidal pools on mudflats and grassflats by the falling tide. The stranded Mysis can easily be netted from these pools at low tide.

    Culture Instructions (Bentley, 2002):

    Specific gravity: 1.016 for estuarine species;
    pH: 7.8-8.3 (reproduction stops if the pH falls lower than 7.4);
    Photoperiod: 14 hours of daylight provided by two Gro-lux fluorescent tubes.
    Temperature: 77 degrees F (25 degrees C)

    The following guidelines are based on Maureen Bentley’s methods for culturing Mysis (Bentley, 2002). The main culture tank should be large, well aerated, and heavily filtered. I suggest undergravel filtration in conjunction with external biological filters. Mysids are extremely sensitive to water quality, and a good protein skimmer is vital for this reason (Bentley, 2002). Natural seawater is much preferable to artificial, and if you are using a synthetic mix, it’s best to allow the artificial saltwater to age at least one month before use (Bentley, 2002).

    When stocking the main tank, introduce the shrimp gradually until you’ve reached a density of about 20-40 adults per gallon (Bentley, 2002). Overcrowding leads to fighting and dead broodstock. If you notice lots of mysids jumping out of the water, the tank is very likely overstocked (Bentley, 2002).

    Small quantities of mysids can be harvested daily using a small glass tank equipped with an air-operated undergravel filter. Place 15 to 20 large gravid females in the small tank, returning them to the main tank as soon as they have released their young (Bentley, 2002). (Mysis are cannibalistic and the young must be separated from the adults.) The young can then be raised in the small tank for a short period.

    Feed them newly hatched Artemia nauplii or rotifers twice daily until they are a few days old (Bentley, 2002). After a few days, begin supplementing their feedings with marine flake food on occasion, especially brine shrimp flake food (Bentley, 2002).

    A feeding frenzy will follow the introduction of live food, which can help you determine the right amount to feed. When fed the proper amount, this frenzy should last around 15 minutes, during which all the live food should be eaten (Bentley, 2002). You will know you have fed enough when the normally transparent mysids have orange stomachs after feeding on the baby brine shrimp (Bentley, 2002). If the adults — especially the males – start eating numbers of the younger Mysis, that’s a sure sign of underfeeding (Bentley, 2002).

    Comments:

    Mysidacea, or Opossum Shrimps, are found worldwide. They are small shrimplike crustaceans with a heavy carapace covering their thorax. They are commonly called opossum shrimp because the females carrying their developing young in a bulging pouch or marsupium formed by thoracic plates at the base of their legs (Giwojna, Oct. 1996). The average life span is about 12 months and adult mysids seldom exceed 1 inch in length. At least 460 Mysis species are found around the world (Bentley, 2002), and wherever opossum shrimp occur, they form a large part of the indigenous seahorses’ natural diet. They are snapped up greedily by even the most finicky syngnathids, including the fabulous but delicate Seadragons (Phycodorus and Phyllopteryx sp.). In fact, large seahorses are so fond of these crustaceans that they scarf up frozen Mysids with relish. This is superb food that should form the basis of your seahorses’ diet if you can possibly obtain it–live, fresh, or frozen (Giwojna, Oct. 1996).

    POST LARVAE SHRIMP (PLS): Ecuadorian White Shrimp (Penaeus vannamei, a.k.a. Litopenaeus vannamei)

    Pros:
    · Feed-and-forget — thrive until eaten in full-strength saltwater.
    · High Health — guaranteed disease-free feeder shrimp for our ponies!
    · Natural, highly nutritious food seahorses are accustomed to eating in the wild.
    · Easy to feed and maintain.
    · Long lasting — remain in the bite-sized larval stage for months.

    Cons:
    · Only available if purchased in huge quantities.
    · PLS are notorious cannibals– will fatten up on each other if not well fed.

    Collection Tips:
    None.

    Culture Instructions:
    Post Larvae Shrimp are not suitable for batch cultures and self-sustaining cultures are not possible, but home hobbyists can easily maintain them. A 10 to 15-gallon tank is sufficient for up to 1,000 larval shrimp (Cheryl Colburn, pers. com.). The culture tank can be either an aquarium or any other inert container of sufficient volume. For example, rubbermaid containers work well as long as they are equipped with adequate filtration.

    Feeding PLS is a breeze. They will eat just about anything. They’ll take flake food and frozen foods and are especially fond of frozen Mysis relicta, which makes a superb staple diet for them (Cheryl Colburn, pers. com.). Whatever you feed them as their everyday diet, however, be sure to fortify the PLS with a good enrichment product. Enriching PLS with formulas that are rich in HUFA and long-chain fatty acids will assure that the larvae have maximum nutritional value when they are fed to your seahorses (Cheryl Colburn, pers. com.).

    PLS will be 4-7 mm in length when you receive them, and at standard aquarium temps of 24 C (74-75 F) they will remain small enough to be eaten by large seahorses for at least 1-2 months (Cheryl Colburn, pers. com.). PLS are thus useful as fry food when they first arrive and are suitable for feeding small ponies for the next 3-4 weeks at 74 F.

    Their growth rate is dependent on water temperature. If you can chill their tank, and maintain 60-70 F, they will grow at an extremely slow rate and remain in the larval stage for several months.

    Cheryl Colburn is one hobbyist who has worked extensively with PLS and she reports they are almost indestructible in the aquarium. If fact, she has never lost one of her larvae for any other reason than predation by another PLS.

    Comments:
    If you can obtain them, PLS are the ideal live food for seahorses. They are the larvae of Ecuadorian White Shrimp (Penaeus vannamei), which are cultured in enormous numbers on shrimp farms for human consumption (Cheryl Colburn, pers. com.). Since they are destined to become people food, White Shrimp are raised at High-Health aquaculture facilities and are certified to free of specific pathogens and parasites. You couldn’t ask for a healthier, more nutritious food for your seahorses and all Hippocampines devour them greedily. They can be raised in hobby tanks to provide perfect fodder for any seahorses from fry to young ponies to mature adults, so they are suitable for every aquarist’s needs. Any of the larval shrimp that are able to hide out and evade capture long enough to mature, will eventually breed and provide nutritious nauplii for all your reef inhabitants (Cheryl Colburn, pers. com.).

    The only problem is that PLS farmers deal in volume and a shipment of 40,000 larvae is their minimum order (Cheryl Colburn, pers. com.). They are accustomed to dealing with aquaculture facilities that order in the millions. So individual hobbyists are out of luck, but collectively, hobbyists have a perfect opportunity to pool their resources together and provide their seahorses with an unsurpassed live food source quite inexpensively (Cheryl Colburn, pers. com.). Split an order for 40,000 PLS between 40 different hobbyists, and each participant can provide his ponies with the perfect natural food very affordably. This is a great project for marine aquarium societies and the seahorse hobbyist community, in general. Popular groups such as the Ocean Rider Club, Ultimate Seahorse, <http://www.seahorse.org/&gt; and <http://www.syngnathid.org/&gt; could make the necessary arrangements easily and efficiently and provide a wonderful service for members who are interested, as advocated by Cheryl Colburn.

    GHOST SHRIMP or GLASS SHRIMP

    Pros (Giwojna, Oct. 1996):
    · A highly nutritious, natural food for large seahorses.
    · Available from pet shops or aquarium stores as well as through the mail.
    · Very easy to gut-load and enrich with various supplements
    · Good tolerance for saltwater: brackish ghosts last surprisingly long, and even freshwater ghost shrimp survive long enough to be a very useful food.

    Cons (Giwojna, Oct. 1996):
    · Suitable only for the largest specimens.
    · Often too expensive to use more than occasionally.

    Collecting Tips:
    Ghost Shrimp are seasonally abundant along the Gulf Coast of the US in salt marshes, rivers that empty into the sea, tidal creeks and brackish bays (Ricketts, Robert T. 2003). Brackish Ghosts can be collected easily at low tide by vigorously shaking clumps of floating seaweed into a bucket of seawater, or by dragging a small seine or large aquarium net through tidal creeks or the grass flats just offshore (Giwojna, Oct. 1996). Similar techniques will often produce freshwater Ghost Shrimp from fresh streams or waterways, including grassy canals and ditches (Giwojna, Oct. 1996). Harvest only specimens that are small enough for your seahorses to swallow whole.

    Aquarium specimens are available year round. Fish stores carry Ghost Shrimp both as feeders and as oddball pets for freshwater hobbyists (Giwojna, Oct. 1996).

    Culture Instructions:
    Ghosts do not thrive in soft water, so for best results keep them in slightly hard to alkaline water (Ricketts, Robert T. 2003). Like all crustaceans, these see-through shrimp shed their exoskeletons in order to grow. They may have difficulty molting and become stuck halfway through the process of extricating themselves from their old exoskeletons, particularly in soft water that is deficient in calcium (Ricketts, Robert T. 2003). For this reason, I recommend gradually converting your holding tank for Ghost shrimp to brackish conditions, using a high-quality marine salt mix to slowly raise the salinity (Ricketts, Robert T. 2003).

    There are at least two distinct types of Ghost Shrimp (very likely more), which are very difficult to distinguish by casual examination (Ricketts, Robert T. 2003). One category of Ghost appears to be a true freshwater species. The freshwater Ghosts do not tolerate full-strength saltwater for any length of time but withstand brackish conditions without difficulty (Ricketts, Robert T. 2003). The other category of Ghost Shrimp is a brackish species that can be converted to full-strength saltwater, but which also tolerates freshwater for extended periods (Ricketts, Robert T. 2003).

    One possible way to determine which type of Ghost Shrimp you have is to examine females that are “in berry” (carrying eggs attached to their swimmerets). The saltwater or brackish Ghosts carry huge numbers of extremely tiny eggs (Ricketts, Robert T. 2003). So small are these that individual eggs cannot be seen with the naked eye. The eggs of freshwater Ghosts are said to be much bigger so that separate eggs are visible (Ricketts, Robert T. 2003).

    The freshwater Ghosts breed more readily in the aquarium, and the larval shrimp are somewhat easier to raise (Ricketts, Robert T. 2003), but home culture of Ghost Shrimp is not really practical regardless of which variety you obtain.

    Feed Ghosts small amounts of dry food once daily. The fine, leftover particles that accumulate on the bottoms of nearly empty flake food containers are great for feeding Ghosts, or crumble fresh flakes between your fingers to create particles of that same consistency (Ricketts, Robert T. 2003). Soak these fine flakes in a good enrichment formula and then feed them to the shrimp about 30 minutes before feeding the Ghosts to your seahorses (Ricketts, Robert T. 2003). This will gut-load the shrimp and fortify them for maximum nutritional value. (You will actually be able to see the enriched flakes accumulate in the hindgut through the shrimp’s transparent body.)

    A 10-15 tank will hold quantities of ghost shrimp, and smaller numbers will do fine in a 5-gallon bucket equipped with an airstone or air-driven foam filter (Ricketts, Robert T. 2003). Sponge filters will suffice; change water once a week to maintain water quality (Ricketts, Robert T. 2003).

    Comments:
    These shrimp are all but transparent, which explains why they are universally called ghost shrimp or glass shrimp. Their exoskeletons are perfectly clear, the underlying muscles nearly transparent, thus clearly revealing their internal organs and GI tract (Ricketts, Robert T. 2003). A loss of transparency is a sign of severe stress and poor health; upon death, Ghosts typically turn an opaque white like their namesakes (Ricketts, Robert T. 2003). Ghost shrimp are acrobatic swimmers, which propel themselves backward with amazing speed by flexing their tails beneath them.

    Fully-grown Ghosts can reach two inches in length, but the best feeder shrimp for the greater seahorses are 1/10 to 1/4 that size, so select your specimens accordingly (Ricketts, Robert T. 2003). Hobbyists estimate that 100 eating-size Ghost shrimp is roughly a one-week supply for two large seahorses. With the high unit cost per shrimp, it’s easy to see than keeping your herd on a staple diet of store-bought ghosts is a very expensive proposition!

    GAMMARUS AMPHIPODS

    Pros (Giwojna, Oct. 1996):
    · Highly nutritious, hard-bodied crustaceans.
    · Favorite food of many larger seahorse species.
    · Good tolerance for saltwater (marine Gammarus survive indefinitely and even freshwater Gammarus will last until eaten if your sea horses are fond of them).
    · Live Gammarus are increasingly available as fish food.
    · Starter cultures are widely available through the mail.

    Cons (Giwojna, Oct. 1996):
    · Slow reproductive rate makes it difficult to raise them in large quantities.
    · Slight risk of introducing disease with Gammarus collected in the wild.

    Collecting Tips:
    Marine Gammarids–Gammarus locusta, a marine amphipod, can often be found in large numbers at the seashore by overturning rocks and coral rubble at low tide (Giwojna, Oct. 1996). Also know as scuds or beach-hoppers, scads of the land-dwelling form of these amphipods (Talitrus saltator) can often easily be collected from the mats of seaweed washed up on shore at the tide line. Simply gather up clumps of the freshly deposited seaweed and shake it vigorously over your collecting bucket to dislodge the amphipods.

    Freshwater Gammarids–Gammarus fasciatus can be collected from vegetation and leaf litter on the bottoms of ponds and slow-moving streams (Giwojna, Oct. 1996).

    Culture Instructions:
    Marine Gammarus will maintain a self-sustaining colony if established in a standard saltwater aquarium with coral gravel and rubble and left undisturbed while their population grows (Giwojna, Oct. 1996). Encourage a lush growth of green algae and restock periodically.

    Under the right conditions, these small, shrimplike crustaceans mate and reproduce readily in captivity. Provide them with a lush green mat of Ulva macroalgae as natural habitat, and they will soon take up residence and establish a breeding colony of amphipods (Indo-Pacific Sea Farms, 2003). Provide them with low light levels, good aeration, and a pinch of flake food twice a week and you’ll soon have a growing population of Gammarus to dole out to your seahorses (Indo-Pacific Sea Farms, 2003).

    Freshwater Gammarus can be cultured in a plastic wading pool or similar spacious receptacle equipped with an airstone (Giwojna, Oct. 1996). Feed sparingly with chopped raw spinach, Spirulina, or a pinch of dry fish food. Include plenty of algae-covered rocks and driftwood for shelter, and position where strong direct sunlight will produce heavy algal growth (Giwojna, Oct. 1996).

    Comments:
    To feed these 1/4″-5/16″ crustaceans to your fish, siphon water from around the rocks, shells, and gravel in the culture tank and strain it through a net to separate the Gammarus from the debris (Giwojna, Oct. 1996). Commonly known as side-swimmers, these hard-shelled amphipods have a herky-jerky, sidestroke swimming style that most large sea horses find irresistible (Giwojna, Oct. 1996). Their seemingly frantic movements and tendency to dart out from hiding suddenly seldom fail to trigger a sea horse’s feeding response, and this is one food hungry Hippocampines will actively pursue and search out. Some sea horses will even accept freshly killed or dead Gammarus (Giwojna, Oct. 1996). An ideal food: substantial enough to be your sea horses’ staple diet, if you can obtain it in sufficient quantity!

    When mating, the male amphipod carries the smaller female grasped between its legs, a breeding method known as amplexus (Biology of Amphipods, 1996). Thus, when you see pairs swimming together while locked in amplexus, it’s a sure sign your amphipod colony is growing. The female subsequently releases the fertilized eggs into a ventral brood chamber where the unattached eggs are held by extra branches of her walking legs and incubated during development (Biology of Amphipods, 1996).

    Unlike crab and shrimp larvae, baby amphipods are not released as zoea that develop into adults after several stages of metamorphosis (Biology of Amphipods, 1996). Instead, the young look like miniature versions of their parents when released, and some species even show parental care of their young after they leave the brood chamber (Biology of Amphipods, 1996).

    Different types of amphipods move differently, depending on the arrangement of their legs. Most species can walk upright, scuttling along by using most of their thoracic legs, but this is a slow, rather cumbersome method of locomotion (Biology of Amphipods, 1996). Practicing their sidestroke and swimming along using three pairs of pleopods is much faster (Biology of Amphipods, 1996). But the true specialty of amphipods is the tail-flip, a rapid escape response where the abdomen flicks the animal away after the uropods are dug into the substrate (Biology of Amphipods, 1996). Terrestrial amphipods (scuds, sand fleas, beach hoppers, etc.) are especially adept at this startling maneuver. It is this variety of frantic movements and escape maneuvers that triggers the seahorse’s feeding response and makes amphipods so irresistible to Hippocampus. Seahorses love to hunt them!

    As we’ll see below, Caprellids cannot use any of the amphipod’s usual methods of locomotion. They are restricted to slow-motion somersaults and painstakingly stepping along like an inchworm.

    CAPRELLID AMPHIPODS (Caprella acutifrons)

    Pros:
    · Relished by all the greater seahorses.
    · Excellent nutritional value.
    · Feed-and-forget: survive indefinitely in saltwater until eaten.

    Cons:
    · Difficult to obtain.
    · Preferred habitat is branching, fernlike hydroid colonies.
    · Cannot be cultured in quantities.

    Collection Tips:
    Large numbers of Caprellid skeleton shrimp colonize fouling growths and organisms such as sponges, tunicates, and especially large colonial hydroids such as Obelia (Rudloe, 1971). At some times of year, these sessile organisms will be alive with swarms of skeleton shrimp. The best way to collect them is thus to look for such fouling growths on man-made objects (docks, wharves, jetties, breakwaters, buoys, etc.) and harvest the sessile animals complete with all the Caprellids inhabiting them (Rudloe, 1977). (The skeleton shrimp attach themselves tightly to such growths with grasping hooks and they will cling tightly to the hydroid colony and come along for the ride when you carefully place it in your collecting bucket.)

    Culture Instructions:
    They cannot really be cultured in any numbers, but you might try placing a heavily colonized clump of hydroids or two in a refugium and hope for the best.

    Comments:
    Skeleton shrimp are amphipods like Gammarus, but the Caprellids are very different in habits and appearance from Gammarids (The Caprellid, 2004). Whereas Gammarus are flat-bodied and seek shelter beneath vegetation and coral rubble, Caprella amphipods are thin and wiry (i.e., skeletal) and display themselves openly (The Caprellid, 2004). They have a long, slender thorax and almost no abdomen (The Caprellid, 2004). The spindly brown skeleton shrimp (Caprella acutifrons) are in constant slow motion, bending, stretching, somersaulting, and flexing languidly as they forage throughout the large hydroid colony they inhabit, gleaning diatoms from the stems and polyps and snatching up zooplankton (Rudloe, 1971). Thanks to their transparent bodies one can easily see the food particles streaming down their gut (The Caprellid, 2004). They owe their agility and acrobatic antics to the incredible flexibility of their slender, wire-like bodies and the fact that they have terminal hooks at their tail end and large grasping claws (gnathopods) like a praying mantis at the other end (Rudloe, 1971). Like a mantis, they often assume a prayerful attitude, slowly and reverently bobbing, then bowing their heads piously while clasping their “hands” together at their chests (Rudloe, 1971). They have two pairs of antennae and can turn their heads from side to side. Solemnly, they sway side to side, nodding and bowing down with great dignity.

    Periodically they will interrupt their penitent meditation to begin actively foraging, and then they move altogether differently, with a unique method of locomotion that seems totally out of place in such clumsy looking creatures. Displaying surprising agility, they bend forward into a loop in order to get a good grip with their front claws. Then they swing their entire body over their heads, tail first, until their terminal hooks can grab a new hold, allowing them to release their grip with their claws and repeat the entire procedure (Rudloe, 1971). They are accomplished acrobats, advancing themselves end-over-end in a series of cartwheels and somersaults in this unorthodox manner. With the nimbleness and flexibility of a contortionist, skeleton shrimp can actually swing from limb to limb in this fashion (Rudloe, 1971), and it’s a comical sight to see them moving through the stems and branches and polyps of a bushy hydroid like a troop of drunken spider monkeys!

    Thousands upon thousands of these tiny shrimp many inhabit a large clump of hydroids, and at first glance the entire hydroid colony appears to be writhing and crawling and pulsing with an eerie, unnatural life of its own (Rudloe, 1977). It is the tantalizing movement of these multitudes that apparently makes skeleton shrimp so irresistible to many fishes, and Jack Rudloe has often described how tossing a hydroid colony swarming with Caprellids into a seahorse tank will trigger a feeding frenzy worthy of a school of bloodthirsty sharks:

    “Fish love to eat caprellid amphipods. Often we would tear off a clump of hydroids, toss it in the aquarium, and see even the most finicky reluctant feeders go wild and gobble up the tiny crustaceans as fast as they could pick them out of the hydroids. Sea horses especially love to eat them” ((Rudloe 1977, p100).

    GRASS SHRIMP/RIVER SHRIMP

    Pros (Giwojna, Oct. 1996):
    · A highly nutritious, natural food for large seahorses.
    · Available from bait shops or aquarium stores in some areas.
    · Can be collected locally by many aquarists.
    · Good tolerance for saltwater: marine grass shrimp are a “feed-and-forget” food and freshwater grass and river shrimp last surprisingly long as well.

    Cons (Giwojna, Oct. 1996):
    · Suitable only for the largest specimens.
    · Cannot be cultured in home aquaria.
    · Marine grass shrimp are unavailable to inland aquarists.

    Collecting Tips:
    Grass shrimp can be collected easily at low tide by vigorously shaking clumps of floating seaweed into a bucket of seawater, or by dragging a small seine or large aquarium net through tidal creeks or the grass flats just offshore (Giwojna, Oct. 1996). Similar techniques will often produce freshwater grass shrimp and river shrimp from freshwater streams or waterways (Giwojna, Oct. 1996). Remember, keep only shrimp that are small enough for your seahorses to swallow whole.

    Comments:
    “Grass shrimp” is an all-purpose term loosely applied to several species of small marine shrimp as well as the young of a variety of larger shrimp (Giwojna, Oct. 1996). River shrimp are simply the freshwater equivalent of marine grass shrimp.

    All in all, these crustaceans are ideal foods for the bigger breeds of seahorses. Just be sure to select shrimp of suitable size for your seahorses (Giwojna, Oct. 1996).

    Seahorses are so fond of these shrimp that they often attack specimens that are far too big to swallow. They will attempt to break the back of the shrimp by snapping repeatedly at the carapace. If they are successful in severing the abdomen from the cephalothorax, the seahorses will then slurp up the tail section and head half of the shrimp separately. Or should their victim be so large it cannot even be swallowed in sections, they will snick out mouthfuls of the soft tissue exposed inside the abdomen or thorax. At times, several seahorses will gang up on one big shrimp this way, like a pack of lions teaming up to bring down a water buffalo that’s too big for any one of them to tackle alone. Under the right circumstances, a sort of slow-motion feeding frenzy may then ensue, with the seahorses playing tug-of-war over the pieces of their prize.

    Grass shrimp that are too large to be overcome by such tactics may survive to become long-term residents of the seahorse tank, coexisting with their reluctant tankmates in a sort of uneasy truce. Such die-hard shrimp provide a useful service as scavengers from then on.

    We tend to think of our seahorses as gentle, nonaggressive creatures that wouldn’t harm a fly, but in reality they are surprisingly fierce predators in their own right. To small crustaceans, seahorses are the tigers of the grassblade jungle, striking without warning from ambush and devouring anything of the right size that moves.

    BRINE SHRIMP (Artemia spp.)

    Pros (Giwojna, Oct. 1996):
    · Adult Artemia are readily available from your fish store or through the mail.
    · Easily raised from cysts to provide nauplii of all sizes and stages of development.
    · Excellent tolerance for saltwater: feed and forget–survives until eaten.
    · Easy to gut-load and enrich.
    · Accepted greedily by most seahorses (except Hippocampus reidi and H. ingens).

    Cons (Giwojna, Oct. 1996):
    · Poor food value–good source of protein, but lacking in other essential nutrients.
    · Must be fortified or enriched to increase nutritional content.
    · Cannot be used as staple diet.

    Collecting Tips:
    None

    Culture Instructions:
    Specific gravity: 1.020-1.026; pH: 8.0-9.0;
    Temperature: 77 degrees F (25 degrees C)

    An easy way to raise small quantities of brine shrimp is to set up a 10-20 gallon tank in a location where it receives natural sunlight to promote the growth of green algae, and provide gentle aeration using a length of airline tubing as a bubbler (avoid fine bubbles and the use of airstones; Giwojna, Oct. 1996). Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon of eggs on the surface of the water. The nauplii will hatch 24-36 hour later, and the day after they emerge, they can be fed sparingly with various additives and enrichment products (Giwojna, Oct. 1996). Adjust the amount so a slight haze barely clouds the water for a few hours each day. Do not feed again until the water is crystal clear, and avoid overfeeding at all costs. Maintain constant aeration to keep the food in suspension, and feed very small amounts fairly often — never a large quantity at any given time (Giwojna, Oct. 1996). The first generation of brine shrimp will reach maturity after 2-3 weeks, and the culture will then be self-sustaining (Daleco Aquarists Supply Manual, 1995). Add more eggs as needed to supplement natural reproduction and bolster the population of brine shrimp. Top off the tank with freshwater regularly to make up for evaporation, and replace about 25% of the culture water on a monthly basis (Giwojna, Oct. 1996).

    It’s a good idea to set up 2 or more culture tanks for adult Artemia at the same time so you can harvest a little from each culture and prevent the population of shrimp in any one tank from being depleted to the extent it can no longer sustain itself.

    Rearing Artemia this way makes it easy to select nauplii at just the proper stage of development and size for your sea horses (Giwojna, Oct. 1996).

    Comments:
    Brine shrimp are no doubt the most widely used live foods for sea horses. They are convenient, always available, easy to hatch and raise, and adults can be bought by the pint or quart at many fish stores (Giwojna, Oct. 1996).

    However, commercially raised brine shrimp have one big drawback. By the time they are purchased and released in the aquarium, they usually have not eaten for several days, and starved brine shrimp are nutritionally barren. It is therefore imperative that brine shrimp be fortified before they are fed to your sea horses. (As discussed earlier, unfortified adult brine shrimp are useful for feeding to captive-bred seahorses on a staple diet of enriched frozen Mysis on their fasting days precisely because the brine shrimp have nonexistent nutritional value.)

    Fortunately, brine shrimp are filter feeders and will take in whatever is suspended in the water with them that has a manageable particle size. This can be yeast cells; unicellular algae; rotifers; micronized rice bran, whey, wheat flour, or egg yolk; dried Spirulina algae; water-soluble vitamin and mineral formulations designed for marine fish; or whatever else the aquarist cares to add to their culture water (Daleco Aquarists Supply Manual, 1995).

    I recommend using one of the concentrated food additives or enrichment products that have recently been developed specifically for mariculturists. The best additives are rich in lipids, especially highly unsaturated fatty acids (HUFA), and vitamins such as stabilized Vitamin C and cyanocobalmin (B-12) (Giwojna, Oct. 1996). Adding such enrichment products to a 6-ounce portion of brine shrimp, and then allowing at least 12 hours for the shrimp to ingest it can fortify store-bought adult Artemia (Giwojna, Oct. 1996)

    Liquid vitamin formulations can also be added, and the ability to enrich their lipid and vitamin content this way allows us to treat brine shrimp as animated vitamin pills for seahorses (Lawrence, 1998). The savvy seahorse keeper should regard enriched Artemia as bio-encapsulated food for his charges and take full advantage of every opportunity to fortify the shrimp (Lawrence, 1998).

    The survival rate of marine fish fry improves dramatically when they are fed lipid-enriched brine shrimp nauplii, and the importance of fortifying Artemia in this manner cannot be overemphasized (Forrest Young, pers. com.). In fact, the Steinhart Aquarium in San Francisco has successfully raised Hippocampus erectus from birth to maturity on a diet consisting solely of brine shrimp (Herald and Rakowicz, 1951). For best results, however, brine shrimp should be considered only a dietary supplement, with of the bulk of your sea horses’ diet consisting of hard-bodied crustaceans such as Mysids, feeder shrimp or Gammarids.

    MARINE COPEPODS

    Pros:
    · Naturally high levels of essentially fatty acids.
    · Natural food that forms a large portion of the seahorses’ diet in the wild.
    · Elicits a strong feeding response.
    · Perfect first food for seahorse fry.
    · Feed-and-forget: marine species survive until eaten and will colonize live rock, filters and refugia.
    · Starter cultures readily available.
    · Easily collected by hobbyists with access to the seashore.

    Cons:
    · Complex life cycle complicates home culture.
    · Many species too small to interest adult seahorses.
    · Some species are parasitic — can be difficult to tell the good guys from the bad boys.

    Collecting Tips:
    Free-swimming copepods can easily be collected by anyone who lives within a reasonable distance of the ocean (in parts of the sea, larval calanoid copepods comprise the bulk of the zooplankton). Simply tow a plankton net (an elongated conical net made of fine material) slowly behind a boat in an area well away from possible sources of pollution, stopping periodically to empty its contents into a collecting container. (A mesh size of 250-500 microns will collect ‘pods that are about the right eating size for medium seahorses.) Cover the collecting bucket with a damp towel to keep it cool during the heat of the day and provide aeration to make sure the plankters stay alive until you get home.

    Culture Instructions:
    Suitable for batch culture with greenwater (phytoplankton). See the rearing chapter for complete directions for culturing copepod nauplii.

    Comments:
    Providing copepod nauplii as the first food for pelagic seahorse fry results in faster growth and often dramatically increases survivorship.

    Copepods are an extremely diverse group of Crustacea with more than 10,000 known species with different lifestyles filling a great variety of environmental niches, both marine and freshwater (Dürbaum and Künnemann, 2000). There are three major groups of free-living copepods that are useful in aquaculture (Dürbaum and Künnemann, 2000): the Calanoida (primarily free-swimming planktonic animals), the Cyclopoida (either planktonic or demersal), and the Harpacticoida (entirely benthic).

    Copepods undergo a remarkably complex life cycle. After hatching from the egg, they pass through six distinct nauplius stages, undergo a metamorphosis that completely transforms their body shape, and then go through six additional copepodid stages, culminating with the mature adult (Dürbaum and Künnemann, 2000). The first nauplius stages have only 3 pairs of appendages, which are used for locomotion and feeding (Dürbaum and Künnemann, 2000). The 6th and final naupliar stage molts into the first of the copepodid stages, and important development marked by major morphological changes (Dürbaum and Künnemann, 2000). The emerging copepodid larvae resemble the adults in large part. With the increasing number of body segments in the copepodid, more of their appendages become fully functional (Dürbaum and Künnemann, 2000). After the fifth copepodid molt adulthood is reached and the mature copepods are able to reproduce. There are two different sexes and reproduction is sexual (Dürbaum and Künnemann, 2000).

    Growth is very rapid, with most species going from the embryo to mature adult in 10-12 days at 25-degrees C. The free-swimming nauplii are attracted to light, becoming less phototropic as they mature, until the adults begin to settle and attach to the substrate. As adults they swim less, remaining attached to substrates for anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes at a time.

    GULF KILLIFISH FRY (Fundulus grandis)

    Pros:
    · Great food value: high in protein and lipids — complete nutritional package.
    · Extremely hardy in the aquarium.
    · Feed-and-forget — last indefinitely in full-strength saltwater.
    · Easy to breed and raise from eggs.
    · Available from bait shops in many coastal areas.

    Cons:
    · Difficult to acquire for inland aquarists.
    · Seasonal availability.
    · Not eaten by all seahorses.

    Collecting Tips:
    In most locations they are most abundant in late spring and early summer. Gulf Killifish are best collected using minnow traps baited with crushed crab or bread and positioned in likely areas such as brackish streams, tidal creeks, and grassy ditches and canals. They can also be taken using large dip nets or small seines in the same waterways or from shallow brackish backwaters in salt marshes and grassy tidal areas.

    Culture Instructions:
    Specific Gravity: 1.011-1.019 (15-25 ppt)
    pH 7.6-8.0
    Temperature: 75-degrees F (24 C)

    Sharyl Crossley has been very successful at culturing Gulf Killifish fry for seahorses using the following methods. Adults are kept in a bare-bottom, 30-gallon breeder tank at a ration of 5 males to 3 females (5 M: 3 F). Sharyl notes that the ratio isn’t really that important as long as you maintain multiples of each sex. The male killis do their part by displaying constantly while breeding (helping to entice the females) and Crossley finds that more females translates to more eggs. She uses an external bio-wheel power filter for good circulation and filtration, along with an air stone for extra oxygenation and surface agitation and a heater to keep the tank from falling below 72 F. Sharyl maintains a weekly water changing schedule and reports that Fundulus grandis are VERY hardy fish that seem to thrive on a little benign neglect (Sharyl Crossley, pers. com.).

    The eggs are laid and then collected in a funnel trap that floats around in the tank, and approximately every other day the eggs are collected from the funnel and transferred to a hatchery bottle (Sharyl Crossley, pers. com.). The hatchery is basically just a 2-liter bottle filled with 15-25 ppt saltwater (sg = 1.011-1.019) and equipped with a bubbler. There are usually fry in the hatchery bottle every other day, which are collected using a 500um sieve and moved to a grow out tank with a sponge filter until they are fed to the seahorses (Sharyl Crossley, pers. com.). A minimum of 50-100 killifish fry are usually produced every other day using this technique (Sharyl Crossley, pers. com.).

    Sharyl reports the newly hatched killi fry are about 5-mm long and are great for feeding larger seahorse fry and pipefish. They are easily grown out for a week or two using daily feedings of Artemia nauplii or other standard fry foods until they reach a suitable size for larger seahorses (Sharyl Crossley, pers. com.).

    Comments:
    When it comes to feeding seahorses, Gulf Killifish fry are superior to livebearer fry in every respect. They are smaller than livebearer fry, making them more bite-sized morsels for most seahorses. In fact, they can be cultured to any desired size in order to tailor them to any seahorses from small fry to juveniles to fully-grown adults. That makes them suitable prey for the smallest species such as Hippocampus breviceps and H. tuberculatus or true giants like over-grown Pots (H. abdominalis) alike. As a result, killifish fry are generally eaten much more readily than newborn guppies or mollies.

    Common known as Mud Minnows, these killifish are much tougher and far more adaptable aquarium specimens than tropical livebearers (Poecilids). Not only are they easier to keep, they thrive in full-strength saltwater and can be produced in much greater numbers. For example, with just one tank of breeders and eight adult Fundulus grandis, the Crossley culture method typically produces several hundred killifish fry every week!

    POECILID LIVEBEARER FRY (newborn Gambusia, Guppies, Mollies, Platys, Swordtails, Japanese Medaka fry
    etc.)

    Pros (Giwojna, Oct. 1996):
    · Excellent food value: high in protein, lipids, and other essential nutrients–a complete package of vitamins and minerals.
    · Available in all pet shops and aquarium stores.
    · Easy to breed and maintain at home.

    Cons (Giwojna, Oct. 1996):
    · Poor tolerance for saltwater (except for mollies adapted to brackish conditions).
    · Not acceptable to all sea horses–refused by many specimens.
    · Slow rate of reproduction limits usefulness.

    Collecting Tips:
    None

    Culture Instructions:
    Set up breeding groups (trios or harems consisting of several mature females for every male) in a standard aquarium for tropical fish (Giwojna, Oct. 1996). Feed and maintain exactly as if keeping them as pets. Mollies require a vegetable-based diet and do best with a little non-iodized salt or sea salt added to their water (about 1/4 teaspoon per gallon). Isolate obviously pregnant females in breeding traps to prevent cannibalism of the fry (Giwojna, Oct. 1996).

    Comments:
    Offer your sea horses only a few fry at a time, since the delicate newborns won’t last long in saltwater. The fry should be used immediately after they are born (Giwojna, Oct. 1996), since they grow rapidly and may be too large to eat a few days after birth (remember sea horses must swallow them whole). Newborn guppies and Gambusia are smallest and the easiest for sea horses to handle (Giwojna, Oct. 1996). Molly fry are bigger, but they can be gradually acclimated to brackish or even full-strength saltwater, allowing them to survive indefinitely in your sea horse tank (Giwojna, Oct. 1996).

    In my experience, the biggest problem with newborn fishes is that many sea horses simply refuse to eat them. The fry tend to hug the surface, where sea horses are unaccustomed to feeding, and some Hippocampines are put off by their size (Giwojna, Oct. 1996). However, some large sea horses attack them voraciously, and the San Antonio Aquarium in Texas has successfully maintained sea horses on an exclusive diet of newborn mollies (Herald and Rakowicz, 1951). Likewise, from France, Thierry Schmidt reports good success raising Hippocampus kuda, supplementing their diet with newborn guppies as the juveniles grow (Schmidt, 1995).

    In short, if you can spare the time and expense necessary to provide your seahorse with a varied diet of choice live foods, that is an excellent option. Indeed, combining hardy farm-raised seahorses with a staple diet of nutritious live foods can be a recipe for success. Neil Garrick-Maidment is a very successful breeder in the UK who believes strongly in providing live food for his seahorses. He reports keeping captive-bred seahorses for as long as seven years and 3 months simply by maintaining excellent water quality and providing them with a good live diet consisting largely of Mysis shrimp (Garrick-Maidment, pers. com.).

    ©Copyright 2009. All rights reserved. Permission to reproduce is granted by the author (Peter Giwojna) for your personal use only and is not transferable without written permission by Ocean Rider and the original author.
    [Close quote]

    Okay, hobbyists, that’s the rundown on live foods that may be useful as occasional treats for your seahorses (or regular meals for your finicky red female). You may want to consider culturing the red volcano shrimp from Hawaii or Gammarus amphipods or the live Mysis at home, among other suitable live prey.

    Good luck!

    Happy Trails!
    Pete Giwojna, Ocean Rider Tech Support

    ©Copyright 2009. All rights reserved. Permission to reproduce is granted by the author (Peter Giwojna) for your personal use only and is not transferable without written permission by Ocean Rider and the original author.

    Please contact the author ([email protected]) immediately if you notice the material from these lessons posted on the Internet on any websites other than Ocean Rider (seahorse.com).

    in reply to: My seahorses drop eggs on the floor #75306
    Pete Giwojna
    Moderator

    Dear Hobbyist:

    It sounds like your Hippocampus barbouri are eager to breed and mate, but that they are having difficulty executing the egg exchange, and spilling the eggs rather than successfully transferring them to the pouch of the male.

    There are two main reasons why this can happen. If the aquarium is not tall enough, the ponies may not have sufficient vertical swimming space to correctly align themselves for the egg transfer, resulting in the eggs being dropped on the bottom of the tank. Or, it’s possible that there could be too much turbulence or that the water currents are too strong in midwater, making it difficult for the partners to complete the egg exchange.

    If there is not enough vertical swimming space, there may simply not be enough maneuvering room for the pair to successfully execute the copulatory rise and transfer of the eggs when mating. Allow me to elaborate. The following information will explain more about the copulatory rise and how mating occurs to seahorses, and why it’s important for them to have plenty of room in order to perform the necessary maneuvers in order to accomplish the transfer of eggs:

    Copulatory Rise.

    This is the final phase of courtship. It is the climax of the entire affair during which the partners meet in midwater for the transfer of the eggs (Vincent, 1990). The female initiates the rise by pushing up from the bottom in mid-Point and the male immediately follows her lead. They ascend through the water column facing each other, with their heads raised high and their abdomens thrust forward (Vincent, 1990). At this point, the female’s genital papilla or oviduct will be everted and protrude slightly from her vent, and the male’s brood pouch is usually fully inflated (Vincent, 1990). As they ascend, the female often continues to Point and the male may continue to Pump (Vincent, 1990). They will meet at the apex of their rise for the nuptial embrace.

    The actual transfer of eggs takes place while the couple is suspended in midwater or slowly descending toward the bottom — a maneuver that is every bit as tricky as it sounds. Coitus is marked by an extremely awkward, fleeting embrace, aptly described as little more than a brief belly-to-belly bumping (Vincent, 1990). (Brief and fleeting as in if one dares to blink, take a bathroom break, or run for your camera, you may miss what you have waited all this time to witness!) As you can imagine, many difficult and delicate maneuvers are required to bring the pair into proper position for this most improbable merging. The female will attempt to insert her oviduct into the gaping aperture of the male’s inflated brood pouch. An inexperienced pair will often end up misaligned, perhaps at right angles to one another or with one of the partners too high or too low to join. This is very typical of the many false starts and abortive attempts that are ordinarily involved. The frustrated couple will separate to rest on the bottom prior to successive attempts. They may require many such rises before the proper positioning is achieved and the crucial connection is finally made.

    The female will eventually succeed, with the full and active cooperation of her mate. He positions himself slightly below his mate, with the aperture of his pouch fully dilated and gaping open, ready to receive her eggs. The female will hover directly over the aperture until she can actually insert her oviduct into the opening at the top of his brood pouch or drop her eggs into the basket while hovering directly above the pouch. Pairs occasionally entwine tails when joined, but more often than not their tails will be stretched back behind them, out of the way.

    If she makes a good connection, she will extrude her eggs in one long, sticky string, and the pair will hang together in midwater while the transfer is completed, drifting slowly downward as the eggs surge downward deep inside the pouch (Vincent, 1990). The entire clutch — up to 1600 eggs — is transferred in one brief embrace lasting a mere 5-10 seconds (Vincent, 1990). Sperm streams from the male’s urogenital pore into the pouch opening as the eggs are deposited (Vincent, 1990). The couple separates as they descend, drifting slowly toward the substrate. Exhausted by their efforts, the pair seek out comfortable hitching posts for a well-deserved rest. One almost expects to see them light up cigarettes at this point.

    Strong water currents or a lack of vertical swimming space can disrupt the egg exchange, so those are the first things you should double check in your seahorse setup. If these are new pairs, it’s also possible that they simply need a little more practice before they get it right, so this may be an issue that your Hippocampus barbouri will eventually work out for themselves, as well.

    Good luck!

    Respectfully,
    Pete Giwojna, Ocean Rider Tech Support

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