Seahorses are slowly becoming a very popular marine animal that can be raised in a home aquarium. From the thorny seahorse (hippocampus histrix) to the very popular Barbour's seahorse (hippocampus Barbouri), they have been proven an enjoyable addition to any household, although they posses quite the challenge. WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN CAPTIVE BRED AND WILD CAUGHT? I’m going to start off with this article by expressing the importance of buying captive bred seahorses. This is important for a few reasons. The first is the fact that captive bred seahorses are usually already accustomed to eating frozen foods; which means less money from your wallet and your little ponies will eat a lot healthier too. Another importance of buying captive bred seahorses is that they will be less prone to carrying and getting certain diseases, which I will discuss the signs of later on. Another plus of keeping captive bred seahorses is that the survival of them in your aquarium is by far higher. The last reason I can think of is that by buying captive bred seahorses, we will prevent the chances of such a beautiful species in becoming endangered. WHAT DO YOU LOOK FOR WHEN BUYING A SEAHORSE? When preparing to buy a seahorse it is very important to first research the type of seahorses you are looking into getting. Take a trip down to your LFS, take a few pictures of the seahorses they carry and take them home to identify yourself. Many fish stores label their seahorses as a black seahorse, or yellow seahorse by their color when they are shipped to them. In my own adventures, I have discovered three different species that looked nothing alike being labeled as a black seahorse. The reason why you want to identify them before even starting to get your tank is because each seahorse needs different needs; temperature, tank size, food… In example, you don’t want to keep the common seahorse (hippocampus histrix) in a 20-gallon aquarium for the big reason that they are said to get as large as a foot in captivity and has a minimal tank requirement of 50 gallons but the Brazilian seahorse can live in a 30-gallon aquarium. So the key here is to research before even going out and buying your supplies. Now, skipping ahead… when you are ready to buy your seahorse you want to check out your seahorse very carefully and have a list of questions for the fish store personnel. One of these questions may be, what does this seahorse eat? The salesman will probably say something that he has in the store and feeds them. Almost immediately after you should ask if they could feed them so you can see it eat. This is the utmost important thing you can do for the seahorse and yourself. If the seahorse isn’t eating than there is a problem, even the most stressed seahorse should eat food within forty-eight hours of shipment. So if the sales associate refuses to feed the seahorse for any reason simply say, ‘have a wonderful day’ and walk out. The rest of the questions on your list should be for your own personal notations of the pony. Look over the seahorse closely, does it have any signs of starvations, how is the snout, any protruding eyes, are there any signs of common diseases (listed below). How about the seahorses swimming, does it move in pride or towards the side? Does the seahorse perch up right, to the side or upside down. Here is it is wise to use your judgment but it is also recommended to bring a list of common diseases in which you can compare with the seahorse. Now of all the questions to ask, I feel the final one is one of the most important questions. Is the seahorse wild caught or tank bred? Once again, this is a detrimental thing in regarding diseases, food intake, stress and adaptability to the marine aquarium. SO… WHAT DO I NEED FOR A SEAHORSE TANK? For starters and the simplest, the tank. As I said earlier different species need different size tanks. So I’m going to use a common seahorse species, as an example, the hippocampus kuda (also known as the common seahorse.) As I said earlier, this species is recommended to be in a 50-gallon aquarium as a minimum. However, a lot of seahorses can be kept in twenty-gallon aquariums, and Dwarf seahorses can be kept to a size of a fish bowl! Like any marine tank, you will need substrate, lighting, salt, food, heater, filter and, of course… the rocking. For most seahorses, a good idea is to have live rock and sand as a back up food. (Please be careful with live rock. They may carry a creature that could do harm to your new friend, so please use a refugium if at all possible) Seahorses do enjoy eating copepods and by having these creatures is an excellent source of food for them. Thus, it is a good idea to set up a refuge to grow copepods and other live food. Any filter will do, as long as it will care for the bio load. Power heads are a good idea, however, Seahorses are prone to have difficulty when swimming in currents and may be stressed out if having difficulties swimming, but they do enjoy to ride them. So having a power head on low may be enjoyable, but not too high. Now, as for inside the tank it is very important to set up hitching posts for the seahorses. Seahorses like to move all around the tank and hitch to post to post and explore the area. So it is best not to keep all the hitching posts in one side of the tank but separate them all through it. Hitching posts can be anything from the thermometer to the filter. (Warning, you will need a guard for your heater… they will hitch themselves to it and burn themselves.) Personally, fake plants, thin pieces of rock, or any sort of pole like structures that they can get their tail around will be perfect. As for lighting, seahorses do not need special lighting but if you would like to make the seahorse tank into a reef tank you will need this item. Just make sure you read the tank mate section before purchasing any new additions. One last thought for the inside of the tank is for more the watcher than the pony itself. Seahorses can change color to match their surroundings and through emotions. So if you would like a black seahorse, I would make all the hitching posts black, so that the seahorse would adapt to that color. Also, keep in mind that using nets may damage the bony structure of the seahorse. So whenever moving your seahorse, make sure you gently move it into a container that is underwater and then transport it. Please, if you see your local fish store using a net step in and ask them not to do that, it is your new addition and you have the right to do so. As a side note, if you are having difficulty moving your seahorses please do not force it from its hitching post. Use an alternative method than stress. By tickly the back side of the tail it should release it’s grip slightly where you should put your index finger at the edge of the tail and slide up. The seahorse will then use your finger as a hitching post and you will have delicate control. COMMON DISEASES As I said before, it is a good idea to make a list of things to look for when shopping for a seahorse. It is a good idea to have part of that list of common diseases. In this section I will simply list the disease and the symptoms. EXTERNAL GAS BUBBLE DISEASE~~~ Look for bubbles that are under the skin all over the body. A large symptom is difficulty with their buoyancy. The fish may rise uncontrollably much like a puffer fish when inflated. POP EYE:Very noticeably large eyes. This disease is very easily detected and the major cause of this is stress. EXTERNAL PARASITES:When having parasites on the outside of the body it is common to see the seahorse scratching itself on rocks, substrate or walls. It is also common to see the seahorse behave wildly, have fast motions almost as if to flick something off of it (in order to best describe it). As on most fish, look for signs of stress; bad coloring or rapid breathing. Now the most obvious thing to see is the parasites themselves; they often look like blisters or white spots. INTERNAL PARASITES:Are obviously a little harder to detect. It is a good idea to look for signs of starvation, weight loss. FLESH-EROSION DISEASE:This disease is just as it sounds. There will be erosion of the flesh, as if it is turning white. Most likely the fish will be stressed and have rapid breathing, swelling and cloudy eyes. INTERNAL GAS BUBBLE DISEASE:When this happens the entire body of the seahorse will be blown up. There will be external gas bubbles too but once again; the most noticeable factor is how it will look completely blown up. POUCH EMPHYSEMA: Obviously, this disease only affects the males considering they only have the pouches. It is most common to detect this by having a severely swollen pouch and major uncontrollable rising. SNOUT ROT:The snout on the seahorse will look very off. There will be major discoloration, swelling and erosion. This is a dangerous disease because it may cause what is called lockjaw and a loss of appetite. And the worst thing to ever see is a seahorse not eating.