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FOTW: Seahorses!!!

Discussion in 'Fish Discussion' started by killafins, Jun 23, 2003.

  1. killafins

    killafins New Member

    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.
  2. killafins

    killafins New Member

    TANK MATES
    To put it simple, it is wise for beginners to have absolutely no tank mates. This way, you can spend your time learning how to do deal with the special needs of a seahorse.
    Now, keep in mind that seahorses get stressed out quite easily. The largest cause of this is by fast or aggressive moving fish especially during feeding time. As you know, seahorses aren’t the quickest of all fish and like to stare down their food before digging in. However, if you have five damsels in the tank with them, the likely hood of the pony getting any is very slim.
    However, if you still chose to have a seahorse tank mates I have prepared a common list of creatures that have been on many other seahorse tank mates lists.
    As for fish, the only fish I would recommend (even though there are a lot larger lists out there) is the pipefish and the mandarin. The only problem with having a mandarin is that you should have your tank setup with live rock for at least a year. You should also have a heavy supply of copepods because your mandarin will be eating copepods and so will your ponies. Another reason why I recommend pike fish and mandarin’s are they eat the same thing as seahorses and are slow and lazy eaters. They like the food to come to them.
    As for corals I’m going to cancel out all anemones. The problem with anemones is that they have long swinging arms that can catch a slow moving seahorse and sting it to death. You must keep in mind that seahorses are very curious animals and will explore everything, and will learn the hard way about anemones. So anything that can reach out long arms is a big no-no. Here is a small list of okay corals for a seahorse reef, clove polyp, finger leather, leather coral, Kenya tree coral, most brain coral, ivory coral, raspberry coral and candy coral. I know it’s a small list but these are the only corals I feel will be excellent for a seahorse aquarium.
    As for inverts, I would cancel all hermit crabs. I have personally seen a baby blue hermit grab my seahorse tail and not let go. I had to pry off the hermit and it took my quite the time to do so. So here is the list of my okays: snails, sponges, conches, sea slugs, porcelain crab, shrimp, most slow starfish (stay away from known fish catchers) and feather dusters.
    As for those that I would recommend completely to stay away from, I felt what seahorse.org said was excellent so this piece is straight from them: Tangs, Triggerfish, Groupers, Sharks/, Eeels, Nudibranchs, Filter-feeding Sea Cucumbers, Sea Urchins with sharp spines, Fireworms, Spanish Dancer Flatworms, Fire Corals, Lace Corals, Anemones, Tube Anemones, all Cephalopods (Squids, Octopuses, Cuttlefish, and Nautiluses), Mantis Shrimp, Lobsters, Heliofungia spp. Corals, Catalaphyllia spp. Corals, Euphyllia spp. Corals, Goniopora/Alveopora spp. Corals, Galaxea spp. Corals, and Hydnophora spp. Corals.
    FOODS!!!
    This is a very important section. The most problems I hear about having with seahorses is with them not eating or people trying to convert wild caught to frozen. If a seahorse doesn’t want to eat something there is no simple solution. However, a good source of food would be tiny shrimp such as mysis, ghost, glass, red shrimp or sushi shrimp, baby mollies and guppies. If you are just trying to get your seahorse to eat something, try brine shrimp. Most of the time it will get them to eat SOMETHING, but is not at all healthy for the seahorse. Use brine shrimp as a last resort. It is said that brine shrimp to them is like cardboard to us.
    Now in trying to train seahorses to eat frozen of other type of shrimp, I would recommend a few things. First, I would enrich the food with garlic. I would then mix up frozen and live food. For instance, I pour in mostly live food near some sort of current like the filter mixed with frozen food. All the food will look like it’s moving and may start to get the seahorse to eat the frozen. Another option is to set up a one-gallon bull and place the seahorse in there. Add the frozen from and eye drop so that it looks like it moves and mix up some live food.
    As for trying to convert it to a different shrimp, there really shouldn’t be a problem at all. Brine shrimp is not what seahorse usually eats out in the wild but some seahorses will only eat that for some reason. In such a case I would recommend mixing up live brine and mysis or any other type of live foods. Once again, pour a lot of the food around the seahorse and watch. IF it comes to placing the seahorse in a bowl to get it to eat, do so. Sometimes isolation of the food will give the seahorse more time to eat.
    In a case of this not working do not feed the seahorse for two to three days. Then, add whatever food you are trying to get it to eat. If it doesn’t take, feed the same food next day. If it doesn’t take than add the food it’s eating and then feed righteously for a few days and try over again. Soon, it will catch on that you are putting in food for it to eat.
    SEAHORSE PERSONALITY
    Seahorses have a very fun personality. They are very curious creatures and enjoy to explore. That is why you have to be careful with seahorses. They like to stick their head in caves, stare down there food and just simply explore. They like to see everything at once. In fact, that is the most enjoyable part of putting my seahorse in my tank. However, that is where the danger lies. It will explore dangerous areas too like corals and anemones and things that have a potential hazard to it. That is why I made the semi list.
    Seahorses get stressed out VERY easy. Simple things can stress them out and not let them eat. Once again, it is very important to take your time with these creatures. Please do not rush acclimation, please don’t try to play with them, and please be careful during feeding time. Like I said, they want to know everything that is going on. And if you have all your friends staring at it, the seahorse will keep its eye on you and stress itself out and just not eat.
    Seahorses are very mobile; they need a long tank to swim around it. However, it also needs a high tank to swim up and down with. Use your judgment on dimensions of the tank. Please remember that when I mean mobile, they like to swim to place to place to place and stop at each place and explore. That is why hitching posts are so essential.
    Finally, seahorses are very social. They like to be in tanks with two or more seahorses. They like to ‘herd’, I guess is the best term. So if you want a seahorse, expect to get more than one. It is best to get them in pairs too.
  3. killafins

    killafins New Member

    ON A PERSONAL LEVEL
    I find myself to be very educated about seahorses. That does not make me an expert or anything close to it. I have had my share of downs and some ups. But my biggest mistake was letting my LFS convince me in buying a seahorse. He claimed it was the best thing for my tank, well uneducated me thought that he was right and it would be great. Well, I learned my first lesson about seahorses… they need special environments. It was a good thing I had a 55 just ending it’s cycle. I had to move almost all my inhabitants into that tank.
    Then came my next mistake. Seahorses were social creatures. They like to ‘herd’, I guess is the best term. So I asked my LFS to order me another one or two. I mean, c’mon… what else could go wrong?
    However, the LFS didn’t get any seahorses in and my ‘Bella’ was depressed acting and not eating. So the only thing I thought of doing was trying to relieve stress but keep it company. I know this is weird, but it worked. Soon whenever I put my finger in the tank… she would come to it and wrap it’s tail around me and eat. It was the happiest moments of my life knowing that my affection has changed such a beautiful creature’s life. I actually felt that the seahorse enjoyed my company as much as I enjoyed hers. She became a lot more than a pet to me… she was like a dog to a man.
    The seahorse was doing excellent and I kept feeding it live brine shrimp. So one day I go to the LFS and he has a seahorse so my mom buys it for me on my birthday. Without seeing it eat or anything, I jumped to it thinking that this seahorse will be good for my Bella. I put the pony in the tank and waited a day. I tried to feed it live brine shrimp… it wouldn’t eat. I tried frozen… it wouldn’t eat. This was on April 13th… and I still can’t get the seahorse to eat anything I give it. So I soon started to buy live rock for the copepods for him, and all I can guess is that he found some sort of food source.
    With this starving pony I found out that live brine shrimp is horrible for seahorses. So I tried to look around and the cheapest I could find were 100 glass shrimp for 39 dollars. I could not afford this. I tried everything with training it and nothing worked. That is when I realized I made another huge mistake.
    Then I made another mistake, I bought a lawn mower blenny as a tank inhabitant. He seemed fine but I fed it shrimp pellets every night to make sure it didn’t go hungry. A month later, I started to notice Bella not looking good. It wasn’t something I could explain, but just a feeling. So I started to watch it more and more, woke myself up every three hours at night, made sure I checked up on her as many times as possible during day.
    One day, I was forced to stay late at work and I didn’t get a chance to feed my lawn mower blenny at its normal time. I came home forty minutes later and found it attacking my Bella. I immediately stopped it and put my two seahorses in the breeding net full of brine shrimp. To this day I can’t find affordable healthy shrimp. I spent until 5:30 in the morning, watching her and trying to do whatever I could. However, when I finally fell asleep… I woke up to find her dead.
    This story isn’t to scare you away from seahorses, but it’s to make you realize what you are getting into. Before you buy a seahorse, I ask… no I beg… you to research all you can and make sure you have EVERYTHING your new addition will need.
    We all must remember that by taking in an animal, we are taking in a child; someone who needs our help and is helpless in return. It may be our tanks, but it is there lives. Also, please remember that there is no substitution for this species. You can either have them or not.
    If you need any help or have any questions, please feel free to e-mail me at oceanfins@sbcglobal.net. I’d rather you ask and have me use my time to help you than for you to get into something dramatic.
    I dedicate this article to Bella, not just an animal but also a friend in hopes that others will not repeat the mistakes I have.
    November 21st - June 16th
    I would also like to thank kimkissiefish for all your help :)
  4. fshhub

    fshhub New Member

    nice job, thanx for doing this one, I am sure it will be appreciated.
    There has been some requests for seahorses, and it seems as though you have done quite a bit of work on it
  5. entice59

    entice59 New Member

    Good Job, just when i was getting into seahorses :D
    to think i thought i could put it into the same 5 gallon tank with my 2 percs, regal tang and my starfish:p
    sorry to hear about your seahorse :(
    i wish i started a seahorse tank my 55 instead of a reef. i didnt know they had that much of a personality
  6. ryebread

    ryebread New Member

    Very good job killafins........we might just keep you around after all. ;)
    Good info on these crazy little creatures.......I plan to keep seahorses some day down the road when I have the capibilities of caring for them properly.
    Good work. :)
  7. snakes'n'fish

    snakes'n'fish New Member

    I personaly have never thought of keeping sea horses. But your article has set up a very good outline for anyone to start. Very good article killafins!! :cool: :)
    Brian
  8. killafins

    killafins New Member

    Thanks guys, it means alot to know my article was appreciated.
    I hope it wasn't too long and boring... thnx for reading
  9. killafins

    killafins New Member


    Originally posted by RyeBread
    Very good job killafins........we might just keep you around after all. ;)

    I would hope so, lol... without this place I may have to get a life.
  10. jim27

    jim27 New Member

    Excellent work killafins. I've always found seahorses to be interesting, but didn't not crap about them. Thanks for changing that. :D
  11. killafins

    killafins New Member

    Haha, alright Jon-Paul.... it is called a leafy seadragon and they are related to the seahorse but much more difficult to keep. THey are called seadragons, much harder and not recommended to keep. I personally like the weedy dragons better...
  12. c_bell

    c_bell New Member

    Killafins
    I want to set up a dwarf seahorse in a 7 gal mini- bow. I have thought about it for a long time and reading this artical from top to bottom, i have decided to do it. What I have is a 7 gal mini bow with 10 lbs of tonga LR the tank has been set up for about 6 months a currently houses 2 perc clowns which are going to be moved to my other tanks. So how many dwarf seahorses will be OK for a 7 gal? My first thought would be 2, but I read the part that said they like to herd and have company and this got me thinking that maybe there needs to be more then 2.
  13. killafins

    killafins New Member

    If I may, I would like to suggest u just to buy another tank. I would personally recommend u get a 2 gallon tank. THis will be a whole lot better feeding. You will find that you have to feed them baby brine shrimp and the fact remains that seahorses will barely ever go for the food but wait for it to come to them except a few. If you have a seven gallon u have a whole lot of roaming space for the shrimp. Thus I would estimate about eight dwarves... it is said that with a ten gallon, ten seahorses will be fine and for two gallons five will be fine. I stand by my recommendation of putting a few bucks into a smaller tank but it's your choice. The smaller, in this case, is for beginners. When I start with dwarves once i move, i will personally start with a one gallon and keep three or four.
    If you have further questions: oceanfins@sbcglobal.net or keep posting
  14. dindi

    dindi New Member

    Great info killafins, I have a Brazilian pony and she eats mysis and hunts for 'pods as well. She is about 5 in right now and she shares her tank with my switch blade goby and 50 lb of lr in my 20 gal. Very active pony. I spend more time watching her than looking at my 75 gal FOWLR tank. I would love to add her to my 75 but I have a large (6in) clown surgeon who is very aggressive come feeding time.
  15. ophiura

    ophiura New Member

    Outstanding article, Killafins!!! :cool:
    I am very sorry to hear about Bella :( But you have helped many, I am sure, and I hope that is some comfort.
  16. killafins

    killafins New Member

    Thank you... i am very glad u r impressed and i hope so. When Finding Nemo comes out I plan on making a setup with the cheap pet department... it barely has tanks (no fish) and try to make soem sort of display with a tank in the middle. I doubt I will add a hippo but i'll figure something out. In the mean time I plan on creating, finding and writing articles on the fish from nemo to prevent them from just getting bought without any idea on the care needed. I realize other stores are doing this (the tank idea, i think i even read something about it on another forum)... but i wish to take it a step further so that the people can be educated, have fun and suceed.
    once again, thank you for all the compliments, i'm glad u all liked it and appreciated it.
  17. cb

    cb New Member

    My husband and I wanted to have seahorses when we first set up our tank . We found out that they were difficult to keep and required special care, so we decided to research more and will set up a small seahorse tank when we are confident enough to take care of them properly. I"m glad there are people like you who have experience with them to help us that want, but don"t know how.:)
  18. ty_05_f

    ty_05_f New Member

    Good article, That must have taken you a while to write that bad boy up. ;)
  19. killafins

    killafins New Member

    haha, not tooo long....
  20. broncofish

    broncofish New Member


    Originally posted by killafins
    THey are called seadragons, much harder and not recommended to keep. I personally like the weedy dragons better...

    FWIW they are actually endagered and protected. OCeanRider is going to start selling them soon though(tankbred) $1000.00 a piece and I believe is the rumored rate. The need to have a cooler system because they live at deeper depths (75 degrees) and can reach 12" in length.
    Killafins....well written...long but well worth the read.:D

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