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For The Love of Seahorses

Posted on Friday, December 18th, 2009 at 10:49 am by
Reidi Seahorse

Seahorses used to be considered one of the most difficult sea creatures to keep in an aquarium. Wild caught seahorses were plagued with internal parasites, bacterial infections, and appetites for expensive live shrimp. Advancements in technology and marine fish breeding have led to large populations of readily available captive bred seahorses, making it unnecessary to buy wild caught seahorses. Because of this, seahorses are no longer difficult to keep, as long as you follow basic seahorse care requirements.

If you decide to keep seahorses as pets, it is important to find a supply of healthy stock. Check with the breeder to make sure the seahorses are bred indoors and not in ocean pens where they would be subjected to the same parasites and disease that wild caught seahorses would. Purchasing seahorses from a local breeder or an online company in your country will reduce travel time and stress. the Hippocampus erectus or Lined Seahorse is among the hardiest and easiest to keep of all medium-sized seahorses. They are native to the United States; most of the captive bred stock in the U.S. today is likely descended from Floridian ancestors. In this article, we’ll focus on Erectus seahorses.

A 30 gallon aquarium is the minimum size for a single pair of Erectus seahorses. Two pairs may be kept in a 50 gallon aquarium. If breeding or courtship viewing is a goal, the tank should be at least 16 inches tall. Seahorses need frequent meals of frozen mysis, at least twice a day.  Live rock and macroalgae can help reduce nitrates and house tiny, nutritous crustaceans called Copepods and Amphipods for the seahorses to snack on between meals. A powerful filter will also help reduce nitrates.

Baby Erectus Seahorse

The most important piece of equipment on a seahorse aquarium is a chiller. Seahorses are sensitive to infections of the bacteria Vibrio spp. A protein in the Vibrio bacteria changes when the temperature rises above 74 degrees Farhenheit. The seahorses then have reduced immunity while the bacteria becomes more virulent, aggressive, and prolific. It’s a good idea to keep the aquarium temperature between 68 and 74 degrees for Erectus Seahorses. Raising the temperature for even a short time can open the door to an infection.

Seahorse tank mates should be carefully considered. Large, aggressive fish like tangs, triggers, puffers, and lionfish are not safe with seahorses. Anemones, corals with stinging tentacles, brain corals, and crabs can be very dangerous to seahorses. Use caution with clams which may pinch a seahorse’s tail, Cleaner Shrimps which can irritate a seahorse or be aggressive, and nuisance anemones such as Aiptasia and Majanos which can sting. Only the most peaceful, shy fish are safe to keep with seahorses. Tiny gobies, small Brotulids, Firefish, Pipefish, Mandarins, and Scooters are a few fish that are totally seahorse safe. Once your seahorses are fully grown and comfortable, Flasher Wrasses, small Anthias, Tilefish, and other small, peaceful fish may be added, but should be removed at the first sign of aggression or if the seahorse can’t get its share of food.

White Seahorse

Seahorses will try to wrap their tails around anything, including the impeller of a powerhead or a scorching hot heater. Avoid using open powerheads and heaters in a seahorse aquarium. A heater is unnecessary in all but the coldest climates. If you must put a heater in your seahorse aquarium, use a heater guard or put it in the sump away from seahorse tails. Although seahorses aren’t the best swimmers, they are tolerant of fast, gentle currents. Avoid powerheads that spray water in a tight jet and instead opt for spraybars and wide nozzles.

Captive Bred seahorses that are well fed and cared for can live five years or more in captivity. They aren’t the weak, delicate creatures they were once thought to be and are actually quite sturdy and forgiving of minor water quality problems. Unlike wild caught seahorses, captive bred seahorses are accustomed to human interaction. They can become very tame, begging for food and hitching to the seahorse keeper’s fingers.

Photos and article by Felicia McCaulley


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2 Responses to “For The Love of Seahorses”

  1. Mark says:

    Bravo! Thanks for publishing responsible advice. Seahorses are as beautiful as they are interactive, but caution and education are necessary to keep them in good health. Thanks for highlighting this species and their needs!

  2. Marie Court says:

    These animals are so magestic looking as they swim

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