Intro to Seahorse Care

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Introduction: Intro to Seahorse Care

About: I'm an animation director by day and Queen of the monsters by night. I picked up most of my costume and prop building skills through hands on experimentation with materials. Experimentation led to addiction,…

Seahorses are fascinating creatures that you can enjoy in your own home with proper knowledge of their husbandry. My mom had her own aquarium business when I was growing up and for 8 years we had a seahorse-centric tank in the living room, hosting both common and dwarf species at different times.

Due to the significant changes in standards for seahorse care since I kept them personally, I have removed much of the information form my original instructable. It wasn't up to the modern standard for their happiness and health. Some great places to go for information are Ocean Rider, long time captive breeding facility located in Hawaii, and also many FB groups about seahorse keeping.

Step 1: Captive Bred or Wild Caught?

If the label on the shop tank does not specifically say, another good question to ask is whether the seahorses are captive bred.

If the option is available, ALWAYS go for captive bred over wild caught! Captive breeding has been going on successfully for over 15 years, so there's no reason to support the sometimes cruel industry of wild capture.

Wild caught seahorse are exactly that --taken from the wild ocean. Many will not survive the trip to be in a shop tank, and those that do will likely have short lives. As with many other animals, wild caught seahorses do not adjust to captivity well. They will often refuse to eat and definitely will not be interested in frozen (dead) foods. They can also harbor parasites, which might exist in tolerable levels while in the ocean but then get out of control when the stress of travel shifts the balance of their health.

A "Captive Bred" seahorse had parents who lived in a tank, was born in a tank, and has lived its entire life in ...you guessed it...a tank. They have never, at any time, known the ocean. The term "captive" may sound negative, but in this case it is a big plus. Captive Bred seahorses make for much happier and healthier pets. It is unlikely that they will have parasites and they will be most likely to accept a variety of live and frozen foods. They may even, on occasion, be more sociable with their owners. Rather than viewing you as a predator to hide from, they understand that the big blob outside the glass is the bringer of food. We had one female, Winnie, who would actually come up and hitch to your finger if you put it in the water. She also lived the longest of all our seahorses.

*I'm not proposing anyone try to train their seahorses to do this, and honestly sticking your hand in the tank a lot is not a good idea. What can I say? We were kids and holy crap was that magical to see!

You may also see some seahorses advertised as "Tank Raised". My understanding is that this may mean the parents were taken from the wild and gave birth shortly after, or the seahorse was very young when it was captured. As long as it has grown large enough for sale, you're probably in the clear. Just be sure to ask about what foods it readily accepts.

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    19 Comments

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    tamiw2010
    tamiw2010

    6 years ago on Introduction

    Hi! I'm Tami Weiss from FusedJaw.com. Your article popped my google alert. Great article! I just wanted to mention a few things that I saw and don't entirely agree with.

    The first is with the suggestion that shipping is bad. The vast majority of seahorses that end up in fish stores have been shipped. Shipping itself is not the problem and they tolerate it quite well. However, most fish store seahorses come from overseas, and are shipped numerous times before they end up in the home aquarium. A typical example is farm - > exporter - > importer - > wholesaler - > fish store. Some wholesalers skip a step and import directly, but you're still talking a lot of shipping.

    Shipping direct from a breeder is a single shipping event. Its much better than the multiple stops that fish store seahorses make. And they handled that quite well. If packed properly, they can go through all but the most extreme temperatures. Some shady breeders don't use heat or ice packs during cold or hot weather, but they're few and far between. Asking what to expect with shipping is important to know the breeder is shipping right.

    Slow flow rate for seahorses is a myth that persists even though it's been debunked by seahorse aquarist years ago. They need moderate flowrate; a minimum of 10 times per hour, and most only feel comfortable going up to 20x per hour. Too slow and you have a build up of detritus and organics which are harmful towards seahorses. What is important is protecting intakes and overflows so seahorses can't get stuck on them or sucked into them.

    The temperature range suggested is probably too high. Yes, they come from warmer waters, but they're so prone to bacterial infections that cool water supresses the more virulent strains of vibrio, a particularly nasty seahorse bacteria. I don't like to see tropical seahorse tanks go over 74. The risk of infection is just too great.

    Finally, the idea that seahorses need a tall tank as opposed to a wide tank is another old wives tale. They do appreciate height, especially for breeding. However, they also use a lot of horizontal space for promenades during courting. And larger sizes are recommended because they can be territorial, and the produce a lot of waste. Can they be kept in smaller tanks? Yes, but they really won't reach their full potential both behaviorally and physically. 30 gallons is really the minimum tank size for most large seahorse pairs.

    0
    CREEPYPETS
    CREEPYPETS

    Reply 4 years ago

    Tami could you help me please on getting a seahorse . I need to ask you questions , so could you help me , please ?

    0
    orangebettaboy
    orangebettaboy

    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    Tami - been in aquariums for over 55 years. (and rescue since a young child with Woolworth having abominable tanks with crud conditions).

    Seahorse (as well any marine animal) require ADVANCED level ability.

    Your statement that they can be kept at smaller tank sized (but won't reach full size) underscores you ill advised background. Read Desmond Morris, others in Zoology. Goldfish often kept in smaller sizes will have stunted growth, but their inner organs continue to grow - causing death and much pain.

    As well like the old myth - betta's live in tiny puddles - they do not, huge systems, river, lakes even and in groups... all animals need space as in nature. And I lived in Japan and saw these systems. NOT tiny puddles. A myth to assuage those given these one cubic spaces with no heater filter then wondering why they die.

    Imagine yourself in an elevator with others at close proximity... yes fish as the same instincts, natural needs to need space... (esp smaller spaces are harder to create ideal conditions)... The larger the better.

    Stress hormones are produces, causing disease and illness - and fish (other species) send out hormones that say "stay away' your are too close (complex science I can email you the research).

    This is only ONE example of how seahorse's suffer due to anyone wishing to own them.

    One story that stood out in particular for Lach was that of a rapid decline in a seahorse species surrounding Indonesia.

    "This
    decline came suddenly, out of nowhere," he recounted. "A short time
    afterwards, the Polish customs officers intercepted a cargo of dried
    seahorses. It turned out that some Indonesian company exported them to
    Poland as dietary supplements, a total of 27 tons of seahorses.

    "How
    many seahorses had to die to produce 27 tons of powder? Millions. That
    almost threatened the extinction of the entire population, perhaps even
    more than one species.

    "It shows how easy it is to cause irreparable damage to nature and how stupid we are."

    ......................................................

    Shipping is always horrific...fish are stressed period. If fish are from Asia other countries, they are sorted out on tables (no water) like assembly line canned goods. If x amount die so be it - figured into cost of doing business. The pet trade is so horrific now I do not even have anything anymore. I have been (nyc) there when they (shipments) arrive -x amount dead on arrival, x amount half alive flushed down toilet (I having a background in NYC government, halted that under health code laws but took YEARS! While your site mentions caring advice - much is not so caring... Majority.

    I do not know where you get your information (well actually looked it up) but I get mine from scientific resources, actual experience, and working in the field.

    Especially as an animal abuse "rescuer" including FISH, your information is sorely lacking or "one sided" in the least. (background in biochemistry, chemistry of arts, Pre vet,zoology studies, and more)...

    I did rescue at major pet discount stores - begins with bettas, pacus, marine life (horrific) and I can assure you, shipping is horrific. Betta's, and many other fish are 50% dead on arrival. I was allowed into their shipping arrival area (management let me try to save what I could). (did rescue for those about to be dumped down sewer - illegal).

    And even then, most do not do the copious research, preparation (such as I learned as a child from going to libraries as a child, Dr. Innes, others and maturing a tank for months before bringing in specimens - local, healthy not shipped.

    They are bred rarelly (if can be if not harvested from oceans) and harvesting I learned in late 60's meant dumping poisons in the water to stun fish and then harvest them.

    Visit any seaside - ocean area where shops have dried sea horses (gadds even when I was in NYC and visited the flower district - dried seahorse all over the place - these were NOT bread... Harvested from oceans. Chinatown ditto for medicinal purposes.

    Many are going extinct from such "harvesting"... during Hurricane season in Florida many miniature species were wiped out.

    Any marine animal is harder to create a suitable envoronment then fresh - and that is difficult enough- I know, I still get copious emails from old fish forum asking... my betta is dying in its' cold one cup cube aquarium - I asked "yahoo" what am I doing wrong.

    These are living souls, not objects for our gratification.

    You posted your views. Thanks for allowing me to post mine.

    0
    ashleyjlong
    ashleyjlong

    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    orangebettaboy--thanks for your passion about the quality of life we provide for our aquatic pets. I agree that just because one CAN keep something in a cup of water, it doesn't mean you SHOULD. You're right that these are lives we should do our best for, not just decorations.

    I think both Tami and I would agree with you that the dried seahorses seen in gift shops and medicinal use are harvested from the wild. Nobody was ever debating that --what a horrible practice! Hopefully someday that will become illegal, though I don't hold my breath for it. I can also understand why you have become soured on the pet trade having looked behind the scenes.

    I'm guessing Tami will have plenty of science and experience to back up the things on FusedJaw that you might take issue with. Even experiences that differ will still be valid. I think you both have the best interests of the creatures at heart.

    0
    ashleyjlong
    ashleyjlong

    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    Very glad to have your input, Tami! When searching for current info, Fusedjaw had some of the best information out there!

    I will incorporate some of this new into into the appropriate Ible sections. 30gallons absolutely makes sense for the large species, which I have never kept. My recommendation to avoid shipping to the home was also based on personal experience. Any horses we ordered usually showed up displaying signs of ill health (unable to hitch and remain upright, sloughing skin) and didn't last long. Hard to say whether that was a product of the act of shipping, or if those companies shipped us sickly horses from the start. No doubt shipping methods and standards for shipping live creatures have changed for the better since then, and I definitely understand that any marine fish will have gone through SOME kind of shipping at some point. You're right--asking about a provider's shipping methods is a very good practice.

    The expectation of no breeding actually seemed to be the prominent opinion in forums I perused online. I guess I happened to be looking at a lot of people without ideal conditions then! I will make a note of that as well.

    Thanks for stopping in and giving recommendations that will keep seahorses in the best of health!

    0
    tamiw2010
    tamiw2010

    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    Aw, thanks so much! I try to do my best to write helpful info; if only I had more hours in the day...

    I would have to assume your experiences were a problem with the supplier. I've gotten burned by an unethical breeder who shipped without heat packs in the dead of winter. So it's important to research your breeder. But most seahorse breeders would never consider such a thing. Buying from a breeder vs a general fish supplier is also really important. Most general purpose fish suppliers just don't have the knowledge to care for and handle seahorses correctly.

    Here is a thread that shows how to ship - but it also is a good demonstration of how the packaging should look from a breeder: http://seahorsetalk.fusedjaw.com/breeding/shipping...

    0
    CREEPYPETS
    CREEPYPETS

    4 years ago

    Tamiw2010 could you help me please , im thinking on getting a seahorse and i would like to ask you questions please ?

    0
    Martkell
    Martkell

    5 years ago

    Hi all. I am ready to embark on my new adventure. Have had tank up and ready for months now however i am gunshy. I have 44 gallon pentagon corner unit with HOB for a 60 gallon, one piece of fake fan coral, one piece of tonga, and one piece of "manufactured" live rock. I have noticed that recently i have had some red slime algae forming on bottom due to too much natural light possibly. Can i get a small water circulator for bottom of tank? Oh and i have one green chromis

    0
    ashleyjlong
    ashleyjlong

    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    You know, I would actually try contacting user Tami (see comments below) as she has extensive experience with seahorse set ups. Your tank furniture sounds nice, though I do wonder whether a chromis will be a good roommate for a seahorse. I have had some in the past and recall that while they are not as territorial as a damsel, they will still always be faster to snatch the food than your seahorse.

    0
    sunshiine
    sunshiine

    6 years ago on Introduction

    I enjoyed reading this instructable because it was so interesting. I know more about seahorses. I wish you the best in the contest and do have a nice weekend.

    sunshiine~

    So cool. I love seahorses. I would never keep them as pets, because I know I would not give them the care and attention they need. If you can't keep a plant alive, you definitely are not a good candidate for seahorse ownership.

    0
    ashleyjlong
    ashleyjlong

    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    Ha! Agreed. It is important to recognize what you AREN'T good at. My only plants are succulents and carnivorous varieties because you pretty much just leave them alone.

    Thanks for stopping by and reading!

    0
    tamiw2010
    tamiw2010

    6 years ago on Introduction

    Oh, one last thing - seahorses love to breed. More people write in about how to get their seahorses to stop breeding than the other way around. If seahorses aren't breeding, there is probably a problem with their setup.

    0
    ashleyjlong
    ashleyjlong

    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    Even if it happens readily, is it something you feel the average hobbyist should undertake? Several sites I visited stressed how delicate baby seahorses are and obviously they need very tiny foods when they start out.

    0
    cwillis4
    cwillis4

    6 years ago

    very cool. I really want to try and raise some of these little guys.

    0
    kaboom949
    kaboom949

    6 years ago

    Thanks for the info. I've had various sized marine setups in the past and I'm looking to "downsize" on the next one. This sounds perfect. Thanks again for the clear, concise and knowledgable Instructable.

    0
    kaboom949
    kaboom949

    6 years ago

    Excellent article! I have a filtration question. In your setups were you using canister filters or full integrated set ups with protein skimmers, etc? Also, what are the lighting requirements? Sorry, that was two questions.

    0
    tomatoskins
    tomatoskins

    6 years ago

    Well now I want a seahorse! In all my trips to oceans and reefs around the world I've only ever seen seahorses in Honduras. It's so exciting to find them when you do. As a SCUBA diver and someone who is concerned about the ocean, I love how your said that you should always get a seahorse that's been bred in captivity. There are already enough missing seahorses out there, no need to make it less than it already is.