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Guide on Adopting Seahorses as Pets

longsnout seahorse
Seahorses are delicate creatures and they present one of the greatest challenges for those bent on keeping them as pets in reef tank. Believe it or not, even for some of the most advanced and experienced aquarist, quite a number of them actually gave up and conceded that these tiny creatures are best left living in the wild. Seahorses, despite they odd and curvy shape which somehow does not resemble or not look like any of the marine fishes, actually belongs to the class of ray-finned fishes called Actinopterygii and further sub-division puts them in their own rightful group or family named Syngnahidae. Among the other interesting fish family which also belongs to and share the same classification are the pipefishes and seadragons and within the circle itself, you can find that there are at least 54 different species of the seahorses categorized and known to date. 

There are quite a number of interesting facts related to this fish which makes them unique or as some others will put it, the term “Exotic”. Certain species of the seahorses are very rare and trying to identify the correct ones can be very tedious because this creature is known to change its color frequently, adapting to its natural environment, in accordance to a change of water quality, temperatures and other surrounding factors so that they can blend in well. In other words, the camouflage ability actually provides them a form of mechanism which allows the seahorses to stay alive and thrive in the wild. Keeping them alive as pets in the reef aquarium environment, might be a different story as it requires one to understand not only about the tank conditions which they live in but also their feeding habits, foods, behavior, compatibility, their nature of breeding, as well as how to care for them when they fall sick. The compilations of the details listed here hope to serve as a guideline and help us understand better about this fascinating and unique creature.

Tank Condition
Seahorses thrive in water temperature ranging from 24 to 25 degree Celsius, somehow alkaline in nature with pH ranging from 7.8 to 8.0 with the SG (specific gravity) between 1.020 and 1.024. Even though it is a norm to introduce some volatility and water turbulence in the saltwater tank, this should be toned down to having only some mild water movement taking into consideration that the seahorses are not strong swimmers. Even though the water quality is not something far-fetching, which in fact should be more or less the same required by the other common marine fishes but because of their weak swimming ability, they are best left living alone in their own single-species tank. Furthermore, studies carried out on seahorses to understand their behavior shows they are quite docile, which often becomes subject of bullying and harassment by the other fish coupled with their lack of some form of natural defensive mechanism, it is best that these creature should have the luxury of the tank to their own. Anemones and other stinging cell creatures should be avoided at all cost and so does the torpedo-shaped swimmers which often grab the foods fast before anyone gets to it.

Tank Setup
In order for your pets to survive well and thriving, it is suggested that the reef tank should also be complemented with a well-established, healthy population of corals. And because seahorses do not have a tailfin and instead rely on something called prehensile which allows them to anchor on straight or criss-crossed branches, you should ensure that all these are available or else you might have to think of getting an artificial setup. Aquatic vegetation such as Turtle grass also serves the purpose for them to anchor on but having these vegetation might instead relate to other unwanted problems such as overgrown nuisance competing for nutrients with your corals. The nooks and crevices of the coral openings also provide some form of hiding space for those newly-introduced pets or for those lovely breeding pair shy couple to retreat to and therefore if you can’t cater for all these, you might have to think of some other ways to create an artificial environment that mimics the coral setup suggested earlier.

Foods and Feeding
This is perhaps the most problematic area. First, it is about finding the right foods that they will eat and Second, how to ensure that you have a continuously supply free-flowing daily without fail. Seahorses unfortunately have a very small mouth opening which means that all the conventional dried foods in pellets and even in powder size will be out of the question. I have never seen pet shops selling seahorses’ special-made food or any dried form made solely for them for that matter, thus you have to be independent and come up with your own home-made foods instead. When it comes to the correct diet, first thing first, they are not herbivorous. Contrary to popular beliefs that seahorses will eat algae is absolutely wrong. The diets which are known best for them are rotifers, daphnia, cultured baby shrimps; anything which is microscopic enough not to be seen by our naked eyes is their choice of the right meal. Thus, if you have doubts and are unsure whether you can meet this requirement, then my advice is you might just have to cut short on your next move and think of how to solve this basic issue before you even start scouting and buying your pet seahorses. 

Pairing and Breeding
Seahorses once paired are known to stick to their partner for life. They have a very unusual breeding habit because the male will actually carry the eggs in a pouch and it was an accepted notion that fertilization actually takes place in the male body instead of the female. It is also quite surprising to see male seahorses develop a bulge in the stomach which carry the offspring until they hatch and then releases the tiny baby seahorses into the water. You will be amazed if you happened to see that on a video. Tank breeding of seahorses is becoming a norm these days and successful entrepreneurs actually embark on large scale projects to develop aquaculture (captive-bred) seahorses so that the numbers can meet the demands of the market. Seahorses is regarded as having beneficial medicinal properties in the eastern culture and in countries like China, seahorses are actually consumed as delicacy. The demands for these purposes actually far-exceeded those numbers in the pet industry and those who relentlessly pursue their objective of successful keeping them will often find that the addiction is too strong to contain once you managed to keep one or two alive.

Related marine topics: Exotic Angelfish, Bannerfish and Royal Gramma



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About Me

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My fascination and interest towards aquarium fish has led me to devote my time towards caring and learning about this wonderful pet.

Aquarium fish keeping is a very challenging and exciting hobby. When I first started, I never knew much or have the necessary guidance back then because none of my family members were actually a keen hobbyist. And because of that, I’ve encountered numerous failures and the worst part is having to deal with dead fish every time when you started to grow fond and getting attached to my pets. However, I persevered and took steps to find out and search for information from other hobbyist, apart from the knowledge gained and learned from my own experience and research. The blog that I’ve created here is meant to share useful information and tips about aquarium fish keeping so that new hobbyist will not make the same mistakes that I’ve made in the past."

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