This care sheet provides guidelines for maintenance of captive-bred (CB) seahorses by new seahorse keepers. Wild caught (WC) seahorses bring with them a host of challenging husbandry issues and often they do not survive for long. CB seahorses, properly cared for, live for several years in the aquarium. Wild caught seahorses appear to be cheaper, but cost more to maintain. We recommend all beginner keepers purchase captive bred seahorses only.
Selecting healthy seahorses
If you are buying from your local fish store (LFS), observe the seahorses carefully before you purchase. If buying from an e-tailer, be sure they have a good reputation and live guarantee. Confirm the seahorses are captive bred. It is important to observe/ask:
• Is the seahorse eating?
• What food is it eating and how often is it being fed?
• Is the body well-rounded with no signs of abdominal concavity?
Do not buy a seahorse that is not eating. You should be able to observe CB seahorses eating frozen mysis shrimp, krill or plankton. If a CB seahorse is not eating frozen food, it may not truly be CB, or it may not be healthy. The dwarf seahorse, H.zosterae, is an exception, whether CB or WC, it requires live food, generally enriched brine shrimp nauplii.
Do not buy a seahorse if you see:
Signs of skin sloughing or discoloration, inflammation, odd swimming behaviour, not using a hold-fast, lying on substrate or hitching upside down, minimal eye movement, protruding eyes, blisters, inflamed gill slits,
eroded snout, body or tail lesions or continuous heavy respiration. If you observe any of the above signs, play it safe and pass on the purchase. Do not try to "rescue" an obviously malnourished or sick seahorse.
It is good standard practice even for CB seahorses to be given a freshwater dip or formalin bath and be kept in a quarantine tank for six weeks before introducing them to a tank with other seahorses. Observe new purchases carefully for any odd behaviour or external lesions, spots or other anomalies. Usually the first sign of illness is cessation of appetite. If illness is suspected, refer to the disease guide and treatment recommendations on www.seahorse.org. Alternately, you can post on the discussion board in the Emergency Forum. Several expert keepers will be available to help you. Do not treat a seahorse without knowing what is affecting it. Only use recommended treatments.
The seahorse tank
Before you buy a seahorse, be sure you understand the basic principles of how to keep seahorses in the home aquarium. Keeping marine fish of any type requires knowledge of basic marine aquarium keeping and water chemistry. There are many books and other sources of information available. If you prepare adequately and set up an appropriate sized, fully cycled, and stable tank, you will greatly improve your chances of success.
before animals are added:
pH – 8.0 to 8.3
Specific gravity – 1.020 to 1.024
Ammonia – 0
Nitrite – 0
Nitrate – <20 ppm
Optimum temperature is dependent on whether the seahorse species is tropical, subtropical or temperate. Generally, beginners should start with tropical species as heating a tank is much less expensive than cooling one, and it is easier to maintain a stable temperature in a tropical tank. Try to keep to the lower end of the temperature ranges, and let the temperature fluctuate up towards the higher values of the temperature range.
Taller tanks are preferred. Seahorses need height (2.5 to 3 times the uncurled length of the animals) in their tanks to court and mate. As a minimum, the internal height of the tank, excluding the substrate, should be
at least 2 times the uncurled length of the seahorse you are keeping.
Use this table as a guide. While we list a recommended volume per pair of seahorses, this volume per pair is not the same as the minimum recom mended tank size. For example, for H.erectus, allow the first pair 15 gallons, then 8 gallons per pair after that.
We recommend you purchase CB seahorse species that have been trained to eat frozen foods. This makes feeding a simple task. Offer the frozen food, pre-thawed and rinsed, once or twice daily. You can supplement
frozen foods with live foods offered once per week for nutritional variety. Frozen food can be supplemented with fish vitamins, carotenoids and HUFA (highly unsaturated fatty acids, such as Selcon or Zoecon). An
exception to this recommendation is if you use Piscine Energetics brand frozen mysis, which does not require HUFA supplementation. Live foods should be gut-loaded with nutritious and vitamin-supplemented foods prior to feeding.