Dwarf Seahorses As Pets

Written By: | Date Posted: 02/23/2009 | 98 Comments |
Newly Arrived Dwarf Seahorses

Newly Arrived Dwarf Seahorses

They arrived via postal mail one blustery January afternoon, circa 1988. One pair of dwarf seahorses, ordered from the back of a Field & Stream magazine. I placed them in a 10 gallon tank with an undergravel filter, my first marine aquarium. Little did I know this was a completely inappropriate set up for them. Yet these hardy, thumbnail–sized seahorses thrived.

Much has changed regarding our understanding of seahorse care, and many other species are now commonly available. Yet the dwarf seahorse remains an ever popular, easy to care for aquarium pet. The basics of  keeping them are quite simple as long as you follow a few guidelines.

Biology

Before getting into their care, its important to understand a little bit about their biology.
Dwarf seahorses belong to the genus Hippocampus, which is the genus all seahorses belong to. Their species name, zosterae comes from the habitat they are usually found in. Zostrea is a type of seagrass, also know as eel grass. H. zosterae inhabit sea grass beds in the Gulf of  Mexico, though its not limited to just eel grass. They prefer protected areas where the water flow is buffered from the main ocean currents, usually lagoons and sheltered areas near reefs. They occasionally are found floating in seaweed as well.

True to their name, the dwarf seahorse only grows up to an inch. Occasional oddball “large” dwarf seahorses are reported, but these are likely mis-identified juveniles of other species. Their main food in the wild is copepods, although other micro- and macro-scopic plankton is consumed. H. zosterae aren’t particularly long lived, having a life span between 12 and 18 month. However, they breed quite readily, and can produce three generations of seahorses per year in the wild. More in captivity where the seasons don’t influence breeding behavior.

Housing

Keeping dwarf seahorses have very basic housing requirements. They only need a small tank with a sponge filter to thrive. More complicated set-ups tend to be less successful. The reason for this is simple. Too much water flow created by mechanical filters stirs up the water too much for these weak swimmers. Stronger filtration also runs the risk of removing their food from the water column.

The size of the aquarium to house dwarf seahorses is the exact opposite of what you usually hear when keeping fish: You want to keep the aquarium appropriately small. The reason behind this is to maintain food density without compromising water quality. If you keep the seahorses in too large of an aquarium, you run the risk of them starving, or so much food being present that it doesn’t get eaten and fouls the water.

The specific size needed depends on the number of seahorses being kept. Below is a charge of how many dwarves for what size aquarium.

  • 1 gallon: 2 – 3 to start, max 6 adults *Keeping an aquarium this small is a challenge to keep balanced, and shouldn’t be attempted by first time aquarium owners.
  • 2.5 gallon: 4 – 6 to start, max 12 adults
  • 5 gallon: 8 – 12 to start, max 20 adults
  • 10 gallon: No fewer than 20 adults.

The tank should be set up and cycled before any seahorses are added. Cycling is the process of establishing the biological filtration that keeps the water clean. This is important especially since some vendors still suggest that dwarf seahorses can be added immediately to a new aquarium. While dwarves are frequently tough enough to withstand a cycle, ammonia burn and nitrite poisoning can cause long term complications. There is no point in risking the lives and health of this precious animal for a few weeks of cycling time.

A 5 gallon aquarium with artifical corals and plants

A 5 gallon aquarium with artifical corals and plants

Generally you don’t want to use live rock for cycling the dwarf aquarium. Two methods that are commonly used are fishless cycling with ammonia and fishless cycling with shrimp. These techniques are beyond the scope of this article, but you can read about them here: fishless cycling with ammonia, fishless cycling with shrimp

Dwarf seahorse are subtropical, but can handle a wide range of temperatures as long as the change isn’t too quick. you can expect to successfully keep them between the temperatures of 65 and 80 degrees, with 68-74 being optimal. This means they don’t need a heater if kept in a normally heated house. A thermometer is a must though, to monitor for large temperature swings and the temperature going outside of the safe zone. Seahorses, while true marine fish, aren’t too picky about their salinity. Any specific gravity from 1.015 to 1.025 is acceptable as long as the change is made gradually. Take special care though, to replenish evaporated water every day. With a small tank, evaporation and replenishing water can cause wild swings in salinity.

Dwarves, just like the adults, need places to hitch. Many keepers opt for artifical decorations because of the risk of hydroids (see below.) Most basic aquarium plants work well. Macro Algaeas can be used but must be treated for hydroids. Live rock should be used with caution, as many pest can hitch hike in and harm the diminutive seahorse.

Food

Because of their size, dwarves need to be feed tiny live food. Fortunately, brine shrimp hatched from eggs fits this description, and is easy to hatch and raise. A small brine shrimp hatchery is easy to set up and maintain, and setup and feeding will only take roughly 15 minutes a day. The simplest set up is an inverted 2 liter soda bottle. You will need:

  • Soda bottle
  • Airline hose
  • Air pump
  • Valve
  • Lamp
  • Coffee filters
  • Funnel
  • Turkey baster

You’ll want to take the 2ltr bottle and cut about 1/3rd of the bottom off. Keep the bottom. Tighten the cap and turn the bottle upside-down. You should be able to take the bottom you cut off and rest the bottle inside of it. Fill that bottle half way full of saltwater at 35ppt (natural salinity level). Put an airline hose in the bottle to the bottom, and set the air to vigorously turn the water just a bit. You don’t want it so high that it could destroy the newly hatched brine shrimp. Now, place a lap pointed at the bottle – light is required to activate the enzyme in the brine shrimp egg that causes the egg to hatch. Add approximately 1/4 tsp of brine shrimp eggs.

After approximately 24 hours, the eggs will have hatched. Take the airline out, and let the brine shrimp sit for 15 minutes or so with the light off or in a darkened area. The brine shrimp will settle to the bottom, while the egg shells will float to the top. Once they’ve separated, take the turkey baster and suck out the brine shrimp from the bottom (they will be bright orange). Then line your funnel with a coffee filter, and filter the brine shrimp you took out with the baster in the funnel with the coffee filter. Once the hatch water has drained, give them a rinse with fresh water. You can now add the baby brine shrimp to the tank.

Dwarf seahorse fry surrounded by newly hatched brine shrimp

Dwarf seahorse fry surrounded by newly hatched brine shrimp

You’ll eventually figure out how much you want to add, but you’re looking to add enough so that the seahorses can eat pretty much constantly but not so much that there is a lot left over at the next feeding. You can put the unused baby brine shrimp in the fridge in fresh salt water for a second feeding later in the day. Ideally, dwarves should be fed twice a day. You can also set up a second hatchery, but refrigerating the unused baby brine shrimp is usually sufficient.

Dwarves need constant access to food, which means they have to be feed at least every day. They can not go prolonged periods without food, so if the aquarist is leaving town, they need to have someone pet sit who is prepared to hatch out live brine shrimp every day. They also do not work very well as office pets, as going a whole weekend without food could spell disaster for dwarf seahorses.

Breeding

Dwarf seahorse fry hitching on a piece of macro algae.

Dwarf seahorse fry hitching on a piece of macro algae.

If you plan on keeping dwarf seahorses, sooner or later you will have babies. That’s just a fact of keeping the marine equivalent of guppies. Fortunately, the babies are extremely easy to raise. They can even be raised in the same aquarium with the same food as the parents.

Like other seahorses, it is the male that becomes pregnant. They are gregarious by nature, and don’t pair bond. In the wild, their breeding is limited by the seasons, but in the home aquarium they can breed constantly. The male can have a brood every 10 days, and can have 5-30 at a time. Most spawns are generally around 10 or so babies at a time. The babies hitch at birth, and will often be found hanging from the male’s head, snout, tail, etc… at birthing time.

One baby hangs on to the tail while another other emerges from the pouch.

One baby hangs on to the tail while another other emerges from the pouch.

Raising the young can be as simple as adding enough food to make sure that the babies are sufficiently fed. However, higher success rates are achieved by raising the babies separately. Its unclear why this might be; lack competition for food or possible unnoticed aquarium pests may be to blame. Raising the babies separately is quite simple though. All they need is a cycled aquarium set up like their parents. A bare bottom aquarium is even easier to keep clean for raising babies, and makes changing out the tank for each new brood much easier.

Whether you rear them in tank or on their own nursery, after about 6 weeks, they will start reaching sexual maturity and many will start acting amorous towards the opposite sex. Sexing starts to be possible, though some late bloomers may not show a pouch for a couple more weeks.

Acquiring Dwarf Seahorses

Dwarf seahorses are rarely sold in local fish stores so the beginning aquarist may wonder what to do about getting them. Even the occasional store that does get them in, they rarely have the knowledge or appropriate conditions to keep them alive. For that reason, its usually best to go through a mail order vendor.

Captive Bred
Seahorsesource.com
Seahorse Corral

Wild Caught
I no longer recommend ccritters due to poor packaging and poor customer support. Please think twice before purchasing wild seahorses.

Many Florida fish collectors, including those that sell on Ebay, do very little to take care of the animals before they get to you. Never let them be shipped with anything less than overnight. Many vendors claim they will do fine with slower shipping methods, but that’s largely because it’s often cheaper to replace the whole bunch than to pay for overnight shipping. Aquabid is another source to avoid for dwarf seahorses; the same type of catch and sell vendors use that site to sell seahorses without any concern for their wellbeing.

Hydroids!

Hydroid polyps on live rock.

Hydroid polyps on live rock.

No article on dwarf seahorses is complete without a discussion of hydroids. Hydroids are tiny stinging animals that resemble anemones and jellyfish depending on the stage in their lifecycle.  They are present in most marine aquariums, but only become a problem when they are feed a constant supply of small, free floating foods. When that happens, the can spread in such large numbers that they literally cover every surface of the aquarium.

This poses a problem for dwarf seahorses for two reasons. In such large numbers, they can quickly consume all the food in the aquarium. However, a much bigger threat comes from their stings. Their sting isn’t particularly potent to most animals, but for the tiny dwarf seahorse, the sting can be deadly.

Eradicating hydroids is fortunately very simple. They are susceptible to the medication “fenbendazole”. It can be purchased at farm supply stores or online under the brand name “pancur”, which is a dewormer for horses, cats and dogs. Dosage is as follows:

1/8 teaspoon of the horse dewormer granules (22.2% fenbendazole) per 10 gallons of water. 25% water change 24 hours later.

*Be warned*, some inverts are also affected by this treatment. Worms, some snail, gorgonians and some corals can be killed by fenbendazole.

Many people opt for artificial decorations to avoid hydroids. You can remove the animals in questions and replace them after a partial water change and running carbon for 48 hours; however you run the risk of reintroducing hydroids back into the tank.

Just how do you know if you have hydroids? The first symptom is food disappearing faster than it used to. If you notice that, start looking in the tank for small jellyfish no bigger than 1/4 inch. This is the free swimming stage of hydroids. If you don’t find that, then look for brown or clear “fuzz” growing in the tank. It will be a dense mat, and on observing closely, you should see them stinging and consuming the brine shrimp you add to the tank. If you find you have hydroids, don’t panic, just follow the above guidelines for treating the tank.

Tankmates

Florida Pugnose Pipefish does well with dwarf seahorses.

Florida Pugnose Pipefish does well with dwarf seahorses.

Because of their small size, animals that are normally safe with seahorses can be a potential threat. Scavengers, such as hermit crabs and cleaner shrimp, can easily overcome and kill a dwarf seahorse. Even those tankmates that are okay with adult dwarves can easily consume baby dwarves. For that reason, people rarely keep other fish with their dwarves. I have experimented with a few different fish, and found that your cleaner gobies and firefish are the safest, though will sometimes eat babies. Some small pipefish do well with dwarf seahorses as well, though may have a tendancy to eat fry.

Snails are probably the best clean up crew. Nassarus snails can be used for cleaning up waste in the sandbed. Some people have said they’ve had success with small hermits but I would recommend against it. Some small shrimp, such as sexy shrimp and anemone shrimp can be kept, with caution, with dwarf seahorses. Most other clean up animals are inappropriate for dwarf seahorses.

98 Responses to “Dwarf Seahorses As Pets”

  1. Felecia Williamson Says:

    I enjoyed reading your article and have added it to “Favorites”

  2. Aquagrrl Says:

    Ordering online is probably the best way to go. Shipping is fine for seahorses, as long as the shipper knows what they’re doing. In a lot of ways, shipping directly to the individual is better. That way they’re not sitting at a fish store where they may not have the specialized knowledge or set up for their care. A list of online sources is available here: http://www.fusedjaw.com/?p=127

  3. Michelle Fitts Says:

    Where can I purchase seahorses, I live in Boston, MA so Im assuming my best bet is via mail service but isnt that horrible to ship seahorses?

  4. K.N Says:

    the babies look so cute!!!!!! =0)

  5. Dave E. Says:

    Will a watchman goby be a safe fish to keep in with dwarf seahorses? I read they are peaceful, bottom dwelling fish.
    Thank you,
    David

  6. Aquagrrl Says:

    That’s a tough call. The Tankmates Article says that they are a one – good with everything but might not be safe with seahorse fry. Dwarfs are a bit of an anomaly, being so small, but they’re larger than fry.

    My guess would be that they’d be safe with adult dwarfs but might eat baby dwarfs. If you were to try it, I’d be sure to keep a close eye on the watchman goby for a few weeks, and have a net handing in case you have to remove it. If you really want to be safe, I’d suggest either a neon goby or firefish.

  7. David Says:

    Hi :
    I have successfully cycled my 12 gallon nannotank and have just added 12 dwarf seahorses in the aquarium. It has been setup now for 5 weeks.
    The aquarium has red algae/slime which is now almost completely covering my merman’s shaving plants and live seafans, the local fish stores here in South Florida all recommend I use chemicals to get rid of the red slime. I puchased a red slime rid but I am hesitant to add any to the tank with my dwarfs.
    I have not done a partial water change yet waiting for the nitrifying bacteria to become fully established.
    I would appreciate your recommendation.
    Thank you,
    David E.

  8. Aquagrrl Says:

    Red slime algae (cyanobacteria) is generally a sign of high phosphates in the water. They are harmless except that they can fuel algae blooms, as you’re now seeing. There are a few ways you can reduce nitrates. Water changes are probably the best way, but if you’re not finished with the cycle, I can see why you wouldn’t want to. Chemical means are another way, phosphate removers, or general pads for removing organics will work too. They are usually in a pad or gravel form to be put in a filter.

    Red Slime removers, what you were recommended, work too, but they have to be accompanied by a water change anyway. They also can be hit or miss. And you do here rare accounts of tanks crashing when its used.

    I’d personally do water changes, you’re probably not going to take out enough water to remove all the ammonia and nitrite to really make a difference, but you can start removing phosphates. Also consider using RO/DI water to make your salt water if you’re not already – a lot of phosphates come from tap water.

  9. David Says:

    Well, my red slime is gone and I just want to say a word about Cramer’s Caribbean Critters.
    Dana is wonderful to deal with , he packs everything professionally and he backs up with action everything he states to the customer.
    I had a yellowhead jawfish arrive doa, Dana immediately replaced the loss.
    Unlike other collectors of dwarf seahorses I have dealt with, Dana responds right away by phone and email, giving his professional opinion on compatibilty of marinelife. I will only buy from Cramer’s Caribbean Critters from now on.
    Dana is a true professional and I highly recommend him to anyone wanting to purchase marine fish and invertebrates.
    Thank you,
    David Ellenberg

  10. David Says:

    Good morning Aquagirl:
    I have noticed that my rock surface are covered with the white hydroids, some of my dwarfs were lost in the last few days, I do not know if they came in contact with the hydroids or another reason.
    The problem I have is I also have some beautiful tubeworms and gorgonias as well as snails, anemonoe shrimps and I am adverse on placing chemicals into the water , I did get rid of the red slime with it.
    Are there any natural preditors that would eat the hydroids with no harm to the dwarf seahorses?
    If not, is there a chemical cure that will rid the tank of hydroids without harm to the inverts? That is reef safe?
    Thanks very much for your help!
    David

  11. Aquagrrl Says:

    Enough hydroids can kill even adult dwarves, but a bigger potential problem is depriving them of food; a large colony of hydroids can quickly consume all the food in a small aquarium. And the more you feed, the faster they grow.

    The only thing I know of is a hydroid eating nudibranch. I personally don’t have experience with them, you can get them direct from some collectors. I did get one for my reef, and it seemed to immediately be drawn to the hydroids, but fell into a near by ricordia after about 10 minutes in the tank and was killed, so they must be very sensitive.

    I also suspect it will take time for nudibranchs to consume all the hydroids. If you try them, I’d try a couple, and even before introducing, scrub where the hydroids are and syphon as you go – a second person to help would be handy.

    If you try them, please let me know how they work for you!

  12. Nunya Carley Says:

    Hi there – VERY good article!! I just wanted to give a word to the one asking about a watchman goby… Mine lived with my 1 year old full grown NON-dwarf seahorse (hippocampus comes) for almost a year before he started head-butting & killing everything, including the seahorse ; 0 (

    He is the boss, the king, etc.

    They are nice & cute when they are small – (freaking adorable really)but mine went from 2 inches to 9-10 inches in a year!! I still can’t catch him to donate to the zoo like I want to!

    I would like to know what you think about me putting 4 dwarves in the 10 gallon with my mandarin & emerald crab (only occupants besides pods). I have been testing her by turkey ‘bastering’ amphipods near her – and she leaves the 1/4 inch pods alone – only goes after the teenie-tiny ones, plus a have a huge copepod population…

  13. Amanda Says:

    This website was very helpful!!!

  14. Amanda Says:

    Is shipping alot if you buy something from this site?

  15. Karina Says:

    just wondering, is it possible to keep dwarf and the bigger breeds of seahorses together in the same tank considering that the tank is going to be a big enough tank.

    And also if the dwarf’s do breed do the babies need to be kept separate from the bigger seahorse breeds?

  16. Johnathon Says:

    Dear karina i Wouldnt advise keeping them with bigger seahorses because bigger sea horses eat Bigger brine and may eat the tiny dwarfs also the fry can stay in the tank with mum and dad . But if you dont like that idea you can have a bare bottomed tank with nothing but a few small artificial plants. if you choose to do this your tank must be readily cycled Id advise A five gallon would be perfect for you new fry. I for one leave my kiddies in the tank with mum and dad be cause its so easy for the young to get hurt or bruised in the transfer. I dont know what species and size your other seahorses are Because dwarfs full size are only 1 inch long. And Most other horses grow at least 6 or 7.

  17. Aquagrrl Says:

    I have to agree, mixing larger seahorses and dwarves isn’t a good idea. In addition to the above, you run the very likely risk of not being able to keep food density high enough in a large tank, so the dwarves would slowly starve. I’ve also heard reports of people trying it and the large seahorses having problems with the baby brine shrimp irritating their gills.

  18. Karina Says:

    kool, i didnt know that, you do learn something new every day. I think i’ll stick to just dwarves for now. we’re going tonight to get a new tank even tho we hav a million sitting around the house, and I’m gonna use water from my bf’s tank so it’ll speed up the process and I can get my little dwarfes sooner :P

    Is there any specifics they need in their environment

  19. Aquagrrl Says:

    Some artificial plants they can hitch on would be good. Avoid live rock, too many dangerous hitch hikers. Stick with a sponge or other air powered filter and you’ll be all set.

  20. Karina Says:

    oh yeah!, that something else i wanted to ask. what would be the best kind of filter to use? my Bf asked our local fish shop and one of the guys who had just set up a seahorse tank said a gravel filter, but I’ve read these arent good to use in with the dwarves???

    any suggestions? :/

  21. Aquagrrl Says:

    A sponge filter is best, like this:

    Sponge Filter

    You’re right to steer away from a undergravel filter. For one, never use gravel in a marine aquarium!

  22. Karina Says:

    thanks for that.
    I was thinking of using crushed coral which i heard is the best?????

    Good idea or…. ? :S

  23. Aquagrrl Says:

    Crushed coral is too course and waste will get trapped there. Sand for marine aquariums is a much better choice, like aragonite stand.

  24. Karina Says:

    ok, kool.
    also how loud is the filter, i’m considering putting it on my bedside table so its in my room so its RIGHT next to me?

  25. Aquagrrl Says:

    I have two aquariums in the bed room, and they don’t bother me, including one air powered. However, they took a while to get used to, so I wouldn’t recommend it if you’re a light sleeper or if expect the bubbling from the filter or vibrating from the air pump to keep you up.

  26. karina Says:

    yeh im not the best sleeper haha :D.
    also i thought that you cant have bubbles in their aquarium coz they cant get oxygen in their gills/airways…

  27. Aquagrrl Says:

    That is an old wives tale that still persists today. It comes from seahorses being prone to a condition called “Gas Bubble Disease” and people once assumed that came from actual air bubbles. However, that is not the case, the disease is an internal chemical balance issue. Also, don’t worry, dwarves are rarely stricken by it.

  28. Karina Says:

    The site you reccomended to me cramers caribbean critters, Do they ship to Australia??

  29. Aquagrrl Says:

    I don’t know, but I would suspect not. Shipping seahorses across international borders is an expensive prospect that requires the proper permits.

  30. nathaniel Says:

    What is (in your opinion) a good size tank to hold a pair of dwarfs and eventually their babies?

  31. aquagrrl Says:

    I would get at least two pairs, dwarf seahorses do better in groups. With two pairs, I would start with a 2.5 gallon aquarium.
    .-= aquagrrl´s last blog ..Protected zones will help to save Britain’s marine wildlife =-.

  32. Ryan Says:

    Hi

    About ten years ago I was in a pet shop in Washington MO where they had a ten gallon tank packed with dwarf seahorses all sizes and they were feeding frozen baby brine and they seemed to be doing great was that a freak deal? Because all i have read is that they have to have live brine. any thoughts?

  33. Nunya Says:

    Hi there – I just wanted to say that I recently purchased a nudibranch (Nudibrach learchis poica) from [link removed], it was extremely cheap (2.50) and had ALL the hydroids eaten out of the 5 gal in less than 48 hours!! DID NOT bother the dwarves at all! Luckily I have other tanks for it to work in -(and I am secretly hoping some grow back so I can keep him) but when they run out I will probably let it clean up the 5 gal again, then find someone on craigslist with a hydroid problem.

    I know there are some serious dwarf lovers over here – so I just had to tell you that didn’t already know!

  34. Nunya Says:

    HI Ryan – I have a thought! I think I am going to thaw some frozen out and add it the same time as the live – and try to trick them!! As a matter of fact – this is how I got the mandarin to eat frozen mysid/mysis, and eventually I didnt have to worry about copepods or amphipods!

  35. Nathaniel Says:

    What type of corals/ seafans can i keep with dwarfs?

  36. Nathaniel Says:

    If i keep a firefish goby with dwarfs in a ten gallon, would i still need 20 seahorses, becausethe firefish should eat the brine shrimp? Me confused.

  37. Nathaniel Says:

    What about a firefish goby, 2 pugnose pipefish, and What # of seahorses?

  38. Nathaniel Says:

    also http://www.seahorsecorral.com is a good captive bred seahorse dealer.

  39. melody Says:

    i have this article bookmarked. i am a fan of seahorses but never had the chance to take care of them due to lack of experience, but i do believe that this article will help me achieve my dreams in the future. good luck!

  40. Karina Says:

    I never had any experience bofero i got mine, and my seahorses are only fed once a day when they are supposed to be fed 7 times a day… i no my bad, but if i feed them more they get fussy and leave too much food at the bottom of the tank and I have had them for about 6 months now, and they have survived no problems… even after bein transported in their tank to our new house. I think they are heartier than ppl giv them credit for.
    I think even with no experience you’ll do ok as long as they are fed good food and the tank is a good set up, jus read up about it and you will learn as you go if you need.

  41. Alison Says:

    Is there any alternative food for the dwarf seahorses? Or is the only option hatching your own brine shrimp? Do pet supply stores sell baby brine shrimp?

  42. Aquagrrl Says:

    Not really. They can eat copepods but those require more work than brine shrimp. Most pet stores don’t sell newly hatched brine shrimp, and adult brine shrimp is too large.

  43. bren Says:

    I wanna get a dwarf seahorse and a sea cucumber, can i put them in the same tank?

  44. steve farrington Says:

    we saine for seahores in the Indian river melbourne florida and have several in our tank, they are all very small about 1/4 to 1/2 inch. How do you know if they are dwarf or just small seahorses?
    Thanks

  45. TJ Hagen Says:

    I learned about dwarf seahorses by way of internet. following the do`s and dont`s is a must. I purchased nerite virginea from cramers critters. they are very small but hard working snails and safe with the dwarves. when trying to use frozen baby brine shrimp BE CAREFUL, frozen food can foul your tank. mine ate frozen cyclops. but I gave small amounts along with live bbs, and I had a nice set up with a sump and skimmer.. They would leave their hitch and swim after it.. I chose not to have other inhabitants in with the dwarves after reading up on them. other than the snails i listed above..

  46. jasmine beall Says:

    i am looking to buy two small seahorse’ to keep as pets and i wld like to know where t obuy them at email me back at beall.jasmine@yahoo.com they are really kool creatures ilove them

  47. Sarah Says:

    Hi! i am thinking about getting a pair of dwarf seahorses, but i have a few questions first. Number one: are they a good beginner sea horse?? i havnt kept any seahorses before and want to know if its a good type to start with. Number two: what size tank should i get??? For one pair i read that a one gallon tank is fine but its hard to keep it balanced. any suggestions? And my final question is: Can the babies and the adults all live in a one gallon tank or should i get a bigger tank?? thank you!!

  48. T J Hagen Says:

    Hi, A five gal tank is better. It will be enough room for babies born in the future. Babies can remain in the same tank as the adults they will eat the same bbs. I purchased a small bottle of sanfrancisco brand shrimp eggs they are a bit smaller strain for the sh fry to eat. An air driven sponge filter is the best for these little guys but make sure your tank is cycled completely .. I use live sand but dry rock. You still have to worry about hydroids unless you panacur the tank to prevent them.

  49. nunya Says:

    hi im 13 and i live in washington dc i was wondering do [link removed] deliver to washington dc i really
    love seahorses they are very interesting and i have created a bit of a job being a marine biologist

  50. Loyalhero90 Says:

    Hello all,
    I am still in the works of planning my dwarf seahorse aquarium and I have been trying to find a alternative solution to panacur since I would like to have at least one zoanthid in the tank with the dwarfs. So I have been looking around and I noticed that there have been some work with a Nudibrach learchis poica from [link removed] but I cannot find more information about them on the internet. So do they only eat hydroids or can they eat other foods? Will they eat zoanthids (polyps)? For the people who have tried the nudibranch have they continued to keep your tanks hydroid free? I’m just trying to get more validation on this nudibranch thing since it is kind of new to me and all that I have heard about killing hydroids is nuking the tank with panacur. Also I know that hydroids have to have some natural predator in that wide ocean, right?

  51. Taylor Says:

    Hello,
    I was thinking of raising some dwarf seahorses would raising Marigold Variatus with the seahorses be a bad idea?

  52. Aquagrrl Says:

    Hi Taylor. Seahorses are saltwater fish; while platies are freshwater so they would not live together. However, you can slowly acclimate fancy guppies to saltwater and they would co-exist with dwarf seahorses. Please read up on keeping a marine tank though before trying it; saltwater is much more difficult to keep than freshwater.

  53. Angela Says:

    Hello, my names angela. where can i buy a seahorse in MA or NH?

  54. JEFF Says:

    I WAS WONDERING IF ANY ONE YOU KNOW OF WAS SELLING LEAFY SEA DRAGONS I HAVE A
    250 gal SALT WATER TANK AND AFTER SEEING AND READING ABOUT THEM I JUST HAVE TO GET A PAIR OR TWO. I WOULD APP. ANY HELP FINDING A REP. PERSON . THEY PROBLY COST AN ARM AND LEG PER PAIR IF THEY ARE LEAGLE TO SELL.
    THANKS JEFF

  55. TJ Hagen Says:

    I saw a leafy sea dragon for sale at http://www.oceanproaquatics.com they are extreemly expensive. This one listed @ $4,850.80 on buy it now. I am looking for ghost pipe fish to buy if anyone out there knows where to order online. I live in west palm beach fl. email me at tiz333@yahoo.com.. hope this helps.

  56. TJ Hagen Says:

    the learchis poica will only eat hydroids. once the droids are gone they may starve. carol keen of simply seahorses sells a product called hydrox which will get rid of the hydroids and not nuke everyting in your tank… I haven`t used it yet but plan to soon. I have used panacur and it is harsh on clean up crew, and plants.. really limits what you can put in the dsh tanks. hope this is helpful.

  57. katie Says:

    i was told that getting wild caught seahorses often do not live as long as captive bred because theyre not trained to eat frozen food and stay in a tank. and was told to try to get captive bred instead because theyre much easier to handle and livve long. i was wondering if i could have input please? :)

  58. Hello - Carolina Aquarium Community Says:

    [...] Welcome to CFT! If you're thinking about doing dwarf seahorses, you'll probably want to go with the 5g if not a smaller one. I have considered setting up a similar tank many times and have found this great article about them. Dwarf Seahorses As Pets | FusedJaw: Seahorses, Pipefish & Seadragons [...]

  59. Taylor..... Says:

    hey so i need some help. i am trying to start a small tank. and not sure how to do this still…this is what i have
    instant ocean sea salt
    tom internal filter its for a 1-5 gallon tank. and can be ajusted to a slow way.
    2.5 gal tank.
    thermometer
    i also have plants and lots of hitching places for the seahorses.

    today im going to get a nitrte and amona test kit.

    but my questin is what else do i need to get?? and how to i start to cycle my tank?

  60. Shunyata Says:

    Hi! Great article!! I am wondering if anyone has experience with housing Dwarf Seahorses in a BioUbe or BioOrb. I have a 9 gallon BioUbe that will be vacated soon and I’d like to re-use it for these lovely creatures. It has a sponge/carbon filter that is air powered and is fairly low flow.

  61. Nunya Says:

    Hey Shunyata – I just wanted to say that these beauts will get lost in one that big – I think. I am putting them in a 3 gal, which will be perfect! A word from the not-so-wise: if you already have an established sandbed in it you have to dump it – those bristleworms will kill all your babies if not…

  62. Nunya Says:

    Katie – I think you are talking about normal-sized seahorses because I do not think these dwarfs ever come eating frozen food and it is DIFFICULT if not impossible to get them to. If you are talking about normal-sized than that tank will not last for long – will need to upgrade. Your person was right – the wild-caught do often die so make sure when you go to buy them you do two things – ask the store to let you see them eat so you can pick the ones that are eating and AVOID them if their stomach is concave (bows inward) because that is a sign of starvation or disease and once they are in the process of starving they cannot be saved.

  63. Shunyata Says:

    Thanks Nunya! I plan to get lots of seahorses, so I’m ok with the larger size.

    Sand cannot be used in a BioUbe. I was hoping to re-use my existing live-rock rubble by treating my already-cycled tank with fenbendazole to kill off any hydroids/worms/etc. Is that sufficient? :)

  64. Nunya Says:

    Yes, sounds good – but I have never used fenbendazole before. I am in the process of getting a tank ready with loads of amphipods and copepods, feeding them a product called “reef bugs” is making the pods THRIVE! I am so afraid of hydroids I am putting another tank of pods together so there is always a supply because I dread putting brine in there ever again!

    Does anyone have any experience with spaghetti worms with the dwarves? I picked one out of the big tank and have it in the pod tank. I do not think it ill be able to harm a dwarf, but maybe the pods?

  65. bill Says:

    For the stocking density…do I really need a minimum of 20 adults for a 10 gallon? I was hoping to get 6 or 8 adults for a 10 gallom or 20 gallon high. The extra space would provide room for the babies.

  66. Bruce Says:

    We bought 8 seahorses. They are very cute and we enjoy them. Heres the problem. I can’t seem to get them to eat. I do not have live brine shrimp to feed them. All the aquarium store carries is the frozen brine shrimp. What am I doing wrong? Could it be that the tank is way to big for them? We have them in a 27 gal. After reading your article, should I change them to a much smaller tank like a 5 gal or a 10 gal?

  67. NunyaCarley Says:

    HI Bruce!!

    I am assuming you mean normal sized seahorses NOT dwarfs because with dwarfs there doesn’t seem to be a NO LIVE FOOD option. I am a little concerned because of the way you stated the tank is too big – if these are dwarfs then everywhere it says you need live food.

    With the normal sized horses there is still the problem of them being wild caught specimens and not eating anything except live food, was it from a place that stated they eat frozen food? I am sad to say that if they go more than 48 hours without eating they will surely not make it. When their stomach gets that concave look to it – it is too late so I would do anything – ANYTHING you had to – even if this means going on your local craigslist and posting your need for live brine shrimp. amphipods, and.or copepods. You could order some live food but the overnight charge will be expensive…

    If they are dwarves – I would order some 12 hours hatching brine from here:

    http://www.brineshrimpdirect.com/Shell-Free-E-Z-Egg-c202.html

    QUICK!

  68. NunyaCarley Says:

    Update on mine: the spaghetti worms are doing a good job as the only clean up critter in there! I have seen babies swim right through its outstretched tentacles with nothing happening to them!! Also – I have had NO HYDROIDS since using the EZ eggs!!!!

    Bill: Don’t know if it is too late and you already ordered – but you don;t want to have too few dwarves in too big of a tank because the amount of brine you are going to have to put in there to satisfy all the slow snickin horses will no doubt foul your tank quickly. I actually had about 20 in my 3 gal, and there was plenty of space and they thrived (until I cheated, used saltwater from my big tank to top off the dwarves tank – and a parasite got in there!!! Had to use “quick cure” to clean them and the tank – learned a lesson – clean water every single time)

  69. NunyaCarley Says:

    update Bruce? Did you get your hands on brine shrimp or what ; 0 (

  70. Dakota Says:

    How long do dwarfs live for? What do you guys do with the babies when you have 2 many? I want 2 get a few but i don’t want them 2 breed and i don’t have any room for the babies. I guess i could sell them online if i had 2 many. Do any of yall do that? Im sorry for all the questions but i want 2 ensure a good environment for them.

  71. Jennifer Says:

    I live in Indiana and was doing a search for Seahorses for sale and came across your site.. VERY HELPFUL!!! I am doing research before I buy… any suggestions would be appreciated, you can send me an email!

    Thank you,
    Jennifer Johnson

  72. Jill Says:

    Hello all!

    I have been doing alot of research and feel I am just about ready to buy and set up my tank! I’m excited!!! Anyhow, couple of questions:

    1. If it is a brand new tank does it need to be cycled before adding the seahorses?
    2. How often do you need to cycle once the tank is established?
    3. How long should the tank be up and running before adding seahorses?

    I know these seem like pretty basic questions but I’ve read alot of conflicting info and I’m a bit confused.

    Thanks!
    Jill

  73. Sarah Says:

    Jill,

    1. Yes
    2. To cycle a brand new tank it usually takes 4-6 weeks, but some say it isn’t truly established for a couple more months.
    3. Depends on the amount of risk you want to take – definitely cycle it until you have 0ppm Ammonia and 0ppm Nitrite – water changes can take care of the Nitrate, but you want it low too, somewhere I read 10ppm but I’m not positive on that. If you want to minimize risk you can wait a few months before adding the seahorses, but around 1-2 months from the tank being set up was fine for me.

    Sarah

  74. Jill Says:

    Thanks for the reply Sarah, what type of seahorses do you have? How many? What size tank? Do you use a plenum set up?

    I’m looking at purchasing a 14 gallon bio cube to start, do you think this will be sufficient? I have a 55 gallon sitting empty in my garage but I feel like I should start smaller and make sure I can get it all right before trying to manage such a large tank.

    I’m leaning towards dwarfs right now but I haven’t completely decided ( I know 55 gallon is WAY to big for dwarfs)

    Any suggestions on a particular species that may be better for a beginner?

    Thanks again!

  75. Stanley B Says:

    im 15, and im realy excited about the idea of keeping seahorses in my 30 litre hexagonal tank, but i have never kept marine, but i’ve kept tropical for 12 years (most my life) at the start with my dads help, but when we moved 5 years i became fully independant with caring for them. i have a heater and a fluval filter, or shall i use a bubble controlled sponge filter?

    i also need help on setting up the aquarium as i am afraid that i will mess up?

    sorry but one more thing, there is only one Uk site i have found (I live in the UK) which their dwarf seahorses are £65 each, which i havent got, but on [link removed] they have 2 pairs going for $24 (around £12) which is a much better price, is it a good idea to ship from the US ?

  76. Sarah Says:

    Jill – I have 10 dwarfs with 4 more on the way in a 5 gallon.

    I would watch out for two things:

    1. The tank size 14 gallons will be too big for a normal amount of seahorses starting up. I’d do at least 2 seahorses per gallon, to give you an idea. But there are ways to get that density in a smaller aquarium. Use a high flow in one area of the tank and an area with low flow and lots of hitching posts with an overhanging light on the other. The dwarfs will gather to hitch and feast on the brine that are attracted to the light. For this to work, a tank that is longer than it is higher would work better.

    2. The biocubes tend to run hot, where it is hard to keep them just at 80F, where the dwarfs prefer the water around 74F and bacteria doesn’t grow as quickly, which is important since there should be food 24/7

    If you are comfortable growing brine shrimp, the dwarfs have been easy and hardy for me and I’d suggest them to anyone comfortable growing brine shrimp. I don’t have any experience with larger seahorses but I have heard they are more delicate than dwarfs.

    Stanley – It’s probably not a good idea to ship from the US and I’m not sure if they do ship outside the US anyway. I get 2 day shipping from [link removed] which is perfect. If they can get them to you in under 2 days I think they’d be fine, but then there is CITES and international trade laws they’d have to work around. For 65 pounds a pop, I wouldn’t go with dwarfs. It’s best to have around 10 of them just so you can keep them in at least a 5 gallon for some stability – any less and I have found it hard to target feed them enough to where they are eating and brine isn’t dying and fouling the tank. I have heard that Erectus is a good beginner seahorse – maybe you ought to try that one instead? Its needs will be different, so you’ll have to do some research.

    Setting up the marine aquarium is just like setting up a freshwater aquarium – just add sea salt after the substrate and water. There are tools to test the salinity of the water you will need too, but they are pretty cheap.

    Sarah

  77. Stanley B Says:

    thankyou sarah for your reply

    i think i ay still stick with dwarf as i dont have the room for a full sized seahorse, but i may keep them in a breeding net so they breed and then i will have more in the tank, and i have found instant brineshrimp that has been used on dwarves before.

    thankyou stanley

  78. Sarah Says:

    Ok good luck with that :)

    Sarah

  79. Stanley B Says:

    thankyou sarah
    thanks for the help, ive just got to set up my tank and save up some money, but then after that i should be getting dwarves. just thought you would like to see the site i may be getting them from

    http://www.simplyseahorses.co.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=5&Itemid=2

    and the cost of the erectus are £75 each :/

    from stan :)

  80. paige Says:

    do dwarf seahorses need light if do what kind of light.

  81. Stanley B Says:

    It is not needed, but it looks good if you do. they obviously need some sort of light to tell when its night and day though.

  82. Kevin Says:

    Can I keep dwarf seahorses with ricordea coral?

  83. Stanley B Says:

    Its not recomended to keep anything but other dwarfs and maybe algae with dwarfs,l anything with polyps will sting them, and anything live thats added to the tank can cause an introduction oh hydroids

  84. stephen Says:

    this is such a useful article! i can see how many people are interested to take care of seahorses most specifically dwarf seahorses. i can’t wait to get one very soon.

  85. Candice Says:

    i’m getting 1 dwarf seahorse (mated pair) for fifteen bucks and a pipe fish for six bucks without tax i think maybe but it’s twenty bucks

  86. Shanna Says:

    I’ve been interested in seahorses for over 10 years now, but have never gotten up the courage to try them. I’ve had a good many fresh-water aquariums of various kinds, and had the ubiquitous and enjoyable clown fish and friends in a small marine tank, but seahorses just seemed a leap into the dark. I think this is the most positive and upbeat article I’ve read on keeping the dwarfs (while still being realistic about their care needs.)

    Some questions, though: I’m seeing different information about feeding: some people saying twice a day. Others say 4 times a day with a fresh hatch or gut-loaded hatch of bbs per feeding. I’ve also seen people having success with the Tom’s hatch n’ feeder and others warning against it like the plague. (It certainly would seem to make life a little easier.)

    Do you need to water-vac your seahorse tank often? (Every day?)

    Also, are most people using the new types of aquariums with integrated filters, or just plain aquariums with sponge filters? I know some people simply put a piece of hose over the intake pipe of their filter….

    I’d like to get my aquarium set up so that it can begin to cycle. I don’t want to rush this.

  87. admin Says:

    Hi Shanna, in regards to feeding, it’s really kind of dependent on your filtration system. You want enough in there so that they don’t go very long without food, but also not so much that it fouls the water or that the brine shrimp stay in there too long and lose their nutritional value. Other food types in the tank help, for instance, some people buy live mysis and put them with the dwarf seahorses. They will slowly work through them. I’ve also heard people putting peppermint shrimp in a refugium or even a breeder trap, and when the peppermints have babies, the babies swim into the main tank to be consumed by the dwarf seahorse.

    The hatch-n-feed dumps dirty water into the tank. I’ve heard people use them, but more bad reports than good.

    Syphoning/vacuuming really depends on your setup. Some people are doing bare bottom aquariums and vacuum the bottom every day. If you have sand, you should only vacuum the bottom if you see a build up of detritus, and then only the surface; you don’t want to remove the sand. And you should try to avoid any detritus by adequate filtration and cleanup crew. You will likely need to do water changes at least once a month, but more realistically once a week because of the excess food necessary to keep dwarf seahorses.

    As for filtration type, it varies quite a bit. People are moving away from sponge filters, but using the integrated filters can be difficult; either the flow ends up too high, or their isn’t a good way to protect the intake. There is a lot of experiments going on by dwarf seahorse keepers on the best way to handle dwarf seahorse filtration. Putting sponges and hose over the intakes has mixed results too. They frequently get clogged to quickly. And you have to be careful with filters removing food. That’s one advantage of sponge filters; they don’t remove food from the water column. However they can get clogged too.

    The setup I’m using now I’m really happy with is a 10 gallon tank with 1/3 divided as an in-tank refugium. I built the divider myself using plastic and 850 micron mesh. I just have a single pump on the “refugium” side and water flowing back to the main area. This way, baby brine shrimp can pass through the pump mostly unharmed and so food is still available to the seahorses.

  88. Justina Says:

    I am lost on the filter part of starting up my dwarf tank. I am going to use a 5 gallon for 2 pair. I was gonna use a 10 gallon but I am guessing that would be to big for 2 pair. But I was thinking bigger would be better if there end up having babies but then I read if the tank is to big they could have the chance of starving or wasting of food. Ok anyways back to my question. Is a regular filter not to be used with dwarfs? Sponge filter only? I am not sure on this when I looked up the sponge filter it says I can connect it to the regular filter instead of using and air pump. Would that be to strong of a suction and to much water turbulance if I did that? Should I just connect the sponge filter to the air pump instead of using the regular filter? Please someone help. I dont want to put them at risk.

  89. Justina Says:

    I am lost on the filter part of starting up my dwarf tank. I am going to use a 5 gallon for 2 pair. I was gonna use a 10 gallon but I am guessing that would be to big for 2 pair. But I was thinking bigger would be better if there end up having babies but then I read if the tank is to big they could have the chance of starving or wasting of food. Ok anyways back to my question. Is a regular filter not to be used with dwarfs? Sponge filter only? I am not sure on this when I looked up the sponge filter it says I can connect it to the regular filter instead of using and air pump. Would that be to strong of a suction and to much water turbulance if I did that? Should I just connect the sponge filter to the air pump instead of using the regular filter? Please someone help. I dont want to put them at risk. It says the sponge filter is for breeding.

  90. gary yan Says:

    we are purchasing bulk dried seahorse ? can you send me a pricelist of it ? thanks

  91. Aquagrrl Says:

    This site does not sell seahorses and does not condone the sale of dried seahorses.

  92. David Says:

    Instead of hatching brine shrimp in a bottle, and then transferring to the seahorse tank, could you simply hatch bine shrimp in the tank?

  93. admin Says:

    No, unfortunately not. There is a lot of wastes produced when brine shrimp hatch, and those wastes create bacteria that can be harmful to seahorses. So not only should you hatch separately, but the bbs should be rinse well before feeding.

  94. David Says:

    Are frozen copepods an option?

  95. admin Says:

    Not for the long term. Dwarf seahorses will occasionally pick at frozen food, but do not eat enough to survive off of it. Over the years, many people have tried frozen food for dwarf seahorses, but I know no case where they’ve succeeded.

  96. Brenda Says:

    I have a 17″ x 36″ x 19″ new tank that I want to set up for seahorses.
    Which size is best, what equipment should I buy? I don’t think I want live rock or plants. Can you help?

  97. admin Says:

    Hi Brenda! That’s a fairly complex question and a lot of it will be based on what you want to accomplish. I suggest signing up at our forumsso we can get more details about what you’re looking for, and what your experience level is. It sounds like you’re looking for larger seahorse to keep, not dwarves due to the tank size you have. You’ll want to make sure you get captive bred seahorses.

  98. Raegan Says:

    Hi, I am considering the possibility of getting dwarf seahorses and would like to know, if I were to get 7 dwarf seahorses, and keep their babies in the tank with them, would a 2.5 gallon be big enough or should I get a 5? Also, could you explain to me, when you say all you need is a sponge filter, does that mean plus everything a salt water tank usually has as well, I am not familiar with tanks and don’t really understand what exactly you need besides a tank and saltwater. Thanks!

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More in Aquarium Care (11 of 18 articles)