Breeding Dwarf Seahorses
I love Seahorses, I’m sure you have figured that by now. In the past I have kept several different types of horses and pipefish, I have even collected some of my own in the Caribbean!!! The one species I had not had and that I wanted was the Dwarf Seahorse, Hippocampus zosterae. So at the beginning of spring when we took the boys to Disney World, I though this is my chance to go a little bit further south and get myself some Dwarfs!!! All the way down there the boys where giddy about the rides they would ride, the food, the hotel and the beach”¦ I was just as giddy about the Seahorses”¦ We stayed a little over a week in Disney and finally the day had come to go finding my own H. zosterae. I had spoken with several people about collecting fish in Florida and I found out that all I needed was a fishing license and good luck. I was also told that you could find H. Zosterae in the Indian River all they way up to Cape Canaveral down to the keys. I spent several days going up and down the Indian River, we did not make it as far south as I wanted but we made it to Vero Beach. No Seahorses!!! Not even one”¦ I found some pretty nudibranchs and some other things but no Seahorses”¦ So I had to come home.
But then I found The Florida Collector. I ordered 20 Seahorses all for my own. I set them up in one 40-gallon Eclipse tank with 2 biowheels and I put the intake in a Hydrosponge so the horses would not get sucked up. The tank had been running for over a year and had served as a hospital/quarantine tank for my larger marine tanks. The problem with H. Zosterae, and this is the reason why I had not kept them before, is that they only eat live food and it must be really small, the Seahorses themselves are about 1 to 1 1/2 inches total lenght. Rachel (my wife) had made a point that I would have to feed the fish and she would not help with the whole artemia hatching, rinsing and feeding procedures until now. Since I am not at home most of the day she would have to take care of a big part of the feeding schedules. To be able to feed them brine shrimp and it be enough for them, you have to hatch at least 2 batches per day and feed them right away while the nauplii (baby shrimp) still has some of the yolk sack and the exoskeleton is soft.
After a few days of feeding them we noticed that the tank was too big for them. They would hitch to something near the bottom and the artemia would swim near the top missing the seahorses by over half the tank. So we moved them to 5-gallon tanks. We separated them by pairs or what we thought where pairs and we waited. They did really well”¦ After a few weeks we noticed that one of the males was “dancing” with a smaller female. By now we could tell them apart by coloration, shape and size. About a week later the male seemed to have a bigger belly and about 2 weeks later we had babies. At first just 2 or 3 but by the next day we had about 25!!! Then some of the other males followed suit, and soon we had more seahorses than we knew what to do with.
The babies don’t eat for the first day or two since they have some yolk left. After that we had to hatch a lot of artemia every day and night. We had jars with artemia cultures everywhere. I gave a lot of my babies away and some died. We had an invasion of hydras that came with the artemia (sometimes there are hydra eggs attached to the shells of the artemia eggs and if you don’t buy de-capsulated eggs, or do it yourself, you could introduce them in your tank. They ate a lot of the babies in one of my tanks and it was nearly impossible to eradicate them. Some of the nudybranchs we found in Florida helped to eat them but they have a short life span. Sadly the same is true for the H. Zosterae, they live just over a year so the population has renewed itself and now some of our babies are having babies. Hopefully we will be able to keep them for many generations.
Check out my other articles and some fish pics in my blog: http://www.tropicalfishpages.blogspot.com