Seahorse Frequently Asked Questions / Are seahorses difficult to keep?

This is a tricky question. Up until about 10 years ago, seahorses were considered extremely difficult to keep because of their specialized requirements and food needs. Most people that had success either lived near the ocean, and caught their own food, or were large public aquariums that could afford to have large quantities of live food shipped to them. Seahorses caught from the wild tended to not adjust to captivity well either, so even if you could provide food, there was no guarantee that a seahorse would adapt to captivity and thrive.

These days, most seahorses available to aquarists are born and raised in captivity. They are adjusted to life in the aquarium and eat frozen food that is readily available from most pet stores. They still require a specialized setup, but as long as the aquarist sticks to the basic guidelines for a seahorse aquarium, such as lower temperature and no agressive fish, then they are something that most people can manage to keep successfully (read more about their specialized requirements here)

However, there is a caveat. A lot of suppliers from overseas are selling seahorses that are just too small. The ideal size to sell seahorses is around the time they reach sexual maturity which happens at around 3-4″ for most commonly available species. But many suppliers are selling them around 2″ inches (sometimes smaller!) and they’re not really ready to handle the stress of shipping, acclimation and adapting to aquarium life where they are only fed a couple times a day. Some aren’t even fully weened to frozen food. Fish stores generally do not know enough (or care) to demand larger animals. They also often don’t know enough to instruct the aquarist on the proper setup for a seahorse. There are a few gems out there that are the exception to the rule, but most fish store supplied information is incorrect. So when those undersized, too-young seahorses are placed in an inadequate setup and perish, they end up perpetuating the myth that they are difficult to keep in captivity.

So the TL;DR answer is that they’re not difficult, but they do require a specialized setup and some advanced research to keep them successfully.

Posted in: Keeping In Captivity