Dec 21, 2010

Clownfish Aquarium Photos

I recently went to visit a friend of mine and photographed her aquarium. Enjoy the photos! These are best viewed large on Flickr (click the photo then choose "view all sizes" in the "actions" drop down box).

Coral GOby

Black Clownfishwm

Macro Euphyllia

Scarlet Skunk Cleaner SHrimp

Dec 15, 2010

Support U.S. and Local Seahorse Breeders

Support U.S. bred seahorses and your own local seahorse breeders. Encourage your local fish store to buy locally bred/U.S. bred seahorses and support them when they do. If your local fish store only carries "tank raised" Asian-bred seahorses, you can order seahorses directly from a local breeder or a reputable breeder online.


SUPPORT THESE U.S. SEAHORSE BREEDERS

Seahorsesource.com in Ft, Pierce, Florida
Professional family run business for over five years
Current availability: H. erectus, H. barbouri, H. zosterae and a limited amount of H. reidi. H. ingens should be available again in January. Ships to all 50 United States.

SeahorseCorral.net in Riverview, Florida
Current availability: H. erectus. Ships to United States.

Peka's Ponies in Lake in the Hills, Illinois
Current availability: H. erectus. Coming soon: H. reidi and H. barbouri. Ships to lower 48 United States.

Mandy R. in southern Wisconsin
H. erectus coming soon. Can ship to lower 48 United States.

Kim at CritterHeaven in Raleigh, North Carolina
Current availability: H. reidi and H. erectus. coming soon H. barbouri and H. zosterae. Can ship to lower 48 United States.

Brenda F. "Reef99" in Illinois
Current availability: H. erectus. Can ship to lower 48 United States.

Felicia's Saddled Seahorses in Philadelphia, PA
H. erectus coming soon.

FishTalPropogations Availability: H. erectus coming soon

If you are a seahorse breeder in the United States and you want to be added to this list, please email me with your web address and/or business contact email address, your location and if/where you ship to, your current availability, and seahorse species you will have available in the near future. If you are looking for the most current seahorse availability from local breeders, check the Seahorse.org Trading and Classifieds forum regularly.

The reasons to buy true captive bred seahorses instead of wild caught seahorses are obvious, and I won't go into much detail here. Wild caught seahorses have as many as four long, stressful journeys before they reach your home and almost always carry life-threatening pathogens, many that can't be cured with over the counter medications available to hobbyists. Wild caught seahorses only eat expensive live foods and are difficult (and sometimes impossible) to train to eat frozen food. The choice is clear; buy true captive bred seahorses.

Why buy seahorses from a hobby breeder or a breeder who specializes in seahorses?
from Seahorsesource. photo: Jim Bremner DesertUSA.com
  • Breeders specializing in seahorses are more likely to offer multiple/different species of seahorses
  • Seahorse specialists are able to devote more time and research to seahorse-specific care
  • Small operations can pay more attention to quality and health
  • Many offer lifetime customer support
  • Some offer seahorse-specific products that can't be found anywhere else
  • Seahorses purchased directly from hobby breeders are often less expensive than wild caught seahorses
Asian bred seahorses are cheaper than U.S. captive bred seahorses, but the quality and health of the seahorses suffers. Asian bred seahorses are sold younger and smaller than U.S. bred seahorses and are raised in unfiltered natural sea water, exposing them to parasites, disease, and bacteria. Asian bred seahorses are fed live foods found in the natural sea water, further cutting costs by not having to buy frozen food. U.S. bred seahorses are usually started on frozen foods at a very early age, which makes them less likely to revert to live foods when they are under stress. Not all Asian seahorse breeders use these methods, but the majority of Asian-bred "tank raised" seahorses found in local fish stores were raised this way.

young Asian bred "H. kelloggi" in a WI pet store. Photo: Dylan of seahorse.org

Why buy seahorses bred in the U.S. over seahorses bred overseas?
  • U.S. bred seahorses have a much better history of success in their new homes
  • Less stressful transit time compared to seahorses bred in other countries
    • Asian bred seahorses may be packaged and shipped 3 or 4 times before getting to the hobbyist
      • ex. breeder > transhipper > wholesaler > fish store
  • Local seahorses have shorter fasting (withholding food) times prior to and during shipping 
  • More accurate identification
  • No accidental, unknown hybrids
    • Asian breeding programs do not commonly separate by species, putting many different species in the same vats together. Seahorses may even hybridize with species naturally found in surrounding waters
  • Seahorses bred in the U.S. are bred in filtered or synthetic sea water, while most Asian-bred seahorses are raised in unfiltered natural sea water.
    • U.S. bred seahorses have less exposure to parasites and disease found in NSW
    • U.S. bred seahorses are already adapted to captive aquarium environment
    • U.S. bred seahorses are raised on foods readily available to hobbyists
      • Most Asian bred seahorses are raised on live foods found in NSW to save money and are offered frozen foods later in life. May or may not be trained to frozen food.
  • U.S. bred seahorses are larger, older, and more mature, thus more likely to survive
    • Asian bred seahorses are sold younger and smaller to save money

young Asian bred seahorse. Photo from reefhotspot.com
How can you tell if the seahorse at your local fish store was bred in Asia?
  • The seahorse is small, usually three inches or smaller
  • The seahorse is identified only by common name or color (they are often identified this way on wholesale lists)
  • Scientific names commonly used for Asian bred seahorses are
    • Hippocampus kelloggi (none are CB in the U.S. to date)
    • Hippocampus sp. (responsible breeders know what species they have)
    • Hippocampus kuda
    • Hippocampus comes
  • The fish store doesn't know what country or breeder the seahorse came from, only knows that it was "tank bred" or "tank raised" 
  • Since Asian bred seahorses are so inexpensive for the LFS to buy, sometimes the price is very low (between $30 - $50 each) 
    • You can expect a true captive bred seahorse to be between $50 and $75 or more depending on the species
Because of the restrictions put on importing wild caught seahorses by CITES, fewer species are available in the United States today than were available 10 years ago. For example, Australian seahorses such as H. breviceps and H. whitei are completely absent from the U.S. market, and wild-caught H. elongatus and H. angustus are imported in extremely low numbers, fetching very high prices with low survival rates. Many of these beautiful Australian species were available as captive bred in the U.S. as recently as a few years ago, but it is theorized that these higher priced exotic seahorses couldn't compete with the cheap Asian bred seahorses that were flooding the U.S. market at the same time. If we do not support seahorse breeders in the United States, in the future the only species available will be Asian-bred seahorses and the few species native to our country that can still be sold as wild caught.

Dec 13, 2010

Seahorse Tank - Keep It Clean!

When I first started raising seahorses I got probably the best piece of advice from Dan U. of seahorsesource.com. Dan told me not to let the seahorse fry eat food that had settled on the bottom of the tank by adjusting the flow to keep the food in constant motion."Dead" food like frozen mysis shrimp start to decay immediately and can collect large amounts of bacteria shortly after hitting the floor of a tank. The theory is that seahorses never evolved the GALT (gut-associated lymphoid tissues) in the gut to be able to eat decaying food and can suffer from bacterial infections as a result of eating frozen food diets combined with improper conditions.

baby-patterns
seahorse fry who eat food off the floor are more likely to die before reaching the juvenile stage

"A hypothesis is discussed that the adaptive immune system of vertebrates evolved in the gastrointestinal regions of primitive jawed fish (placoderms) due to increased localized injuries and infections which were inadvertently brought about by the novel jaw structures and the predatory life style...Initial study of the seahorse (Hippocampus) indicates that the gut-associated immune tissues may be absent in this teleost species, suggesting an evolutionary link between the adaptive immune system and the jaw structure or eating habit."

-summary of Jaw Hypothesis and the Seahorse by Matsunaga T., Rahman A.

In the wild seahorses do not eat dead, decaying food; they only eat live food. Seahorses obviously have some sort of immune system but do not have the gut-associated immune tissue that protects from bacteria that naturally settle on decaying matter (frozen mysis shrimp). Both benign and infectious bacteria (such as Vibrio spp.) are always present in even the cleanest aquariums and in nature. Once a piece of frozen mysis shrimp comes into contact with the bottom of the aquarium, bacteria begin to colonize and break it down almost immediately. When a seahorse eats a piece of frozen mysis shrimp that has been sitting on the floor of the tank too long, it may not get sick right away. The bacteria passes through its gut and is present in the feces which may then contaminate the next meal. Any seahorse that eats the resulting feces-contaminated food is at high risk for bacterial infection. This is why it is important to siphon before and after each feeding.

Keep your seahorse tank clean, and keep the temperature below 74°F

It is much easier to keep a bare bottom seahorse tank clean than a reef-style seahorse tank. A pair of seahorses in a very large tank are less likely to come into contact with their feces, and the clean-up crew usually takes care of any uneaten food. The more seahorses in an aquarium, the more important it is to keep it clean. Scrub the floor and walls of the aquarium daily to prevent buildup of organic material settling there. Siphon feces before each feeding, and siphon uneaten frozen foods immediately after feeding. Clean filters and all tubing at least once a month. keep concentrations of nitrates, phosphates, and organics as close to 0 ppm as possible, as these favor the growth of infectious bacteria and cause stress on the seahorse immune system. Using a UV sterilizer, Protein Skimmer, and strong filter can also help keep the water clean. Have enough current and water flow in all areas of the tank so that "dead zones" of little or now flow are not allowed collect organics and grow bacteria.

You can do a lot to prevent bacterial infections in your seahorse aquarium by keeping temperatures lower than 74°F. Vibrio spp. bacteria become more virulent and aggressive at higher temperatures, while significantly slowing growth at temperatures below 68°F. Vibrio bacterial infections are now one of the leading causes of captive seahorse deaths. If Vibrio can be spread through frozen food that sits on the aquarium floor too long, this may be why seahorses who are fed a diet of live foods are more likely to survive in aquariums with higher temperatures than seahorses who are fed frozen foods.



Further reading:

http://www.angelfire.com/ab/rayjay/temperature.html 

Keeping multiple species thread on Seahorse.org (sign in to view topic)

Dec 11, 2010

Seahorse Heater Burn

A Felicia's Aquarium Adventures reader, Jim Bremner of www.desertusa.com (very cool website, worth a look), was kind enough to share the story and photos of his seahorse that was badly burned by an aquarium heater. Jim is an avid aquarium keeper, but is fairly new to seahorses. In all his extensive research, he never found advice about not keeping a heater in a seahorse tank. Truly, this small but very important piece of advice is often left out of seahorse care articles.

Aquarium heaters can and do burn seahorses, and it is a life-threatening situation. Most seahorse aquariums do not require aquarium heaters, as seahorses do best in temperatures lower than 74°F. If you need a heater in your seahorse tank to raise or stabilize the temperature, use an inline heater, a heater guard, or place the heater in a sump.

Jim was able to successfully keep his seahorses in a tank with a heater for a couple months without incidence. But perhaps with the onset of cooler weather in December, the heater was turning on more often and running hotter. The male seahorse must have been hitched to the heater for too long while it was running particularly hot, and he got a very bad burn on his tail and part of his pouch that were touching the heater.

This is what a heater burn looks like. Notice that the skin has been burned away but is not swollen or infected. With any kind of burn or injury, Vibrio bacterial infection can set in very quickly and aggressively, so it's best to get the seahorse moved to a hospital tank with a controlled temperature no warmer than 68°F. Have the proper antibiotics on hand (Triple Sulfa or Furan-2 combined with Neomycin) and keep a close eye on the burn for sings of infection. If the white area gets larger or changes in appearance, start treating with anti-biotics. Use the full course of antibiotics, even if the seahorse appears to be fully healed. Give the seahorse soft airline tubes to hitch on (if he will hitch), keep the lights dimmed, and avoid sudden movements around the tank. If the seahorse stops eating, offer live mysis or enriched live adult brine shrimp.

Jim did everything he could to save his seahorse, but unfortunately, the seahorse did not survive. Thanks again to Jim for sharing his photo and story with us. Maybe his experience will help save the lives of other seahorses.

Dec 10, 2010

Dwarf Seahorses - Seahorsesource.com makes it easy

Dwarf Seahorses Hippocampus zosterae are sturdy and easy to keep, but there is one drawback - they require live food. The easiest live food to grow for them is baby brine shrimp, but it should be decapsulated (remove the outer shell) and enriched before feeding to seahorses. The outer shells of baby brine shrimp can carry pathogens and ciliates that you do not want to introduce into your Dwarf Seahorse tank. Also, the shells can become lodged in the digestive tract of a Dwarf Seahorse if accidentally eaten.

Dwarf Seahorse Male
a male Dwarf Seahorse


I used to decapsulate my own brine shrimp, but I found it messy, time consuming, and wasteful. I found already decapsulated brine shrimp on Seahorsesource.com and decided to give it a try. The decapsulation is done in a lab under a microscope to ensure quality and high hatch rate, so it is MUCH cleaner and less wasteful. When I started using Seahorsesource's decapsulated brine shrimp, I actually saved money. One bottle of the decapsulated brine shrimp lasts me about six months feeding small batches of erectus fry and dwarf seahorses. I'll never go back to decapsulating my own brine shrimp.

Dwarf Seahorse Female
A female Dwarf Seahorse


Since brine shrimp (Artemia) are not from a marine environment, they are lacking in essential highly unsaturated fatty acids HUFA that seahorses require to live. Brine shrimp should be enriched with HUFA before being fed to the seahorses. I used to use super HUFA, which is an excellent aquaculture-grade enrichment, but it is expensive. I switched over to Dan's Feed and have had wonderful results. I even used it to enrich adult brine shrimp I was giving to my breeding pairs of Erectus seahorses, and their fecundity noticeably increased. The adults are now bigger and healthier with more muscle mass, and their fry are healthier with fewer "floaters" at birth.

Dwarf Seahorses are very tiny! The picture below shows two adult Dwarf Seahorses next to a regular toothbrush.

dwarf seahorse size
Dwarf Seahorses next to a regular toothbrush


If you are interested in keeping Dwarf Seahorses, check out the Dwarf Seahorse forum on Seahorse.org. There you will learn everything you could ever possibly want to know about Dwarf Seahorses, including what tank size, tank mates, and foods are suitable for Dwarf Seahorses. There is also an active community of Dwarf Seahorse keepers there who are pushing the envelope and experimenting with different Dwarf Seahorse keeping ideas.

disclaimer: I'm a big fan of Seahorse.org and Seahorsesource.com, but I do not work for them, and I'm not getting paid to tell you about their products.