The Seahorse Some Insight as to Good or Bad for a Marine Aquarium
This equine shaped fish is truly unusual by anyone's standards, which may be the primary reason as to why aquarists wish to add one, though other factors need to be addressed.
I can remember as a child having a fascination with Seahorses. Walking along the beaches of Florida, hoping that one would get washed up on shore or combing through gift shops searching for a nice specimen to add to my shell collection at home was standard operating procedure.
Back then, I can't recall seeing them in pet shops or hobbyists marine aquariums, leading me to the conclusion as a child that these fish were not a staple in the marine aquarium hobby. To this day, the seahorse, at least from my own observations, is one of those rare inhabitants seen in a marine aquarium.
When you think about the seahorse, nothing comes close to resembling the body structure and features of a seahorse except for its close relative, the pipe fish. It is almost like the seahorse was the end result of an experiment or cloning that went awry.
The seahorses odd appearance and tranquil state that we often associate seahorses with, attached to coral or seaweed swaying back and forth with the tide searching for food and being inquisitive about their surrounding, I guess, fascinates us and leads us in our attempts of, one day, keeping one of these fish in a marine aquarium.
As of right now, there are roughly 50 different species of seahorses world wide, though their numbers have been dwindling over recent years as a result of over harvesting, habitat depletion and pollution. Many Asian cultures use seahorses for their traditional medical properties.
Members of the genus Hippo campus, or horse sea monsters, these fish make up the family signathidae along with Sea Dragons and pie fish. Seahorses are found predominantly in shallow, tropical and temperate waters of the world. Biotopes which can afford the seahorse of a calm current with a constant food supply and low predation occurrence is ideal for seahorses to live.
A couple interesting scenarios regarding seahorses is that they do not have a stomach or teeth, therefore food passes through their digestive system rather quickly. Because of this, they need to feed constantly or starvation will be the consequence. It is not surprising to see a seahorse consume 3,000 brine shrimp over the course of a day to handle their necessary nutrient requirements.
The second unique fact is that, the male seahorse is the only animal on Earth that bears its unborn young and has a monogamous relationship for life with the same mate.
When a monagamous pair mates, the female will deposit her eggs into the brood pouch in the ventral front side of the males body. The male will care for the eggs till they are ready to hatch. At that point in time, the male will release, fully formed and functional seahorses into the water.
The inability for seahorses to get around very well due to their inept body and swimming style and reduced fins poses a problem for seahorse. Predation problems and strong current from tidal and unfortunate weather conditions, or in the event of having a seahorse in a marine aquarium, strong powerhead flow will pose potential problems.
Seahorses propel themselves via a small fin in the back of their body that flutters back and forth rather quickly and that is basically it for mobility. For steering purposes they also have two small pectoral fins located on the side of their head. This inability to get around and ward off would be predators and strong water currents is one main reason that they are commonly found accompanying seagrass, seaweed and coral heads.
They wrap their prehensile tail around their surroundings as a way of securing themselves from being carried away by the current. This also affords them a great way of capturing food that passes their way. Their odd appearance also is used as camouflage so that they blend in with their surrounds as well in the event that a predator shows up hungry for a meal.
Seahorses range in size from just over an inch in height to about 14 inches. Coloration is often subdued with yellow, gold, tan and brown being the overall body color with black, gold or brown blotches,spots and patterns. Dwarf or Pygmy seahorses are the most popular and offered seahorses in the aquarium hobby.
For the most part seahorses are wild caught, which places some impact on the environment. Recently, their has been a breakthrough however, as a seahorse farm created in 1998, in Australia has been rearing young seahorses to reduce the wild caught specimens from finding their way into the aquarium hobby.
This very strange fish can be part of a marine aquarium setting if boisterous fish are not part of the equation. More importantly they need to be feed constantly and water parameters need to be ideal with very little tolerance for shifts and swings, especially with nitrates, salinity, alkalinity and pH.
Creating a beneficial biotope for your seahorse will aid in its acclimation process and ablility to feel as close to the natural reef environment as possible. Selecting a health specimen right off the bat at the pet shop will help significantly as well.