I have long wanted to have seahorses or pipefish. I've been thinking a lot about dwarf seahorses lately. While I've done some internet research I would like to hear if anyone here on CR has experience with them. I'm especially interested:
Dwarf seahorses are actually some of the hardest seahorses to keep. You're better off setting up a larger tank for an easier seahorse such Erectus, but if you're set on dwarfs I can give you some info.
What makes them so difficult to keep is their size and their lack of willingness to take to frozen foods.
Dwarfs will from time to time take to frozen, but it's few and far between and may go off of frozen foods after a short time. Seahorses do not have a very developed stomach/digestive track which means they need to eat daily at a minimum. It's best to feed multiple times a day. Since dwarfs rarely take to frozen, you will need to hatch brine shrimp daily. Brine shrimp are only nutritious during the first 24 hours when they still have a yolk sack so it's important to have fresh BS bubbling at all times. Feeding dwarfs is very similar to taking care of easier fry like Banggais. You still have to hatch brine shrimp and feed out daily.
Seahorses are very sensitive to anything that may sting them. Due to the size of the dwarfs, even something as small as a hydroid could cause serious problems. For that reason, dwarfs need to be setup in a sterile environment. That means starting a tank from dead rock/sand/etc. Many dwarf keepers will use panacur (dog dewarmer) to treat everything they put into their tank to ensure that their tank is sterile. Unfortunately panacur is much like copper in that it absorbs into everything and leaches out over a long period of time. panacur makes it very difficult to keep many algae eating snails. Nassarius can often stand the treatment and are a large help in cleaning up the food that is left behind, especially if frozen food is attempted.
Another thing to keep in mind is that since you will be feeding live foods, a smaller tank is better in order to keep the density higher in a tank. A 10 gallon is often seen as very large for dwarfs and you could fit several pairs in a tank this size.
Seahorses are also extremely sensitive to bacterial infections. Lowering the temperature in the tank will reduce the chances of bacterial infections exponentially. Bacteria cannot reproduce as fast at lower temperatures. Many people often ask why this is necessary when they live in 80* temps in the wild. The answer is that in the wild you have the entire ocean to constantly dilute the bacterial blooms that may occur. In a closed system, especially one the size of a dwarf system, the dilution doesn't occur in a high enough level or often enough so the temp must be dropped. Typically a temp below 74* is suggested.
One really cool thing about dwarfs is that their fry are as large as their Erectus brothers who are 600% the size of them as adults. For this reason, they can take baby brine shrimp right from birth. There is no reason to raise the fry in a separate tank. This tank is already sterile and receiving newly hatched baby brine shrimp every day, so they can all be raised together.
Now I'm not trying to scare you off. I just want to make sure you have a complete concept of how much work these small creatures can be. They are a ton of fun and so interesting to watch, but they are a WHOLE lot of work!
Thanks for the reply and information. You've confirmed all of the things I've read and more (lower temperature). I was planning a small tank (<5 gallons), with macroalgae a few mushrooms, and gorgonains. But perhaps the corals/shooms are not a good idea. I'm still not 100% sure I'll even move forward with dwarfs... just researching at this point.
My thoughts on food is to raise Tigger Pods. I've read that they are easy to culture and ideal food for dwarfs (live and more nutritious than brine shrimp). My plan is to get the pods culturing soon even if to just feed to my reef tank. Only if/when I get a pod culture up and running smoothly will I consider setting up a dwarf tank.
Well I would recommend not doing the corals. The coral will not make it through the panacur treatment and anything in the tank that has been panacured will leach out and kill the corals even if you don't panacur them.
You can possibly do some macros. Chaeto will survive the panacur treatment and some of the grape caulerpas have made it in the past but don't look too great when done. Of course they grow back. What's important is that they survive it.
The tigger pods are super nutritious, but the problem is that they crawl rather than free swim. The seahorses will have to hunt for them. Often Seahorses will be lazy and just sit there waiting for their food to swim by...
They also are very slow to reproduce. You would have to have a very large culture going in order to have enough to feed the seahorses. The other problem is the tigger pods have been know to crawl on the seahorses which can irritate them. This really doesn't cause a lot of problems other than the seahorses constantly twitching to try to get them off of them. I think tigger pods are a great thing to have on hand to supplement their diet or in case you get a bad hatch of brine shrimp one day, I just wouldn't rely on it for their sole food source.
As far as where to get them, you will need to decide whether to go captive bred or wild caught. This is really less of an issue when it comes to dwarfs than it is with the larger seahorses. If you want to go CB, I recommend Seahorse Source. If you want to go WC, I recommend Dana. He is a collector in Florida. He sells them on Ebay and also has his own site where he lists what are available that have recently been caught. I can't think of the exact address now. It might be something like Florida Collector? I'll have to look around...
Now I'm really confused about tigger pods. I don't have any experience culturing them (yet), but the info you've provided conflicts with an article in the Sept/Oct 2011 issue of CORAL titled "taming a marine tiger: Tigriopus californicus". In the article the author states "... they swim in the open water instead of hugging the substrate, which makes them a universal food." and "Tigriopus californicus is particularly good for feeding the tiny Florida Dwarf Seahorse...". The last quote is what re-sparked my interest in getting dwarfs again. The article also claims that raising Tigger Pods requires little more than a jar of saltwater. I don't know what to think now...
If I decide to get some dwarves I plan to go captive bred if at all possible. Ideally I'd like to get them from someone local but that may not be an option.
Relatively speaking, Tigger pods do swim much more than their tisbe relatives, but they still spend a large amount of time crawling. I think of their "swimming" more as jumping from place to place. When they are mating, they are often in the water column much more. No matter how you look at it though, they don't spend nearly the amount of time in the water column as BBS do.
The pods really are very nutritious and some of the hardiest copepods to culture. They're from inter-tidal areas so they can deal with a huge swing in salinities, temperatures, etc. I assume this is why Reed decided this species would be so good or bottling and sitting on store shelves for longer periods of time. Have you ever seen them in the store? While they're typically refrigerated at the store making them much less active, you can see their motion in the bottle.
I think they're great to supplement the diet of the dwarfs, but I don't think they should be the sole diet. We were able to get them to culture in our fuge a while back and it as great to always have on hand. Something to think about also is that they feed a lot on diatoms, so they spend a lot of time on the dirty glass eating. That may be another reason they crawl so much.
I think this article is much like many things in the hobby. A single source is not always the best for information. They do give a great deal of information on the pods themselves, but they may not be the most informed on seahorse-keeping. It's easy enough to make an assumption that these would be ideal for seahorses. And really, they are! I just don't think you'll be able to culture them in the quantity that you'll need without a very large culture, and on those lazy days I'm not sure that the seahorses will hunt enough food.
I would not be scared off from dwarfs just because of this though. Hatching BBS is really pretty easy. Have you ever done it before? I used to breed seahorses so I have perfected the method and have my own tips that I like to use! I would be happy to share if you're interested, but I have already written a book here and don't want to bore you!
i order all my horses from ccritters.com i never keep them in a tank larger than 5 gallons, if you do its very easy to lose track of them. i feed all mine enhanced brine and the babies decapsulated baby brine. ive had my new tank for around 4 months but at one point i had a dwarf tank running for a solid 2 and a half years.
i disagree that they are the hardest, i believe they are fairly easy. i have kept many species of horses successfully though. also it is nearly impossible to wean them onto frozen foods. and sometimes thats more of a pain that just doing brine.
many public aquariums cant even successfully wean them. as for sterile tanks that is correct, even the tiniest crab on a piece of live rock will make a snack of your horses. so no live rock live sand or tank mates for these little guys.
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