Seahorses breeding

Generalities about the seahorse

The seahorse, from the Greek hippos and Kampê, means an animal with a horse’s head on a curved, not elongated body. This very special animal is a member of the fish family. There are about fifty species spread all over the globe.

In nature, the seahorse is not fast and has no weapons of defense (such as poisonous spines, teeth …). It therefore has a camouflage capacity that allows it to escape from predators. Thus, the seahorse is able to change color according to the environment where it is located (for example according to the color of algae around it). When the seahorse feels attacked or stressed, it tends to blacken, while in the middle of its courtship, it acquires very bright colors!

Its curved tail is not used to move around but allows it to attach itself to the underwater vegetation because it is prehensile. Thus, the seahorse can remain attached to algae or corals to wait for the passage of a prey nearby and then suck it up. It is a carnivorous animal that feeds mainly on shrimp that are about the size of its snout.

To move through the water, the seahorse uses a dorsal fin for speed and two pectoral fins to help it navigate. It also has eyes that it can move independently of each other and thus ensure surveillance in all directions. The seahorse usually stays in shallow, vegetated waters to be able to hide quickly.

A seahorse generally lives between 2 and 4 years but this varies considerably with the conditions of the environment (especially in breeding).

Seahorses species available for breeding

There are differences between countries in the denomination of the different species of seahorses. This can therefore be a source of confusion when reading articles on seahorses written in a foreign language.

Moreover, differentiating between seahorses species is not an easy task because it is based on differences observable on certain parts of the body.

Thus, species are classified according to :

  • the shape of the crown located on the head of the seahorse, the size of the muzzle and other parameters related to the head
  • The number of scratches on bone plates and fins
  • Special designs on the body and any protrusions present, etc.

Several species can be purchased for breeding.

The Barbouri seahorse (or seahorse with a striped snout). This seahorse measures up to 15 cm in adulthood. They are generally white or pale yellow and sometimes pinkish.

The Comes seahorse (or tiger-tailed seahorse). This one also measures about 15 cm when adult and has color variations from yellow to black, through gray and white. Its tail is characteristic, colored by black or white stripes.

The Histrix seahorse (or bristly seahorse). Measuring from 8 to 14 cm adult, it is recognizable in particular by its many spines, and a central spine located at eye level, as well as its long muzzle. It can be pink, yellow or green.

The Kuda seahorse (or yellow/estuary seahorse). It can measure up to 17 cm and usually has dark spots on its body. Its natural colors come in a very variable range.

The Reidi seahorse (or slender seahorse/ long snout). Some individuals reach 20 cm. The spines are poorly developed and its range of possible colors is almost complete!

The Subelongatus seahorse (or Western Australian seahorse). He too can reach 20 cm. It is mostly made of pale colors.

Breeding conditions

The equipment

First of all it is necessary to be aware that seahorses breeding is done with a seawater aquarium and that this implies specific breeding conditions which are more difficult than in freshwater aquaculture.

The choice of the aquarium is important to obtain the best living conditions for seahorses. The tank of the aquarium must be at least 3 times the size of the adult so 45 cm minimum, knowing that there will be a sand layer at the bottom, the total height must be at least 60 cm. It is not necessary to close the aquarium, it allows a good oxygenation.

The addition of a filter is important to keep the water of very good quality by getting rid of its waste. It is also recommended to use a skimmer in order to reproduce the natural phenomena taking place in the marine environment.

The water temperature must be perfectly controlled because daily amplitudes of more than 3°C can be harmful for the seahorses and favour the appearance of diseases. The temperature must be set according to the species of seahorses present in the aquarium, generally between 20°C and 29°C. Globally, the seahorses will tolerate better a slightly cold water rather than a too hot one. The use of an immersion heater is an easy solution for a good temperature control.

Concerning lighting, it is important to reproduce light variations as they exist naturally. For this, it is possible to use fluorescent tubes (blue or white) that emit a non-violent light and also serves for the growth of the aquarium plants (algae …).

To install your seahorses properly, you will have to respect certain principles. It is necessary to provide places to hide from the light (caves,…) and when they get scared. But they also need enough space for their love parade to be carried out without any trouble !

Don’t forget to provide fixing points for seahorses on the ground or even at height (plants, plastic objects…). Finally remember that seahorses should not, as a general rule, be mixed with other fishes because each species has specific needs which are not the same and therefore require particular aquarium arrangements. Only small cleaner fishes like neon Goby or Synchiropus picturatus are tolerated.

On the other hand, it is possible (and even recommended) to add algae, non urticating corals, etc…

The food

As far as the seahorse is concerned, dry food in the form of flakes is not adapted because it is inert and therefore not attractive for it. The best solution is to provide him with live prey even if some individuals can cope with frozen prey.

The simplest is the use of artemia, which are small crustaceans that are easy to raise. Mysis, cyclopses, daphnia, rotipheres, copepods are all small prey that can also be given as food.

A seahorse must be fed at least every 5 days.

Reproduction :

Seahorses can reproduce once a month after sexual maturity (around 6 months). One of the specificity of these animals is that the male carries the eggs.

During the courtship phase, there is a change of color of the male and he puts forward his pouch on the abdomen to receive the eggs of the female. The exchange of eggs is done by interlacing the 2 individuals. Gestation then lasts about a month and the young hatch in the abdomen but remain there for a few weeks. After a while, the pouch of the mix will grow big enough and it will eject the young by hundreds.

The parents do not take care of the newborns which are independent and feed on plankton. Then after a few months, the young seahorses are able to swallow prey such as artemia.