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A rough Guide to Seahorses

sourse : SEAHORSE.ORG 


Seahorse or Hippocampus

It is one of the most beautiful amazing and extraordinery fishes



If you are buying from a local fish store (LFS), observe the seahorses carefully before you purchase. If you are buying from an e-tailer, be sure they have a reputation for supplying quality animals and a guarantee of live arrival and survival for 5-7 days. Even the smallest sign of disease or injury can result in a mortality, as seahorses are extremely sensitive and often succumb to pathogens not common to other marine ornamental fish. To make matters worse, treatments are quite different and have fewer efficacies. The following are some questions to ask of your local fish store or e-tailer, particularly if you are purchasing WC animals. If you are able to observe the seahorses onsite, the following guidelines can help you with picking out the best animals that are most likely to survive. Even with a careful eye, WC seahorses can look outwardly healthy, only to die within a few days of purchase. Though there are no guarantees when purchasing WC seahorses, this may help to minimize mortalities:


It is a better sign if the pet store is feeding a more adequate diet. This could include enriched brine shrimp, ghost shrimp (for larger seahorses), Hawaiian red shrimp, or frozen mysis or similar crustaceans . You are much more likely to succeed with a seahorse that is trained to eat frozen food, and it is cheaper and easier to obtain and provide frozen food. Most CB seahorses have been trained to eat frozen mysis or similar appropriate food. Of the WC seahorses, H. erectus, the lined seahorse from the North American Atlantic seaboard, has the reputation of being easiest to train to eat frozen foods. As part of a complete diet, seahorses trained to eat frozen food should regularly receive a variety of live foods as well. Examples include ghost shrimp, enriched brine shrimp, baby mollies, red shrimp, etc. Some live food should be offered every week. (Note: The dwarf seahorse, H. zosterae, is a hardy species, but requires live food cultures of brine shrimp nauplii (24+ hour post-hatched vitamin/HUFA enriched baby brine shrimp), but is very hardy if its nutritional needs are met.)



Are there any signs of skin sloughing or discoloration, inflammation, odd swimming behaviour, not using a holdfast, lying on substrate or hitching upside down, minimal eye movement, protruding eyes, blisters anywhere on the body, inflamed gill slits, eroded snout, any body or tail lesions, or continuous heavy respiration?

This is only a partial list of possible outward signs of illness. It's also difficult to know what is normal behaviour (e.g., normal eye movement, respiration) without an experienced eye for seahorse observation. If any of the above descriptions are present, play it safe and pass on the purchase. Resist buying an apparently healthy animal if its tank mates show signs of disease, as it is likely to be infected as well. To "rescue" an obviously malnourished or sick seahorse is tempting. Try to resist the temptation; most sick seahorses will die, and you risk introducing disease pathogens into your aquariums. In addition, you will be rewarding an aquarium shop for poor husbandry practices and for selling unhealthy WC seahorses. Instead, urge the store to maintain and feed seahorses properly and to stock CB animals

CB seahorses, maintained in a mature tank with good water quality (ammonia and nitrite, zero; nitrate <20 ppm) and fed an appropriate diet may be expected to live for several years without serious health problems. WC seahorses, on the other hand, often show signs of disease, particularly as they are being newly established in the home aquarium. For either WC or CB, it is imperative to have medications on hand, so that you can be prepared to treat a disease outbreak before it overtakes one or all of your animals. The following medications have been recommended by the author and members of Seahorse.org to keep on hand in case of illness. Before treating, be sure to diagnose the disease and determine the best course of treatment.


Acclimation procedures do not differ from other fish except for the use of nets, as netting often damages the bony plates and the delicate dermal layer of the seahorse. Preferable methods include gently coaxing them into a plastic container for transfer or hand transfer. If the latter method is used, it is advisable to make the transfer quickly to avoid undue stress.

All WC purchases should be given a freshwater dip or formalin bath and ideally be kept in a separate display or quarantine tank for 2-4 weeks before introducing them to a tank with other seahorses. Seahorses are more sensitive than most fish to the FW dip, thus if they show signs of distress (e.g. thrashing, lying on bottom) lasting more than around 15 seconds, remove them immediately, regardless of the maximum 3 -5 minutes required to remove or kill external parasites. We do not advocate mixing CB and WC seahorses in a tank, as even apparently healthy WC seahorses may be asymptomatic carriers of disease that could decimate CB seahorses that may not have resistance to the disease. Observe all new purchases carefully for any odd behaviour or external lesions, spots or other anomalies. Usually the first sign of illness is cessation of appetite, but this is not a hard and fast rule.


Seahorses should be introduced into a mature, cycled aquarium. Numerous filtration methods and tank set-ups can result in a healthy, stable seahorse aquarium. A seahorse tank must have gentle to moderate currents. Be sure there is adequate biological filtration and do regular, partial water changes of 5-20 percent per week as you would with any fish-only aquarium, to keep water parameters as listed below. Water parameters should be stable before animals are added:

pH - 8.0 to 8.3
Specific gravity - 1.021 to 1.024
Ammonia - 0
Nitrite - 0
Nitrate - <20 ppm

Optimum temperature is dependent on whether the seahorse species being kept are tropical, subtropical or temperate. Generally, most beginners should start with tropical species unless the tank is equipped with a chiller unit. Heating tanks is much less expensive than cooling them. Use a high quality submersible heater. Many Seahorse.org members use Ebo Jaeger heaters as they have more reliable than average performance and do not feel hot to the touch, minimizing the chance of burning a seahorse that hitches to the heater. Allow about 4-watts per gallon when selecting an aquarium heater.

This is not a hard and fast rule, but most seahorse aquarists use taller tanks. Seahorses need height (2.5 to 3 times the UNCURLED length of the animals) in their tanks to court and mate. At a minimum, the depth of the tank, excluding the substrate, should be at least 2x the uncurled length of the animal. Further, leave a path along the substrate as some seahorses courting rituals require them to scoot along the bottom of the tank in tandem. Several pairs of pygmy seahorses can be maintained in a 5-10 gallon tank (a 10G is recommended because of the difficulties of keeping water parameters stable in a small capacity aquarium. Two to three pairs of medium sized seahorses can be maintained in a 24-gallon tank although a larger tank is preferable to keep water parameters more stable.

Temperature Requirements and Stocking Density of Commonly Available Seahorse Species

Note: This is to be used as a guideline. Keeping temperature constant is extremely important and although it is typically better to keep them at the lower ranges below, stability is key. One degree more or less is not a problem as long as temperature swings do not exceed 2 degrees maximum in a 24-hour range. Surface turbulence using power heads (water pumps), air pumps, and fans can help to lower and stabilize temperatures if necessary

Here is a list of commonly avaliable seahorse species grouped by their temperature range. You can not mix species from differing temperature ranges. Also listed is the recommended minimum tank size for two pairs of adult seahorses of each species, as well as the 'additional' space required by each additional pair. These are guidelines. Several people keep seahorses successfully in much smaller tanks, but we do not recommend this.


1) Tropical species - kept at 74-78 degrees F (24-26 degrees C)
zosterae, 1 pair/1.5 gallons (6 liters) - recommended 5 gallons (20 liters)
kuda, 1 pair/8 gallons (30 liters)- minimum size 15 gallons (60 liters)
barbouri, 1 pair/8 gallons (30 liters)- minimum size 15 gallons (60 liters)
erectus, 1 pair/8 gallons (30 liters)- minimum size 15 gallons (60 liters)
reidi 1 pair/8 gallons (30 liters)- minimum size 15 gallons (60 liters)
fuscus 1 pair per 5 gallons (20 liters)- minimum size 10 gallons (40 liters)
comes 1 pair/8 gallons (30 liters)- minimum size 15 gallons (60 liters)
procerus 1 pair/8 gallons (30 liters) - minimum size 15 gallons (60 liters)

2) Subtropical species - kept at 70-74 degrees F (22-25 degrees C)
whitei, 1 pair/8 gallons (30 liters)- minimum size 15 gallons (60 liters)
ingens1 pair/13 gallons (50 liters)- minimum size 45 gallons (180 liters)
tuberculatus, 1 pair/5 gallons (20 liters)- minimum size 15 gallons (60 liters)

3) Temperate species - kept at 66-72 degrees F (19-22 degrees C)
abdominalis, 1pair/13 gallons (50 liters)- minimum size 60 gallons (240 liters)
capensis 1 pair/5 gallons (20 liters)- minimum size 10 gallons (40 liters)
breviceps, 1 pair/5 gallons (20 liters)- minimum size 10 gallons (40 liters)


The following hardy invertebrates are generally regarded as safe tank mates for medium to large seahorses and do not require special lighting, as do corals. Use caution when adding animals to the tank; seahorses are not strong swimmers, are not competitive feeders, and have very few defenses against aggression. With the exception of these clean-up crew animals it is generally advisable to  establish seahorses first, then add other animals. Remove a tank mate at the first sign of aggression. Many potential tank mates can help control algae and/or clean up uneaten food. Other animals such as certain non-aggressive fish and corals may be housed with seahorses; this is just a partial list of compatible "clean up crew" animals considered most likely to be safe with small to large seahorses. Not all of these animals should be considered safe with seahorse fry.

The species are categorized as either a 0, 1, 2, or 3. The 0's are the most docile species around-- they're even safe with seahorse fry! The 1's are completely safe all the time with small to large horses, almost no exceptions. The 2's are, aside from the occasional rowdy specimen, safe. The 3's are a bit of a gamble, but work in some cases; watch them with care and be prepared to relocate them if they become a threat to your seahorses. Species marked with an asterisk (*) are suitable tankmates for seahorses (based on their numbers-- 0, 1, 2, or 3), but often fail to thrive in captivity for various reasons. These species are not generally recommended for any tank, but they should be referenced anyway. Anything not on the list may not be safe for seahorses ever, but they may just have been overlooked

Here you will find the list



With a little patience, WC seahorses can be trained to eat dead/frozen foods. There are numerous ways to coax them into taking it. This not only makes the job of feeding them a great deal easier and less expensive, it increases their chances of long-term survival, particularly with less experienced seahorse keepers. If you are having a lot of trouble getting your new seahorses to take frozen food, a short-term solution is to feed enriched artemia, (brine shrimp), ghost shrimp for larger species; and Hawaiian red shrimp. (See Seahorse.org for enrichment procedures.) The need to start with live food is usually necessary when purchasing WC seahorses unless the staff at your LFS has already trained them. It is good husbandry to continue to regularly offer live foods to seahorses that primarily subsist on frozen foods. Try to offer live foods at least once or twice a week.

The enriched artemia should always be rinsed in freshwater prior to feedings to kill or remove any harmful bacteria, and offered two to three times per day at three to six hour intervals. Some larger seahorse species may not readily take the brine shrimp, and will require live ghost/glass shrimp. These are a much more nutritional food source (or supplement) than the artemia-only diet. Finally, if you don't want to go to all this trouble maintaining the WC seahorses, your other option is to purchase only CB (captive bred) species that have already been trained to eat frozen foods, such as mysis (Mysis relicta), or mysids making feeding a much more simple task. Offer the frozen food, pre-thawed and rinsed, once or twice daily. Initially watch the seahorses carefully to see that all are getting their fill, and then adjust the amount of food offered accordingly. Again, remember to supplement a diet of frozen food with live foods offered at least once per week.


IMPORTANT NOTE: Although we discuss wild caught (WC) as well as captive bred (CB) seahorse strongly advise buying CB seahorses. Captive breeding prevents decimation of wild populations and supports responsible and innovative breeding programs for those interested in becoming seahorse breeders. In addition, captive bred seahorses are much easier to keep, having been trained to accept frozen food, pre-adapted to aquarium conditions, and much less likely to carry or spread disease. Their survivability in captivity is significantly higher than that of wild caught seahorses. In the end, it is more cost effective and rewarding for the beginning hobbyist to purchase CB seahorses