Seahorse Lab Photos

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Pipefish!

Posted on : 26-10-2012 | By : aquagrrl | In : Pipefish

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Baby Dragonface Pipefish

 

I was contacted by my favorite local fish store yesterday, and they had just got some dragonface pipefish in. In the bag were a gazillion tiny babies. Could I take them and try to raise them? You bet I can! So my husband got an excited message “Can you get them for me?!?!?” (He has the patience of a saint). He works across the street from the store so he picked them up for me. I’m not sure I’m going to have any luck with them, but I sure am going to try.

They appear to be a little over 1/2″, but not quite 3/4″. I could see when I first got them home they had full bellies, which suggests they still have their yolk sack. I’m trying to feed rotifers, and two different types of copepods; Euterpina acutifrons and Apocyclops panamensis. Unfortunately, the Euterpina, my favorite copepod species isn’t reproducing so well for me.

If it were, I’d probably only use that. My preference towards Euterpina is that while the Apocyclops is easier to culture, seahorse fry don’t do as well with it. On the other hand, Seahorses feed Euterpina seem to do well with it. I’m not sure the reason, I thought it might be more effective escape strategies, but I was just reading that the nauplii are fairly spiky. But I had to use both, so that is that. I also would prefer not to use rotifers, but they’re my fallback if there aren’t enough Euterpina and the Apocyclops are not eaten.

I’ve set them up in a 2.5 gallon fishbowl kriesel with a bit of greenwater. This should keep the rotifers enriched, help out a little with ammonia, and make it a little easier for the fry to see their food. Unfortunately it also means the tank is going to be prone to an explosion of the rotifers and copepods, so I’ll have to try and do daily water changes.

They swim like little worms. I’m also happy to see that they appear more well formed than bluestriped pipefish. I haven’t had any luck with those, so I’m worried. But these actually appear slightly more developed to my eye. Here is to hoping they do well. I’ll probably know in a couple days, I think they have a shorter starvation time than seahorses.

This morning I didn’t see a large die off, thankfully. The babies all seem pretty active. And the number of food organisms seems fewer, so I’m hoping that means they were eating throughout the night (I leave a dim light on). Unfortunately, now that they’re in the green water I can’t see their bellies as well, so I can’t tell if they have a full gut or not.

Dragonface Pipefish Babies

H. erectus babies, day 3

Posted on : 07-09-2012 | By : aquagrrl | In : Erectus, Seahorses

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I’m not really happy with how the H. erectus fry are doing. They look like they have pinched stomachs and aren’t eating. I’ve offered them newly hatched brine shrimp, enriched brine shrimp, Euterpina acutifrons, and Apocyclops panamensis. I’ve seen them snicking at a few copepods, so I wonder if they aren’t preferring them to the brine shrimp. I am low on Euterpina, which makes me wonder if that’s why they’re not eating.

I also had too much brine shrimp in there, so I had to do a water change. I like waiting a bit longer for the first water change, but I needed to get rid of the bbs that was taking over. I added back E. acutifrons, but I just don’t have enough, so I also added the A. panamensis back. I don’t exactly know why, but I get the feeling that the A. panamensis isn’t as good. Maybe they move to fast or maybe I’m imagining things. None the less I had to try.

When I added the brine shrimp back, I did again add some newly hatched brine shrimp, and a small amount of enriched. I tried to keep the amount so the density was high enough that the seahorses wouldn’t have to search too much but not so much that it creates a cloud of bbs around them.

Two already look like they’re not going to make it, I can only cross my fingers for the rest.

Surprise Again! Babies!

Posted on : 05-09-2012 | By : aquagrrl | In : Erectus, Seahorses, Tigertails

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I was taking care of the last feeding of the night when I looked in one of the tanks. “Babies?” I couldn’t help asking aloud. This pair I’ve been dying to get babies from, but they haven’t produced any yet, most likely due to their current housing. I ended up moving a bunch of things around and not getting a aquarium rack built last fall, so these two have been sharing a 20 gallon with 4 others, and a divider between them in hopes of getting babies. Despite lots of courting, no babies, so I assumed the space was too small.

Never assume that seahorses won’t find a way to make it happen. Because they will.

I only was able to gather 27 of them. Several got pulled into the filter and perished. Many more were probably in the hair algae, and I just didn’t notice (yes, I’m behind on maintenance again). But for a surprise batch, 27 seems okay.

This is the pair where I was pairing mother to son because I want to try and set and improve the pearlescent color of the mother. To be honest, I’ve wanted the babies so bad that I was sure some catastrophe woud strike and I’d lose them before they had a chance to breed. And it still could, 27 isn’t that many to try and work with.

I got them settled into a 2.5 gallon aquarium, and offered them the copepod Apocyclops panamensis and enriched artemia. I’m worried that the artemia may be a bit on the big size, as they’re for the older tigertail fry, but it’s what I had on hand so it’s what they got. Tomorrow I’ll have more brine shrimp to give to them.

I’m not sure if the male is preggers again, the didn’t look eggy, but she didn’t look thin either. The male had a very large pouch but it deflated a bit when I was mucking around, looking for babies. But he also didn’t look big before these guys were born.


The last brood of tigertails is still hanging on. A lot have died off, some still look crumby, and some are looking good. I can only hope the ones looking good stay that way. I did an overdue water change (I’m not very motivated when they’re looking so poorly) and tomorrow I’m going to have to set up some brine shrimp to grow out.

Not great

Posted on : 28-08-2012 | By : aquagrrl | In : Seahorses, Tigertails

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The latest batch seemed to take a turn for the worst a few days ago. They went from eating well with orange bodies full of food to looking skinny and lethargic even though they have ample food. I suspect it is due to me being behind on water changes early on. I’ve noticed this “wasting” condition in fry before and it seems to go along with lax maintenance. Unfortunately it seems like once they get to that point, there isn’t much to do.

I tried sano-life marine to see if a probiotic will help, and they’re due for another water change tomorrow, so I’m going to see if I can’t turn it around. I’m not optimistic but we’ll see how they do. I’ve had to enlist my DH on water changes to keep up, so we’ll see how they do.

Their father had a bad case of gas bubble disease develop a couple days ago. When I did the pouch evac, several unformed eggs and partially formed babies were flushed out, including a mulm like substance. It reminded me of the “old days” when they though air in the pouch was caused by decaying young. Considering the material I purged from his pouch, I wonder if there isn’t some truth to that.

I’m curious if he’ll have any babies, or if they were all flushed. If it was like last time, there are still some babies, probably embedded in the pouch wall to an extent. Then the question is how will they do? I used diamox. I also used tank water to flush the pouch. I guess I won’t know for a few more days, when he should be having them.

5 days in, looking good

Posted on : 14-08-2012 | By : aquagrrl | In : Seahorses, Tigertails

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I don’t want to jinx it, but this batch is coming along nicely. Especially after the baby saver incident, I’m happy to report they seem to be swimming strong and eating well. I think I’ve only lost a few. I did the first water change today. I waited longer than I would have liked, but I just didn’t have the energy to do it earlier.

I am currently only feeding Euterpina acutifrons. There do appear to be some that aren’t eating as vigorously, and some size discrepancies, but most are eating, and I can see a white copepod filled belly. I should have started nbbs today but forgot to start a fresh batch yesterday, so will start feeding this to them tomorrow.

Tigertail Babies during water change

Tigertail seahorse fry in a temporary container while their rearing vessel is being cleaned.

Not really a baby saver.

Posted on : 09-08-2012 | By : aquagrrl | In : Seahorses, Tigertails

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Another brood of seahorses born, this time no “help” from me. There were warning babies two full days early; I’m not sure why, but they were.

I build a device I dubbed the “baby saver” to keep the babies from being sucked into the filter. It’s a tube with 500 micron mesh that goes over the filter intake. It *sort of* worked. Some did not get sucked in. Others got pulled in by their tails and were really wedged in there. I had to pull them out using a turkey baster. I’m not sure those are going to make it, they seem very stressed. It was better than without, but still not a great solution.

I’m not sure how many were born. 9 were born Tuesday (2 days ago). I’d guess maybe 70? I should really count them, but I was a bit frazzled by the baby saver not working. I need some sort of solution because these tanks can’t be on a shared setup due to being tank raised and wanting to avoid contamination. I may keep employing the “baby saver” but when the male has the warning babies, I’ll move him to a birthing chamber.

 

There are still a couple of the previous batch alive. Not many though. Possibly just the two that were not premature.

A few left

Posted on : 28-07-2012 | By : aquagrrl | In : Seahorses, Tigertails

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Much to my surprise, a few of the tigertail babies are still alive. I am guessing about 12-15. I’ve been doing 100% water changes every day, but haven’t been counting them. They still look rather weak, but are at least eating. I’m feeding bbs only for the last few days, largely because of the hassle of copepods,  and I have to meter my energy to what’s necessary. So bbs it is, even though I think they do better with copepods in the mix. I’m still not sure how they’re going to do in the long run, but I’m somewhat hopeful with that many left that we might be okay, especially since I didn’t think they’d make it past a week. One downside is that when a brood is that small, it is really tough to get food right – it needs to be dense enough that they don’t have to go far to find it, but with so few, they can’t eat it all, so there is left over food, both nutritionally incomplete as well as growing and polluting the tank as they go.

Premies not doing great

Posted on : 21-07-2012 | By : aquagrrl | In : Seahorses, Tigertails

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Well, the premature brood isn’t doing great. I’ve already lost probably close to half. If it’s food related, it usually takes 5-7 days, so I’m thinking that either they were too young to survive outside the pouch or the trauma from the pouch evacuation did them in. I’m not sure if any have been eating, though some do appear to have something in their guts. I have noticed them looking at food, but no snicking.

I did a 100% water change, and replaced the copepods with just Euterpina acutifrons. I don’t like how crazy the Parvocalanus take off. Plus I am not sure, but I think they irritate the fry, they seem more twitchy with Parvocalanus in there. I normally wouldn’t do a 100% change for a couple more days, but with the number of dead, plus the insane Parvocalanus, I decided I probably needed to.

I found 3 more babies in the parents tank today – I wonder if that means this is when he would have had them normally. These looked more like I’m used to seeing them, longer snouts, a little bit bigger. I am guessing he flushed his pouch in expectation to mate with the female, he was flashing bright colors today. But that probably the babies were 3 days early.

I decided to add newly hatched bbs, on the off chance maybe this would trigger the young to eat, but I’m not sure why I think it would. Normally I wouldn’t added it for a few more days, but I’d like the remaining ones to make it. Some appear to be hunting, swimming up to either copepods or bbs, but never actually snicking. I’m not very hopeful of their chances, but I’ll keep trying.

Induced Labor

Posted on : 17-07-2012 | By : aquagrrl | In : Seahorses

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That was a first. I accidentally induced labor in one of my seahorses. My male tigertail has gotten air in his pouch from time to time. He hasn’t in a while, but I noticed him hitching oddly the past month or so, and the past couple days, it was clear that he had a bubble that was causing him to lean to the side. So I decided to do a pouch evacuation, and flush with diamox. I was afraid he might have been pregnant, but he’s been babyless for a while (aside from a brood I missed about a month ago).

I do pouch flushes with a teflon catheter, inserting it into the pouch (sans needle, of course!) while gently squeezing so air comes out. I then attach a syringe with tank water, and flush the pouch with water, while holding the opening open enough to let the water flow back out. The final step is using crushed diamox in the tank water, and leaving it in the pouch to help prevent reoccurrences.

It was during this last step that a few non-viable eggs popped out. I’ve seen this before, I’m not sure why. But the next surprise was when two fully formed babies wiggled their way out! That was a bit unexpected. He didn’t appear pregnant at all, and it was odd because once the pouch flush had finished, his pouch appeared empty. I hemmed and hawed over what to do, but while they were fully formed, they looked a day or two early; short snouts, large yoke sacks (though it was interior to the body). Two have such a bad survival rate, that I decided to just leave them be rather than pull them for rearing.

Well imagine my surprise when a few hours later there were close to 50 babies loose in the tank. All appeared to be premature as well, just not quite fully formed like I normally see them. Some weren’t even swimming.

I did end up pulling them out and putting them in a 2.5 gallon fish bowl kriesel. I’m not sure how they’ll do, being born prematurely. The motion of the kreisel is keeping them mostly off the ground, but I’m not sure if that’s enough. I’m also not sure how they’ll do with me poking and prodding the pouch, though as I learned from the babies that went through the filter, they’re actually quite tough in that regards. I prefer using euterpina, but because my cultures are low, I’m starting them with euterpina and parvocalanus. Crossing my fingers!

A Decade In The Making

Posted on : 04-07-2012 | By : aquagrrl | In : Seahorses

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I guess I can no longer call my tigertail fry anymore, as they’re starting to mature into adults, and the males are growing small pouches. This makes me so incredibly happy – it’s taken me 10+ years since I fell in love with tigertails to the time that I’ve successfully raised them. Now, they’re about ready for new homes, 13 out of the 50 I feel are big enough to go to new homes, and I’m sure the others won’t be far behind.

captive bred tigertail seahorses

Young captive bred tigertail seahorses, showing his new pouch off.

 

 

H. comes ready to go.

H. comes ready to go.

 

I first fell in love with them when I started keeping seahorses around 1999. Back then, you could only get wild caught seahorses, and had no success because they came in picky, barely hanging on to life, and diseased. No amount of heroic effort would save them. Then, when ORA finally started selling them, I could never get my hands on any, and then they stopped breeding them. In 2009 I got a male that arrived mislabeled as H. kelloggi. Several months later, more started arriving, but being tank raised I struggled to keep them alive. Out of a batch of 3 tiny seahorses, not much more than an inch and a half, one survived. And she was a she.  Still, it took another two years for them to decide to have babies.

I might sound ridiculous, but my heart swells with pride when I look at them. I made that happen, maybe all the heartache and hard work was worth something.