Dwarf Seahorse (Hippocampus zosterae) - Jordan & Gilbert 1882
These little guys are one of the easier seahorses to care for in captivity as long as their needs are met.
This subtropical species is found up to 6 feet in depth among shallow grass flats, hanging onto several types of seagrass including Zostera (thus the name) with their prehensile tail. They eat small crustaceans that are present in the water column by using an instant vacuum that snaps the prey into their mouth with a “pop!” Only attaining a size of 30 mm (1.18 inches), makes them vulnerable to pestering by fish which is a good reason to have a tank just for them. The Dwarf Seahorse will also be out competed for food by fish.
Seahorses have bony plates instead of scales, and they can still be burned by accidentally latching onto corals in the tank. Since you can’t hear them scream in pain, run over, pull them off and explain that latching onto corals is a no-no, “just say no” to corals in the tank in general. Try to avoid high powered pumps since they navigate with their little caudal fin and cannot swim against currents very well. The seahorses don’t care for the “extreme sport” of getting shot across the tank by a water pump and trying to avoid the rocks as they whip by. (We just did a survey)
Lighting makes a big difference in the “morning” greetings that seahorses display. Allow the ambient lighting in the room set in before having the first sets of lights go on in your tank. (usually actinic) After an hour, have your second set of lights go on. It would be the opposite for the evening. It is important, for their well being, not to have the aquarium lighting abruptly turn on and off, but to allow a gradual increase and decrease. Use of gradual dimmers can solve this problem. This also plays a part in courtship.
Most of the time, the males initiate courtship, (it was initially thought that females always started courtship) and a ritual lasting several days consists of the pair quivering and shaking next to each other. Refrain from putting on “mood” music. (we still haven’t figured out what kind they like yet) When ready to copulate, they rise into the water column and the female deposits 10-50 eggs (depending on the size of the male) into the males pouch. This pouch is designed to exchange fresh sea water while carrying his brood and the eggs are imbedded into the inside of his vascular pouch and nourished for 10 days. He then delivers tiny versions of himself and can be ready to go at it again in a short period of time.
Using newly hatched brine can be used, with the Artemia species being the best quality. Regular brine shrimp is a poor substitute (unless gut loaded before consumption) for any seahorse and mysis should be used instead.
These estuary residence can tolerate some temperature and salinity fluctuations, but these should be kept to a minimum. In the wild these beautiful animals live 1 to 2 years, but in captivity, they can last longer with proper care.
Temperature 68 - 76F
PH: 8.0 to 8.3
Calcium: 385-400 (helps their skeletal structure)
Minimum Tank size: 5 gallons per pair