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FAQs about Seahorse & Pipefish Behavior

Related Articles: Seahorses & their Relatives, Color in Hippocampus, Part I, by Pete Giwojna and Ben Giwojna, Fresh to Brackish Water PipefishesSeahorse Care Guide

Related FAQs: Seahorses & their Relatives 1, Seahorses & their Relatives 2, Seahorses & their Relatives 2, Seahorse Identification, Seahorse Compatibility, Seahorse Selection, Seahorse Systems, Seahorse Feeding, Seahorse DiseaseSeahorse Reproduction,

Hippocampus pontohi... hanging out in Wakatobi.

Seahorse coloration    12/28/12
HI there.   I am considering buying brightly colored sunburst seahorses from ocean rider.
<A good company; Carol and Craig are friends>
   I am confused.  Some sites say that the erectus will change color due to mood, stress, surroundings and other sites say that they are born yellow and will vary, but that they will always be bright (they want a lot for those)   Which is true?
Marci Franklin
<This Seahorse species can/does change color (though not quickly... over weeks, months) depending on "conditions"... decor, lighting, foods... in captivity (and the wild). Bob Fenner>

seahorse behavior question (Bob Fenner)    9/19/12
Good afternoon crew!!!! Brian here with another question, on Sunday I got the first pair of tank bred erectus seahorses, the water parameters are same as the last email.  The first day the horses were very dark brown/black and but very active and immediately hitched to the decor in the tank, they both ate very well the first day after about two hours of being in the tank (Mysis shrimp).  The next day they both were still darker but not as dark as the first day, they were both still pretty active and hitching in various areas near the top of the tank both still eating very well.  Today one of them has hitched to one of the plants in the lower third of the tank, he has become a red brown color matching the plant he attached to and he just stays hitched to it occasionally repositioning himself around the plant but not leaving it.  The other is still up near the top third in the planted are above the rock wall, she has hitched to a section of plants and has also a similar color to the plants she has hitched to except she has developed a very attractive white lined pattern which she did have at my lfs but not that pronounced.  Neither of them are as active as the past two days but they are very alert and respond to me when I come close to the tank, both are breathing normally, both are eating exceptionally well.  The horses appear very content were they have hitched to and do not appear to be in any distress.  I just wanted to get your input because there behavior changed from the first two days to today, and they were also very active in my lfs's tank but it was much more sparingly decorated and 1/6 the size of my tank.  Would you be concerned with this or is this normal behavior of them getting settled into there new home.  Thanks as usual, Brian.
<I'd leave all as is Brian... these animals take a few weeks to settle in once moved>
P.S. Bob it was nice to finally meet you last weekend in Columbia!
<Ah yes. What a crowd! Cheers, BobF>

Carotenoids and seahorses  -- 05/07/07 Hello Bob, <Hey Jorge! Howzit? Last time I saw you, your wife was about to deliver and we were giving pet-fish pitches!> I have read some of your articles about color in fish and I thing they has been very informational. I work with seahorses and I have done several experiments to improve the color in seahorses that naturally in nature present varieties of red, orange and yellow (i.e. Hippocampus reidi) I have used Canthaxanthin as well Astaxanthin in their diet with some not very satisfactory results. I think it should be another factor that is necessary to synthesize the carotenoids, Light for example, the type and color temperature of the light that they are exposed to. I have exposed yellow seahorses to strong metal halide and they have turned black in few hours. Of course background color is also important for mimicry <Oh yes> Did you know publications or work done on Syngnathids and their color? <I do not... would have to do a computer search... But do know some folks (am sure you know them too) that will know re such, likely up to current literature... Am cc'ing Pete Giwojna here> If you cave ideas of what we can do to improve the color in seahorses please let me know Thank you very much in advance Jorge <And would ask other friends in the trade... but this is likely a proprietary area. Bob Fenner> Jorge A. Gomezjurado President Draco Marine Aquaculture, LLC Center of Marine Biotechnology Pier V, 701 East Pratt Street Baltimore, Maryland 21202-3101 U.S.A < http://www.dracomarine.org>

Re: carotenoids and seahorses  5/9/07 Dear Jorge: For display purposes, I find it is best to avoid high-intensity lighting such as metal halides due to the phenomenon you observed with your yellow seahorses.  If the lighting is too intense, the seahorses expand their  melanophores and produce excess melanin, which causes them to darken and  obscures their underlying coloration.  I believe this is a protective  mechanism designed to safeguard the seahorses against the ultraviolet radiation  associated with excessively bright light, just as we will develop a deep tan if  we spend a lot of time outdoors in the bright sun. If you have red or orange Brazilian seahorses (Hippocampus reidi), display them under lighting that is shifted towards the red end of the spectrum to show off their coloration to best effect. For example, I find that the Osram Gro-lux fluorescent bulbs, which put out wavelengths of light that are   concentrated toward the red and violet regions of the spectrum, produce  spectacular results in that regard.  They are intended to stimulate better plant growth, but have the added  affect of greatly enhancing any red or orange or purple colors they  illuminate.  When bathed in Gro-lux  light, bright red or orange seahorses literally glow! In  fact, when I first discovered this effect with a Red Philippine Lobster (Enoplometopus sp.) in a specialty tank I  believed I was witnessing actual fluorescence. The seven-inch bulldozer of a  crustacean was covered with sensory bristles that made it look almost fuzzy, and  under the Gro-lux bulb, the extraordinary excavator was instantly suffused with  a fiery radiance that dazzled the eye. At first I thought it's exoskeleton was  glowing, and I hypothesized that perhaps the chitin was infused with the type of  calcite crystals that fluoresce under ultraviolet, and which perhaps could be  similarly excited by the wavelengths emitted by the Gro-lux bulb, akin to the  way scorpions fluoresce under UV.    I  only realized the truth of the matter when I added the same type of bulb to an  aquarium containing, among other choice specimens, a gorgeous purple-and-yellow  Royal Gramma and a rare red-orange erectus.  Now, that seahorse was very colorful  under any kind of lighting, but as soon as that Gro-lux lamp switched on, the erectus was ablaze with a shade of  brilliant Day-Glo orange ordinarily only seen from neon signs, nuclear  meltdowns, and psychedelic posters displayed under UV.  The stunning steed shone with a luminous  aura, awash with glorious orange glow that made it look like it was swathed with  liquid fire.  Suddenly, it was the  color of  red-hot lava, aflame with  a blinding orange incandescent, and the result was truly spectacular.  Then my shy Royal Gramma emerged from  it's sleeping cave to keep the seahorse company, and it's magenta end was  immediately suffused with a dazzling hot-pinkish purple glow that ended abruptly  where it's yellow half began.  That  made it obvious that the new bulb was accenting colors at the red and violet  regions of the spectrum, which are precisely the wavelengths of light  chlorophyll absorbs best.    In short, sir, your red or orange H. reidi will be  dazzling if displayed under the right type of lighting that enhances their  natural coloration. Best of luck with your display animals,  Jorge! Respectfully, Pete Giwojna <Thank you for this input Pete... Do I understand there is not much/documented influence from nutrition on Seahorse color? Bob Fenner>

Re: carotenoids and seahorses   5/10/07 Dear Bob: <Pete> Yes, sir -- I know of no published studies or research regarding the influence of carotenoids or other natural color enhancers on the coloration expressed by seahorses. <Interesting... I "did a little paper" in college on the role of these compounds on the development of reddish-orange color in a local obnoxious Damsel... the Garibaldi (Hypsypops rubicunda), named in honor of Louis and his colorful tunics... The folks at Longlife foods (yes, a while back) gave me 1/2 a k towards... and got to chat with none other than Carl L. Hubbs (he and Feder did a paper in the mid-50's re sources of predisposing nutritional factors (sponges mostly) and their role here...>   I don't have anything more to offer in that regard  that Jorge isn't already well aware of through his own efforts and  contacts.  That might be a good question for him to pose on the Syngnathidae  pro discussion group; perhaps other curators and zoo keepers and aquarium  professionals can advice him regarding their own experiences along those  lines. Respectfully, Pete Giwojna <Good idea! BobF>

Pipefish Behavior  - 06/07/06 Hi Bob, great site by the way. My question is about my bluestripe pipefish. I keep a pair in my reef tank and feed them twice a day frozen mysis. Recently the male has been vibrating his  body very awkwardly . Could this be a sign of the mating ritual or could he have an internal parasite. thanks. Joe <Is very likely reproductive, pair behavior. Neat animals. Bob Fenner>

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