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following is an excerpt from an article
Up, Cowboy! The Genus Hippocampus"
by Henry C. Schultz III...
tropical and sub-tropical seas of the
world house seahorses. A few species
are known to extend into the Australian
and New Zealand temperate seas, while
no species are found in cold water.
With that said, the warmer tropical
seas show a larger number of species
than do the cooler waters of the north
Atlantic or southern Australia. One
species, Hippocampus capensis,
has been observed even in estuaries
of varying salinity.
Seahorses, like all Syngnathids, are
secretive fish and are highly localized
and restricted in their distribution.
They are more likely found in bays and
lagoons than on the fore-reef. In locales
where a seahorse species occurs in shallow
water over a rubble or rock sea floor,
a second, different species likely lives
nearby in slightly deeper water over
a soft mud bottom. Seahorses have been
viewed, photographed, or collected in
waters only several feet deep and conversely
at least one species has been trawled
from depths beyond 200 feet (H.
spinosissimus). Additionally, with
only two specimens of H. spinosissimus
known, it is the rarest species of the
genus. On the opposite end of the spectrum
is H. histrix, which is known
from Japan to Bali, most parts of Indonesia
and the Red Sea, and onto Papua, New
Guinea and even into Hawaiian waters,
making it the species with the widest
distribution. In light of their overall
localization and reproduction mode,
this wide distribution is rather remarkable.
In fact, it is so remarkable it has
led some researchers (Kuiter, 1999)
to consider the possibility that
H. histrix juveniles may have a
pelagic stage. Alternatively, further
research on this genus may negate some
of the localities, as there may have
been misidentified species listed, thereby
reducing its geographical distribution.
At least one species, H. bargibanti,
is pelagic for a portion of its life
cycle. It settles onto various gorgonian
corals and shortly thereafter will adapt
the coloration and general shape of
the coral (Gomon, 1997).
Perhaps the biggest factor facilitating
success with seahorses in the home aquarium
is placing them into the proper aquarium
with suitable tankmates. Placing the
seahorse into a reef aquarium display
containing active fishes or stinging
corals will most likely be highly unsuccessful.
Seahorses should be given a tank unto
themselves free of aggressive fish,
corals, or mobile invertebrates. Anemones
and large-polyped stony (LPS) corals
should be entirely avoided, as the seahorses
will be stung and injured if they come
into contact with the powerful stinging
cells found within the tentacles. These
wounds could possibly be fatal, and
in some cases the seahorses may even
be consumed by the anemones. Large crabs
will actively hunt seahorses and, if
given the chance, will capture and consume
them. Due diligence is required to remove
any hitchhiker crabs prior to declaring
the aquarium suitable for seahorses.
Additionally, allow me to strongly recommend
a species-dedicated aquarium.
species of Hippocampus are
readily available in the marine aquarium
trade. Additionally, many of them are
also widely available as captive bred
animals, thereby reducing the numbers
of wild-caught fish and increasing the
likelihood of the aquarist receiving
healthy 'horses. When searching for
seahorses, choosing a captive bred animal
would be the smartest option. It may
also be the only option
within a few years' time. A Convention
of International Trade in Endangered
Species of Wildlife Fauna and Flora
(CITES) regulation restricting the harvesting
of seahorses less than 2.5" long
went into effect this past May, and
in all likelihood the restrictions could
become even tighter in coming years.
Currently, if an exporting country is
unable to prove the collection of its
native seahorses does not jeopardize
the wild populations, it is not permitted
to export the species. The time is now
to govern ourselves and purchase only
captive bred animals.
Text by Henry C. Schultz
Photos by Reef Central members.
A special thanks goes out to Dave Bayne (Nanook)
for his assistance on this project.
Reefkeeping Magazine Reef Central, LLC-Copyright © 2004