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are a small group of fish from within the family
Syngnathidae, meaning 'jaw fused.' Although
the Syngnathidae is commonly called the Pipefish
family, the most notable fish of this family
are in the subfamily Hippocampinae, the Seahorses.
In total, the Pipefish family contains four
subfamilies, 55 genera, and over 320 species
(Kuiter, 2000). At one point the animals in
this family were thought to be insects (Rafinesque,
1810; Michael, 1998), but it is now clearly
known these animals are actually fish, even
if they are strange-looking fish.
the needs of the pipefish are met, these fish
can live many years within the confines of a
home aquarium. Lifespan is currently considered
five to ten years in an aquarium. The correct
water parameters, tankmates, food options and
tank design are all of importance, and can each
lead to success or failure.
with water parameters, like any saltwater fish,
the hobbyist should strive for tank conditions
as near to natural saltwater conditions (NSW)
as possible. Unlike most other fish, the calcium
level in the aquarium is important to pipefish.
Their bony exoskeleton depends on the calcium
to maintain its strength. Calcium levels from
350ppm and up should be sufficient. Remembering
most pipefish are subtropical, aquarium temperatures
should range from 72 to 80° F.
Fellow tankmates are a paramount consideration
in a pipefish tank, and often is the difference
between success and failure. As a whole, pipefish
will not pester any fish. They are, for the
most part, oblivious to anything else in the
tank that does not fit into their tiny mouths.
This general rule can be extended from fish
to corals, and mobile invertebrates. However,
in that same regard, if it can fit into their
mouth, it likely will be consumed. This would
include all micro fauna in the aquarium, as
well as fish and shrimp fry. Despite the low-key
personality of pipefish, their tankmates often
pester them. All but the smallest, most peaceful
fish should be eliminated from a pipefish aquarium.
Suitable tankmates would include most gobies,
dragonettes, other seahorses and shrimpfish.
Any fast-swimming fish is likely to agitate
the pipefish and keep them in hiding. Fish that
are aggressive feeders are likely to do the
same. Any fish that tends to be "curious"
is likely to annoy the pipefish. This would
include wrasses, blennies and dwarf angels.
Naturally, predatory fish often times make a
quick snack out of pipefish. Large predatory
mobile invertebrates such as certain starfish
species, lobsters and hermit crabs should be
avoided, as well as any potentially strong-venom
corals such as any LPS corals and anemones.
the proper size food, and that enough of it
reaches the pipefish, is another major concern.
Thankfully, hobbyists are becoming more informed
on this important detail, and as such many ill-prepared
hobbyists have rightfully avoided this family.
Food items would include any of the naturally
growing microfaunal animals found in our aquariums,
including copepods, amphipods and mysid shrimp.
Therefore, the hobbyist would be smart to encourage
the natural growths of these animals. A dedicated
refugium for a pipefish tank is a wise idea,
or a large refugium can make a perfect pipefish
aquarium itself. Pipefish are regularly found
searching algae beds for food in the wild. These
algae beds encourage the colonization by microfauna,
and therefore colonies of macro algae like various
Caulerpa species are important additions
into any pipefish aquarium. When additional
foods are required, the best substitutes are
live foods. Hatching brine shrimp, mosquito
larvae or even daphnia at home can prove to
be a successful means of food supplementation,
or a welcome treat for pipefish that normally
do not need an additional food source. In many
situations, pipefish are not willing to accept
frozen/thawed prepared foods. In time some individuals
may begin to accept prepared adult brine shrimp,
Mysis shrimp or any number of commercially
available foods. Most specimens, however, will
never accept prepared foods. Be prepared to
supply live foods for the lifespan of your pipefish
should you consider obtaining these fish. Most
importantly, due to the lack of stomach and
inefficient intestines, the hobbyist must be
prepared to provide large amounts of these foods.
If you are counting on the bulk of the pipefish
diet to be supplied by yourself, consider that
three feedings per day is the minimum necessary.
Lastly, tank design is significant. This aspect
isn't nearly as important as the three previously
discussed requirements, but nonetheless, these
minimal requirements should not be considered
voluntary. An active, healthy sandbed should
be required. If possible, sand from several
different sources should be acquired to ensure
as much diversity as possible. This sandbed
will supply a large percentage of the naturally
occurring foods for the pipefish. Likewise,
good quantities of porous live rock are desirable.
As mentioned above, various colonies of algae
are also prime locations of microfaunal colonization,
and thus should be considered mandatory in the
pipefish aquarium. Caves and overhangs are a
wise idea, both as a comfort factor for your
pipefish, and for the viewing pleasure of the
hobbyists. In most cases, you can design your
rockwork to feature overhangs in prime locations
for your viewing, and your Doryrhamphus
sp. will immediately take to this overhang.
Without these overhangs, the pipefish is likely
to take up residence somewhere buried behind
the rockwork, much to the disappointment of
all intending on viewing these fish.
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