Feeding-What do Captive Bred Seahorses Eat? Mysis shrimp!
Feeding your seahorses properly is very important. This article will cover how to properly feed the larger commonly kept seahorse species including Hippocampus erectus, H. reidi, H. comes, H. kuda, ect (not Dwarf seahorses, H. zosterae). Captive bred seahorses like ours are completely weaned to frozen Mysis shrimp, specifically Hikari BioPure and Piscene Energetics Mysis shrimp. You can diversify their diet by offering them frozen Spirulina enriched brine shrimp, enriched live brine shrimp, and pacific plankton, shaved squid, and amphipods. While it is good to add diversity to their diet we recommend 90-95%+ of their diet be Mysis shrimp. Mysis shrimp is very nutritious for your seahorses.
Non-enriched Artemia, commonly known as brine shrimp, lacks proper nutrition. We commonly hear many seahorse keepers confusing brine shrimp with Mysis shrimp. There is a big difference between the two and Mysis shrimp is what you need to feed your captive bred seahorses. Since our captive bred seahorses are completely weaned to frozen Mysis shrimp they often will not show interest in other foods such as brine shrimp, copepods, ect. If you are to supplement your seahorse's diet, we recommend it be with Hikari Spirulina Brine Shrimp.
If you have access to live Artemia (adult size) locally, using our in-house enrichment to enhance it can make these a great snack for your seahorses every now and then. Learn more about our in-house enrichment here: https://seahorsesavvy.com/blogs/news/how-to-enrich-artemia-brine-shrimp.
Artemia nauplii and Copepods? Do Seahorses Need a Copepods Population to Thrive?
A common misconception we hear is that seahorses need a well established copepod population to thrive long term in an aquarium. Since our captive bred seahorses are completely weaned to frozen Mysis shrimp and have never been fed copepods they often do not recognize them as food. Also, copepods are too small to sustain the larger seahorse species long term. Some individuals may learn they are a snack and hut them but they should not replace their regular feedings of Mysis shrimp. This is a very common misconception and misinformation we hear.
Like copepods, Artemia nauplii, commonly known as baby brine shrimp, are too small of a food item and larger seahorses species do not typically recognize them as a food item. They are not very nutritious either, even freshly hatched. Adding Artemia nauplii to the aquarium in high numbers can quickly foul the water, deplete oxygen, lead to bacterial blooms, irritate your seahorses, and is not recommended.
How Often do Seahorse Need to Eat?
There is a common misconception that seahorses have no stomach and need constant feeding to thrive long term in an aquarium. While seahorses do have a quick metabolism and need to be fed often they do not need a constant supply of food. Twice a day feedings with the larger seahorse species is sufficient. One feeding in the morning and one feeding in the evening is recommended. If you are able to fit in a third feeding that is great but if not two feedings a day is usually plenty. We recommend feeding them 2-3 times daily with at least 6 hours between feedings to give them time to digest.
In general, a pair of seahorses can typically eat about a cube of frozen Mysis shrimp per feeding. This varies with individuals, age and if they are breeding but it is a good starting point. The goal is to give them enough to finish up within 15-30 minutes. You do not want to leave uneaten food in the aquarium for more than a half an hour. Like any raw seafood, Mysis shrimp will begin to spoil quickly. Nassarius snails are great clean up crew too for leftover meaty foods. It is important to not overfeed as it will foul your water quality and cause problems!!!
Rinsing Mysis Shrimp
Rinsing your Mysis shrimp before feeding is good practice. Thaw out enough frozen Mysis shrimp for a single feeding. After it is completely thawed pour the Mysis shrimp through a fine mesh net and rinse under cool water. This will help rinse off fine particulates and help keep your aquarium much cleaner.
Unrinsed Mysis Shrimp Rinsed Mysis shrimp
Free feed or use a Feeding Station with Your Seahorses
Seahorses at a feeding station. Photo credit Lisa B.
Some hobbyist prefer to "free feed" their seahorses by pouring in the thawed Mysis shrimp and letting the seahorses feed in the water column. This works for some hobbyist, especially those with larger herds, but you want to be careful to not get a lot of lost food in the aquarium. You can also waste a lot of food this way if it is going right into the filtration or filter socks. Also keep in mind uneaten food sitting in the filtration will begin to harbor a lot of undesirable bacteria. Having a lot of water flow to keep the food suspended and good clean up crew is key with this feeding method.
Many hobbyist prefer a "feeding station" where they spot feed their seahorses. This method does require some training and can take a couple weeks for your seahorses to learn. Once your seahorses figure out how to use the feeding station it can really help keep your aquarium cleaner and your seahorses well fed.
Any cup shape object safe to go into the aquarium will work. It helps to have the feeding station in a lower flow area with plenty of hitching posts for the seahorses to hold onto while feeding. To feed them at the feeding station you simply target the thawed Mysis shrimp into the feeding station using a turkey baster.
To learn more about training your seahorses to feed from a feeding station see our article Training Your Seahorse to Feed at a Feeding Station here: https://seahorsesavvy.com/blogs/news/training-your-seahorse-to-feed-at-a-feeding-station
We often get asked if one should fast their seahorses or if it is okay to fast their seahorses if one will not be around to feed them for a period of time. This question often comes up when one is planning a vacation, work trip, ect. It is ok to fast your healthy established herd of seahorses for a day here and there but it should not be a regular part of their schedule. If you are going to be gone for more than a day you really want to find a pet sitter to come by and feed them. Even if this person can't make it twice a day, once a day would be better than nothing. Making sure this person is properly trained is key. People who do not keep aquariums often accidentally over feed. It is best to portion out the meals ahead of time for your sitter and leave detailed notes to prevent this.
If you really are not able to find a sitter a possible option is loading the aquarium up with live Mysis shrimp right before you leave. This can be costly and not having someone check on your aquarium is risky. We do not recommend loading the aquarium with live brine shrimp as they will quickly go into the filtration and possibly cause an ammonia spike or bacterial bloom. Mysis shrimp will primarily reside in the bottom of the aquarium and the majority will not be lost to the filtration.
Another common misconception is seahorses should be fasted one day a week on a regular basis. This is not something we do at our farm and do not recommend this. We see no benefit or reason to fast seahorses one day a week. Feeding them properly is key and Mysis shrimp has the proper nutrition for long term success with seahorses.
Can Feeding Live Food Cause Your Seahorses to Refuse Frozen Mysis Shrimp?
Can feeding seahorses live food that are weaned to frozen food cause them to refuse frozen food is a common question we get asked. When feeding live Artemia (adult brine shrimp) and live Mysis shrimp as a snack to our seahorses we do not observe this at our farm. We have had some keepers report their seahorses not taking frozen after being fed live food. Often times they get really excited and eat all of the live food and then are very full, therefore refusing food. Usually after a day or so they will take their usual frozen Mysis shrimp. If it is a concern of yours, do not risk it and offer live food to your herd, they do not need it to thrive.
We see keepers have this issue of seahorses refusing frozen Mysis shrimp after being offered live food most often when they offer their seahorses live Ghost and Grass shrimp. Sometimes when these shrimp are added to the aquarium in high numbers and not eaten right away this can cause issues as well. We have seen these shrimp chew on seahorses at night and lead to secondary bacterial issues so we do not use them at our farm. This likely occurs more often in more artificial systems like ours lacking in excess food for these shrimp to feed on. We also worry about introducing parasites with these live shrimp since they are often harvested from the wild and inverts can be vectors for fish parasites. Ghost shrimp are also a freshwater shrimp and will not live long in your saltwater aquarium.
Thank you for reading. We hope you find this article helpful and informative. Properly feeding your seahorses is very important to their health. If you have any questions please let us know. We are happy to help.