Hello, Frank Indiviglio here. Seahorse husbandry has advanced quite a bit in recent years, with several species having now been bred in captivity. One stumbling block, however, is the near impossibility of keeping Seahorses with other marine creatures. Seahorses are slow, methodical hunters, and the live foods they require are also favored by other fishes. In typical community aquariums, food is gobbled up by other species before the Seahorses even know its feeding time. But there are some options…following are a few creatures that I’ve experimented with over the years.
Pipefishes are classified with Seahorses in the order Syngnathiformes, and are also confirmed live-food specialists that hunt in a similarly slow manner. They are the best choice as Seahorse companions –all those I’ve kept have gotten along very well with Seahorses.
The Banded Pipefish, Doryrhamphus dactyliophorus, strikingly marked in red and yellow, makes a spectacular tank mate for tropical Seahorses.
The Northern Pipefish, Syngnathus fuscus, may be easily collected along much of the USA’s Eastern Seaboard. I have found it to be among the hardiest of all Pipefishes. It is best kept with Northern Seahorses, Hippocampus erectus, and other temperate-zone species.
Sticklebacks are distantly related to Seahorses. They are more alert as regards food, but have small, easily-satisfied appetites. They fare poorly with more aggressive fishes, and rarely give Seahorses any trouble.
Males use an adhesive manufactured in the kidneys to construct enclosed nests of plant material, and may do so if given the opportunity in captivity…an event not to be missed (indeed, fresh-water Sticklebacks were the first fishes to be kept by European hobbyists).
Rarely offered in the trade, the Three Spined Stickleback, Gosterosteus aculeatus, may be easily collected via seine nets.
Gobies belong to the world’s largest fish family, with over 2,000 species described thus far and new ones – up to 25 per year – being discovered regularly.
Many dig burrows and “scurry” about in a most amusing fashion. They are alert feeders, but most refuse to stray far from their burrows, and so are easy to manage (individuals vary in this regard, however).
The Pearly Jawfish, Opistognathus aurifrons, constantly pops in and out of its home burrow and is a great favorite among aquarists. It fares well with larger Seahorses.
I’ve collected Naked Gobies, Gobiosoma bosci, in discarded tin cans lying among eelgrass, and have found them to be excellent companions for the tiny Dwarf Seahorse, Hippocampus zosterae, and other species.
The brilliant red-and-white Banded Coral Shrimp, Stenopus hispidus, establishes long term pair bonds; males even share food with gravid females. They make excellent additions to aquariums housing Yellow Seahorses, Hippocampus kuda, and other tropical species.
Tiny Grass and Sand Shrimps, Palaemonectes and Crago spp., may be collected in most marine waters. They are always on the go, fascinating to observe, and make wonderful scavengers. Many breed readily in the aquarium.
Certain Hermit Crabs, Spider Crabs, Sea Stars, Brittle Stars, Urchins, Snails and Tube Worms may be maintained with Seahorses. I’ll cover their care in future articles…until then, please write in for information.
As you can see, Seahorses need not be confined to single-species tanks. The possibilities are endless…please write in with your own ideas.
Thanks, until next time,
Please check out my book on Seahorse Care.
Video: Pipefishes and Seahorses in a public aquarium
Pearly Jawfish image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Michael Wolf