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Seahorse and Pipefish

Seahorse and Pipefish Care Sheet

Developed with and approved by a qualified veterinarian

 

 

seahorse pipefish care sheet

This care sheet covers a variety of seahorse and pipefish species, including:

  • Kelloggi seahorse
  • Lined seahorse
  • Kuda seahorse
  • Brazilian seahorse
  • Tiger tail seahorse
  • Banded pipefish
  • Bluestripe pipefish
  • Dragonface pipefish
  • Green pipefish

 

Overview

Scientific names: Hippocampus kelloggi, Hippocampus erectus, Hippocampus kuda, Hippocampus reidi, Hippocampus comes, Doryrhamphus dactyliophorus, Doryrhamphus excisus, Corythoichthys intestinalis, Syngnathoides biaculeatus.

Seahorses are a prehistoric tropical species and can be found in the waters of Indo-Pacific and Caribbean oceans; however, Petco seahorses are bred and –raised in captivity. A seahorse’s color variation ranges from black, brown, reddish-maroon, cream, yellow and gold. Using their tail, the poor swimming seahorse grasp hold of branches and other décor to secure themselves. Pipefish, with their stick-like appearance, are relatives of the seahorse. Because of their care and feeding requirements, seahorses and pipefish are better suited for the advanced hobbyist.

 

Typical appearance and behavior

  • Seahorses and some species of pipefish have a prehensile tail that they can use to grasp onto things
  • They are not strong swimmers and can't tolerate strong currents
  • Captive-bred seahorses are hardier than those found in nature, and they can therefore tolerate environmental parameters similar to those of other marine fish
  • Male seahorses and pipefish carry offspring eggs until they hatch
  • Pipefish can be beneficial in helping eradicate red bug infestations on acropora coral
  • Most pipefish have a caudal fin they use to help swim

 

Characteristics

Care Difficulty Advanced
Average Life Span Depends on species
Average Adult Size Seahorses 1/2 to 11+ inches (vertical); pipefish up to 18 inches long, depending on species
Diet Carnivore
Minimum Habitat Size 29+ gallons, depending on species
Water Temperature 74-80°F
Specific Gravity 1.020-1.025

 

Habitat

Habitat size

Keep seahorses and pipefish in an appropriately sized aquarium. A minimum of 29 gallons, depending on the adult size of the species, is recommended.

 

Building your habitat

  • Water health -Provide proper filtration to ensure optimal water quality to help maintain health. Slow to moderate water circulation should be provided to mimic water currents and high oxygen levels found in the seahorse and pipefish’s natural habitat. Stable water quality (pH, ammonia, nitrate, nitrite) and water temperature are critical to the health of aquatic life. If you are unsure of your water quality, bring a sample to Petco for free testing. The addition of a protein skimmer can aid with maintaining great water quality and high dissolved oxygen levels. An aquatic heater should be used to stabilize water temperature, ensuring it does not fluctuate more than +/-2 degrees in a 24-hour period. The specific gravity should remain stable. Do not allow specific gravity to fluctuate more than +/-0.001 in a 24-hour period 
  • Plants - Provide artificial decor and corals for the seahorse to grasp with their tail
  • Live rock - Can provide a natural food source while also enhancing biological filtration

 

Feeding

A well-balanced seahorse or pipefish diet consists of:

  • Frozen mysis shrimp
  • Frozen brine shrimp or live baby brine shrimp may be fed as an occasional treat

Things to remember when feeding your seahorse or pipefish:

  • Feed 2 to 3 times daily, but do not overfeed
  • Thaw frozen food before feeding

 

Seahorse and pipefish care

Maintaining great water quality with regular water changes and adequate filtration is important to help keep your seahorses and pipefish healthy

  • Daily: Check filter, water temperature and other equipment
  • Weekly: Test water quality at least once a week
  • Weekly to monthly: Change 10–25% of the total volume of water every 2–4 weeks, or as needed; change filter media monthly

Avoid overcrowded conditions, which are a major cause of stress and disease

 

Where to buy

Various seahorses and pipefish are available for purchase at your local Petco Pet Care Center; availability varies by location. Please call ahead to check availability.

 

Supplies

 

Tank mates

  • Seahorses and pipefish may be kept together and with some gobies, blennies, cardinals, firefish and docile invertebrates. Remove tank mates at the first sign of aggression and if your seahorse or pipefish is not eating, as they are not competitive feeders
  • Be sure to research the tank compatibility for any fish you wish to add to your seahorse or pipefish tank

 

Health

Signs of a healthy seahorse or pipefish

  • Slow, sustained breathing
  • Grasping décor in tank (seahorses)
  • Eats normally
  • Controlled buoyancy/floating
  • Good coloration
  • Free of parasites or disease

 

Red flags (If you notice any of these signs, contact your local aquatic specialist or aquatic veterinarian)

  • Loss of color or appetite
  • Spots or fungus on body or mouth
  • Erratic swimming
  • Rapid breathing
  • Rubbing against substrate
  • Buoyancy problems
  • Unable to grasp decor with prehensile tail (seahorses)
  • Cloudy eyes
  • Weight loss

 

Common health issues

Health Issue Symptoms or Causes Suggested Action
Health IssueBacterial infection Symptoms or CausesErosion/sloughing of the skin, cloudy eyes, rapid respiration, swelling and loss of appetite or unable to feed. Suggested ActionImprove water quality; consult your local aquatic specialist or aquatic veterinarian for treatment.
Health IssueEctoparasites Symptoms or CausesVisible parasites (white spots), ulcerations/blisters, cloudy eyes, rubbing against substrate, erratic behavior. Suggested ActionImprove water quality; consult your local aquatic specialist or aquatic veterinarian for treatment.
Health IssueSnout rot Symptoms or CausesDiscoloration, swelling and/or tissue erosion of the snout, lockjaw, loss of appetite or unable to feed. Suggested ActionImprove water quality; consult your local aquatic specialist or aquatic veterinarian for treatment.
Health IssueBacterial infections Symptoms or CausesCloudy eyes, open sores and/or reddening of the skin. Suggested ActionImprove water quality; add freshwater aquarium salt; use a commercial antibacterial remedy as directed; consult your local aquatic specialist or aquatic veterinarian for treatment
Health IssueViral infection (lymphocystis) Symptoms or CausesWhite nodule growths on fins or body. Suggested ActionImprove water quality; consult your local aquatic specialist or aquatic veterinarian for treatment.

 

FAQs

  • What do seahorses eat? Seahorses will eat thawed mysis shrimp and can be provided thawed brine shrimp or live baby brine shrimp as an occasional treat. They will also consume natural foods like copepods and small crustaceans in the aquarium.
  • Is a seahorse a fish? Yes, seahorses are classified as fish.
  • What color are seahorses? Seahorse color variations range from black, brown, reddish-maroon, cream, yellow and gold.
  • How big are seahorses? The largest species of seahorse can reach a vertical length of 13+ inches.
  • How long do seahorses live? Seahorses can live up to 6 years when properly cared for.
  • Where can I buy seahorses? Various seahorses can be purchased at your local Petco Pet Care Center. Availability varies by location.
  • What do pipefish eat? Pipefish will eat thawed mysis shrimp and can be provided thawed brine shrimp or live baby brine shrimp as an occasional treat. They will also consume natural foods like copepods and small crustaceans in the aquarium.
  • How big do pipefish get? The largest species of pipefish can reach a length of 18 inches.
  • What type of animal is a pipefish? Pipefish are classified as a species of small fish.
  • What does a pipefish look like? Pipefish resemble a straight version of seahorse.

 

Notes and resources

Ask a Pet Care Center store employee about Petco's selection of products available for the care and happiness of your new pet. All products carry a 100% money-back guarantee.

Because all aquatic life are potential carriers of infectious diseases, such as atypical mycobacterium and salmonella, always wash your hands before and after handling your aquatic life or habitat contents to help prevent the potential spread of disease.

Pregnant women, children under the age of 5, senior citizens and people with weakened immune systems should contact their physician before purchasing or caring for aquatic life and should consider not having aquatic life as a pet.

Go to the Centers for Disease Control at cdc.gov/healthypets for more information about aquatic life and disease.

 

The information on this Care Sheet is not a substitute for veterinary care. If you need additional information, please contact your veterinarian as appropriate.