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Orange seahorse coloration

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  • Offline TamiW
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Orange seahorse coloration

« posted: 4 years ago »
I was doing some reading about seahorse color, and found something interesting. The orange coloration that is so sought after is likely diet based, and not a chromatophore that seahorses have control over. I was trying to learn what I could about different chromatophores and how they behave in seahorses; and there is surprisingly little information.

However, I did find one paper "Carotenoids of the spotted sea horse, Hippocampus erectus" from 1964.

The interesting thing it found was that red coloration (necessary for orange) wasn't found in chromatophores, but rather in the tissue of the seahorses themselves. So it's not a normal color they can change to and from. The color pigment was from astaxanthin (no surprise) but didn't have the same properties of all the other color cells in seahorses.

The implication being, if as seahorses is going to be orange, it's diet based, probably similar to why salmon meat is pink. The researchers did wonder if the differences in colors seen in the wild was due strictly to dietary availability of astaxanthin; or if there was some other mechanism where some seahorses metabolized astaxanthin in the diet differently than others.

BUT, the important part of this study to me is that it might explain why we tend to not see bright orange seahorses that are captive bred. In fact, I've seen a number of erectus who will be orange as babies, but tend to change colors as they get older. This might be explained by a diet of enriched bbs high in astaxanthin as babies, but as they switch to mysis, no new astaxanthin to lay down that coloration, and it disperses to be essentially absent in a mature seahorse.

That might explain why you see bright orange wild reidi, and they seem to stay that color. They can only mask it with black, or mix it with other colors. But the orange is just stuck there. It also means that it's likely we won't see a lot of captive bred seahorses with those colors unless we can get them feeds high in astaxanthin from juvenile to adult. Ocean Rider has "red" and Orange seahorses, but they also have ready access to Hawaiian Red Shrimp at their facility, with a manmade pond just for collecting those shrimp.
  • H. erectus, H. comes, H. kuda, H. zosterae, Doryrhamphus excisus, Bryx dunckeri, Corythoichthys flavofasciatus
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  • Offline suew
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Re: Orange seahorse coloration

« Reply #1 posted: 4 years ago »
Hi Tami,

I have some baby kudas,i was feeding some krill( as i was waiting to get some mysis) and found that when they did a poo it came out orange.

Do you think if feed krill for long enough it may help them to turn orange. When feeding my other sh(erectus and pot bellies) there poo was of normal colour
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  • Offline TamiW
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Re: Orange seahorse coloration

« Reply #2 posted: 4 years ago »
Honestly, I don't know the answer to that question. I don't think it's been adequately explored in seahorses. I've never seen a bright orange kuda, and as the author suggested there could be a metabolic pathway that causes some seahorses to lay down more orange than others, it could also vary by species.

That being said, I'd think odds are good if you feed a diet high in astaxanthin that yes, I bet they would. It probably depends on how big they are now, and how much growing they have left to do.

I wouldn't feed krill only though. I'd try and find some ways of enriching mysis. I've been experimenting with it; which I have a thread on here: http://seahorsetalk.fusedjaw.com/index.php/topic,188.0.html
(will update shortly)

The problem is that I'm not sure what I'm doing is safe.

I'd also try using enriched adult brine shrimp, using something high in astaxanthin.
  • H. erectus, H. comes, H. kuda, H. zosterae, Doryrhamphus excisus, Bryx dunckeri, Corythoichthys flavofasciatus
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  • Offline ejbaer
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Re: Orange seahorse coloration

« Reply #3 posted: 4 years ago »
Tami,  how often are you adding astaxanthin to your seahorses diet?  And do you see any notable differences in your own seahorses? 
  • Offline suew
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Re: Orange seahorse coloration

« Reply #4 posted: 4 years ago »
Hi Tami,

These kudas are young ones,i've only had them for around 4 weeks they were very small when i got them,i only give krill just so they have a change of food they mostly have mysis and live brinshrimp with  Dans feed added.

But did find that after they eat krill their poo was orange.
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  • Offline TamiW
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Re: Orange seahorse coloration

« Reply #5 posted: 4 years ago »
I'm adding it two ways, the first is coating it with astaxanthin or astaxanthin and spirulina. I just updated here with pictures.

The other is with enriched brine shrimp.

However, I'm not sure about the mysis coating method, so I only do it a couple times per week.

I think it's had a positive impact, but I can't swear on it. Some were choosing a faded orange that I don't think were before. But I also they are also some juveniles from parents I hadn't before, so I could be wrong about this. I want to attempt doing this with a future brood and having a control to see if ones fed that way differ much. Even that won't totally answer the issue on orange coloration because seahorses are so notoriously fickle about color. But it might give me a better idea if it is having an effect.

Sue, not sure if the orange poo means anything relating to color. I honestly don't know what it could mean. My guess is that it means they're getting a lot of astaxanthin but I just don't know enough about how it's metabolized to say that with any certainty.
  • H. erectus, H. comes, H. kuda, H. zosterae, Doryrhamphus excisus, Bryx dunckeri, Corythoichthys flavofasciatus
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  • Offline DanU
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Re: Orange seahorse coloration

« Reply #6 posted: 4 years ago »
The color thing is indeed interesting.  I have notice that black reidi seahorses typically turn to a maroon color then to orange and then to yellow for us.  This has happened anytime we brought in captive specimens such as H. reidi.  We used to always get black because they were cheaper and they ended up yellow for us.  Interestingly enough, H. erectus typically go from black straight to orange and then yellow. 

We don't seem to have any issue getting captive bred reidi to orange by simply changing the artificial hitches.  Getting red is difficult.  We can get the H. barbouri to go pink but that changes when we change out the hitching posts. 

The normal recommend inclusion rate for astaxanthin is 1 % of the total feed from what I have red.  This is for normal marine fish. 

We don't attempt to enrich frozen foods but we do give a daily dose of adult enriched artemia daily.  They are enriched with Dans' Feed. 
  • H. erectus/reidi/barbouri/kuda/comes/zosterae/fisheri/ingens
  • Offline mosquared
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Re: Orange seahorse coloration

« Reply #7 posted: 4 years ago »
I have an orange Reidi that was purchased WC from a LFS. She has stayed orange in coloration from Day 1 and only changes from a pale orange, dirty orange, bright orange color, and every now and then a deep orange almost red color. After lights come on she will revert to the usual bright orange color.

Her daily diet consists of 75% PE Mysis 20% hikari mysis 5% hikari Gammarus (Interestingly enough, her appetite for gammarus have tapered off). As a treat when available, I will feed her ghost shrimp, Enriched brine, and various freshwater decorate shrimp that I have on hand.

I have a yellow CB reidi that I keep separate, and feed him 3 servings of hikari gammarus a week (Mysis regularly of course) He actually likes the gammarus! His coloration doesn't seem to have changed however, as he is generally always a highlighter yellow. Hikari notes that the gammarus they collect are high in astaxanthin. I believe the exact species to be "Gammarus locusta"

  • H. Comes and H. Reidi X Erectus
  • Offline lhick082
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Re: Orange seahorse coloration

« Reply #8 posted: 3 years ago »
I chose my male because of his subtle orange tint and the female because of her beautiful pattern. I have noticed that since then I do not see much of the male's orange tint. I have a product currently on the way for enriching but up until now have not been enriching so that would make sense! Here is a picture of them both although it is hard to see her nice pattern and his orange colour because the picture was taking just before or after they were doing their dance and changing colours but I do not have many pics from when I had just got them and he had a bit more of an orange tint. Now he is often a very dark brown and lighter brown to white during their courtship dances.
  • Hippocampus erectus