NOWhereMonkey

Friday Discussion - Mixing Seahorses

Poll Have you mixed seahorses before? What were the results? (Select all that apply.)

I have always kept seahorse species in their own system without mixing them with other seahorses or pipefish.
4 (11.4%)
I have mixed seahorses of the same species from different sources without problems.
4 (11.4%)
I have mixed seahorses of the same species from different sources and at least some got sick or died.
4 (11.4%)
I have mixed seahorses of the different species from different sources without problems.
4 (11.4%)
I have mixed seahorses of the different species from different sources and at least some got sick or died.
8 (22.9%)
I have mixed seahorses of the different species from the same source without problems.
3 (8.6%)
I have mixed seahorses of the different species from the same source and at least some got sick or died.
1 (2.9%)
I have mixed seahorses and pipefish with no ill effects.
3 (8.6%)
I have mixed seahorses and pipefish and at least some got sick or died.
4 (11.4%)

Total Members Voted: 15

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  • Offline TamiW
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Friday Discussion - Mixing Seahorses

« posted: 4 years ago »
This is a long and contentious subject, going back years. The question that always arises is: Is it safe to mix seahorse species/ is it safe to mix pipefish and seahorses.

My dilemma is that I have mixed seahorses successfully without any problems. And when I have had problems, it was likely due to a different factor. I even used to have a pair of CB reidi with wild caught pipefish, and they never posed a problem.

However, having said that, I've seen the vast majority of people online having trouble with seahorses being mixed that I can't suggest it in good faith. The risk seems too high. But at the same time, a few people I've sold seahorses to have mixed them and they never had a problem.

So which is it? Is it an issue of confirmation bias, where you are prejudiced towards an answer, so you notice when it happens, and fail to take note when it doesn't work? Or is their really something to this business of mixing seahorses?
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Re: Friday Discussion - Mixing Seahorses

« Reply #1 posted: 4 years ago »
I explain it to customers this way: It's like the Europeans coming to the United States. Not ALL the Native Americans got sick, but an awful lot of them did.

I've had issues, as I'm sure you remember, even after quarantining/deworming for 9 weeks, sometimes quarantining for months, keeping temperatures low, and employing a ridiculously oversized UV sterilizer. Most of my problems have occurred from mixing wild caught things together - weak snick, internal parasites that wouldn't respond to treatment, Uronema marinum, Vibrio, GBD, even Crypto. I typically have "success" mixing species/locations in the short term - 6 months, a year. But sooner or later, something happens that probably wouldn't have happened without exposure to foreign pathogens. If I get busy and let water quality slide, it can be months, even years down the road when these pathogens rear their ugly heads. It's always the ones I would assume don't have immunity that get sick first, it just happens to be a year after I mixed them and some other stressor set it off.

Mixing is certainly not a light decision. It will affect your seahorses/pipefish for the rest of their lives. When a seahorse gets older, having been exposed to a pathogen they wouldn't have otherwise been exposed to just gives their immune system one more thing to fight off, and sometimes an older seahorse just can't do that. Certain medications do permanent damage. Ever read the labels on your fish meds? "May cause cancer" is on so many labels. Some meds damage internal organs. Some are just downright poison.

Have I been successful mixing species/locations? The short answer is no. While I've kept seahorses/pipefish/wild caught/captive bred together for years at a time, when they go, it's not from old age. It's always a sad, stressful, guilty end to the life of a creature I've spent years with and loved.

Will I continue to mix Syngnathids, knowing all this? Yes. Why? because one day I may get it right, and it's important to introduce new genes into CB stock. Let it be your decision to mix. But remember that introduced pathogens can take hold at any time during their lives, and the best prevention is simply not introducing those pathogens in the first place.
  • Offline rayjay
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Re: Friday Discussion - Mixing Seahorses

« Reply #2 posted: 4 years ago »
I failed enough times to know I won't try again.
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Re: Friday Discussion - Mixing Seahorses

« Reply #3 posted: 4 years ago »
I have previously mixed three different species when I should have known better.  I lost all but one species; H.erectus, of which none died.  That was roughly 3 years ago and I haven't lost a single adult since.

I know of far too many people who have mixed and lost either some or all seahorses that I just wouldn't recommend it.

For those people who answer that they have mixed without any problems, either from the same source or different sources, I would be interested in knowing how long you have had the seahorses mixed for. 
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  • Offline TamiW
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Re: Friday Discussion - Mixing Seahorses

« Reply #4 posted: 4 years ago »
Felicia - that's a really interesting perspective on mixing. I've been working on keeping the young of different species mixed, but the breeding pairs are currently segregated. My thinking on mixing the young is that any die-offs will occur while babies/juveniles before I sell them, and ones that are more resistant will go into the homes of hobbyists.

Of course, if there is an exposure component to mixing seahorses, then that would mean likely mine are fine, but ones mixed from a different source won't be. So it's tough to say if there is any benefit.

Most of my broodstock will eventually go into a shared system, and I'm nervous. I'm really nervous. I have to do it for ease of care, because individual tanks are too difficult for me to maintain right now. So I plan on getting an oversized UV sterilizer to help mitigate the problems. But even with a UV sterilizer, I worry about it going wrong. Which is funny, because I think as long as you're not mixing tank raised or wild caught, I tend to lean towards it's probably fine with true captive bred seahorses as long as you control for temperature and clean tanks (a few species excepted). But because of the general paranoia over mixing seahorses, it's got me worried.

One thing I really want to work on is trying to acquire some of the vibrio vaccines they have for salmon and trying it on seahorses. It was a popular idea maybe 10 years ago. But the company that made it discontinued it. A year or two ago, I started looking into it again, and a new company makes it. I haven't done more research than that, mainly because right now I don't think I can afford it. But I'm also going to follow up with a vet in the area, and see if she'll help me coordinate obtaining it IF I get to the point where I can afford to try it (I honestly have no idea what the costs might be. It could be inexpensive, but I'm expecting to be hundreds of dollars, if not more).  And even if I can obtain it, there is no guarantee it will work on seahorses, or on the vibro species that plague seahorses. Salmon are cold water fish, and some of the species of vibro are different than what seahorses get.

BUT, if it does work, it could mean things like mixing are less detrimental. It might even make mixing wild caught and captive bred okay, as long as you treat for parasites. Or it just might mean that seahorses are a little hardier when it comes to those times that maintenance slips or temperatures jump too high. Or it might not work at all.
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  • Offline DanU
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Re: Friday Discussion - Mixing Seahorses

« Reply #5 posted: 4 years ago »
Mixing can be a very complex issue.  I have seen successes and failures at mixing species, mixing same species, mixing same species different sources, and mixing WC with CB.  Isolating it down to different categories doesn't necessarily provide answers.  I don't know of any current studies or scientific explanations for what happens.  To the casual aquarist, it would seem logical you could put a couple of different seahorses together if they are peaceful to each other.  Lets face it, most tanks are community tanks with many different species. 

Seahorses are obviously different than many fish.  Even their immune system is different.  There is still a lot we have yet to learn about these creatures.

My own personal experiences have been very mixed.  I have probably had more opportunities to see different things since we are breeders and have had many more seahorses and species than most folks will have in a lifetime.  We routinely mix WC with CB of the same species.  This is primarily because of the gene pool.  Rarely do we have issues doing this.   We normally do have an extended quarantine period that begins with quarantine and observation.  Typically for adults, we prefer to go 9 weeks or more.  Our preference is to get juveniles and rear then to adult size and the add them as brood stock.    Early on, we did not do as well.  We took what we could find.  We are now much more selective.  H. erectus for example, I will only add if it is personally collected or comes from a known source such as a researcher or public display facility.  When we used to get them from collectors or stores, success was very poor.  Other species, we do our homework on the source and are very picky, patient and do a long quarantine. 

In terms of mixing species, I have personally had pretty good success mixing H. reidi and H. erectus.  We have a tank for rejects that for whatever reason doesn't make it to the seller tanks and we drop them in.  It is a mix of different species and we rarely see issues.  It has become a pet tank and some of the seahorses in it are over 5 years old with a mix of different species.  Some species such as H. ingens seem to be more problematic than others.  Even with oversize UV's inline and mixing with their close cousins H. reidi there seems to be a high incidence of issues. 

I have also seen issues of mixing the same species.  Sometimes we will consolidate tanks.  Most of the time it isn't an issue but sometimes after doing so we will see several or the whole system develop a problem.    This could be because the bacterial flora of each system may be different. 

The various message board are full of opinions on this subject.  One thing I do caution is that message boards don't reflect the general public in terms of results.  There are many more seahorse keepers than what appears on message boards.  For example, in 2005 & 2006 I toured the state of Florida trying sell an over stock of H. kuda.  I kind of got a sense of what was being sold in terms of numbers.  In Palm Beach county, I estimated that the LFS stores were selling approximately 100 seahorses per month.  Yet Seahorse.org only had 2 members from there.  That is a gross misrepresentation of folks keeping seahorses.  Many people never visit message boards until they have an issue.  This can create a sense of a bigger issue than what really is or the perception that something is more prevalent than what really is.

One of the nice things about dealing with retail customers with our business, is that we get to talk to a very wide cross section of people.  The majority of our customers are not participants on the message boards.  Our perspective on some of these issues is often different than on the message boards.  In regards to mixing species, we have many customers that mix without issue.  We also have those that have complete wipe outs and of course, those in between.  As best as we can tell, about half the folks, or slightly less, don't have issues.  The other half have varying degrees of difficulty. 

I do believe that a large percentage of the issues stem from around the sources of livestock and the lack of quarantine protocols.   

When customers ask me about this issue, I explain it this way.  It really depends upon your risk tolerance.  If you are a person who will cry when losing a specimen and can't stand the thought of this potential, Do No Mix Species.  On the other hand, if you want to mix and are prepared for the consequences of a 50/50 proposition, then the choice is left up to you.

Dan
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  • Offline rayjay
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Re: Friday Discussion - Mixing Seahorses

« Reply #6 posted: 4 years ago »
For example, in 2005 & 2006 I toured the state of Florida trying sell an over stock of H. kuda.  I kind of got a sense of what was being sold in terms of numbers.  In Palm Beach county, I estimated that the LFS stores were selling approximately 100 seahorses per month.  Yet Seahorse.org only had 2 members from there.  That is a gross misrepresentation of folks keeping seahorses.  Many people never visit message boards until they have an issue.
It may ALSO be a situation like here, where there are hardly ANY keepers that have managed to keep seahorses for even as much as 3 to 6 months.
Our city is only about 350,000, but I have yet to find any keepers here that have them after a year. That is with a lot of seahorses sold each year by the LFSs.
Also, I find that almost all hobbyists I come into contact with, haven't any knowledge of seahorse.org and use local fish keeping forums as their source of information in addition to what the LFSs tell them.
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  • Offline DanU
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Re: Friday Discussion - Mixing Seahorses

« Reply #7 posted: 4 years ago »
That may very well be true.  I have no way nor have I tried to estimate those type of numbers.  I suspect it is very high.   Given that, I am occasionally surprised by folks who contact us looking for seahorses because they believed their died of old age at several years old.  So some do succeed we just don't know the numbers.

I agree about the org.  Hardly a day goes by that we don't refer a customer there.  Especially for the Tank Mate Guide.  I would say about 3 out 4 new customers do not know about seahorse.org.

Dan
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  • Offline TamiW
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Re: Friday Discussion - Mixing Seahorses

« Reply #8 posted: 4 years ago »
I think it's a little of column A, a little of column B. A lot probably end up in reefs and sumps that don't last very long. But more and more I'm running into people that have not been on forums or are only on their local club forums. Some people lurk, others just don't have need of various forums. They did their research and it's working, so they don't bother with going online. Or, as Dan said, they don't until they have a problem (or babies!).

For example, every once in a while, some one on our local club puts seahorses up for sale they've had 2-3 years, and it will be something like "H. kelloggi" which we all know has a bad survival rate. But somehow, that person did keep them alive and they're grown now, and the person just wants to get out of keeping seahorses. I have no idea how many others are out there that didn't decide to sell them off.

I have no idea of those are the ones mixing seahorses or not, but it would make sense if they were. Probably a lot getting advice from their fish stores, and fish stores are pretty good about suggesting not mixing fish with seahorses, but do often think seahorses of all kinds and pipefish go together.

Dan, you hit the nail on the head on one thing - people rarely quarantine seahorses. I wonder how much that plays into mixing problems. I know people HAVE quarantined seahorses and still had problems with mixing, but many more just throw them together.
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  • Offline suew
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Re: Friday Discussion - Mixing Seahorses

« Reply #9 posted: 4 years ago »
HI,

We only have erectus and abdominalis,as they need different temperatures we can not mix them,but if we had sh that were a different breed they would still go in different tank.

If you have one pair of erectus & one pair of barbours i would be afraid of mix breeding,by doing that you dont know how things will turn out.You could be making a lot of trouble for yourself(just my way of thinking )
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  • Offline TamiW
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Re: Friday Discussion - Mixing Seahorses

« Reply #10 posted: 4 years ago »
Yup Sue, that's usually my way of thinking. Another thing to consider is that a lot of seahorses really prefer being in pairs, not groups. H. abdominalis is an exception.

I think Dan is on to something too, some species seem to do better mixed than others, H. erectus and H. reidi being the one I most often hear of as being successful. And H. ingens seems to have a poor track record of being mixed with other species for most people.

But since it's always a risk, are you sure you want to take that risk? That is really an excellent point when it comes to mixing.
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  • Offline TamiW
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Re: Friday Discussion - Mixing Seahorses

« Reply #11 posted: 4 years ago »
I should add, I don't think there is anything wrong with hybrids, but my preference is to breed the same species together. The reason for this is simple, if you look at African Cichlids, they've been hybridized so much that for many types, it's impossible to get ones that are a pure species anymore. But I don't see that happening with seahorses any time soon.

One of the prettiest seahorses I've ever seen is an H. reidi x H. barbouri cross. If I were to try and intentionally cross seahorses, that would be the one.
From: http://gallery.seahorse.org/main.php?g2_view=core.ShowItem&g2_itemId=758
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  • Offline DanU
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Re: Friday Discussion - Mixing Seahorses

« Reply #12 posted: 4 years ago »
Up to now, we have resisted cross breeding.  The hybrids we have now were not a result of our efforts but someone else who gave us the fry.  We are having to rethink this as there appears to be a demand for them.  They can offer some advantages.

Dan
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Re: Friday Discussion - Mixing Seahorses

« Reply #13 posted: 4 years ago »
 2 or 3 years ago there were angustus / barbouri  crosses that came from a breeder in Australia they had alot brighter colours then conventional barbouri ,but i dont know what success rate people had with them.
  • Offline TamiW
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Re: Friday Discussion - Mixing Seahorses

« Reply #14 posted: 4 years ago »
Since the discussion seemed to be leading in that direction, I've started this Friday Discussion with one about hybrids:
http://seahorsetalk.fusedjaw.com/index.php/topic,177.html
  • H. erectus, H. comes, H. kuda, H. zosterae, Doryrhamphus excisus, Bryx dunckeri, Corythoichthys flavofasciatus
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