DWARF BASICS

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SETTING UP FOR DWARVES

 

The Dwarf Seahorse (Hippocampus zosterae) is one of the smallest seahorses with an adult height of 1.5 to 2 inches.  Dwarves need daily feedings of live brine shrimp.  Dwarves readily breed in your tank and the fry can be left in the parent tank to grow up

Housing

Dwarfs do best in smaller tanks. A tank can be anything from 1 to  10 gallons (which will easily house 50 or more dwarves).  Dwarves do not chase or hunt prey; they remain hitched and wait for food to drift by within reach.  The larger the tank, the more brine it takes to create the necessary “snowstorm” effect and without a large number of dwarves, too much uneaten food remains.  You would need at least 10 dwarves for a 10 gallon tank.   I recommend a 5 gallon or less for most people. A 2-gallon tank can easily hold 6 dwarves and a few fry.   Seahorses spend most of their day hitched to plants so they will need plastic plants, live marine plants, or macros such as Caulerpa to hold on to.

Temperature

Tank temperature needs to be as stable as possible with no more then a 3-4 degree swing during a day.  Recommended temperature is between 68 -75F with spikes no higher than 78.  Higher temperatures encourage the proliferation of bacteria and are not needed for the seahorses.

Filtration

Intake for any filter must be covered with sponge to avoid sucking up or trapping dwarves and fry.  Be careful of using filter materials to cover intakes as many materials have a “Velcro” effect with the tiny spikes on the horses.  Impellers can be trimmed to adjust flow if needed.  Also be aware of the output to be sure that it will not cause problems for the dwarves.

Parameters

Dwarves do fine in normal salinity but reducing salinity to 1.019 can be helpful in keeping bacteria and parasites at a minimum.  Ammonia and Nitrites should be undetectable and Nitrates should not exceed 40.  Ph should be within the 8.1-8.3 range

Feeding

Feed your dwarves daily with live brine.   The eggs should be decapped in bleach to remove the outer shell – decapped brine are more nutritious and are hydroid free.   You can decap enough eggs for about 3 weeks at a time and store them in the refrigerator or you can purchase decapped eggs if you don’t want to do it yourself.   Excellent instruction for decapping and hatching brine can be found at http://www.saseahorse.com/seahorse.htm. New hatch brine should be provided most of the time but can alternate with older enriched brine.  Newborn fry will require new hatch brine daily for at least the first week of life.    Do not use an “in tank” hatchery as the hatch water is a bacterial soup – in fact, brine should be rinsed in freshwater prior to adding it to the tank.   Never add unhatched eggs, (even decapped) directly to the tank. 

Note:  Brine shrimp nets that look like netting don’t work – get the ones that look like white cloth.  Also, a turkey baster is a great way to move or remove brine and even fry.

Tankmates

There are few appropriate tankmates.   Dwarves are easily out competed for food and make obvious targets to be picked on.   The fry are very small and vulnerable.  Even a friendly but fast moving tankmate can cause stress for a dwarf.   Volcanic red shrimp (from Hawaii) and snails are good.  Some people keep very small hermits with dwarves, however, I had one bad experience with a hermit and have banished them from my tanks.  Some corals can be kept with dwarves but you should avoid any coral with a sting and any that could possibly eat a dwarf fry.  Also keep in mind that the lighting and temperature needs must be compatible

Hydroids and other hazards 

Even with a proper setup and appropriate tankmates there are more threats to these tiny seahorses.  As you setup your tank you will want to be sure you are prepared to deal with these hazards.

HYDROIDS:  Hydroids are present in most marine tanks - in small numbers they are not very visible and are mostly unnoticed and of no concern to most marine aquarium keepers.  However, when large amounts of brine shrimp are introduced the hydroid population can expand very quickly and the sting from a hydroid can kill even an adult dwarf.
Hydroids come in a few varieties. There are the tiny jellyfish looking ones.. when swimming they appear to be jellyfish and when on the glass they are described as dots with legs.. a center dot with 8 or 9 tentacle dots in a circle. There are the cobweb looking ones... usually attached to the glass or objects in the tank but sometimes free-floating - these are very fine strands. I've also heard of a "pink fuzzy stuff" type but I have never seen these.
Fenbendazole (Panacur) kills hydroids.  Panacur is actually sold as a dewormer for pets or livestock but is usually impossible to find locally. You can buy it and other medications from http://www.seahorsesource.com.  What I did was set up the tank and cycled it, added everything I wanted in it then dosed the 3 days with the last day being the day I added the dwarfs - since my brood stock was to be wildcaught and they often bring the hydroids with them. Captive bred dwarves should be hydroid free.  You can treat with the dwarves in the tank. Panacur will not harm the biofilter, fish, macros, pods, or shrimp. Panacur will kill some types of snails (particularly astrea), fans, worms of any kind, most if not all soft corals, gorgonians, all stars, etc. The effect on these creatures can last over a year.

There is a lot of hydroid/panacur information at www.seahorse.org - a search there will give you all the known details.

AIPTASIA: Aiptasia can also easily kill a dwarf.  You will need to make sure the tank is clear of them. 

PARASITES & BACTERIA:   Wild caught dwarfs are more likely to have problems with these but the possibility is always there.  You should have a supply of antibiotics and formalin on hand to respond quickly to any problems.  Specific diagnosis and dosing information can be obtained quickly by posting a problem at http://www.seahorse.org/ in the emergency forums.

AMPHIPODS:  Large amphipods have been known to kill dwarf fry and even larger dwarves. 

 

 

 

 

 



   

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