Seahorses are beautiful and unique creatures that can add a lot of interest and an exotic quality to any home aquarium. They are highly sensitive little creatures that are not the easiest pet to take care of, but for the avid aquarist who has done the necessary research and made the right preparations, seahorses can be highly rewarding to keep.
Pet seahorses come from two sources: live capture and captive bred. Advances in techniques used in the breeding and care of captive bred seahorses make it a much more successful and preferable way to acquire them. In an effort to conserve the threatened population of wild seahorses - mostly due to capture for aquariums - people are opting to raise and sell them, rather than take them out of their natural habitats. Captive bred seahorses, if bred and reared by a reputable breeder, often live longer, healthier lives and are easier to feed.
The stress of capture can cause great shock to the system of a wild seahorse. Because they are so sensitive to stress, seahorses that are captured from the wild might stop eating, and therefore suffer from malnutrition and death. They might also suffer the negative effects of going from the natural environment of sea water to a tank environment, which might not provide an ideal living situation (whether due to inexperience of the aquarist or sensitivity of the seahorse). This could lead to the growth of bacteria that might not ordinarily affect them, leading to any number of diseases and even death.
On the other hand, captive bred seahorses that are reared by an experienced aquarist who understands the demands and the specifics of raising seahorses can thrive when moved into a new aquarium situation. Unlike live captured seahorses, captive bred seahorses are more willing to eat frozen food, making it easier to feed them as often as they require. Captive bred seahorses also don’t suffer the shock of moving from one environment to a completely different one, and therefore usually do not experience stress and its related issues as often.
Unlike their wild counterparts, captive bred seahorses are not used to living among the other fishes and creatures of the sea. And unless you are keeping seahorses strictly for breeding, you likely want to keep your captive bred seahorses in more of an aquarium community than a species-specific seahorse tank. Because seahorses can be so vulnerable to predators (because they are not strong swimmers and they have no real method of defense), it is important to know which other types of fish and aquarium life are compatible with.
The following species are extremely compatible with both adult seahorses and seahorse babies, or fry, and could live harmoniously in an aquarium with them:
Gobies - Neon, Sharknose, Yellow Clown, Blackfinned Watchmen, and Shrimp
Jawfish - Dusky, Yellowhead, Bluespotted
Starfish - Blue Linckia, Purple Linckia, Dotted Fromia, Marbled Fromia
Snails - Nerite, Nassarius, Trochus, Turbo, Cerith, Astraea
Lettuce Sea Slug
Some varieties of shrimp - Rockpool, Blood, Skunk Cleaner, Peppermint, Grass
Some varieties of crab - Blue-legged hermit, Porcelain
Corals - Kenya Tree, Leather, Pulse, Clove Polyps, Finger Leather
There are a number of species that should be avoided completely, either due to incompatible tank conditions, or because it could be dangerous to the seahorse due to them potentially being prey. These include:
Keeping captive bred seahorses can be fun, rewarding, and a highly interesting hobby, as long as proper research is done and preparations are made well ahead of your buying them.