Breeding seahorses is not for the amateur hobbyist. Due to the sensitivity of seahorses and the environmental and nutritional demands of both newborn and adult seahorses, only highly experienced aquarists should even attempt breeding. If successful, though, seahorse breeding can be a rewarding and profitable venture.
Mating and Birth
It is the male seahorses that carry the eggs and give birth to the babies. During the mating ritual, the female seahorse, once the mating pair have done their quaint dance by locking their tails together, will lay her eggs in the male’s pouch, which closes for gestation. The babies develop for around 15 days until it is time for the male to give birth.
When it is time for the babies to be born, the male will experience visible contractions. He will secure himself to something, and begin to writhe and wiggle around in order to push the new brood to the opening of his puch. The babies, who have already hatched inside the pouch, will then enter their new world.
Nutrition and Feeding
If you have been successful in keeping a breeding pair of seahorses, it is vital that you not only maintain pristine water conditions for them, but that you also prepare yourself for the around the clock feeding that will be required once babies are born. They will need to be fed this often for about two weeks after birth, and the food must be readily available in the tank and easy for the seahorses to get to. The nutrition of newborn seahorses is the most important factor is successfully breeding and raising a brood.
Live brine or mysid shrimp are best for the newborn seahorses, and a large enough supply must be kept on hand in order to make sure they get the proper amount of food and nutrition. These shrimp are high in essential fatty acids, which helps them grow and have healthy skin. Have a separate feeding tank set up in which you can keep the shrimp alive and swimming. Be sure to feed the shrimp an enriched formula that will give the babies all of the nutrients they need to grow and thrive.
Because seahorses are notoriously bad swimmers, try to keep the food supply and the seahorses close together, so they don’t have to go far to eat. A dim light focused on one area of the tank will allow both to food source and the seahorses to remain concentrated in one area. Provide plenty of places for them to hitch on to.
If your new brood of seahorses seem to have trouble seeing, their fins are eroding, they are not growing, they startle easily (which could cause them to suddenly die), or some or all die all of a sudden, these are strong signs that their nutrition is not up to par. Also, keep the water quality as close to ideal as possible, working to make sure the ammonia and nitrate levels are close to zero.