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Northern Seahorse
(Hippocampus erectus)


Northern. lined, Seahorse, Hippocampus, erectus

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All seahorses belong to the genus Hippocampus which is a part of the family Syngnathidae. This family also includes pipefishes. There are 32 cataloged species of seahorses living in the shallow tropical and temperate waters of the world. Seahorses range anywhere form 1 to 12 inches in length when fully grown and have an average life expectancy of 1 to 5 years depending on species. The dwarf seahorse or Hippocampus zosterae is among the smallest of this genus. They are endemic to the Bahamas and the coastal waters of the southern US.  The Hippocampus ingens will often grow to just over foot in length. They are native to the Pacific coast of Central America. The Hippocampus erectus is a medium sized seahorse growing to an average length of 7 inches. Here we will be focusing on the seashores in general and on the erectus as a single species.

Populations of the H. erectus exist along the Atlantic coastline of North and South America and throughout the Gulf of Mexico ranging as far south as Uruguay and as far north as Nova Scotia. Some have cirri or sensory appendages on the heads. Others do not. These fish frequently have lined patterning throughout their body. They may of may not have “saddle markings.” This seahorse is commonly sold under the aquarium trade names as a northern or lined seahorse.

Northern seahorses come in a multitude of colors including white, black, grey, brown, green, yellow, orange and varying shades of reds. They are totally devoid of blue pigmentation but yet still can be found in pale blue and purple. Spots and diamond patterning are quite typical on this species. Coloration is not fixed. Seahorses have almost chameleon type properties. Their coloring will change in intensity depending on stress levels, mood, diet or any number of other as yet unidentified factors. Their melanophores (black pigment cells) will expand under stressful conditions making their appearance much darker. Their chromatophores (color pigmentation cells) will change is size and shaping depending on their state of anxiety. These are hormonal changes that can take place quite rapidly. A return to their “unstressed” coloration occurs much more slowly.  Brighter colors indicate a sense of wellbeing and confidence in their surroundings. Seahorses also have the ability to change their coloration to better blend in with their surroundings. This is a natural means of camouflage typical among seahorses. These creature’s eyes operate independently of one another much like a chameleon’s does.

Seahorses are among the most fragile marine species kept in home aquariums. Regardless of species, seahorses carry an advanced to expert care level. The Erectus is one of the most hardy and robust of these delicate creatures. If you have considered raising seahorses but have not yet committed to the idea, this particular seahorse would be an excellent choice. A minimum tank size of 20 gallons is recommended for this species.

Seahorses are carnivorous. They may only eat live food when you first introduce them to your aquarium. Vitamin enriched brine shrimp and rotifers make ideal food offerings. Given time they will learn to recognize non-living food as an acceptable means of nutrition. They may even eat flakes and pellets prepared for marine carnivores. As always a varied diet is recommended. Seashores can also be fed finely chopped fresh seafood. 

Farm raised seahorses are becoming more and more common place. Farm raised marine specimens are always preferable to captured species. They are more disease resistant and have a much lower mortality rate. The northern seahorse will reach sexual maturity in anywhere from 4-8 months. They have been known to breed in home aquariums. A domesticated seahorse will eat right out of your hand. This species can live up to five years in captivity.

Environmental Parameters

Temperature

pH Level Specific Gravity
72-78  °F 8.1-8.4 1.020-1.025

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