Seahorses are those lovely sea inhabitants that we are used to seeing in everything – from documentaries about sea life to cartoons. They have always captivated people’s imagination with their unusual shape and peculiar beauty and tranquility.
Even though, seahorse are so popular what do we really know about them? One of the most important things to know if you own a seahorse is, what do seahorses eat?
The choice of meals seahorses have is not very big because their food has to be very, very small. The most common presence in their menu are:
- Small crustaceans such as shrimps or copepods (a group of tiny crustacean found in nearly all freshwater and saltwater basins), Mysis Shrimp and plankton. Some of the copepod’s species are planktonic themselves.
- Other options may include larval crabs, aquatic bugs, and baby fish.
- Baby seahorses are so small that the only food they are able to intake are nearly microscopic brine shrimp.
- Both adults and babies eat only live food, unless they are in captivity.
Although not so common, other food types can also be suitable for seahorses such as:
- Liver bearer fry
- Shrimp larvae
An adult eats from 30 to 50 times a day and baby seahorses eat an unbelievable 3000 pieces of food per day!
And a bit of general information before we proceed with the topic about seahorses’ diet: they are actually fish, live in water, breathe through gills and have a swim bladder. Also, seahorses have a long tail, a neck and a snout pointing down. Seahorses are very colourful and come in all shades and colors!
What Do Seahorses Eat in Captivity?
In captivity, seahorses are usually fed small pieces of frozen fish food. Examples of frozen food include krill, plankton, Mysis Shrimp, grass shrimp and enriched brine shrimp.
The bigger variety their diet is, the more complete the nutritional profile is which provides better and higher mental stimulation. Seahorses’ mentality can be affected, if there is a lack of diet variety.
You can give your seahorse the same food it would find in nature but frozen. Keep in mind that not all of it has the same quality of nutrients.
- Brine shrimp
This is the most common food offered to seahorses in captivity. Brine shrimp do not carry nutritional value and seahorses cannot make any use of it due to the lack of sufficient amount of nutrients. If this is the only food you give to your seahorse, it will eventually die of starvation.
Saltwater rotifers are microscopic organisms fed to seahorse fry that are too small to take brine shrimp and are usually given to baby seahorses. There are a few different species and strains available in aquaculture.
Copepods are very small crustaceans.. There are three kinds of copepods generally used for feeding seahorses, harpactacoid, cyclopoid and calanoid. Harpactacoid prefer living on the surface of objects, and do not always attract the attention of seahorses. They can be gathered from aquariums at night when they are most commonly found on the sides of the aquarium. Calanoids swim in the water column which makes them ideal for seahorse.
- Mysis Shrimp
Mysis Shrimp are a great food to feed your seahorse and commonly found in nature.” They make up a large portion of the diet of wild seahorses. Mysis are newborn baby shrimp and make excellent food for seahorses.
- Amphipods, Gammarus, Scuds
All three are very small and make excellent food for seahorses. They would eat all of them in nature, although not as commonly as the shrimp.
Similar to amphipods, these relatives of the common pill bug also make good seahorse food. Just watch out for parasitic Isopods (they will usually have very large eyes).
Daphnia are a freshwater relative of copepods, sometimes offered to juvenile seahorses and there are reports of some finicky adult seahorses taking them.
Other suitable frozen foods for seahorses include: plankton, krill, ghost shrimp, grass shrimp, river shrimp, prawns, gammarus and enriched brine shrimp.
How Often Do Seahorses Eat?
Like mentioned earlier, an adult seahorse eats between 30 and 50 times a day plus they graze almost all the time. Baby seahorses eat up to 3000 pieces of food per day, which makes eating a process that involved nearly one whole day.
How Do Seahorses Get Their Food?
Seahorses are small and slow swimmers that are not really able to compete for food or be aggressive towards other fish. They tend to “attach” themselves to corals and seaweeds thanks to their adaptive and flexible tail. In this way they “anchor” themselves and wait for food to pass by. Their unique neck is adapted to catching prey from a distance. Seahorses can move up unnoticed and slowly without their prey being alerted. Once they are close enough, they rotate their heads, bring their snouts forward and catch their prey.
Seahorses have three feeding phases:
1. As the name suggests, during the first preparatory stage, they slowly approach their prey, come closer and twist their head ventrally.
2. During the expansive phase, seahorses catch their prey by expanding their buccal cavity (scientific name for mouth, also called oral cavity), lift their heads and capture their victim. After they have caught their food and swallowed it, the hyoid apparatus (a bone that serves as an attachment for the tongue and for muscles in the floor of the oral cavity), head and jaw return to normal position.
3. “The phase of recovery begins from the moment they return to normal position to the food being digested and space is released for a new feeding.
Do Seahorses Have Teeth?
No, seahorses do not have teeth. They suck in their food and swallow it whole without chewing. That is why their prey has to be very small. Together with small crustaceans, seahorses also eat plankton, very small fish and copepods.
What is interesting about seahorses is they do not have teeth or a “stomach.
Instead of chewing the food, they directly swallow it. Their lack of stomach makes the food go straight into the digestive system and that is why the food has to be very small.
An adult seahorse eats between 30 and 50 times a day and a baby one eats up to 3000 pieces of food per day.
Seahorses are slow swimmers and do not chase prey. They attach themselves to seaweeds or corals and wait for potential food to pass by. Once the prey approaches, they twist their neck to the side and when the moment comes they suck the preyseae in with their snout. Their feeding consists of three phases: preparatory, expansive and recovery. The most common food seahorses eat in nature and when in captivity (frozen) includes: AmphipodsGammarusScuds Daphnia Liver bearer fry Shrimp larvae Isopodsbrine shrimp, rotifers, copepods, Mysis Shrimp, amphipods, gammarus, scuds isopods and daphnia.