Having done a fair amount of work for Simply Seahorses over the last few years, we were pleased to be invited to drop in for a chat with owner Nigel Christie recently. The last few weeks have been pretty hard work for Nigel as he‘s been busy transferring stock and equipment, having decided to scale back the operations commercial premises. However, rather than being down about the move, he seems to be revelling in being able to focus solely on seahorses once again. You can’t keep a good man down, as they say!
Now running primarily out of a large outbuilding behind their house, Nigel is enjoying major breeding success with 4 species of seahorse. Firstly, in the largest system, he already has 400-500 Hippocampus erectus, ranging in size from tiny 2 day old babies, to 8 majestic spawning pairs. Although the move did halt breeding activities for a few weeks, such is the success Nigel has had with this species, they quickly settled and ‘got down to business’. There are even some unusual colour morphs on display including silver, yellow and even piebald specimens. Actually, split 50/50 between De Jong Marinelife and themselves, Simply Seahorses now supply Europe with around 2000 of these seahorses per year. Lit purely by natural light, the erectus system is fed by a TMC 5500 commercial system which features a 1kw pump, approx. 8 foot tall skimmer, trickle tower, fluidised bed, UVs and ozone. Transplanted from the shop, the installation of this unit did cause Nigel the odd problem… infact, due to a slight miscalculation he had to sink the whole thing around a foot below the floor to fit it in!
In another bank of tanks, running as a separate, smaller system, we were thrilled as ever to see H. zosterae also breeding. These tiny, magical creatures never cease to captivate us. This breeding is obviously excellent news too, as the prospect of a wild-collection ban was recently raised. Although buoyant about his success with the species, Nigel is concerned how a ban may affect the ability to trade this species. Whatever the case, these tiny specimens were clearly safe and happy, surrounded by food in the form of swarms of tiny, freshly hatched brine shrimp.
Also part of Nigel’s breeding programme are H. kuda and H. whitei, with each residing in their own special systems. Producing only quite small broods, Nigel has nevertheless managed to grow on 50 Kuda babies from 3 pairs of breeding adults. As with the other species (except H. zosterae), these are taking freshly hatched brine and Mysis with gusto. The rarest of the lot, and probably the only ones in captivity in the UK, are Nigel’s wild-caught H. whitei. In terms of offspring, he is thrilled that their first brood of 14 have all survived and are still all going strong as of the date of our visit. Nigel is keen to stress that it is very unusual for his operation to use wild-caught stock though, and this is only the case for his whitei. Ultimately, he plans to have 6 species breeding in total, with H. barbouri adults already reaching perfect condition in a separate display tank, and H. abdominals completing the line-up.
Forming part of his seahorses diet, and also occupying several of his tanks, we were interested to see swarms of Americamysis bahia. This species of mysid shrimp is a perfect food source for seahorses and, unlike most that are offered for sale from many fish stores, this species thrives in warm waters and can easily be fed with flake. As such, they are also superb additions to sumps and refugiums, and for this reason Nigel sells starter cultures via ebay. He also attributes some of his success to the regular use of a microbial water conditioner produced by US company Sanolife. Infact, he’s so impressed with it that he has become a UK distributor for the product. In addition to these useful extras, take note that although seahorses are clearly the specialism here, specialist medicines and macro algaes pertinent to seahorse keeping are also on offer.
In conclusion, we really enjoyed our visit and would like to thank Nigel for giving up some of his time to detail his operation. We think it’s great to see Simply Seahorses doing what it does best. It’s great to hear that their efforts are being rewarded through established connections in Europe and exciting to hear that further ‘worldwide’ connections are on the cards. We certainly hope to be bringing more positive news on this subject in the future!