Hippocampus kuda

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Common Name/s: Spotted Seahorse
Maximum Adult Size: 30cm
Natural Distribution: Indo-Pacific: Pakistan and India to southern Japan, Hawaii, and the Society Islands
Depth Range: 0 – 68m, usually 0 – 8m
Species Notes & Captive Care Notes: Gracing the shallow coastal waters of the Indo-Pacific, Kuda Seahorses favour environments such as seaward coral reefs, mud slopes, seagrass meadows and marine algae areas of shallow estuaries. They have also been recorded in open water up to 20km from shore attached to drifting sargassum algae rafts. Typical of seahorses, with adults occurring in pairs, the kuda seahorse uses its prehensile tail to anchor itself to various substrates. After courtship, the male carries the eggs in a brood pouch on his lower abdomen, incubating them for 4-5 weeks. To expel the young, he flexes his body to thrust the pouch forward, ejecting one or two youngsters at a time. Classified as a vulnerable species by the IUCN, the Kuda Seahorse is now commercially cultured to help cope with the demand for seahorses for traditional Chinese medicines, souvenirs, and the aquarium industry. Faring well at 73-75°F (23-24°C), this species should kept at a stable temperature and not be exposed to spikes above 26°C. In terms of salinity, they can tolerate a range, but 32ppt is generally regarded to be ideal. As they are a peaceful slow-moving species, they should not be mixed with other organisms such as active/aggressive fishes, or anemones or corals that possess large stinging tentacles. Provision of plastic plants or décor is a better option than live corals actually, and both provide cover and allow the seahorse to use its tail to anchor itself. Some small fish species can be considered as tankmates (dragonets, for example), but overall a quiet and tall species tank, where the seahorses have no competition for food, is desirable. Feeding can be challenging for seahorses because they have very small mouths and are relatively slow to consume prey. Live mysid and brine shrimp may be used initially to wean specimens onto frozen and enriched versions of this food, and this should be offered several times per day, ideally with food available for 20-30 minutes per feed; babies need freshly hatched brine shrimp artemia fed constantly. Obviously such feeding necessitates the inclusion of effective water treatment systems to prevent a build-up of pollutants in the system. Adults of this species can reach a maximum height of around 6ins and can exhibit variable colouration, from grey/black to bright orange with variable markings on the body. Although threatened in the wild, luckily there are a number of specialist breeders that offer this species as fully captive-raised stock.

References / Further Reading:
IUCN page with zoomable range map

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