Aquaculture: Tiger-Tail Seahorse

The Tiger tail Seahorse, Hippocampus comes, is one of the most visually striking creatures in the ocean. Consequently, they are a prime target for the aquarium trade. Unfortunately, these animals are also collected and processed into pills to be sold in China to address a variety of maladies. 20 million seahorses may be caught each year to support the health supplement market in China. In addition to overfishing, habitat destruction also threatens populations of tiger tail seahorses. Import and export of tiger tail seahorses has been regulated since 2004 by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.

Tiger tail seahorses grow to just over 6 inches long and make their homes on corals or sponges in the western central Pacific Ocean. They are usually yellow or black in color, with alternating stripes running down the length of their body. This pattern of stripes makes them difficult for predators to see clearly.

The above flowchart shows the process of culturing Tiger Tail Seahorses, from: http://www.fao.org/fishery/culturedspecies/Hippocampus_comes/en

Currently, tiger tail seahorses are grown in Vietnam to supply both the aquarium trade and health supplement market in China. Aquaculture of tiger tail seahorses begins with the collection of broodstock from wild populations, which are kept in cages in calm waters. During spawning, females transfer their eggs to male seahorses’ pouches. Baby seahorses, called fry, are born after 10-20 days. Seahorse fry are collected and moved to small indoor tanks where environmental conditions can be extensively monitored and controlled. In these tanks, fry are fed copepepods and brine shrimp for around 40 days. Next, fully-grown tiger tail seahorses are transferred to larger indoor tanks or back to cages in bays. They are allowed to grow to acceptable for sizes for sale, usually about 3 inches, which takes approximately 3 months.

Tiger Tail Seahorse fry being grown in a tank. From: http://www.fao.org/fishery/culturedspecies/Hippocampus_comes/en

This has been On the Ocean, a program made possible by the Department of Oceanography and a production of KAMU-FM on the campus of Texas A&M University in College Station. For more information and links please go to ocean.tamu.edu and click On the Ocean.

Script Author: Arthus Copeland

Contributing Professor: Dr. Lisa Campbell

Editor: James M. Fiorendino

Featured Image: https://www.earth.com/animals/tiger-tail-seahorse-hippocampus-comes/