Allwetterzoo Münster has had a very successful crop of Long-snouted Seahorses this summer. About 400 juveniles have been born since May—from just eight parental pairs! Due to the breeding success, the aquarium is almost out of space behind-the-scenes. But not to worry: the seahorses will find homes at other zoos and aquaria, once they're old enough. The little ones will grow to be about 9 inches (23 cm) in length as adults.
Seahorses are unusual among fish because mate pairs stay together for a whole breeding season, and sometimes even for life. The male and the female each keep a small territory, and the female visits her mate in his territory every day for a 'daily greeting' that strengthens their bond. Even more unexpected, it is the male who incubates and gives birth to the young. The female uses a long tube called an ovipositor to lay her eggs in the brood pouch of her partner. He incubates them for about three weeks—the female stills comes to visit every day—and when they are ready, he releases the hatchlings into the water. The hatchlings are independent as soon as they are born, but sometimes they may cling to their father for a while for safety. This Atlantic species is typically found along the European coast, from the UK through the Mediterranean and Black Seas.
Photo credits: Allwetterzoo Münster
The mini-seahorses are fed twice daily with tiny brine shrimp and copepods. During feeding times the aquarium pumps must be turned off, because it would suck in the tiny food. Once the young animals eaten enough, the pumps are turned back on, providing the necessary oxygen supply and flushing the tanks clean. Raising the all those seahorse fry is time consuming, but District Director Anke Gassner and her team are proud of the breeding success.