Seahorses in Sydney – The Aquarium Exhibit + Interview With Seahorse Expert

seahorses sydney aquarium harbour

I have been mad on seahorses since I was just a young scuba diver.

Many moons ago, I was diving along the shark nets at Parsley Bay and came across some of these elegant creatures. They were just sitting there on the nets looking totally unconcerned about two divers staring at them in close up.

It really was a magical moment in my life.

Seanas Seahorse

A few years later I was living in Glasgow and needed some business cards made.

“They must have a seahorse” I exclaimed to my graphic designer friend. She made the most gorgeous cards and I have been using versions of this design ever since.  There have been many addresses!

seahorse earring Just before my oldest son was born, I bought silver seahorse earrings, and they were the only pair worn for about ten years.

One was lost at Balmoral Beach five years ago. I still check the sand for it every time I vist Balmoral.

When I read about the Seahorse Safari exhibit opening at the SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium, I was thrilled.

Wee seahorse friends to meet.

WeedySeadragon seahorses sydney aquarium harbour

These are weedy sea dragons. How cool a name is that?

I jumped at the chance to ask Amy Wilkes, a Senior Aquarist at SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium, a few questions about seahorses:

How many seahorses are there in the exhibit?

We will have 7 display tanks with seahorses or their relatives. Some tanks will have just 1 or two individuals and others will have as many as 20

What do seahorses eat?

Seahorses feed on small crustaceans called mysids or brine shrimp (some people know these as ‘sea monkeys’)

What other sea creatures are part of the exhibit?

Generally seahorses and their relatives, pipefish and dragons etc, do better in tanks that do not have other species in with them.

They are very shy and delicate creatures, so some animals can be too active and compete with them for food.

We have, however, managed to find a few tanks mates for some of seahorses that more peaceful and placid feeders so that it doesn’t disturb the seahorses. With some of seahorse are some small gobies (clownface goby and canary goby) and in many of the seahorse tanks we have the very helpful critters known as the “clean up crew”, which includes small hermit crabs and seastars who help clean up all the left over food the seahorses miss.

Seahorse Safari opens this week at SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium

What sort of conditions do seahorses need?

Seahorses are very delicate and sensitive animals. They like a peaceful environment and are very sensitive to water quality, so they need calm tank mates – or none – and the very best filtration to ensure their tank remains a healthy environment.

They like to have plenty of things to hold onto and hide amongst so we make sure there are plants or other tank furniture to make they feel comfortable. They are sensitive to changes in water temperature so we carefully monitor and control any changes.

They are specialist feeders and need to eat regularly. For some we feed them live food so that there is always something available to eat. For others that we feed on thawed frozen food, we feed them a minimum of 3-4 times a day.

Our Razorfish we offer them food up to 7 times or more a day so we can ensure they are getting enough to sustain them.

Many are also very sensitive to bright lights or sudden light changes, so we have specially lit tanks, and ask guests to turn off their flash when taking pictures.

Will they breed in the exhibit?

Most of the species we have kept will readily breed in their tanks. This is great because it tells us that they are very happy and healthy. However, at the moment we are not encouraging this as there is a lot of time and space needed to rear the young seahorses. So, currently we have to keep the boys and the girls apart, or we would soon have the “pitter patter” of hundreds of miniature searhoses

Seahorse Safari opens this week at SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium 3

 What sort of training do you need to be a seahorse keeper?

Seahorses are definitely not a good idea for a beginning fish keeper. All of our aquarist that care for our seahorses and sygnathids have years of experience in caring for fish.

Most of the team here has completed a marine biology degree at university or trained in Captive Animal care at TAFE as well as on the job experience and training from senior aquarists.

 seahorses sydney aquarium harbour

Seahorses in the wild in Sydney Harbour

The Seahorse Safari exhibit is a terrific place to introduce children to these shy sea creatures. But how about also taking the kids to spot them in the wild. There are seahorses right on our doorstep here in Sydney.

White’s seahorse and the potbellied seahorse live in Sydney Harbour and can often be seen by swimmers, snorkellers and scuba divers.

In fact Sydney Harbour is one of the easiest places in the world to see seahorses in the wild. They like to hang around the algae-covered shark nets which protest some of our beaches and swimming enclosures.

You can find them at Watson’s Bay, Chowder Bay, Parsley Bay where I first saw them, and many other netted enclosures.

But only look, no touching. That would be seahorse harassment.

See marvellous photos of seashorses taken in Sydney Harbour on the Underwater Sydney website here. 

Are you mad about seahorses too?

Have you ever seen them in the wild?

Happy splashing.

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6 Comments

  • Seahorses are fascinating. I love those weedy sea dragons. Thanks for this very interesting interview. I’ve only seen them in aquariums but would love to see them in the wild.

    • Reply June 14, 2013

      Seana Smith

      Pop over to Sydney and lets go snorkelling! Hang on its a wee bit chilly just now. But summer will be here soon!

  • Reply June 15, 2013

    Hotly Spiced

    Seahorses are gorgeous and they have a great name. I’m so sorry about your earring. It’s always devastating when something like that happens. That’s a great exhibit – something else I should get to xx

  • Reply June 15, 2013

    Desire Empire

    Such gorgeous creatures and I love the way they are displayed in big bubbles. Sorry to hear about the earring. Perhaps you can wear just one.

    Carolyn

  • Reply June 16, 2013

    Lisa Goodmurphy

    I am fascinated by sea horses too! We saw an exhibit a few years ago (I think it was at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago) and my younger daughter couldn’t be dragged away from them. I can’t imagine how excited she would be to see them in the wild!

  • Reply June 17, 2013

    Lisa Wood

    There sure is something magical about Seahorses. Incredible information gathered from your interview – I never realised that the camera flash should be turned off when taking photos of them because they don’t like the light!

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