The flamboyant reddish, bright
yellow, and blazing orange color morphs of the Brazilian Hippocampus
reidi seahorse are almost legendary among aquarists. S eahorses
employ a remarkable ability to change coloration. Since they
rely on color for many things, including camouflage, complex
social interactions, courtship rituals, and to express their
mood and emotional state.Seahorses accomplishes their dramatic
color changes through the contraction or expansion of pigment
cells. Each pigment cell is a contractile cell or vesicle containing
liquid pigment or pigment granules and capable of changing its
form or size, thus causing changes of color in the skin of the
animals that possess them. The pigment cells may be under nervous
control and able to change very rapidly or under hormonal control
and able to change only relatively slowly. The Hippocampus
reidi is typically endowed with just a few different types of
pigment color cells, and all colors are derived from these 3
or 4 basic pigments. The exact color the seahorse displays at
any given time therefore depends on the concentration of these
pigment cells, how close the cells are to the surface of the
skin, and which color cells are expanded or contracted at the
Amazing as it sounds, the Hippocampus Reidi seahorse has no orange
pigment cells. The incredible bright orange coloration is produced
by simultaneously expanding itheir yellow pigment cells and red
pigment cells to the fullest. The exact shade of orange the reidi
seahorse becomes and its brightness is determined by the proportion
of yellow to red cells it opens, how fully they are expanded,
and how close to the skin's surface they are. Obviously, a hippocampus
reidi seahorse that is black has all its color cells expanded
and a hippcampus reidi seahorse that is white has all of its
color cells contracted so that all the wavelengths of visible
light are reflected back to the observer.
What affects Seahorse Coloration?
The hobbyist should be aware that there are a number of environmental
conditions and hormonal influences that can affect the coloration
of seahorses in the aquarium, often by affecting the ability
of color cells to contract and expand. These include the following
Stress -- seahorses often respond to stress by darkening.
Emotional state -- when excited, seahorses typically brighten
in coloration, reflecting a state of high arousal. On the other
hand, fear, anxiety and distress are generally accompanied by
dark, somber hues.
Social Interactions -- seahorses often brighten during
their courtship displays; pair-bonded seahorses likewise brighten
during their morning greeting rituals, and rivals go through
characteristic color changes during their confrontations and
Competition for mates -- dominant individuals brighten;
subordinate seahorses darken in submission.
Poor water quality -- high levels of wastes, ammonia,
nitrite or nitrate can cause color cells to contract and colors
Low oxygen levels or high CO2 levels-- can cause colorful
seahorses to fade.
Background colors -- seahorses will often change color
in order to blend in with their immediate surroundings.
Medications -- some antibiotics and malachite-green-based
remedies negatively affect color.
Tankmates -- seahorses may change their base coloration
to blend in with the rest of the herd or to match their mate
(or a potential partner). This can work both ways: a dark seahorse
may brighten up and assume vivid hues when introduced to an aquarium
with bright yellow or orange tankmates; In the same manner, a
brightly colored seahorse may darken and adopt subdued coloration
when placed amidst drab tankmates.
So What can you do to influence your Seahorse's coloration?
To Sum it all up, aside from providing your seahorses with optimal
water quality, a stress-free environment, and an ideal, enriched
staple diet, you must also take care to provide them with a colorful
natural aquarium setting that will make them feel right at home.
This means furnishing their aquarium with appropriate, multi-colored
décor. Pay special attention to the hitching posts you
select. Strive for bright reds, oranges, and yellows in anything
your seahorses may adopt. Once the seahorse adopts a favorite
base of operations like this, they will often proceed to change
coloration to match their preferred resting spot. Reef tanks
featuring colorful sponges, colorful mushrooms, leathers, and
other seahorse-safe soft corals and gorgonians are ideal, guaranteed
to keep seahorses feeling right at home and looking their best.
Various types of Caulerpa, Gracilaria, and other attractive macroalgae
can then be added to give your tank a welcome touch of green,
red, gold and add a bit of living color (Giwojna, 2002). If your
tank is not a reef tank, you can often achieve the same effect
using "make beleive" coral, plastic gorgonians and
replicas of marine plants to encourage them to retain
their natural coloration. Many hobbyists find that a dark color
substrate, such as black sand, brings out their seahorses' brightest
colors and sets off their colorful hues exceptionally well.
Special note: Seahorses require very special care and
have tank requirements that must be met for survival in an aquarium.
Therefore we guarantee live arrival in good condition, but there
is no guarantee beyond that due to their special needs.