The unusual appearance and extraordinary male pregnancy of seahorses (genus Hippocampus) have always attracted aquarium visitors.
Worryingly, however, many seahorse populations have been declining in the wild due to over-exploitation (primarily used in traditional medicines but also
harvested for aquaria and souvenirs) and habitat destruction. The aquarium trade accounts for hundreds of thousands of seahorses taken from the wild each
year, adding pressure to declining wild populations.
Extensive communication with aquarists around the world indicated that seahorses were particularly difficult to keep healthy in captivity.
Husbandry questionnaires were distributed to public aquaria, hobbyists and researchers worldwide to further evaluate the current state of seahorse keeping in
aquaria. The questionnaire responses drew attention to the significant lack of information about these fishes. The current situation can be improved by a
coordinated captive breeding and management program and public education.
The results from the survey helped drive an international aquarium workshop on seahorse husbandry, management and conservation, which was
co-hosted by Project Seahorse (an integrated program of global initiatives dedicated to seahorse conservation and management) and the John G. Shedd Aquarium
(Chicago, USA). Participants examined key husbandry issues (e.g., diet and nutrition, disease, physical requirements) and developed a series of international
actions, linking these with field conservation initiatives where possible. Workshop outcomes included the need for improved communication, record keeping,
research, standard guidelines (e.g., quarantine procedures), and educational programs for stakeholders. The action plan will be facilitated through the work
of an aquarium research coordinator (supported by Project Seahorse and the Shedd Aquarium) and communication regarding this program will be expanded to a
wider network (e.g., subsistence fishing communities, marine conservation organizations).
The authors are grateful for the considerable input from the many aquarium professionals who returned husbandry questionnaires and
participated in the workshop. We would also like to thank all at Project Seahorse and the Shedd Aquarium who helped with the study and the workshop. Financial
support for the workshop was provided by the American Zoo and Aquarium Association through its Conservation Endowment Fund, Walt Disney World Company, the
Osprey Foundation and the National Aquarium in Baltimore.