Fun With Thing 1

Thing 1 is an eight-inch female banded pipefish:

I purchased her (along with her mate, Thing 2) about 18 months ago, shortly after cycling my 60 gallon marine aquarium and setting up the reef. Blending different species of sygnathids (the family to which seahorses and pipefish belong) can be a challenge, and mixing wild-caught and captive-bred specimens more challenging still because the captive-bred animals don’t possess the same resistances as their wild cousins (who may also introduce pathogens to a tank).

Generally speaking, the crazy souls who decide to try it (present company included) introduce the wild-caught specimens first, give them several months to acclimatize and reveal any hidden pathogens, and only then add captive-bred specimens to the tank.

Thing 1 and Thing 2 did well in quarantine and even better in the reef. At first, they were only 4″ long and didn’t recognize frozen foods as edible substances. I fed them live aquatic copepods (Tigger Pods) – since even brine shrimp were too large for their tiny mouths.

Between feedings, the pipefish spend their time hunting the tiny copepods and other living creatures in and between the live rock. They are consummate hunters, and since the banded pipe lacks the seahorse’s prehensile tail, Thing 1 and Thing 2 remained in constant motion.

Introduction of the seahorses didn’t bother the pipes in the least, except when one of the newcomers tried to use the pipefish as a hitching post. (Unfortunately, Thing 2 died in an accidental seahorse-related incident, leaving only the faster – and warier – Thing 1.)

Eighteen months later, Thing 1 has reached full size. She eats Hikari brand frozen mysis as well as frozen enriched brine shrimp (and live shrimp larvae when my cleaner shrimp give birth – my son calls them “M&Ms of the sea”). She hunts constantly, and pulls tiny crustaceans out of the live rock when she can find them.

Like seahorses, pipefish have specialized needs and feeding requirements which make them rare and difficult to keep in a home reef system. Many other species will attack a pipefish, and the pipe has no significant means of defense (aside from speed and camouflage, neither of which offers much protection in a sixty-gallon box). That said, I’ve loved pipefish since the day six year-old me first saw one in the reef beneath my grandmother’s boat dock, and it’s worth all the effort and energy to have a delightful Thing 1 of my own.

Have you ever seen a pipefish? Swim into the comments and share your experiences with me!