Just to see a seahorse swimming is to marvel in one of marine life’s greatest wonders. The seahorse is a fish, of course – but it sure doesn’t look like a fish!
In fact, the seahorse’s formal Latin-derived name translates to mean “horse caterpillar”. Now that is something you don’t see swimming in the ocean every day!
But if you want to keep this creature in your home tank, you should be prepared to make an investment. In this article, learn about its price plus aquarium setup and maintenance costs.
Seahorse Purchase Price
If you are an experienced saltwater aquarist, you may have the knowledge and skills to purchase a smaller seahorse – or even seahorse fry – and successfully raise it to adulthood. But if you are still learning the art of saltwater tank-keeping and this will be your first try, experts recommend choosing a larger species and getting an adult that is already established.
While investing in an adult can drive up the seahorse price you pay, it is also more likely to deliver a high return on your investment with a longer-lived captive seahorse.
Whenever possible, seek out a captive-bred seahorse. This helps protect depleted wild populations and also ensures your new seahorse will already be well-acclimated to aquarium life and less likely to expire from stress.
Live Aquaria in Wisconsin lists adult seahorses for sale from $69.99 to $169.99. An online seahorse breeder in Hawaii offers juvenile seahorses for $75 and up and adult seahorses ranging from $100 to $525.
My Saltwater Fish Store, on the other hand, offers dwarf and standard-sized seahorse singles, pairs, and groups. Prices range from $7.99 to $179.99.
Your Fish Store lists a variety of seahorse species ranging from $61.54 to $168.54 with free shipping. Seahorse Source offers seahorses starting at $69.99 with a shipping flat rate of $39.99 per order.
Factors Affecting Seahorse Purchase Price
A number of factors have the potential to impact the purchase price you pay.
A juvenile seahorse or seahorse fry (very young fish) will cost less than a full-grown adult. However, be aware that the younger seahorse are challenging to keep even for experts.
Raising seahorse fry is sufficiently challenging to keep demand for wild-caught adult seahorses uncomfortably high.
Seahorse species can vary a great deal in size. From a foot long down to just one-half inch, adult size can impact price within each seahorse species.
Dwarf seahorses are sometimes also called “little” or “pygmy” seahorses. Buying captive-bred dwarf seahorses is vital as this species is currently a candidate for the endangered species list.
Happily, captive-bred dwarf seahorse pairs are quite reasonably priced. My Saltwater Fish Store has single adults starting at $7.99 and pairs starting at $19.99.
There are an estimated 47 known species of seahorse living in wild environments around the world today. Some species are rare than others which can impact price.
More about the seahorse is unusual than just its shape. The male of the species is the one that gets pregnant!
Males are often sold as part of a mated pair and sometimes they are pregnant. A typical pregnancy can yield up to 1,500 eggs – with smaller seahorse species being more prolific.
Purchasing a mated seahorse pair, while often more expensive than purchasing singles, can be beneficial if you want to breed seahorses as these fish typically mate for life.
Another unusual aspect of seahorse biology is that these fish can change color to avoid predators.
Be sure you purchase your seahorse from a knowledgeable breeder as this color-shifting can make it confusing for beginners to correctly identify and price seahorse species!
- Shipping distance
Pay careful attention to shipping costs before making an online seahorse purchase. Some stores will offer free shipping with a minimum order.
One-time Seahorse Costs
Setting up a saltwater aquarium for your new pet can represent a significant investment. Also, be aware that seahorses generally fare poorly when housed with other saltwater species and are best kept alone or with peaceful relatives such as pipefish or sea dragons.
A 30-gallon aquarium with a minimum of 24” high walls can house a pair. Add 15 gallons for each additional seahorse pair. Expect prices starting at $195 and up.
You will need a good filter and protein skimmer. A 30-gallon filter starts at $71 while a high-powered protein skimmer starts at $150.
- Environment testers and monitors
The temperature will vary depending on the species. Tropical seahorse species require 70°F to 74°F (21°C to 23°C) to control bacteria. Monitors start at $127 and up and a saltwater test kit like API Saltwater Aquarium Master Test Kit, 550 count starts at $22.
Providing the right décor is essential so that your seahorses have a “hitching post” like rock or dead coral when they need to rest. Prices for dry coral sets start at $34 and up.
Gravel, sand, and pebbles are appropriate for flooring. Get 20 lbs. starting at $16.
Food – Seahorses can’t chew their food. They have to mouth and disintegrate food, which means they require very tiny particles.
Algagen copepods start at $21.99 for 8 ounces, Tigrio copepods start at $19, and Tisbe copepods start at $21.
On the other hand, Mysis shrimp start at $3.50 for 4 ounces while Live rotifers start at $20 for 1 million animals.
Experienced aquarists recommend avoiding brine shrimp.
Healthcare – Seahorses can fall prey to a number of health issues, including an unusual condition – severe internal bloating in their swim bladder. Prepare a budget for veterinary care which can cost $20 to $80 depending on location and your pet’s condition.