WC, CB, TB....Whats it all about?

One of the issues that seems to crop up a lot in the seahorse World is the viability of wild seahorses in our systems and the ignorance to the difference between captive bred (CB), wild caught (WC), and the more recently named TR/TB (tank raised or tank bred) seahorses.

So what's the difference then?  
Well, in short and very simple terms, the following:

Wild Caught - removed from their natural environment for the aquariam or traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) trade.

Captive Bred - these are seahorses that have been conceived, born and raised in an enclosed environment specifically for the home aquarist.  Their conditions are closely monitored, they are fed a good diet and are used to a captive environment.

Tank Raised or Tank Bred - now, this is where it starts to get a little grey, especially in the UK in my opinion.  The term tank bred is frequently used in the UK to determine fish that have been born in captivity, however the same does not apply for seahorses.  In various Asian countries seahorses are bred and raised in open pens in the ocean and so to all intents and purposes are the same as wild caught seahorses.  The only difference is that they can't escape from their pens!  Sadly, the main purpose of these seahorses is to supply the TCM trade and therefore the well-being of the seahorses is usually of little consequence.  In comparison to the number of seahorses that are bred and sold this way only a very small amount make it into the home aquarium trade. One thing worth noting is that larger seahorses generally are worth more to the TCM than the aquarium market, and so the ones that make it to us are usually the poorer specimens.

There is a great sticky on Seahorse.org which explains the differences in a much more eloquent and educated way than I can, so if this is something that interests or concerns you, I would recommend having a read of this.

Now I'm sure that you've picked up on the use of my word "ignorance" in the first paragraph and I want to explain this a little.  I do believe that from the time seahorses enter the country to the time that they make it into the home aquarium, many many assumptions have been made along the way and not enough questions have been asked.  I am never surprised when hobbyists tell me that they don't know whether their seahorses are WC/TR or CB, a little less surprised when I hear an LFS say the same but pretty shocked and angry when a wholesaler can't tell the origins of the seahorses.  My advice to anyone purchasing seahorses from any source other than the actual breeder is to ask the LFS bluntly where they came from.  If they are unable to give an explicit answer, walk away.  WC and TR/TB seahorses rarely thrive in the home aquarium and at the very least need treating for parasites otherwise it will be a constant battle to prevent them from starving.  

FusedJaw.com have a great article about Pen Raised seahorses that all potential seahorse owners should read.  If you scroll to the bottom of the page there is a link about how seahorses are raised in pens.

Although there are now quite a few breeders in the UK, there are probably more WC/TR/TB seahorses entering the country and so we frequently hear stories of people struggling to get their seahorses to thrive and both the seahorse and owner endure a long winded battle until finally the seahorse succumbs to its inevitable fate.

WC/TR/TB seahorses should be treated for parasites and this process is lengthily with not all of the drugs being available for use in this country.    This treatment is only for parasites and this alone cannot guarantee the long term well-being of the seahorses.

If you do discover that you have WC/TR/TB seahorses never mix them with any captive bred species from the syngnathid family as this can have a catastrophic outcome.

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