Dear James:

Pete Giwojna

Dear James:

No, sir, I would not recommend using both the Seachem Metronidazole and the Seachem NeoPlex at the same time, in conjunction with the Seachem Focus, James.

The reason for this is that the Focus can only buy so much medication to a piece of frozen Mysis, and when you are dividing this finite amount of medication between two different drugs, there is a good chance that the seahorses will not be receiving an effective dose of either of the medications when they subsequently eat the prepared Mysis if you try to use them at the same time.

I would complete the treatment regimen of metronidazole and then follow it up with a complete regimen of the Seachem NeoPlex (active ingredient neomycin sulfate) plus Seachem Focus, as we have previously discussed.

But if there has been no sign of improvement with the metronidazole, James, there are a couple of other things you can safely try in the meantime that may be helpful.

First of all, if you are dealing with a problem with ectoparasites, administering a freshwater dip to the affected seahorses can provide him with some quick relief. For example, the white cysts associated with an infestation of Cryptocaryon irritans, commonly known as marine ich or white spot disease, the telltale cysts will rupture as a result of osmotic pressure during the freshwater dip, providing the ponies with relief from the embedded protozoan parasites.

Here are the instructions for performing a freshwater dip safely, James.

Freshwater Dips

A freshwater dip is simply immersing your seahorse in pure, detoxified freshwater that’s been preadjusted to the same temp and pH as the water the seahorse is accustomed to, for a period of at least 10 minutes (Giwojna, Dec. 2003). It doesn’t harm them — seahorses typically tolerate freshwater dips exceptionally well and a 10-minute dip should be perfectly safe. Freshwater dips are effective because marine fish tolerate the immersion in freshwater far better than the external parasites they play host to; the change in osmotic pressure kills or incapacitates such microorganisms within 7-8 minutes (Giwojna, Dec. 2003). A minimum dip, if the fish seems to be doing fine, is therefore 8 minutes. Include some sort of hitching post in the dipping container and shoot for the full 10 minutes with your seahorses (Giwojna, Dec. 2003).

If you will be using tap water for the freshwater dip, be sure to dechlorinate it beforehand. This can be accomplished usually one of the commercial dechlorinators, which typically include sodium thiosulfate and perhaps a chloramine remover as well, or by aerating the tap water for at least 24 hours to dissipate the chlorine (Giwojna, Dec. 2003).

If you dechlorinate the dip water with a sodium thiosulfate product, be sure to use an airstone to aerate it for at least one hour before administering the dip. This is because the sodium thiosulfate depletes the water of oxygen and the dip water must therefore be oxygenated before it’s suitable for your seahorse(s). Regardless of how you detoxify the freshwater for the dip, it’s important to aerate the water in the dipping container well beforehand to increase the level of dissolved oxygen in the water. Many hobbyists leave the airstone in the dipping container throughout the procedure.

Adjusting the pH of the water in the dipping container so that it matches the pH of the water in the aquarium is a crucial step. Ordinary baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) will suffice for raising the pH of the water. If there is too much of a difference in the pH, there is a possibility the seahorse could go into shock during the dipping procedure. Preadjusting the pH will prevent that from happening. If you will are unsure about your ability to accurately adjust the pH in the dipping container, avoid this procedure altogether or be prepared to monitor the seahorse very carefully or shorten the duration of the tip to no more than about 2 minutes.

Observe the horse closely during the dip. You may see some immediate signs of distress or shock. Sometimes the horse will immediately lie on its side on the bottom. That’s a fairly common reaction — normal and to be expected, rather than a cause for concern, so don’t be alarmed if this happens. Just nudge or tap the seahorse gently with your finger if it lies down on its side. Normally, the seahorse will respond to the slight nudge by righting itself again and calm down for the duration of the dip. However, if it does not respond, stop the treatment.

Most seahorses tolerate the treatment well and experience no problems, but if you see continued signs of distress — twitching, thrashing around etc. — stop the treatment immediately and return the seahorse to normal strength saltwater. How well the seahorses tolerate a freshwater dip can vary from individual to individual and from species to species. Hippocampus barbouri seahorses, for example, often have a low tolerance for freshwater and should either not be dipped or the freshwater dip should be shortened to 1-2 minutes as a safeguard for this species…

After you have completed the dip and returned the seahorses to the aquarium, save the dip water and examine it closely for any sign of parasites. The change in osmotic pressure from saltwater to freshwater will cause ectoparasites to lyse (i.e., swell and burst) or drop off their host after 7-10 minutes, and they will be left behind in the dipping water. Protozoan parasites are microscopic and won’t be visible to the naked eye, but some of the other ectoparasites can be clearly seen. For example, monogenetic trematodes will appear as opaque sesame seeds drifting in the water (Giwojna, Aug. 2003) and nematodes may be visible as tiny hairlike worms 1/16-3/16 of an inch long. Other parasites may appear as tiny dots in the water. Freshwater dips can thus often provide affected seahorses with some immediate relief by ridding them of these irritating pests and can also aid their breathing by flushing out gill parasites.

If you suspect a problem with parasites, the dip should be extended for the full 8-10 minutes if possible for best results. .

If the freshwater dips appear to be helpful, James, it would be a good idea to dip all of the seahorses as the tank, but do not do so simultaneously. I would dip them individually so you can keep a close eye on each seahorse throughout the dip and make sure it is tolerating it well. That way, you can use the same dipping container and dipping water for all for seahorses as you dip them in sequence. I like at least a gallon of water in the dipping container, but that depends on what I’m using. If it’s a clean three or five-gallon bucket, I will fill it about half full with freshwater adjusted to the aquarium temperature.

Aside from the freshwater dip, James, this would also be a good time to begin dosing your main tank was a good probiotic. The probiotics are helpful for a number of reasons, sir. For one thing, they can eliminate potentially harmful bacteria via a process of competitive inhibition. Secondly, they can dramatically improve water quality and tanks with heavy organic loading, and improving the water quality always has a beneficial effect on the seahorses and other aquarium inhabitants.

More importantly, the probiotics also act as immunostimulants, boosting the immune system of the seahorses and thereby helping him to fight off any potential disease problems and remain healthy.

I prefer Sanolife Mic-F probiotics for my seahorse tanks, but there are a number of good probiotics that you can try:

The Use of Probiotics for Disease Prevention and Control

The use of probiotics has long been regarded a promising area for future research in aquaculture. Simply put, probiotics are mixtures of specially cultured microbes and microflora that are known to be beneficial to the aquarium and its inhabitants. When added to the aquarium, probiotics populate the aquarium substrate and filter media, as well as colonizing the gastrointestinal tract of the seahorses. Probiotics that colonize the digestive system of the seahorse with beneficial microflora can offer protection against certain pathogens by means of competitive inhibition, and there is also good evidence that suggests they may improve immune function by increasing the number of IgA-producing plasma cells, increasing or improving phagocytosis as well as increasing the proportion of T lymphocytes and Natural Killer cells.

At the same time, other beneficial bacteria in the probiotics mixture colonize the sand and gravel, live rock, and filter media, where they specialize in breaking down waste products, detritus, and other organic matter. This helps to maintain optimum water quality by reducing organic loading, stabilizing the pH, improving the clarity of the water, and reducing the levels of nitrates and phosphates in the aquarium.

In short, probiotics can prevent seahorse diseases by three mechanisms: dramatically improving water quality, boasting the immune system, and outcompeting pathologic bacterial, such as Vibrio. This is important for the seahorse keeper to know because Vibrio is the genus of bacteria that are most commonly associated with infections such as tail rot, snout rot, and marine ulcer disease or ulcerative dermatitis. in addition, probiotics are also known to markedly reduced the incidence of gas bubble syndrome (GBS) when seahorses are kept in small, closed-system aquariums, probably by virtue of their ability to promote optimum water quality (Dan Underwood, personal communication).

Until recently, the use of probiotics in aquaculture has been confined primarily to livestock intended for human consumption (e.g., food fish and edible shrimp), rather than for ornamental fish intended for the aquarium industry, but that’s beginning to change, particularly in acknowledgment of the growing problem with drug-resistant strains of bacteria.

Fortunately, for the first time in the history of the aquarium hobby, probiotics are now becoming widely available to home hobbyists and at a very economical cost. They are inexpensive, extremely easy to use, and can often be real lifesavers for fish maintained in home aquariums.

Anything that can help protect seahorses against Vibrio and other pathogens is certainly worth investigating and I strongly recommend that the home aquarist use probiotics in any aquarium that has suffered an outbreak of disease, especially bacterial infections such as snout and tail rot or marine ulcer disease (ulcerative dermatitis). Adding probiotics to the main tank at the first sign of such a problem will inhibit and help eliminate pathogenic bacteria from the aquarium. This can prevent your seahorse tank from becoming a “sick tank” that harbors a disease reservoir that will continue to take a toll on the remaining seahorses in the aquarium over time.

It is crucial to prevent this unfortunate situation from developing, because a sick tank that has suffered an outbreak of disease and now harbors a reservoir of pathogenic bacteria can continue to strike down new victims in the weeks and months ahead. At first, healthy seahorses may be able to successfully resist the opportunistic invaders, but small numbers of the pathogens will nonetheless remain, lurking silently in the background, ready to take advantage of any pony that should become stressed or weakened for any reason in the interim. What often happens under such circumstances is that the hobbyist will continue to lose individual seahorses to the same sort of disease symptoms even though all of his aquarium parameters look good and his herd appears to be perfectly healthy. For no apparent reason, one of the healthy ponies will suddenly sicken and die, so that the beleaguered hobbyist is losing additional specimens, one at a time, every few weeks or every month or so despite every precaution.

Adding probiotics to the main tank at the first sign of a disease outbreak can disrupt this deadly cycle by outcompeting the limited numbers of the pathogenic microbes and displacing them from the aquarium itself as well as the aquarium fish. At the same time, the probiotics will enhance the immune function of the seahorses, strengthening their immune response and making them more disease resistant. So please be aware of this fact and take full advantage of the benefits probiotics can provide if your seahorse tank should suffer a disease problem.

Best of all, the probiotics are equally effective in helping to prevent disease outbreaks in a healthy marine aquarium. They can prevent pathogenic bacteria from gaining a toehold in your seahorse tank in the first place via the phenomena of competitive inhibition, and will boost the immune system of the healthy seahorses, further enhancing their disease-fighting abilities. Savvy seahorse keepers can thus help prevent disease problems by routinely adding appropriate probiotics to their healthy seahorse setups.

When a seahorse has been healthy in an aquarium for a year or two with no problems, and then suddenly dies for no apparent reason, the culprit is often a gradual deterioration of the water quality caused by the slow but steady accumulation of detritus, waste products, and other organic matter over time. This is particularly true when the seahorses are maintained in small, closed-system aquariums. Even though you are diligent in cleaning the aquarium when performing regular water changes, the organic loading of the aquarium system inevitably builds up over time. Along with the increase in the detritus and organic wastes, undesirable bacteria are also building up as always happens when conditions begin to become unsanitary.

In a small home aquarium, the water quality can go downhill quickly, and what typically happens in such a scenario is that the organic loading and associated undesirable bacteria build up until the aquarium system reaches a tipping point, after which the water quality declines, stressing the seahorses. Eventually, prolonged low-level stress weakens the seahorses and suppresses their immune response, allowing opportunistic bacteria to gain the advantage, and the seahorse develops an infection as a result.

The use of probiotics prophylactically can disrupt this process by degrading waste products and excess organics, preventing them from accumulating in the aquarium. At the same time they are improving and stabilizing the water quality, they are helping to displace and eliminate harmful bacteria within the seahorses and within the aquarium by outcompeting them and boosting the seahorses’ immune response.

Using probiotics prophylactically can be especially helpful under the following circumstances:

(1) you are having difficulty stabilizing the pH in your seahorse tank;
(2) you are having a problem with nuisance algae in your seahorse tank;
(3) you are having trouble controlling the nitrates and/or phosphates in your seahorse tank;
(4) you cannot operate a protein skimmer on your aquarium to remove dissolved organics;
(5) the water in your aquarium is not as clear as it should be.

And, of course, the use of probiotics in your aquarium is always indicated whenever there has been an outbreak of disease in your seahorse setup.

One probiotic that I can recommend for disease prevention and control in the seahorse tank is Sanolife Mic-F from INVE AQUACULTURE, Inc., a Belgium-based company. Sanolife Mic-F contains special strains of Bacillus aimed at degrading organic matter in the aquarium and inhibiting pathogenic bacteria. It is inexpensive and costs $17 for half a kilogram. It can be obtained in the United States through Teri Potter, INVE’s Utah distributor, whose contact information is as follows:

3528 W 500 S
Salt Lake City
UT 84104
Tel. +1 (801) 956 0203
E-mail: [email protected]

The Bacillus bacteria in the Sanolife probiotic will reduce nitrates and improve water quality by degrading waste products and organic matter. They will also colonize the digestive tract of your seahorses with beneficial microflora that improve their digestion, so your ponies will produce less waste even though they may be eating the same amount. The Sanolife beneficial bacteria also help make your seahorses more disease resistant by helping to eliminate opportunistic pathogenic bacteria through the phenomena of competitive inhibition and by enhancing the immune response of the seahorses.

Dosing Sanolife Mic-F for home aquariums:

The Sanolife MIC-F probiotic can be administered in two ways — either by direct application of the powder to the aquarium water in the main tank on a daily basis, or it can be administered orally by mixing the powder with frozen Mysis or with live adult brine shrimp (Artemia), which are then fed to the seahorses. For best results, both methods should be used simultaneously. Administering the probiotics with the seahorse’s feed will help the special mixture of beneficial microbes to colonize the pony’s digestive tract, allowing the microbes to better stimulate the seahorse’s immune system and outcompete harmful bacteria such as Vibrio. Meanwhile, adding the Sanolife powder directly to the aquarium will encourage the enzymatic activity that breaks down excess organic matter and helps to assure optimal water quality.

Here are the instructions for both methods of administering Sanolife MIC-F:

Procedure for Direct Application of the Sanolife MIC-F To the Aquarium Water

The recommended daily dose is 5 grams of the probiotic per cubic meter of water in the aquarium system. Since 1 cubic meter of water equals 264 gallons, the proper dosage of the Sanolife powder is therefore as follows:

5 g per 264 gallons of aquarium water
2.5 g per 132 gallons of aquarium water
1 g per 53 gallons of aquarium water
500 mg per 26 gallons of aquarium water
250 mg per 13 gallons of aquarium water

[Note: 1 ounce equals ~28 grams]

When you have measured out the proper amount of the Sanolife MIC-F Powder, scoop up a little water from the tank, mix it with the powder and disperse the mixture evenly throughout the tank. Repeat daily.

Procedure for Administering Sanolife MIC-F Orally

Enriching Live Food with Sanolife Powder

Add 500 mg of Sanolife MIC-F powder per ounce of water in the enrichment container directly to the live adult brine shrimp (Artemia sp.) enrichment container. Apply at least two hours and no more than six hours before harvesting the enriched adult brine shrimp. Feed the enriched adult brine shrimp to your seahorses immediately thereafter or keep the enriched adult brine shrimp in cold storage for a maximum of 24 hours before using. Enrich a new batch of adult brine shrimp with the appropriate amount of the Sanolife powder for each day’s feeding.

If treating seahorses for a health problem, continue to administer the Sanolife MIC-F probiotic orally until the symptoms have completely disappeared and the seahorse is back to normal again.

Otherwise, if using Sanolife probiotics prophylactically in your main tank, add the appropriate dose every day for 14 days and then discontinue adding the probiotic powder temporarily. After one month has passed, repeat the two-week regimen of the probiotics, adding daily doses for 14 days. This pattern can be repeated indefinitely in a healthy aquarium, following monthly waiting periods: add daily doses of the probiotic powder for two straight weeks, discontinue using the probiotic for one month, re-dose the tank with probiotics daily for two weeks, rest the aquarium for one month, and so on.

Pete Giwojna, Ocean Rider Tech Support

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