Dear Paul:

Pete Giwojna

Dear Paul:

It sounds like you did a very good job of handling the freshwater dip, sir, and you are taking a sensible approach to feeding the seahorse under the circumstances. As long as you can spare the time, it is very helpful if you can offer the affected seahorse several feedings a day, target feeding him individually to give him the best chance of getting his fair share of the Mysis. If you are able to feed him several times a day, and he is able to get around three of the Mysis down during each of these feedings, that’s not bad at all.

Under those circumstances, Paul, the pony should be getting enough nourishment to sustain itself and keep its strength up. If it looks like it has a fairly full belly at the end of the day, rather than showing the concave, pinched-in abdomen typical of emaciated seahorses, and the seahorses still producing normal fecal pellets, that’s a pretty good indication that he is still getting enough to eat despite not being able to generate his usual powerful suction.

It’s difficult to say whether or not the freshwater dip will resolve a problem like this or not because weak snick can have a number of different causes and the freshwater dips are helpful only when it is the result of ectoparasites that attack the gills and then move inward, invading the buccal cavity and esophagus the seahorse. How quickly a freshwater dip helps to resolve the problem often depends on how early you detected the problem with weak snick and how advanced it has become.

In your case, being a diligent aquarist, it sounds like you picked up on the problem right away, Paul, so there’s every reason to think that the freshwater dip may be helpful for your seahorse, providing protozoan parasites or other gill parasites are at the root of the issue.

If the weak snick is due to a muscular strain or mechanical injury resulting from ingesting a foreign object and then struggling to expel it again, the freshwater dip will not be helpful. When the weak snick results from such an injury, it simply requires time for the healing to occur, and the key to a successful outcome is to assure that the seahorse gets adequate nourishment throughout the healing process. It can take several weeks for a seahorse to recover from such a mechanical injury…

Likewise, if the weak snick is a result of a secondary bacterial or fungal infection affecting the throat and esophagus of the seahorse, and the muscles that operate its suctorial feeding mechanism, then a freshwater dip won’t be of much use.

Also, as we discussed briefly in my previous post, some cases of weak snick are known to be caused by muscle weakness and muscular degeneration (myopathy) of the musculature that powers the opercular pumps and buccal pump that generate the seahorse’s suction ability. This myopathy was a result of nutritional deficiencies, especially inadequate levels of Vitamin E and selenium, and supplementing the seahorses diet to provide those nutrients was able to restore the stinging ability of the seahorse to normal again.

Obviously, a freshwater dip will have no helpful effect in cases of weak snick that are resulting from such nutritional deficiencies, but a freshwater dip is a good place to start when treating a problem like this. In your case, Paul, I would suggest addressing a possible nutritional deficiency in addition to administering one or more freshwater dips, sir.

If you feel the seahorse is getting enough frozen Mysis each day when you are feeding him as much as he can manage every four hours, then I would recommend fortifying the frozen Mysis with one or more of the enrichment products I mentioned in my previous e-mail before you feed your pony each of its meals.

Or, if you can obtain live adult brine shrimp in your area, a another very good option would be to disinfect the live adult brine shrimp and then gutload it with one of these enrichment products, as described in my earlier post, and then allowing the affected seahorse to eat its fill of the fortified adult brine shrimp throughout the course of the day. Oftentimes the bite-sized, softbodied adult brine shrimp are easier for the seahorse to slurp up and swallow when it is suffering from weak snick, and if you fortify them or gutload the adult brine shrimp beforehand, it can be very nutritious and beneficial if nutritional deficiencies are involved. That’s also a good way to keep the seahorse well fed and maintain its conditioning when it is recovering from a weak snick that is due to muscular strain or mechanical injury and simply requires time for the healing to occur.

So those are some other options that you should explore in addition to trying the freshwater dips and/or formalin bath(s), sir.

If you feel the freshwater dip was helpful in your case, judging from how well the seahorse is feeding before and afterwards, some hobbyists will administer a series of such dips one or two days apart. A series of three such dips seems to be fairly typical for hobbyists that go that route, Paul.

But as you noted, sir, being handled and subjected to the freshwater dip (or formalin bath) is stressful to the seahorse, which accounts for its rapid breathing after you completed your freshwater dip and returned the seahorse to the main tank.

For this reason, when they are confident the problem is the result of protozoan parasites (most often uronematids) or other ectoparasites or gill parasites, many hobbyists prefer to reduce the specific gravity in their aquarium to a therapeutic level, which in essence acts as a continuous, stress-free freshwater dip. If that’s something you would like to consider, let me know and I will provide you with detailed instructions explaining how to administer the hyposalinity in your main tank safely. It must be done carefully so that you don’t reduce the salinity too much, and when you decide to return the salinity to normal again, it must be done very gradually over a period of several days because there is a danger of dehydration when you are raising the salinity of the aquarium water.

In short, Paul, I would concentrate on enriching or fortifying your seahorses food (either the frozen Mysis or some live adult brine shrimp, if possible) and providing your pony with good nutrition while it is recovering from this problem.

Good luck!

Pete Giwojna, Ocean Rider Tech Support

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