Re:Cloudy Eye

Pete Giwojna

Dear Tammie:

It sounds like a female with a cloudy eye is coming along. With a hearty appetite, she should be getting plenty of nutrition to keep her strength up and help her recover.

I hadn’t realized that the affected eye was also enlarged compared her unaffected eye. Exopthalmia and cloudiness often occur together, which makes me think the problem may have been the result of eye trauma in this case, Tammie, as discussed below:

<Open quote>
"We have already described the enormously enlarged, bulging eyes that are so characteristic of this disfiguring affliction in the section devoted to gas bubble syndrome. When both eyes are affected (bilateral Exopthalmia), vision and depth perception is adversely affected, making it difficult for the seahorse to accurately track and strike at its prey (Giwojna, Aug. 2003). This may leave the affected seahorse unable to feed.

Popeye is ordinarily not at all contagious, and there is typically no danger of it spreading to the rest of the herd (Giwojna, Aug. 2003). As described below, a number of physical injuries, environmental factors, noninfectious and infectious diseases can cause Popeye to develop. In my experience, it can be the result of eye trauma, parasitic infestation, gas embolisms forming in the choroid rete behind the eye (a manifestation of Gas Bubble Syndrome), and rarely as a symptom of internal infection (Giwojna, Aug. 2003).

Eye trauma: eye trauma can result from a scratch, scrape or bruise to the eyeball suffered during fighting, netting, handling, or swimming (Giwojna, Aug. 2003). In seahorses, it most often results when rival males snap at one other while competing for mates. When snapping at its adversary, a male will incline his head towards his rival and point his tubular snout directly at him, lining up his victim in his sights exactly as if staring down the barrel of a rifle. Once satisfied with his aim, the male will cock his head downwards and pull the trigger, delivering a sharp blow with a powerful upward ”snap” of its snout (Giwojna, Aug. 2003). The snap is usually directed at the gill cover or eye of the opponent — the only vulnerable spots or chinks in an armor-plated adversary’s exoskeleton (Giwojna, Aug. 2003).

Eye injuries from sparring seahorses are uncommon, but they have certainly been known to happen, as I have personally witnessed on a few occasions. Suspect eye trauma as the cause of the Popeye when only one eye is affected (unilateral Exopthalmia) and the water quality and aquarium parameters check out fine (Giwojna, Aug. 2003). Surprisingly, when Popeye results from eye trauma, the seahorse often appears relatively undistressed by its bulging eye and grotesque injury (Giwojna, Aug. 2003). It often remains in good appetite, eats well, remains active, and generally behaves as though nothing out of the ordinary has happened (Giwojna, Aug. 2003). It may continue to court or even mate in spite of its condition.

In such cases, the Popeye will often resolve itself if the seahorse is left to its own devices in the display tank and the injury is allowed to heal on its own (Giwojna, Aug. 2003). Attempting to net it or otherwise remove the seahorse for treatment risks further aggravating the trauma or causing additional irritation to the eye. The enlarged eye will deflate as the injury heals, which may take anywhere from several days to several weeks depending on the severity of the trauma (Giwojna, Aug. 2003). In minor cases, it’s often best just to let the seahorse be.

However, as with any such injury, there is always a danger of secondary infections. To protect the seahorse against such complications, consider bioencapsulating or gut-loading live food (adult brine shrimp, red feeder shrimp from Hawaii, ghost shrimp, etc.) with a good broad-spectrum antibiotic such as kanamycin, minocycline, or nifurpirinol + neomycin and continue feeding the medicated shrimp to the seahorses until the eye has healed (Giwojna, Aug. 2003)." <Close quote>

Formalin baths are especially helpful when the Exopthalmia is the results of parasites such as trematodes or eye flukes, and antibiotic therapy is also beneficial when the Exopthalmia is accompanied by cloudiness. Let me know if you think it would be helpful to add a good broad-spectrum antibiotic to your treatment regimen for the female with the eye problem, Tammie, and I will be happy to provide you with more detailed instructions for bioencapsulating the medication so that it can be used safely in your main tank.

And, of course, you can always continue the series of formalin baths as long as the seahorse is tolerating them well and responding to the treatments favorably.

Unfortunately, Ocean Rider only ships within the Continental United States.

I think you may be correct regarding the male. When the dancelike courtship displays and especially the pouch displays suddenly stop, that can indeed be an indication that mating and the transfer of eggs has been accomplished, so it’s quite possible that your male may be pregnant. Here’s hoping he presents you with a brood of healthy young.

Best of luck healing up your female’s swollen, cloudy eye, Tammie!

Pete Giwojna

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