That’s the right attitude — it’s always better to be safe than sorry and to err on the side of caution. Preventing diseases from entering the aquarium in the first place is always the best cure!
As we’ve been discussing, it isn’t normally necessary to quarantine decorative shrimp and other invertebrates such as your cleanup crew or sanitation engineers. But you will most definitely need to rigorously quarantined any seahorse-safe fish you bring home from your LFS or other sources as companions for your seahorses. It’s very prudent of you to have set up a 10-gallon quarantine tank for that purpose, Tammy:
In its simplest form, quarantining new arrivals from the LFS simply involves introducing them to a quarantine tank (with the same aquarium parameters as the tank they will be eventually going in) all by themselves for a period of several weeks to assure that they aren’t carrying any diseases. The idea is that any health problems the wild fish have will manifest themselves in isolation during this quarantine tank, where they can be treated with the appropriate medications without affecting the health of the rest of the fishes in your display tank. While they are in quarantine, some hobbyists will also treat wild fish prophylactically for internal parasites using praziquantel or metronidazole, and for any external parasites they may be carrying using formalin bath(s) and/or freshwater dips.
A bare-bottomed, 10-gallon aquarium such as yours with plenty of hitching posts will do nicely as a Quarantine Tank (QT). Ideally, the hospital tank should have one or more foam filters for biofiltration along with a small external filter, which can easily be removed from the tank during treatment but which can hold activated carbon or polyfilter pads when it’s time to pull the meds out. It’s important for the hospital ward to include enough hitching posts so that the seahorse wont feel vulnerable or exposed during treatment. Aquarium safe, inert plastic plants or homemade hitching posts fashioned from polypropylene rope or twine that has been unraveled and anchored at one end are excellent for a hospital tank. No aquarium reflector is necessary. Ambient room light will suffice. (Bright lights can breakdown and inactivate certain medications and seahorses are more comfortable and feel more secure under relatively dim lighting.)
So just a bare 10-gallon tank with hitching posts is all you need for your quarantine tank, Tammy. No heater. No reflector. No lights. No substrate. You can even do without in external filter if you wish, just adding a couple of airstones to provide surface agitation and oxygenation. That’s it. So you should be all set in that regard.
It is indeed a good idea to line up some basic medications that are commonly used to treat seahorses so that you have them readily available if they are ever needed.
Of course, when it comes to health problems, prevention is our first goal but that is not always possible to achieve, and when disease problems do crop up, early detection of the problem and prompt treatment are the keys to restoring health. Some diseases are remarkably fast acting, such as pathogens and parasites that multiply by binary fission and can quickly explode to plague proportions when conditions favor them. By the time a health problem becomes apparent, there is often no time to make the rounds of your local fish stores searching for the right medications, much less time to order the meds you need through the mail.
Savvy seahorse keepers avoid such delays by keeping a few of the most useful medications on hand at all times so they’re right there when needed. For the greater seahorses, the following weapons should be in your disease-fighting arsenal at the ready, and I strongly suggest you stock your fish-room medicine chest will the following: first aid preparations such as methylene blue, a pouch kit, and a good topical treatment for wounds such as betadine; potent antiparasitic agents such as formalin and metronidazole; a good antifungal agent; and broad-spectrum antibiotics. And don’t forget the heavy artillery for emergency situations when you’re not sure what you’re dealing with — combination drugs with ingredients that are effective against protozoan parasites, bacteria, and fungal infections alike.
In general, I would say that a basic seahorse First Aid Kit should include the following items and these are the items you should make sure you have on hand in your fish-room:
Methylene Blue (for reversing nitritepoisoning and relieving respiratory distress);
Betadine (as a topical treatment for disinfecting small cuts, scrapes, or minor injuries);
Formalin (for treating ectoparasites and fungal problems);
Antiparasitic for treating internal parasites (i.e., praziquantel or metronidazole);
Small Syringe with Needle and Cannula (pouch flushes, tube feeding, needle aspirations);
Diamox (i.e., acetazolamide for treating Gas Bubble Disease);
Deworming Agent such as Panacur (for hydroids, Aiptasia, nematodes and bristleworms);
Vibrance (includes beta-glucan to boost the immune system and help prevent disease);
Broad-Spectrum Antibiotics (i.e., neomycin sulfate or Neo3 for treating bacterial infections).
Having the items above on hand will allow you to address nearly all of the common afflictions of seahorses promptly and effectively. In short, your seahorse First Aid Kit should include all of the basics listed below:
Small Syringe with a fine needle and cannula or catheter
Together with freshwater dips, these items comprise the basic first aid measures you will need to deal with heavy breathing and many of the most common problems hobbyists encounter, such as bloated pouch and hunger strikes. They are the fish-room Band-Aids, disinfectants, and tools you’ll need for scrapes and abrasions and other minor problems.
Along with your basic First Aid Kit, the seahorse keeper’s medicine chest should also include the following categories of must-have meds so that you are prepared to deal with any major disease problems that may arise:
Antiparasitic Agents: Praziquantel or metronidazole for internal parasites (pick one and keep it on hand at all times), plus a good antiparasitics for external parasites such as formalin or Parinox.
Antifungals: Nifurpirinol (Furanase) is recommended.
Broad Spectrum Antibiotics: if you can only keep one antibiotic in your fish-room medicine cabinet, make it neomycin sulfate due to efficacy and the ability to combine with the other antibiotics mentioned above. For example, it can be used together with nifurpirinol to create a potent combination that’s effective in combating both fungal and bacterial infections. Or another good choice would be Neo3 by Aquabiotics, which is a concentrated formulation of neomycin sulfate combined with sulfa compounds to produce a potent rot-spectrum antibiotic with synergistic effects.
If you can afford to keep more than one antibiotic on hand, build on that approach and add others that can be safely combined with the neomycin to further increase their potency, such as Kanamycin and Sulfathiazole or other sulfa compounds (e.g., Triple Sulfa).
Combo Medications: When it comes to the heavy artillery, Paragon II and Furan2 are my favorite big guns (pick one and keep it at the ready in your arsenal). They can save the day when you’re not sure whether you’re dealing with a fungal problem, a parasite infestation or a bacterial infection. But remember, they are weapons of mass destruction that will nuke your biofilter, so use them with discretion and only in a hospital tank.
Diamox (Acetazolamide): in all its different forms, Gas Bubble Syndrome is one of the most common problems that plagues seahorses, and Diamox is your primary weapon for defeating this affliction. But as a prescription drug, it can be difficult to obtain.
If you have difficulty obtaining a prescription for Diamox from your Vet or family physician, which is often the case, then there are places you can order Diamox online without a prescription, but save that for a last resort for reasons we will discuss in more detail below.
But if you ultimately need to go that route, Tammy, the following source is the one most seahorse keepers have found works best:
Click here: Inhouse Drugstore Diamox – online information
They offer 100 tablets of Diamox (250 mg) for around $20 US, but they ship from Canada by mail, which usually takes a little under two weeks for delivery.
In practical terms, there’s nothing wrong with obtaining the Diamox online, and that is perhaps how most seahorse keepers obtain it. It does complicate matters somewhat, however, in certain regards. The first of these complications is that the medications will take a week or two to arrive when you order them online, which is very troublesome when your seahorse is ailing and needs help ASAP. Secondly, there’s the fact that the US government frowns on the practice of ordering prescription medications from outside the US without a prescription. Customs officials can intercept and confiscate such shipments, in which case you forfeit the money you paid for the drugs. Finally, you can’t always be certain of the quality of the medications you receive without a prescription from such online sources outside this country; in some cases, you even need to be concerned about counterfeit drugs, although Diamox certainly shouldn’t fall into that category. (That is the primary reason the US government is concerned about this practice.) Canadian sources are generally more trustworthy in that regard than sources from some other parts of the world.
Nitrofurazone and many of the other meds listed above are available from National Fish Pharmaceuticals at the following URL:
Click here: Fish Medications
Neo-3 is a broad-spectrum antibiotic that consists of neomycin combined with various sulfa compounds. It is sometimes available from the following vendor, which is also a good source for the fine flexible catheters or cannulas and small syringes you are looking for:
If the Neo-3 is no longer available, you can create your own version of the medication that should be just as effective by using neomycin together with triple sulfa compound or tri-sulfa antibiotic powder.
Kanacyn is a brand name for kanamycin sulfate, which is also available from the National Fish Pharmaceuticals and is the active ingredient in several medications you can obtain from your LFS.
The only other items I would suggest adding to your list are a Pouch Kit for treating pouch gas and performing pouch flushes, and Vibrance (a great way to provide your seahorses with a daily dose of beta-glucan, a powerful immunostimulant for fighting disease), both of which are available from Ocean Rider.
If you do a quick search of this forum using the keywords "medicine chest" or "must-have meds," you’ll find more detailed discussions of the different medications that are useful for seahorses.
Best of luck assembling the rest of your first-aid kit, Tammy!
Yes, if you’re new aquarium has been cycling for about six weeks, the biological filtration and nitrogen cycle should be well established, Tammy. It’s perfectly appropriate to be running your protein skimmer at this point and to be performing smaller water changes. I think your maintenance schedule of three-gallon water changes done twice a week is exemplary and I would stay on that schedule. Go ahead and order your "Nemos "anytime. The clownfish (Amphiprion occelaris) and seahorses you will be ordering from Ocean Rider will be coming to you directly from a High-Health aquaculture facility and are guaranteed to be free of pathogens and parasites, so there’s no need to quarantine them before introducing them to your main tank.
Best of luck with your peppermint shrimp and clown fish, Tammy!