Re:dead seahorse? internal parasites?

#4600
Pete Giwojna
Guest

Dear Gidget:

I am very sorry to hear about the problem you’ve been having with your new seahorses. It’s difficult to determine what may have caused the death of your female, but it is apparent that your new seahorses were under a lot of stress. Seahorses will expand their melanophores (black pigment cells) in response to stress and that is most likely why the yellow seahorses first turned gray and finally black. The source of the stress may have been the high nitrate levels in the aquarium, a heavy load of internal parasites, or a combination of factors.

For starters, as you are well aware, your nitrates are way too high. It’s important to keep the nitrates below 20 ppm at all times when keeping seahorses and 0-10 ppm is the optimal level for nitrates in a seahorse tank. Among other serious health concerns, excessively high nitrates will have an adverse effect on the coloration of your seahorses. I will provide you with some suggestions for lowering your nitrates at the end of this post, but first let’s address the white spots you mentioned on the female that appeared to have been eaten or eroded away.

Under the circumstances, it’s impossible to say for sure whether the tissue erosion occurred postmortem or before the seahorse died. It’s possible that the carcass of the seahorse may have been scavenged after it had died, and that the white areas where the skin and flesh had been eaten away were the work of hermit crabs or other scavengers, and that the things you noticed moving inside the abdominal cavity may have been amphipods or bristleworms that gained entry into the corpse in the process of scavenging it. But the seahorse would have to have been dead for quite some time, unnoticed and unmissed, for such scavengers to have found their way into the abdominal cavity through the bony exoskeleton of the seahorse.

I think it is more likely that the white spots and tissue erosion occurred before death and may have been the cause of the seahorse’s demise. Such sores or open ulcers are typical of the bacterial lesions that result from Vibrio or Pseudomonas infections, and I suspect that your female seahorse may have died from marine ulcer disease, Gidget.

Here is some additional information regarding marine ulcer disease to give you a better idea of how this disease manifests itself and how it can be treated:

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MARINE ULCER DISEASE, A.K.A. ULCERATIVE DERMATITIS, A.K.A. HEMORRHAGIC SEPTICEMIA, A.K.A. "FLESH-EATING BACTERIA"

Marine ulcer disease is a particularly nasty type of infection that most hobbyists have come to know as "flesh-eating bacteria," and indeed it can often be attributed to bacteria, most notably Vibrio or Pseudomonas species (Giwojna, Nov. 2003). Vibrio in marine fish is the equivalent of the Aeromonas bacteria that plague freshwater fishes (Dixon 1999; Basleer 2000), causing external hemorrhagic ulcers (bloody lesions). Vibriosis is probably the most common bacterial infection of captive seahorses and one of the most difficult to eradicate from your system. Vibrio bacteria are motile gram negative rods, which measure about 0.5 X 1.5 micrometers (Prescott, 2001). When grown on suitable media they appear as shiny, creamy colored colonies (Prescott, 2001).

Marine ulcer disease or hemorrhagic septicemia can manifest itself in a number of forms. The most common of these are the external hemorrhagic (bloody) ulcers, which appear as localized open wounds on the body (Dixon, 1999). It may be helpful to think of this condition as a form of skin rot. The first symptoms are usually small, pale, discolored areas of skin that often become red and inflamed if the infection goes unchecked (Giwojna, Nov. 2003). These may become large bloody spots or lesions (the characteristic ulcers) as the disease progresses, leading to sloughing of the skin and localized swelling (Giwojna, Nov. 2003). (I have found that many times hobbyists have a tendency to dismiss these ulcers as "heater burns," especially when they appear on the flanks or pouch of the seahorse, and to delay appropriate treatment on the basis of this misdiagnosis. Avoid this all-to-common mistake!) In severe cases, the underlying musculature also becomes infected, and the rapid tissue erosion that can result is one of the most alarming aspects of ulcer disease. At this advanced stage, the infected fish can longer be saved (Giwojna, Nov. 2003).

Badly infected fishes may develop a distended, fluid-filled abdomen due to internal bacterial infection (septicemia) of the kidneys, liver or intestinal tract (Dixon, 1999). This disrupts the normal circulation of the blood and lymph, causing fluids to accumulate in the intestine and abdominal cavity (Dixon, 1999).

The most dangerous form of hemorrhagic septicemia occurs when the bacteria spread internally and become septic, infecting the blood (Dixon, 1999). The bacteria release toxins into the bloodstream, making it the most virulent of these infections (Dixon, 1999). This insidious form of the disease does not produce the telltale external ulcers, and acute infections can kill quickly with little warning due to the lack of outward signs (Dixon, 1999). Affected fish become listless and lethargic (Dixon, 1999), which may be hard to pick up on with seahorses. Respiration is rapid and seahorses usually darken in color and go off their feed. These behavioral indicators are especially difficult to detect in seahorses due to their lazy lifestyle and habit of changing colors frequently. Seahorses may succumb to the acute form of this disease before the aquarist realizes anything is amiss, and hobbyist often ascribe such mysterious losses to Sudden Death Syndrome.

In seahorses, this disease sometimes takes the form of bilateral edema of the periorbital tissue (Bull and Mitchell, 2002, p19). The eyes themselves are not affected, as in popeye or Exopthalmia; rather, the tissue around both eyes swells up. The eyes are thus unaffected but are encircled by rings of swollen tissue. Hobbyists have described this condition to me by saying that their seahorse had developed "doughnut eyes." These characteristic doughnut eyes are often accompanied by swelling of the soft tissue around the tube snout (Bull and Mitchell, 2002, p19). Some cases develop this peculiar facial edema as well as the usual skin ulcers and tissue erosion (Bull and Mitchell, 2002, p19).

Hemorrhagic septicemia or marine ulcer disease can be a very stubborn and difficult infection to treat, especially when it is due to Vibrio and the disease is acute or advanced. However, if the condition is detected early and treatment is begun when the discolored patches of skin or other symptoms are first noticed, antibacterial agents are often helpful (Giwojna, Nov. 2003). The professional aquarists treat this disease aggressively, using bivalent Vibrio vaccines, immunostimulants such as a beta-glucan, and injections of antibiotics (Bull and Mitchell, 2002, p19).

Aside from administering beta glucan (a primary ingredient in Vibrance) orally, such measures are beyond the grasp of we home hobbyists. We must make do by treating the affected specimens in isolation using wide spectrum antibiotics such as chloramphenicol, doxycycline, kanamycin, oxytetracycline (orally), neomycin sulfate, sulfonamide or streptomycin, or possibly Furan2 in mild cases of skin rot. As with other bacterial infections, lowering the water temperature during the course of treatment can help a great deal. This is your best course of action when you are confident that the problem is due to a bacterial infection, such as Pseudomonas or Vibriosis (Giwojna, Nov. 2003).

Chloramphenicol is the treatment of choice. It can be given orally or used as a bath (Prescott, 2001c). Therapeutic baths lasting 10-20 hours are administered in a chloramphenicol solution consisting of 40 mg per liter of water (Prescott, 2001c). If the seahorse is still eating, the chloramphenicol can also be bioencapsulated by gut loading feeder shrimp or ghost shrimp with flake food soaked in the antibiotic solution. Even if the affected seahorses does not eat, feeding medicated shrimp to its tankmates is a good way to help prevent this contagious disease from spreading to the healthy seahorses (Prescott, 2001c).
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Furan2 is a good combination medication that is appropriate to try when you’re not sure precisely what is ailing your seahorses. Furan2 consists of two nitrofuran antibiotics (nitrofurazone and furazolidone) plus good old methylene blue. That gives it both bacteriostatic and bactericidal properties, and makes it active against various gram-negative and gram-positive bacteria. The methylene blue stains the water in the treatment tank as and prevents the photosensitive nitrofuran antibiotics from being deactivated by light. Methylene blue is effective in preventing fungal growth, and it has antiprotozoal and antibacterial properties as well, by virtue of its ability to bind with cytoplasmic structures within the cell and interfere with oxidation-reduction processes. This makes the combination of methylene blue, nitrofurazone and furazolidone very broad spectrum and fairly potent. It is effective in treating mild skin infections but is not up to the task of stopping marine ulcer disease when it is due to Vibrio or Pseudomonas bacteria. And, of course, the Furan2 will have no affect whatsoever on internal parasites.

All things considered, Gidget, I would say that chloramphenicol (i.e. Chloromycetin) is the treatment of choice for marine ulcer disease (i.e., flesh-eating bacteria) and most Vibrio infections, in general. It is effective both as a bath for prolonged immersion or when administered orally. If the affected seahorses are no longer eating, then administering the chloramphenicol to the treatment tank would be a good option for you if your other seahorses develop any symptoms of this disease.

The treatment protocol for Chloramphenicol or Chloromycetin is as follows:

Chloramphenicol can be used to treat Vibriosis at 40 mg/ litre of water (which comes out to about 150 milligrams per gallon) in a bath for 10-20 hours. It is important to watch the quality of the water, and if it starts to become turbid, the water must be changed. It is best to treat in a separate tank. In stubborn cases, a series of such baths may be necessary to resolve the problem, in which case a complete water change should be performed before the medication is redosed.

Chloramphenicol can also be used as an additive to the feed, if the fish are still eating (all too often in a major infection they will refuse to eat, but this treatment may be most useful in preventing the horizontal spread of the infection). When used as an addition to the feed use 500 mg per 100 gram of feed. (In the case of seahorses, the flake food medicated with chloramphenicol in this way would first be bio-encapsulated in live feeder shrimp, which would then in turn be fed to the seahorses.)

If you do obtain the chloramphenicol, be sure to be very careful when handling it. Remember, in a few rare individuals exposure to chloramphenicol can cause a potentially fatal side effect (aplastic anemia). These are rare cases and almost always involve patients who were being treated with the medication, but I would use gloves when handling it as a precaution and if you crush crush up tablets of chloramphenicol, be very careful not to inhale any of the power.

Because of this side effect, which affects one in 100,000 humans, chloramphenicol is no longer available as a medication for fishes and can therefore be difficult to obtain. If you find that is the case, your next best alternative is to obtain doxycycline and kanamycin from National Fish Pharmaceuticals and use them together to form a synergistic combination of antibiotics that is often very effective in treating Vibrio infections.

Doxycycline hydrochloride

USE: broad spectrum antibiotic derived from oxytetracycline. Use for both gram-positive and gram-negative bacterial disorders, including fin and tail rot, septicemia, and mouth rot. Unlike tetracycline antibiotics, it will not be deactivated by the high pH levels found in marine aquaria. Works in a similar manner to chloramphenicol.

DOSAGE: add 1/4 teaspoon per 20 gallons, every 24 hours for 10 days. Do a 25% water change before each treatment.

Kanamycin sulfate

This is a potent broad-spectrum, gram+/gram- aminogylcoside antibiotic. It is wonderfully effective for aquarium use because it is one of the few antibiotics that dissolves well in saltwater and that is readily absorbed through the skin of the fish. That makes it the treatment of choice for treating many bacterial infections in seahorses. Kanamycin can be combined safely with certain other antibiotics such as doxycycline or neomycin (as well as metronidazole) to further increase its efficacy. Like other gram-negative antibiotics, it will destroy your biofiltration and should be used in a hospital tank only.

USE: gram-negative bacterial infections and resistant forms of piscine tuberculosis (mycobacteria). Works especially well in saltwater aquariums.

DOSAGE: add 1/4 teaspoon per 20 gallons. Treat every 24 hours and perform a 25% water change before each treatment. Treat for 10 days. (When treating piscine tuberculosis, treat for 30 days.)

Both the doxycycline and kanamycin can be obtained online from National Fish Pharmaceuticals at the following URL:

http://www.fishyfarmacy.com/products.html

It’s difficult to say why your female may have developed this problem, Gidget, but ulcerative dermatitis and Vibrio infections are often associated with heat stress or deteriorating water quality, and the high nitrate levels and other issues you have been dealing with lately may have been a contributing factor. And, if the seahorse was carrying a heavy load of internal parasites, that may have weakened and stressed the seahorse to the point that it succumbed to an opportunistic bacterial infection.

Most of the internal parasites that infect the gastrointestinal tract of seahorses are microorganisms that are not visible to the naked eye (e.g., protozoans and intestinal flagelletes), so you would not have been able to see or feel such pests stirring in the abdominal cavity of the deceased female. The primary exception to this would be certain parasitic worms such as some types of nematodes or round worms, which can grow fairly large and are easily visible to the naked eye. And, of course, cestodes (tapeworms) can often attain impressive sizes.

So if those were indeed internal parasites of some sort that you detected moving within the abdominal cavity of the female seahorse, rather than bottom scavengers that invaded the carcass postmortem, I suspect they may have been parasitic worms of some sort. There are a number of treatment options that will effectively eradicate internal parasites and worms from seahorses and other marine fish.

Either praziquantel, fenbendazole (brand name Panacur), or maybe metronidazole would be a good choice for such a procedure, and Paracide-D And Paracide-X are excellent choices for eradicating parasitic worms. None of these medications will have a negative impact on the beneficial nitrifying bacteria that perform biological filtration, so you can administer the medications directly to your seahorse tank providing it houses no delicate invertebrates that could be harmed by the antiparasitic medications.

Aside from intramuscular injections, perhaps the most effective way to administer any of these medications is to gut load adult brine shrimp with them, and then feed the medicated brine shrimp to your seahorses. That’s a very stressful-free way to deworm them and treat them for internal parasites since they can be treated in the main tank where they are the most comfortable and relaxed, in the company of their mates/tankmates amidst familiar surroundings, with no handling necessary.

Gutloading simply means to fill live shrimp up with medication by feeding them food that’s been soaked in the desired medication. Once the feeder shrimp are full of the medicated food — that is, their guts are loaded with it — they are immediately fed to the seahorses, which thus consume the medication along with the shrimp. It’s a neat way to trick seahorses into taking their medicine, just as our moms used to do when were little, crushing up pills in a spoonful of jelly or jam. Another term for gutloading is bioencapsulation, since the medication is neatly contained within a living organism rather than a capsule.

Metronidazole is an antibiotic with antiprotozoal properties that is very effective in eradicating internal parasites in general and intestinal flagellates in particular (Kaptur, 2004). It is ideal for this because it is rapidly absorbed from the GI tract, has anti-inflammatory effects in the bowel, and was designed specifically to treat protozoal infections and anaerobic bacterial infections by disrupting their DNA (Kaptur, 2004).

There are a number of ways to gutload shrimp, but the one described below is one of the easiest and works great for administering metronidazole orally. It is impossible to determine precisely what dosage of medication each individual fish ingests when gutloading, but metronidazole is a very, very safe drug and you cannot overdose a seahorse using this method of treatment. Feeding each seahorse its fill of shrimp gut-loaded with metronidazole for 5-10 days assures that they receive an effective dose of the medication.

I prefer live adult brine shrimp (Artemia sp.) since they are inexpensive, readily available, easy to bioencapsulate, and can be gut loaded in freshwater as described below. To medicate the brine shrimp, dissolve approximately 100 mg of metronidazole per liter or about 400 mg per gallon of water and soak the shrimp in the resulting freshwater solution. If the metronidazole you are using comes in liquid or capsule(powder) form, you can use it as is. But if the metronidazole is in tablet form, be sure to crush it into a very fine powder (you may have to use a household blender to get it fine enough) and dissolve it in freshwater at the dosage suggested above. Soak the adult shrimp in freshwater treated with the antibiotic for 15-30 minutes and then feed the medicated shrimp to your seahorses immediately. (Don’t let your pumps and filters "eat" all the brine shrimp!)

The brine shrimp are soaked in freshwater, not saltwater, because in theory the increased osmotic pressure of the freshwater helps the antibiotic solution move into their bodies via osmosis. But in fact nobody knows for sure whether the antibiotic is diffusing into the brine shrimp or they are ingesting it in very fine particles (brine shrimp are filter feeders and will take in whatever is suspended in the water with them) or whether the brine shrimp merely become coated with the antibiotic while they are soaking in it. But that’s not important — all that really matters is that gut-loading adult brine shrimp with medications this way is effective.

Keep the seahorses on a strict diet of such medicated brine shrimp throughout the treatment period to get as much of the antibiotic into the seahorses as possible, and mix up a new batch of medicated freshwater to soak the brine shrimp in for each feeding.

As an alternative to gut loading or bioencapsulation of the medication, the metronidazole solution can also be injected into freshly killed ghost shrimp, Hawaiian volcano shrimp (red feeder shrimp) or even frozen mysids using a fine syringe and then administered by target feeding the ailing seahorse with the injected shrimp. Again, you’ll have to prepare new metronidazole solution daily and inject enough of the frozen shrimp for a day’s worth of feedings.

In addition, Gidget, here are Tracey Warland’s instructions for gutloading brine shrimp with metronidazole or other anti-parasitic medications:

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Metronidazole, is one of the low impact parasite meds, it is often hard to overdose on this med, there are however more effective meds that can be used. Praziquantel (by droncit, available at most vets) is a better more effective med.

With parasite meds I usually use about (liquid form) 2.5 mls to 1000 mls of water, place adult artemia in the solution for about 30 minutes, rinse and fed out 5 days in a row, leave for 2 weeks and retreat for 5 days.

If the med you have is in tablet form they are usually 100mg tablets, crush one to a very fine powder, you may even have to blend it in a household blender to get it fine enough for the artemia to eat and add this to 1000 mls (1 litre) and repeat as above.

Unfortunately eating well and not gaining weight is one of the classic signs of internal parasites.

I would remove her from the tank to feed out the medicated food to ensure she gets the majority of them and it would not hurt to feed out the food to the others also.

Most parasite meds are death to inverts so it is wise to feed them out in isolation.

Happy Seahorse Keeping
Tracy_Travid
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As you can see, Gidget, the exact dosage of metronidazole to use when gutloading or injecting shrimp is not crucial at all. Metronidazole is a very safe medication that you really cannot overdose via gutloading.

If the affected seahorse is no longer eating, are simply not interested in adult brine shrimp, then it should be treated with the medication in a hospital tank (no carbon filtration). Since metronidazole is only active against anaerobic bacteria, it will not affect beneficial Nitrosomonas and Nitrobacter species, and you can thus maintain biological filtration in the hospital tank throughout treatment (Kaptur, 2004). Dissolve 250 mg of metronidazole for every 10 gallons of water in the hospital tank, and the medication will be absorbed through the seahorse’s gills (Kaptur, 2004). Stay on top of the water quality in the treatment tank with water changes as necessary, and redose the tank with a full dose of metronidazole daily regardless of how much water was changed (Giwojna, Dec. 2003). (Metronidazole is oxidized over a period of several hours, so the entire dose needs to be replenished daily; Kaptur, 2004.) Treat the affected seahorse in isolation for a minimum of 5 consecutive days.

When administered properly, metronidazole is wonderfully effective at eliminating intestinal parasites, and there should be signs of improvement within 3 days of treatment (Kaptur, 2004). The seahorse’s appetite should pick up, and as it does, those characteristic white stringy feces will return to normal (Giwojna, Dec. 2003).

In summation, if the seahorses are still eating, administering the metronidazole orally via gut-loaded shrimp is often extremely effective (Giwojna, Dec. 2003). With anti-parasitic medications such as praziquantel and metronidazole in liquid form, this can be accomplished by using 2.5 mls of the medication to 1000 mls of freshwater, soaking adult brine shrimp (Artemia spp.) in the solution for about 30 minutes, and then feeding them to the seahorses for 5 days in a row, and then repeating the same treatment again two weeks later.

[Note: 20 drops equals 1 ml, so 50 drops of the medication equals 2.5 mL (20 drops/ml x 2.5ml = 50 drops). Also 1000 mls equals ~ 1 quart, so in order to gut load the adult brine shrimp with the liquid form of the medication, you would place 50 drops of the medication in a quart of saltwater and soak the brine shrimp in that for half an hour before feeding it to your seahorses.

Intramuscular injections of metronidazole at a dosage of 50mg/kg repeated every 72 hours for a total of 3 treatments are also extremely effective in treating internal parasites, but in most cases this is impractical for the home hobbyist.

Metronidazole is extremely effective in eradicating intestinal flagellates, but it is not the best choice for deworming seahorses.

If you have the liquid form of praziquantel (Prazi Pro) you can gutload the adult Artemia and bioencapsulate the medication in the same manner as liquid metronidazole. Just mix 2.5 mls of the liquid praziquantel to 1000 mls of water, soak the adult brine shrimp (Artemia spp.) in the resulting solution for about 30 minutes, and then feed them to the seahorses for 5 days in a row, and then repeat the same treatment regimen again two weeks later.

You can use either saltwater from your aquarium or dechlorinated freshwater for dissolving the liquid praziquantel and soaking the adult brine shrimp, but again I prefer to use the freshwater since that may help the adult Artemia to absorb more of the medication and the freshwater also helps to disinfect the live brine shrimp while they are soaking.

Praziquantel can also be administered as a bath either at 10ppm for 3 hours or at 1ppm for 24 hours. However, anti-parasitic medications are generally tough on invertebrates in general, and if your seahorse setup includes sensitive invertebrates, it would be much better to administer the medications orally as previously discussed or to treat the seahorses in a hospital tank where the inverts won’t be affected.

Adult brine shrimp can also be gut-loaded with fenbendazole (Panacur) by soaking them in 250mg Panacur /kg food and then feeding the medicated brine shrimp to the seahorses for three consecutive days. Repeat the three-day treatment regimen again one week later. As you know, fenbendazole is an anthelmintic agent or dewormer, and if you suspect your seahorse has a problem with cestodes or roundworms, as indicated in your post, then Panacur should be included as part of your treatment regimen.

Or you can administer the Panacur as a bath instead, as explained in the post on this forum titled "Hydroids!"

Fenbendazole (brand name Panacur) is an inexpensive anthelmintic agent (dewormer) used for large animals such as horses, and the de-worming granules can be obtained without a prescription from stores that carry agricultural products (e.g., farm and ranch equipment, farming supplies and products, veterinary supplies, livestock and horse supplies, livestock and horse feed). If you live in a rural area, those would be good places to obtain it as well.

However, there are a couple of things you should keep in mind when treating an aquarium with fenbendazole. Administering a regimen of fenbendazole (FBZ) or Panacur will eradicate any hydroids, Aiptasia rock anemones, or bristleworms from live rock or live sand, thereby rendering them completely seahorse safe. The recommended dose is 1/8 teaspoon of the horse dewormer granules (22.2% fenbendazole) per 10 gallons of water. Dose aquarium with 1/8 teaspoon/10 gallons every other day until you have administered a total of 3 such treatments (Liisa Coit, pers. com.). Even one dose will do a fine job of eradicating bristeworms, but Aiptasia rock anemones and hydroids are a bit tougher and may require 2-3 doses to eliminate entirely.

Because fenbendazole is essentially a de-worming agent, it will destroy any bristleworms, flat worms, spaghetti worms or the like. The FBZ or Panacur treatments are best administered to the live rock in a bucket or hospital tank before the LR is introduced in the main tank. Otherwise, the massive die-off of the worm population in the aquarium may require large water changes in order to prevent a dangerous ammonia spike! And after the treatment is completed, its a good idea to add a portion of newly purchased live sand to the system in order to help restore its normal diversity of fauna and microfauna again (Liisa Coit, pers. com.).

Fenbendazole does not have any adverse effects on biological filtration, but be aware that it is death to many Cnidarians besides hydroids. Mushrooms and related corals are generally not affected, but expect it to have dire effects on other corals (e.g., sinularias), polyps, gorgonians, and anemones. In general, any Cnidarians with polyps that resemble the stalked family of Hydrozoans are likely to be hit hard by fenbendazole, so don’t use this treatment in a reef tank!

Also be aware that fenbendazole seems to soak into the porous live rock and be absorbed indefinitely. I know one hobbyist who transferred a small piece of live rock that had been treated with fenbendazole (Panacur) months earlier into a reef tank, where it killed the resident starfish and Astrea snails. So enough of the medication may be retained within treated live rock to impact sensitive animals months after the fenbendazole was administered. Don’t treat live rock intended for reef systems with fenbendazole (Panacur)!

At the lower dosage recommended for nursery tanks and dwarf seahorse tanks with fry (1/16 tsp. per 10 gallons), fenbendazole normally does not harm cleaner shrimp and decorative shrimp. With the exception of Astrids (Astrea), Coit and Worden have found it does not usually affect the types of snails typically used as cleanup crews (e.g., Nassarius, Ceriths, and Nerites). It will kill starfish and other echinoderms but copepods, hermit crabs, and shrimp are normally not affected.

Macroalgae such as the feathery or long-bladed varieties of Caulerpa or Hawaiian Ogo (Gracilaria) are not harmed by exposure to fenbendazole at even triple the normal dose. In fact, if you will be using Caulerpa in your nursery tanks to provide hitching posts for the fry and serve as a form of natural filtration, it’s a very wise precaution indeed to treat them with a regimen of fenbendazole beforehand.

So aside from being an effective dewormer, fenbendazole (FBZ) or Panacur is primarily useful for ridding bare-bottomed nursery tanks and dwarf seahorses setups of hyrdroids and Aiptasia anemones, ridding Caulerpa and other macroalge of hydroids or Aiptasia before its goes into the aquarium, and cleansing live rock of bristleworms, hydroids, and Aiptasia rock anemones before it is introduced to the aquarium.

It can also be used to eradicate bristleworms, hydroids, an Aiptasia from an established aquarium if it does not house sensitive animals such as live corals and gorgonians, starfish, Astrea snails, or tubeworms and other desirable worms that may be harmed by FBZ, providing you monitor the ammonia levels closely and are prepared to deal with the ammonia spike that may result from the sudden death of the worm population.

Aside from the fenbenazole (Panacur), Paracide-D, and Paracide-X are also very effective in deworming fish:

Paracide-D

USE: all helminths, Acanthocephala, cestodes (tapeworms), digenetic trematodes, molluscucidae (snails), and worms (both internal and extra). Toxic to fry.

DOSAGE: add 1 gram to 4 ounces of water to make a stock solution. Shake well. Use 1 teaspoon of this stock solution per 10 gallons of water. Treat one time only and leave in tank four for-five days.

IF USED IN FOOD: use frozen foods like brine shrimp or bloodworms. Put on a rubber or plastic love and take a pinchfull of the granules. Sprinkle this over the food like you are adding seasoning to a piece of meat. Mix the food well and return it to the freezer. Feed this once a day for 3-5 days.

This product will kill camallanus worms if used in the food. You also need to use De-Los in the water at the same time.
25 grams for $10.99

Paracide-X

USE: when used in food, this product will eradicate all types of worms, including tapeworms and some other types of parasites, such as nematodes and intestinal flagellates. Also acts as a laxative.

DOSAGE: add 1/4 teaspoon two 2 ounces of water. Mix well and place this solution in a clean spray bottle. Weigh out 100 grams of fish food (frozen or pellets) and place on a sheet of aluminum foil. Spray the food with the entire contents of the spray bottle. Let air dry. Use a fan if necessary to expedite the drying process. (Do NOT use any heat treatment to drive the medicated food as it will destroy the medication.)

If using frozen food, thaw it out and pour the solution into the food and mix well. Return the medicated food to the freezer. After it is frozen, feed the medicated frozen food to the fish once a day for 4-5 days.
25 grams for $11.29

In your case, Gidget, I would recommend praziquantel or fenbendazole (Panacur) over the metronidazole, and either the Paracide-D or the Paracide-X would be excellent choices for a de-wormer, if you’re confident that parasitic worms are involved. They can be obtained from National Fish Pharmaceuticals.

Okay, now that you have a better understanding of how to treat such problems when they arise, here is the additional information on controlling Nitrates in the aquarium that I promised you:

Nitrates in the Aquarium: Where They Come from and How to Control Them

In and of themselves, nitrates are relatively harmless and midrange levels are nothing to be too alarmed about. Normally a nitrate reading of 20 ppm is not a cause for concern with seahorses. Ideally, though, we’d like to keep them under 20 ppm at all times and below 10 ppm, it possible, and if your nitrates are running on the high side and you have a problem with hair algae, you need to try to reduce them as much as possible. In case you haven’t already seen it, I am going to provide you with some information on nitrification and denitrification that explains where nitrates come from and then offer you some suggestions on how to reduce them.

The amount of nitrate that accumulates in your aquarium is related to how much nitrification and denitrification your system provides. Nitrification is the process by which aerobic (oxygen loving) nitrifying bacteria break down toxic ammonia to relative harmless nitrate in a series of steps. Nitrification thus ultimately causes nitrate to build up in an aquarium. Denitrification is the process by which anaerobic (oxygen hating) denitrifying bacteria then convert nitrate into completely harmless nitrogen (N2), which eventually leaves the aquarium. Denitrification thus removes nitrate from your system. This entire process is known as the nitrogen cycle.

Cycling your aquarium simply means to build up a healthy population of beneficial bacteria in your tank that can carry out the nitrogen cycle and breakdown your fishes’ waste products. Ammonia (NH3), nitrite (NO2), and nitrate (NO3) are all nitrogenous (nitrogen containing) wastes. All living aquarium animals whether they be fish or invertebrates excrete these wastes, and they are also produced by the decay of protein-containing organic matter (uneaten food, detritus, dead fish or inverts, etc.). The nitrogen cycle breaks down these wastes in a series of steps into nitrogen gas (N2) which leaves the aquarium as bubbles.

The nitrogen cycle begins with ammonia, which is highly poisonous. In the first step of the cycle, Nitrosomonas bacteria reduce ammonia to nitrite, which is also very toxic, but slightly less so. In the second step of the nitrogen cycle, Nitrobacter bacteria convert the nitrite to nitrate, which is relatively harmless but can become harmful when it accumulates in high enough levels. In the third and final step of the cycle, denitrifying bacteria then convert the nitrate into completely harmless N2, which of course bubbles out of the tank as nitrogen gas. In this way, thanks to the nitrogen cycle, dangerous wastes are converted into progressively less harmful compounds and finally removed from the aquarium altogether.

When we set up a new aquarium, and wait for it to cycle, we are simply allowing a big enough population of these different types of bacteria to build up in the biofilter to break down all of the wastes that will be produced when the aquarium is stocked. If we don’t wait long enough for the cycle to complete itself and the biofiltration to become fully established, and hastily add too many specimens to a new aquarium too soon, they will die from ammonia poisoning or nitrite toxicity. This is such a common mistake among us impatient aquarists, that when fish get sick and/or die from ammonia/ntrite poisoning, it is commonly called the "new tank syndrome."

When your aquarium has completely cycled, the ammonia levels will stay at zero because, now that your biofilter is fully established, there is a large enough population of aerobic (oxygen loving) nitrifying Nitrosomonas bacteria to reduce all of the ammonia to nitrite as fast as the ammonia is being produced. The nitrite levels will likewise stay at zero because there is also a large enough population of aerobic (oxygen loving) nitrifying Nitrobacter bacteria to convert all of the nitrite to nitrate as fast as the nitrite is being produced.

The nitrate levels ordinarily continue to build up, however, because there are simply not enough anaerobic (oxygen hating) denitrifying bacteria to convert all of the nitrate that’s being produced into nitrogen (N2). Since nitrates are being produced faster than they can be transformed to nitrogen, the excess nitrates accumulate steadily in your aquarium.

That’s perfectly normal, since the denitrifying bacteria that carry out that final step, the conversion of nitrate (NO3) to nitrogen (N2), are anaerobes that can only exist in the absence of oxygen. For our aquariums to support life, and for the fish and invertebrates to breathe and survive, our tanks must be well aerated and well circulated so that there’s plenty of dissolved oxygen in the water at all times. That means there are normally very few areas in our aquariums where anaerobic denitrifying bacteria can survive, limiting their population accordingly (which is generally good, since some anaerobes produce deadly hydrogen sulfide gas during the decay of organic matter and would poison our tanks if allowed to proliferate).

Consequently, most aquariums lack a sufficient population of anaerobic denitrifying bacteria to complete the nitrogen cycle and convert nitrate to nitrogen as fast as the nitrates are being produced. The only way to keep the nitrates from building up to harmful levels in such setups is with regular water changes and by harvesting Caulerpa or other macroalgae periodically after it has utilized nitrates for growth. Overcrowding, overfeeding, or under filtration exacerbate the problem by resulting in more nitrates being produced and more frequent water changes being required to control the nitrate levels.

Live rock helps because the oxygen-poor interior of the rock allows anaerobic denitrifying bacteria to grow and break down nitrates. A deep live sand bed (DLSB) also helps because anaerobic denitrifying bacteria can flourish and break down nitrates at a certain depth below the sand where oxygenated water no longer penetrates, but a DLSB can sometimes be difficult to set up and manage properly if you’re inexperienced with live sand. Both live rock and deep live sand beds give aquaria denitrification ability — the ability to complete the cycle and convert nitrate to harmless nitrogen. Ordinarily, about 1-2 pounds of live rock per gallon is recommended – that amount of LR will provide your aquarium with all of the biofiltration you need, as well as adequate denitrification ability. You will then keep nitrates at harmless levels by performing regular water changes, harvesting Caulerpa macroalgae periodically, and good aquarium management.

So nitrate is simply the end product of the process of nitrification, formed during the Nitrogen Cycle by the oxidation of nitrite by aerobic bacteria. Nitrates always tend to build up in a system over time, sometimes in sneaky ways you wouldn’t expect. For example, here is an article from Thiel Aqua Tech that discusses some of the hidden ways nitrate can enter your system:

Click here: No nitrate, removal nitrate, denitrating, denitration
<<http://www.athiel.com/lib/nonitrate1.html>&gt;

One of the sneaky or hidden ways phosphates, nitrates, silicates and other undesirable compounds can enter our aquariums is through the tap water reuse for water changes or topping off our tanks. If the water quality in your town is not what it should be, you may want to consider buying reverse osmosis/deinonized water (RO/DI) for your water changes. Most well-stocked pet shops that handle marine fish sell RO/DI water as a service for their customers for between 25 and 50 cents a gallon. If your LFS does not, WalMart sell RO/DI water by the gallon for around 60 cents, and you should be able to find a Wal-Mart nearby.

Natural seawater is another good option for water changes. Like RO/DI water, natural seawater can be purchased at fish stores for around $1.00 a gallon, depending on where you live. It sounds expensive, but when you consider the alternative — paying for artificial salt mix and RO/DI water and mixing your own saltwater — then natural seawater is not a bad bargain at all. It has unsurpassed water quality and seahorses thrive in it.

You should also be aware that freshly mixed saltwater can have residual levels of ammonia, but if you aerate the newly mixed saltwater for 24-48 before you perform the water changes, the ammonia will be dissipated.

Good ways to reduce nitrates in your aquarium include adding more live rock, installing a deep live sand bed (preferably in a sump), installing a protein skimmer on your tank if your not already using one, and growing and harvesting fast-growing macroalgae such as Caulerpa.

Protein skimmers help reduce nitrates by removing dissolved organics from the water before they can enter the nitrogen cycle. The majority of the undesirable metabolites, organic wastes and excess nutrients that accumulate in our aquariums and degrade water quality are "surface-active," meaning they are attracted to and collect near the surface of a gas-liquid interface. Skimmers take advantage of this fact by using a column of very fine air bubbles mixed with aquarium water to trap dissolved organics and remove them from our systems. This air-water mixture is lighter than the surrounding aquarium and rises up the column of the skimmer until the foam eventually spills into a special collection cup atop the skimmer, which can be removed and emptied as needed. Proteins and other organic molecules, waste products, uneaten food and excess nutrients, and a host of other undesirable compounds stick to the surface of the bubbles and are carried away along with the foam and removed from the aquarium. As a result of this process, these purification devices are typically known as foam separators, foam fractionators, air-strippers, or simply protein skimmers.

In my experience, nothing improves water quality like a good protein skimmer. They provides many benefits for a seahorse setup, including efficient nutrient export, reducing the effective bioload, and increasing both the Redox potential and dissolved oxygen levels in the water. They do a tremendous job of removing excess organics from the aquarium, including phenols, albumin, dissolved organic acids, and chromophoric (color causing) compounds. Their ability to remove dissolved wastes BEFORE they have a chance to break down and degrade water quality makes them indispensable for controlling nuisance algae. A good protein skimmer is an invaluable piece of equipment for keeping your nitrates low and your water quality high when feeding a whole herd of these sloppy eaters in a closed-system aquarium.

I also like the use of macroalgaes for controlling nitrate and nuisance algae. Macroalgae use nitrate for growth just like plant fertilizer and pruning the macros regularly is a good way to export nitrate from your system. However, if the macros die in your system, they’ll release the nitrate they’ve consumed back into the aquarium. Fast-growing Caulerpa needs to be thinned out regularly to prevent vegetative events and avoid this from happening, as discussed below:

Macroalgae act as an excellent form of natural filtration, reducing the available levels of phosphates and nitrites/nitrates. Be sure to thin out the fast-growing Caulerpa regularly; when you remove the clippings, you’re exporting phosphates, nitrates and other nutrients from the tank, thereby helping to maintain good water quality, and periodically harvesting the runners helps keep it from going sexual.

When thinning out or harvesting macroalgae, take care not to actually cut it. Remember, you’re not pruning hedges or trimming trees — the idea is to carefully pull up and remove continuous, unbroken fronds. Simply thin out the colony of excess strands, gently plucking up convenient fronds that can be readily removed intact. A little breakage is fine, but cutting or breaking too many strands will result in leaching undesirable substances into the aquarium water as the Caulerpa’s lifeblood drains away. Too much cutting or breaking can thus sap the colony’s strength and cause die offs or trigger the dreaded vegetative events that judicious pruning otherwise prevents.

Another product I like for removing excess ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate is the Poly-Filter Pad (by Poly-Bio-Marine) Here is a product review on Poly Filters that touches on some good ways to use them:

Click here: Saltwater Aquariums Product Review – Poly-Bio-Marine Inc. – Poly Filter Pad
<<http://saltaquarium.about.com/cs/filtration/l/blprbiomarinpad>&gt;

Speaking of chemical additives, if you use activated carbon in your tank, it’s also very important to make sure that your carbon is phosphate free and that you change it religiously, replacing the old carbon with fresh new carbon every six weeks or so. (If you don’t replace the activated carbon regularly, it could eventually began to leach the wastes and organic compounds it has absorbed back into the aquarium water once it reaches its capacity.) Carbon is activated two ways, either with steam or with phosphoric acid. The type of carbon that is activated with phosphoric acid contains phosphates, which can likewise be leached back into the aquarium water and promote the growth of nuisance algae. So you will want to avoid that type of activated carbon, particularly when you’re having a problem with nuisance algae. The carton or box that the activated carbon came in will be clearly labeled that it is "steam activated" or "phosphate free" or something to that effect if it’s a suitable brand for your aquarium. Activated carbon that is low ash and phosphate-free can help control an outbreak of hair algae if it is changed and replaced with fresh carbon diligently; however, activated carbon that is not free of phosphates or that is not changed regularly can actually contribute to a problem with nuisance algae and degrade your water quality.

Finally, commercially made denitrators (special filters housing a large population of anaerobic denitrifying bacteria) are also available. They do a tremendous job of controlling nitrates but are rather expensive and tend to be high maintenance, often requiring regular "feeding" and carefully controlled flow rates to operate properly.

In summary, some of the measures that will help control nitrates and phosphates (and excess nutrients in general) in the aquarium are the following:

1) Make sure your protein skimmer is working correctly. A protein skimmer works 24 hours a day to remove excess waste and nutrients from a tank. If the venturi is clogged on a venturi skimmer or there is another problem with other skimmer designs, waste will not be exported from your tank and algae will take advantage of the waste.

2) Perform regular water changes. Regular water changes will decrease the level of wastes and nutrients in the water. But the water changes won’t do much good if your tap water itself contains phosphates and amines. Depending on how high the nitrate levels become, increasingthe proportion of water that you change each time may be necessary to help reduce those nitrates. There is an article about nitrate reduction at <<http://www.about.com/>&gt; in the saltwater section that really explains water changes (gives you the math), on actually how little you are reducing nitrates with small water changes when you have high nitrates.

3) Make sure makeup water is pure. Phosphates and nitrates often found in tap water. Phosphate and nitrate test kits will show if your tap water is contributing to your algae problem. If phosphate and nitrate levels are more than 0 ppm (some tap water measures out at over 50 ppm nitrate), filter the water through a RO/DI unit before using it as makeup freshwater or as source water for saltwater changes, or purchase RO water from a vendor.

4) Add additional detritivores to your cleanup crew. If excess food isn’t eaten, it will decay and add to the nutrients and waste in the tank. More microhermit crabs, Nassarius snails and cleaner shrimp will help ferret out any uneaten Mysis before it breaks down and enters the nitrogen cycle to eventually end up as excess nitrate.

5) Introduce macroalgae to consume excess nutrients and nitrates. If regular pruning is done, fast-growing Caulerpa will maintain its color and high growth rates without going sexual. Better yet, an algal filter or "algae scrubber" can be established in a sump or refugium.

6) Chemical controls. Phosphate absorbers can remove excess phosphates just as nitrate sponges will do with nitrates, and Poly Filter pads can also help absorb excess nitrates, changing color as they do so, which helps indicate when the Poly Filter needs to be changed. Low ash activated carbon that is free of phosphates will also help remove such nutrients if it is change religiously and replaced with new carbon.

7) Controlled addition of food to tank. Don’t broadcast feed, scattering Mysis throughout the tank. Instead, target feed your seahorses or use a feeding station. Don’t overfeed, cleanup leftovers promptly, and observe fast days religiously.

8) Add additional live rock and/or a DLSB (preferably in a sump). Both live rock and a deep live sand bed can carry out denitrification and convert nitrate into harmless nitrogen gas, which eventually bubbles out of the aquarium.

Okay, Gidget, that’s the quick rundown on controlling excess nitrates in the aquarium.

Finally, I would just like to remind you that Ocean Rider is a high-health aquaculture facility and that all of their seahorses are therefore guaranteed to be free of pathogens and parasites when they arrive, so keep that in mind the next time you are in the market for colorful domesticated seahorses.

Best of luck getting your nitrates down to the recommended level. Here’s hoping that your male turns up soon, none the worse for wear.

Respectfully,
Pete Giwojna


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