Re:disease research

Pete Giwojna

Dear Sandy:

I’m impressed with your collection of pipefish! To my knowledge, no one is culturing pipefish at this time and the wild specimens are definitely more delicate then captive-bred-and-raised seahorses. Your success with several species of pipefish is an indication that you should do very well with domesticated seahorses.

Yes, indeed — the symptoms you describe do sound very much like fin rot. If you catch it early enough, it usually responds very well to standard, off-the-shelf treatments. I would go to your LFS and pick up a good medication intended for marine fish that indicates it is effective in treating cases of fin rot on the label or instructions. Treat the affected pipefish as directed in a hospital tank. I would also suggest gradually reducing the temperature in your aquarium several degrees as discussed below, since like other bacterial infections, fin rot is often associated or exacerbated with elevated temperatures and/or heat stress:

Heat stress is especially debilitating and dangerous for seahorses in pipefish due to a number of reasons (Olin Feuerbacher, pers. com.). For one thing, elevated temperatures can have a very detrimental effect on the immune system of fishes. This is because many of the enzymes and proteins involved in their immune response are extremely temperature sensitive (Olin Feuerbacher, pers. com.). Some of these protective enzymes can be denatured and inactivated by an increase of just a few degrees in water temperature (Olin Feuerbacher, pers. com.). So when seahorses or pipefish are kept at temperatures above their comfort zone, their immune system is compromised and they are unable to fend off diseases they would normally shrug off.

So, if like most parts of the country, your area has been experiencing a summertime heat wave and your aquarium temperatures have risen above normal as a result, Sandy, it would be a good idea to employ a few simple measures that can reduce the water temperature by several degrees. For example, a simple way to drop the water temp in your aquarium is to position a small fan so it blows across the surface of the water continually (Giwojna, Oct. 2003). This will lower the water temperature a few more degrees via evaporative cooling (just be sure to top off the tank regularly to replace the water lost to evaporation). Leaving the light off on your seahorse tank in conjunction with evaporative cooling can make a big difference.

Here are some additional suggestions on cooling down your aquarium from Renée at the org you may also find helpful:

Some summer tips are:
· Use computer fans (you can wire them to AC adapters… we are making some this weekend for our tanks).
· Use a big ol clip-on-fan or a fan on a stand that you can set close. (Just be mindful of water evap.)
· Float ice containers in the tank (Use water/liquid that you wouldn’t care if it sprung a leak. Those blue lunch/picnic type cooling things are not acceptable IMO…. what if it leaks? It will kill everything. I would recommend using bottled ice water because it will stay frozen even longer than fresh water….. but if you do use fresh water make sure it is water you wouldn’t mind spilling into the tank…. good ole tap water is not acceptable.)
· If you have a hood or canopy on the tank…..keep it off or lifted.
· Cool down the room the tank is in by using a portable or window AC unit. The window units can be pretty cheap.
· If the sun really heats up this room, look into some window tinting. This is what I did when I lived in South Texas. It dropped the room temp TEREMENDOUSLY! (If ya wanna go the cheap method, foil was used in many windows in the city I lived in… wasn’t the prettiest method but it saved many people lives who lived in places without central AC and couldn’t afford well working window units.)
· Shorten your photoperiod…. if possible don’t have the lights on in the hottest past of the day. But at any rate, shorten the amount of hours the lights are on for.


In addition to cooling down the aquarium gradually, it might also be a good idea to increase the aeration and surface agitation is much as possible in order to improve oxygenation and promote efficient gas exchange at the air/water interface. That will raise those dissolved oxygen levels in quicker than cooling the aquarium will, so consider adding an ordinary airstone or two, at least until the aquarium temperature as gradually drop-down to the 73°F-75°F range again.

There is one good disease book on seahorses that you would find very informative, Sandy. Dr. Martin Belli, Marc Lamont, Keith Gentry, and Clare Driscoll have done a terrific job putting together "Working Notes: A Guide to the Diseases of Seahorses." Hobbyists will find the detailed information it contains on seahorse anatomy, the latest disease diagnosis and treatment protocols, and quarantine procedures to be extremely useful and helpful. It has some excellent dissection and necropsy photos as well as a number of photos of seahorses with various health problems. This is one book every seahorse keeper should have in his or her fish-room medicine cabinet, and I highly recommend it! In time of need, it can be a real life saver for your seahorses. It’s available online at the following web site:

Click here: Working notes: a guide to seahorse diseases > books > The Shoppe at | CafePress

In addition, there are also a number of good photographs showing seahorses with various disease problems and conditions available online at the following web sites:

Click here: – Quick Seahorse Disease Guide

Click here: – A Guide To The Most Common Seahorse Diseases and Medical Conditions

Click here: Seahorse Pathology

Click here: – Pictoral Disease Guide

Best of luck with your pipefish and seahorses, Sandy!

Pete Giwojna

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