Pete Giwojna


I am very sorry to hear that you weren’t able to begin treating your seahorses in time to save the Brazilian (H. reidi).

Yes, you can certainly add a shallow airstone anchored just beneath the surface of the water if you have any concerns at all about your dissolved oxygen levels. It can’t do any harm and it will provide good surface agitation and promote efficient gas exchange at the air/water interface, thus helping to keep dissolved oxygen levels high and CO2 levels low. But a wet/dry trickle filter usually does a very good job of that on its own by providing a very thin layer of water that is in contact with the air for an extended period as it trickles down through the biological filtration media. My guess would be that your dissolved oxygen levels are probably pretty good and that Cryptocaryonosis is responsible for the demise of the seahorses you have lost.

As far as I can tell, there doesn’t seem to be anything wrong with your setup itself. The water quality parameters you reported in your earlier post are right where you want them to be, conditions seem stable, and you have a good filtration system. I don’t believe your water quality or skills as an aquarist are the cause of your difficulties.

It sounds to me like the seahorses you brought home from your local fishstore (LFS) were never healthy to begin with. From the moment you got them, they never ate or showed any interest in food. One of them perished shortly after you brought them home and the others have been on a hunger strike ever since you got them and were soon exhibiting respiratory distress along with those suspicious white spots (Cryptocaryon irritans). It’s apparent that these animals have been ailing right from the start and were very likely infested with Cryptocaryon at your LFS.

That can be a problem when you obtain seahorses from your LFS rather than directly from the breeder. At the fish store, the seahorses are kept in holding tanks that typically share a common filtration system with all of the fish in other tanks from all around the world. As a result, they may be exposed to all manner of pathogens and parasites during their stay at the pet store. Since the pet shop staff are often unfamiliar with seahorses, the chances are good that the ponies may not have been fed properly during their stay at the LFS as well, and malnourished seahorses quickly weaken and become vulnerable to disease.

When you acquire seahorses from your local fish store it is therefore very important that you examine them closely for any signs of health problems and to make sure that they are eating before you bring them home. This is what Dr. Martin Greenwell, the Director of Veterinary Services at the Shedd Aquarium, recommends that you look for in that regard before you consider adding new seahorses to your collection:

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Physical Examination

When performing an initial physical exam, the posture and buoyancy of the seahorse should be closely scrutinized. A seahorse bobbing at the surface is abnormally and positively buoyant. Buoyant animals will often struggle to maneuver deeper into the water column. They should be evaluated for air entrapment problems such as air in the brood pouch (males) or hyperinflated swim bladders. If the tail is extended outward caudodorsally or ‘scorpion-style,’ examine the subcutis of the tail for gas bubbles (subcutaneous emphysema). Subcutaneous emphysema of the tail segment also appears to be a condition restricted to males. Just as abnormal is a seahorse that is lying horizontally at the tank bottom for extended time periods. This may be an indication of generalized weakness or it may indicate negative buoyancy associated with swim bladder disease or fluid accumulation in the brood pouch or the coelomic cavity.

Evaluate the seahorse’s feeding response. Seahorses normally forage almost constantly during daylight hours. An individual that consistently refuses appropriately sized live food is behaving very abnormally and should receive nutritional support to meet its caloric needs.

The rate and pattern of breathing should also be evaluated. Rapid breathing and coughing suggest gill disease. Diagnostic dips or baths or diagnostic washes of the branchial cavities can be performed to obtain an etiologic diagnosis since the gill tissue itself is so inaccessible.

The entire body surface including the fins should be examined for hemorrhagic regions, erosions, ulcerations, excessive body mucus, unusual spots, lumps or bumps as well as the presence of subcutaneous gas bubbles. Evaluate both eyes for evidence of periorbital edema, exophthalmia, and any lenticular or corneal opacities. Since seahorses are visual predators, maintaining normal vision is absolutely essential to successful foraging. The tube snout is also very important to normal feeding activity. It is utilized like a pipette to literally suck prey out of the water column. Evaluate the tube snout for evidence of edema, erosions, and successful protraction/retraction of the small, anterior, drawbridge-like segment of the lower jaw. Close evaluation of the tail tip for erosive/necrotic lesions should also be performed. Finally, the anal region should be closely evaluated for redness, swelling, or tissue prolapse; this may require getting the seahorse in hand.
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Please don’t let your unfortunate experience with the seahorses from your LFS discourage you from keeping these amazing aquatic equines. Let me assure you that they are not nearly as difficult to keep as you may be imagining at this point. If you obtain healthy captive-bred-and-raised seahorses directly from the breeder, you will find that feeding them is easy and that they are relatively undemanding to keep. If you can keep a reef system healthy, you can certainly keep seahorses healthy providing they are not already sick when you obtain them.

If you administer the hyposalinity properly, it will be very effective in eliminating any gill parasites or Cryptocaryon the surviving seahorse may be carrying. But if you can’t get him eating again, it won’t matter whether or you not your H. erectus will soon be free from his ectoparasites. You may want to consider tube feeding the seahorse to provide it with some nutritional support and keep its strength up.

Don’t forget that you can always search the forum for any information in which you have an interest. There is a rectangular window in the upper right-hand corner (just above the page numbers) on the forum with the words "search forum" in it. Just type the word or phrase you are looking for into that window and press "Enter" on your keyboard, and the results of your search will pop up in just a few moments. For example, if you type in "newbie" or "new to seahorses" or "tank set-up advice," you’ll find some detailed discussions explaining how to create an optimum environment for seahorses in your aquarium.

There is also a good disease book on seahorses that you may also find to be very informative. 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

Best of luck getting your remaining seahorse healthy, FERS4REEF! Here’s hoping that your erectus is soon feeling much better and eating like a horse again.

Pete Giwojna

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