Re:Dwarf Meds Question

#4771
Pete Giwojna
Guest

Dear Ken:

I am sorry to hear about the problem with your female dwarf seahorse, sir. With just your description of the suspicious growth to go on, there was no way to determine whether it is due to a fungal or bacterial infection, or a mixed infection of some sort, but I can tell you that adult dwarf seahorses (Hippocampus zosterae) can tolerate all of the usual medications and the typical therapeutic dosages without any special considerations.

There is a very common misconception that seahorses are delicate animals that require very special care when medication becomes necessary. Such misapprehensions are due largely to the unusual appearance of these unorthodox animals. For instance, their lack of typical fish scales causes some folks to try to lump them in with scaleless fishes like sharks and rays, which are indeed sensitive to certain medications and treatments. What they fail to realize is that the bony plates that comprise the seahorse’s exoskeleton are actually modified scales. There are even those who claim that seahorses should be regarded as invertebrates for all intents and purposes when it comes to treating them, and that they must therefore never be subjected to copper sulfate, formalin, hyposalinity, freshwater dips, etc.

Don’t you believe it! In general, seahorses can handle the same treatments, chemotherapeutic agents, and dosages as typical bony fishes (teleosts). Or as Dr. Amanda Vincent puts it, "Seahorses surprisingly, need not be considered very delicate when treating their ailments and can be subjected to reasonably strong cures (Vincent. 1995b)." This includes dwarf seahorses as well as the larger seahorse species. Many of the large public aquaria routinely use freshwater dips, hyposaline and formalin baths, anti-parasitics such as praziquantel the metronidazole, and regimens of copper sulfate (CuSO4) when quarantining new fishes, including seahorses and other syngnathids, and Hippocampus typically tolerates these procedures as well as the other teleost fishes ((Bull and Mitchell, 2002, p19; Sharyl Crossley, pers. com.).

Even seahorse fry are surprisingly sturdy when it comes to medications. Newborns need milder measures, but once past the age of 2-4 weeks, seahorse fry withstand much the same treatments as the adults. Sharyl Crossley has found that 2-3 week old fry handle prolonged immersion in formalin at 15-25 ppm fine (Crossley, pers. com.). So did a pregnant male on the verge of delivery (Sharyl Crossley, pers. com.). Your adult female dwarf seahorse should have no trouble tolerating formalin within that dosage range either, Ken.

In short, if administered properly, seahorses, including the dwarfs, can be safely treated with freshwater dips, hyposalinity, copper, formalin and most of the usual chemotherapeutics and antibiotics used to treat other marine aquarium fishes. In my experience, the only special precautions you must observe when treating seahorses is never to reduce the specific gravity below 1.010 when administering hyposalinity and to avoid prolonged exposure to malachite green. Seahorses tolerate short-term baths in concentrated malachite green quite well, but Dr. Vincent reports that they may suffer ill affects after several days in malachite green (Vincent. 1995b). When treating seahorses with malachite green, it is also important to use a zinc-free product (Vincent. 1995b).

Treating your female with the formalin was a good thought since it’s an effective fungicide as well as antiparasitic, Ken, but it is a harsh medication that is always stressful on the fish being treated. In my experience, provided it is administered properly, seahorses tolerate treatment with formalin will at therapeutic dosages. For a long term bath the correct dose is 15 to 25 mg/L. [Note: 25 mg/L equals 1 ml (cc) of 37% formalin per 10 gallons of water.]

For a short term bath (dip) the correct dose is 250 mg/L. This would equal 1 ml (cc) of 37% formalin per 1 gallon of water. This should be for about 45 minutes to 1 hour.This is typically done every other day for 3 treatments. In my opinion, formalin is a safe, effective treatment for parasitic infections in seahorses providing you don’t exceed these dosages and observe the following precautions for administering the medication properly:

A formalin bath simply involves immersing the seahorse in a container of saltwater which contains the proper dosage of formalin for a period of 30-60 minutes before transferring it to your hospital tank. Include a hitching post of some sort in the container and follow these instructions: place the fish in a three-gallon bucket or a similar clean, inert container containing precisely one gallon of siphoned, aerated tank water. Medicate the bucket of water with with the appropriate amount of formalin for a concentrated bath according to the directions on the label. Place an airstone in the bucket and leave the fish in the bath for 30 minutes. If at any time the fish becomes listless, exhausted or loses its balance, immediately place the fish in clean, untreated water in your hospital tank.

I want you to be aware of these precautions when administering the formalin bath:
Formalin has limited shelf life and degrades to the highly toxic substance paraformaldehyde (identified as a white precipitate on the bottom of the solution); avoid using any formalin product which has such a precipitate at the bottom of the bottle.
Formalin basically consumes oxygen so vigorous aeration must be provided during treatment.
Time the bath closely and never exceed one hour of chemical exposure at this concentration.
Observe the seahorse closely during the bath at all times, and it show signs of distress before the allotted time has elapsed, remove it from the treatment immediately.

In your case, Ken, I think that methylene blue would be more appropriate for treating a dwarf seahorse with a suspected fungal problems or bacterial lesion. It is much less harsh than formalin and is a very effective fungicide that also has antibacterial properties.

Here are the instructions for treating seahorses with methylene blue, sir:

Methylene Blue

Commonly known as "meth blue" or simply "blue," this is a wonderful medication for reversing the toxic effects of ammonia and nitrite poisoning (commonly known as "new tank syndrome"). Since hospital tanks are usually without biological filtration, and ammonia and nitrite can thus build up rapidly (especially if you are not doing water changes during the treatment period), it’s a good idea to add methylene blue to your hospital ward when treating sick fish.

Methylene blue also transports oxygen and aids breathing. It facilitates oxygen transport, helping fish breathe more easily by converting methemoglobin to hemoglobin — the normal oxygen carrying component of fish blood, thus allowing more oxygen to be carried through the bloodstream. This makes it very useful for treating gill infections, low oxygen levels, or anytime your seahorses are breathing rapidly and experiencing respiratory distress. It is the drug of choice for treating hypoxic emergencies of any kind with your fish.

In addition, methylene blue treats fungus and some bacteria and protozoans. Methylene blue is effective in preventing fungal infections, 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. A "must" for your fish-room medicine cabinet. However, be aware that it is not safe to combine methylene blue with some antibiotics, so check your medication labels closely for any possible problems before doing so.

If you can obtain the Kordon brand of Methylene Blue (available at most well-stocked local fish stores), the instructions for administering it as a very brief, concentrated dip are as follows:

For use as a dip for treatment of fungus or external parasitic protozoans and cyanide poisoning:
(a) Prepare a nonmetallic container of sufficient size to contain the fish to be treated by adding water similar to the original aquarium.
(b) Add 5 teaspoons (24.65 ml) per 3 gallons of water. This produces a concentration of 50 ppm. It is not recommended that the concentration be increased beyond 50 ppm.
(c) Place fishes to be treated in this solution for no longer than 10 seconds.
(d) Return fish to original aquarium.

When you administer such a dip, hold the seahorse in your hand throughout the procedure and time it closely so that the dip does not exceed 10 seconds.

And here are Kordon’s instructions for administering the methylene blue in a hospital tank if longer-term treatment seems appropriate to reverse more severe cases of nitrite poisoning and ammonia toxicity or exposure to high-level of nitrates:

As an aid in reversal of nitrite (NO2-) or cyanide (CN-) poisoning of marine and freshwater aquarium fishes:
(a) Remove carbon filter and continue to operate with mechanical filter media throughout the treatment period.
(b) Add 1 teaspoon of 2.303% Methylene Blue per 10 gallons of water. This produces a concentration of 3 ppm. Continue the treatment for 3 to 5 days.
(c) Make a water change as noted and replace the filter carbon at the conclusion of the treatment.

See the following link for more information on treating with Kordon’s Methylene Blue:

Click here: KPD-28 Methylene Blue
http://www.novalek.com/archive/kpd28.htm

If you obtained a brand of methylene blue other than Kordon, just follow the instructions the medication comes with. Remember that methylene blue will have an adverse impact on the beneficial bacteria that carry out the nitrogen cycle, so don’t use it in your main tank — rather, use the methylene blue as a quick dip or for treating the seahorses for a prolonged period in your hospital tank.

A brief dip in the hydrogen peroxide solution might also be helpful for treating your female dwarf seahorse, Ken. Here are the instructions for performing the very brief hydrogen peroxide dips if you would like to give them a try, sir:

<open quote>
Therapeutic Hydrogen Peroxide (H202) Dips

A very quick dip 10-second dip in a 3% hydrogen peroxide solution is effective in cleansing fish of Uronema and other protozoan parasites and will also help to disinfect bacterial lesions and promote healing of open wounds and sores. (Note: 3% is the standard concentration of hydrogen peroxide that you obtain at the drugstore or probably have in your medicine chest at home, but this is not the best choice for performing this procedure.)

Rather, it is customary to obtain the stronger 35% Food Grade or Technical Grade of hydrogen peroxide and then dilute it to the proper concentration instead. For example, 35% hydrogen peroxide was approved for aquaculture use by the FDA in January 2007 and is sold under the name of PEROX-AID(r). This is a much stronger solution of hydrogen peroxide which professional aquarists start with when performing such dips. The desired 3% hydrogen peroxide dipping solution is prepared by taking one gallon of dechlorinated freshwater and then removing 10-oz of the water and replacing it with 10-oz of 35% hydrogen peroxide (PEROX-AID) instead. This formula will produce a ~3% solution of hydrogen peroxide for the brief dip (Kollman, 2003).

You can also scale this formula down by starting with 1/2 gallon of dechlorinated freshwater for the dip, and then removing 5 ounces of the water and replacing it with 5 ounces of 35% hydrogen peroxide instead. That will again produce a ~3% solution of hydrogen peroxide and 1/2 gallon is enough for dipping seahorses if you put it in a relatively small container rather than a large plastic bucket.

The 35% Food Grade or Technical Grade hydrogen peroxide can be purchased from chemical supply houses and some online sources, but it is much stronger and more volatile than the drugstore hydrogen peroxide, and must therefore be handled with great care. Be especially careful NOT to confuse the 35% hydrogen peroxide solution with the mild 3% hydrogen peroxide solution from your drugstore when disinfecting wounds or performing the usual first aid measures that the weak solution is customarily used for around the house.

Once prepared, you can use the same dipping solution for dipping several seahorses in quick succession, but it should then be discarded and you will need to prepare a new solution of 3% hydrogen peroxide each day immediately before you perform the dips, if you will be doing them on a daily basis. This is necessary because the hydrogen peroxide dissipates fairly quickly and must be used immediately after it’s prepared for best results.

Dip the affected seahorse in the hydrogen peroxide solution for 10 seconds and then return it to the treatment tank. Cup the seahorse in your hand so that you can remove the seahorse quickly after 10 seconds of exposure in the dipping container. The hydrogen peroxide dip will disinfect bacterial lesions and abrasions and help promote healing. The dips have the added benefit of cleansing the fish from some ectoparasites and may help the seahorse’s breathing because the hydrogen peroxide greatly increases the dissolved oxygen levels in the dipping solution. The 3% hydrogen peroxide dips can be repeated once a day or once every three days as needed, depending on the severity of the infection/infestation.

In summation, the entire seahorse can be submerged in a 3% solution of hydrogen peroxide for a period of 10 seconds to disinfect wounds or rid them of ectoparasites. DO NOT use a stronger solution of hydrogen peroxide for this procedure! The very brief dips in 3% hydrogen peroxide are a treatment regimen that has been refined by Dr. J. Peter Hill , DVM, who serves as the veterinarian for the Newport Aquarium. He uses it to treat ectoparasites such as Uronema as well as to combat external bacterial infections and to disinfect open wounds or ulcers, thereby helping to promote more rapid healing. He has recommended such baths for seahorses for these purposes…

In a pinch, some hobbyists will use the 3% hydrogen peroxide from their drugstore, but for best results, it’s safer to start with a concentrated 35% Food Grade or Technical Grade, or better yet the 35% PEROX-AID designed for use in aquaculture, and then to dilute it to 3% H2O2 as previously described.
<Close quote>

In my experience, Ken, a bacterial or fungal lesion on the head of a dwarf seahorse would typically be a secondary infection that set in at the site of an injury. In dwarf seahorses, the injury is most likely to be the result of a sting from a hydroid or possibly an Aiptasia anemone. If your adult female is suffering from a secondary bacterial or fungal infection, then there is a good chance that the rest of your dwarf seahorse herd will not be affected. But you might want to give your dwarf tank of close inspection for any sign of a hydroid infestation.

Best of luck with all of your seahorses, sir.

Respectfully,
Pete Giwojna


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