Re:Erectus respiration normal; Reidi respiration h

#4352
Pete Giwojna
Guest

Dear Tom:

You’re very welcome to any information I can provide to help keep your seahorses happy and healthy, sir!

Yes, I believe lowering the water temperature in the aquarium from 77° to 75° is an excellent idea. It won’t help the nitrate levels but it will give the dissolved oxygen levels in the aquarium a bit of a boost, and that can help ease the breathing of your H. reidi.

I concur with administering some quick methylene blue dips for the H. reidi to see if that helps. It may well provide them some relief by converting methemoglobin to normal hemoglobin, but that may not provide a permanent cure for the problem if the nitrate levels in the aquarium remain elevated. So please do continue to take additional steps to lower the nitrate levels.

You are correct, Tom — if the H. erectus are breathing normally, then a quick dip or bath in methylene blue won’t be of much benefit to them.

No, sir — I wouldn’t administer formalin baths to the H. reidi at this time in an effort to eliminate gill flukes or external parasites. Formalin basically consumes oxygen, so the formalin baths can be stressful and take a toll on seahorses that are experiencing respiratory distress. I don’t believe that risk is warranted at this point.

You might, however, consider performing a diagnostic freshwater dip on one or more of the H. reidi to see if you can detect any sign of such gill parasites. The freshwater dip is also effective in eliminating such parasites via osmotic shock, but it’s less stressful on the seahorses than the formalin baths because it is of shorter duration and the water in the dipping container can remain well aerated and oxygenated throughout the procedure.

Here are the instructions for performing a diagnostic freshwater dip.

Freshwater Dips

A freshwater dip is simply immersing your seahorse in pure, detoxified freshwater that’s been preadjusted to the same temp and pH as the water the seahorse is accustomed to, for a period of at least 10 minutes (Giwojna, Dec. 2003). It doesn’t harm them — seahorses typically tolerate freshwater dips exceptionally well and a 10-minute dip should be perfectly safe. Freshwater dips are effective because marine fish tolerate the immersion in freshwater far better than the external parasites they play host to; the change in osmotic pressure kills or incapacitates such microorganisms within 7-8 minutes (Giwojna, Dec. 2003). A minimum dip, if the fish seems to be doing fine, is therefore 8 minutes. Include some sort of hitching post in the dipping container and shoot for the full 10 minutes with your seahorses (Giwojna, Dec. 2003).

If you will be using tap water for the freshwater dip, be sure to dechlorinate it beforehand. This can be accomplished usually one of the commercial dechlorinators, which typically include sodium thiosulfate and perhaps a chloramine remover as well, or by aerating the tap water for at least 24 hours to dissipate the chlorine (Giwojna, Dec. 2003).

If you dechlorinate the dip water with a sodium thiosulfate product, be sure to use an airstone to aerate it for at least one hour before administering the dip. This is because the sodium thiosulfate depletes the water of oxygen and the dip water must therefore be oxygenated before its suitable for your seahorse(s). Regardless of how you detoxify the freshwater for the dip, it’s important to aerate the water in the dipping container well beforehand to increase the level of dissolved oxygen in the water. Many hobbyists leave the airstone in the dipping container throughout the procedure.

Adjusting the pH of the water in the dipping container so that it matches the pH of the water in the aquarium is a crucial step. Ordinary baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) will suffice for raising the pH of the water. If there is too much of a difference in the pH, there is a possibility the seahorse could go into shock during the dipping procedure. Preadjusting the pH will prevent that from happening. If you will are unsure about your ability to accurately adjust the pH in the dipping container, avoid this procedure altogether or be prepared to monitor the seahorse very carefully or shorten the duration of the tip to no more than about 4 minutes.

Observe the horse closely during the dip. You may see some immediate signs of distress or shock. Sometimes the horse will immediately lie on its side on the bottom. That’s a fairly common reaction — normal and to be expected, rather than a cause for concern, so don’t be alarmed if this happens. Just nudge or tap the seahorse gently with your finger if it lies down on its side. Normally, the seahorse will respond to the slight nudge by righting itself again and calm down for the duration of the dip. However, if it does not respond, stop the treatment.

Most seahorses tolerate the treatment well and experience no problems, but if you see continued signs of distress — twitching, thrashing around etc. — stop the treatment.

After you have completed the dip and returned the seahorses to the aquarium, save the dip water and examine it closely for any sign of parasites. The change in osmotic pressure from saltwater to freshwater will cause ectoparasites to lyse (i.e., swell and burst) or drop off their host after 7-10 minutes, and they will be left behind in the dipping water. Protozoan parasites are microscopic and won’t be visible to the naked eye, but some of the other ectoparasites can be clearly seen. For example, monogenetic trematodes and gill flukes will appear as opaque sesame seeds drifting in the water (Giwojna, Aug. 2003) and nematodes may be visible as tiny hairlike worms 1/16-3/16 of an inch long. Other parasites may appear as tiny dots in the water. Freshwater dips can thus often provide affected seahorses with some immediate relief by ridding them of these irritating pests and can also aid their breathing by flushing out gill parasites.

With so many seahorses in your aquarium, it may be difficult to make much of a dent in your nitrate levels via chemical means and nitrate absorbers, Tom. But installing a DLSB or an algae bed in your sump might make a world of difference, and either one of those options are good alternatives you should seriously consider. Let me know if you would like some additional information in that regard, and I’ll be happy to explain more about installing a DLSB are setting up a good algae bed/algal filter in your sump. The latter, in particular, could be easily and inexpensively accomplished.

Best of luck reducing your nitrate levels and returning the breathing of your H. reidi to normal again, Tom!

Respectfully,
Pete Giwojna


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