Re:Gas Bubble Diesease

#4454
Pete Giwojna
Guest

Dear Oriana:

The two Vibrance formulations differ primarily in their fat content. One of them is a low-fat formula, whereas the other is rich in highly unsaturated fatty acids and other lipids.

As you know, the two different Vibrance formulations are intended for entirely different purposes. The lipid-rich formulation (Vibrance 1) was designed for enriching live foods that are low in lipids or fat content, such as brine shrimp (Artemia spp.), whereas the low-fat formulation (Vibrance 2) was designed to enrich frozen Mysis which are naturally rich in HUFAs, thereby protecting adult seahorses from hepatic lipidosis (fatty liver disease).

I keep both Vibrance 1 and Vibrance 2 on hand at all times, and which formula I used to enrich the frozen Mysis depends more on the behavior of my ponies than their age. I like to use the lipid-rich Vibrance 1 as long as the seahorses are actively breeding, whether they be yearlings or old reliable pairs. Likewise, I prefer to use the low-fat Vibrance 2 for mature seahorses that are not currently breeding, whether they are five months old or five years old. And, of course, Vibrance 1 is perfect for enriching baby brine shrimp for newborn seahorses. Finally, regardless of which type of Vibrance I am using for any particular seahorses, I always observe fast days in one form or another religiously as part of my feeding regimen.

There are a number of commercially made food supplements for marine fish that will work well for enriching frozen Mysis, but in my opinion, Vibrance is the best of these since it was developed specifically to provide a long-term balanced diet for seahorses. It includes additional highly unsaturated fatty acids (especially the DHA Omega 6 DHA series), along with Vitamin C and essential minerals, in the proper proportions to further enhance the nutritional profile of the protein-rich frozen Mysis. Studies indicate the DHA it includes is essential for high survivability, nerve development, stress management, and proper reproduction. Vibrance is a bright red-orange powder that gets its characteristic color due to its high content of carotenoids, which are an abundant source of Vitamin A and act as natural color enhancers for yellow and red pigmentation.

In short, Vibrance is the supplement that produces the best results for me. It was designed by a research team of nutritionists and fish biologists for use with frozen mysid shrimp in order to meet the dietary requirements of these unique fishes, and it comes in two different formulations — Vibrance 1 (the original Vibrance) and Vibrance 2 — which are tailored for seahorses with different needs.

Among other things, Vibrance 2 includes beta-glucan, pure Astaxanthin, carotenoids, water-soluble vitamin C, and various other vitamins and minerals in the proper proportions. It is a no-fat formulation intended for enriching frozen Mysis. As such, it’s perfect for fortifying frozen Mysis for adult seahorses, further enhancing their nutritional value while safeguarding against hepatic lipidosis (fatty liver disease).

The original Vibrance (i.e., Vibrance 1) is a lipid-rich formula including beta-glucan, the proper balance of long chain fatty acids (DHA and EPA) derived from natural schizochytrium algae, and color-enhancing carotenoids, all combined with just the right amount of vitamins, minerals and water-soluble stabilized vitamin C. It is ideal for enriching live foods with poor nutritional value that are naturally low in lipids, such as newly hatched brine shrimp or adult Artemia.

Personally, aside from enriching live foods, I prefer the high-fat formula (Vibrance 1) for young seahorses that are still growing, and for adult seahorses that are actively breeding, churning out brood after brood, since they need all the calories and energy they can get. On the other hand, I like the low-fat formula (Vibrance 2) for mature seahorses that are no longer breeding. This includes younger adults that are taking a break from breeding during the off-season, unpaired adults that have no mates at the moment, and older individuals that have been retired and put out to pasture. No longer growing and no longer producing clutch after clutch of eggs (or nourishing a pouch full of babies, in the case of males), these older specimens don’t need as much fat in their diets. Switching them to a low-fat formulation can help protect them from age-related conditions such as fatty liver disease (hepatic lipidosis).

Vibrance 1, the high-fat formulation, is ideal for enriching newly-hatched brine shrimp that will be fed seahorse fry, so it’s especially useful for hobbyists that are into breeding and rearing their seahorses. Vibrance 1 is the formulation you want for fortifying newly hatched brine shrimp (Artemia nauplii) to feed the seahorse fry, and it’s also the one I use for my breeding pairs.

Here are the instructions for enriching baby brine shrimp with Vibrance 1:
For enriching or “gut packing” live Artemia (brine shrimp), or other live shrimp or live food of all sizes. Blend 1 teaspoon of Vibrance into 1 cup of water for 3 minutes. Add this to the live food vessel for 30 minutes, or until you see the gut of the animal turn red. Rinse the animals with clean salt water and feed immediately to your seahorses or other fish.
Storage instructions: Please store in a cool dark place. The freezer or refrigerator is fine, but not necessary. Because Vibrance is packaged in a bag that does not allow light to penetrate and is a dry product the shelf life is indefinite as long as the bag is stored in a cool place and kept sealed. Once the bag is opened the shelf life is approximately one year
What really sets Vibrance apart from other enrichment products is that it is the only one that includes beta-glucan as a primary ingredient. Beta-glucan is a potent immunostimulant that provides important health benefits for fishes. Thanks to Vibrance, we can now boost our seahorse’s immune systems and help them fight disease as part of their daily feeding regimen. Enriching our galloping gourmets’ frozen Mysis with Vibrance will give them a daily dose of Beta Glucan to stimulate phagocytosis of certain white cells (macrophages). If the research on Beta Glucan is accurate, this could be a great way to help prevent infections from bacteria, fungus, and viral elements rather than attempting to treat disease outbreaks after the fact.

Not only should Vibrance + Beta Glucan help keep healthy seahorses healthy, it should also help ailing seahorses recover faster. Research indicates that it helps prevent infections and helps wounds heal more quickly (Bartelme, 2001). It is safe to use in conjunction with other treatments and has been proven to increase the effectiveness of antibiotics (Bartelme, 2001). It will be great for new arrivals recovering from the rigors of shipping because Beta Glucan is known to alleviate the effects of stress and to help fish recover from exposure to toxins in the water (Bartelme, 2001)

For more information on the potential benefits of Beta Glucan for aquarium fish, please see the following article:

Click here: Advanced Aquarist Feature Article
http://www.advancedaquarist.com/issues/sept2003/feature.htm

Adminstering Beta Glucan orally via Vibrance-enriched frozen Mysis, which are so naturally rich in highly unsaturated fatty acids (HUFA), is the perfect way to boost the immune response of our seahorses since vitamins and HUFA enhance the capacity of immune system cells that are stimulated by the use of beta glucan (Bartelme, 2001).

As for the red feeder shrimp (Halocaridina rubra), also known as red iron horse feed or Hawaiian volcano shrimp, it is not necessary to provide live foods for Ocean Rider seahorses. All of the captive-bred-and-raised Ocean Rider seahorses have been trained to eat Vibrance-enriched frozen Mysis as their staple, everyday diet from a very early age. They are shipped with a small quantity of the red feeder shrimp as a special treat for the ponies in order to help ease the transition into their strange new surroundings, but those are special circumstances, and otherwise it is not strictly necessary to offer the seahorses any live foods whatsoever.

However, many hobbyists like to offer the seahorses occasionally feedings of the red feeder shrimp, or other live foods, in order to diversify their diet and because it is so much fun to watch the seahorses stalk and eat live prey. The opportunity to hunt and chase after live shrimp provides the seahorses with a bit of behavioral enrichment to liven up their day now and then, which is always desirable.

And many hobbyists prefer to offer their seahorses a meal of nutritionally barren live food, such as unenriched adult brine shrimp (Artemia spp.), on their fast day, rather than making them go hungry, as explained below in more detail:

Fasting Seahorses

As you know, it is very important to fast seahorses once a week that are receiving a highly nutritious diet of frozen Mysis that have been fortified with an enrichment product such as Vibrance. In my opinion, the primary benefit of fasting once a week is to protect seahorses that are receiving a lipid-rich diet of enriched Mysis against fatty liver disease (hepatic lipidosis), as opposed to allowing them to purge their systems or clean out their gastrointestinal tract completely once a week.

Because of their lazy lifestyle, our pampered pets are susceptible to a debilitating affliction commonly known as "fatty liver disease" or hepatic lipidosis when they are given a diet that’s excessively rich in HUFA (highly unsaturated fatty acids) and other lipids. Mature seahorses that are no longer breeding are at greatest risk from hepatic lipidosis. Young seahorses need a high-fat diet to sustain their rapid growth and development, and breeding pairs that are churning out brood after brood of fry likewise need all the energy they can get. But once they reach sexual maturity, their growth rate slows markedly, and nonbreeding adults that receive a high-fat diet will begin to store excess fat in specialized cells called adipose tissue (Tamaru, Sep. 2001). Eventually these fatty deposits will begin to infiltrate the liver cells, hence the name fatty liver disease (Tamaru, Sep. 2001).

In severe cases, adipose tissue can become so thick that it can literally hides the internal organs, cloaking them within a cocoon of fat, and distending the abdomen (Tamaru, Sep. 2001). When the seahorse’s liver or hepatopancreas becomes badly infiltrated with fatty deposits, it interferes with the organ’s ability to perform its vital role in digestion, food absorption, and detoxification of the blood, which has dire consequences for the affected seahorse.

Fasting one day a week helps prevent such problems, but providing them with a good meal of unfed, unfortified adult brine shrimp, which has negligible fat content, works just as well in terms of protecting seahorses from fatty liver disease. It doesn’t clean out their systems, of course, but that’s not where the health benefits lie, and in any case, the seahorses do a pretty thorough job of purging themselves overnight anyway since the transit time it takes food to pass through their G.I. tract is surprisingly short. To understand why this is so, here’s a brief excerpt from the anatomy chapter my new book (Complete Guide to Greater Seahorses in the Aquarium, unpublished) that covers the pertinent information:

<open quote>
Intestinal Tract:

The seahorse intestine is basically a continuous, convoluted tube leading from the esophagus to the anus, whose primary purpose is the absorption of nutrients from digested food. Hippocampus does have rudimentary stomach, but it is greatly reduced, a common characteristic of carnivorous fishes adapted for feeding continuously on small prey items (Tamaru, Aug. 2001). It is little more than a pouchlike expansion of the intestine that begins in the crook of the neck. The pylorous region of the seahorse’s stomach, which separates it from the rest of the intestine, is underdeveloped and lacks the strong, muscular sphincter that separates the two organs in humans and most other animals (Tamaru, Aug. 2001). As a result, food passes continuously through this simple stomach and it cannot store food between meals. Due their inactive lifestyle, seahorses do not need to stockpile energy in fat reserves or food stores, so this simple stomach ordinarily serves them well.

Like other carnivorous fishes, the intestinal tract of the seahorse is also relatively short (Tamaru, Aug. 2001). This fact, combined with the lack of a true stomach, combines to render their digestion very inefficient when they have an overabundance of food. Once a seahorse is full, there comes a point when it cannot take anything more in at one end of the digestive tract (the esophagus) without passing something out the other end (the anus). This sometimes presents a problem in captivity when rearing the babies, since the feeding instinct is so strong in seahorse fry that they do not stop eating once they’ve reached their full capacity. They will continue to gulp down food as long as prey is present, forcing them to eliminate food that’s only partly digested (Warland, 2003). When provided with too heavy a feeding density, this can reach the absurd point where they are passing live Artemia in their feces, and the ravenous fry can literally starve to death in the midst of plenty (Warland, 2003)!

On average, the total length of the digestive tract in seahorses, including the esophagus, simple stomach and intestines, is contained in two body lengths of the individual (Tamaru, Aug. 2001). By contrast, herbivorous fish typically have very long intestines measuring ten times the length of their bodies or more (Tamaru, Aug. 2001). They need the extra length in order to break down and absorb the hard-to-digest plant matter. (As omnivores, the human intestine stretches 20-some feet, or about 4 times our body length.)

It’s interesting to note that the male seahorses have an intestine that’s 50% longer than that of females (Tamaru, Aug. 2001). The extra food absorption ability and digestion this provides is necessary in order for breeding males to churn out brood after brood and sustain the metabolic demands of the developing fry they carry. <Close quote>

Given their lack of a true stomach to store food, comparatively short intestinal tract, and inefficient digestion, the upshot is that seahorses clean out their systems pretty thoroughly every single day between their last meal of the previous day and their first meal of the next. It’s certainly a good idea to allow them adequate time to digest between feedings, but there is really no need to purge them completely once a week by fasting them altogether. So you needn’t feel guilty if you want to try providing your seahorses with a meal of empty calories once a week, that will protect them just as well from hepatic lipidosis, instead of fasting them out right.

Besides easing the guilty conscience that can result from ignoring your seahorses’ begging on fast days, providing them with a meal of unenriched adult Artemia, whose nutritional diet was virtually nil, has a couple of other worthwhile benefits for the seahorse keeper. For one thing, providing occasional meals of live prey is good behavioral enrichment for our seahorses. As you know, I feel Hippocampus is intelligent enough to become bored or jaded in captivity at times, and for this reason I think it’s important to provide them with a change of pace and liven things up for them once in a while. Imagine how tiresome it would be if you had to eat the same thing for every meal day after day for the rest of your life. No matter how nutritious the meals may be, dining on the same thing every day would eventually make your meal times pretty uninteresting. The handfeeding sessions I engage in with my seahorses help to break up the daily routine, and I also try to provide my seahorses with live foods regularly so they have an opportunity to experience the thrill of the hunt and the chase once in a while as they do in the wild.

Secondly, I believe it’s a good idea to get your seahorses accustomed to eating adult brine shrimp on occasion so that they will accept it readily if it ever becomes necessary to bioencapsulate medications to treat an ailment of some sort. For instance, the easiest way to administer antibiotics orally is by bioencapsulating or gutloading them in live shrimp, which are then fed to the seahorses. I prefer adult brine shrimp (Artemia spp.) for this for a number of reasons. For one thing, adult Artemia are inexpensive and readily available to the home hobbyist. Secondly, soaking live adult brine shrimp in a solution of the antibiotics is by far the simplest and most convenient way to bioencapsulate antibiotics. Thirdly, a much wider range of medications are effective when bio-encapsulated in live brine shrimp and ingested than can be used effectively as bath treatments for marine fish. I have found that domesticated seahorses in general, and Ocean Rider seahorses in particular, are often so fond of the frozen Mysis they are accustomed to eating that they will turn up their snouts at adult brine shrimp and ignore them. By offering them adult brine shrimp on their fast days when they are hungriest, they will usually accept the adult Artemia quite readily and will not balk at eating it when I want to get them to ingest a particular medication.

So nowadays, rather than fasting my seahorses, I offer them a meal with a nutritional value that’s virtually nil instead: unenriched, unfed adult brine shrimp. As you can imagine, brine shrimp in this condition have very little fat content and should be considered nutritionally barren for all intents and purposes. Feeding them the brine shrimp a fun alternative to fast days that I feel is far easier on the hobbyist and his pampered pets alike.

So once a week, instead of depriving my seahorses, I now serve them up a generous portion of unenriched adult brine shrimp. They get the thrill of hunting and eating live food and I get the fun of watching them chase after it. Instead of going hungry, my seahorses get to fill up on empty calories, while I get to avoid a guilty conscience. It’s a win-win situation. Everybody’s happy.

It’s a neat way of "fasting with a full belly," which I feel is healthy for the seahorses in more ways than one. Not only does it help guard against hepatic lipidosis from a high-fat diet, it also provides a little extra excitement for the seahorses and helps improve their quality of life in captivity.

However, if you want to try this, it’s important to observe a couple of important precautions. Remember, there is always the chance that you can introduce disease into your aquarium along with the live brine shrimp. Live Artemia (brine shrimp) are known disease vectors for a long laundry list of fish pathogens, and should be treated with caution in that regard – especially if obtained from your local fish store (LFS). The aquarist who relies on live foods for his seahorses MUST take special precautions to eliminate this potential danger!

Fortunately, there are a couple of simple measures that can minimize such risks. If you raise your own brine shrimp, remember that decapsulating Artemia cysts, removes all known parasites and pathogens, effectively sterilizing brine shrimp eggs. Large public aquaria routinely go a step further, disinfecting live foods by administering a 10-minute freshwater bath and then rinsing it thoroughly through a 100-micron strainer before offering it to their seahorses. Home hobbyists should do the same (a brine shrimp net will suffice for the strainer). Brine shrimp — the chief offender as a disease vector — tolerate this disinfection process extremely well. Many of the preferred live foods, such as Red Feeder Shrimp from Hawaii (Halocaridina rubra), Post Larval Shrimp (PLS), brine shrimp (Artemia sp.) and live Mysis are now available from High-Health facilities, which greatly minimizes the risk of disease contamination, and seahorse keepers should take full advantage of these safe vendors when purchasing live foods.

So there is an entertaining way us seahorse lovers can avoid the fast-day blues, Oriana — just be sure to take sensible precautions when you do so! That’s why many seahorse keepers prefer to provide their ponies with unenriched adult brine shrimp, or similar live fodder, once a week rather than fasting them — it’s fun for both the seahorses and their owners, and does just as good a job of helping to prevent fatty liver disease.

As far as the lighting goes, it’s best to avoid metal halides when setting up a seahorse tank. In addition to providing high-intensity lighting, the metal halides also tend to generate a lot of heat, and as you know, heat stress can be very detrimental to seahorses. In addition, seahorses don’t like excessively bright light and they may go into hiding, seeking shaded areas amidst the rockwork, if the lighting is too intense for their comfort level. And the seahorses won’t look their best and brightest under metal halides because they will produce excess melanin (black pigment) in order to protect themselves against the harmful ultraviolet radiation they associate with intense light, and darken as a result. For instance, Jorge Gomezjurado reports "…I have exposed yellow seahorses to strong metal halide and they have turned black in few hours." So it would be a shame to display brightly colored seahorses under metal halide lighting in a small, close system aquarium.

Hobbyists who can afford it report that the new Solaris LED Illumination System is a much better alternative for a seahorse reef than metal halide lighting. The Solaris LEDs can provide the spectrum of light and intensity you need without the same concerns regarding overheating, and that’s a huge plus for the seahorse keeper. Aside from generating less heat, they also provide very considerable energy savings and the longevity of the LED is also superior to metal halide lamps. Best of all, the flexibility and adjustability of the Solaris LED Illumination System allows you to independently set the lights to duplicate sunrise, daylight, cloud cover, sunset, and even the lunar cycle. They certainly are costly, but those are all wonderful advantages over the conventional metal halide lighting, particularly for seahorses. I have never had occasion to try the Solaris lighting system as of yet, but it certainly does sound like it would work very well for seahorses.

And power compact lighting would certainly also be a good choice for a setup such as yours, Oriana. I like them because they allow me to provide my seahorses with a natural day/night period that includes twilight periods at "sunrise" and "sunset." To accomplish this, I like the power compact (PC) light fixtures that include two tubes — one actinic and one daylight fluorescent — with dual ballasts so that each ballast can be placed on a separate automatic timer. I like to have the bluish actinic come on before the daylight tubes and stay on after the daylights go off, thereby providing a simulated dusk and dawn (Giwojna, unpublished text). This is important for seahorses since they conduct most of their courting and breeding in the early morning hours under twilight conditions. It’s a neat effect and fish and invertebrates can then anticipate "lights out" rather than being plunged into total darkness at night or suddenly thrust into bright light in the morning. I also adjust the timers to lengthen or shorten the daylight periods in accordance with the changing seasons. I find that maintaining a natural cycle this way aids reproduction (Giwojna, unpublished text). Of course, the Solaris LED Illumination System can accomplish the same thing, only even better, and duplicate a far greater range of lighting conditions to boot, but the power compacts can simulate somewhat similar effects at a much lower cost.

Basically, I find PC lighting to be a good compromise for a seahorse system. Power compacts provide plenty of light for macroalgae or the seahorse-safe soft corals in a modified reef system without being too bright or generating too much heat, and the dual ballast system allows for a natural day/night rhythm that changes with the seasons. The resulting dusk and dawn facilitate courtship and help the seahorses maintain a natural reproductive cycle (Giwojna, unpublished text).

But VHO lighting would also be acceptable as long as overheating does and become an issue, so stick with what ever you prefer other than the metal halides.

The moolights are fine idea and a wide variety of them are available that are easy to install on any aquarium. Seahorses in particular often appreciate the moon lighting and respond positively to it. Mating in some seahorses with pelagic fry is synchronized to coincide with the highest tides (hence moon phases), so the moon lights make even help stimulate breeding as they are said to do with some types of corals.

There is quite an assortment of moonlights available at this time and you can basically get a moonlighting system that’s as simple or as sophisticated as you want. It all depends on your personal preferences and how thick your wallet is. You can get special moon lights that come mounted in their own reflector or hood along with other daylight lighting fixtures. These units can get a little pricey, however.

But there are also plenty of inexpensive moon light modules available, which are designed to be easily mounted or retrofitted to your existing aquarium hood, canopy, or light fixture. They generally consist of one or more LEDs (light emitting diodes) in a compact unit with their own power source. They LEDs usually come in color such as blue or white and are quite affordable. You simply mount as many modules as you need, depending on the length and depth of your aquarium to create the desired effect.

Here is a site with good information on moon lights in general. However, please understand that by referring you to this site, I am not endorsing any particular brand(s) or model of moonlights over any other — this site just includes good info that may help answer some of your questions:

Click here: Reef Show Central – MOONLIGHTS: facts-instructions products
http://reefshow.com/html/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=108

Best of luck setting up your 135-gallon reef ready aquarium and optimizing it for seahorses, Oriana! If you contact me off list ([email protected]), I will provide you with some additional suggestions for aquascaping the aquarium and go over which of the corals are safe for seahorses and which should be avoided when you are ready to stock the aquarium.

Happy Trails!
Pete Giwojna


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