Re:Infected seahorse tail tip

Pete Giwojna

Dear Douglas:

I’m very sorry to hear about the tail infection that your large male Hippocampus erectus seahorse has developed but I want to assure you that you did the right thing by isolating the seahorse and beginning antibiotic therapy. The bacteria that are most often associated with tail rot and other tail infections in Hippocampus are species of Vibrio and Pseudomonas, which are highly contagious and extremely virulent in most cases. One day’s treatment with antibiotics is not nearly sufficient and it is very important to protect the rest of your herd from being exposed to the infectious bacteria. Nor can you treat the affected seahorse in the main tank because the antibiotics would disrupt the biological filtration and create water quality problems that would threaten all of the aquarium inhabitants.

You might consider purchasing an inexpensive five or 10-gallon glass aquarium to use for your hospital tank and positioning it nearby the main tank, so that the large male with the tail infection will still be in visual contact with his friends and the rest of your herd in the adjacent main tank. Just be very careful to avoid cross-contamination between the two nearby aquariums.

I would continue treating your male in isolation with the neomycin plus triple sulfa, which have a synergistic effect when used together, but ignore the instructions regarding the recommended dosage that comes with the neomycin. For bacterial infections such as this, neomycin is dosed at 250mg per gallon (or 2500mg per 10 gallons) and the treatment regimen needs to be maintained for at least 10 days.

This is a prolonged immersion dose — you dose it ONCE at 250 mg per gallon then replace the meds in ratio with the water changes to keep a constant level in the water as opposed to following OTC recommendations.

For example:

Day one: 250 mg per gallon
Day two: 50% water change, then add 50% of the original dose (125mg per gallon, or 1250mg for a 10 gallon)
Days three to ten: repeat water change and re-dose in the same way as day two.

BioBandage and other topical treatments will not be sufficient to treat a problem like this in and of themselves, Douglas. The danger is that the infection is going to spread internally and result in sepsis (bacterial septicemia), which can kill the seahorse very quickly. You need to get antibiotics into the infected animal and not simply treat the superficial external wound with topical treatments.

I would not recommend returning the affected seahorse to the main tank with the rest of your herd until its tail has healed completely.

Best of luck resolving this infection, Douglas.

Pete Giwojna

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