Re:Need first aid!

Pete Giwojna

Dear Seagazer:

When you say your female is having horrible buoyancy problems and difficulties staying upright, do you mean that she is positively buoyant — the tendency to float — or negatively buoyant, struggling against the tendency to sink?

If her swollen tail is positively buoyant, the tendency of her tail to float upwards would certainly upset her equilibrium and cause difficulty swimming. That can sometimes happen due to Gas Bubble Syndrome (GBS) when extravascular gas bubbles grow deep within the tissue of the tail, rather than just beneath the skin as in subcutaneous emphysema or tail bubbles. Such a problem could also account for the lameness or loss of prehensility in her tail. Deep-seated gas emboli can put pressure on key nerves, resulting in the loss of motor control of the affected muscles. This type of paralysis is often temporary, and can be reversed when the gas emboli are resorbed.

If that’s the case, treatment with Diamox (the tablet form of acetazolamide) would be appropriate, and I would recommend administering the medication orally via gut-loaded or injected shrimp for best results. How is her appetite? Is she still able to feed?

If her tail is swollen, but not positively buoyant, that could be the result of a serious infection, such as vibriosis. Some Vibrio infections start out as a swollen tail, which may have a discolored spot(s) or lump(s), which become scabrous and develop into ulcers or lesions as the condition progresses. Inflammation and edema from the infection causes the tail to swell, and the affected area of the tail may become so irritated and tender that the seahorse refuses to use it to grasp objects.

If that’s the case and her tail is infected, the appropriate treatment would be to reduce the water temperature, administer beta-glucan orally as an immunostimulant, and treat the seahorse aggressively with antibiotics (preferably chloramphenicol or Chloromycetin) in isolation.

Another possibility is that her buoyancy problems are due to a malfunction of her swim bladder, and that her tail problem is simply due to a mechanical injury of some sort, as you suggest in your e-mail. Hyperinflation of the swimbladder causes positive buoyancy, whereas an underinflated swimbladder results in negative buoyancy. Such swim bladder problems are often associated with digenes or other parasites that infest the gas bladder. In that case, treatment for endoparasites with antiparasitics such as metronitazole or praziquantel would be appropriate.

If you can give me a little more information about her condition and the nature of her buoyancy problems, and whether or not her swollen tail itself appears to be buoyant, we can narrow down the treatment options and better determine the best course of treatment. Please get back to me as soon as possible and include your current aquarium parameters in your follow-up e-mail.

Pete Giwojna

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