Re:NEWBIE SEAHORSE MOM

#4945
Pete Giwojna
Guest

Dear Liz:

I’m sorry to hear about the accident with your little male seahorse.

As you know, it’s always a concern when a seahorse is off its feed and it’s very difficult to say if your little guy was simply traumatized by the unfortunate incident and needs more time to recover or if there is something more serious going on. I am concerned that your seahorse may have injured its tail when it got sucked into the intake of the pump, and that a secondary bacterial or fungal lesion may set in at the site of injury. (There is relatively poor circulation to the most distal portion of the seahorse’s tail, which is therefore prone to injury and infection.)

In a case like this, I would recommend giving the seahorse a bath in formalin, followed by a quick 10-second dip in concentrated methylene blue, after which he can be returned to the main tank where he will be most comfortable in familiar surroundings and the company of the other seahorses. The formalin bath and dip in methylene blue will help to prevent or resolve any fungal infection at the site of the injured tail, and once the seahorse is back in the main tank, you can treat him prophylactically with antibiotics by offering him live adult brine shrimp that have been gutloaded with the medication beforehand. The live adult brine shrimp will tempt him to eat and hopefully get him feeding again, in addition to delivering the antibiotics internally, where they are most effective. I will provide you with instructions for all of these procedures below, Liz:

Formalin Baths

Formalin (HCHO) is basically a 37% solution of formaldehyde and water. It is a potent external fungicide, external protozoacide, and antiparasitic, and is thus an effective medication for eradicating external parasites, treating fungal lesions, and reducing the swelling from such infections. It is a wonder drug for treating cases of Popeye caused by trematodes, and also eradicates external nematodes.

In my experience, provided it is administered properly, seahorses tolerate treatment with formalin very well 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.] This is done every other day for 3 treatments.

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. 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:

Many commercial formalin products are readily available to hobbyists, such as Kordon’s Formalin 3, Formalin-F sold by Natchez Animal Supply, and Paracide-F, sold by Argent go to top Chemical Laboratories. Or whatever brand of formalin is available at your fish store should work fine, Pam.

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.

If you can obtain Formalin 3 from Kordon at your LFS, Liz, these are the instructions you should follow for your formalin dip:

METHOD 2 (DIP) FOR THE PREVENTION OR TREATMENT OF FISH DISEASES
(a) To a clean, non-metallic container (i.e., a plastic bucket), add one or more gallons of fresh tap water treated with Kordon’s AmQuel . For marine fish use freshly prepared saltwater adjusted to the same specific gravity (or salinity) as in the original tank. Make sure the temperature in the container is identical to that in the aquarium
(b) Add 1 teaspoons of Formalin·3. This produces a concentration of 100 ppm. formaldehyde.
(c) Agitate the solution with an airstone and adjust for a moderately strong flow of air.
(d) Remove the fishes to be treated and deposit them in the container for a treatment period of not more than 50 minutes. Immediately after the treatment period, or if signs of distress are noted, remove the fishes to a previously prepared recovery tank. The fishes may be returned to their original tank, but the presence of the original disease-causing agents in the tank water may result in a reoccurrence of the disease condition.
(e) Observe recovering fishes. Make sure that tankmates do not molest them during recovery.
(f) Repeat treatment as needed, every week. Each treatment is very stressful to the treated fishes. Do not reuse the dip solution.

For additional information on treating fishes with Formalin 3 by Kordon, see the following web page:

Click here: KPD-54 Formalin-3
http://www.novalek.com/kpd54.htm

If you get another brand of formalin, just follow the instructions that it comes with for a concentrated bath or dip (not prolonged immersion or a long-term bath) or follow the following directions, courtesy of Ann at the org:

FORMALIN Short-Term BATH Dosage and Preparation Instructions
Active Ingredient: 37% Formaldehyde
Indication: external parasites
Brand Names: Formalin, Formalin-MS
Notes:
1. Do NOT use Formalin that has a white residue at the bottom of the bottle. White residue
indicates the presence of Paraformaldehyde which is very toxic.
2. "Formalin 3" by Kordon contains only 3% Formaldehyde. Dosing instructions will need to be modified if using this product.
• Fill a small tank with aged, aerated, dechlorinated marine water. Match the pH, temperature, and salinity to that of the tank the Seahorse is currently in.
• Add an artifical hitch and 1-2 vigorously bubbling airlines. Formalin reduces dissolved O2 so heavy aeration is required.
• Add 1ml/cc of Formalin per one gallon (3.8 liters) of tank water. Allow several minutes for the Formalin to disperse.
• Place the Seahorse into the dip water for 45-60 minutes unless it is showing signs of an adverse reaction. If the Seahorse cannot tolerate the Formalin dip, immediately move it back to the hospital tank.
• Observe the Seahorse for 24hrs for signs of improvement.

Immediately before you do the formalin bath or right afterwards, before you return the seahorse to the main tank, I would also give him a very quick dip in concentrated methylene blue, as explained below, Liz:

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.

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.

After you have administered the formalin bath and very brief dip in concentrated methylene blue, Liz, return a little seahorse to the main tank where he will be comfortable and then you can concentrate on getting him to eat live adult brine shrimp, which have been medicated with antibiotics to guard against infection. The medication I would recommend for gut loading the adult brine shrimp is Furan2, which is readily available from many pet shops and local fish stores.

Here are the instructions for gut loading live adult brine shrimp with the Furan2, Liz (again courtesy of Ann at the org):

FURAN-BASED MEDS (oral) Dosage and Preparation Instructions for a 10g/38L Hospital Tank
Active Ingredients: Nitrofurazone and/or Furazolidone
Indication: bacterial infection
Brand Names: Furan-2, Furanase, Binox, BiFuran+, FuraMS, Furazolidone Powder
Feed adult brine shrimp gut-loaded with medication to the Seahorse 2x per day for 10 days.
• Add a small amount of the medication to one gallon of water and mix thoroughly.
• Place the amount of adult brine shrimp needed for one feeding into the mixture. Leave them in the mixture for at least 2hrs.
• Remove the adult brine shrimp from the mixture and add them to the hospital tank.
• Observe the Seahorse to be certain it is eating the adult brine shrimp.

There are a number of ways to gutload shrimp, Liz, but the one described below is one of the easiest and works great for me. I prefer live adult brine shrimp (Artemia sp.) since they are inexpensive, readily available, easy to bioencapsulate, and can be gut loaded in freshwater as described below.

The brine shrimp are soaked in freshwater, not saltwater, because in theory the increased osmotic pressure of the freshwater helps the antibiotic solution move into their bodies via osmosis. But in fact nobody knows for sure whether the antibiotic is diffusing into the brine shrimp or they are ingesting it in very fine particles (brine shrimp are filter feeders and will take in whatever is suspended in the water with them) or whether the brine shrimp merely become coated with the antibiotic while they are soaking in it. But that’s not important — all that really matters is that gut-loading adult brine shrimp with medications this way is effective. As an added benefit, gut loading the live adult brine shrimp in freshwater helps to disinfect them in the process.

Keep the seahorses on a strict diet of such medicated brine shrimp throughout the treatment period to get as much of the antibiotic into the seahorses as possible, and mix up a new batch of medicated freshwater to soak the brine shrimp in for each feeding. Feed the other seahorses in the aquarium their fill of frozen Mysis first, so the ailing seahorse will not have to compete with them too much for the tempting live brine shrimp, and temporarily turn off the aquarium pump or filter, if necessary. (You don’t want the pumps or filters to "eat" all of the live brine shrimp before the sick seahorse has a chance to get it. Just be very careful to turn the filter and pumps on again after the feeding!)

Hopefully, these measures will get your little seahorse eating again and prevent the injured area of his tail from becoming infected. Keep a very close eye on him in the meantime for the first signs of tail rot, which are a progressive loss of prehensility in the tail and progressive whitening of the tail tip. When tail rot sets in, the seahorse will first lose the ability to cling to small objects with the tip of its tail; later on, the tail will become very tender and the seahorse will refuse to use it to hitch at all. By that time the tail will have begun turning white, starting at the tip and moving upwards.

If you see any of these signs of tail rot, Liz, isolate the little seahorse at once and treat him with broad-spectrum antibiotics in your hospital tank.

Best of luck resolving this problem, Liz! Here’s hoping the little guy makes a full recovery and is soon none the worse for wear following his encounter with the pump.

Respectfully,
Pete Giwojna


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