Re:over fed? – help

Pete Giwojna

Dear Laurie:

Seahorses will typically darken in response to stress so the change in the coloration of your female golden seahorse is very likely an indication that she is out of sorts. But it’s difficult to say whether the problem is simply a bellyache or something more serious. Most of the time when a seahorse is plumped out like that it simply indicates that the seahorses is well fed. But that can also happen when there is a buildup of fluid (ascites) or gas (internal gas bubble syndrome) in the seahorse’s coelomic cavity or abdomen.

In the case of ascites, the buildup of fluid in the abdominal cavity tends to lead the seahorse with negative buoyancy (the tendency to sink), so that it will be laying or resting on the bottom, unable to swim normally and often unable to right itself and assume its normal upright posture. By contrast, when the bloated appearance of the seahorse is due to internal GBS, the buildup of gas within the abdominal cavity causes positive buoyancy problems for the seahorse, which tends to float as a result.

So if your female seahorse is plumped up but is not having buoyancy problems, and can swim normally when she wants to, my best guess is that she may simply have overindulged on the live feeder shrimp. Our seagoing gluttons don’t always know when to stop, particularly when hard-to-resist live foods are available, and it’s quite possible that if your female has gorged on 15-20 good sized grass shrimp or ghost shrimp over the last few days, her condition could be the result of pigging out on too many feeder shrimp. That could certainly leave the seahorse bloated and lethargic. (It’s been my experience that fish sitters always have an unfortunate tendency to overfeed, rather than underfeeding the fish.)

My best advice would be to fast your female seahorse for the next couple of days and see if she begins to slim down as she produces fecal pellets. Keep a close eye on her during this time for any signs of buoyancy problems — either negative or positive — and make sure that she is eliminating fecal pellets. (There is also a chance that she could have become constipated as a result of her change in diet while you were away.) If she recovers after being fasted for a day or two, that’s a pretty clear indication that she was simply dealing with a major tummyache and some indigestion as a result of over eating.

Best of luck with your seahorses, Laurie! Here’s hoping your golden girl is back to normal again and brightens up following a day or two of fasting.

Pete Giwojna

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