Re:Persistent problem with positive buoyancy

Pete Giwojna

Dear KC:

Okay, I would certainly have the exotics’ vet go ahead and administer the ceftazidime injection regardless of whether or not he has access to the injectable form of acetazolamide as well.

If Jasper’s positive buoyancy problems are due to a hyperinflated swimbladder, there are two relatively simple techniques that you may consider to provide him with some quick relief. The first of these is to perform a needle aspiration to manually remove some of the excess gas from the swimbladder, but this is an invasive procedure and if the vet has never done such a procedure before, you may want to consider the second alternative instead, KC. Pressurizing the seahorse at depth can be equally effective if you have a tank available that is sufficiently deep. The increased hydrostatic pressure at depth will compress the swimbladder and cause it to shrink accordingly, and the change in water pressure will also trigger the heavily vascularized oval in the swimbladder to begin resorbing excess gas.

The effectiveness of the latter technique is largely dependent upon the water depth you can achieve. Professional aquarists who use this method for treating gas bubble syndrome will typically immerse the affected seahorse at depths of anywhere from 10 feet to 35 feet for one or two days in order to achieve the desired results. In general, the greater the water depth at which the seahorse can be immersed, the more effective the pressurization process will be and the shorter the duration of time it needs to be maintained.

Very little research has been done to determine how deep a seahorse needs to be pressurized and for what duration in order to achieve the best results, but anecdotal reports suggest that even as little as 36-40 inches of water depth can be helpful in some cases. The affected seahorse is usually confined within a small flow-through enclosure which can be lowered to the bottom of a tall tank in order for the increased water pressure to naturally shrink and deflate the swimbladder.

If you do not have a sufficiently deep tank or container in order to try pressurizing the seahorse, then you may certainly consider having the aquatic vet perform a needle aspiration to manually remove the excess gas instead, KC.

Manually deflating the swimbladder is accomplished much like a needle aspiration, except the needle is inserted into the gas bladder rather than the pouch. This is how Dr. Marty Greenwell from the shed aquarium describes this procedure in the 2005 Seahorse Husbandry Manual:

"If a hyperinflated swimbladder is suspected, a bright light can be directed from behind the animal to visualize the location and borders of the distended organ. This is useful when attempting to deflate the bladder. The needle should be directed between the scute/plate margins for ease of penetration through the skin. The external area can be rinsed with sterile saline or a drop of triple antibiotic up all my appointments can be applied prior to penetration."

The seahorse’s swimbladder is a large, single-chambered sac that begins in the band of its neck and extends 1/3 of the length of its body cavity along the dorsal surface. It’s a large organ so if you can visualize it clearly using a bright light from behind the seahorse (just like candling an egg), and releasing some of the gas to partially deflate the swimbladder is fairly straightforward and uncomplicated.

If you contact me off list by e-mail, KC, I will send you some good illustrations of the internal anatomy of the seahorse which show the location of the swimbladder or gas bladder, so that you can print them out and share them with the exotics’ veterinarian so he will have a better idea of how to proceed. You can reach him at the following e-mail address any time:

[email protected]

Best of luck restoring Jasper to neutral buoyancy again, KC.

Pete Giwojna, Ocean Rider Tech Support

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