Re:popeye tail rot

#3854
Pete Giwojna
Guest

Dear rosenkid:

Thanks for the update. It’s good to hear that your seahorse is still going strong and seems to be on the road to recovery at last.

I think you are correct about the loss of appetite — most likely the seahorse’s vision was impaired as a result of the bilateral Exopthalmia and it wasn’t able to target its prey properly until its eyes had recovered sufficiently. It’s very encouraging that the seahorse is now eating voraciously again. That’s always a good sign and it will help the seahorse to build up its strength again.

It sounds like you detected the tail rot in its initial stages and that it is responding well to treatment. It’s great to hear that the seahorse is using its tail normally again, but I would continue the treatments until the whitening on its tail has cleared up entirely and there are no longer any symptoms of tail rot whatsoever. It can be a stubborn infection that often requires two or three weeks of treatment to fully resell.

A progressive loss of prehensility and increasing discoloration beginning at the tip of the tail are the initial stages of tail rot or white tail disease. It often affects the most distal portions of the tail first, where the oxygen tension is lowest and the circulation is the poorest, which seems to make the tail tip particularly susceptible to such infections.

Here is an excerpt on tail rot from my new book (Complete Guide to the Greater Seahorses in the Aquarium, unpublished):

White Tail Disease (Tail Rot)

As you might expect, this problem is due to an infection that attacks the tails of seahorses. The tip of the tail typically turns white and, as the infection spreads, the whiteness moves progressively up the tail and ulcers or open sores begin to form where the skin peels away (Giwojna, Oct. 2003).

Hobbyists usually refer to this problem as Tail Rot or White Tail Disease, but the disease is already well advanced by the time whitening or tissue erosion occurs (Giwojna, Oct. 2003). Early detection makes it much easier to get these infections under control. Some of the early indicators of a tail infection to watch for are discussed below.

The disease begins with a loss of prehensility in the very tip of the tail (Giwojna, Oct. 2003). At this stage, the seahorses can grasp large objects just fine, but cannot take hold of slender objects with a small diameter (Leslie Leddo, pers. com.). Next the loss of prehensility spreads further up the tail and the seahorses begin to act as if their tails are very tender and sensitive. They will drape their tails over objects rather than grasping onto them and begin to drag their tails behind themselves, often arching the end of their tail upward in the shape of "U" (rather than the usual "J" or tight coil) as if to lift it off the ground and keep it from touching anything (Leddo, pers. com.).

This is usually when the tip of the tail becomes white and the loss of coloration starts advancing further and further up the tail (Giwojna, Oct. 2003). At this point, the discolored skin begins to flake or lift up and open wounds and ulcers develop on the most distal portions of the tail (Giwojna, Oct. 2003). The infection attacks the underlying tissues, and the tail is gradually eaten away, often all the way to the bone, exposing the vertebrae (hence the name Tail Rot). Survivors may end up missing the last few segments of their tail (Giwojna, Oct. 2003).

White tail disease is highly contagious disease. I have seen it often in temperate seahorse species suffering from heat stress, as well as in crowded nursery tanks where it spreads through the fry like wildfire (Giwojna, Oct. 2003).

Infected seahorses should be treated with antibiotics in isolation at the first sign of a loss of prehensility in the tip of their tails (otherwise the antibiotics may harm the biofilter in your main tank, creating more problems). There are a few treatment options to consider. Feeding the seahorses with live shrimp that have been gut-loaded or bio-encapsulated with tetracycline/oxytetracycline or minocycline sometimes produces good results (Giwojna, Oct. 2003).

But the treatment I recommend is gradually dropping the temperature of the aquarium, hitting the infection hard with broad-spectrum antibiotics in a hospital tail, and administering Beta Glucan orally to stimulate the seahorse’s immune system and help the affected seahorse fight off the infection.

Neosulfex and Neo3 — both broad-spectrum antibiotics consisting of neomycin combined with sulfa compounds to produce a potent synergistic combination of antibacterials — are the antibiotics available to hobbyists that seem to work best for tail rot. Unfortunately, both of these combo antibiotics have recently become unavailable.

In their absence, most hobbyists have been getting similar results by creating their own version of these medications by combining neomycin sulfate with various sulfa compounds. One that seems to work well is combining neomycin sulfate with triple sulfa. You may be able to get neomycin sulfate and triple sulfa compound at a well-stock LFS. If not, you can obtain both neomycin sulfate powder and triple sulfa powder from National Fish Pharmaceuticals. You can order them online at the following site: http://www.fishyfarmacy.com/products.html

Kanamycin sulfate used alone or in conjunction with neomycin sulfate would also be an excellent choice for treating tail rot. Both of these antibiotics are often available at pet shops and fish stores, and they can both be obtained from National Fish Pharmaceuticals as well.

As I mentioned above, tetracycline in oxytetracycline can be effective treatments for tail rot when they are administered orally. However, they are useless as bath treatments for marine fishes. This is because calcium and magnesium bind to tetracycline and oxytetracycline, rendering them inactive (Roy Yanong, US Department of Agriculture). Adding tetracycline or oxytetracycline to saltwater in a hospital tank is therefore completely ineffective (Yanong, USDA), which is why such treatments have not proven to be useful for Katja.

Reducing the water temperature in the hospital tank will further increase the effectiveness of the antibiotics and help your seahorse recover faster. <Close quote>

Since your seahorse has been responding well to treatment with the Maracyn and Maroxy, I would continue medicating him just as you have been doing until his tail returns to normal. There shouldn’t be any toxic aftereffects from these medications the way you are using.

Best of luck with the remaining treatments, rosenkid! Here’s hoping your seahorse’s tail is completely healed before you know it. keep up the great work!

Respectfully,
Pete Giwojna


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