Re:Seahorse not eating

#3373
Pete Giwojna
Guest

Dear Don:

I’m sorry to hear that your Brazilian seahorse (Hippocampus reidi) is not her usual self. H. reidi can be finicky eaters at times, but if she is exhibiting other symptoms such as increased respiration and decreased activity, and you lost another seahorse two weeks ago which exhibited similar symptoms, then I wouldn’t take any chances this time.

This could be a problem with gilt flukes or gill parasites and I would suggest transferring her to a hospital tank and treating her with hyposalinity (osmotic shock therapy) combined with antibiotics to combat possible secondary infections. Treating her in your hospital tank will allow you to better regulate the specific gravity, which is very important for properly administering hyposalinity or OST, and assure that your seahorse does not have to compete with any tankmates for food while you keep her eating by tempting her with her favorite live foods. It would also facilitate gradually dropping the temperature of the treatment tank, which can slow the growth of protozoan parasites and especially bacterial infections.

The best way to administer hyposalinity is to adjust the the water in the hospital tank to the desired specific gravity, and the same temperature and pH as the main tank, and then transfer the affected seahorse directly to the hospital tank with no acclimation whatsoever. If you have an accurate, reliable instrument for measuring the salinity or specific gravity, such as a refractometer, adjust the specific gravity to 1.011-1.012, but if you are relying on a less precise floating hydrometer or swing-arm hydrometer, shoot for a safer specific gravity of 1.015, as discussed below:

CAUTION! When administering hyposalinity to seahorses, be very careful as you add the freshwater when you approach the target salinity. You do NOT want to overshoot the mark and drop the salinity too far! Seahorses tolerate low salinity very well up to a certain point, but they cannot withstand salinities below 13.3 ppt (specific gravity = 1.010) indefinitely. Salinities below 1.010 may be fatal to seahorses in a matter of days, if not hours.

In the olden days, many attempts were made to gradually convert seahorses from saltwater to freshwater. Hippocampus erectus tolerated these experiments splendidly all the way down to specific gravity of 1.010, but when the salinity was dropped any further, the seahorses all perished (Bellomy, 1969, p7). These experiments were repeated with several groups of seahorses representing different subspecies of erectus, and the results were always the same: fine as low as 1.010 — defunct at 1.009 (Bellomy, 1969, p7)!

Keeping that in mind, it is best to make your target salinity 1.011-1.012 to allow a margin for error. And when you subsequently transfer the ailing H. reidi from the full strength salinity in your main tank to the hyposalinity in the hospital tank to the main tank, the parasites will be subjected to the greatest possible osmotic shock, leaving them no chance at all to adjust to change in osmotic pressure.

To be safe and effective, administering hyposalinity requires the use of an accurate method for measuring salinity/specific gravity such as a refractometer. If you will be relying on a pet-store hydrometer for your readings, you may wish to consider alternate treatments rather than OST. If you do decide to try hyposalinity using a hydrometer, please observe the following precautions:

Be aware of the temperature at which your hydrometer was calibrated and make full use of conversion charts to adjust your readings based on the actual temperature of the water aquarium water.

Make your target salinity 20 ppt (specific gravity = 1.015) to allow for a greater margin for error.

Hyposalinity or OST is completely compatible with most medications. (In fact, many medications are more effective at low salinity than they are in full strength saltwater.) Since secondary bacterial or fungal infections often accompany parasite problems, I always recommend combining hyposalinity in the hospital tank with antibiotic therapy. In that case, simply medicating the hospital tank with the appropriate antibiotics will be easier than administering the antibiotics orally via gut-loaded shrimp.

The medications I recommend using in conjunction with hyposalinity are either Furan2 or Parinox. Furan2 is a good combo medication that consist of two nitrofuran antibiotics (nitrofurazone and furazolidone) plus good old methylene blue. That gives it both bacteriostatic and bactericidal properties, and makes it active against various gram-negative and gram-positive bacteria.

The methylene blue component of the Furan2 is a specially helpful when ever seahorses are exhibiting symptoms of respiratory distress or rapid, labored breathing. Commonly known as "meth blue" or simply "blue," methylene blue 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. 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. However, methylene blue will destroy nitrifying bacteria so it should only be used in a hospital tank (if used in an established aquarium, it will impair the biological filtration and the tank may need to be cycled all over again).

Parinox would also be a good alternative for a case like this. It is a very potent antiparasitic that also kills protozoans and has antibacterial properties:

Parinox

USE: For Ich, hexamita, costia, ichthyophthirius, ectoparasites, monogenia, hirudinea, parasitic copepods, argulus, lernaea, anchor worms, fish lice, leeches. Also a protozoacide. Anti-bacterial, anti-parasitic, very wide spectrum.

DOSAGE: Use 1/4 teaspoon per 20 gallons. Treat once a week for 2 weeks. If water changes are done, add back the percentage of medication according to how much water was changed.

You can obtain Parinox online from National Fish Pharmaceuticals at the following URL:

Click here: Fish Medications
http://www.fishyfarmacy.com/products.html

As you can see, Parinox is effective against all of the ectoparasites and protozoan parasites that attack the gills and skin of fish. It’s a good medication to use in situations like this where were not sure exactly which parasites we may be dealing with Although Parinox is safe for seahorses and won’t impair your biofilter, it can be hard on crustaceans and certain invertebrates, so it’s best administered in the hospital tank.

Aside from eradicating gill flukes, monogenetic trematodes, and a wide range of protozoan ectoparasites, the hyposalinity will also help your H. reidi regain her strength and recover by making it easier for her to osmoregulate. This should further aid her breathing and reserve for remaining bodily resources for healing so that you need be concerned that she’s going to starve to death in the next few days. But it will still be vitally important to get her eating again nevertheless.

The best way to to do this is to provide some choice live foods to for your H. reidi to give her some badly needed nourishment. You’ve got to keep her strength up and give her a chance to recover before you can worry about weaning your reidi back onto frozen foods again. Hawaiian red feeder shrimp or volcano shrimp (Halocaridina rubra) are ideal for this — seahorses find them utterly irresistible! But anything that’s readily available — enriched adult brine shrimp, live ghost shrimp that are small enough to be swallowed, newborn guppies or mollies, Gammarus amphipods, copepods, you name it — is worth a try. Just get some good meals into her ASAP. Don’t worry about frozen foods for now — just get her eating again any way can.

In the meantime, while you are preparing the hospital tank at the proper specific gravity, you can administer a diagnostic freshwater dip to your H. reidi as a first aid measure, as described below:

Freshwater Dips

A freshwater dip is simply immersing your seahorse in pure, detoxified freshwater that’s been preadjusted to the same temp and pH as the water the seahorse is accustomed to, for a period of at least 10 minutes (Giwojna, Dec. 2003). It doesn’t harm them — seahorses typically tolerate freshwater dips exceptionally well and a 10-minute dip should be perfectly safe. Freshwater dips are effective because marine fish tolerate the immersion in freshwater far better than the external parasites they play host to; the change in osmotic pressure kills or incapacitates such microorganisms within 7-8 minutes (Giwojna, Dec. 2003). A minimum dip, if the fish seems to be doing fine, is therefore 8 minutes. Include some sort of hitching post in the dipping container and shoot for the full 10 minutes with your seahorses (Giwojna, Dec. 2003).

If you will be using tap water for the freshwater dip, be sure to dechlorinate it beforehand. This can be accomplished usually one of the commercial dechlorinators, which typically include sodium thiosulfate and perhaps a chloramine remover as well, or by aerating the tap water for at least 24 hours to dissipate the chlorine (Giwojna, Dec. 2003).

If you dechlorinate the dip water with a sodium thiosulfate product, be sure to use an airstone to aerate it for at least one hour before administering the dip. This is because the sodium thiosulfate depletes the water of oxygen and the dip water must therefore be oxygenated before its suitable for your seahorse(s). Regardless of how you detoxify the freshwater for the dip, it’s important to aerate the water in the dipping container well beforehand to increase the level of dissolved oxygen in the water. Many hobbyists leave the airstone in the dipping container throughout the procedure.

Adjusting the pH of the water in the dipping container so that it matches the pH of the water in the aquarium is a crucial step. Ordinary baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) will suffice for raising the pH of the water. If there is too much of a difference in the pH, there is a possibility the seahorse could go into shock during the dipping procedure. Preadjusting the pH will prevent that from happening. If you will are unsure about your ability to accurately adjust the pH in the dipping container, avoid this procedure altogether or be prepared to monitor the seahorse very carefully or shorten the duration of the tip to no more than about 4 minutes.

Observe the horse closely during the dip. You may see some immediate signs of distress or shock. Sometimes the horse will immediately lie on its side on the bottom. That’s a fairly common reaction — normal and to be expected, rather than a cause for concern, so don’t be alarmed if this happens. Just nudge or tap the seahorse gently with your finger if it lies down on its side. Normally, the seahorse will respond to the slight nudge by righting itself again and calm down for the duration of the dip. However, if it does not respond, stop the treatment.

Most seahorses tolerate the treatment well and experience no problems, but if you see continued signs of distress — twitching, thrashing around etc. — stop the treatment.

After you have completed the dip and returned the seahorses to the aquarium, save the dip water and examine it closely for any sign of parasites. The change in osmotic pressure from saltwater to freshwater will cause ectoparasites to lyse (i.e., swell and burst) or drop off their host after 7-10 minutes, and they will be left behind in the dipping water. Protozoan parasites are microscopic and won’t be visible to the naked eye, but some of the other ectoparasites can be clearly seen. For example, monogenetic trematodes will appear as opaque sesame seeds drifting in the water (Giwojna, Aug. 2003) and nematodes may be visible as tiny hairlike worms 1/16-3/16 of an inch long. Other parasites may appear as tiny dots in the water. Freshwater dips can thus often provide affected seahorses with some immediate relief by ridding them of these irritating pests and can also aid their breathing by flushing out gill parasites. And that makes a freshwater dip a good first aid measure for your H. reidi while you are preparing the proper conditions in the hospital tank, Don.

As Kris has mentioned, gradually dropping the temperature in the hospital tank will also be beneficial for your H. reidi. The reduced water temperature will slow down the growth rate of any pathogens or parasites the seahorse may be carrying as well as reducing your H. reidi’s metabolism. This will reduce the caloric intake she needs to keep going and and help conserve for bodily resources, thereby further reducing the risk of starvation while you work on restoring her appetite.

One simple way to drop the water temp in your hospital tank is to position a small fan so it blows across the surface of the water continually (Giwojna, Oct. 2003). This will lower the water temperature a several degrees via evaporative cooling (just be sure to top off the tank regularly to replace the water lost to evaporation). Leaving the cover/hood and light off on your seahorse tank in conjunction with evaporative cooling can make a surprising difference.

In a pinch, some hobbyists will even freeze plastic bottles 3/4 full of water and float the frozen bottles of water in their tank during the hottest part of the day. If necessary, that may worth trying in your case too, depending on how well your aquarium temp responds to the other measures.

Here are some additional suggestions on cooling down your aquarium from Renée at the org that you may also find helpful:

Some summer tips are:

· Use computer fans (you can wire them to AC adapters… we are making some this weekend for our tanks).

· Use a big ol clip-on-fan or a fan on a stand that you can set close. (Just be mindful of water evap.)

· Float ice containers in the tank (Use water/liquid that you wouldn’t care if it sprung a leak. Those blue lunch/picnic type cooling things are not acceptable IMO…. what if it leaks? It will kill everything. I would recommend using bottled ice water because it will stay frozen even longer than fresh water….. but if you do use fresh water make sure it is water you wouldn’t mind spilling into the tank…. good ole tap water is not acceptable.)

· If you have a hood or canopy on the tank…..keep it off or lifted.

· Cool down the room the tank is in by using a portable or window AC unit. The window units can be pretty cheap.

· If the sun really heats up this room, look into some window tinting. This is what I did when I lived in South Texas. It dropped the room temp TEREMENDOUSLY! (If ya wanna go the cheap method, foil was used in many windows in the city I lived in… wasn’t the prettiest method but it saved many people lives who lived in places without central AC and couldn’t afford well working window units.)

· Shorten your photoperiod…. if possible don’t have the lights on in the hottest past of the day. But at any rate, shorten the amount of hours the lights are on for.
HTH
Renée

When reducing the water temperature via evaporative cooling, I should also caution you to observe all the usual precautions to prevent shocks and electrical accident when you are using an electric fan or any other electrical equipment on your aquarium, Don.

One such precaution is to install an inexpensive titanium grounding probe in your aquariums. That will protect your seahorses and other wet pets from stray voltage and should also safeguard them electrocution in the event of a catastrophic heater failure or similar accident..

But the best way to protect you and your loved ones from electrical accidents around the fish room is to make sure all the outlets are equipped with Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters. And it’s a good idea to make sure all your electrical equipment is plugged into a surge protector as well to further protect your expensive pumps, filters, heaters, etc. from damage. Some good surge protectors, such as the Shock Busters, come with a GFCI built right into them so you can kill two birds with one stone. So when you set up your cooling fan(s) on the aquarium, be sure they’re plugged into a grounded outlet with a GFCI or a surge protector with GFCI protection.

While you are treating your H. reidi administering hyposalinity in the hospital tank, it would also be a good idea to tweak the aquarium parameters in your seahorse enclosure a bit, Don. If you can stabilize the water temperature in the 72°F-75°F range, that’s a step in the right direction, as well as bumping up the pH and notch or two. What sort of buffer have you been using, sir? Many hobbyists report good results using a two-part of our system consisting of an alkalinity component and a calcium component when they’re pH has been intractable. You’ll want to thin out that forest of Aiptasia rock anemones, too (more on that in a separate post)…

Also, considering the problems you’ve had recently with your H. barbouri and reidi, installing ultraviolet sterilizer on your seahorse enclosure might be a wise precaution.

Best of luck restoring your H. reidi’s appetite, Don. Here’s hoping she makes a full recovery. If you want to give the hyposalinity a try, just let me know and I will provide you with complete instructions for administering osmotic shock therapy safely and effectively, sir.

Respectfully,
Pete Giwojna


America's Only Seahorse Aqua-Farm and One of Hawaii's Most Popular Attractions

Ocean Rider seahorse farm is a consistent Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence Award Winner and "Top 10 Things To Do" Kona, Hawaii attraction. Our "Magical Seahorse Tours" are educational and fun for the whole family.

Tour tickets are available for Purchase On-Line. Space is limited and subject to availability.

small seahorse Ocean Rider, Inc. is an Organic Hawaiian-Based Seahorse Aqua-Farm & Aquarium that Follows Strict Good Farming Practices in Raising Seahorses and Other Aquatic Life.

Seahorse Hawaii Foundation

Inspiring ocean awareness by saving the endangered seahorse and sea dragons around the world from extinction through conservation, research, propagation, and education.

Help us save the seahorse and the coral reefs they live in with a tax deductible contribution to the Seahorse Hawaii Foundation. You will be helping to protect and propagate over 25 species of endangered seahorses, sea dragons and friends.

Make A Tax-Deductible Donation Today!

A Different Kind of Farm (Video) »

Ocean Rider Kona Hawaii

Ocean Rider Kona Hawaii
Seahorse Aqua-Farm & Tours

73-4388 Ilikai Place

Kailua Kona, Hawaii 96740

Map & Directions


808-329-6840

Contact Ocean Rider


Copyright ©1999-2023
All Rights Reserved | Ocean Rider Inc.

My Online Order Details

Purchase Policy

Site Terms and Conditions