Re:seahorse with oozing white sore

#5119
Pete Giwojna
Guest

Dear Dennis:

I am very sorry to hear about the problem you’re having with one of your Hippocampus erectus seahorses. Judging from your description, it sounds like the seahorse has developed a pyrogranulatomous infection of the skin or subcutis, which has now abscessed and broken through the skin, forming a draining fistulous tract. In simple terms, sir, the seahorse has developed an abscess that has broken through the skin and is now draining. The cheesy white exudate is a heavy, puslike secretion. It is a good thing for the affected seahorse that the abscess traveled outward, broke through the skin, and drained, rather than traveling inward and possibly impacting internal organs.

Normally, this type of infection is encountered as a sporadic, isolated incident, and is not highly contagious, but with the abscess draining into the aquarium water, it is possible that all of the seahorses may have been exposed. As long as the affected seahorse and its tankmates are all eating well, I would recommend administering antibiotics to the seahorses orally via gutloaded feeder shrimp. That will allow you to treat the seahorses in the main tank where they are most comfortable without disrupting the nitrifying bacteria that provide biological filtration. (Since all of the seahorses have likely been exposed to the drainage by now, I would treat them all with the oral antibiotics in order to help assure that the healthy seahorses remain unaffected.)

The best way to administer antibiotics orally is by bioencapsulating or gutloading them in live shrimp, which are then fed to the seahorses. The easiest way to gutload antibiotics is to bioencapsulate them in live adult brine shrimp (Artemia spp.), as described below. The recommended dosage of antibiotic for this varies between 100-250 mg per liter or about 400-1000 mg per gallon of water. Stay within that range and you should be all right.

If the antibiotic you are using comes in tablet form, crush it into a very fine powder (you may have to use a household blender to get it fine enough) and dissolve it in freshwater at the dosage suggested above. Soak the adult shrimp in freshwater treated with the antibiotic for at least 15-30 minutes and then feed the medicated shrimp to your seahorses immediately. (Don’t let your pumps and filters "eat" all the brine shrimp!)

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.

The antibiotic I would recommend for this purpose in this case is kanamycin sulfate, as explained below:

Kanamycin Sulfate Powder (Kana-Pro)

USE: gram-negative bacteria and resistant forms of piscine tuberculosis (mycobacteria). Works especially well in saltwater aquariums.

DOSAGE: 1/4 teaspoon per 20 gallons of water. Treat every 24 hours with a 25% water change before each treatment. Treat for 10 days. (For tuberculosis, use for up to 30 days.)

Kanamycin sulfate is available online without a prescription from National Fish Pharmaceuticals at the following URL:

http://www.fishyfarmacy.com/products.html

CAUTION: Do not add kanamycin sulfate directly to the aquarium water in your main tank, Dennis, or it will destroy the beneficial bacteria that carry out biological filtration in the aquarium. If you’ll be treating the seahorses in the main tank, be sure to administer the kanamycin orally via gutloaded adult brine shrimp.

Gutloading the adult brine shrimp in freshwater has several advantages, Dennis. First of all, it disinfects the brine shrimp (the osmotic shock in going from concentrated saltwater to freshwater will kill off any protozoan parasites the brine shrimp may have been carrying). Secondly, the freshwater increases the effectiveness of the gutloading process by allowing some of the medication to enter the body of the brine shrimp via osmosis. And gutloading the adult brine shrimp in freshwater saves the hobbyist from having to mix up fresh saltwater every day in order to medicate the adult Artemia. Just use dechlorinated/detoxified freshwater as described above, and everything should go smoothly. But the most important reason that you gutload the adult brine shrimp in freshwater is that some medications will be deactivated in saltwater because of the pH and mineral content, and rendered useless if you attempted to bioencapsulate the medication in adult brine shrimp that are in saltwater.

I would feed your seahorses their fill of adult brine shrimp gutloaded with kanamycin once a day for up to 30 days, depending on how well the abscess heals. Gutload a new portion of the adult brine shrimp each day for the seahorse’s first feeding of the day when they are the most hungry.

It is impossible to determine precisely what dosage of medication each individual fish ingests when gutloading, but the kanamycin is very safe and you really cannot overdose a seahorse using this method of treatment. Feeding each seahorse its fill of shrimp gut-loaded with kanamycin for at least 10 days assures that they will receive an effective dose of the medication. As long as each seahorse is getting its share of the medicated brine shrimp every day during the treatment period, you needn’t be concerned if one of the ponies is eating more than the others.

In short, Dennis, the feeder shrimp I find that work best for gutloading or bioencapsulating medications are adult brine shrimp (Artemia species). As you know, I prefer adult brine shrimp (Artemia spp.) for gutloading for a number of reasons. For one thing, adult Artemia are inexpensive and readily available to the home hobbyist. Secondly, soaking live adult brine shrimp in a solution of the medication in freshwater is by far the simplest and most convenient way to bioencapsulate meds, as we have discussed previously. Thirdly, a much wider range of medicines are effective when bio-encapsulated in live brine shrimp than can be used effectively as bath treatments for marine fish because they adult brine shrimp tolerate freshwater so well while they are been gutloaded.

Bioencapsulating the adult brine shrimp in freshwater thus greatly increases the range of antibiotics you can use for gutloading. Many antibiotics are ineffective when used as baths in saltwater because they don’t dissolve well in hard water at a pH > 8.0, or aren’t absorbed well through the skin and gills of fish, or because they combine with the carbonates in saltwater and are thus rendered inactive (tetracycline, for example), or all of the above. That is why the marine dose for most antibiotics is much stronger than the dosage recommended for use in freshwater, but increasing the dosage only partially counteracts these problems.

Soaking the brine shrimp in freshwater well they are bio-encapsulated with the medication also disinfects the adult brine because the osmotic shock in going from full strength saltwater to the freshwater kills any protozoan parasites the Artemia may have been carrying. And it increases the effectiveness of the gutloading because it allows some of the medication to move into the bodies of the adult brine shrimp via osmosis, assuring that they take up more of the medication.

Hopefully, you can obtain live adult brine shrimp from one of your local pet shops, Dennis. If not, it can be ordered inexpensively from Doctors Foster & Smith, and have them delivered directly to your door (see the following URL):

http://www.liveaquaria.com/product/prod_display.cfm?c=830+2190+2792&pcatid=2792

In addition to administering kanamycin via gutloaded adult brine shrimp for up to 30 days, Dennis, I would also recommend adding Vitamin B6 to your aquarium water for best results. Just use ordinary vitamin B6 for human use obtained from your health food store or drugstore. The correct dosage is approximately 1 mg of the vitamin B6 per gallon of water in the aquarium. Crush the appropriate amount of the tablets to a fine powder and dissolve them in the treatment tank. The vitamin B6 is added only once, but should be redosed after you make water changes (again for up to 30 days).

Finally, sir, when the abscess has finished training (i.e., there is no more white, cheesy exudate, just an empty, sunken dry hole again) I would also suggest treating the hole with the white ring around it topically with BioBandage, as explained below (instructions courtesy of Ann at the org):

BIOBANDAGE POWDER Dosage and Preparation Instructions for Topical Application
Active Ingredient: Neomycin Sulfate
Indication: open external lesions
Note: Shake vigorously before use to evenly distribute the dry ingredients that may have partially
segregated during shipping. Never handle fish with dry hands, always sanitize hands before and after
handling. Gloves are recommended.
Supplies: Have a pint of clean tap or bottled water ready before proceeding.
• Catch the seahorse in your hand allowing it to curl its tail around your finger and settle down before
starting. Raise the seahorse so the damaged area is out of the water.
• Working quickly and carefully, first clean the wound with a clean cotton-tip swab, cotton ball or paper
toweling wrapped around a finger.
• Partially dry the wound taking care to not damage adjacent healthy skin..
• Rinse the cleaned area with the tap or bottled water, then pat (not rub) the rinsed area with a dry swab,
cotton ball, or paper towel to remove excess water. Please note that the cleaned area MUST remain
moist.
• Hold the bottle of Bio-Bandage Powder at about a 45° angle to the seahorse’s body and puff enough
powder onto the cleaned area to completely cover the wound and some of the surrounding tissue. DO
NOT put more powder onto the area than is needed to form a flat patch. DO NOT create a mound of
powder . DO NOT allow the tip to get wet or come in contact with fish’s seahorse’s body.
• Gently lower your hand holding the treated seahorse into the water and allow the patch to become
completely wet (hydrated).
• Allow the seahorse to rest in your hand with little movement to assure that the gelled patch has time to
bond with the treated area as long as possible.
• Apply at least every 24 hours as needed.

BIOBANDAGE GEL Dosage and Preparation Instructions for Topical Application
Active Ingredient: Neomycin Sulfate
Indication: open external lesions
• Working quickly and carefully, first clean the wound with a clean cotton-tip swab, cotton ball or paper
towel wrapped around a finger; partially dry the wound taking care to not damage adjacent healthy skin.
• Apply enough gel to the cleaned and dried area to completely cover the wound and some surrounding
tissue.
• Gently return the treated seahorse to the water; allow the seahorse to rest with little movement to assure
that the mass of the gel stays in contact with the wound for as long as possible.
Please note that the seahorse should not be held out of the water more than 30 to 60 seconds . (Non-air
breathing fish such as seahorses begin suffocating as soon as they are removed from the water). It is
necessary to work quickly and efficiently, and it may be necessary for two or more people to assist.

Bio-Bandage is available online from the following vendor:

http://www.seahorsesource.com/cgi-bin/shop/search.cgi?&category=Medications

Okay, sir, those are my thoughts regarding how to treat this problem. If possible, I would also like to see the digital photographs you mentioned to confirm that this is indeed a pyrogranulatomous infection that is now draining through a fistula, Dennis, and you can send them via e-mail to the following address: [email protected]

Best of luck resolving this problem quickly, Dennis.

Respectfully,
Pete Giwojna


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