Ocean Rider Seahorse Farm and Tours | Kona Hawaii › Forums › Seahorse Life and Care › Shy Boy › Re:Shy Boy
It’s good to hear that the diatom bloom is well under control, and that you’re new Brazilian seahorses (Hippocampus reidi) are thriving and eating aggressively. That’s encouraging because H. reidi have a reputation as finicky eaters, so it’s refreshing to find that yours are so voracious.
Your aquarium setup and the cleanup crew and tank inhabitants seem just fine. I don’t see anything amiss there that needs to be changed or corrected.
I’m not sure what to make of the shy seahorse that seems to be such a reluctant feeder. Since he is not showing any sign of trauma or parasites or respiratory distress, and he does not appear to be losing condition, I would not be overly concerned about his behavior ordinarily. I would just think that he needs more time to get adjusted to its new surroundings and suspect that he may be one of the secretive feeders that does not like to eat in the presence of the aquarist, but which may be grazing on natural fodder in the aquarium when he thinks it’s safe.
It’s quite common for new arrivals to display shy, secretive behavior. I have found that some of my seahorses, especially newly acquired specimens, are reluctant to eat while they know they are being observed. That doesn’t mean they are starving themselves, however, just that they tend to feed in secret. Rather than feeding from your hand or gobbling up the Mysis when you first offer it, they will prey upon the natural fauna in the tank, slurping up copepods and amphipods from hiding, or snatch up leftover frozen Mysis when they think no one is looking. Some of the seahorses that don’t appear to be eating at first may actually be feeding on the sly.
When that’s the case, it’s best to back off a bit and leave the tank alone as much as possible for the time being. It’s okay to observe the tank discretely but try to avoid flat-nose syndrome, and keep feeding your other specimens as usual, of course, but don’t try to force the issue with the shy ones. Just leave them be, give the seahorses plenty of peace and quiet, and let the secretive feeders adjust to their new environment and get used to the daily routine at their own speed. Before too long, they’ll begin sneaking leftover Mysis when they think you’re not watching and feel safe. Once they feel at home, the shy specimens will start exploring their tank freely and displaying themselves openly. Before you know it, they’ll come to recognize you as their feeder and begin interacting with you at dinnertime. And from there, it’s just one short step until you have them literally eating from your fingers.
That’s what I would think ordinarily, Nan. But I don’t like this business of the seahorse leaning against things and sometimes resting with his snout propped up on a rock or against the bottom. That’s not normal and makes me think that he might be having a problem with negative buoyancy, or that he could be showing some lingering side effects from exposure to ammonia while in the shipping bag. Negative buoyancy can make it difficult for a seahorse to swim normally, or even to hold itself upright in its normal posture, so the seahorse will tend to stay put rather than actively exploring its surroundings, and it may lay on the bottom or prop itself up the way you have described. Many times negative buoyancy is due to an underinflated swimbladder, which is a problem that will often correct itself as the seahorse gradually secretes more gas from its gas gland to reinflate the swimbladder, but this process can take some time to restore neutral buoyancy again.
Lethargy, disorientation, and laying on the bottom can also be indications of low level ammonia exposure in a new arrival following long-distance shipping. In that case, a quick bath in methylene blue can correct the problem, but I would expect to see rapid respirations and respiratory distress in a seahorse that was so afflicted.
It wouldn’t hurt to administer a dip in concentrated methylene blue, but I wouldn’t be in any hurry to do anything drastic like force feeding the shy seahorse at this point, Nan. Force feeding can save a seahorse’s life in an emergency, but it’s best reserved as a last resort. It’s not a long-term solution, but rather a stopgap measure to provide desperately needed nutritional support for a seahorse when all else fails. If the tube feeding has to be continued for more than two or three days, it is apt to do more harm than good.
Tube feeding is appropriate when a seahorse has gone without eating for a prolonged period and has exhausted its energy reserves. This can happen when a seahorse is beset with internal parasites and stops eating, or perhaps when a seahorse is undergoing extended treatment with a medication that suppresses the appetite. And, of course, it is very common — perhaps even the rule — in wild-caught seahorses that have run the gauntlet from collector to wholesaler to retailer before finally reaching the hobbyist (Lidster, 1999). In such cases, tube feeding can help me strengthen the seahorse and keep it going until it has a chance to recover and resume feeding on its own.
I don’t think your shy seahorse has reached that point yet. He does not appear skinny or emaciated and he may be getting more to eat that you think if he has been feeding secretively. A good way to get a better gauge on his condition is to examine his fecal pellets. If his feces are similar to the H. reidi or the other H. erectus that are eating well, then he’s probably scrounging up enough to eat. But if he is producing white, stringy feces, that’s an excellent indication of malnourishment. I would just keep a close eye on him for now, ply him with some tempting live foods, and try to get a look at his feces.
Here are the instructions for treating him with methylene blue, in case you think that’s warranted:
If you can obtain the Kordon brand of Methylene Blue (available at most well-stocked local fish stores), there are instructions for administering it as a very brief, concentrated dip are as follows:
For use as a dip for treatment of fungus or external parasitic protozoans and cyanide poisoning:
(a) Prepare a nonmetallic container of sufficient size to contain the fish to be treated by adding water similar to the original aquarium.
(b) Add 5 teaspoons (24.65 ml) per 3 gallons of water. This produces a concentration of 50 ppm. It is not recommended that the concentration be increased beyond 50 ppm.
(c) Place fishes to be treated in this solution for no longer than 10 seconds.
(d) Return fish to original aquarium.
When you administer such a dip, hold the seahorse in your hand throughout the procedure and time it closely so that the dip does not exceed 10 seconds.
And here are Kordon’s instructions for administering the methylene blue in a hospital tank if longer-term treatment seems appropriate to reverse more severe cases of nitrite poisoning and ammonia toxicity:
As an aid in reversal of nitrite (NO2-) or cyanide (CN-) poisoning of marine and freshwater aquarium fishes:
(a) Remove carbon filter and continue to operate with mechanical filter media throughout the treatment period.
(b) Add 1 teaspoon of 2.303% Methylene Blue per 10 gallons of water. This produces a concentration of 3 ppm. Continue the treatment for 3 to 5 days.
(c) Make a water change as noted and replace the filter carbon at the conclusion of the treatment.
See the following link for more information on treating with Kordon’s Methylene Blue:
Click here: KPD-28 Methylene Blue
If you obtained a brand of methylene blue other than Kordon, just follow the instructions the medication comes with.
One other tip: if you ever need to handle seahorses to administer first aid measures or treat them in a hospital tank, it’s best not to net them when you are manipulating the seahorse:
I do not like to use an aquarium net to transfer or manipulate seahorses, since their delicate fins and snouts can become entangled in the netting all too easily. I much prefer to transfer the seahorses by hand. Simply wet your hand and fingers (to avoid removing any of the seahorse’s protective slime coat) and scoop the seahorses in your hand. Allow them to curl their tail around your fingers and carefully cup their bodies in your hand to support them while you lift them out of the water. When you gently immerse your hand in the destination tank, the seahorse will release its grip and swim away as though nothing out of the ordinary has happened.
Composed of solid muscle and endowed with extraordinary skeletal support, the prehensile tail is amazingly strong. Indeed, large specimens have a grip like an anaconda, and when a 12-inch ingens or abdominalis wraps its tail around your hand and tightens its hold, its vise-like grip is powerful enough to leave you counting your fingers afterwards!
In fact, it can be quite difficult to remove an attached seahorse from its holdfast without injuring it in the process. Never attempt to forcibly detach a seahorse from its hitching post! When it feels threatened, it’s instinct is to clamp down and hold on all the tighter. When you must dislodge a seahorse from its resting place for any reason, it’s best to use the tickle technique instead. Gently tickling the underside of the tail where it’s wrapped around the object will usually induce the seahorse to release its grip (Abbott, 2003). They don’t seem to like that at all, and will quickly let go to move away to another spot. Once they are swimming, they are easy to handle.
The usual criteria for determining whether or not methylene blue is needed to help seahorses recover from exposure to high levels of ammonia is their respiration. If the seahorse has labored breathing — huffing or rapid respiration — then methylene blue is called for. Likewise, if the seahorse is experiencing convulsions or it’s behavior otherwise indicates it is suffering from more than temporary disorientation and loss of equilibrium, such as lying prostrate on the bottom, unable to right itself again at all after two or three hours have passed, it may benefit from methylene blue to assist its recovery.
Best of luck with your new seahorses,NB. Here’s hoping they are all eating aggressively before you know it.