Re:Sick female?

#4956
Pete Giwojna
Guest

Dear holdyourhorses:

If the seahorse’s only symptom is respiratory distress, my best guess is that she is simply not getting enough oxygen. A problem like this can result from a number of factors such as low levels of dissolved oxygen in the aquarium (or high levels of CO2), gill disease, parasites that invade the gills, or a spike in the ammonia or nitrite levels.

I would recommend performing an immediate water change, increasing the aeration/oxygenation in the aquarium, lowering the water temperature in the aquarium, and treating the affected seahorse with methylene blue as is possible. To increase the aeration and oxygenation in your seahorse tank, try adjusting the outflow from the filters so that it roils the surface of the aquarium, and consider installing one or two airstones in the aquarium anchored a few inches beneath the surface so that they increase surface agitation in order to promote better oxygenation and facilitate more efficient gas exchange at the air/water interface.

If there has been an ammonia or nitrite spikes in the aquarium for any reason, performing an immediate water change will help restore the water quality to normal again and can often nip the problem like this in the bud.

In most cases, the surest way to improve your water quality and correct the water chemistry is to combine a 25%-50% water change with a thorough aquarium clean up. Siphon around the base of your rockwork and decorations, vacuum the top 1/2 inch of the sand or gravel, rinse or replace your prefilter, and administer a general system cleaning. The idea is to remove any accumulated excess organic material in the sand/gravel bed, top of the filter, or tank that could degrade your water quality, serve as a breeding ground for bacteria or a reservoir for disease, or otherwise be stressing your seahorses. [Note: when cleaning the filter and vacuuming the substrate, your goal is to remove excess organic wastes WITHOUT disturbing the balance of the nitrifying bacteria. Do not dismantle the entire filter, overhaul your entire filter system in one fell swoop, or clean your primary filtration system too zealously or you may impair your biological filtration.]

At first glance your aquarium parameters may look great, but there are some water quality issues that are difficult to detect with standard tests, such as a decrease in dissolved 02, transitory ammonia/nitrite spikes following a heavy feeding, pH drift, or the gradual accumulation of detritus. A water change and cleanup is a simple preventative measure that can help defuse those kinds of hidden factors before they become a problem and stress out your seahorses. These simple measures may restore your water quality and correct the source of the stress before your seahorse becomes seriously ill and requires treatment.

Exposure to moderate levels of ammonia and nitrite, or high levels of nitrates, can change the normal hemoglobin in the seahorse’s blood stream to a form (i.e., methhemoglobin) that is no longer able to transport oxygen. The higher the levels of these wastes and the longer the exposure, the greater the proportion of normal hemoglobin that will be converted to the dysfunctional methhemoglobin molecule instead. If this becomes severe enough, it will leave the affected seahorses starved for oxygen, which makes them very weak and fatigued. As a result, the affected seahorses may detach themselves from their hitching posts periodically and rest on the bottom, unable to exert themselves in their weakened condition. As you can imagine, being deprived of oxygen really wipes them out in terms of loss of energy and stamina. And it also results in respiratory distress, and rapid, labored breathing as they try to oxygenate themselves and compensate for the scarcity of normal hemoglobin.

One of the properties of methylene blue is that it can reverse this process and convert the methhemoglobin in the red blood cells back into normal hemoglobin, which can then pick up and transport oxygen again as usual. That’s why it is so helpful in relieving shipping stress and treating ammonia exposure and nitrite poisoning. For this reason, you may want to pick up some methylene blue at your local fish store and keep it on hand in case it is ever needed (the Kordon brand of methylene blue is best, in my opinion).

The usual criteria for determining whether or not methylene blue is needed to help seahorses recover from exposure to high levels of nitrogenous wastes (e.g., ammonia, nitrite, or nitrate) or other hypoxic emergencies 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, it may benefit from methylene blue to assist its recovery.

Here are the instructions for treating seahorses with methylene blue, sir:

Methylene Blue

Commonly known as "meth blue" or simply "blue," this is a wonderful medication for reversing the toxic effects of ammonia and nitrite poisoning (commonly known as "new tank syndrome"). Since hospital tanks are usually without biological filtration, and ammonia and nitrite can thus build up rapidly (especially if you are not doing water changes during the treatment period), it’s a good idea to add methylene blue to your hospital ward when treating sick fish.

Methylene blue also 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.

In addition, methylene blue treats fungus and some bacteria and protozoan parasites. 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. A "must" for your fish-room medicine cabinet.

However, be aware that it is not safe to combine methylene blue with some antibiotics, so check your medication labels closely for any possible problems before doing so.

If you can obtain the Kordon brand of Methylene Blue (available at most well-stocked local fish stores), the 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 or exposure to high-level of nitrates:

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
<http://www.novalek.com/archive/kpd28.htm&gt;

If you obtained a brand of methylene blue other than Kordon, just follow the instructions the medication comes with. Remember that methylene blue will have an adverse impact on the beneficial bacteria that carry out the nitrogen cycle, so don’t use it in your main tank — rather, use the methylene blue as a quick dip or for treating the seahorses for a prolonged period in your hospital tank.

As you know, the lower the water temperature, the more dissolved oxygen the aquarium water can hold, so I would also suggest that you gradually lower the water temperature on your seahorse tank. Mustangs and Sunbursts (Hippocampus erectus) will be quite comfortable at temperatures as low as 66°F-68°F providing you lower the temperature gradually.

One simple way to drop the water temp in your aquarium 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 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, Chas.

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.

In summation, here is what I recommend you concentrate on for the time being, holdyourhorses:

1) Perform an immediate water change to restore optimum water quality.
2) Reduce the water temperature in your seahorse tank to increase the amount of dissolved oxygen the water can hold.
3) Increase the surface agitation in the aquarium to promote better oxygenation and facilitate efficient gas exchange at the air/water interface.
4) Treat the affected seahorse with methylene blue as explained above as soon as possible.

Methylene blue is widely available for aquarium use and should be carried by any well-stocked pet store or local fish store.

Best of luck resolving this problem and getting your female seahorse back to normal again, holdyourhorses.

Respectfully,
Pete Giwojna


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