I’m sorry to hear you’re new pet shop phone is having problems. Laying on the bottom for extended periods of time could either be an indication of an generalized weakness or it could be due to negative buoyancy as the result of swim bladder disease or a buildup of fluid accumulating within her coelomic cavity.
Since he is a new arrival from your LFS and he is barely breathing, I suspect the problem is generalized weakness due to malnutrition and a possible problem with guilt parasites or a gill infection. I would transfer the affected seahorse to a hospital tank immediately to avoid exposing his tankmates to whatever parasites or pathogens may be plaguing the sick individual and treat him with methylene blue to aid his breathing.
Commonly known as "meth blue" or simply "blue," methylene blue is a wonderful medication for relieving respiratory distress. 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).
If you can obtain the Kordon brand of Methylene Blue (available at most well-stocked local fish stores), their suggested treatment protocol for external protozoan parasites:
(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
But the most important thing is to isolate the sick seahorse at once to safeguard its tankmates. The problem with obtaining seahorses from your LFS is that they are typically maintained in aquaria that share a common filtration system with all of the other fish tanks in the store. Of course, those other fish tanks house a wide selection of wild fish that have been collected from all around the world, and any pathogens or parasites those wild fishes may have been carrying can be transmitted through the common water supply to the seahorses. That makes fish from your LFS potential disease vectors for a whole laundry list of disease organisms and makes it mandatory to quarantine such specimens before they are introduced to your display tank. In addition, pet shop ponies are rarely fed properly during their long journey from collector/breeder to wholesaler to retailer to consumer, and are therefore often badly malnourished or in a state of near starvation by the time the hobbyist brings them home.
So isolate the ailing seahorse in your hospital tank and begin treating with methylene blue as a first aid measure ASAP! If that buys you enough time, get to a well-stocked fish store as soon as possible and pick up some Furan2 and an antiparasitic medication from Aquarium Pharmaceuticals suitable for use in saltwater.
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. Best of all, it can be safely combined with Aquarium Pharmaceuticals antiparasitic medications to increase its effectiveness and guard against secondary infections when you are treating for parasites.
Thus, when combined with a good antiparasitic medication, a good combination drug like Furan2 can be the ultimate weapon in your medicine cabinet. It is effective against a wide range of diseases, making it a versatile shotgun for restoring order when trouble breaks out in your tank. When you suspect an infection is at work, but don’t know whether you’re dealing with fungus, bacteria, protozoan parasites or a mixed infection, don’t hold back — break out the heavy artillery and give the bugs both barrels (Furan2 + Aquarium Pharmaceutical antiparasitics)! Furan2 is especially effective for treating mild skin infections. Since we don’t really have any clear idea what is ailing your pony, this would be an effective approach to treatment, sir.
In addition, if you refer to my earlier post to Suzanne titled "Re: Sick seahorse — please help," there is a good discussion of the sort of factors that are often associated disease problems in general, as well as some of the measures you can take to help prevent them in the future. You can find it at the following link:
Click here: OceanRider : Message: Re: Sick seahorse-please help! <http://groups.yahoo.com/group/OceanRider/message/9573>
Best of luck restoring your pet shop phone to perfect health, ageber!