Re:slight discoloration

Pete Giwojna

Dear Lisa & Andrew:

It’s very difficult to determine whether the suspicious white patches you are worried about are a normal color phase the black seahorses may be exhibiting or whether they are problematic without at least seeing the picture of the ponies to go by. I can certainly understand why you would be concerned, since suspicious white patches and localized areas of depigmentation are often an early indication of incipient bacterial infections and certain parasites that attack the skin such as Costia or Uronema.

Black seahorses certainly can develop white saddles, blotches, and markings at times that are normal changes in coloration. For example, the two photographs below show the same seahorse, named Oreo, exhibiting normal color changes. As you can see, in the first photograph, Oreo is a black seahorse with a few white blazes and markings, and in the second photograph, taking just one day later, he has turned almost entirely white. The change in coloration is so dramatic that if you didn’t know better, you would think you were looking at two different seahorses. Oreo is perfectly healthy and normal in both the photographs, but has simply decided to chang his coloration as seahorses are sometimes wont to do.
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Photos by Leslie Leddo

On the other hand, here are some photographs of seahorses with suspicious white patches that are the result of diseases. In the first two pictures below we see discrete white oblong markings on the tails of seahorses which are due to bacterial lesions:
[img size=150][/img][IMG][/IMG]
[img size=150][/img][IMG][/IMG]
Photos by Leslie Leddo

In the following picture, the pale white patches seen on this Hippocampus kuda are the result of a parasitic skin infection caused by flagellates (Costia sp.) with secondary bacterial infection:
[img size=150][/img][IMG][/IMG]

And in the following photograph, the white saddles and blotches on the yellow seahorse on the left are normal markings, but the white patch on the flank of the dark-colored seahorse on the right is due to marine ulcer disease (vibriosis) and you can already see some tissue erosion occurring at the site of the bacterial lesion:
[img size=150][/img][IMG][/IMG]
Photo by Leslie Leddo

Marine ulcer disease is a very serious bacterial infection that requires aggressive treatment with powerful broad-spectrum antibiotics in isolation, but I think that is unlikely in your case because Vibrio is highly contagious and if you are having an outbreak you will need to isolate the affected individual in your hospital tank and treat him with broad-spectrum antibiotics

In your case, if the male erectus with the suspicious white patches has had several encounters with the overflow for your aquarium, getting sucked up against the overflow certainly would be a stressful experience, and stress can often leave the seahorse vulnerable to opportunistic infections. Or a skin infection could have set in as a secondary infection at the site of a minor scrape or injury from getting stuck against the overflow.

Examine the photographs above and let me know how the white spots on your male erectus compare to the photographs, and if you think your seahorse may be developing a skin infection, I will be happy to go over the appropriate treatments for such a problem.

Best of luck with all of your seahorses, Lisa and Andrew! Here’s hoping that the new white markings are simply a color phase that your seahorse is going through and not a symptom of a health problem.

Pete Giwojna

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