Re:Suspected Fin Rot

#4885
Pete Giwojna
Guest

Dear Claire:

Yes, if the white band along the margin of Tigger’s dorsal fin has cleared up completely after seven days of treatment with the FormaGreen, indicating that the fin infection has been resolved, you can return him to the main tank again. However, if you feel that treating him for internal parasites with the antiparasitics (metronidazole + praziquantel) as soon as possible is advisable, then you may want to perform a 100% water change in the treatment tank to remove all of the FormaGreen, and then treat him with the General Cure (metronidazole + praziquantel) in your hospital tank before you return him with the others…

Yes, whenever you are using antiparasitic medications it is a good idea to remove any invertebrates that might be sensitive to the medication beforehand. This would include cleaner shrimp, snails, and starfish, for example. If that’s not feasible in your case, Claire, then cycling the hospital tank so that it can safely support the seahorses and then treating your herd in the hospital tank is a sensible approach. Intestinal flagellates cannot survive for any length of time outside of their host, so any internal parasites remaining within the main tank within fecal pellets should die off during the 4-5 days that the seahorses are being treated in the hospital tank. I think treating Tigger with the antiparasitic medications could probably wait until the hospital tank has cycled, but you could always treat him first and then treat the rest of the seahorses later, whichever is more convenient for you.

Regarding the female with weak snick, Claire, the key to a successful outcome with weak snick and related feeding disorders is keeping the patient eating while the healing takes place. That’s what treatment should concentrate on.

When these feeding difficulties arise, it’s a good idea to try tempting the affected seahorse with live adult brine shrimp. Seahorses suffering from weak snick induced by an injury may have better luck slurping up smaller, lighter, soft-bodied prey like brine shrimp; if so, that will be enough to keep them going while they heal. You’ll want to enrich the brine shrimp to maximize its nutritional value, and gutloading the shrimp with an enrichment product high in HUFA such as Vibrance is a good way to fortify it beforehand. Brine shrimp are filter feeders that will ingest whatever is suspended in the water with them, so all you need to do is add a pinch or two (or drop or two) of the enrichment formula to a small container of saltwater swarming with brine shrimp at least 30 minutes before you offer the shrimp to your seahorse.

Some hobbyists dealing with weak snick have had good success in coaxing the affected seahorse to feed by transferring the seahorse to a critter keeper or breeder net or similar enclosure that can hang within the main tank itself, and then adding a generous amount of live adult brine shrimp to the container. Within the enclosure, the affected seahorse does not have to compete with its tankmates for the live food, and it is easy to maintain an adequate feeding density within the confined space so that there is always a big juicy brine shrimp passing within striking distance of the hungry seahorse. Add one or two hitching posts within the critter keeper or breeder net so that your male can anchor in place and wait for a tasty brine shrimp to pass within easy reach, and give him an hour or two within the enclosure to eat him fill of the softbodied adult brine shrimp. You can monitor his progress from a nonthreatening distance away from the tank to see how she is doing. In most cases, the seahorse quickly becomes familiar with the routine of being transferred to the special enclosure at feeding time and associates it with tasty live foods and a full belly — positive reinforcements that make it a very nonthreatening, stress-free procedure for the affected seahorse — and, as a result, it may actually come to look forward to it after a few feedings. You can repeat this feeding process two or three times daily in order to fatten him up again, if your schedule allows.
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In short, Claire, if the affected seahorse is not experiencing respiratory distress or any other indications that suggest the problem could be due to protozoan parasites, . then you’re most likely dealing with a muscular strain or mechanical injury, and keeping your female eating by providing her with abundant softbodied adult brine shrimp to slurp up is probably the best approach to this problem.

In either case, keeping the seahorse feeding or providing her with adequate nourishment is the key to resolving weak snick and other related feeding disorders. Many times the problem will resolve itself over time providing you can keep the seahorse well fed in the meantime. Providing your pony with plenty of softbodied adult brine shrimp that are easy to slurp up and swallow is one way to accomplish this.

But sometimes the problem progresses to the point where the seahorse cannot even suck up the softbodied adult brine shrimp. When that’s the case, Claire, handfeeding the seahorse instead is often the best approach. By handfeeding in this case I mean holding one entire, intact (whole and unbroken) frozen Mysis that you have carefully thawed in your fingertips and then placing the head end of the Mysid directly in the mouth of the seahorse. Many times the seahorse will simply spit it out again, but often if you can insert the Mysis into the seahorse’s open mouth far enough, it’s feeding instincts will kick in and take over so that the seahorse slurps up the frozen Mysis almost reflexively. That’s a much less stressful and less invasive method of force feeding a seahorse that sometimes works well (especially if the seahorse is accustomed to being hand fed and doesn’t shy away from the aquarist). When this method of force feeding works well, it can be maintained indefinitely to provide the seahorses with good nourishment until it has recovered and can feed normally again on its own.

For example, even the magnificent seadragons sometimes develop problems with weak snick and similar feeding disorders, and professional aquarists will use this same method to provide their prized dragons with good nourishment until they recover, as discussed below:

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Over the years, we have seen mouth problems develop in some of our dragons. Sometimes it’s attributed to injury. Sometimes we don’t know what causes it, but we are often successful in getting them to recover on their own with just supportive feedings until we observe that they are back to catching food normally. Sometimes this can take a long time…as in a month or two of force feedings before they are back to catching enough on their own to sustain themselves.

Although I have not had experience force feeding ribbon dragons, I have both force fed and tube fed leafy and weedy seadragons. Typically, we force feed numerous frozen mysids to a sick dragon up to 3 times a day. By force feeding, I mean that we very gently place a mysid in the mouth of the animal and then lightly hold a finger in front of it so that it can’t easily spit out the food. Usually they learn pretty quickly that they are getting food this way and start to slurp mysids up as soon as they are put in their mouth. I usually try to get 6-10 mysids in per feeding. It takes good eyesight and a steady hand to make sure you don’t injure their mouth with this method. We have also tube fed using a thick slurry of cyclopeeze or pulverized and moistened pelleted food…usually giving around .3cc per feeding…though it’s dependent on the size of the animal. I think we usually use a 2-3mm french catheter cut down to fit on a small syringe. Again we do this 3 x day. We find that the animals do better with the frequent feedings and usually they go right back to searching for food after being released.

Teryl Nolan
Aquarium Supervisor
SeaWorld Florida
7007 SeaWorld Drive
Orlando, Florida 32821
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If the weak snick is due to protozoan parasites rather than a mechanical injury, then treating the seahorse with metronidazole + praziquantel could prove to be helpful. But it can take weeks for a seahorse to heal from the type of muscular strain and injuries that contribute to weak snick.

Best of luck with the remaining treatments, Claire! Here’s hoping your seahorses are some good as new again, none the worse for wear.

Respectfully,
Pete Giwojna


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