Ocean Rider Seahorse Farm and Tours | Kona Hawaii › Forums › Seahorse Life and Care › upside down seahorse › Re:upside down seahorse
Yes, sir, it certainly does sound like your seahorse has developed a problem with positive buoyancy (i.e., the tendency to float), which is why he is having difficulty swimming normally and prefers to remain anchored to his hitching posts. This is a common problem for male seahorses and it is very treatable.
Sometimes the positive buoyancy can indeed be attributed to a hyperinflated swimbladder, which can also be easily corrected in seahorses, but with our seagoing stallions, the problem is almost always due to a buildup of gas within the brood pouch of the male, and the problem will worsen as more gas builds up until the seahorse is left floating helplessly at the surface. Affected males will be unable to swim in their normal upright position, but rather must swim tilted forward at an angle, or sometimes even upside down, so that their dorsal fin can counteract the tendency to float. This is hard work and the seahorses with positive buoyancy problems often prefer to stay hitched to a convenient perch rather than struggling valiantly against the tendency to rise when they release their hold. When they do attempt to swim, their center of gravity can shift suddenly due to the movement of the gas bubble(s) within their pouch, and this causes them to adopt awkward postures in order to make the necessary adjustments and regain their balance. Because their mobility and ability to swim normally is compromised, this actually has an adverse impact on their feeding as well.
Air or gas can be trapped within the male marsupium for a number of reasons, and right now it’s too soon to say what might have caused this problem in your case for sure, Kraut, but the first course of treatment is always to release the gas that is trapped within your male’s pouch. This will provide him with immediate relief and he will be able to swim and eat normally again. If the problem recurs, you may need to take additional measures to treat the condition, but for now simply evacuating the air from his pouch should suffice.
Aside from burping the pouch, I find the easiest and most effective way to evacuate the gas and deflate the pouch is to carefully insert a small catheter or cannula or tiny pipette into the aperture of the pouch and then apply firm but gentle pressure to the outside of the pouch. This usually causes the air to escape through the catheter or pipette. And a needle aspiration is another very easy way to remove the trapped gas from the pouch, which you should also consider.
So I would recommend that you try inserting a small catheter or tiny pipette into the mouth of the pouch and then massaging the marsupium very gently to force the trapped air through the catheter or pipette. If this is successful, you will see a stream of small bubbles rising from the catheter/pipette when you apply gentle pressure to the outside of the pouch.
Failing that, a needle aspiration is also very easy to perform and very effective in removing the excess gas from the pouch of a seahorse. You should be able to obtain a suitable hypodermic syringe and needle quickly from your family doctor or veterinarian or perhaps a friend who works at a hospital or needs to be treated for diabetes. I will explain how to perform a needle aspiration in more detail later in this message.
For now, just let me say that performing a needle aspiration sounds like a very intimidating procedure but that’s really not the case in actual practice. It’s actually much easier on both the seahorse and the aquarist than any other methods for releasing trapped gas, such as burping his pouch or opening of the aperture with the aid of a bobby pin, and it can be more effective in extracting the gas that builds up within the pouch. I can assure you that it’s a perfectly painless procedure for your pony and much less stressful than some of the other techniques.
In addition to aspirating trapped gas, the hypodermic can also be used to flush out the pouch thoroughly either with sterile saline or a medicated solution (an antibiotic or Diamox dissolved in saltwater), for even better results. Here’s how another hobbyist describes this procedure:
dear pete, it was time to give the antibiotics due to recurrent swelling of his pouch and i had small iv catheters but i was unable to intubate the opening. either too small or voluntary tightening by the horse. only choice left was an injection with a needle. i used a 29g insulin syringe and first removed whatever air i could. then reinjected approx .5cc mix of neomycin sulfate plus bifuran until distended then withdrew approx half of that and left the remainder in his pouch. a couple of lethargic days followed with little food intake. then he started eating live brine shrimp then the usual mysis. it is now 5 or 6 weeks later and all seems well. before that a diamox bath didnt do much but i stopped the diamox due to what seemed like unfavorable side effects. hard to believe the antibiotic injection worked so well. i gave only one injection as it seems to have worked. thanks again for all your help. he was certainly a goner without the intervention and we are most grateful. best regards sg
In short, sir, bloated pouch or pouch emphysema is the most common cause of positive buoyancy problems in male seahorses, and there are a number of options for treating it you may want to consider. But I would suggest that you try evacuated the trapped gas or air from your male’s pouch by inserting a small catheter or pipette through the mouth of its pouch or by performing a needle aspiration and possibly flushing the pouch at the same time, for starters.
Here is a complete discussion of the different methods for evacuating gas from your male’s pouch to provide him with some immediate relief from this problem:
Pouch Massage: Burping the Pouch
Pouch bloat is ordinarily easily resolved by evacuating the gas from the marsupium. This procedure is commonly known as pouch massage or "burping" the pouch and it provides immediate relief for the seahorse when successful. The first attempt or two at performing this procedure can be very intimidating, I know, but it is actually much easier than it sounds.
To expel the trapped air, wet your hands first and hold the seahorse upright in the water with your non-dominant hand, allowing his tail to wrap your little finger or ring finger so he has a good grip and feels secure (Burns, 2001). While the seahorse is thus restrained, use your dominant hand to massage the pouch firmly yet gently between your index finger and thumb, working upward with a circular motion from the bottom of the tail toward the top so as to work the trapped gas upwards toward the opening of the pouch (Burns, 2001). Don’t squeeze the pouch too forcibly, just maintain gentle pressure from below as you massage the pouch, always working from the base of the pouch toward the orifice at the top with your thumb and index finger to force the gas upward.
Hopefully, as your massage moves to the upper half of the pouch and approaches the top, the aperture of the pouch will begin to gape open, allowing a stream of bubbles to escape (Burns, 2001). This is the "burp" you’ve been hoping to produce, and when it happens, you can actually feel the bloated pouch slowly deflate as you gently force the bubbles out (Burns, 2001).
If that does not happen, however, you will have to modify your gas evacuation technique somewhat, this time using the thumb and index finger of your non-dominant hand to massage the pouch with a gentle back and forth motion, while you use a bobby pin or similar blunt implement in your dominant hand to carefully tease open the aperture of the pouch (Burns, 2001).
You are not trying to insert the bobby pin into the pouch at all (Burns, 2001). The idea is to use the rubber-coated end of the pin to gently manipulate the orifice of the pouch, using a sideways pressure on the mouth of the pouch to tease it open, rather than using a downward pressure to force the bobby pin into the opening (Burns, 2001).
Begin as before, holding the seahorse upright in the water with your non-dominant hand, allowing his tail to wrap your little finger or ring finger so he has a good grip and feels secure, while leaving your thumb and index finger free to perform the massage (Burns, 2001). Begin at the base of the pouch near the tail, and massage the pouch gently but firmly between your thumb and index finger, working upwards with a back and forth motion as though gently squeezing a toothpaste tube from the bottom to the top (Burns, 2001).
Meanwhile, using your dominant hand, position one of rubber coated ends of the booby pin at the mouth of the slitlike aperture, and use sideways pressure to prise the lips of the pouch open without actually inserting the pin into the pouch (Burns, 2001). This may take a surprising amount of pressure, so proceed gently but firmly, making sure you direct the brunt of the pressure sideways rather than downward (Burns, 2001). As your massage progresses to the upward portion of the pouch, a few small bubbles at a time will be expelled, and you can feel the pouch gradually deflate between your fingers.
Continue applying pressure from the bottom of the pouch up while prizing the mouth of the pouch open until the pouch feels flaccid and no more gas escapes (Burns, 2001). You may have to repeat this procedure two or three times to be sure you have evacuated all of the trapped gas (Burns, 2001).
If successful, it’s an instant cure and your seahorse should be back to normal immediately, able to swim freely and feed as usual. Burping the pouch is stressful, but seahorses are very forgiving and often will swim away and start eating immediately afterward as though nothing happened. This type of pouch gas is not a serious problem and poses no threat to the seahorse’s long-term health.
Eyedropper Pouch Evacuations
Rather than burping or massaging the pouch, some hobbyists find it easier to use an ordinary eyedropper to evacuate the air from a large seahorse’s pouch. This technique is fairly self-explanatory. Get a glass eyedropper (the smaller the better) from your drugstore — the glass kind that has a rubber bulb. The glass tip is much smoother than plastic droppers are and the rubber squeeze-bulb allows you to apply suction using the eyedropper with one hand while holding the seahorse with your other hand.
Take the seahorse in your nondominant hand, keeping it underwater, of course, and let it wrap its tail round your baby finger. Then take the eyedropper in your dominant hand, squeeze the rubber bulb and hold the bulb squeezed closed while you very gently insert the glass tip into the aperture of the pouch. Once you are just slightly inside the pouch, slowly release the squeeze bulb and the bubbles of trapped air will often be aspirated.
Remove the eyedropper, expel the bubbles it extracted, and repeat the whole procedure as necessary to remove all the trapped air and restore neutral buoyancy.
If you have a Pouch Kit from Ocean Rider, the flushing apparatus can be used in a similar manner to aspirate the trapped air.
It is also very practical to aspirate air from a bloated pouch using a small hypodermic needle and a syringe. The pouch can easily be penetrated from side and is not harmed by the entrance of the needle. It causes the seahorse surprisingly little discomfort and is often less traumatic that massaging the pouch and other methods for evacuating gas. It is a quick and effective technique and is often easier on the seahorse keeper and his patient than other approaches.
Remember, when you perform a needle aspiration, you are not penetrating the seahorse’s stomach, but rather the brood pouch that is slung beneath its belly at the base of its tail.
You cannot release the gas that has built up in your male’s pouch simply by perforating the side of his pouch with a small needle. That’s not what the term "needle aspiration" means. Rather, you need a hypodermic needle and syringe in order to perform a needle aspiration. You must first depress the plunger on the hypodermic syringe to empty all of the air out of the barrel of the syringe, and then carefully insert the hypodermic needle into the side of the pouch, just far enough to penetrate into the central cavity of the pouch, and then gradually withdraw the plunger again, which will extract the gas from that area of the pouch.
You may need to perform this procedure twice, once from the left-hand side of the pouch and once from the right-hand side of the pouch, since male seahorses in breeding condition develop an septum or internal membrane that divides their pouches roughly into left and right hemispheres. So you may need to aspirate air from the left side of the pouch, and then repeat the procedure with your hypodermic needle on the right side of the pouch in order to remove all of the trapped gas from your stallion’s marsupium. But do not penetrate the pouch of your male with a hypodermic needle more than that; if aspirating the gas once from each side of the pouch is not sufficient to deflate the pouch and eliminate the problem with positive buoyancy, then you will need to flush out his pouch instead or release the gas using one of the other techniques described above.
Whatever method you decide to use to evacuate the male’s pouch, be sure to observe the following precautions when manipulating seahorses:
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.
You can also remove the trapped gas from your reidi stallion’s pouch by performing the pouch flush, which is often the most effective technique for preventing a recurrence of the problem, Toni. Here are detailed instructions from Leslie Leddo, myself, and other experienced seahorse keepers explaining different ways to perform a pouch flush:
"Pouch Flush Techniques and Tips"
By Leslie Leddo
You will need:
·A small syringe. I like to use a 1-cc syringe.
·A catheter of some sort. It needs to be something that is plastic, very narrow, cannulated, blunt tipped, semi pliable, but not so soft that it bends from just a bit of pressure, on one end and fits snugly on to the tip of a syringe at the opposite end. Some suggestions would include an a plastic intravenous catheter, with the center introducer needle used to puncture the skin and vein order to introduce the catheter removed, a plastic pipette, or the syringe tips that come inside some of the aquarium test kits. If you have access to an IV catheter any size, between an 18 and 25g will work well.
·A bowl. I like to use something with a wide rim so I have space to move freely and have enough room should I need another pair of hands…i.e., an assistant. The syringe and pipette/catheter are both used to flush the pouch as well as to aspirate the previous days flush from the pouch.
How to prepare the Syringe and Catheter:
Draw about 1cc of the medicated flush solution into the syringe by pulling back on the plunger.
Invert the syringe so the tip is pointed up. With the syringe inverted, gently tap it until all the air bubbles come to the surface just below the syringe tip; with the syringe still inverted depress the plunger until all the air is removed from the syringe and a small amount of the solution is emerging from the syringe tip.
Attach the catheter or pipette to the tip of the syringe, depress the plunger of the syringe to fill (prime) the catheter or pipette with the solution.
Okay, now you are ready to flush the pouch. Proceed as follows:
Gently place the horse in the bowl filled with his own tank water. Very gently and slowly introduce the tip of the catheter through the pouch opening, into the pouch. When you enter the pouch you may meet some resistance. If you encounter resistance when inserting the catheter, I have found that it helps to try different angles, rather than pushing forcefully. I have never dissected a seahorse, but from all the evacuations and flushes I have done it feels to me as if the opening to the pouch is more than a simple opening. It feels like a short tunnel, with folds or pockets of tissue along the walls of the tunnel. I have had to flush/evacuate several different horses. They all seem to be built a bit differently.
I have had success entering the pouch opening straight and then angling the catheter down a bit as well as entering at an angle from the start.
Once you have the catheter tip inside the pouch, depress the plunger of the syringe, flushing the pouch until you see some of the solution coming back out of the pouch. Continue to flush the pouch with about .2 to .3 cc.
Once the pouch has been flushed, you want to leave a small amount of flush inside the pouch. Pulling back on the plunger aspirate the some of the fluid until some of the solution has been removed from the pouch, leaving enough so that the pouch remains softly full, but is not at all taught or tight. Place your horse back in his tank
The next day, prior to the new flush, aspirate the previous days flush from the pouch. Using the syringe with the catheter/pipette attached to the tip, insert it as described above. Pull back on the plunger of the syringe withdrawing the flush from the day before.
Now you are ready to administer the newly mixed flush by repeating the steps described above.
Antibiotic Pouch Washes
If you can obtain a suitable small glass eyedropper with a rubber squeeze bulb, the tip of which you can insert into the pouch orifice, you can use the eyedropper to flush the pouch instead. Otherwise, you’ll have to obtain a small pipette or use a small syringe and catheter for the flushes, as previously described in Leslie Leddo’s pouch flushing tips. You will be flushing the male’s pouch once a day for three consecutive days, using a medicated pouch flush solution.
The first thing you’ll need to do is prepare the pouch flush solution. I recommend using a combination of nifurpirinol and neomycin sulfate for the pouch flushes, since that combo works together synergistically to forms a wide spectrum antibiotic with potent antifungal as well as antibacterial properties (Basleer, 2000). Nifurpirinol and neomycin sulfate are the active ingredients in two different commercial products designed for aquarium use, and both of them should both be readily available at your local fish store. Prepare a 50:50 solution by taking approximately 1/10 teaspoon of nifurpirinol and 1/10 teaspoon of neomycin powder (from a capsule) and mixing them together with about 40 cc (or 2-1/2 tablespoons) of tank water from your seahorse setup. (Nifurpirinol comes in tablet form, so you’ll have to crush a tablet into as fine a powder as possible, using a blender if necessary, and then use 1/10 teaspoon of this nifurpirinol powder for the mixture.) Mix the nifurpirinol powder and neomycin sulfate powder with the tank water very well until the medication is thoroughly dissolved. Avoid any undissolved residue that remains. (You will have to make up a new batch of this solution each day for 3 days.)
If you can’t find both nifurpirinol and neomycin, then you can use either one alone, or substitute kanamycin capsules alone, to make your medicated pouch solution. In that case, just use 1/10 teaspoon of the antibiotic powder and mix it thoroughly with about 20 cc (or 1-1/2 tablespoons) of tank water. Again, make a new batch of pouch-flush solution each day.
And here are instructions from Keith Gentry explaining how to do a pouch-flush directly with Diamox:
In cases of recurring pouch emphysema, diamox can be administered as a solution injected into the pouch via an narrow gauge irrigating cannula or plastic 26 or 28 gauge IV catheter sleeve attached to a 0.5 or 1ml syringe (larger syringes should not be used).
Using a blender, mix ½ of a 250mg Diamox tablet with a cup of seawater at the same specific gravity as the tank. Fill the syringe with about .5ml of this solution, avoiding the residue at the bottom of the cup. The seahorse should be held as per the procedure for pouch evacuations.
Insert the catheter sleeve slowly and gently a small way into the pouch opening and inject this solution SLOWLY into the seahorse’s pouch, leaving the solution in the pouch. Make sure you are familiar with the location of the pouch opening.
Never use a metal needle for this procedure.
The procedure may have to be repeated twice to be effective. In stubborn cases, it is recommended to concurrently administer broad spectrum antibiotics. Diamox and antibiotics have been used simultaneously and successfully without appararent side effects.
I believe the dosage of antibiotic is one 250mg tablet of neosulfex per 10 gallons. It’s important you treat the horse in a quarantine tank. Diamox and neosulfex can kill your
For neomycin and sulfa you can use up to 4 times the marine dosage listed on the instruction or are up to 8 times the recommended freshwater dosage. [End quote]
Finally, here are Neil Garrick-Maidment’s instructions for performing his extremely successful pouch flushing procedure:
Hope you don’t mind me interjecting on the point about gas bubble in the
pouch but it is important to emphasise a few things.
When I devised and developed this treatment quite a number of years ago, I
was shocked to hear some of the ways people were clearing the bubbles within
the pouch, from cocktail sticks to straws, which caused irreparable damage
to the pouch and the Seahorse. It is vital that great care is taken when
doing this process and the purchase of a fine blunt ended pipette from the
chemist is the best way.
When handling the Seahorse make sure you have a
firm grip with the pouch facing outwards under the water, its best to have
the tail curled around the little finger to add stability. Then insert the
pipette almost vertically, through the pouch opening so the pipette goes
down into the pouch (almost parallel with the body) and not in towards the
body which will cause major internal and secondary problems.
Once the pipette is safely in the pouch then a fine nozzled hand spray (it must be
fine to fit into the end of the pipette) must be used to flush down through
the pipette, you will notice bubbles of gas being vented from the pouch as
you flush the pouch, initially with water from the tank, this stops shock to
the animal and at the same time clears the pouch. This same method (do not
remove the pipette in between stages) should then be used to add medication
When withdrawing the pipette use a slight twisting motion and remove in
exactly the same direction as it has gone in. The Seahorse will seem a
little shell shocked after this but the immediate release from floating etc
will provide instant relief.
I have had 100% success with this process but
you must be in mind of the Seahorse and its discomfort at all times.
Just before starting make sure you have all your equipment and medication in
place, there is nothing worse than getting part way through and realising
you have forgotten something.
Hope this helps
Neil Garrick-Maidment [close quote]
One of these techniques will hopefully work well for you, depending on what medications and equipment you have on hand or have access to for performing the pouch flushes.
If the pouch-flushes are unsuccessful in resolving this problem and it keeps re-occurring, Kraut, you can try administering Diamox orally if your H. reidi stallion is still eating, or as a series of baths if he is not.
Let me know if you think treating the seahorse with Diamox is your best option, and whether or not they are still eating, Kraut, and I will be happy to provide you with instructions regarding how to administer the medication.
But the first step is to try manually releasing the trapped gas from the seahorse’s pouch. I find the easiest way to do that is to carefully insert a small catheter or cannula or tiny pipette into the aperture of the pouch, as previously described, and then apply firm but gentle pressure to the outside of the pouch. This usually causes the air to escape through the catheter or pipette. This method works very well but it’s easier if you have three hands or a helper to assist you.
If the aperture to the pouch is too tight to insert a small catheter or tiny pipette, then the next easiest way to release the gas is by performing a needle aspiration, a technique that will work equally well for administering an antibiotic solution should a pouch flush proved necessary.
Best of luck treating your male’s pouch gas, Kraut If you don’t already have one, you might want to consider obtaining a pouch kit from Ocean Rider in case these problems persist.
Pete Giwojna goodbye