I’m very sorry to hear that your female didn’t pull through. I know you’ve been battling her tail problem for a long time and that she recently developed subcutaneous emphysema (external GBD) in addition to her bacterial infection. It always complicates the situation when more than one disease process is involved at the same time. All my condolences on your loss!
A widowed seahorse can certainly be traumatized by the loss of its mate. But although it can be stressful for a pair-bonded seahorse to lose its partner, a widowed seahorses won’t go on a hunger strike and starve itself to death, or die of a broken heart or loneliness, or anything of that nature.
Even so, captive-bred seahorses like yours are highly gregarious animals that very much appreciate the company of others of their kind, so it is a good idea to provide your widower with a prospective new mate. If you purchase a single female for your stallion, the chances are excellent that they will eventually pair-up and breed.
When a wild seahorse loses its mate, field observation suggests that it does not immediately seek out a new mate. Rather, a widowed stallion typically waits one complete breeding cycle in the hope that it’s missing mate will reappear before it abandons its territory to search for another suitable partner. (One breeding cycle is roughly 2-4 weeks, depending on the species. This delay is largely a matter of practicality — a reflection of the fact that it can be difficult for an animal with limited mobility to locate a new mate in the vastness of the sea so you don’t go searching until it’s absolutely necessary — but if you want to think of it as a "mourning period" of sorts, that’s not too far off.)
But once this wait is over, field research indicates that, in the wild, a widowed seahorse typically pairs up with the next unmated seahorse of the opposite sex it manages to locate. In this case, that would be the new female you introduced to your tank, so don’t hesitate to obtain a solo mare for your male.
It sounds like you’re having a significant problem with bristleworms, so I would be happy to discuss the proper treatment procedure for treating them with fenbendazole and to go over all the usual precautions to observe when using it, including which invertebrates are sensitive to the medication.
Fenbendazole (brand name of Panacur) is an inexpensive anthelmintic agent (dewormer) used for large animals such as horses, and the de-worming granules can be obtained without a prescription from stores that carry agricultural products (e.g., farm and ranch equipment, farming supplies and products, veterinary supplies, livestock and horse supplies, livestock and horse feed) or via the Internet from places such as KV Vet Supply (see link below). The granular form of fenbendazole (horse dewormer granules 22.2%) is preferable to the paste for aquarium use, as the dosage of the granules is easier to regulate (Liisa Coit, pers. com.). It is available in packets of 5.2 grams or 0.18 ounces.
Click here: KV Vet Supply / KV HealthLinks – Pet, equine & livestock supplies / Quality nutrition for you!
(Use the 22.2 % granules rather than the paste.)
The recommended dose of fenbendazole (FBZ) for eradicating bristleworms is 1/8 teaspoon of the horse dewormer granules (22.2% fenbendazole) per 10 gallons of water. If necessary, does the aquarium with 1/8 teaspoon/10 gallons every other day until you have administered a total of 3 such treatments (Liisa Coit, pers. com.). Even one dose food generally do a fine job of eradicating bristeworms, but Aiptasia rock anemones and hydroids are a bit tougher and may require 2-3 doses to eliminate entirely.
Because fenbendazole is essentially a de-worming agent, it will destroy any bristleworms, flat worms, spaghetti worms or the like. The FBZ or Panacur treatments are best administered to the live rock in a bucket or hospital tank before the LR is introduced in the main tank. Otherwise, the massive die-off of the worm population in the aquarium may require large water changes in order to prevent a dangerous ammonia spike! And after the treatment is completed, its a good idea to add a portion of newly purchased live sand to the system in order to help restore its normal diversity of fauna and microfauna again (Liisa Coit, pers. com.).
Fenbendazole does not have any adverse effects on biological filtration, but be aware that it is death to many Cnidarians besides hydroids. Mushrooms and related corals are generally not affected, but expect it to have dire effects on other corals (e.g., sinularias), polyps, gorgonians, and anemones. In general, any Cnidarians with polyps that resemble the stalked family of Hydrozoans are likely to be hit hard by fenbendazole, so don’t use this treatment in a reef tank! (I’ve never used to fenbendazole on a tank with leather corals, so I can’t say if are certain whether or not your leathers would be safe.)
Also be aware that fenbendazole seems to soak into the porous live rock and be absorbed indefinitely. I know one hobbyist who transferred a small piece of live rock that had been treated with fenbendazole (Panacur) months earlier into a reef tank, where it killed the resident starfish and Astrea snails. So enough of the medication may be retained within treated live rock to impact sensitive animals months after the fenbendazole was administered. Don’t treat live rock intended for reef systems with fenbendazole (Panacur)!
At the lower dosage recommended for nursery tanks (1/16 tsp. Per 10 gallons), fenbendazole normally does not harm cleaner shrimp and decorative shrimp. With the exception of Astrids (Astrea), Coit and Worden have found it does not usually affect the types of snails typically used as cleanup crews (e.g., Nassarius, Ceriths, and Nerites). It will kill starfish but copepods, hermit crabs, and shrimp are normally not affected.
Macroalgae such as the feathery or long-bladed varieties of Caulerpa or Hawaiian Ogo (Gracilaria) are not harmed by exposure to fenbendazole at even triple the normal dose. In fact, if you will be using Caulerpa in your nursery tanks to provide hitching posts for the fry and serve as a form of natural filtration, it’s a very wise precaution indeed to treat them with a regimen of fenbendazole beforehand.
So fenbendazole (FBZ) or Panacur is primarily useful for ridding bare-bottomed nursery tanks and dwarf seahorses setups of hyrdroids and Aiptasia anemones, ridding Caulerpa and other macroalge of hydroids or Aiptasia before its goes into the aquarium, and cleansing live rock of bristleworms, hydroids, and Aiptasia rock anemones before it is introduced to the aquarium.
It can also be used to eradicate bristleworms, hydroids, an Aiptasia from an established aquarium if it does not house sensitive animals such as live corals and gorgonians, starfish, Astrea snails, or tubeworms and other desirable worms that may be harmed by FBZ, providing you monitor the ammonia levels closely and are prepared to deal with the ammonia spike that may result from the sudden death of the worm population.
One quick note about bristleworms: as previously mentioned, in general, they are benign, even beneficial inhabitants of a seahorse tank that perform a useful service as scavengers. But when their numbers get out of control, there comes a point when an overabundance of bristleworms becomes problematic as far as seahorses are concerned. That point is generally when the exploding population of bristleworms become too aggressive at feeding time, actively seeking out the frozen Mysis even during daylight hours, no longer content with cleaning up leftovers, and begin invading the feeding station. Too many bristleworms lingering too long at the feeding station brings them in direct contact with the hungry seahorses who come to the lunch counter for their favorite food as usual. The galloping gourmets may accidentally brush up against the encroaching bristleworms, or even attempt to perch on them, and they may get a snootful of bristles when snicking at the same mysid a bristleworm has taken an interest in. Even if the seahorses don’t inadvertently snick at them, the bristleworms may shed a few of their irritating spicules while they are at the feeding station, and the hungry seahorses can then accidentally ingest such loose spicules when slurping up frozen Mysis.
I have seen pictures of seahorses with bristleworm spicules embedded in their tails and snouts as a result of such close encounters. These injuries are usually minor, easily treated by removing the spicules and administering antibiotics orally via gut-loaded shrimp to prevent secondary infections, but the more bristleworms there are, the more likely such incidents and problems are to occur. And snicking up a tiny bristleworm, which has been known to happen, can be a life-threatening mistake for a hungry seahorse.
So when you start to see bristleworms swarming the food station, it is a good idea to start thinning them out. A variety of bristleworm traps are available for this very purpose and should be your first line of defense. Only when trapping is ineffective and you have a veritable plague of bristleworms on your hands is it advisable to use fenbendazole to exterminate them from your tank. Remember, when worms are concerned, FBZ is a weapon of mass destruction. Use it in an established aquarium only as a last resort!
If you do have to wage total war on an uncontrollable horde of bristleworms, and decide to nuke your aquarium with fenbendazole, consider removing your seahorses and delicate specimens for the duration. This will be protect them from ammonia spikes following the massive die off of worms and help assure that sensitive animals don’t suffer any ill effects from the medication. After the third fenbendazole treatment, perform a 50% water change on two consecutive days to restore water quality and remove residual FBZ from the water, and the specimens can be returned to the main tank.
In your case, if you have a lot of invertebrates and corals in your seahorse tank, I would be inclined to play it safe and if you know your bristleworm population via trapping rather than eradicating them en masse with fenbendazole. As previously noted, a number of bristleworms traps are available at aquarium outlets and can serve as the seahorse keeper’s first line of defense against these prickly pests. Here are some tips from Dee that explain the best ways she’s found for trapping bristleworms:
I actually caught a bristle worm last night that’s massive!!! Only 4"
long but nearly 1/2" wide! I used a trap for him. I wasn’t going for
him. I knew there was a big one in my reef tank and had seen one
about 7" long. He was the one I was after. My hubby woke me up this
morning to come see the one I did manage to catch.
Besides him though I’ve caught quite a few smaller ones as well. I
like to check my reef tank about 1 1/2 hrs after the lights have been
shut off. Then when I find them I watch them as they flee from the
flahslight and know where they are hiding. I set the traps right next
to their hidy holes and catch them. If they are really narrow the
traps aren’t that good. They can get back out very easily so you
can’t wait until morning to check the traps. You need to check them
periodically through the night, if a small worm is in the trap, empty
it then don’t wait till morning or he’ll be gone. Even the huge one I
just caught managed to get into a hole about 1/8" in diameter to the
I’ve had better success with nylons. I buy knee high nylons and at
night drop a rock or two in the toe along with some food. Then I set
the toe area right near the holes. When they try to get the food they
get stuck in the nylons. In the morning I just pull it out of the
tank and get rid of them.
I’ve also used a turkey baster a few times. If you can get into the
tank quiet enough they won’t really move, squeeze the ball and when
you’re really close to the worm let go. The suction can be pretty
good sometimes depending on where they are.
> Anyone out there with any great successes at catching and
> eradicating your tank of bristles without the use of drugs. This is
> important to me since I have an amazing Coco worm and a few other
> things planned for my reef that will be harmed by the so
> called "wormicides". Ive been using a trap with on and off success,
> actually caught about 1-3/night for the first few nights, and not
> having much success catching the more cautious ones. I think there
> might only be one or two left but not able to coax them out.
The best bait for trapping bristleworms depends on what I have handy at the time 🙂
I found the brine shrimp and sometimes krill (both frozen) work well.
I usually add some to either the trap or the nylons and then take a
small container of water from my reef tank to thaw it out before
putting either the traps or nylons in my tank.
I’ve got two more tricks for ya, First the turkey baster. It doesn’t
really have a lot of suction power. Or at least I’ve never found one
that the ball was on tightly. So I bought a new one and took the ball
off. I wrapped the end with thick clear tape, smae diameter as duct
tape just clear tape. Then when I put the ball back on it was much
tighter giving me much better suction.
Also there is a different type of bulb that is very useful especially
for small worms. They make them for babies noses and you can also get
them anywhere they sell camera equipment. They are used to blow dust
off camera lenses. They are a good size to fit in your hand snugly
and have good suction. Again to make it better there is a small hole
in the bottom on the bulb. I used a piece of a silicone ear plug and
covered the hole. Now I’ve got twice the suction and it works great!!
Eeven though the spout end looks small it really can suck up some
good size worms.
Personally I’m fascinated with the night time world of my tanks. I
completely dewormed my rocks in my sea horse tank. But as for my reef
tank, I kinda like having some brstile worms in there. They really do
clean up a lot of stuff and in tiny little spaces where noone would
ever think would need cleaning. But when I start finding portions of
dead hermit crabs I get a bit cranky. I still can’t kill them though.
I’ve still got the huge one alive and well and am trying to figure
somewhere where I can put him so he can live. I’d love to watch him
closer. I also get a bit cranky when I reach into a tank at night and
don’t watch where I’m reaching. Oops! Got hit pretty hard by a
fireworm one night from a brand new rock. Ended up pulling out three
bristles and got a good sting that lasted 3 days.
Good luck catching your worms, once you start you’ll get hooked on
catching the little monsters 😉
Just don’t freak out about bristleworms and overreact at the sight of a few of the pests. Bristleworms are not public enemy number one — in most instances, they are harmless or even helpful residents of your seahorse tank. But if you want to play it safe, no one here will fault you for trapping the little buggers or "debugging" your live rock with fenbendazole.
Best of luck getting your bristleworm population under control! And good luck finding a new mate for your stallion!