- This topic has 5 replies, 3 voices, and was last updated 16 years, 10 months ago by Pat.
November 20, 2006 at 7:55 pm #1008PatMember
I recently received 2 mustangs and 2 sunbursts from Ocean Rider. Happy, healthy critters! I added them to a 26 gal tank with my two erecti who were breeding & I have had for over a year.
I recently discovered the older horses have white edges to their dorsal fins (they look like they are being eaten away) and the female has some of this on her tail as well. Any idea what is going on & how do I treat it? If it\’s bacterial, should I treat the whole tank?
My water parameters are fine.
Please help!November 20, 2006 at 11:08 pm #3078Pete GiwojnaGuest
I’m happy to hear that your Mustangs and Sunburst are doing so well!
However, judging from the symptoms you describe, it sounds like your original pair of erectus have developed fin rot. This condition usually begins as a white line along the margin of the fin and, as the infection progresses and the membrane of the fin gets eaten away, the rigid fin rays become exposed and the fin frays as a result. As long as you detect the condition early and begin treatment before the fin is eroded away all the way to the body, allowing the infection to invade the underlying musculature, the chances for a complete recovery are very good and the damage to the fin will quickly regenerate itself once the infection is eliminated. For example, this is how I described fin rot in my old "Step-By-Step Book about Seahorses:"
Fin Rot in Seahorses
"Fin rot is another problem that sometimes afflicts seahorses in captivity. When this happens, the alert aquarist will notice that the fins of the seahorse are beginning to look frayed and ragged for no apparent reason. This damage is most obvious in the dorsal fin, which is almost always the first to be attacked. In its early stages, this disease is evident as a fine white line along the edge of the fin, which gradually advances towards the base of the fin until the fin rays become exposed, protruding like the ribs of a tattered umbrella. If the bacterial rot is left untreated, the entire fin will be destroyed and the body tissues of the seahorse will become infected, at which point it can no longer be saved. Early detection and treatment is crucial for curing fin rot. At the first sign of fin rot, Mildred Bellamy recommends submerging the infected seahorse in a numeral 1:4000 solution of copper sulfate for one to two minutes. As she cautions, fishes undergoing this chemical baths should be watched closely and removed at the slightest sign of distress regardless of how much time has elapsed. A second bath should be administered in exactly the same manner 24 hours later. Along with these chemical dips, she also recommends that the infected fins be swabbed with a good bacteriocidal agent, such as hydrogen peroxide or merbromin (brand name Betadine), three or four times daily for a period of five to seven days. It may also be helpful to gradually lower the specific gravity of the aquarium water to about 1.020 during treatment, since fin rot is sometimes associated with high salinity.
"Providing the fin rot is detected early, or is only a mild infection, seahorses usually recover completely following this regimen of treatment, and the damage since will be fully regenerated. Once again, I must stress the fact that the key to recovery is stopping fin rot in its tracks before the bacteria penetrates the tissue and the body of the seahorse becomes infected." (Giwojna, Step-By-Step Book about Seahorses, pp. 57-58) <end quote>
Fin rot is not normally highly infectious, so it should not be necessary to treat the entire tank. Nowadays, of course, we have much better treatments at were available in Mildred Bellamy days, and I would not bother with copper sulfate at all. Rather, I would recommend treating the affected seahorses with antibiotic therapy in your hospital tank. For example, TMP-sulfa or 4 Sulfa TMP sometimes work wonders in cases of fin rot:
Trimethoprim and Sulfathiazole Sodium (TMP-Sulfa)
A potent combination of medications that’s effective in treating both gram-positive and gram-negative bacterial infections. It exerts its anti-microbial effect by blocking two consecutive steps in the biosynthesis of nucleic acids and proteins essential to many bacteria, making it very difficult for bacteria to develop resistance to the medications. TMP-Sulfa may be combined with other sulfa compounds to further increase its efficacy and decrease the chance of resistant strains developing. TMP-Sulfa will knock your biofilter for a loop, so be sure to use it in the hospital tank only.
These forms of sulfa can be obtained via National Fish Pharmaceuticals at http://www.fishyfarmacy.com/.
However, in your case, Pat, since the tail of your female also seems to be involved, I would recommend a more aggressive combination of antibiotics. I suggest you treat the affected seahorses in isolation using a potent combination of antibiotics and gradually reduce the water temperature in your hospital tank to as low as 68°F if possible in order to help get the infection under control.
The medications I recommend for this are aminoglycoside antibiotics (either kanamycin sulfate or neomycin sulfate, or better yet — both of them) combined with triple sulfa or other sulfa compounds:
Kanamycin sulfate powder
USE: Gram-negative bacteria and resistant strains of piscine tuberculosis and other bacterial infections. Works especially well in salt water aquariums.
DOSAGE 1/4 teaspoon per 20 gallons of water. Treat every 24 hours with a 25% water change before each treatment. Treat for 10 days. For piscine tuberculosis, use for up to 30 days.
This is a potent broad-spectrum, gram+/gram- antibiotic. It is
wonderfully effective for aquarium use because it is one of the few
antibiotics that dissolves well in saltwater and that is readily
absorbed through the skin of the fish. That makes it the treatment of
choice for treating many bacterial infections in seahorses. Kanamycin
can be combined safely with neomycin to further increase its
efficacy. Like other gram-negative antibiotics, it will destroy your
biofiltration and should be used in a hospital tank only.
For best results, it’s an excellent idea to combine the kanamycin with neomycin to further boost its efficacy, as described below:
Neomycin sulfate powder
USE: Gram-negative bacteria (Pseudomonas), piscine tuberculosis and other bacterial infections. Works well in freshwater or saltwater aquariums.
DOSAGE 1/4 teaspoon per 10 gallons of water. Treat every 24 hours with a 25% water change before each treatment. Treat for 10 days. For piscine tuberculosis, use for up to 30 days.
Neomycin is a very potent gram-negative antibiotic. Most of
infections that plague marine fish are gram-negative, so neomycin
sulfate can be a wonder drug for seahorses (Burns, 2002). As
mentioned above, it can even be combined with other medications such
as kanamycin or nifurpirinol for increased efficacy. For example,
kanamycin/neomycin is tremendous for treating bacterial infections,
while nifurpirinol/neomycin makes a combination that packs a heckuva
wallop for treating mixed bacterial/fungal infections or problems of
unknown nature. Keep it on hand at all times.
Neomycin will destroy beneficial bacteria and disrupt your biological
filtration, so be sure to administer the drug in a hospital tank.
If you obtained neomycin in capsule or tablet form rather than the powder, the standard treatment protocol is 250 mg/gal (66 mg/L) as the initial dose and 50% replacement (125 mg/gallon) thereafter with a daily 50% water change repeated for 10 days.
Kanamycin and/or neomycin sulfate can also be combined with various sulfa compounds. One that seems to work well is combining neomycin sulfate with triple sulfa. You may be able to get neomycin sulfate and triple sulfa compound at a well-stocked LFS. If not, you can obtain both neomycin sulfate powder and triple sulfa powder from National Aquarium Pharmaceuticals.
In addition, Pat, you might consider treating the the white spot on the tail of your female with Biobandage as a first-aid miniature. This is a combination of neomycin, a vitamin complex, and unique polymers that form a sort of "biological bandage" that binds the medications to the wound, thus helping to prevent infection and promote rapid healing. It can be obtained online from the following vendor:
It sounds like you’re 26-gallon aquarium may be getting a little overcrowded, Pat, and I suspect that may be one reason why you have had an outbreak of fin rot. The recommended stocking density for Mustangs and Sunburst (Hippocampus erectus) is one pair per 10 gallons, so if you’re 26-gallon tank is now housing three pairs of mature H. erectus, it is officially overstocked. That’s a situation you’ll need to keep an eye on once you resolve the fin rot.
There is a good disease book on seahorses that you may also find very informative, Pat. Dr. Martin Belli, Marc Lamont, Keith Gentry, and Clare Driscoll have done a terrific job putting together "Working Notes: A Guide to the Diseases of Seahorses." Hobbyists will find the detailed information it contains on seahorse anatomy, the latest disease diagnosis and treatment protocols, and quarantine procedures to be extremely useful and helpful. It has some excellent dissection and necropsy photos as well as a number of photos of seahorses with various health problems. This is one book every seahorse keeper should have in his or her fish-room medicine cabinet, and I highly recommend it! In time of need, it can be a real life saver for your seahorses. It’s available online at the following web site:
Best of luck clearing up a fin rot, Pat!
Pete GiwojnaNovember 22, 2006 at 10:18 pm #3087PatGuest
Thanks for your excellent, thorough and informative advice. Unfortunately, I came home that night to see the male had passed away. The female had gotten to a point where I could see she was struggling, so I humanely put her out of her misery. I had a hard time of it, but I also wanted to prevent the speading of disease to my new charges.
Both horses did not have the spindles left on the dorsal fin. It seems like the whole fin was eaten away to the back of the horse, also the skin on the thicker part of the tails of both animals seemed to be shedding away and look opaque white. As they got sicker, they appeared to have "seizures" and refused to eat.
My concern now is that the whole tank may be infected, although the other 4 seem to be doing just fine: active, eating, fins are clear. How soon would I know if the others have it? Should I treat the whole tank as a precaution? If so, what should I use to treat it? The tank also contains one very small purple lobster and a few mushrooms on live rock with a fair amount of caulerpa. It is filtered with a two-tier canister filter containing activated carbon and has a sponge skimmer. Heater is set at 74 degrees F. I feed frozen mysis enhanced with Vibrance II twice a day with live ghost shrimp as a treat once a month. Is there anything else you need to know to answer the question?
PatNovember 22, 2006 at 11:45 pm #3088Pete GiwojnaGuest
I am very sorry to hear that the original pair of seahorses have succumbed. All my condolences on your loss!
It sounds like the fin rot had already progressed to the point where the seahorses could no longer be saved. Once the infection works its way all the way down the fan, exposing the fin rays and invading the underlying musculature, antibiotics are no longer effective. At that point, the infection can become systemic and spread to other parts of the body. It sounds like the tails of your seahorses were also being attacked and the "seizures" you describe are indicative of septicemia and problems with major organ failure.
As I mentioned, fin rot is not normally highly contagious. If you wanted to treat the whole aquarium prophylactically to be on the safe side, you would need to use a potent broad-spectrum antibiotic, which would have the unfortunate side effect of killing the nitrifying bacteria and severely impairing your biological filtration. The aquarium would then very likely have to be recycled as a result, and the subsequent ammonia/nitrite spikes would probably cause more problems than the prophylactic antibiotic therapy would help prevent. Let’s avoid that, if possible, Pat.
Rather than treating the main tank with antibiotics, I would concentrate on maintaining optimum water quality (a water change is advisable), holding the water temperature stable between 72°F-75°F, and continuing to feed the seahorses Vibrance-enriched frozen Mysis. Both Vibrance formulations now include beta-glucan as a primary ingredient. The beta-glucan is a powerful immunostimulant that will help the rest of your seahorses fight off infections and remain healthy.
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 with bacterial infections and other disease problems, as well as some of the measures you can take to help prevent them in the future. It includes suggestions for rehabbing your main tank after an outbreak of disease. 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>
In your case, Pat, I suspect the fin rot may have resulted from stress due to overcrowding, and now that the affected seahorses are gone, the cause of that stress may well have been relieved. Just keep the aquarium at its present stocking density and hopefully all will go well.
Aside from maintaining optimum water quality and keeping your seahorses stress-free, Pat, one other preventative measure you might consider is to install an ultraviolet sterilizer on your seahorse tank, as discussed below:
Although it does not improve water quality to nearly the same degree as an ozonizer used in conjunction with a protein skimmer, UV radiation in the proper range (295-400 nanometers) is known to help oxidize phosphates, metabolites, organic molecules and nitrogenous compounds through the incidental production of ozone (Fenner, 2003a).
The primary benefits UV sterilization provides, however, are disease reduction and the reduction of nuisance algae. Ultraviolet radiation can be very effective in reducing free-floating algae, bacteria and microbes in general, certain parasites while in the free-swimming stages of development, and other suspended microscopic organisms (Fenner, 2003a). Seahorses are prone to a number of serious bacterial problems such as Vibriosis, and a properly installed and maintained UV sterilizer can be invaluable in reducing the incidence and spread of such infections. When properly used, UV sterilization can reduce microbial levels in the aquarium to the low levels normally found in the wild or below (Fenner, 2003a).
For best results, the UV sterilizer must be properly sized, operated, and maintained. In order to provide a good kill rate per pass, the effective dwell time (the length of time the water is exposed to UV radiation while passing through the sterilizer) should be maintained at or above roughly twenty gallons per hour flow per watt of UV (Fenner, 2003a). This sounds complicated, but selecting the right sterilizer for your needs is actually very easy. Every manufacturer provides guidelines to help the hobbyist choose a unit and a pump that provide the proper wattage, flow rate and exposure time for any given application.
To assure efficient transmission of the proper wavelengths, sleeves (i.e., the quartz jacket that shields the lamp) must be kept clean and UV bulbs must be replaced at regular intervals. Equally important, the aquarium water should be filtered before it passes through the sterilizer. For maximum efficiency, make the UV sterilizer the final component of an in-line filtration system, so that the water has already passed through your mechanical, biological and chemical filtration media before it flows through the sterilizer (Fenner, 2003a). Do not operate your UV sterilizer during the break-in period when a new aquarium is being cycled and the biological filtration is becoming established. It is counterproductive to reduce microbe levels and nutrient levels when the aquarium is cycling.
Ultraviolet sterilizers are not necessary for maintaining seahorses, but nowadays I would not attempt to keep wild-caught seahorses without one. Hardy, disease-resistant farmed-raised seahorses can do just fine without them, and reefers often frown on UV because it reduces the population of microscopic planktonic organisms filter-feeding invertebrates require. But in my opinion a UV sterilizer makes a very useful addition to the filtration system of the average seahorse setup. The fish farms and aquaculture facilities that raise captive-bred seahorses employ UV radiation in their nurseries and grow-out tanks, and there is no reason the home hobbyist should not take advantage of this technology as well.
Those are my thoughts on the matter, Pat. Best of luck rehabbing the main tank and restoring things to normal.
Pete GiwojnaNovember 24, 2006 at 7:08 am #3096Saint2966Guest
Sorry to hear of your loss. I went thru an almost exact situation. Only I did not have my first two horses as long as you. As a matter a fact, I purchased them as testers before my OR’s arrived. They were tank raised from the LFS. I had them about a month before the OR’s came in. They seemed to be doing fine, about two months after I recieved my 4 treasures, my original pair came down with fin rot. I immediately caught it, and treated them as Pete had recommended. I also lost both of them to the infection. It has been 8 weeks now and the Oceanriders are going strong. I have a friend who replaces her LFS crew about once monthly. I have come to the conclusion there is nothing like the immune system of Oceanrider Horses. I will never purchase another fish store horse, and strongly advise anyone else from doing so. I think you are going to be safe with your newest additions they seem to tolerate alot. I do keep mine on vibrance as well, but I think its in the breeding and care as well as their initial health that leaves a safety net against such problems. I just wanted to let you know my experience, and hope it gives you some comfort in knowing you will more than likely be okay. Thanks to Oceanrider for taking alot of the difficulty out of owning seahorses.
CindyNovember 24, 2006 at 6:25 pm #3098PatGuest
Thanks, Cindy! Your experience gives me hope that my new OR’s will be OK. And they seem to be OK so far.
I agree with you: The OR’s were healthier, more robust, more active than any LFS ones I have seen and I too am encouraging anyone who wants to have seahorses to get them from OR because of the quality. I also think the Vibrance helps because of what they put in it to enhance the immune systems.
In any case, I have done two water changes, a day apart. I am keeping an extremely close eye on them.
On another note, my new mustangs had babies and I have two left after 19 days. They are eating and growing fast! I never had that success with the fry of the LFS horses.
Yes, thank you, Ocean Rider, for providing us with quality animals, food and advice for raising happy, healthy horses. This is truly a rewarding hobby and informative to all who come to visit me just to see my horses!!!
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