- This topic has 3 replies, 2 voices, and was last updated 17 years, 9 months ago by Pete Giwojna.
May 22, 2006 at 8:44 pm #822janamelindaMember
We have a pair of Barboris and our female is acting strangely today. They both ate very well this morning (about 9:30) and then about 11:30 or so I noticed the female laying on her side on the sand. She seems to be breathing a little heavier than usual, but not much. My husband just tested the water, etc. this weekend, and all is good. I notice that she tries to prop herself up against things to keep her upright, otherwise she\’s laying on her side at the bottom, breathing though. Now she is up on a rock (I did not see her get there though!) and she is holding on to it with her tail, but it\’s like she\’s hanging nearly upside down. She is usually swiming about the tank and very active. What else should I be looking for? I can\’t figure out what could be wrong with her. Thanks for your help.
JanaMay 23, 2006 at 1:48 pm #2539Pete GiwojnaGuest
I’m very sorry to hear that your female Hippocampus barbouri is having a problem. The type of behavior you describe — laying horizontally on the bottom, attempting to proper herself up against objects, and the inability to assume her normal upright posture when perched to a hitching post — could be either an indication of generalized weakness or it could be due to negative buoyancy as the result of swim bladder disease or a buildup of fluid accumulating within her coelomic cavity.
Due to the sudden onset of the problem, I suspect the problem may be due to a swim bladder disorder. It just seems to me that it would take more time for your female Barb to become debilitated to the point that she was unable to hold herself upright, or for a sufficient quantity of fluid to build up in her abdomen so that it weighed her down so much she could no longer maintain her normal upright posture, and I think you would have noticed some previous symptoms in those cases. So I’m going to rule out generalized weakness and ascites (i.e., fluid build up) for the time being, and concentrate on a malfunction of the swimbladder instead.
As in many other bony fishes, the seahorse’s gas bladder functions as a swim bladder, providing the lift needed to give them neutral buoyancy. In essence, the swim bladder is a gas-filled bag used to regulate buoyancy. Because the seahorse’s armor-plated body is quite heavy, this organ is large in Hippocampus and extends well down into the body cavity along the dorsal boundary. It will have a whitish to silvery appearance and is a simple, single-chambered sac that begins at the bend in the neck and extends to about 1/3 of the length of the coelomic cavity (Bull and Mitchell, 2002).
When the swim bladder is inflated with just the right amount of gas, the seahorse achieves neutral buoyancy, which just means that if neither tends to rise or sink. It is thus weightless in the water, with the buoyancy from its gas bladder exactly canceling out the pull of gravity. This facilitates swimming and makes holding its body upright effortless.
But a number of things can disrupt the normal functioning of the gas bladder and the gas gland that inflates it, resulting in either too little or too much gas being secreted into the swimbladder. When too much gas is secreted into the swimbladder the seahorse becomes too buoyant. Hyperinflation of the swimbladder thus results in positive buoyancy and the tendency to float. Likewise, if too little gas is secreted into the swimbladder, exactly the opposite occurs in the seahorse becomes too heavy. Under inflating the gas bladder therefore results in negative buoyancy and the tendency to sink.
I suspect your female Barb is suffering from an underinflated swim bladder or gas bladder, Jana. The resulting negative buoyancy makes it difficult for the armor-plated seahorse to swim normally, rise from the bottom, or even hold itself erect. An underinflated swim bladder is sometimes a problem a seahorse can correct on its own, as more gas is gradually secreted into the swim bladder from the gas gland. However, this is a gradual process and may take days to accomplish.
But an underinflated gas bladder can also result from infection, and I have seen several cases of swim bladder disease that were associated with internal parasites, which sometimes also contribute to generalized weakness, so I think it it would be prudent to treat your seahorses with a good antiparasitic that is effective against internal parasites, such as metronidazole or praziquantel.
Metronidazole is an antibiotic with antiprotozoal properties that is very effective in eradicating internal parasites in general and intestinal flagellates in particular (Kaptur, 2004). It is ideal for this because it is rapidly absorbed from the GI tract, has anti-inflammatory effects in the bowel, and was designed specifically to treat protozoal infections and anaerobic bacterial infections by disrupting their DNA (Kaptur, 2004).
If the seahorse is still eating, administering the metronidazole orally via gut-loaded shrimp is often extremely effective (Giwojna, Dec. 2003). Keep the seahorses on a strict diet of gut-loaded brine shrimp for 5-10 days. When administered properly, metronidazole is wonderfully effective at eliminating intestinal parasites, and there should be signs of improvement within 3 days of treatment (Kaptur, 2004).
Gutloading simply means to fill live shrimp up with medication by feeding them food that’s been soaked in the desired medication. Once the feeder shrimp are full of the medicated food — that is, their guts are loaded with it — they are immediately fed to the seahorses, which thus consume the medication along with the shrimp. It’s a neat way to trick seahorses into taking their medicine, just as our moms used to do when were little, crushing up pills in a spoonful of jelly or jam. Another term for gutloading is bioencapsulation, since the medication is neatly contained within a living organism rather than a capsule. Gutloading allows the seahorses to be treated in their main tank, where they are completely at home, surrounded by their tankmates and the rest of the herd, and is thus a very stress-free form of treatment.
There are a number of ways to gutload shrimp, but many hobbyists find it easiest to gutload adult brine shrimp with metronidazole as described below. It is impossible to determine precisely what dosage of medication each individual fish ingests when gutloading, but metronidazole is a very, very safe drug and you cannot overdose a seahorse using this method of treatment. Feeding each seahorse its fill of shrimp gut-loaded with
metronidazole for 5-10 days assures that they receive an effective dose of the medication.
Adult brine shrimp can gut-loaded or bio-encapsulated as follows. To medicate the brine shrimp, dissolve approximately 100 mg of metronidazole per liter or about 400 mg per gallon of water and soak the shrimp in the resulting freshwater solution. If the metronidazole you are using comes in liquid or capsule form, you can use it as is. But if the metronidazole is in tablet form, be sure to crush it into a very fine powder (you may have to use a household blender to get it fine enough) and dissolve it in freshwater at the dosage suggested above. Soak the adult shrimp in freshwater treated with the antibiotic for 15-30 minutes and then feed the medicated shrimp to your seahorses immediately. (Don’t let your pumps and filters "eat" all the brine shrimp!)
The brine shrimp are soaked in freshwater, not saltwater, because in theory the increased osmotic pressure of the freshwater helps the antibiotic solution move into their bodies via osmosis. But in fact nobody knows for sure whether the antibiotic is diffusing into the brine shrimp or they are ingesting it in very fine particles (brine shrimp are filter feeders and will take in whatever is suspended in the water with them) or whether the brine shrimp merely become coated with the antibiotic while they are soaking in it. But that’s not important — all that really matters is that gut-loading adult brine shrimp with medications this way is effective.
Keep the seahorses on a strict diet of such medicated brine shrimp throughout the treatment period to get as much of the antibiotic into the seahorses as possible, and mix up a new batch of medicated freshwater to soak the brine shrimp in for each feeding.
You should be able to obtain a medication at your local fish store that has metronidazole as all as its primary ingredient, Jana. Administering it to your seahorses via gut-loaded adult brine shrimp is a very safe, gentle treatment, that should not stress your seahorses in any way. If your female H. barbouri’s underinflated swim bladder is due to internal parasites or anaerobic bacteria, the metronidazole should set things right. Or she may be able to reinflate are swimbladder and restore neutral buoyancy on her own over a period of days.
In the meantime, just make sure your pH and dissolved oxygen levels are on the mark, keep your temperature in the comfort zone for H. barbouri, maintain optimum water quality, and feed your seahorses medicated adult brine shrimp for the next several days just as we’ve discussed, Jana. Please give me a quick update regarding her progress in a few days.
Best of luck with your ailing H. barbouri. Here’s hoping she is soon swimming normally, perching properly, and back to her old self again before you know it!
Pete GiwojnaMay 23, 2006 at 4:46 pm #2541janamelindaGuest
Thank you so much for such a detailed reply (which I’ve noticed in all your posts–excellent!) Just a quick update–she is doing much better. Last night she started moving around fairly well–hanging on to the male quite a bit too. She even made it to her feeding dish and, well, not sure if she ate, but she was staring at it quite a bit! This morning she is up and around and swimming gracefully! Should we still treat her? Also, the tank temp has been at about 71-72, is that good? Again, thank you so much for your reply!!
JanaMay 24, 2006 at 3:21 am #2543Pete GiwojnaGuest
It’s good to hear that your female Barb is back to her old self again! That suggests that her problem was indeed an underinflated swimbladder, and that she has managed to secrete enough additional gas into it to restore neutral buoyancy and correct the situation. As I mentioned, that’s one problem that seahorses are often able to resolve on their own and that seems to be the case with your H. barbouri.
In that event, no treatment should be necessary, Jana. The fact that she was able to readjust her gas bladder so quickly seems to indicate that her brief problem with negative buoyancy wasn’t triggered by internal parasites or any sort of infection. As long as she is eating well, swimming normally, and maintaining her normal upright posture again, there’s no reason to medicate her or her tankmates.
The next time you’re at your LFS, you might still want to pick up some metronidazole for your fish room medicine cabinet. It’s a useful medication for seahorse keepers to keep on hand.
A water temperature of 71°F-72°F is great for H. erectus and tropical/subtropical seahorses in general, but H. barbouri likes a little warmer temperatures than most seahorses. I wouldn’t warm up your aquarium temperature at this time, however, since with summer fast approaching, your seahorse tank will probably be running around 75°F soon as the ambient air temperature rises.
Best wishes with all of your fishes, Jana!
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