- This topic has 3 replies, 2 voices, and was last updated 15 years, 10 months ago by Pete Giwojna.
November 11, 2007 at 12:04 am #1308KimHMember
Had a bad bout of GBS – wiped out 3 males; like your articles said, I think i caught it too late. Attempted several pouch flushes with Kanamycin ( all I could find as neomyacin doesn\’t seem to be avlb any longer ) but didn\’t work. My question is since all of the males were afflicted, should I be concerned with residual bacteria or something in the tank.
Water quality is within parameters, and I have increased changes. Planning to do a 25% today.
Wanted to get your thoughts before I reinvest in stocking the tank.
Also – has ocean rider ever considered selling the meds ( Im sure there are many legal reasons why not, but I thought I\’d ask ).
KimNovember 11, 2007 at 4:24 am #3880Pete GiwojnaGuest
I’m very sorry to hear about your problems with gas bubble syndrome (GBS). The stallions are much more vulnerable to GBS then the females because their heavily vascularized, physiologically dynamic brood pouches leave them predisposed to the formation of gas emboli under certain circumstances.
However, GBS is not at all infectious. It isn’t caused by bacteria or a virus or any other pathogen. It is an environmental disease, triggered by certain conditions within the aquarium itself. In my experience, there are three main conditions that are most often associated with an outbreak of GBS:
1) Insufficient depth (aquaria that are less than 20 inches deep are very susceptible to GBS, and the taller the aquarium is, the more resistant it will be to GBS).
2) Gas supersaturation of the aquarium water, which can lead directly to the formation of gas emboli within the blood and tissues of seahorses.
3) Changes in the seahorse’s blood chemistry (i.e., acidosis). Anything that tends to acidify the blood of the seahorses can result in GBS, including stress, low levels of dissolved oxygen and/or high levels of CO2, and low pH in the aquarium water, among other factors.
Since GBS is an environmental disease, Kim, if you can provide me with a little more information about your seahorse setup, I’m very confident we can make some changes in your aquarium that will make it much more resistant to GBS and help prevent such problems in the future. What are the dimensions of your seahorse tank? What kind of filtration system are you using and what equipment do you have installed on the aquarium? Are you using a protein skimmer, it and, if so, what type of skimmer are you using on your seahorse tank? Please provide me with the current aquarium parameters for your seahorse tank and the information requested above, along with the list of all the inhabitants of the tank, and I will be happy to provide you with some detailed recommendations for preventing GBS in the future before you restock the aquarium.
At some point, Ocean Rider may consider offering a basic First Aid Kit for seahorses that will include a selection of the must-have medications that are most useful for seahorse keepers to keep on hand. However, this would not include prescription medications such as Diamox (the tablet form of acetazolamide), which is the medication of choice for the various forms of gas bubble syndrome
Unfortunately, Kim, obtaining Diamox can often be a Catch-22 situation for hobbyists. It is a prescription drug often used for treating glaucoma, hydrocephaly, epilepsy, congestive heart failure, and altitude sickness in humans so you have to get it from your Vet or perhaps your family doctor. Unfortunately, Veterinarians are often unfamiliar with Diamox — it’s very much a people med and unless you find a Vet that works with fish regularly, he or she will probably never have heard of gas bubble disease or treating it with carbonic anhydrase inhibitors. Many pet owners are on very good terms with their Vets, who are accustomed to prescribing medications for animals, so it’s often best to approach your Vet first about obtaining Diamox despite the fact they may never have heard of it until you brought it to their attention. Your family doctor, of course, will be familiar with such medications and have Diamox on hand but it can sometimes be difficult to get your MD to jump that final hurdle and prescribe it for a pet. Either way, it can be tough to get the medication you need under these circumstances.
However, I would exhaust those possibilities first before I considered an online source for the Diamox. Do a search for "carbonic anhydrase inhibitor" on this forum and print out some of the detailed information that’s been posted regarding gas bubble disease and how it’s treated using Diamox and present that to your family veterinarian and/or your family practitioner. (Veterinarians are prohibited by law from prescribing medications to treat an animal they have not personally seen and examined. If you have had a close personal relationship with your vet over a period of years, they are often willing to bend that rule in the case of fish, but you may well have to bring the ailing seahorse in for a quick checkup to get the desired results.)
If not — if neither your Vet or family physician will prescribe Diamox — then there are places you can order Diamox online without a prescription, but save that for a last resort. (You can’t always be certain of the quality of the medications you receive from such sources; in some cases, you even need to be concerned about counterfeit drugs, although Diamox certainly shouldn’t fall into that category.) The medications will take a week or two to arrive, which is troublesome when your seahorse is ailing and needs help ASAP. And be aware that customs officials can confiscate such shipments.
If you ultimately need to go that route, the following source is the one most seahorse keepers have found works best:
Click here: Inhouse Drugstore Diamox – online information
They offer 100 tablets of Diamox (250 mg) for around $20 US, but they ship from Canada by mail, which usually takes a little under two weeks for delivery.
Best wishes with all your fishes, Kim.
Pete GiwojnaNovember 11, 2007 at 5:57 am #3881KimHGuest
In reading your note, I suspect that the issue might be the supersaturation.
I have a 35g hex, 24" tall.
Tankmates are a couple of small clowns, and several cleanup crabs from oceanrider. No one bothers anyone.
The tank is a Uniaquarium with a biofilter in back, and a protein skimmer in back as well ( pre step to the bio filter ).
But, I added a airstone into the tank as it did not seem to have much circulation. What do you think about that being the culprite? – I think I will remove and watch the H2O chemistry for a while to see if the circulation was really an issue.
KimNovember 13, 2007 at 12:46 am #3882Pete GiwojnaGuest
Okay, that’s good — an aquarium that is 24 inches tall has enough water depth to offer some protection against gas bubble syndrome (GBS), so I think we can rule out insufficient water depth as a contributing factor to your outbreak of GBS. That makes me think that the problem is either chronic, low-level gas supersaturation or some sort of a stressor that is triggering changes in the seahorses’ blood chemistry (i.e., acidosis). But we’ll have to do a little more detective work before we can determine what the culprit may have been any more specifically than that, Kim.
It’s certainly could be a case of gas supersaturation, but if that’s the case, then the most likely suspect is probably the protein skimmer, rather than the airstone. The bubbles from an airstone have nothing to do with GBS, except in those rare cases where a male was performing pouch displays while basking in the stream of bubbles, and inadvertently sucked some of the bubbles into his pouch while pumping water in and out. Otherwise, as long as the airstones are not immersed too deeply, they actually help prevent gas supersaturation by providing vigorous surface agitation, which promotes efficient gas exchange at the air/water interface.
There is some anecdotal evidence to suggest that some protein skimmers can cause gas supersaturation under certain circumstances, and that this can result in GBS in some cases. The protein skimmers that have occasionally been implicated in such instances are the ones that produce the bubble column for the skimmer by injecting air under pressure at depth. I’m not sure what type of skimmer your UniQuarium comes with, Kim, but there is a slight possibility it could have been supersaturating your aquarium water and contributing to your problems with GBS in this way. So, just to be on the safe side, I will often suggest that the home hobbyist disconnects or uninstalls the protein skimmer on their seahorse tank if the aquarium has experienced a problem with GBS. That eliminates one of the possible factors that could have played a role in an outbreak of GBS.
Otherwise, the filtration system for the UniQuarium tanks is excellent for seahorses. The built-in wet/dry trickle filter features a thin film of water trickling over filter media with an ultra-large surface area, thereby allowing maximum air-water contact. This provides excellent oxygenation with efficient offgassing, which is very important for seahorses. It helps keep dissolved oxygen levels high, CO2 low, which helps prevent gas supersaturation. And, of course, wet/dry trickle filters also provide very efficient biological filtration, which can give you a real nice edge by further increasing your carrying capacity and boosting your margin for error accordingly. The spray bar return also provide surface agitation and promotes efficient gas exchange at the air/water interface, thus helping to avoid problems with gas supersaturation.
So if gas supersaturation was a contributing factor to the GBS in your case, Kim, the optional protein skimmer would be my primary suspect, and you might want to consider removing it just in case. And one other thing that would also be helpful in that regard is to gradually reduce your water temperature. The lower the water temperature, the more dissolved gases the water can hold in solution, so reducing your water temperature is very helpful in preventing gas supersaturation. If you can drop your water temperature to perhaps 70°F-72°F and remove the protein skimmer, then that should effectively eliminate any possibility of gas supersaturation in your system in the future, especially since your seahorse tank is equipped with a wet/dry trickle filter and a spray bar return. If you can’t lower the temperature that far, just dropping in a few degrees can help.
Now that we have addressed the issues of water depth (not a problem with your tank) and potential gas supersaturation problems, that leaves the environmental stressors that can acidify the blood of your seahorses and contribute to GBS. Here is some information that reviews the most common aquarium stressors, among other causes of GPS, and discusses some simple methods for minimizing problems with GBS, Kim. I realize that many of these factors do not apply in your case, but let’s go over all of them anyway for the sake of thoroughness:
Preventing Gas Bubble Syndrome
Since GBS is caused by physical factors in the seahorse setup, when the affliction crops up, it’s a red flag that indicates that there’s something amiss with the conditions in your tank. With that in mind, I would like to quickly review some of the preventative measures aquarists can take to minimize problems with Gas Bubble Syndrome:
(1) Aquarium options (Giwojna, Jan. 2004):
Taller is better. When shopping for a seahorse setup, opt for the tall or high model of the largest aquarium you can reasonable afford and maintain. If the tank is too short, male seahorses may not be able to get enough pumping action in as they ascend and descend during courtship displays and mating (the copulatory rise) to flush out their pouches and cleanse them properly (Cozzi-Schmarr, 2003). This can contribute to bloated pouch, a type of pouch emphysema.
As a rule, your seahorses require a minimum of three times their height (total length) in vertical swimming space in order to mate comfortably and help avoid this sort of pouch gas problem.
Other forms of GBS are also believed to be depth related, but the aquarium must be greater than 30 inches deep to provide any significant protection against them, which is not feasible for most hobbyists (Giwojna, Jan. 2004). A depth of at least 3 feet is known to protect the Hawaiian seahorse (Hippocampus fisheri) against GBD (Karen Brittain, pers. com.).
If you’ve had a problem with GBS in the past, look for a tank at least 20-30 inches tall, reduce your water temp to 70-degrees F, and avoid overly tall hitching posts that reach near the water’s surface (Cozzi-Schmarr, 2003). You want to encourage the seahorses to hang out near the bottom in order to take advantage of every inch of depth the aquarium can provide.
(2) Filtration options (Giwojna, Jan. 2004):
Gas supersaturation of the water can occur whenever the dissolved gas pressure in the water is greater than the atmospheric pressure. When that happens, the dissolved gases in the seahorse’s tissues are no longer in equilibrium with the surrounding aquarium water, causing gas to move into the area with lower partial gas pressure — the tissues and blood of the seahorse – and come out of solution, forming gas emboli! Providing proper filtration, circulation, and aeration can prevent this.
Trickle filter (acts as a de-embolizing tower or degassing column).
External filter that returns water as a "water fall."
Sump with strong aeration.
Overflow drains, as opposed to siphon/suction tubes.
Surface agitation to facilitate efficient gas exchange.
Increased circulation and water movement.
Extra airstone(s) just below the surface of the water.
Having a trickle filter, water "falling" into the tank as it’s returned, or strong aeration in the tank or the sump will help off-gas any supersaturated dissolved gases (Giwojna, Jan. 2004). This will also help off-gas a build up of CO2 and the associated pH drop that some tanks experience when the lights go off (Giwojna, Jan. 2004). The off gassing or degassing takes place only at the very air/water interface, so you want to spread the water into very thin sheets and let it be in contact with the atmosphere for an extended period (Robin Weber, pers. com.). That is precisely what a degas column does by trickling water over solid media open to the atmosphere, and if properly maintained and operated, a wet/dry trickle filter can perform the same function (Jorge A. Gomezjurado, pers. com.). For best results, the outflow from a trickle filter should go into a baffled chamber that will allow bubbles to dissipate before they enter pumps or plumbing restrictions (J. Charles Delbeek, pers. com.).
Airstones, air lifts, bubble wands, etc., if submerged deeper than 18 inches.
Subsurface entry of the inflowing or recirculating water.
On small, closed-system aquariums, supersaturation is often due to the entraining of air on the intake side of a leaky pump, which then chops the air into fine microbubbles and injects it into the water (Cripe, Kowalski and Phipps, 1999). Water and air are thus mixed under high pressure and forced into the water column, which can result in gas supersaturation. An air leak in inflowing or recirculating water that enters the tank below the surface can cause the same thing (Cripe, Kowalski and Phipps, 1999). Allowing the water to splash before it enters the tank is a simple way to prevent this from happening. The splashing helps the water to expel excess gas and reach equilibrium with the ambient air pressure (Giwojna, Jan. 2004).
Likewise, airstones, air lifts, bubble wands and the like can cause problems if they are too deep because they will cause gas to dissolve in water to match the ambient pressure (the current atmospheric pressure) PLUS the pressure of the water column above the stone. If they are immersed at a depth greater than 18 inches, the pressure of the water column above them may be sufficient to cause gas supersaturation of the water, especially when there is little atmosphere/water interface (Colt & Westers, 1982). For example, Robin Weber found that airstone submerged in reservoirs 3 feet deep produced excessive gas supersaturation at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. The airstones produced supersaturation at a level of about 104%, and the only cases of GBS she has ever observed at the aquarium occurred in the most supersaturated exhibits. So keep your airstones shallow!
(3) Eliminate stress (Giwojna, Jan. 2004):
Avoid aggressive tankmates.
Install a titanium grounding probe to eliminate stray voltage.
Avoid exposing the seahorse tank to excessive noise or heavy foot traffic.
Use a cork or Styrofoam aquarium pad beneath the tank to deaden vibrations.
Stress has been linked to GBS in seahorses via the following mechanism: chronic or prolonged stress causes changes in the seahorse’s blood chemistry (acidosis), which in turn affects the oxygen-carrying capacity of certain types of hemoglobin, and the reduced oxygen-carrying capacity of hemoglobin can then causes embolisms to form in the blood.
The excess of protons (H+) under acid conditions also causes carbonic anhydrase to shift to producing CO2 from carbonic acid in the bloodstream, and the CO2 that results can likewise lead to gas embolisms under certain circumstances (Giwojna, Jan. 2004).
Mic Payne is one of the professionals who feel GBS is most likely a stress-related affliction. He believes it is often a result of chronic stress due to antagonistic behavior by overaggressive males, particularly if they are overcrowded (Payne, pers. com.). Exposing our seahorses to any type of stress may leave them predisposed to GBS (and vulnerable to many other diseases as well). Reduce the stress levels on our seahorses and we reduce the incidence of GBS accordingly (Giwojna, Jan. 2004).
(4) Maintain optimum water quality (Giwojna, Jan. 2004):
Don’t overfeed and remove leftovers promptly.
Employ an efficient cleanup crew.
Practice sound aquarium management and maintenance.
Monitor the aquarium parameters regularly.
Maintain total alkalinity and keep your pH between 8.1-8.4
Maintain a strict schedule for routine water changes.
When he was experimenting with possible treatments for GBS, Paul Groves (Head Aquarist at Underwater World in Perth, Australia, at the time) was able to produce all the different forms of GBS in a control group of Hippocampus breviceps simply by exposing them to a dirty, bacteria-laden substrate. His seahorse setup was far better than any hobbyist could hope for — an open system with 100% flow through from the ocean and a live sand base, yet all the seahorses in the tank eventually developed GBS (Groves, pers. com.). Males with chronic pouch gas were the first to appear, followed by specimens with internal GBS, and finally subcutaneous gas bubbles appeared on the tails and snouts of the others Groves, pers. com.). The weakness of Paul’s setup was poor circulation, and for experimental purposes, he deliberately allowed fecal matter and uneaten nauplii to build up on the bed of live sand. (Groves found that antibiotics were totally ineffective in treating GBS, but he eventually cured 10 of the 12 affected seahorses using decompression at a depth of 4 meters.)
It is not clear whether stress from the dirty conditions or exposure to such a high density of bacteria triggered the problem in this case, but the lesson is loud and clear all the same — it pays to keep those aquariums clean (Giwojna, Jan. 2004)! If we keep our seahorses setups clean, we will keep our problems with GBS to a minimum (Giwojna, Jan. 2004).
Maintaining the proper pH is especially important for seahorses, since low pH in the aquarium can result in general metabolic acidosis, leading to gas embolisms via the same mechanisms as stress-induced GBS (Giwojna, Jan. 2004).
(5) Water changing precautions (Giwojna, Jan. 2004):
It’s an excellent idea to use Reverse Osmosis (RO) or Deionized (DI) or RO/DI water for your changes because it’s much more pure than tap water. However, water purified by such methods is very soft and must be buffered before it’s used so it won’t drop the pH in your aquarium when it’s added (Giwojna, Jan. 2004).
When mixing saltwater for your marine aquarium, it’s important to fill your container with all the water you will need BEFORE adding the salt mix. In other words, if you are mixing up 5 gallons of new saltwater, fill the mixing container with 5 gallons of water and then add the salt. If you do it the other way around — dump the salt mix in the container and then start filling it with water, the water can become saturated with salt to the point that the calcium precipitates out. This calcium precipitation will turn the water milky and can also lower the pH to dangerous levels (Giwojna, Jan. 2004).
Water changes can also be a problem because of the supersaturation of gases in tap water. Tap water distribution systems are maintained under pressure at all times, both to insure adequate flow and to prevent polluted water from outside the pipes from entering in at leaks. Any additional gas introduced into these pipes (from a leaky manifold, for example) will be dissolved at these higher partial pressures, and will often be supersaturated when it emerges from the tap (Giwojna, Jan. 2004). Also, gases are more soluble in cold water than warm, so when gas-saturated cold water emerges from the tap and warms up in an aquarium, or is warmed up and preadjusted to aquarium temps prior to making a water change, the water can become supersaturated (Giwojna, Jan. 2004). This must be avoided at all costs because gas supersaturation is one of the factors that can contribute to Gas Bubble Disease in seahorses and other fish.
To prevent this, tap water should be allowed to sit for several days beforehand or gentle aeration can be used to remove gas supersaturation before a water change (just make sure your airstones are not be submerged greater than 18 inches while you’re aerating your freshly mixed water; (Giwojna, Jan. 2004)). Some brands of artificial sea salt also produce low levels of ammonia immediately after mixing with water, and aging or aerating the newly mixed water as described above will dissipate this residual ammonia.
Most of the above is mentioned for future reference — I realize there aren’t many modifications you can make after the fact, once your system is already up and running (Giwojna, Jan. 2004). But there are a few things you can try with your existing system that should help.
First of all, whenever you find yourself dealing with an environmental disease such as GBS, a water change is an excellent place to start. At the first sign of GBS, I suggest you combine a 25%-50% water change with a thorough aquarium clean up (Giwojna, Jan. 2004).
Secondly, consider adding an ordinary airstone to your tank, anchored just beneath the surface of the water. That will add surface agitation, extra aeration, and better gas exchange at the air/water interface (Giwojna, Jan. 2004). Unless you’re quite certain your system already has plenty of water movement, it is also advisable to add a small powerhead for extra circulation (Giwojna, Jan. 2004). Seahorses can handle more water movement than most folks realize, and you can always turn it off during feedings. Just screen off the intake for the powerhead as a precaution so it can’t accidentally suck up a curious seahorse (Giwojna, Jan. 2004).
Finally, use shorter hitching posts and holdfasts that will confine your seahorses to the bottom half of the aquarium and reduce the water temperature. Shorter hitching posts will get the maximum benefit from whatever depth your tank can provide, and lowering the water temperature allows the water to hold more dissolved gases, which can help avoid any tendency toward supersaturation (Cozzi-Schmarr, 2003).
Those simple measures may make a big difference. Just maintain good water quality, provide your seahorses with the stress-free environment, add a shallow airstone and perhaps an extra power head to provide better water movement and gas exchange, remove your protein skimmer as a precaution, and keep things cool and you can reduce your risk of GBS considerably.
Best of luck with your new seahorses when you are ready to restock your aquarium, Kim!
- You must be logged in to reply to this topic.