- This topic has 7 replies, 2 voices, and was last updated 7 years, 10 months ago by Pete Giwojna.
May 2, 2012 at 5:53 am #1957tjdouglasMember
I have a 110 gallon mixed reef tank with sps and lps corals, a pair of purple firefish, a pair of banded pipefish (from OR), a pair of true percula clown fish, and mixture of seahorse varieties. I have H. Erecutus, H. Comes, H. Reidi, and a small juvenile H. Ingens in this tank.
My H. Reidis and the juvenile H. Ingena have been breathing very rapidly and heavily for over a week. But the H. Erectus and H. Comes are not bothered at all by whatever is ailing the Reidis and Ingens. I treated the tank for eight days with a combination of metronidazole and praziquantil. (Fortunately this medication seems to have no ill effects on the coral). I turned off skimming and ozone and removed the carbon during the treatment.
The Reidis and the Ingens seem no better (though no worse) after the treatment. I have now completed a water change and restored skimming, carbon and the use of ozone. I am wondering if you recommend I try hyposalinity in the tank at this point. I figure that whatever is ailing them is still in the system and I need to wipe it out. I do understand that since I have coral, I cannot lower the hyposalinity as much as if I did not have corals. I also understand that if the illness is caused by Uronemas then hyposalinity will not help.
Any ideas on what could be bothering only the Reidis and the little juvenile Ingens but not the other seahorses and how I might treat it?
Thanks so much!
TomMay 2, 2012 at 2:16 pm #5447tjdouglasGuest
I forgot to mention in my previous message that I have also given the sick H. Reidis and the sick H. Ingens two 45 minute baths, 48 hours apart, in a solution of tank water and Formalin 3 (two teaspoons per gallon – 45 minutes with aeration). Thought this info might help….thanks again!
TomMay 3, 2012 at 5:34 am #5448Pete GiwojnaGuest
I’m sorry to hear about the breathing problems that your Hippocampus reidi and juvenile Hippocampus ingens have developed, sir.
I completely understand why you have administered the medications and treatments you mentioned, Tom – respiratory distress and labored breathing are often the result of protozoan parasites, gill flukes, or other ectoparasites which typically invade the gills first and foremost. But after hearing that you have had negative results after treating for parasites with metronidazole and praziquantel, as well as with formalin baths, I am thinking that you may be dealing with something other than a parasite problem, sir.
Most of the time when there is an outbreak of parasites – particularly the rapidly reproducing protozoan parasites – all of the fish in the tank are affected to one degree or another, and clownfish are typically even more prone to such problems than other fish. Secondly, you are using ozone in conjunction with your protein skimmer, Tom, and ozone can effectively control many pathogens and protozoan parasites when it is used properly. In any case, the formalin baths should cleanse the seahorses’ gills of parasites, including Uronematids, yet the affected seahorses experienced no relief from their symptoms following the baths.
So I am unsure whether or not hyposalinity would produce any better results, Tom. Is there anything else that you can think of that may have stressed your Hippocampus reidi and H ingens? Is it possible they may have received a sting from one of the corals? Have you noticed any of the other fish harassing the affected seahorses, or have any of the erectus or comes been attempting to assert dominance over the reidi and ingens? Have you noticed any headbutting or tail wrestling among the seahorses?
Whatever it is stressing the ponies, Tom, it may be no coincidence that only the Hippocampus reidi and juvenile ingens have been affected because those two species are very close relatives.
In fact, I usually think of H. ingens as a giant version of the Brazilian seahorse (H. reidi), which is it’s closest evolutionary ancestor. Hippocampus ingens is the only seahorse in the eastern Pacific, and it is closer genetically to the Atlantic H. reidi than any of its western Pacific counterparts (Dames, 2000). As a result, the two are believed to have diverged from a single ancestral species as a result of the formation of the Isthmus of Panama three million years ago (Lourie et al 1999).
The two species are very similar in their behavior and aquarium requirements, and both follow the same reproductive strategy, delivering huge broods of very small fry following a short two-week gestation period, after which the newborns must undergo a prolonged pelagic period of further development amidst the lipid-rich planktonic soup.
So I am wondering if this could be some sort of an environmental problem – some factor that is unfavorable to the closely related reidi and ingens, but which does not bother the unrelated Hippocampus erectus and Hippocampus comes seahorses. The problem is that I have great difficulty in coming up with an environmental condition that would affect only the reidi and ingens, since their aquarium requirements are very similar to those of erectus and comes…
One thing that did occur to me, however, is that it could be possible that excess ozone may be escaping into the main tank from your ozonizer, Tom, and residual ozone can be irritating to the gills of the affected fish.
As you know, Tom, ozone – the triatomic form of oxygen (O3) – is highly unstable and a powerful oxidizing agent. Excess ozone escaping into the aquarium water can have several harmful effects on the aquarium inhabitants. The safest way to use ozone is in conjunction with an ORP controller, which can automatically shut down the ozonizer when needed, and when using it in conjunction with a protein skimmer, the outflow from the protein skimmer should be diverted through a large bed of activated carbon to allow the ozone to degrade and to remove residual ozone before the water is returned to the aquarium.
Even when all the necessary precautions are observed, problems can still occasionally arise if the protein skimmer, associated airline, tubing, valves, and gaskets are not made of ozone-resistant materials. The use of improper materials can result in the erosion of the plastic itself or key components, resulting in leakage, and the residual ozone that is released can be harmful in a number of ways. Even when ozone is used properly, there are a few risks to be aware of, as explained below, sir:
Materials used in an ozone treatment system must be highly resistant or inert to ozone. Use of improper materials can lead to erosion of the unit and cause dangerous and costly leakages. Such systems are not suitable for the long-term application of ozone and require on-going, high replacement costs. The generation of ozone in systems with substandard materials is also less efficient as ozone is lost as the materials of the reactor are oxidised. The use of some plastics, such as polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and polycarbonate is not recommended for long-term applications for this reason. Galvanised steel is also not recommended.
Stainless steel contact chambers and piping are recommended for use with ozone. Valves should be made of stainless steel, with gaskets and membranes of Teflon® or similar.
Ozonation of brackish or seawater results in the production of different by-product oxidants to freshwater. Ozone reacts with bromide and chloride ions in saltwater to produce relatively stable oxidants that are toxic to aquatic organisms. Use of ozone in saltwater systems is usually restricted to batch treatment of water separate to the main recirculating flow. Activated carbon filtration can be used to remove residual ozone and other oxidants from ozonated saltwater.
The reduction of nitrite levels by ozone, which directly oxidizes nitrite, carries a risk. The biofilter receives less nitrite and the population of bacteria responsible for processing nitrite to nitrate diminishes. If any disruption to ozonation occurs, dangerous spikes in nitrite concentration can subsequently develop.
High residual ozone concentrations are a risk to cultured fish stocks causing gross tissue damage and stock mortalities.
High residual ozone concentrations are a risk to bacterial films on the biofilter. Disruption to biofilter performance can cause large fluctuations in ammonia and nitrite levels. This can have a lethal effect on fish stocks or at the very least reduce stock health and growth performance. <http://www.absoluteozone.com/ozone_generator_aquaculture.htm>
Among other effects, residual ozone can be irritating to the gills of fish that are exposed to unacceptable levels, causing tissue damage. It could be that you may have had some residual ozone escaping into your tank in one manner or another, Tom, and that the Hippocampus reidi and juvenile Hippocampus ingens are more sensitive to the residual ozone (or its oxidation products when it reacts with bromide and chloride ions in saltwater) than the other fish in the tank.
That is one possibility for an environmental factor that could account for the symptoms you have noticed, sir…
If you feel that could be a possibility, you may want to doublecheck the materials used in your protein skimmer and the associated airlines, etc., to make sure that their ozone resistant, and to make sure that the outflow from your protein skimmer is filtered through a dense bed of activated carbon before it is returned to the aquarium. Consider administering the ozone in conjunction with an ORP controller.
Otherwise, Tom, I would also suggest that you consider administering daily doses of Sanolife MIC-F probiotics to your seahorse tank on the off chance that you may be dealing with bacterial gill disease, as explained in more detail below:
The Use of Probiotics for Disease Prevention and Control
The use of probiotics has long been regarded a promising area for future research in aquaculture. Simply put, probiotics are mixtures of specially cultured microbes and microflora that are known to be beneficial to the aquarium and its inhabitants. When added to the aquarium, probiotics populate the aquarium substrate and filter media, as well as colonizing the gastrointestinal tract of the seahorses. Probiotics that colonize the digestive system of the seahorse with beneficial microflora can offer protection against certain pathogens by means of competitive inhibition, and there is also good evidence that suggests they may improve immune function by increasing the number of IgA-producing plasma cells, increasing or improving phagocytosis as well as increasing the proportion of T lymphocytes and Natural Killer cells.
At the same time, other beneficial bacteria in the probiotics mixture colonize the sand and gravel, live rock, and filter media, where they specialize in breaking down waste products, detritus, and other organic matter. This helps to maintain optimum water quality by reducing organic loading, stabilizing the pH, improving the clarity of the water, and reducing the levels of nitrates and phosphates in the aquarium.
In short, probiotics can prevent seahorse diseases by three mechanisms: dramatically improving water quality, boasting the immune system, and outcompeting pathologic bacterial, such as Vibrio. This is important for the seahorse keeper to know because Vibrio is the genus of bacteria that are most commonly associated with infections such as tail rot, snout rot, and marine ulcer disease or ulcerative dermatitis. in addition, probiotics are also known to markedly reduced the incidence of gas bubble syndrome (GBS) when seahorses are kept in small, closed-system aquariums, probably by virtue of their ability to promote optimum water quality (Dan Underwood, personal communication).
Until recently, the use of probiotics in aquaculture has been confined primarily to livestock intended for human consumption (e.g., food fish and edible shrimp), rather than for ornamental fish intended for the aquarium industry, but that’s beginning to change, particularly in acknowledgment of the growing problem with drug-resistant strains of bacteria.
Fortunately, for the first time in the history of the aquarium hobby, probiotics are now becoming widely available to home hobbyists and at a very economical cost. They are inexpensive, extremely easy to use, and can often be real lifesavers for fish maintained in home aquariums.
Anything that can help protect seahorses against Vibrio and other pathogens is certainly worth investigating and I strongly recommend that the home aquarist use probiotics in any aquarium that has suffered an outbreak of disease, especially bacterial infections such as snout and tail rot or marine ulcer disease (ulcerative dermatitis). Adding probiotics to the main tank at the first sign of such a problem will inhibit and help eliminate pathogenic bacteria from the aquarium. This can prevent your seahorse tank from becoming a "sick tank" that harbors a disease reservoir that will continue to take a toll on the remaining seahorses in the aquarium over time.
It is crucial to prevent this unfortunate situation from developing, because a sick tank that has suffered an outbreak of disease and now harbors a reservoir of pathogenic bacteria can continue to strike down new victims in the weeks and months ahead. At first, healthy seahorses may be able to successfully resist the opportunistic invaders, but small numbers of the pathogens will nonetheless remain, lurking silently in the background, ready to take advantage of any pony that should become stressed or weakened for any reason in the interim. What often happens under such circumstances is that the hobbyist will continue to lose individual seahorses to the same sort of disease symptoms even though all of his aquarium parameters look good and his herd appears to be perfectly healthy. For no apparent reason, one of the healthy ponies will suddenly sicken and die, so that the beleaguered hobbyist is losing additional specimens, one at a time, every few weeks or every month or so despite every precaution.
Adding probiotics to the main tank at the first sign of a disease outbreak can disrupt this deadly cycle by outcompeting the limited numbers of the pathogenic microbes and displacing them from the aquarium itself as well as the aquarium fish. At the same time, the probiotics will enhance the immune function of the seahorses, strengthening their immune response and making them more disease resistant. So please be aware of this fact and take full advantage of the benefits probiotics can provide if your seahorse tank should suffer a disease problem.
Best of all, the probiotics are equally effective in helping to prevent disease outbreaks in a healthy marine aquarium. They can prevent pathogenic bacteria from gaining a toehold in your seahorse tank in the first place via the phenomena of competitive inhibition, and will boost the immune system of the healthy seahorses, further enhancing their disease-fighting abilities. Savvy seahorse keepers can thus help prevent disease problems by routinely adding appropriate probiotics to their healthy seahorse setups.
When a seahorse has been healthy in an aquarium for a year or two with no problems, and then suddenly dies for no apparent reason, the culprit is often a gradual deterioration of the water quality caused by the slow but steady accumulation of detritus, waste products, and other organic matter over time. This is particularly true when the seahorses are maintained in small, closed-system aquariums. Even though you are diligent in cleaning the aquarium when performing regular water changes, the organic loading of the aquarium system inevitably builds up over time. Along with the increase in the detritus and organic wastes, undesirable bacteria are also building up as always happens when conditions begin to become unsanitary.
In a small home aquarium, the water quality can go downhill quickly, and what typically happens in such a scenario is that the organic loading and associated undesirable bacteria build up until the aquarium system reaches a tipping point, after which the water quality declines, stressing the seahorses. Eventually, prolonged low-level stress weakens the seahorses and suppresses their immune response, allowing opportunistic bacteria to gain the advantage, and the seahorse develops an infection as a result.
The use of probiotics prophylactically can disrupt this process by degrading waste products and excess organics, preventing them from accumulating in the aquarium. At the same time they are improving and stabilizing the water quality, they are helping to displace and eliminate harmful bacteria within the seahorses and within the aquarium by outcompeting them and boosting the seahorses’ immune response.
Using probiotics prophylactically can be especially helpful under the following circumstances:
(1) you are having difficulty stabilizing the pH in your seahorse tank;
(2) you are having a problem with nuisance algae in your seahorse tank;
(3) you are having trouble controlling the nitrates and/or phosphates in your seahorse tank;
(4) you cannot operate a protein skimmer on your aquarium to remove dissolved organics;
(5) the water in your aquarium is not as clear as it should be.
And, of course, the use of probiotics in your aquarium is always indicated whenever there has been an outbreak of disease in your seahorse setup.
One probiotic that I can recommend for disease prevention and control in the seahorse tank is Sanolife Mic-F from INVE AQUACULTURE, Inc., a Belgium-based company. Sanolife Mic-F contains special strains of Bacillus aimed at degrading organic matter in the aquarium and inhibiting pathogenic bacteria. It is inexpensive and costs $17 for half a kilogram. It can be obtained in the United States through Teri Potter, INVE’s Utah distributor, whose contact information is as follows:
3528 W 500 S
Salt Lake City
Tel. +1 (801) 956 0203
E-mail: [email protected]
The Bacillus bacteria in the Sanolife probiotic will reduce nitrates and improve water quality by degrading waste products and organic matter. They will also colonize the digestive tract of your seahorses with beneficial microflora that improve their digestion, so your ponies will produce less waste even though they may be eating the same amount. The Sanolife beneficial bacteria also help make your seahorses more disease resistant by helping to eliminate opportunistic pathogenic bacteria through the phenomena of competitive inhibition and by enhancing the immune response of the seahorses.
Dosing Sanolife Mic-F for home aquariums:
The Sanolife MIC-F probiotic can be administered in two ways — either by direct application of the powder to the aquarium water in the main tank on a daily basis, or it can be administered orally by mixing the powder with frozen Mysis or with live adult brine shrimp (Artemia), which are then fed to the seahorses. For best results, both methods should be used simultaneously. Administering the probiotics with the seahorse’s feed will help the special mixture of beneficial microbes to colonize the pony’s digestive tract, allowing the microbes to better stimulate the seahorse’s immune system and outcompete harmful bacteria such as Vibrio. Meanwhile, adding the Sanolife powder directly to the aquarium will encourage the enzymatic activity that breaks down excess organic matter and helps to assure optimal water quality.
Here are the instructions for both methods of administering Sanolife MIC-F:
Procedure for Direct Application of the Sanolife MIC-F To the Aquarium Water
The recommended daily dose is 5 grams of the probiotic per cubic meter of water in the aquarium system. Since 1 cubic meter of water equals 264 gallons, the proper dosage of the Sanolife powder is therefore as follows:
5 g per 264 gallons of aquarium water
2.5 g per 132 gallons of aquarium water
1 g per 53 gallons of aquarium water
500 mg per 26 gallons of aquarium water
250 mg per 13 gallons of aquarium water
[Note: 1 ounce equals ~28 grams]
When you have measured out the proper amount of the Sanolife MIC-F Powder, scoop up a little water from the tank, mix it with the powder and disperse the mixture evenly throughout the tank. Repeat daily.
Procedure for Administering Sanolife MIC-F Orally
Mixing Sanolife Powder with Frozen Mysis
The recommended dosage is 150 mg of Sanolife MIC-F powder per ounce of frozen Mysis. Thaw out 1 ounce of frozen Mysis. If the thawed Mysis is not sufficiently moist, sprinkle no more than 3 mL of water over the frozen Mysis to moisten it. (The added moisture will help the Sanolife powder adhere to the Mysis.) Gently but thoroughly mix in 150 mg of the Sanolife powder with the thawed, moistened Mysis. Then feed the prepared Mysis to the seahorses immediately or store it for a maximum of 24 hours in the refrigerator. Repeat this procedure for each day’s feedings.
Enriching Live Food with Sanolife Powder
Add 500 mg of Sanolife MIC-F powder per ounce of water in the enrichment container directly to the live adult brine shrimp (Artemia sp.) enrichment container. Apply at least two hours and no more than six hours before harvesting the enriched adult brine shrimp. Feed the enriched adult brine shrimp to your seahorses immediately thereafter or keep the enriched adult brine shrimp in cold storage for a maximum of 24 hours before using. Enrich a new batch of adult brine shrimp with the appropriate amount of the Sanolife powder for each day’s feeding.
If treating seahorses for a health problem, continue to administer the Sanolife MIC-F probiotic orally until the symptoms have completely disappeared and the seahorse is back to normal again.
Otherwise, if using Sanolife probiotics prophylactically in your main tank, add the appropriate dose every day for 14 days and then discontinue adding the probiotic powder temporarily. After one month has passed, repeat the two-week regimen of the probiotics, adding daily doses for 14 days. This pattern can be repeated indefinitely in a healthy aquarium, following monthly waiting periods: add daily doses of the probiotic powder for two straight weeks, discontinue using the probiotic for one month, re-dose the tank with probiotics daily for two weeks, rest the aquarium for one month, and so on.
Okay, Tom, that’s the quick rundown on the use of probiotics. On the off chance that you may be dealing with bacterial gill disease rather than some sort of parasites or a problem with residual ozone or its oxidation products, daily doses of Sanolife MIC-F probiotics could help your seahorses to recover by boosting their immune systems and driving out pathogenic bacteria via the phenomenon of competitive inhibition. The probiotics would also help to prevent any of the other seahorses or fish from being affected.
Finally, if you would like to administer the modified form of hyposalinity that would be compatible with your corals, Tom, it certainly wouldn’t do any harm, as long as you observe all the usual precautions:
Modified OST for Reef Tanks
Reefers generally run a modified version of OST in which they maintain a somewhat higher specific gravity, usually around 1.017 (Thiel, 2003), for a longer period of time in order to control protozoal parasites. Most corals are safe at even lower salinities, but 1.017 usually provides adequate protection and provides a margin for error. In any case, as a rule, reef keepers DO NOT take their systems lower than 1.015 for safety’s sake (Thiel, 2003). (This is also a good option for hobbyists who have only a typical pet-store hydrometer for measuring specific gravity, or anyone with many invertebrates in their seahorse setup.)
Corals typically close slightly immediately after the salinity is lowered, but are open fully again by the next day, and suffer no harmful long-term effects from hyposalinity at 1.017 whatsoever (Thiel, 2003). Reefers who practice OST report that it has no long-term detrimental effects on the growth rate of their corals.
According to Thiel, corals that are know to be sensitive to hyposalinity, and which are thus not well suited for OST, include Seriotopora hystrix, Montipora digitata, Pocillopora species and other similar hard corals with a fine, dense, polyp structure (Thiel, 2003). Acropora species, however, handle hyposalinity well and soft corals are also generally fine, including such sensitive softies as Xenia, Lemnalia, and the like (Thiel, 2003). As long as the pH and alkalinity are maintained at normal levels, most hard corals are not harmed at a specific gravity as low as 1.017.
Remember, it is safe and effective to reduce the specific gravity relatively rapidly when administering hyposalinity, but when raising the specific gravity to the normal levels again, you must proceed very gradually, taking a week or two to return the salinity to normal in order to avoid the danger of dehydration to the aquarium inhabitants.
Also, you can certainly use probiotics in conjunction with hyposalinity if you wish.
Best of luck resolving this baffling problem, Tom!
Pete Giwojna, Ocean Rider Tech SupportMay 4, 2012 at 3:27 am #5449Pete GiwojnaGuest
As we have been discussing, ozone must be used properly in order to avoid possibly harming the aquarium inhabitants (or the aquarist himself). In a nutshell, high levels of ammonia exposure can kill the aquarium fish and invertebrates, as well as destroying the beneficial nitrifying bacteria that carry out biological filtration. Death from ozone exposure is typically the result of asphyxiation, since the oxidative ability of the ozone damages red blood cells in several ways. Ozone exposure induces hemolysis of red blood cells, formation of methemoglobin (rendering the erythrocytes unable to transport oxygen), and red blood cell membrane lipid peroxidation.
Respiratory distress is therefore the early symptom of ozone exposure at low levels. Labored breathing, huffing, rapid respirations, and pallor are some early indications of ozone exposure. At higher levels, the gill tissue itself can be oxidized or "burned" by exposure to ozone, and critical damage to the gills hastens death. So I am thinking that if you’re having any problems with residual ozone, Tom, it is at quite low levels and should be quite treatable, if necessary.
This is what I usually advise home hobbyists with regard to ozone, Tom:
Ozone (O3) is the highly unstable triatomic form of oxygen. The instability of the ozone molecule makes it highly reactive, and it oxidizes or "burns up" organic compounds and microbes on contact. As a result, ozone is widely used for water purification and sterilization, particularly in Europe (Fenner, 2003a). When used in conjunction with a protein skimmer and properly administered, it provides many benefits to the aquarium and is a very useful option seahorse keepers should strongly consider employing.
Ozone chemically degrades large organic molecules, thereby helping to raise pH, increase dissolved oxygen levels and Redox potential, and improve water quality in general while greatly increasing the efficiency of your protein skimmer (Fenner, 2003a). Its ability to destroy microbes on contact also makes it a very useful disease control measure. Virtually all the large public aquaria employ ozone in their systems for these reasons.
For best results, an ozonizer or ozone generator is used to introduce ozone into the bubble column of a protein skimmer or a special reaction chamber. The outflow from the skimmer should then be discharged into a filter or sump for degassing and chemical filtration (e.g., passing it through a dense bed of activated carbon) before being returned to the main aquarium (Fenner, 2003a). In the best systems, ozone is used in conjunction with an ORP controller in order to optimize and stabilize Redox (reduction-oxidation potential).
Ozone is not necessary for keeping seahorses successfully. Protein skimmers can certainly be operated effectively without it and captive-bred seahorses will thrive in a well-maintained system without the use of ozone. But in my opinion, the benefits ozone provides far outweigh the costs and it can be a very useful addition to a SHOWLR tank. Ozone is by no means a necessity, but it can be a very worthwhile investment in the long-term health of your seahorses, if you follow all of the necessary precautions.
If residual ozone is a problem in your case, Tom, it would seem to be at very low levels since only the Hippocampus reidi and juvenile Hippocampus ingens have been adversely affected. If that’s the situation, then the residual ozone is most likely causing the respiratory distress by converting the normal hemoglobin in the seahorse’s blood into methhemoglobin, which renders the red blood cells unable to transport oxygen, and it’s possible that treating the affected fish with methylene blue could reverse this problem and provide the affected seahorses with some relief, as explained below:
Aside from residual ozone, exposure to moderate levels of ammonia and nitrite (or excessively high levels of nitrates) can change the normal hemoglobin in the seahorse’s blood stream to a form (i.e., methhemoglobin) that is no longer able to transport oxygen. If this becomes severe enough, it will leave the affected seahorse starved for oxygen, which makes it very weak and fatigued. As a result, the affected seahorses may detach themselves from their hitching posts periodically and rest on the bottom, unable to exert themselves in their weakened condition. As you can imagine, being deprived of oxygen really wipes them out in terms of loss of energy and stamina. At lower levels, it also results in respiratory distress, and rapid, labored breathing as they try to oxygenate themselves and compensate for the lack of normal hemoglobin.
One of the properties of methylene blue is that it can reverse this process and convert the methhemoglobin in the red blood cells back into normal hemoglobin, which can then pick up and transport oxygen again as usual. That’s why it is so helpful in relieving shipping stress and treating ammonia exposure and nitrite poisoning. For this reason, you may want to pick up some methylene blue at your local fish store and keep it on hand in case it is ever needed (the Kordon brand of methylene blue is best, in my opinion).
The usual criteria for determining whether or not methylene blue is needed to help seahorses recover from exposure to high levels of ammonia is their respiration. If the seahorse has labored breathing — huffing or rapid respiration — then methylene blue is called for. Likewise, if the seahorse is experiencing convulsions or it’s behavior otherwise indicates it is suffering from more than temporary disorientation and loss of equilibrium, such as lying prostrate on the bottom, unable to right itself again at all after two or three hours have passed, it may benefit from methylene blue to assist its recovery.
When that’s the case, hobbyists may want to consider a quick dip in methylene blue. Commonly known as "meth blue" or simply "blue," this is a wonderful medication for reversing the toxic effects of ammonia and nitrite poisoning. Methylene blue transports oxygen and aids breathing. It facilitates oxygen transport, helping fish breathe more easily by converting methemoglobin to hemoglobin — the normal oxygen carrying component of fish blood, thus allowing more oxygen to be carried through the bloodstream. This makes it very useful for treating gill infections, low oxygen levels, or anytime your seahorses are breathing rapidly and experiencing respiratory distress. It is the drug of choice for treating hypoxic emergencies of any kind with your fish. However, methylene blue will destroy nitrifying bacteria so it should be used in a hospital tank or as a brief bath or dip only (if used in an established aquarium, it will impair the biological filtration and the tank may need to be cycled all over again).
Here is some more information that may be helpful if you ever need to treat with methylene blue, for any reason:
If you can obtain the Kordon brand of Methylene Blue (available at most well-stocked local fish stores), there are instructions for administering it as a very brief, concentrated dip are as follows:
For use as a dip for treatment of fungus or external parasitic protozoans and cyanide poisoning:
(a) Prepare a nonmetallic container of sufficient size to contain the fish to be treated by adding water similar to the original aquarium.
(b) Add 5 teaspoons (24.65 ml) per 3 gallons of water. This produces a concentration of 50 ppm. It is not recommended that the concentration be increased beyond 50 ppm.
(c) Place fishes to be treated in this solution for no longer than 10 seconds.
(d) Return fish to original aquarium.
When you administer such a dip, hold the seahorse in your hand throughout the procedure and time it closely so that the dip does not exceed 10 seconds.
And here are Kordon’s instructions for administering the methylene blue in a hospital tank if longer-term treatment seems appropriate to reverse more severe cases of nitrite poisoning and ammonia toxicity:
As an aid in reversal of nitrite (NO2-) or cyanide (CN-) poisoning of marine and freshwater aquarium fishes:
(a) Remove carbon filter and continue to operate with mechanical filter media throughout the treatment period.
(b) Add 1 teaspoon of 2.303% Methylene Blue per 10 gallons of water. This produces a concentration of 3 ppm. Continue the treatment for 3 to 5 days.
(c) Make a water change as noted and replace the filter carbon at the conclusion of the treatment.
See the following link for more information on treating with Kordon’s Methylene Blue:
Click here: KPD-28 Methylene Blue
If you obtained a brand of methylene blue other than Kordon, just follow the instructions the medication comes with.
One other tip, hold your horses: if you ever need to handle seahorses to administer first aid measures or treat them in a hospital tank, it’s best not to net them when you are manipulating the seahorse:
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.
Okay, that’s the quick rundown on using methylene blue to reverse the formation of methemoglobin in the red blood cells and to relieve the resulting respiratory distress, Tom.
Best wishes with all your fishes, sir.
Pete Giwojna, Ocean Rider Tech SupportMay 11, 2012 at 1:24 pm #5451tjdouglasGuest
Thank you so much for your thoughtful response. I do really appreciate all of the time and consideration you put in trying to help solve my issue!
Since you suggested that the use of ozone might be a source of the problem, I am going to stop using ozone for now and switch over to a UV sterilizer. (I have been using an ORP controller with the ozone and have been running the outflow through carbon, but I suppose their could still have been some residual ozone working its way into the main tank from the sump).
I also got a hold of the Sanolife MIC-F product that you suggested and started using it today (probably a good idea with the switch to UV anyway). So I am keeping my fingers crossed and hoping to see less huffing and occasional "coughing" among the Reidis and Ingens in a few days. I still do not understand why my Erectus and Comes are not troubled by this issue issue…but of course I am very glad to see they remain in fine health.
Again, thank you so much for all of your ideas and suggestions,
TomMay 13, 2012 at 9:27 am #5452Pete GiwojnaGuest
Yeah, I know from our previous correspondence that you are using the ozone in your tank according to recommendations, and observing all of the usual precautions, Tom. But when I’m analyzing a problem and I am quite unsure what is going on in this particular case what the proper diagnosis should be, I will bring up anything I can think of that could possibly account for the symptoms that were reported, and throw it out there in the hope that it may make some sense to the home hobbyist. As the first-hand observer, the home aquarist always knows his particular tank and the specimens he or she keeps best, and if I can mention something that may not have occurred to them but that resonates with them in retrospect, it is sometimes helpful.
Also, as I have learned the hard way from my own personal experience, even when you are using the ozone properly and observing all of the precautions, it still possible for problems to crop up because a casket or seal failed upon exposure to the ozone, allowing residual ozone to leak into the tank, or because the bed of activated carbon had become saturated and lost its potency…
I don’t know if it will help, Tom, but shifting to UV sterilization rather than ozonation certainly can’t hurt and may be helpful, so it is certainly appropriate under the circumstances. The daily doses of Sanolife MIC-F probiotics may also prove to be very helpful in the long run.
Also, as I mentioned in my previous post, if you want to try the modified hyposalinity that is suitable for a tank with live corals, it cannot do any harm as long as you are careful when you are ready to return the tank to normal salinity again, which must be done very gradually, over a period of a week or two, in order to eliminate any possibility of dehydration in the aquarium inhabitants.
I also am baffled as to why the Hippocampus reidi and ingens seahorses are the only ones that are sensitive to this particular problem. Those two species are very close relatives, whereas the Hippocampus erectus and Tigertails (H. comes) do not share the same ancestry, so there could be a genetic component to this particular issue, which may be why only the reidi and ingens seem to be affected…
Best of luck resolving this mysterious malady and returning your tank to normal again, sir!
Pete Giwojna, Ocean Rider Tech SupportFebruary 6, 2016 at 9:34 pm #5825whitewhale2003Guest
It is ok to have mixed seahorses in same tank?February 11, 2016 at 2:49 am #5826Pete GiwojnaGuest
The short answer to your question is, “Yes.” Providing the seahorses have the same temperature requirements and aquarium requirements, were born and raised at the same aquaculture facility, and the aquarium is large enough to safely support both types of seahorses, keeping more than one species of seahorse together in the same aquarium can certainly be done.
As for whether the different species of seahorses will interbreed when maintained together in the same aquarium, that is relatively uncommon and unlikely to occur, but it does sometimes happen.
Interspecific hybridization has been known to occur between a number of species in the aquarium, on rare occasions, WW. For example, Hippocampus erectus and Hippocampus reidi seahorses will occasionally interbreed in the wild, and I know of one or two instances in which Hippocampus barbouri and Hippocampus comes seahorses have crossbred in the aquarium.
So it’s most definitely not unheard of for certain species to crossbreed and produce viable offspring in captivity, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing on the hobbyist level, since the hybrids that result can sometimes be very attractive seahorses and may even benefit from the phenomenon of hybrid vigor. However, that doesn’t apply to a commercial aquaculture facility, WW.
Crossbreeding is generally frowned upon and considered undesirable in aquaculture for a number of reasons, which are outlined in the following position statement from Project seahorse:
Interspecific hybridization of seahorses and pipefishes
A position statement from Project Seahorse
Project Seahorse cautions against mating across different species (hybridization) of seahorses and
pipefishes (syngnathids). Trade in hybrid offspring of such matings may compromise captive
breeding programs and release of hybrids poses high risks to wild populations. In order to reduce
the potential for hybridization we recommend that anyone currently holding or intending to hold
• maintains single-species tanks wherever possible;
• considers giving the name of any doubtful syngnathids to the genus level only, e.g., naming
seahorses simply as Hippocampus spp;
• avoids distributing any syngnathids that remain unidentified at the species level without full
disclosure of their status;
• refrains from acquiring syngnathids for any collective breeding program without reliable
information on their origins and taxonomy (this may require genetic or morphological
• uses syngnathids with questionable origins or taxonomy only for display or educational work
and control their populations carefully.
Aquarists will need to be careful about avoiding hybrids, especially as such general confusion about
sources and identities (taxonomy) of syngnathids still prevails. As with all other species, syngnathid
species are generally reproductively isolated from each other in the wild. Biological or physical
barriers usually preclude hybridization in the wild, even where species’ ranges overlap. The
aquarium environment can actually promote hybridization by removing these barriers, and by
holding geographically separate species together at high densities.
Aquarists should also note that hybrids – which may appear desirable because of their unusual
features – might display reduced survivability and reproductive potential when compared with the
Project Seahorse is concerned that syngnathid hybridization in the aquarium community will hamperthe development of collective programs of captive breeding (see Project Seahorse Aquarium position statement). A key goal of such work is to ensure that the most genetically diverse and healthy populations of syngnathids, of known origin and founder number are retained. Achieving this goal means that all information about the animals involved must be very accurate, and fully shared.
It is important to realize that release of hybrids, accidentally or by intention, may severely damage
wild syngnathid populations (see Project Seahorse Releases position statement). Public zoos and
aquaria have guidelines on disposal of animals but these do not control the fate of animals in the
private domain. Hybrids that survive release may successfully mate with wild syngnathids and
potentially introduce new and harmful genetic material to the native population, thereby reducing
survival, growth and reproductive output. Different populations and species of syngnathids that
have evolved in different geographic regions and under different conditions display local
adaptations, regulated in part by their genetic material.
Successive breeding with released hybrid syngnathids could gradually destroy local population
adaptations that have taken millions of years to evolve, reducing the population’s chances of
For those reasons, WW, as a High-Health aquaculture facility, I can assure you that there is NO unauthorized breeding at Ocean Rider. Each strain of seahorses is necessarily kept in a biosecure area that strictly segregate it from all of the other types of seahorses. In short, the many different species of seahorses raised at Ocean Rider are never mixed together; each line has its own biosecure area, its own rearing tanks, and its own grow out tanks.. Needless to say, this effectively presents crossbreeding and interspecific hybridization.
In home hobby tanks, however, where different species of seahorses are often mixed freely, crossbreeding or interspecific hybridization does occasionally occur, but it is quite uncommon, especially when seahorses have potential partners of their own species available to them. The prolonged, elaborate courtship ritual that seahorses go through before mating occurs generally prevents seahorses from different species from breeding successfully. Suffice it to say that seahorses are much, much better at species recognition than we are, and that given a choice, they almost always prefer to mate with their own kind. Almost always.
But there are also other considerations besides water temperature that you must keep in mind before you attempt to keep different seahorse species together in the same tank, WW, and we need to discuss those factors as well.
As an experienced seahorse keeper, WW, you may have heard about the concerns many hobbyists have expressed in the past about mixing various seahorses from different breeders or different parts of the world. There is a school of thought that maintains that mixing different species of captive-bred seahorses raised by breeders in different parts of the world can be a recipe for disaster. In theory, to do so could risk introducing pathogens from one part of the world to seahorses from another region which have little or no resistance to them (Leslie Leddo, et al., pers. com.). I like to call this theory the “smallpox syndrome,” and the rationale behind it goes as follows:
The “Smallpox Syndrome”
When it comes to colorful, captive-bred seahorses, hobbyists in the USA are blessed with an abundance of riches. There are now 21 distinct varieties of cultured seahorses available in the US, with different color morphs and new farm-raised species hitting the market all the time. We are fortunate indeed to be living in a time when mariculture is undergoing a renaissance and seahorse keeping is emerging from the Dark Ages of the hobby when wild-caught seahorses were the only option and entering into a more enlightened era where conservation and preservation are the watchwords of the day. This is truly the dawn of a Golden Age for seahorse keepers when fabulous farm-raised specimens abound and we no longer need to exploit wild populations for aquarium specimens.
Most of these domesticated seahorses are raised in Hawaii and Australia, with more and more captive breds beginning to trickle in from Florida and the United Kingdom, Sri Lanka, Asia and Indonesia, with one species (H. ingens) being raised in Mazatlan, Mexico. In looking over this list, it immediately becomes apparent that our captive-bred jewels are raised in vastly different parts in the world. The big seahorse farms, aquaculture operations, and major breeders are all separated by thousands of miles, literally oceans apart from each other.
As wonderful as it is to be able to enjoy cultured seahorses from all around the world, this also presents a potential problem. When we keep seahorses from different parts of the world together in the same aquarium, in theory we may risk exposing our prized pets to exotic pathogens and parasites to which they may have little or no resistance.
I should hasten to add that the reason this may present a potential danger is not because domesticated seahorses have naïve, undeveloped immune systems. On the contrary, captive-bred seahorses have been rigorously selected for disease resistance for many generations and have emerged from this relentless weeding out process as remarkably hardy specimens with an aggressive immune response. It has been demonstrated time and time again that captive-bred seahorses have superior immune systems and greater disease resistance than wild-caught seahorses.
Rather, the potential concern is that captive-bred seahorses reared in Hawaii, for example, may have developed their resistance to somewhat different strains of disease organisms than the ones seahorses raised in Florida or Australia or the UK have built up an immunity to, and vice versa. Different strains of Pseudomonas and Vibrio bacteria, as well as different species of parasites such as Glugea and Uronema, are prevalent in different parts of the world. When we bring seahorses from different breeders in different parts of the world together, or bring different species together, there is a possibility they could be exposed to strains of such pathogens they have never encountered before and are thus ill-equipped to deal with.
The potential danger is akin to the situation when the early explorers from the Old World first encountered American Indians in the New World. These initial encounters were generally peaceful and friendly, but they proved utterly disastrous for the Indians who died in droves from diseases such as smallpox they had never been exposed to before. Even relatively harmless afflictions such as measles decimated the tribes. Many times the Europeans explorers fared little better, as exotic New World diseases such as yellow fever and malaria cut a swathe through their ranks. I like to refer to that scenario as the smallpox syndrome.
The problem was not that the Indians or the explorers had inferior immune systems. On the contrary, the tribes were tough as nails, supremely well adapted to their natural environment, just as the Europeans were perfectly adapted for the climate and conditions in the Old World. The problem was that when the two groups were suddenly thrown together, they were introduced to new afflictions for the first time with which they were unable to cope. They had not gradually built up resistance to these new diseases over many generations as susceptible individuals were weeded out of the population and the hardier individuals developed immunity.
We see the same thing on a lesser scale today every year as influenza pandemics sweep around the world during the flu season. Typically an Asian strain of influenza arises in the East and spreads to Europe and North America via international travelers, where it proceeds to wreak havoc because Westerners have no resistance to the new strain. Hence the annual ritual of flu vaccinations in an attempt to curtail such outbreaks.
This has led to concerns among seahorse keepers that we risk the same sort of problems when we keep compatible seahorses raised in different parts of the world together in the same aquarium. It’s an interesting theory that has some merit and it is certainly based on a plausible scenario. At present, however, there is no data to support the notion that maintaining a mixed community of seahorses from different breeders around the world results in more disease problems than species-only tanks or systems holding only seahorses from the same breeder (hence the same part of the world). All we have to go on at this point are anecdotal reports from hobbyists, which can be notoriously unreliable.
That’s the rundown on the “smallpox syndrome,” WW. In all honesty, I have no idea if such concerns are valid and justified or not. I can tell you that I know many hobbyists who keep seahorses of different species from different sources and breeders together with no problems whatsoever. And I know many other hobbyists who have experienced various problems when they mixed seahorses of different species. Likewise, I know of many hobbyists who keep seahorses strictly from one breeder, yet still experience various health problems, up to and including tank wipeouts from infectious diseases. Thus far, I haven’t been able to detect a pattern to these reports and incidents, other than the obvious fact that many times seahorses (or compatible tankmates for seahorses) obtained from the LFS have proven to be disease vectors that introduced pathogens or parasites into the main aquarium and that, of course, wild-caught seahorses are much more disease prone than hardy captive-red-and-raised seahorses. The one other consistent report regarding seahorses that I hear over and over again, and that I know to be a fact, is that the new Hippocampus kelloggi seahorses that have been making their way to the US from Vietnam and Asia lately are very fragile and disease prone, and have been dying off in droves, particularly when they are kept under tropical conditions. But that is happening regardless of whether they are kept in species tanks by themselves or in community tanks or any other type of setup. The H. kelloggi just appear to be very delicate aquarium specimens at this stage in their development and you should avoid them at costs.
Personally, I have not put much stock in the Smallpox Syndrome with regard to seahorses in the past. Up to now, I have tended to discount such reports largely because we aquarists do not have any such concerns when it comes to other marine fish and invertebrates. Most marine aquarists maintain a community tank of colorful reef fish and freely mix fish and invertebrates from the Philippines and Indonesia with other marine fish and inverts from the Atlantic and Australia or the Red Sea without any worries whatsoever regarding a “smallpox syndrome” effect decimating their aquariums. Likewise, reef keepers freely mix various corals and frags from different aquaculture facilities that originated in different oceans around the world without any such fears. Providing they quarantine the new arrivals to make sure they are healthy before they introduce them to the main tank, most such community tanks and reef systems do just fine, so it isn’t really clear to me why seahorses should be considered an altogether different case that must be strictly segregated by species or by breeder.
As for myself, I have never hesitated to mix different species together in the same aquarium providing they have compatible aquarium requirements in terms of their preferred aquarium parameters and feeding habits, but then again, I get all of my ponies from Ocean Rider, which is the world’s only High-Health seahorse farm, so perhaps I have been lulled into a false sense of security due to the fact that I have never experienced any difficult these mixing different Ocean Rider species together. Over the years, this includes keeping the Brazileros (Hippocampus reidi), Spikeys (Hippocampus barbouri), and Gigantes (Hippocampus ingens) together with Mustangs and Sunbursts, as well as exotic strains such as Pintos and Fire Reds.
That’s my thinking on the matter, WW. However, I should add that I think it is best for new seahorse keepers to stick to a single species of seahorse in order to simplify things while they are learning the ropes and becoming accustomed to providing ideal conditions in the best possible care for the particular ponies of their choice.
And, to be on the safe side, I always advise experienced seahorse keepers who are considering keeping different species together to stick with different strains of High-Health Ocean Rider seahorses, which I know from my own personal experience can be kept together quite successfully.
Aside from temperature considerations and any concerns about the smallpox syndrome, in many cases it’s best to set up a new tank anyway when you want to add more seahorses to your collection simply to avoid overcrowding. When your existing tanks are running along smoothly and trouble free, why risk upsetting the balance by adding new specimens to the established aquaria? In such a situation, it’s generally a much better idea to put up a separate aquarium tailor-made for the new acquisitions that have caught your fancy. In short, it makes good horse sense to segregate seahorses obtained from different breeders for a number of reasons.
In your case, WW, if you would like to combine different types of seahorses and have them breed together readily, then I would suggest that you stick with Ocean Rider Mustangs and Sunbursts, which are different color morphs of the same species (Hippocampus erectus). As such, they have identical aquarium requirements, are equally hardy, and, of course, will interbreed freely. They make ideal tankmates for one another.
Ocean Rider offers many special offers and package deals at bargain prices, and you may well be interested in one or more of these special packages, WW.
If you copy the following URL, paste it in your web browser, and press the “Enter” key, it will take you directly to the proper area of the Ocean Rider website (seahorse.com) for all of the Special Packages:
Best wishes with all your fishes, WW!
Pete Giwojna, Ocean Rider Tech Support
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