- This topic has 3 replies, 2 voices, and was last updated 15 years, 2 months ago by Pete Giwojna.
December 14, 2008 at 5:27 am #1579peghillMember
I\’m really not sure where to begin or if you\’ll be able to diagnosis now, so here goes.
I prepared the 24G seahorse tank for 9 months prior to ordering. Live rock, live sand, 5G refugium/sump with chaeto, remora protein skimmer, spray bars, tree spronges, gorgonians, sea whips for hitching posts. All water parameters extremely stable for 6 months.
I received my 2 mustangs and 2 sunbursts from Ocean Rider on Nov. 21st. They seemed to acclimate well. The girls eat like piglets. One male,Trigger, was a little slow, but picked up eating. The other, Milo, never went to the feeding station so I target fed him, though he was never a good eater: maybe 2-3 shrimp a day. All food PE mysis enriched with Vibrance 1.
Five days ago my caulerpa went wonky literally overnight. I got up and the tank was really cloudy. We did an immediate massive water change: 15G . The ponies seemed to be OK. Ammonia, Nitrites and Nitrates 0 after water change. Then 2 days later the other caulerpa started and I pulled it out immediately before it too went wonky.
Yesterday neither of the males would eat. As a preventative I put in a Chemi-pure bag. The tank went a little cloudy, but cleared up within an hour.
This morning I found Trigger lying on the bottom of the tank, barely breathing, and with his skin sloughing. We did a 10 gallon water change. I dipped him first in hydrogen peroxide. And then an hour later in methylene blue. He subsequently died. Milo got the same treatment as he didn\’t seem to be acting right: rapid breathing and lethargic, then jerky motions almost like he was having seizures. We got a hospital tank going and put him in it with methylene blue, but his breathing slowed until it stopped after a couple hours.
So far the girls, Sunny and Venus, seem fine and eating.
Could the Chemi-pure have caused this?
Should I do something else?
Thanks for all your help. I have spent at least a hundred hours on this forum in the last 9 months and really thought I was prepared.
PegDecember 14, 2008 at 8:06 am #4545Pete GiwojnaGuest
Rats! I’m very sorry to hear about the problems that cropped up with your seahorse tank and eventually led to the death of Trigger and Milo — all my condolences on your losses!
It’s clear from your description of events that your seahorse tank experienced a vegetative event — a massive die off of a colony of Caulerpa, which happens very quickly and can be very hard on the aquarium inhabitants. A sudden die off of a bed of Caulerpa due to stress or sexual reproduction can cause a small closed-system aquarium to turn milky white in a matter of moments. This can be harmful because toxins may be released by the Caulerpa in the die off and the resulting decay of a considerable quantity of vegetable matter can degrade the water quality and reduce the level of dissolved oxygen in the tank due to a bacterial bloom. In severe cases, this combination of events can stress the other aquarium inhabitants or even wipe out the entire tank.
I suspect that something along those lines is what overwhelmed Trigger and Milo, Peg. The toxins released by the Caulerpa and the dangerous drop in the dissolved oxygen levels would not have been detectable on the standard aquarium test kits that measure ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate.
Your instincts were very good during this crisis, Peg. The proper response to such a vegetative event is to install chemical filtration media to remove any toxins that may have been released and to perform a series of water changes immediately until the water clears. Extra airstones anchored just beneath the surface to provide extra surface agitation will promote better oxygenation and gas exchange at the air/water interface, helping to restore the oxygen levels more quickly.
The chemical filtration media I prefer for such a problem are a good brand of activated carbon for adsorption and absorption used in conjunction with a brand new Polyfilter pad to provide chemisorption of any toxins. The Chemipure was not a bad choice, although not as efficient as a Polyfilter pad or new activated carbon for this type of emergency, and I don’t believe the Chemipure had anything to do with the loss of your males (I have used Chemi-Pure many times on various marine aquariums, including seahorse tanks and it has always been very beneficial).
Either some toxic substance or the drop in the dissolved oxygen levels, or both, stressed Trigger
to the point that he fell victim to an optimistic bacterial infection, which caused the sloughing of his skin, and also knocked Milo for a loop. I am not sure why this event hit the males so hard, yet left your females relatively unaffected; apparently a difference in their physiology, metabolism, or hormones made the stallions more sensitive to the harmful effects…
But for whatever reason, Venus and Sunny seem to have escaped unscathed, and if they are doing fine at this point, I’m confident that they will continue to thrive now that the crisis has passed. However, it would be prudent to increase the aeration or to add an extra airstone or two to your main tank at least for a while in order to assure that the dissolved oxygen levels are back up to normal.
It was very good thinking to treat Milo and Trigger with a quick dip in a 3% hydrogen peroxide solution followed by a dip in concentrated methylene blue. Those are the perfect first aid measures to take whatever hypoxia or a lack of oxygen is suspected, or an unknown toxin is at work. The 3% hydrogen peroxide increases the dissolved oxygen levels in the solution, helping the seahorses to breathe even as it disinfects open wounds or ulcers from a bacterial infection. Methylene blue can reverse nitrite poisoning, ammonia toxicity, and cyanide poisoning and converts harmful methhemoglobin back to the normal hemoglobin in the fish’s red blood cells, helping them to breed normally again. Unfortunately, evidently Trigger and Milo were simply too far gone for these first aid measures to save them…
But Venus and Sunny have weathered the storm and I think they are probably out of danger at this point. Try to increase the aeration in your main tank and consider adding some fresh activated carbon and/or a new Polyfilter pad to your aquarium filter as an added precaution.
If you’re growing Caulerpa in your aquarium, Peg, it can normally be prevented from going sexual and dying of simply by repeatedly pruning are aggressively thinning out the colony. This is accomplished by regularly plucking out excess fronds of the fast-growing Caulerpa; when you subsequently you remove the excess Caulerpa you’ve plucked out of the main colony, you’re exporting phosphates, nitrates and other nutrients from the tank, thereby helping to maintain good water quality, and pruning the runners helps keep it from going sexual.
When pruning or trimming back macroalgae, take care not to actually cut it. Remember, you’re not pruning hedges or trimming trees — the idea is to carefully pull up and remove continuous, unbroken fronds. Simply thin out the colony of excess strands, gently plucking up convenient fronds that can be readily removed intact. A little breakage is fine, but cutting or breaking too many strands will result in leaching undesirable substances into the aquarium water as the Caulerpa’s lifeblood drains away. Too much cutting or breaking can thus sap the colony’s strength and cause die offs or trigger the dreaded vegetative events that judicious pruning otherwise prevents.
If you’re concerned about your ability to maintain and control of Caulerpa properly, Peg, just use a different forms of macroalgae that grows less rapidly instead and you can get the same sort of benefits at relatively little risk. In that case, some of the other macroalge you may wish to consider are Gracilaria, Ulva, Chaetomorpha, and Chlorodesmis. Hawaiian Ogo (Gracilaria sp.) are bushy red-to-brown macros that do well under low light levels. Sea Lettuce (Ulva sp.) are deep green sheets of algae that do best under a little stronger lighting. Maiden’s Hair (Chlorodesmis sp.) are bright green tufts or clumps of very fine-bladed algal mats to grow attached to small rocks. All of these types of macroalgae are much less prolific and slower growing than Caulerpa. However, like all macroalgae, they should still be harvested periodically in order to export the excess nutrients they have consumed.
Aside from red and brown Gracilaria and the bright green Ulva and Maiden’s Hair, some seahorse keepers also like the Chaetomorpha turf algae. It is popular because it is slow growing and doesn’t require the kind of pruning that Caulerpa needs, and because it it comes loaded with microfauna: miniature feather dusters, copepods and amphipods, tiny snails and micro stars. Sounds like another interesting marine plant that can add some extra variety to a lush bed of macroalgae.
Some macroalgae are rootless and do not anchor in place. This is true of the Chaetomorpha turf algae or spaghetti algae, for instance. It grows in tangled clumps that look like nothing more than the colorful green Easter grass we use in our Easter baskets as bedding for the jellybeans, marshmallow chicks, and chocolate bunnies. Chaetomorpha is therefore not very aesthetic looking in your main tank, but you can’t beat it for use in refugia or algal filters because hordes of copepods, amphipods, and other microfauna love to shelter, feed, and breed in the tangled masses of the spaghetti algae. (The chaeto was a great choice for your sump/refugium, Peg.)
If you copy the following URL and paste it in your Web browser, it will take you to an excellent article by Anthony Calfo titled "Best Plants and Algae for Refugia — Part II "Vegetable Filters" that will explain the benefits provided by various species of macroalgae in a refugium in more detail, Peg, including the dreaded vegetative events that can happen with the fast-growing Caulerpa:
In short, Peg, I think you lost your males to a fluke event when your bed of Caulerpa went sexual, and now you know how such a problem can be prevented in the future, so you will hopefully never again have to deal with this phenomenon.
Best of luck getting your seahorse tank back to normal again, Peg. Here’s hoping Sunny and Venus live long and prosper despite the loss of their mates…
Pete GiwojnaDecember 14, 2008 at 9:02 am #4546peghillGuest
Thanks so very much, Pete! So my base suspicions were correct: dastardly caulerpa, even though I was thinning regularly about once a month, something caused it to go wonky. No more in the tank now and never again! When I ordered the seahorses from Ocean Rider I also ordered Ogo and Sea Lettuce for the refugium and it is doing well. I use reverse lighting.
Prior to my message to you, I scoured the forum, sent my husband to the LFS (twice!) and now have two airstones and a polyfilter in place. The dips I used were also from your advice on the forum.
The ladies are still acting normal. I would like to replace their mates. Do you think 30-60 days would be appropriate?
Thank you again… you’re a godsend to seahorse lovers. And I’m still waiting, sort of patiently, for your book!
PegDecember 16, 2008 at 6:23 am #4547Pete GiwojnaGuest
You’re very welcome! Yes, your suspicions were correct — a dreaded "vegetative event" is what caused the demise of your stallions when the bed of Caulerpa in the aquarium when sexual. That’s a rare recurrence and now that you have removed the Caulerpa there is no danger that this problem will repeat itself. As long as your females survived the initial emergency, they should suffer no ill effects now that the danger has passed.
Yes, waiting 30-60 days to make sure that your aquarium is back to normal should more than suffice. If all is well after 30-60 days, it would be a good idea to obtain some new mates for your female seahorses, but replacing the stallions is not an urgent need.
Although I have heard many anecdotal reports over the years that indicate that the health of a pair-bonded seahorse often suffers when it loses its mate, and that can no doubt be a dramatic event, the long-term health of the surviving seahorse is not at risk. Widowers are often said to languish, experience loss of appetite, and lapse into a general state of decline. Many hobbyists equate this to a state of depression or melancholy. While it’s safe to say that widowed seahorses don’t die from a broken heart, there may well be a kernel of truth at the heart of such accounts. It’s very likely that a pair-bonded seahorse suddenly separated from its mate will experience altered hormonal secretion as a result. This can cause low levels of certain hormones that are known to have a profound influence on both mental state and physical well being in humans and animals alike, affecting everything from the immune response to sperm production and sex drive.
So this is not a life-threatening development for your females, Peg, but domesticated seahorses like Mustangs and Sunbursts are highly social, gregarious animals that very much enjoy the company of others of their kind, and your mares may be happier in the long run if you can provide them with new potential mates and an opportunity to breed. In the meantime, your two females can keep each other company, so waiting 30-60 days to replace the stallions should not be a hardship at all.
Best of luck getting your seahorse tank back to normal again, Peg! It sounds like you’ve already done pretty much everything that’s necessary in that regard, but I would replace the activated carbon in your filter with fresh activated carbon (or add a good grade of activated carbon to the filter, if you aren’t already using it, as an added precaution).
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