- This topic has 12 replies, 2 voices, and was last updated 15 years, 6 months ago by Pete Giwojna.
July 22, 2008 at 11:14 am #1499NovahobbiesMember
I have a minor problem I wanted to ask everyone\’s opinion on here. I have a 37 gallon tall cube aquarium for my horse tank. Right now its bioload consists of 1 lyretail anthias, 1 firefish, 1 small female mandarin, 2 yellow reidis, and 1 small black erectus. Tonight when I fed them their evening meal (I use a feeder station) I noticed the yellow reidis were….huffing….a little bit. Not a lot, and they didn\’t seem lethargic while eating, but still. It seemed a little more than their normal gilling activity.
I know that seahorses are more primitive than other fish, and as such, have less efficient gills. They need high amounts of dissolved O2 to absorb across their membranes. I\’m thinking I may have one of two problems, and hoping someone can tell me which is more likely. First, here\’s my stats:
37 gallon tall cube aquarium
standard lighting (lowlight, no corals) plus moon LEDs
Penn Plax Cascade 200 HOB filter
20+ lbs live rock
multiple hitches, gorgonians, faux plants, etc.
Nitrate: 20 (!!)
The Penn Plax cascade filter does just that: provides a gentle cascade of return water to the tank. This has the habit of introducing O2 in the return stream. I have no way of testing my dissolved O2 right now, but the animals have never shown a problem before tonight. The erectus has been in the tank for 2 months, the reidis, one month.
If it\’s the filter, I\’m thinking of trying a small HOB protein skimmer to add more dissolved O2 to the system. This will help my high nitrates, anyway.
Another thought I had might be animal stress. The bloody Anthias has discovered the horses feeding station within the past two days, and now proceeds to bully in and eat the mysis while the horses are trying to feed. I always feed the regular fish first, but the anthias is a piggy. If the antics of the anthias are annoying (how\’s that for alliteration?) the horses, would the stress cause them to pant like this? Should I try moving the anthias to my reef setup?
I hope someone can help out. All I know for sure is I don\’t want to risk my horses, and I\’m willing to do what I need to in order to keep these three guys as happy horses! Thanks a bunch!July 22, 2008 at 10:16 pm #4339NovahobbiesGuest
This may sound odd, but is *ahem* "Heavy breathing" sometimes a courtship behaviour? I checked the horses this morning when i fed them their morning meal, and the huffing is reduced (although not gone) but my male’s abdomen has suddenly swollen slightly. So now I’m more worried……preggers male? Or something more insidious??? His activity level this morning was low….he normally comes right up to the glass to greet the food tube, but this morning he stayed near the bottom, only came over to the feeding station to grab a shrimp or three.
I did a full visual checkup on both reidis this morning also. I see no evidence of sores, lesions, any skin abnormality. Eye mobility is good, they’re constantly swiveling around looking out for food. Their tails are both fine, strong grip…for a 4 inch horse, I suppose. So I’m still a worried papa over here! 🙁July 22, 2008 at 11:36 pm #4340Pete GiwojnaGuest
It’s difficult to say why the respiration rate on your Brazilian seahorses (Hippocampus reidi) may have increased lately, but it was observant of you to notice the problem and it’s an early indication that something is amiss and should be corrected.
Some of your water quality parameters are off a bit, and I would begin by adjusting those. For instance, your specific gravity has crept up a little high and I would recommend gradually reducing it to 1.022-1.024. There is an inverse relationship between salinity and the dissolved oxygen levels in a marine aquarium (i.e., the higher the salinity the less dissolved oxygen the water can hold), so reducing the salinity of the aquarium will give the dissolved oxygen levels a little boost, which should be helpful.
Secondly, the carbonate hardness (KH) and calcium levels in your aquarium are also somewhat high. The optimum carbonate hardness for a marine aquarium is 7 dKH, which is the hardness of natural seawater. Likewise, a calcium level of 350-400 is the desirable range for a marine aquarium like seahorse tank that does not include a lot of live corals or other calcifying organisms, so I would recommend reducing the carbonate hardness and calcium levels in your tank.
An easy way to do that would be to stop buffering the tank temporarily and then to remove small amounts of the saltwater and replace them with unbuffered RO/DI water instead. The RO/DI water is very soft and will therefore help lower the carbonate hardness and the amount of calcium in the aquarium, at the same time it is reducing the specific gravity. So you can just remove small amounts of the saltwater in the aquarium and replace them with unbuffered RO/DI water until you have gradually lowered the specific gravity of your aquarium and the carbonate hardness and calcium levels have been brought down into the range I suggested above.
You didn’t mention the water temperature in your 37-gallon cube tank, Nova, but I would suggest maintaining a stable temperature in the 72°F-75°F range. The warmer the water, the less dissolved oxygen it can hold, so reducing the water temperature in the aquarium if it is higher than 75°F will also help to ease the breathing of your H. reidi seahorses. Lowering the water temperature will lower the metabolism of the seahorses, and therefore reduce their oxygen demand, at the same time as it is increasing the dissolved oxygen levels in your tank.
That is an excellent suggestion to add a hang-on-the-back protein skimmer to your seahorse tank, Nova. Your nitrate levels are right at the level where they begin to become a concern, and a protein skimmer will help to control nitrates by removing dissolved organics before they enter the nitrogen cycle. We never want to see nitrate levels much higher than 20 in a seahorse tank, and ideally we hope to keep them below 10 at all times. So please do invest in a good protein skimmer — as you said, it will help increase the aeration in your aquarium at the same time it is reducing the nitrate levels.
The waterfall return from the Cascade filter is great and will help provide good surface agitation to promote better oxygenation and efficient gas exchange at the air/water interface, but adding a protein skimmer will further increase the aeration, surface agitation, and water circulation in the aquarium, which is very desirable.
Although seahorses can certainly be kept successfully without the use of a protein skimmer, I recommend including a good skimmer for best results. As a rule, seahorses are messy feeders, particularly when scarfing down enriched frozen Mysis. Ample evidence of this is revealed every time they scarf one up. As they snick up a shrimp with their slurp-gun snouts, water is passed over their gills and expelled forcibly (it is this very process that generates the powerful suction they use to slurp up their prey). As the jet of water is ejected through their gills, it carries a cloud of macerated particles and debris with it. It is a startling sight the first time you observe this phenomenon, for it brings a fire-breathing dragon to mind. As one young hobbyist matter-of-factly described it, "My seahorse blows smoke out of its ears when he eats." I’ll be darned if that’s not exactly what it looks like, too!
The majority of the undesirable metabolites, organic wastes and excess nutrients that accumulate in our aquariums and degrade water quality are "surface-active," meaning they are attracted to and collect near the surface of a gas-liquid interface (Fenner, 2003). Skimmers take advantage of this fact by using a column of very fine air bubbles mixed with aquarium water to trap dissolved organics and remove them from our systems. This air-water mixture is lighter than the surrounding aquarium and rises up the column of the skimmer until the foam eventually spills into a special collection cup atop the skimmer, which can be removed and emptied as needed. Proteins and other organic molecules, waste products, uneaten food and excess nutrients, and a host of other undesirable compounds stick to the surface of the bubbles and are carried away along with the foam and removed from the aquarium (Fenner, 2003a). As a result of this process, these purification devices are typically known as foam separators, foam fractionators, air-strippers, or simply protein skimmers.
In my experience, nothing improves water quality like a good protein skimmer. They provides many benefits for a seahorse setup, including efficient nutrient export, reducing the effective bioload, and increasing both the Redox potential and dissolved oxygen levels in the water (Fenner, 2003a). They do a tremendous job of removing excess organics from the aquarium, including phenols, albumin, dissolved organic acids, and chromophoric (color causing) compounds (Fenner, 2003a). Their ability to remove dissolved wastes BEFORE they have a chance to break down and degrade water quality makes them indispensable for controlling nuisance algae. A good protein skimmer is an invaluable piece of equipment for keeping your nitrates low and your water quality high when feeding a whole herd of these sloppy eaters in a closed-system aquarium.
When it comes to skimmers, both the AquaC Remora and Euro-Reef series of protein skimmers are first-rate units that will serve you well. You can’t go far wrong if you select a quality AquaC or Euro-Reef skimmer rated for an aquarium of at least 40 gallons. I’ve also heard good things about the H.O.T protein skimmers. I believe Premium Aquatics (http://www.premiumaquatics.com) carries all of those brands of hang-on-the-back protein skimmers, and I would select one of the above if I was you.
If space is at a premium as far as installing a protein skimmer goes, a lot of hobbyists like the Red Sea Prizm protein skimmers because of their sleek compact design.
I believe that gradually lowering the specific gravity, reducing the water temperature, adjusting the water chemistry as previously described, and adding a protein skimmer to your tank will increase the dissolved oxygen levels and ease the breathing of your seahorses, Nova.
If it does not — if the huffing of your H. reidi persists after you have made the adjustments and corrections I suggested — then you may want to give the affected seahorses a quick freshwater dip and/or a brief dip in concentrated methylene blue to see if that helps their breathing.
Here are the instructions for performing a freshwater dip.
A freshwater dip is simply immersing your seahorse in pure, detoxified freshwater that’s been preadjusted to the same temp and pH as the water the seahorse is accustomed to, for a period of at least 10 minutes (Giwojna, Dec. 2003). It doesn’t harm them — seahorses typically tolerate freshwater dips exceptionally well and a 10-minute dip should be perfectly safe. Freshwater dips are effective because marine fish tolerate the immersion in freshwater far better than the external parasites they play host to; the change in osmotic pressure kills or incapacitates such microorganisms within 7-8 minutes (Giwojna, Dec. 2003). A minimum dip, if the fish seems to be doing fine, is therefore 8 minutes. Include some sort of hitching post in the dipping container and shoot for the full 10 minutes with your seahorses (Giwojna, Dec. 2003).
If you will be using tap water for the freshwater dip, be sure to dechlorinate it beforehand. This can be accomplished usually one of the commercial dechlorinators, which typically include sodium thiosulfate and perhaps a chloramine remover as well, or by aerating the tap water for at least 24 hours to dissipate the chlorine (Giwojna, Dec. 2003).
If you dechlorinate the dip water with a sodium thiosulfate product, be sure to use an airstone to aerate it for at least one hour before administering the dip. This is because the sodium thiosulfate depletes the water of oxygen and the dip water must therefore be oxygenated before its suitable for your seahorse(s). Regardless of how you detoxify the freshwater for the dip, it’s important to aerate the water in the dipping container well beforehand to increase the level of dissolved oxygen in the water. Many hobbyists leave the airstone in the dipping container throughout the procedure.
Adjusting the pH of the water in the dipping container so that it matches the pH of the water in the aquarium is a crucial step. Ordinary baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) will suffice for raising the pH of the water. If there is too much of a difference in the pH, there is a possibility the seahorse could go into shock during the dipping procedure. Preadjusting the pH will prevent that from happening. If you will are unsure about your ability to accurately adjust the pH in the dipping container, avoid this procedure altogether or be prepared to monitor the seahorse very carefully or shorten the duration of the tip to no more than about 4 minutes.
Observe the horse closely during the dip. You may see some immediate signs of distress or shock. Sometimes the horse will immediately lie on its side on the bottom. That’s a fairly common reaction — normal and to be expected, rather than a cause for concern, so don’t be alarmed if this happens. Just nudge or tap the seahorse gently with your finger if it lies down on its side. Normally, the seahorse will respond to the slight nudge by righting itself again and calm down for the duration of the dip. However, if it does not respond, stop the treatment.
Most seahorses tolerate the treatment well and experience no problems, but if you see continued signs of distress — twitching, thrashing around etc. — stop the treatment.
After you have completed the dip and returned the seahorses to the aquarium, save the dip water and examine it closely for any sign of parasites. The change in osmotic pressure from saltwater to freshwater will cause ectoparasites to lyse (i.e., swell and burst) or drop off their host after 7-10 minutes, and they will be left behind in the dipping water. Protozoan parasites are microscopic and won’t be visible to the naked eye, but some of the other ectoparasites can be clearly seen. For example, monogenetic trematodes will appear as opaque sesame seeds drifting in the water (Giwojna, Aug. 2003) and nematodes may be visible as tiny hairlike worms 1/16-3/16 of an inch long. Other parasites may appear as tiny dots in the water. Freshwater dips can thus often provide affected seahorses with some immediate relief by ridding them of these irritating pests and can also aid their breathing by flushing out gill parasites.
And here are the instructions for performing a quick dip in methylene blue, if you feel that it’s warranted, Nova:
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 need to treat with methylene blue after all:
If you can obtain the Kordon brand of Methylene Blue (available at most well-stocked local fish stores), the 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, Nova: 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.
If the Anthias is proving to be a persistent pest at feeding time, and making it difficult for the seahorses to get their fair share of the frozen Mysis, or is intimidating them from approaching the feeding station or getting physical with them at all, then it would certainly be a good idea to relocate him to your reef system and put an end to his brief reign of terror.
Best of luck restoring order to your seahorse tank and getting your seahorses breathing easy again, Nova!
Pete GiwojnaJuly 23, 2008 at 12:59 am #4341Pete GiwojnaGuest
The respiration rate of seahorses varies according to the levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the aquarium, the water temperature, their metabolic rate, their activity level, and their emotional state. Their breathing rate will increase temporarily anytime they are excited, which includes courtship and mating, of course. Let’s discuss how these factors affect the respiration of Hippocampus in more detail below.
Unlike human beings, which are homeothermic and maintain homeostasis at all times, seahorses are of course cold-blooded creatures, so their metabolic rate is determined largely by the water temperature. The warmer the water temperature, the higher their metabolism and the greater their oxygen demand becomes, and their breathing rate goes up according. At lower water temperatures, the seahorse’s metabolism and oxygen demand are reduced, and their breathing rate slows.
The level of oxygen in the atmosphere that we breathe is quite stable and constant, but that’s not the case with the level of oxygen in an aquarium. For example, the warmer the aquarium water is, the less dissolved oxygen it can hold, and the higher the salinity of the aquarium water, the less dissolved oxygen it can hold. So the amount of oxygen in the water varies with the aquarium temperature.
Likewise, the levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide in an aquarium varies from day to night due to the photosynthesis performed by macroalgae and zooanthellae. When the aquarium reflector is on, providing plenty of light, the algae and plants in the aquarium take in carbon dioxide and release oxygen as a byproduct of photosynthesis. As a result, the pH of the water and the dissolved oxygen levels rise throughout the day, while the level of dissolved carbon dioxide drops.
On the other hand, during the night when the aquarium light is turned off and no photosynthesis takes place, the plants will begin to take in oxygen and give off carbon dioxide. This has exactly the opposite effect — the pH of the aquarium water and the level of dissolved oxygen drop at night, while the amount of dissolved carbon dioxide rises. This can occasionally become a problem in a small, poorly circulated, closed-system aquarium that is very heavily planted if the oxygen levels drop so much during the night and the carbon dioxide levels rise so high that the seahorses have difficulty breathing and getting enough oxygen.
So in an aquarium where they dissolved oxygen levels are low and/or the carbon dioxide levels are high, seahorses will exhibit very rapid respiration.
Seahorse setups are often more susceptible to such problems because hobbyists are so conscious of their seahorses’ limited swimming ability that they tend to leave their aquariums undercirculated. Poor circulation and inadequate surface agitation can lead to inefficient oxygenation and insufficient offgassing of carbon dioxide, aggravating the situation.
Seahorses are more vulnerable to the low O2/high CO2 levels than most fishes because of their primitive gills. Unlike most teleost (bony) fishes, which have their gills arranged in sheaves like the pages of a book, seahorses have rudimentary gill arches with small powder-puff type gill filaments. Seahorses are said to have "tufted" gills because they appear to be hemispherical clumps of tissue on stems. Their unique, lobed gill filaments (lophobranchs) are arranged in grape-like clusters and have fewer lamellae than other teleost fishes. Because of the difference in the structure and efficiency of their gills, seahorses are thus especially vulnerable to low oxygen levels and asphyxia.
Warm water temperatures exacerbate such problems in the aquarium. Elevated water temperatures increase the metabolism of seahorses, and therefore their consumption of oxygen, at the same time that the rise in temperature is reducing the amount of dissolved oxygen the water can hold. That double whammy creates a dangerous situation for seahorses and may well result in respiratory distress and rapid, labored breathing.
For best results with your seahorses, Nova, strive to maintain stable water conditions in your Biocube within the following aquarium parameters at all times:
Temperature = optimum 72°F-75°F (22°C-24°C).
Specific Gravity = range 1.022 – 1.025
pH = 8.2 – 8.4
Ammonia = 0
Nitrite = 0
Nitrate = 0-20 ppm; optimum 0-10 ppm
Provide good surface agitation and aeration in order to promote better oxygenation and facilitate better gas exchange at the air/water interface.
Your seahorses’ respiration rate may increase naturally when they are feeding, actively courting, being handled, or excited in general, and then return to their normal resting respiratory rate afterwards, Nova. That’s natural and nothing to be concerned about. Symptoms of respiratory distress are ordinarily pretty obvious and you should have no trouble determining when your seahorse is laboring or struggling to breathe.
For example, seahorses that are stressed or suffering from gill disease or parasites that attack the gills will exhibit rapid respiration, labored breathing, huffing, panting, yawning or coughing behavior, and other indications of respiratory distress. So familiarize yourself with your seahorse’s normal respiration rate when they are comfortable in healthy, which will vary somewhat with water temperature and their activity level or degree of arousal/excitement as we have been discussing, and subsequent changes in their normal breathing pattern can alert you to a possible problem.
In short, sir, heavy or labored breathing is not normally associated with courtship behavior, but an increase in the seahorses’ respiratory rate is typical for seahorses that are actively courting. As you might expect, a pregnant male’s breathing rate increases to 70-80 breaths per minute when he is experiencing labor pains and preparing to deliver his brood, but that happens late in his pregnancy and there isn’t much effect on respiration shortly after a male becomes pregnant.
One male is pregnant, its brood pouch will become distended as his pregnancy advances, but the abdomen of a pregnant male is unaffected. The brood pouch at the base of the tail, slung underneath the abdomen will become quite rotund as the pregnancy progresses, but there should be no swelling of the seahorse’s abdomen itself.
There are a couple of tip offs that indicate mating has occurred you should keep in mind.
First of all, when a female ripens a clutch of eggs in preparation for mating, her lower abdomen becomes noticeably swollen, particularly around the area of the vent. When she subsequently mates and passes her eggs along to the male, she may then lose up to 30% of her body weight as a result. So if you notice that one of your females has slimmed down dramatically at the same time one of the male’s pouches has become enlarged, that could be an indication of a successful egg transfer.
The other rule of thumb to keep in mind is that if a stallion’s pouch remains enlarged for more than three or four days in a row, there is a good chance that an egg transfer may have taken place rather than that the male is simply showing off for the females by pumping up his brood pouch.
Gravid males also behave somewhat differently; as their pregnancy progresses, they are less mobile and become real home bodies, since they cannot expose their developing brood to any unnecessary risks. They tend to hole up and may even go into hiding; they may go off to feed and miss a meal or two or fail to show up at the feeding station now and then.
So it’s very difficult to say at this point if your H. reidi stallion may be pregnant or is out of sorts due to the onset of an illness. Keep a close eye on him and adjust your water chemistry as we previously discussed, and concentrate on maintaining optimum water quality. Install a protein skimmer at your earliest opportunity.
Best of luck with your seahorses, sir!
Pete GiwojnaJuly 23, 2008 at 1:30 am #4342NovahobbiesGuest
Thank you very much for your help! Once again, I have to say how great it is to have this forum to come to for information on horse health and well being. I found this website long before I bought my first horse, and I’m glad for it.
The protein skimmer is being purchased this afternoon. As for the temperature, just FYI, it normally stays around 77 degrees, the heater is only set to kick on if it drops under 72. But as I live in south florida, the chances of that happening are…slim. I may have to consider a chiller or fan on the surface if the 76-77 degree water is going to be a problem. I will begin salinity adjustment tonight as well; I have 5 gallons of RODI H2O for topoff water sitting unused right now.
I’ve never added calcium or buffer to this tank, honest! To be perfectly truthful, I didn’t think those numbers were an issue, but I may have been thinking with the reef half of my brain — my other tank is a reef, and those numbers are fine to play with for a reef setup. But as you mentioned, there are no corals in this tank that require calcium, so it’s not necessary. The only reason I can imagine my calcium levels are at that point would be from some of the live rock in the tank…….a few pieces are natural calcium carbonate, plain and simple, and I’ll bet they’re keeping the dKh and Ca levels elevated. I can remove a few of those, I think.
For tonight, I think my plan will be to begin salinity adjustment, set up a new skimmer, target feed, and observe. If they seem out of breath tomorrow morning I will contine with a freshwater dip in the AM, and more observation. If that still does not solve the problem, I’ll try the methylene blue. While I am a pharmacy tech by training, and have no problem with the "better living through chemistry" philosophy, I’d rather attempt to solve the root of the problem first and see if their condition improves that way before I move forward with the medication.
Final questions: If I must treat my horses with methylene blue, will that adversly affect the possible pregnant papa pony?? I will snap a picture of him tonight and post on this board, so hopefully you can see what I mean. I noticed they were dancing around each other a little bit the night before last, this was also before the breathing became an issue. Right now his brood pouch (not abdomen, misspoke there!) is just very slightly swollen….I will keep a close eye on him.
Here is a picture taken last week of the pair of yellow reidis. This is their favorite rock to hang around, as their feeding station is just out of camera range on the right! :laugh: Hope you like it:
[url=http://members.aol.com/raylworf/images/horses.jpg]Link to bigger picture[/url]
Post edited by: Novahobbies, at: 2008/07/22 21:36July 23, 2008 at 4:57 am #4343Pete GiwojnaGuest
Thanks for sharing the picture, sir! That’s as pretty a pair of Brazilian seahorses (Hippocampus reidi) in the yellow color phase as I have ever seen. The stallion is definitely in breeding condition, judging by the appearance of the brood pouch, and if you noticed the pair dancing and performing courtship displays recently, there is a good chance and egg transfer may have taken place. If so, a quick dip in concentrated methylene blue will not have any adverse effects on a gravid male or his developing young, should it be necessary.
Yes, sir, the carbonate hardness and calcium levels in your aquarium would be perfectly suitable for a reef system. Maintaining a stable KH is very desirable since it maintains the buffering capacity (i.e., alkalinity) of the system and prevents subsequent drops in pH. Aside from stabilizing the pH, reef keepers need to maintain KH and high alkalinity in order to assure that the calcifying organisms in the tank flourish. Corals and other calcifying organisms actively use bicarbonate, which is the main component of alkalinity, so the alkalinity of a tank with a lot of calcification can drop quite rapidly. But in your seahorse tank, shoot for 7 dKH, which is the carbonate hardness of natural seawater and the level to which the seahorses are accustomed.
Calcium is a very important element in the water in any marine aquarium and is a vital element in reef tanks. Along with carbonates and bicarbonates, it is required by calcifying organisms such as stony corals, snails and other mollusks, coralline, Halimeda and other calcareous algae, and certain sponges. Calcium reserves in a reef system must therefore be replenished on a regular basis. Regular water changes may achieve this, but reef keepers may require the addition of biologically available calcium to maintain adequate levels. A calcium level of up to 500 ppm is appropriate for a well-stocked reef tank.
Calcium is also desirable in a seahorse tank, but at a somewhat lesser level due to the lack of calcifying invertebrates. Seahorse keepers should be aware that brooding males provide calcium to the developing fry in their pouches, which the embryos probably incorporate into their skeletons. Deficiencies in calcium could thus adversely affect your seahorses’ reproductive success and the health of the fry. In fact, seahorses that receive a diet deficient in calcium often suffer from decalcification of their exoskeleton, a debilitating condition commonly known as “soft plate” disease (Greco, 2004). So you don’t want to drop the calcium levels too low in a seahorse setup; a level of 300-400 ppm is just about right. In your case, I suspect you’re right — the extra calcium must be due to the dissolution of calcareous rocks and gravel from the substrate of your tank.
Lowering the salinity and installing a good protein skimmer on your seahorse tank will increase the level of dissolved oxygen in the aquarium water. Dropping the water temperature a few degrees would also be beneficial.
in my experience, the optimal temperature range for most tropical seahorses is 72°F-75°F. If your water temperature consistently runs warmer than that, there are a couple of things you can do to help stabilize it at 75°F or below short of installing a chiller on the tank.
For example, some hobbyists keep their fish room air-conditioned and adjust the air conditioning to keep the air temperature in the room at about 75°F or a bit below. The water temperature then tends to stabilize at around that temperature range as well.
Or you can reduce the water temperature via evaporative cooling instead. One simple way to drop the water temp in your aquarium is to position a small fan so it blows across the surface of the water continually (Giwojna, Oct. 2003). This will lower the water temperature several degrees through the phenomenon of evaporative cooling (just be sure to top off the tank regularly to replace the water lost to evaporation). Leaving the cover/hood and light off on your seahorse tank in conjunction with evaporative cooling can make a surprising difference. (A hood or cover tends to trap heat and hold it in the tank, so removing the voter cover from the aquarium can make a surprising difference in the water temperature, and is safe to do with seahorses since they do not jump at all.)
While reducing the water temperature via evaporative cooling, I should also caution you to observe all the usual precautions to prevent shocks and electrical accident when you are using an electric fan or any other electrical equipment on your aquarium, Nova.
One such precaution is to install an inexpensive titanium grounding probe in your aquariums. That will protect your seahorses and other wet pets from stray voltage and should also safeguard them electrocution in the event of a catastrophic heater failure or similar accident..
But the best way to protect you and your loved ones from electrical accidents around the fish room is to make sure all the outlets are equipped with Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters. And it’s a good idea to make sure all your electrical equipment is plugged into a surge protector as well to further protect your expensive pumps, filters, heaters, etc. from damage. Some good surge protectors, such as the Shock Busters, come with a GFCI built right into them so you can kill two birds with one stone. So when you set up your cooling fan(s) on the aquarium, be sure they’re plugged into a grounded outlet with a GFCI or a surge protector with GFCI protection.
It would also be a good idea for you to monitor the dissolved oxygen levels in your seahorse tank. There are couple of fairly and expensive test kits that would be helpful in that regard. For example, the Tetra Oxygen Test Kit (TetraTest 02) is a good liquid reagent test kit for fresh or saltwater with simple color scales for comparing readings that tests for 02 in the range of 2-14 PPM. It will cost you between $8.50 to $14 depending on where you shop and should be available at any well-stocked LFS. Salifert also makes a nice 02 Test Kit (their 02 Profi-Test) that will run you about $20.
Either of those test kits fit the bill very well and are worthwhile investments for the seahorse keeper. The optimum level of dissolved oxygen is I reading of 6 – 7 ppm on these test kits.
High levels of dissolved oxygen are vital to the well being of both fish and invertebrates. The key to maintaining high O2 levels in the aquarium is good circulation combined with surface agitation (Webber, 2004). Wet/dry trickle filters and protein skimmers facilitate efficient gas exchange and oxygenation. It is important for the hobbyist to monitor the dissolved oxygen levels in the aquarium because a drop in O2 levels is often an early indicator of impending trouble — a precursor of problems ahead. A drop in O2 levels will tip off the alert aquarist and allow corrective measures to be taken, nipping the problem in the bud before it adversely affects his seahorses. For example, a drop in O2 levels could be an early indicator of overcrowding — a signal that your system has reached its carrying capacity. Or it may merely signal a rise in the water temperature due to a summertime heat wave or indicate that the tank is overdue for a water change and/or a thorough cleaning to remove excess organics and accumulated detritus. Or it could be telling you that your tank is under circulated and you need to increase the surface agitation and water movement.
The point is that checking the O2 levels in your aquarium can alert you to impending problems and allow you to do something about them before they have dire consequences. A drop in O2 levels is often the first sign of a water quality problem and it can tip off the alert aquarist that trouble is brewing before his seahorses are gasping for air in obvious respiratory distress. Checking the dissolved oxygen levels regularly is the next best thing to continuously monitoring the Oxidation-Reduction Potential (ORP) or redox of the water, which is a luxury few hobbyists can afford.
Best of luck tweaking your seahorse tank to improve the levels of dissolved oxygen, Nova! It sounds like you’re on the right track now. Here’s hoping your colorful Hippocampus reidi produce a brood of healthy young for you very soon.
Pete GiwojnaJuly 23, 2008 at 9:42 pm #4346NovahobbiesGuest
Morning report, take 2:
Well, last night was a blast. Got my skimmer from my LFS on my way home from work, did a small water change of 3 gallons to siphon detritus, etc. I replaced 1.5 gallons with new saltwater, then put a 2 gallon container of RODI h2o on a sloooow drip to finish topping off the tank. This morning, the morning feeding and checkup revealed that about a third of the 2 gallons had dripped in the tank, so I have a ways to go with that, but the skimmer was going strong all night long. While the cleaning function isn’t fully active yet (break-in period needed) the oxygenation benefits were already apparent. The horses were no longer huffing even in the slightest….all three were at the tank glass, watching me expectantly. The male’s pouch is definitely swollen, pics on that later today when I upload.
Pete, after some internet and LFS research, I wonder if an addendum should be made about Anthias in the seahorse tank. I know the anthias is on your list of possible tankmates, mostly as a "proceed with caution" animal, but the Lyretail Pseudanthias ignitus should probably be considered an exception…I don’t think it is a good addition at all. After talking to some of the trusted people at my LFS, they confirmed what I observed firsthand: Lyretails are easy anthias to keep mainly because they take to frozen mysis so readily. Their activity level in a community environment has led some companies to label them "semi-aggressive," although that may be a misnomer; they are simply active, inquisitive fish. Although their activity level is great for community FOWLR or reef aquaria, I don’t think the seahorses take well to it…and mine certainly didn’t appreciate the extra mouth in their food bowl!
I would not go so far as to remove all Anthias, or even all of the Pseudanthias genus, from the list, just possibly the ignitus. Again, I have no direct experimentation, but those at my LFS whom I trust have mentioned the more peacable nature of Bartletts or Evansi anthias.
I have not even decided if I wish to remove the anthias from this tank, although my mind is half made up. I have discovered a method of feeding that may work. It flies in the face of conventional advice, but I learned last night that if I feed my horses first, and my other fish right after, the lyretail is occupied with his food for those first few minutes while the horses are eating. After a couple minutes, when the horses have had their fill, they drift off to digest and the anthias can come clean the table, so to speak.
Once again, many many thanks to the help on this board. My horses are also quite grateful for the advice you’re always quick to provide! If anyone is interested, I will have images of the male uploaded later today. Until then, adieu!
Post edited by: Novahobbies, at: 2008/07/23 17:45July 23, 2008 at 10:32 pm #4347NovahobbiesGuest
This little girl is a H. erectus, I think. She was my first horse, but the kid didn’t know the species for sure (new guy at that store!). She was so small, I had to try and save her! 😉
I guess the female got jealous of all the attention the male was getting, because……
She wanted in on the camera time!
[url=http://members.aol.com/raylworf/images/camerahog.jpg]ready for her closeup[/url]
So?? Do I have a pregnant male, or should I start sweating? Come to think of it, I’ll probably be sweating anyway!July 24, 2008 at 4:39 am #4348Pete GiwojnaGuest
Thanks for the update! It’s great to hear that installing a protein skimmer and increasing the aeration and surface agitation in your aquarium has resolved the problem with the huffing. That’s a pretty good indication that the dissolved oxygen levels are back up where they should be, easing the breathing of your seahorses accordingly. Well done!
In the first picture you posted a day or so ago, it was obvious that your Hippocampus reidi stallion was in breeding condition. As you know, sir, during the breeding season, the male’s brood pouch undergoes elaborate changes to prepare it for pregnancy. Often called the marsupium, this remarkable organ is much more than a simple sack or protective pocket or a mere incubator for the eggs. Think of it as an external womb, which undergoes placenta-like changes throughout the pregnancy in order to meet the needs of the fetal fry. Its internal architecture is surprisingly complex. In fact, the male must begin preparing his pouch to receive his next brood long before gestation begins (Vincent, 1990). The elaboration of the internal pouch anatomy that is necessary to support the developing young is triggered by the male hormone testosterone. The four layers of tissue that comprise the pouch undergo increased vascularization at this time (Vincent, 1990) and a longitudinal wall of tissue or septum grows up the middle of the pouch, separating it into left and right halves. This increases the surface area in which fertilized eggs can implant, and enriches the blood supply to the lining of the pouch in which they will imbed. Just before mating occurs, this is enhanced by a surge in the active proliferation of the epithelial tissue that forms the innermost layer of the pouch (Vincent, 1990).
In the offseason, the levels of gonadotropin, testosterone and adrenal corticoids in the bloodstream are reduced, and the pouch deflates and shrinks accordingly, reversing these placenta-like changes. In that first picture of your stallion, it was clear that his pouch was not deflated in shrunken, but rather had undergone some of those changes discussed above in preparation for breeding. However, the enlargement of his pouch could merely indicate that your reidi are getting serious about courtship and breeding now, so their hormones are flowing and he is preparing his pouch for eggs. It doesn’t necessarily mean that your male has already mated successfully, just that he is ready to breed.
After looking at the additional pictures you posted today, and getting a look at his brood pouch from a number of different angles, he does have the appearance of a gravid male that is carrying developing young early in his pregnancy. If his pouch remains distended or enlarges further over the next couple of days, and the stallion has no buoyancy problems (i.e., he can swim and feed normally without fighting the tendency to float), then it’s probably safe to conclude that there was a successful mating and transfer of the eggs.
If you contact me off list ([email protected]), I will be happy to provide you with lots of information on breeding and rearing this species so that you can begin preparing a suitable nursery tank. The Brazilian seahorse (H. reidi) is a tremendously prolific species, but the young are quite challenging to raise due to the the enormous numbers of fry that are produced (broods of up to 1600 newborns have been reported for these prolific ponies) and the prolonged pelagic phase of development they undergo. There are a few things you can do to improve the survivorship of the young and increase your chances of raising some of the babies, and I will be happy to explain some of the tricks of the trade for you if you are interested, sir.
I cannot positively identify the small black seahorse from the photographs. It has a superficial resemblance to H. erectus, but its high, crownlike coronet with very well-developed tines is more similar to H. barbouri or H. procerus, it has sharper, longer spines and than we normally see on erectus, and it lacks the distinctive lined pattern that is so typical of H. erectus. Without being able to do meristic counts and key it out, I am not able to make a definitive identification, but he’s a very handsome pony regardless of his actual species.
All my thanks for sharing the photographs with the group, Nova! The seahorses certainly appear healthy and that was a beautiful firefish (Nemateleotris magnifica) in the earlier photo you posted as well.
Best wishes with all your fishes (and invertebrates), sir! Here’s hoping your H. reidi stallion presents you with a fine healthy brood of young within the next two weeks.
Pete GiwojnaJuly 30, 2008 at 12:34 am #4360NovahobbiesGuest
Well, I just wanted to sign in and publicly thank Pete for his lengthy and extremely helpful tips and pointers he emailed to me. Pete, you sir are a true inspiration. I am going to attempt to raise some of these fry myself, plus I may have found a local breeder who is willing to take some as well. I’m not concerned about the potential money in reselling, I’m happier to think that a few young might just survive and continue to offset the spectre of depleting our oceans through wild-caught horses. So many many thaks to you, Pete, and I’ll continue to post as the pregnancy progresses. As it stands, my male is quite heavy with young….he is very swollen, slow moving, and just generally…..well, pregnant. I will try and snap a couple more photos tonight if I can get a good belly shot. I’m grateful for all that you’ve done to help, sir!July 30, 2008 at 1:27 am #4362Pete GiwojnaGuest
You’re very welcome, sir! Best of luck with your prolific ponies and all their progeny!
Pete GiwojnaJuly 30, 2008 at 9:32 am #4363NovahobbiesGuest
Here he is as of today. It’s getting hard to convince him to move out of the den he made for himself at the back of the tank, but a mysis or three hovering over his snout still does the trick pretty well. 🙂
Post edited by: Novahobbies, at: 2008/07/30 05:33July 30, 2008 at 11:57 pm #4364Pete GiwojnaGuest
Yes, sir, your Hippocampus reidi stallion looks like he’s just about ready to pop, and it does sound like he has been displaying the typical "broody" behavior of a gravid male.
As you know, male seahorses undergo a true pregnancy and you’ll find the birthing process to be every bit as fascinating as their amazing courtship and greeting rituals. Male seahorses nourish the developing young in a special brood pouch. Often called the marsupium, this remarkable organ is much more than a simple sack or protective pocket or a mere incubator for the eggs. Think of it as an external womb, which undergoes placenta-like changes throughout the pregnancy in order to meet the needs of the fetal fry. Its internal architecture is surprisingly complex. In fact, the male must begin preparing his pouch to receive his next brood long before gestation begins (Vincent, 1990). The elaboration of the internal pouch anatomy that is necessary to support the developing young is triggered by the male hormone testosterone. The development of these structures is thus under testicular control and takes place primarily in the offseason when the seahorse is not breeding (Vincent, 1990). The four layers of tissue that comprise the pouch undergo increased vascularization at this time (Vincent, 1990) and a longitudinal wall of tissue or septum grows up the middle of the pouch, separating it into left and right halves. This increases the surface area in which fertilized eggs can implant, and enriches the blood supply to the lining of the pouch in which they will imbed. Just before mating occurs, this is enhanced by a surge in the active proliferation of the epithelial tissue that forms the innermost layer of the pouch (Vincent, 1990).
These placenta-like changes accelerate after the actual mating and transfer of the eggs take place. The male releases his sperm as the eggs are deposited. The moment the last egg is nestled safely inside the pouch, a ringlike sphincter muscle seals it off (Vincent, 1990). The fertile eggs implant in the wall or septum of the pouch, triggering a spongelike expansion of its tissues as the capillaries and blood vessels swell and multiply. Epithelial and connective tissue proliferate around the embedded eggs, enveloping each ovum within a tiny chamber or alveolus of its own (Vincent, 1990). Eventually 7/8 of every embryonic sac is embedded in the spongy tissue lining the pouch (Vincent, 1990). Each compartment or alveolus opens into the central cavity of the pouch. About 1/8 of each embryo remains exposed, protruding through this opening, and is immersed in a special placental fluid within the pouch (Vincent, 1990).
In this way, the brood pouch is prepared to maintain the pregnancy by carrying out the following vital functions:
(1) Protection. The brood pouch protects the young in a number of ways. It shields them from harmful ultraviolet radiation, which can destroy unprotected eggs and larvae (Vincent, 1990). It shelters the eggs and fetal fry from predators, and protects them from siltation and suffocating algae (Vincent, 1990).
(2) Aeration. A dense network of capillaries forms in the connective tissue that surrounds each of the embedded eggs, delivering oxygen to the fetal fry through the membrane of the embryonic sac (Vincent, 1990) and carrying away their metabolic wastes in the same manner.
(3) Control of osmotic pressure. The sealed pouch creates a watertight environment for the developing young and, over the course of the gestation, the male adjusts the osmotic pressure from that of his bodily fluids to that of seawater (Vincent, 1990). The young are thus gradually acclimated to full-strength saltwater over the course of the pregnancy, so the newborns will be right at home when they are expelled from the pouch. This is crucial for the survival of the delicate fry, since sudden changes in osmotic pressure are known to cause stunting, breathing abnormalities, and physical deformities in teleost fish larvae (Vincent, 1990).
(4) Nourishment. A portion of each embryonic sac is bathed within a nourishing placental fluid containing calcium and other inorganic ions contributed by the male (Vincent, 1990). The placental fluid also contains organic ions derived from the female via the yolk. The male secretes enzymes that dissolve away the outer covering of the eggs (chorion) shortly after incubation begins, and the organic ions contributed by the female diffuse across the exposed membrane of the embryonic sac into the pouch fluid (Vincent, 1990). There they are transformed into amino acids by a special enzyme (protease) secreted by the pouch epithelium (Vincent, 1990). These amino acids eventually become proteins incorporated within the embryos (Vincent, 1990). The calcium provided by the male is similarly taken up by the embryos and infused into their skeletons (Vincent, 1990).
In short, the brood pouch enfolds, protects, aerates, osmoregulates, and nourishes the developing embryos as the male undergoes a true pregnancy (Vincent, 1990). The gestation period for your H. reidi is typically about 14 days, so your stallion should be due any day now. The volume of the pouch increases dramatically as the pregnancy progresses. A male that is carrying a significant number of young becomes very rotund so that only a very thin layer of epithelium and connective tissue separates the interior of the pouch from the outside world by the time birth is imminent (Vincent, 1990).
The fully developed young emerge from their individual compartments and shake loose into the lumen of the pouch prior to birth (Vincent, 1990). They become very active toward the end of the pregnancy and can sometimes be seen wriggling about through the membrane of the swollen brood pouch. This appears to be every bit as uncomfortable as it sounds, since expecting males become agitated and distressed as the big moment approaches. Respirations increase to 70-80 breaths per minute prior to the onset of labor. Gravid males definite labor pains when birth is imminent, evident as a series of powerful contractions, and soon begin pumping in time with these birth spasms in order to forcibly eject the fry from their pouches. Labor usually begins well after dark in the early morning hours (Vincent, 1990) or shortly after dawn. The distraught male may pump and thrust vigorously for hours before finally ejecting the first of the newborns (Vincent, 1990). The fry are expelled singly or in ones and twos at first, but are soon spewing forth in bunches and bursts of a half dozen or more.
Delivering a large brood this way is hard work, and the exhausted male will pause periodically to recover from his exertions, gathering his strength until he is caught in the throes of another round of contractions. In some cases, it takes 2-3 days for the entire brood to be delivered in this manner.
No matter how often I see a male giving birth, it never ceases to amaze me. Watching the fry erupt into existence that way is an incredible sight. They are perfect miniature replicas of their parents, able to fend for themselves from the first. It seems a brutal beginning, a ruthlessly rude awakening, to be violently thrust into the world in such an abrupt fashion, but the newborns hit the water swimming without missing a stroke. It’s a thrill to be witnessing such a miracle of nature and always leaves me awed and exhilarated!
Best of luck with your H. reidi, sir! Here’s hoping your stallion presents you with a healthy brood of young very soon.
Post edited by: Pete Giwojna, at: 2008/07/30 20:00
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