- July 21, 2020 at 4:12 am #52472
So just picked up two new seahorses was not a hundred percent ready. I have my medication a ten gallon tank that has not been setup for QT. They are only eating live ghost shrimp at the moment.
I got them because the store they were at had them in a tank that is beyond description with words and could not leave them there.
So this being my first pair of seahorses I wanted to make sure I’m taking all the right steps and precautions.
Tank is a 24x24x24 seagrass two powerheads dual returns live rock sand bead, protien skimmer sump prime ai hd led for light other macro algea, and tree sponges and gorgs. The tank has been setup for 6 months or so with just some cleaner shrimp hermits and snails.
The female has become extremely active and hunts for food all the time. The male has been a little more chill and I have been hand feeding him as he is a big boy and thought he would have no trouble with ghost feeders but some of them he just snicks and doesnt get them maybe 2or 3 out of ten tries on his own.
With all the reading I have done and research I believe he has a “weak snick” so I begain a fresh water dip on both of them for roughly 9-10 mins. I setup a sterilized container with r/o water matched ph and temp and let the air stone aerate the water for an hour or so.
The female went through the same process and were both returned to the main tank. The female has returned to normal behavior. The male I am not sure I have been kept food i. The tank but have not attempted to hand feed him to give him a day of rest. I hand feed him smaller shrimp as he seems to be able to slurp then up.
When do you start to see snick improvement or start to remedy the situation by other means. I just wanted to fresh water dip them now before they were not eating at all and the situation worsened.
1.024 specific gravity
Any help for “papa koa” would be greatly appreciated.July 21, 2020 at 7:01 am #52477
Also here is a video link of pony before freshwater dip so you can maybe see overall health and breathing.July 21, 2020 at 8:49 am #52479Pete GiwojnaModerator
Your recent experience with the pet shop ponies you rescued from their deplorable circumstances sounded all-too-familiar to me, sir, because it’s very similar to many such incidents I have had myself in the past. I have been keeping seahorses since the 1970s, and back in those early days there was no such thing as captive-bred-and-raised seahorses – that was back when your local fish store was your only option for seahorses, and your selection (at least in the US) was usually limited to wild-caught Hippocampus erectus, which of course you could get in pretty much any color you wanted, providing it was a shade of black or brown.
In fact, Dan, all too often, seahorses are purchased from the local fish store (LFS) not because they’re the picture of health but rather because they appear to be at death’s door, and some kind-hearted hobbyist brings them home on a mercy mission, hoping that with plenty of TLC and plenty of tempting live foods, he can resurrect the half-starved ‘horses and give them a second chance at survival. I know because I am that sentimental slob. Being a soft-hearted seahorse lover myself, I’ve returned from local pet shops in rescue-mission mode many times over the years, rushing to get my latest reclamation project home to the Intensive Care Unit (my reef tank, which is specially set up just for seahorses) where they could benefit from the natural surroundings, optimum water quality, and all of their favorite live foods they could eat.
Sadly, more often than not, my attempts to rehab these poor ponies were a dismal failure. It appears that at some stage these pitiful patients are simply too far-gone to save; once they reach the point of no return, irreversible damage has been done to their digestive system, and there’s no bringing them back. I call that tragic condition starvation syndrome, and after years of bitter experience, I’ve learned the hard way to tell at a glance which emaciated seahorses still have a chance and which ones will never make it. The terminal cases develop what I can perhaps best describe as the “far look,” a sort of vacant stare as if their eyes were focused far away on some distant object. They are unresponsive, with little or no eye movement. Whether you call it starvation syndrome or PTSD, the situation is so bad that industry statistics indicate that only 1 in 1000 seahorses collected from the wild for the pet trade lives longer than 3 months (Garrick-Maidment, Sep. 2002).
Worst of all, on a number of occasions the rescue ponies I attempted to save introduced some sort of pathogen or parasite to the aquarium, which eventually claimed a number of my healthy animals as well as the pathetic pet-shop ponies I couldn’t resist rescuing. That’s a hard lesson to learn, and one that I was slow to absorb, having to go through the heartache involved on multiple occasions before I finally realized that my ill-advised rescue missions were not worth the risk in the mental anguish involved in seeing the ponies waste away despite your best efforts and anything or everything I tried to bring them around…
Having said that, Dan, I examined the video clip you provided and I didn’t see any outward indications of a health problem. The seahorse was breathing normally, with no huffing, rapid respiration, or other signs of respiratory distress, and it had very good eye movement, and seemed to be quite aware of everything going on around it. There’s no discoloration of its tail and it was clinging to the substrate with its prehensile tail quick normally. For all intents and purposes, it appeared to be a perfectly healthy lined seahorse (Hippocampus erectus). But then again weak snick is not evident until you see the seahorse attempting to eat…
My suggestion would be to obtain some live adult brine shrimp to water to your seahorse, since they will be much easier for it to swallow then ghost shrimp or frozen Mysis, and then to enrich the adult brine shrimp with Vitamin E and selenium, or any other good vitamin formulations for marine fish you can find, since weak snick is often associated with vitamin deficiencies.
Véronique LePage, from Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada was looking into nutrient deficiencies in weak snick in sea dragons. Weak snick occurs in sea dragons as well, which is not surprising considering their physiology is so similar to seahorses. One researcher (Véronique LePage) at a vet college in Ontario discovered that several seadragons she had observed with weak snick had muscular weakness or degeneration (myopathy) around the muscles of the face and head. This was due to a vitamin E and selenium deficiency, and once treated, the snick resumed. (as reported by Tami Weiss).
Likewise, the Birch Aquarium also found myopathy, necropsy and degeneration of the head and jaw muscles in syngnathids (Tami Weiss).
Here is a discussion of weak snick excerpted from my new book (Complete Guide to the Greater Seahorses in the Aquarium, unpublished), which will explain more about this disorder and how it can be treated, Paul:
FEEDING DIFFICULTIES: WEAK SNICK, TRIGGER LOCK, & LOCK JAW
Seahorses suck! That’s a fact. Our amazing aquatic equines are supremely well adapted for suctorial feeding, which just means that their tubular snouts are designed for generating a powerful suction and slurping up small prey whole (Giwojna, Feb. 2004). Basically, their tubular mouths operate like slurp guns, a method of feeding that is often adopted by fish accustomed to taking prey from the bottom or plucking small crustaceans and larvae from the leaves of underwater plants (Evans, 1998). The anatomy of the seahorse’s head has evolved to accommodate this method of feeding (Giwojna, Feb. 2004).
For example, a tubular mouth is an advantage for suctorial feeding because it acts like a pipette and the narrow opening accelerates the inrush of water via the Venturi effect, thus maximizing the suction generated by the powerful head muscles (Giwojna, Feb. 2004). The seahorse’s oral or buccal cavity and gill chambers (opercular cavities) act as dual suction pumps that draw the water inwards with considerable force (Evans, 1998). Expansion of the buccal and opercular cavities causes a sudden drop in pressure within the mouth (Evans, 1998). The suction thus created allows the seahorse to suck up food through its slurp-gun snout faster than the eye can follow. In essence, the seahorse inhales its food in the blink of an eye, and cavitation caused by the sudden inrush of water traveling at tremendous velocity through the narrow snout and characteristic movements of its head and skull bones produce the distinctly audible “snick!” which announces the demise of its prey (Giwojna, Feb. 2004).
Every seahorse keeper is familiar with the seahorse’s “trigger,” located at the underside of its jaws at the base of its throat, which moves downward sharply when the seahorse strikes, thereby expanding its oral (buccal) cavity and generating the suction to draw its prey inwards. This trigger is actually the seahorse’s hyoid bone, and it is pulled downward by contraction of the powerful sternohyoideus muscle that runs from the hyoid bone to the cleithrum (one of the bones of the pectoral girdle), which forms part of the seahorse’s bony exoskeleton (the cleithral ring) just behind its head (Evans, 1998).
The suction generated by the sudden downward contraction of the hyoid bone when a feeding seahorse “pulls the trigger” on its intended prey is greatly enhanced by the nearly simultaneous expansion of its gill chambers or opercular cavities (Giwojna, Feb. 2004). The additional suction thus created by the seahorse’s opercular pump is produced by contractions of the hyohyoideus muscles and dilator operculi muscles (Evans, 1998). The water pulled into the gill chambers this way is then expelled from the opercular cavity through a small pore. (This narrow opening accelerates the stream of water passing through it in the same way as its narrow tubular snout does.) The seahorse’s bony coronet evolved atop its head in part to provide solid anchorage and attachment points for the large muscles that operate its buccal suction pump and twin opercular suction pumps, which enable it to feed so efficiently (Giwojna, Feb. 2004). This is the perfect feeding mechanism for an ambush predator, ideal for extracting small prey items from heavy cover or sucking up suspended prey neatly from the water column, and the seahorse is perfectly adapted for its role as the sniper of the seagrass jungle (Giwojna, Feb. 2004).
Of course the seahorse’s turreted, independently operating eyes are the perfect targeting system for this sophisticated feeding apparatus (Giwojna, Feb. 2004). Side-mounted, hemispherical eye turrets provide nearly 360 degrees of vision and allow the seahorse to look upwards and downwards (or forward and backwards) simultaneously in search of potential prey or possible predators (Giwojna, Feb. 2004). As soon as it detects a likely prey item, both eyes lock on it simultaneously and track it intently, thus providing excellent depth perception. This allows the seahorse to judge distances with remarkable accuracy as it draws a bead on its intended victim (Giwojna, Feb. 2004).
The hyoid bone is the trigger which fires the seahorse’s slurp-gun snout, and the moment its prey closes within striking distance, the powerful sternohyoideus muscle contracts and pull the trigger (Giwojna, Feb. 2004). The buccal cavity expands, followed the almost instantaneous contraction of the hyohyoideus muscles and dilator operculi muscles, which likewise expand the opercular cavities (Evans, 1998). The resulting drop in pressure creates a sharp inrush of water, which draws the prey irresistibly into the seahorse’s mouth (Evans, 1998). Once the prey has been sucked in, the mouth is closed. At this point, the buccal and opercular cavities are contracted and the excess water is forced out in a strong stream via the tiny opercular pores (Evans, 1998).
All this happens in an instant, faster than the eye can follow, and the powerful suction that is generated often macerates large prey (Giwojna, Feb. 2004). When the resulting debris is expelled from the gill chambers, it looks remarkably as if the seahorse is shooting smoke out of its ears, thus giving a feeding seahorse an uncanny resemblance to the legendary fire-breathing dragon (Giwojna, Feb. 2004).
However, when this remarkable feeding mechanism is injured or disrupted by parasites and/or secondary infections, a number of problems arise. Weak snick is an unusual affliction that results when a seahorse is unable to generate adequate suction to feed properly. Seahorses develop weak snick when their sophisticated feeding apparatus, or the muscles that operate it, are incapacitated as a result of injury or infection, or by muscular degeneration associated with vitamin deficiencies.
For example, I have often seen it in seahorses as a result of protozoan parasite infections (Amyloodinium, Cryptocaryon, Brooklynella, Uronema, etc.). I tend to suspect that’s the cause when the weak snick is accompanied by rapid respiration and labored breathing, or when more that one seahorse develops the condition, or when the weak snick victim’s tankmates are bothered by odd ailments such as “trigger lock,” appetite loss, lockjaw, heavy breathing, or the first signs of snout rot, which all early indications of masked protozoan parasite infections (Giwojna, Dec. 2003). These organisms typically attack the gills first, from which they spread to the throat and mouth (oral or buccal cavity). As their numbers build up in the gills and they spread from within, invading the esophagus and oral cavity, symptoms such as rapid breathing, loss of appetite, weak snick, trigger lock, and snout rot begin to appear (Giwojna, Dec. 2003).
This is how I believe the disease progresses in such cases: the burrowing of the embedded parasites causes hyperplasia of the underlying tissue, and when sufficient numbers of them build up in the gills, we see the initial symptoms of respiratory distress, labored breathing, and huffing (Giwojna, Dec. 2003). During a heavy infestation, the parasites may attack the key muscles that expand the opercular cavity, or sheer numbers of the parasites can clog the gills to the extent that the opercular pump is impaired, resulting in weak snick due to a decrease in suction (Giwojna, Dec. 2003). In severe cases, this will eventually result in death by asphyxiation.
In less severe cases, the parasites will continue to spread from the gills into the throat, buccal cavity, and eventually the snout itself (Giwojna, Dec. 2003). When this happens, the irritation caused by the burrowing parasites and the hyperplasia of the infected tissue can cause loss of appetite or difficulty swallowing and the victim may go on a hunger strike (Giwojna, Dec. 2003). If the swelling and hyperplasia occlude the gills, throat and snout sufficiently to prevent the seahorse from generating adequate suction when attempting to feed, weak snick is the result (Giwojna, Dec. 2003). If the burrowing of the embedded parasites allows secondary fungal or bacterial infections to take hold, the seahorse can develop snout rot (Giwojna, Dec. 2003). When such secondary infection(s) affect the sternohyoideus muscle that controls the hyoid bone trigger mechanism, ailments such trigger lock, sticky trigger, or lockjaw result and again the seahorse is unable to feed (Giwojna, Dec. 2003). Weak snick can be caused in this way as well if the sternohyoideus muscle is affected to the extent that hyoid trigger still operates, but so feebly that the buccal pump can no longer generate sufficient suction to feed (Giwojna, Dec. 2003).
Another common cause of weak snick in many instances is a mechanical injury to the seahorse’s hyoid-bone “trigger” mechanism. This sometimes happens when a seahorse accidentally ingests a foreign object when feeding off the bottom. The offending particle is often a piece of gravel or crushed shell. When a hard, sizable foreign object such as this is ingested, it can lodge in the throat or snout, and the seahorse may have difficulty expelling it again. (The seahorse’s feeding mechanism is much better suited for sucking things in than spitting them out again.) When that happens, the seahorse is almost always able to clear the offending object eventually, but sometimes not before it causes considerable irritation or the repeated efforts to eject it cause a muscular strain to the hyoid trigger mechanism. The seahorse then acts as though it has a very bad sore throat. The suction it generates is weak and both the act of pulling the trigger and the act of swallowing appear to be painful. The seahorse feeds reluctantly or halfheartedly as a result, and may eventually stop feeding altogether. Such mechanical injuries can also open the door for snout rot.
Suspect a mechanical injury when the weak snick or sticky trigger is not accompanied by respiratory distress, when only one of your seahorses is affected and exhibiting unusual symptoms, or when you witnessed the seahorse struggling to expel a foreign object. In such cases, most often the problem clears up on its own after two weeks to two months as the injury heals. No treatment is necessary and the key to a successful outcome is keeping the patient eating while the healing takes place. That’s what treatment should concentrate on.
When these feeding difficulties arise, it’s a good idea to try tempting the affected seahorse with live adult brine shrimp. Seahorses suffering from weak snick induced by an injury may have better luck slurping up smaller, lighter, soft-bodied prey like brine shrimp; if so, that will be enough to keep them going while they heal. You’ll want to enrich the brine shrimp to maximize its nutritional value, and gutloading the shrimp with an enrichment product high in HUFA and vitamins, such as Vibrance, is a good way to fortify it beforehand. Brine shrimp are filter feeders that will ingest whatever is suspended in the water with them, so all you need to do is add a pinch or two (or drop or two) of the enrichment formula to a small container of saltwater swarming with brine shrimp at least 30 minutes before you offer the shrimp to your seahorse.
Some hobbyists dealing with weak snick have had good success in coaxing the affected seahorse to feed by transferring the seahorse to a critter keeper or breeder net or similar enclosure that can hang within the main tank itself, and then adding a generous amount of live adult brine shrimp to the container. Within the enclosure, the affected seahorse does not have to compete with its tankmates for the live food, and it is easy to maintain an adequate feeding density within the confined space so that there is always a big juicy brine shrimp passing within striking distance of the hungry seahorse. Add one or two hitching posts within the critter keeper or breeder net so that your male can anchor in place and wait for a tasty brine shrimp to pass within easy reach, and give him an hour or two within the enclosure to eat him fill of the softbodied adult brine shrimp. You can monitor his progress from a nonthreatening distance away from the tank to see how she is doing. In most cases, the seahorse quickly becomes familiar with the routine of being transferred to the special enclosure at feeding time and associates it with tasty live foods and a full belly — positive reinforcements that make it a very nonthreatening, stress-free procedure for the affected seahorse — and, as a result, it may actually come to look forward to it after a few feedings. You can repeat this feeding process two or three times daily in order to fatten him up again, if your schedule allows.
In your case, Dan, since the affected seahorse is not showing any other symptoms other than a loss of suction when feeding, then you’re most likely dealing with a muscular strain or mechanical injury, and keeping your seahorse eating by providing it with abundant softbodied adult brine shrimp to slurp up is probably the best approach to this problem. But be sure to fortify the adult brine shrimp may have time using Vitamin E and selenium, or other fish vitamins.
If you do not have access to live adult brine shrimp, then target feeding the seahorse, or even handfeeding the pony are also good options. Try target feeding some of the smaller frozen Mysis, such as the Marine Mini Mysis by H2O Life or the Hikari frozen Mysis, which may be easier for the affected seahorse to slurp up and swallow than the larger brands of frozen Mysis, such as Piscine Energetics Mysis relicta…
In either case, keeping the seahorse feeding or providing it with adequate nourishment is the key to resolving weak snick and other related feeding disorders. Many times the problem will resolve itself over time providing you can keep the seahorse well fed in the meantime. Providing your pony with plenty of softbodied adult brine shrimp that are easy to slurp up and swallow is one way to accomplish this.
But sometimes the problem progresses to the point where the seahorse cannot even suck up the softbodied adult brine shrimp. When that’s the case, Paul, handfeeding the seahorse instead is often the best approach. By handfeeding in this case I mean holding one entire, intact (whole and unbroken) frozen Mysis that you have carefully thawed in your fingertips and then placing the head end of the Mysid directly in the mouth of the seahorse. Many times the seahorse will simply spit it out again, but often if you can insert the Mysis into the seahorse’s open mouth far enough, it’s feeding instincts will kick in and take over so that the seahorse slurps up the frozen Mysis almost reflexively. That’s a much less stressful and less invasive method of force feeding a seahorse that sometimes works well (especially if the seahorse is accustomed to being hand fed and doesn’t shy away from the aquarist). When this method of force feeding works well, it can be maintained indefinitely to provide the seahorses with good nourishment until it has recovered and can feed normally again on its own.
For example, even the magnificent seadragons sometimes develop problems with weak snick and similar feeding disorders, and professional aquarists will use this same method to provide their prized dragons with good nourishment until they recover, as discussed below:
Over the years, we have seen mouth problems develop in some of our dragons. Sometimes it’s attributed to injury. Sometimes we don’t know what causes it, but we are often successful in getting them to recover on their own with just supportive feedings until we observe that they are back to catching food normally. Sometimes this can take a long time…as in a month or two of force feedings before they are back to catching enough on their own to sustain themselves.
Although I have not had experience force feeding ribbon dragons, I have both force fed and tube fed leafy and weedy seadragons. Typically, we force feed numerous frozen mysids to a sick dragon up to 3 times a day. By force feeding, I mean that we very gently place a mysid in the mouth of the animal and then lightly hold a finger in front of it so that it can’t easily spit out the food. Usually they learn pretty quickly that they are getting food this way and start to slurp mysids up as soon as they are put in their mouth. I usually try to get 6-10 mysids in per feeding. It takes good eyesight and a steady hand to make sure you don’t injure their mouth with this method. We have also tube fed using a thick slurry of cyclopeeze or pulverized and moistened pelleted food…usually giving around .3cc per feeding…though it’s dependent on the size of the animal. I think we usually use a 2-3mm french catheter cut down to fit on a small syringe. Again we do this 3 x day. We find that the animals do better with the frequent feedings and usually they go right back to searching for food after being released.
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Best of luck getting your seahorse over this hurdle and back to feeding normally on its own again, Dan!
Pete Giwojna, Ocean Rider Tech SupportJuly 22, 2020 at 5:19 am #52484
Thank you so much for the wealth of knowledge and heart felt response. I will continue hand feeding the ghost shrimp I am hoping I can eventually get him on pe mysis. Maybe I can trick him one day! We shall see… the two vitamins you are suggesting to get into the diet, could I accomplish this by gut loading the ghost shrimp with your vibrance 1 or 2? Or is that just for soaking frozen food in? Or do you have a suggested gut load for ghost shrimp or brine. I have access to both here in tampa fl. Thank you again for all your helpJuly 22, 2020 at 5:19 am #52488Pete GiwojnaModerator
In your case, sir, when the weak snick is suspected to be due to a vitamin deficiency, I would recommend gut loading live adult brine shrimp with Vita-chem Marine Formulation by Boyd Enterprises in conjunction with a selenium supplement.
The Vita-chem Marine contains a wide array of vitamins including Vitamin E and may be available at your local fish stores or pet shops, or it can be purchased online from many sources such as liveaquaria.com (see the following link):
You can add the proper amount of the Vita-chem Marine Formulation directly to the aquarium water as well as adding a few drops of it to the container of freshwater that you are using to gutload or bioencapsulate the adult brine shrimp.
You can obtain a selenium supplement at any drugstore or pharmacy inexpensively, and then use it along with the VitaChem Marine to gutload the adult brine shrimp as explained below.
The best way to administer the Vita-chem Marine and selenium to your seahorses orally is by bioencapsulating or gutloading them in live adult brine shrimp (Artemia), which are then fed to the seahorses.
If the selenium supplement you are using for this comes in tablet form, crush it into a very fine powder (you may have to use a household blender to get it fine enough) and dissolve it in a small container of freshwater. Soak the adult shrimp in freshwater containing the dissolves selenium tablet and several drops of VitaChem Marine Formulation for 15-30 minutes and then feed the medicated shrimp to your seahorses immediately. (Don’t let your pumps and filters “eat” all the brine shrimp!)
The brine shrimp are soaked in freshwater, not saltwater, because in theory the increased osmotic pressure of the freshwater helps the vitamin/selenium solution move into their bodies via osmosis. But in fact nobody knows for sure whether the antibiotic is diffusing into the brine shrimp or they are ingesting it in very fine particles (brine shrimp are filter feeders and will take in whatever is suspended in the water with them) or whether the brine shrimp merely become coated with the antibiotic while they are soaking in it. But that’s not important — all that really matters is that gut-loading adult brine shrimp with medications this way is effective.
Gutloading the adult brine shrimp in freshwater has several advantages, Dan. First of all, it disinfects the brine shrimp (the osmotic shock in going from concentrated saltwater to freshwater will kill off any protozoan parasites the brine shrimp may have been carrying). Secondly, the freshwater increases the effectiveness of the gutloading process by allowing some of the medication to enter the body of the brine shrimp via osmosis. And gutloading the adult brine shrimp in freshwater saves the hobbyist from having to mix up fresh saltwater every day in order to medicate the adult Artemia. Just use dechlorinated/detoxified freshwater as described above, and everything should go smoothly.
I would feed your seahorses their fill of adult brine shrimp gutloaded with a powdered selenium tablet and several drops of Vita-chem Marine once a day. Gutload a new portion of the adult brine shrimp each day for the seahorses’ first feeding of the day when they are the most hungry.
It is impossible to determine precisely what dosage of the vitamins and selenium each individual fish ingests when gutloading, but these supplements are very safe and you really cannot overdose a seahorse using this method of treatment.
In short, Dan, the feeder shrimp I find that work best for gutloading or bioencapsulating medications are adult brine shrimp (Artemia species). As you know, I prefer adult brine shrimp (Artemia spp.) for gutloading for a number of reasons. For one thing, adult Artemia are inexpensive and readily available to the home hobbyist. Secondly, soaking live adult brine shrimp in a solution of the desired additives in freshwater is by far the simplest and most convenient way to bioencapsulate meds, as we have discussed previously. Thirdly, a much wider range of medicines are effective when bio-encapsulated in live brine shrimp than can be used effectively as bath treatments for marine fish because they adult brine shrimp tolerate freshwater so well while they are being gutloaded.
Best of luck resolving your new seahorse’s problem with weak snick, sir.
Pete Giwojna, Ocean Rider Tech Support
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