- This topic has 10 replies, 4 voices, and was last updated 18 years ago by nigelseahorse.
January 19, 2006 at 12:59 am #729KAC30101Member
Just need some advice tonight. Had a 45g reef tank about 4 years ago and it
was doing great. I had 5 seahorses in it…. all Mustangs at the time. Loved them! One of my horses kept getting \"chronic pouch emphysema\" and I wrote to Carol @ Ocean Rider and she helped me fix that little baby right up.
Months later I had a weird thing happen…. one night all these little \"things\" started pouring out of the live rock…. the water got cloudy…. all my horses were breathing heavily and swimming at the top of the tank. I checked the water quality that morning on the IC at the lab I work at.
Things looked good. I went home and the horses looked pretty bad. I took them out and put them in another tank.(an emergency tank) They all seemed better the next day and started to re-coup.
I started slowly added some things to the interium tank, like the hermit crabs, acouple fish, etc then put in the heater and hoped for the best…….
all the while, emptying the big tank to start it cycling again. To try to make a long sad story short….. the same things happened again in the new tank and it dawned on me that all this started happening again after the addition of the heater I had put in. I took my heater to work the next day and ran a voltage test in the water (made with the same salinity and sp. cond. as my tank at home) and got a slight volt. reading but, really nothing significant.
The very worst part was watching my seahorses die and I was helpless as to what to do. By the time I thought it may be the heater, all my horses were gone, but one.
So, here I am today…. with a new 75 gallon tank… been cycling for four weeks…. conditions are good……… and I\’m afraid to get seahorses.
It was extremely hard watching them die.
Any advice on what I did wrong?
Kris[size=4][/size][size=3][/size][color=#A7A7A7][/color]January 19, 2006 at 5:16 pm #2246Pete GiwojnaGuest
All my condolences on your losses. It sounds like you’ve been through a very unfortunate experience — it can indeed be quite traumatic and terribly disheartening to see your seahorses suffering and not be able to do anything to help them.
Since the water quality in your main tank checked out fine at your lab, and the seahorses recovered when transferred to the interim tank only to become distressed again, breathing rapidly and swimming agitatedly at the surface when you transferred your heater to the new tank, I think you may have identified the likely culprit. Stray voltage from a faulty heater can certainly become a serious stressor to fishes in an aquarium. Just how stressful and how dire the consequences depends on the amount of voltage involved.
Low voltage will be a source of chronic, low-level stress to seahorses and other aquarium specimens, which can be very debilitating in the long run. Higher voltages are increasingly stressful to the point where the aquarium inhabitants are actually getting jolted, which can even result in fish trying to leave the water in order to escape this painful stimulus. And, of course, a catastrophic heater failure in which the heating element is exposed to the water can pose a risk of electrocution to both the aquarist and his fishes.
It sounds like you were spared the worst-case scenario in which the heater shorts out and electrical shock becomes a hazard, Kris, but that your heater may have become a significant source of stray voltage. If so, the resulting irritation may be what drove all the little things out of your live rock initially and caused the distress to your seahorses.
In the future, a simple titanium grounding probe will protect your seahorses and other wet pets from stray voltage and should also safeguard them in event of a catastrophic heater failure.
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 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. An ounce of prevention…
In short, if you replace that faulty heater, install a titanium grounding probe in your new 75-gallon aquarium, and observe the precautions outlined above, you should be good to go and seahorses should thrive on your new setup as before.
Best of luck with your new 75-gallon system, Kris!
Pete GiwojnaJanuary 21, 2006 at 3:40 am #2253SEAGAZERGuest
Sorry for the problems you had. I’ll be watching this post because I woke up at 3:30 am last month with a horrible dream about my horses. I woke up, ran to the living room flipped on the light, and they were fine. My water wasn’t though. It was cloudy. Almost milky cloudy. I turned on the actinic lighting and to my surprise there were thousands of little organisms just floating, and swimming thru the water. When I brought this up at the LFS, and pointed them out in his tank. He told me they were copepods. Made me feel good because I thought right off the bat "I can feed them to my fry". Geez, now I wonder if I don’t have another potential problem.
Will be watching/Good luck
:huh:January 21, 2006 at 4:10 am #2254KAC30101Guest
Seagazer, Im confused myself, as to the cause of this problem and concerned for problems in the future.
Of course, I retired that heater, after I realized the problem may be steming from it. My confusion was concerning the possibility of "stray voltage" and how one would detect it, before things get desparate for the tank.
I’m a Chemist, but I don’t know a darn thing about electricity and I thought using a surge protector….
well, protected my tank.
Pete, thanks for your earlier reply, but, just out of curiosity, any thoughts on this….. or was it all just a weird fluke?
KrisJanuary 22, 2006 at 8:21 pm #2255Pete GiwojnaGuest
Dear Kris & Seagazer:
The situation Seagazer is describing sounds very much like a copepod bloom, an uncommon problem that sometimes crops up in closed-system aquaria when the population of cyclopoid copepods explodes unchecked. Although the copepods themselves are harmless, when a major copepod bloom occurs the sheer numbers of these tiny crustaceans can physically clog the gills of fishes and result in asphyxia or suffocation. Of course, I would be happy to share my thoughts on this matter with you.
For starters, here’s how I described this condition in the Step-By-Step Book about Seahorses:
"Aquarists unwittingly cause a different sort of problem when they introduce copepods such as Cyclops to the aquarium while feeding live foods. These minute crustaceans reproduce at a fantastic rate (over a year’s time, the descendents from a single female may number over 4 billion) and can quickly transform your aquarium into a copepod soup. When your seahorses try to breathe this copepod-infested water, their gill tufts can become hopelessly clogged by tangled masses of the tiny creatures, resulting in suffocation. As the respiration becomes increasingly labored, the seahorses will signal their distress by panting for breath and going through a series of color changes.
"This problem is easily diagnosed by the cloudy or hazy appearance of the water. It can be treated by running a bedtime filter continuously for several days, while adding three drops of methylene blue per gallon of water. The diatom filter physically removes the copepods, while the methylene blue further reduces their numbers and aides the seahorses breathing. A complete water change is then called for…" [Giwojna, 61-62]
Nowadays, of course, hobbyists are all very conscious of the benefits copepods can provide as a highly nutritious natural food source for seahorses. As a result, seahorse keepers will often take special pains to establish harpacticoid copepods in their tanks or to culture them in great numbers for their seahorse fry, and on rightly so; in the 21st century, we are bombarded with articles extolling the many virtues of ‘pods to the point that few aquarists realize anymore that not all copepods are beneficial.
But that has not always been the case. Not too long ago, the aquarium literature was rife with references regarding "copepod pollution" in the fish tank and warnings about "copepod contamination" of the aquarium. In those days, the scientific journals included papers on topics such as "Should We Love or Hate Cyclops" and "Damage to Fish Fry by Cyclopoid Copepods" by Charles C. Davis (Ohio Journal of Science, vol. 59, pp. 101-102, 1959) and similar studies by the Czechoslovakian investigators Babak (1913) and Oliva and Sladecek ( 1950) describing attacks by Cyclops copepods on Axolotl fry. As an example, Davis points out in his paper that, "There Is clear and incontrovertible proof in the scientific biological literature that some of the species of Cyclops are predators… All Cyclops, whether vegetarian or carnivorous, have biting mouthparts, and in most of them the jaws are adequately powerful to cause significant damage to small fry." Suffice it to say there are countless species of copepods, a number of which are parasitic and a few of which are predatory, and even the harmless varieties can present problems on rare occasions when their numbers get out of control.
For instance, this is what Mildred Bellamy has to say regarding copepods in her famous book Encyclopedia of Seahorses:
"Although nonparasitic themselves, some copepods may still contribute to the death of fishes maintained in close-system aquaria by affecting respiration adversely. This condition is brought about by clogging of the gills or, in the case of the seahorse, the gill tufts, to a point were actual suffocation occurs in the fish involved. Copepods are prolific individuals indeed and, in the closed-system Celeste aquarium particularly, they may reproduce so rapidly as to almost stagger the observer who dips a sampling of water from the aquarium and examines it microscopically.
"In the wild, any freshwater pond will afford millions of [copepod] specimens of the genus Cyclops. The sea contain species of the same genus in such numbers that they, with allied genera, form a large part of the food of many fishes — even some species of whales find in them an abundant food supply. The reproductive powers of Cyclops are so great it has been estimated that the descendents of one female may number 4,500,000,000 individuals in a single year.
"Thus, uncontrolled in the aquarium, it is not difficult to envision how the water, swarming with these minute crustaceans, can become literally a nursery and that the mere circulation of such polluted water over the gill puffs of seahorses can be responsible for depositing thereon life-threatening masses of copepods.
"The gill tufts of seahorses living in water abounding in copepods will be found to contain "mounds" of the small creatures, those underneath voluntarily clinging to or crushed against the tender tuft tissue, with more and more individuals deposited on the initial layers. Then, as additional copepods are drawn into the tufts with the water circulated for the seahorse’s oxygenation, the copepods antennae, tail appendages, leg and body filaments become hopelessly entangled. Unable to move, the copepods continue to pile up until their bodies completely choke the vital area. Suffocation of the involved fish is inevitable.
"In the closed-system aquarium, the first warning of copepod contamination appears as smoke in the water; that is, the aquarium water looks as though it had smoke evenly diffused through it. Progression of this type of pollution causes the water to become smokier and smokier and finally, to assume a clouded yellowish or brownish tinge. Fish maintained in this kind of water often "pant" for breath and frequently go through a series of varied and variable color changes.
"… So much emphasis has been placed on the value of Cyclops as food for young fish that it may be possible their deleterious effect on some larger fishes has been overlooked…
"Although I have proposed that seahorses may become parasitized by way of the food chain and that aquarium water may become copepod-polluted, I want to emphasize here that I’m not recommending the discontinuance of live food. To the contrary, as I’ve stated elsewhere, seahorses require living food and will not long survive if they are deprived of it.
"On numerous occasions when Cyclopoid copepods have become established in my aquarium, I have tried almost everything in the book to reduce their numbers without harming the fish inmates, but I have yet to discover a satisfactory method for getting rid of the so-called innocuous yet devastating pests. In experimental containers, they have survived in water heated to 95°F, or cooled to 44°F. Hardy individuals, although slowed down considerably, have survived in water cooled to 39°F. Although some die, great numbers will live in water without artificial aeration much longer than most species of marine fishes will tolerate the condition. As far as chemicals are concerned, the dosage required for effective eradication usually will kill the fish long before the helpless-looking copepods succumb. A power filter is of slight value. A complete change of the aquarium water is perhaps the most helpful, but this is not a cure. I have tried dipping the fish up and down, literally "bathing" each individual, through several changes of clean saltwater in plastic pails or auxiliary aquaria set up for the purpose, wiping body surfaces gently with a soft wet cloth or sponge, and using wet cotton-tipped Q-sticks around the vents, gill chambers, etc. to rid all areas of accidentally or purposely clinging organisms before returning the fish to their home aquarium, the latter having been cleaned thoroughly and refilled with AIDS, filtered seawater that was free of copepods. Sometimes, within as little as two weeks’ time, incalculable numbers of the odd oar-footed creatures would be seen swarming in the recently cleaned aquarium, quite as thick as before.
"Methylene blue, three drops per gallon of water, does seem to help some. The water clears and the copepods appear reduced in number three or four days after the treatment but this, too, is no cure. The copepod population begins to build up again and unchecked, reaches nearly astronomical proportions in an unbelievably short time." (Bellomy, 181-183; when 86-187).
So that’s what you’re up against when cyclopoid copepods explode in a closed-system aquarium, Seagazer. I should point out, however, that Mildred Bellamy’s book is long outdated and that nowadays we have a number of chemotheraputics that will effectively eliminate a copepod bloom from your aquarium.
Today, my recommended treatment for a bad case of copepod pollution would be to transfer all of the seahorses into clean saltwater in a quarantine tank medicated with a full dose of methylene blue. While the seahorses were being treated in the QT tank, I would then eliminate the cyclopoid copepods from the main tank.
Micron filtration such as that provided by a Diatom filter may help, as recommended in my old step-by-step book, but the filter media will clog frequently and you need to be prepared to recharge the diatom powder frequently until the aquarium clears.
A better option is to treat the aquarium with Parinox, or any other aquarium medication containing Dylox as an active ingredient, after first removing any sensitive invertebrates such as the shrimp or micro-hermit crabs or micro-starfish from your cleanup crew. Formalin will also work to eradicate a copepod bloom, but in that case the trick is to use just enough to formalin to kill off the Cyclops without destroying the beneficial nitrifying bacteria in your biofilter.
I would not swab or otherwise attempt to physically unclog the seahorses delicate tufted gills; the affected seahorses should be able to clear their gills on their own without any assistance providing the aquarist simply prevents them from becoming continually reinfested.
In re-reading your initial post on this, Kris, it strikes me that the scenario you described also closely matches a case of copepod contamination. I now suspect that the initial improvement of the seahorses was due to transferring them to clean seawater that was not infested with cyclopoids and that the subsequent recurrence of the same problem was due to copepods transferred with the seahorses reproducing in large numbers in a hospital tank. The fact that this coincided with a reintroduction of the suspect heater was probably just coincidental; most likely, it simply took a few days for the copepod population to reproduce to problematic numbers in your quarantine tank after the seahorses were transferred there. I may very well have missed the diagnosis on this one, led astray by the coincidental timing, the suggestive knowledge that your test of the heater indicated some stray voltage, the fact that I have observed similar symptoms (swimming agitatedly at the surface accompanied by labored breathing) in seahorses that were receiving a tingle from such voltage, and the fact that it’s been many years since I’ve encountered a bona fide case where a copepod bloom proved harmful.
In any case, now that you’re aware of the problem and know what to do should it ever crop up again, I don’t think you need to have any reservations about stocking your new 75-gallon aquarium with seahorses. Just make sure you install a titanium grounding probe as a precaution and be aware of the potential for a copepod bloom, unlikely as that may be.
I should also point out that you guys mustn’t be overly alarmed by the bloom of copepods your tanks’ recently experienced. Copepods in general are very beneficial and desirable in the aquarium, and potentially dangerous copepods blooms are really exceedingly rare occurrences.
In your case, Kris, the breathing of your seahorses will be the best indication that your copepod bloom has reached potentially harmful proportions. As long as the seahorses are breathing normally, all is well. But if they begin to show signs of huffing, labored breathing, or respiratory distress, then it’s time to eliminate the pesky ‘pods. In that event, here’s some information regarding the best way to administer methylene blue:
Commonly known as "meth blue" or simply "blue," this is a wonderful medication for reversing the toxic effects of ammonia and nitrite poisoning. Methylene blue transports oxygen and aids breathing. It facilitates oxygen transport, helping fish breathe more easily by converting methemoglobin to hemoglobin — the normal oxygen carrying component of fish blood, thus allowing more oxygen to be carried through the bloodstream. This makes it very useful for treating gill infections, low oxygen levels, or anytime your seahorses are breathing rapidly and experiencing respiratory distress. It is the drug of choice for treating hypoxic emergencies of any kind with your fish. However, methylene blue will destroy nitrifying bacteria so it should only be used in a hospital tank (if used in an established aquarium, it will impair the biological filtration and the tank may need to be cycled all over again).
If you can obtain the Kordon brand of Methylene Blue (available at most well-stocked local fish stores), their suggested treatment protocol for nitrite poisoning is as follows, and would work equally well in eating the breeding of seahorses with copepod-clogged gills:
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
Best of luck with your seahorses, Kris and Seagazer!
Post edited by: Pete Giwojna, at: 2006/01/24 16:12January 22, 2006 at 10:58 pm #2256KAC30101Guest
Hi, and thank you for your very informative answers. It really does make sense that it was a copepod outbreak, now that I look back on it.
Everything happened the way you described, which brings me to my last question.
I have already ordered a pair of OR seahorses and I am very excited about their arrival. I have been cycling this tank for five weeks and have had two little clown fish in there for about three weeks. The conditions are all favorable.
My question is this….. I have live sand ( about 1.5 ") in the tank but had decided to not put in live rock. I have some coral and lots artifical hitching for them, but now am worried I won’t have the best filtration……… keeping in mind that they will arrive this week, should I change anything? ( I did have an NH3 spike about a week after adding the Nemo’s, but just a small one)
Thank you again….. and hopefully done pestering you (for awhile, Anyway:)
KrisJanuary 24, 2006 at 9:37 pm #2260Pete GiwojnaGuest
I don’t know enough about your new tank and its filtration system to say with any certainty if it might be lacking now that you have omitted the live rock. But if the tank went through a bit of an ammonia/nitrite spike when you added two small clownfish, I suspect it will undergo a similar spike when you add a pair of new seahorses and begin feeding them regularly. Right now your aquarium has probably stabilized at its current carrying capacity of two small Nemos, so adding two seahorses will likely increase the bioload to the point where there are ammonia/nitrite spikes while the aquarium adjusts to its heavier stocking density.
What are you using as your primary means of biological filtration in the new aquarium, Kris? If your setup includes a wet/dry trickle filter, external filter with bio-balls or other similar biological media, sponge filters or so on, then the live rock is a luxury in terms of the filtration it will provide and your aquarium will probably do just fine without it. But if the live rock was an integral component of your system that contributed a significant amount of nitrification and denitrification to your biological filtration, then you’re new tank will have a very limited carrying capacity and very little margin for error. That could spell trouble when you start adding seahorses, with their messy feeding habits.
If you omitted live rock from your new tank for fear that it may contribute to a recurrence of the copepod bloom that caused so much trouble in your previous tank, that was probably an unnecessary precaution, Kris. It’s a good idea to "debug" live rock that’s intended for a seahorse tank in order to rid it of unwanted hitchhikers and pests such as mantis shrimp, predatory crabs, fireworms and Aiptasia rock anemones, but the types of copepods that normally populate live rock are almost always beneficial species that are desirable to have in your tank.
Five to six weeks is normally sufficient time to cycle a new aquarium, Kris, and if you can provide me with a little more information about the filtration system in your new tank, then I can give you a better idea as to whether adding some live rock would be beneficial or whether you are likely to experience an ammonia and/or nitrite spike when you add the new seahorses.
Best wishes with all your fishes, Kris!
Pete GiwojnaJanuary 25, 2006 at 2:15 am #2261KAC30101Guest
Hey again, Pete
Thanks for your help.
In my tank right now, I have three filtration systems running……………..
an external filter. a protein skimmer and a cannister filter.(and also the live sand, as I previously told you) Hopefully, this will be enough to maintain good quality water, after the new horses arrive Friday!
I have to admit, I am alittle afraid of something happening again, as helplessly watching your seahorses die is really quite painful, but I loved having them so much, I really wanted to try again.
If this amount of filtration seems adaquate, then I’m going to stop fretting.
If not and you advise the rock….. just let me know how to introduce it.
Thanks again, so much!!
(Just ordered your book and looking forward to reading it!!)January 25, 2006 at 10:50 pm #2264Pete GiwojnaGuest
Thanks for the rundown on your new tank! Protein skimmers are a great addition to any seahorse tank regardless of what other filtration it may have. That’s a wonderful piece of equipment to have and I’m pleased to see that you have one installed on your seahorse tank. However, you should not be operating a protein skimmer until after your new aquarium has cycled and the biological filtration has been established. Otherwise, the beneficial work that a protein skimmer does by removing dissolved organics before they enter the nitrogen cycle can actually prolong the cycling process and reduce the population of beneficial nitrifying bacteria somewhat. So don’t operate your skimmer for the time being, Kris. Wait until your aquarium has completely cycled and you are ready to add your seahorses. Running your protein skimmer at that time will help increase the carrying capacity of your aquarium, whereas operating it now can reduce the carrying capacity in the short-term by limiting the number of beneficial nitrifying bacteria that build up within the biofilter to a degree. In other words, if the protein skimmer wasn’t removing dissolved organics before they entered the nitrogen cycle, there would be more ammonia to feed the nitrifying bacteria in your biofilter, which is what you want while the aquarium is cycling.
Okay, with a protein skimmer ready to go when the time is right to begin operating it, and two external filters to move water and provide mechanical and chemical filtration as needed, you should be in good shape providing at least one of those external filters also has biological filtration ability. Does either your canister filter or the other external filter include bio-balls, a sponge, or other porous media to encourage the growth of a dense population of aerobic bacteria, Kris? (Prefilters and filter floss don’t count, since they need to be removed and cleaned or replaced regularly, which disrupts or eliminates any beneficial bacteria that may have been growing on or within them.) If either of your external filters includes such bio-media, then you’re new tank should be in good shape in terms of biofiltration once it has completely cycled.
In that case, just be aware that the biofilter may need a week or two to adjust to the heavier bioload when you add the new seahorses, so feed them sparingly at first and keep an eye out for transient ammonia spikes after heavy feeding. Providing you acclimate the new arrivals properly and avoid overfeeding them, you should be good to go.
When it comes to adding live rock to your aquarium, that can be done at any time before or after your seahorses arrive providing you obtain live rock that has been precured. Live rock already contains its full complement of nitrifying and denitrifying bacteria, so as long as it’s been precured to avoid the die off of delicate sessile organisms that inhabit the rock, it can go directly into your aquarium and doesn’t need to be cycled per se. In essence, you can add instant biofiltration ability as well as denitrification to help control nitrite levels by adding precured live rock anytime you wish. However, for a seahorse tank, it’s always a good idea to run the live rock through the usual "debugging" procedures first in order to minimize the amount of bristleworms or unwanted hitchhikers that may be transferred into the aquarium along with the rock.
Best of luck with your new aquaria, Kris!
Pete GiwojnaJanuary 26, 2006 at 6:27 pm #2265SEAGAZERGuest
Yes, thanks again for the info. I’m glad I know this now. I’ll keep an eye out for a bad bloom. I’m going to go ahead and order the "blue" also, just to have on hand. Never Know.
When I ordered my SH from OR seahorses, I had a problem and had to leave town. I also had a drastic ph drop. Carol was great. I called her and she put the shipping on hold for awhile until I was able to get my tank straight again. Please know that this is an option for you. In case you decide to add rock, or for what ever reason. Carol will work with you.
Good luck to all
Any word from the publisher yet? Tell them they’re going to have a whole bunch of seahorse lovers banging on they’re door. We want that book!March 1, 2006 at 11:01 pm #2340nigelseahorseGuest
I know how you felt my seahorse was dying and knowing i couldnt help her was so depressing! you should try agian with the sehorses.. they are such intresting and beautiful animals. good luck with future aquariums and maybe seahorese
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