Ocean Rider Seahorse Farm and Tours | Kona Hawaii › Forums › Seahorse Life and Care › over fed? – help
- This topic has 3 replies, 2 voices, and was last updated 15 years, 5 months ago by Pete Giwojna.
December 17, 2007 at 12:23 am #1324ljayneMember
I have a large female golden seahorse in with my 2 ocean rider mustangs. All has been fantastic until I went out of town for 3 days & 2 nights. My female will only eat live shrimp so my order of mysis came in the day I left. My house sitter brought them home and put them in my small round fish tank where I keep them until I feed. He called & asked how many he should feed. I told him just to put 10-20 of them in the tank and she should be able to find enough to hold her over until I get back. I figured my 2 mustangs would help to eat some too. I got home yesterday and my female was off in a corner and not moving much. Her color has faded from the bright gold to dull and with parts of her almost brown. I know she is in distress. Her body is usually thin even slightly inward )( not as inward as that but somewhat inward. When I looked her over I see her body is () way out – almost bloated looking. Could this be from over eating? She has not moved from her spot and just hangs with her head toward the bottom. Any ideas would be appreciated.
LaurieDecember 17, 2007 at 11:31 pm #3921Pete GiwojnaGuest
Seahorses will typically darken in response to stress so the change in the coloration of your female golden seahorse is very likely an indication that she is out of sorts. But it’s difficult to say whether the problem is simply a bellyache or something more serious. Most of the time when a seahorse is plumped out like that it simply indicates that the seahorses is well fed. But that can also happen when there is a buildup of fluid (ascites) or gas (internal gas bubble syndrome) in the seahorse’s coelomic cavity or abdomen.
In the case of ascites, the buildup of fluid in the abdominal cavity tends to lead the seahorse with negative buoyancy (the tendency to sink), so that it will be laying or resting on the bottom, unable to swim normally and often unable to right itself and assume its normal upright posture. By contrast, when the bloated appearance of the seahorse is due to internal GBS, the buildup of gas within the abdominal cavity causes positive buoyancy problems for the seahorse, which tends to float as a result.
So if your female seahorse is plumped up but is not having buoyancy problems, and can swim normally when she wants to, my best guess is that she may simply have overindulged on the live feeder shrimp. Our seagoing gluttons don’t always know when to stop, particularly when hard-to-resist live foods are available, and it’s quite possible that if your female has gorged on 15-20 good sized grass shrimp or ghost shrimp over the last few days, her condition could be the result of pigging out on too many feeder shrimp. That could certainly leave the seahorse bloated and lethargic. (It’s been my experience that fish sitters always have an unfortunate tendency to overfeed, rather than underfeeding the fish.)
My best advice would be to fast your female seahorse for the next couple of days and see if she begins to slim down as she produces fecal pellets. Keep a close eye on her during this time for any signs of buoyancy problems — either negative or positive — and make sure that she is eliminating fecal pellets. (There is also a chance that she could have become constipated as a result of her change in diet while you were away.) If she recovers after being fasted for a day or two, that’s a pretty clear indication that she was simply dealing with a major tummyache and some indigestion as a result of over eating.
Best of luck with your seahorses, Laurie! Here’s hoping your golden girl is back to normal again and brightens up following a day or two of fasting.
Pete GiwojnaDecember 19, 2007 at 9:11 am #3924ljayneGuest
Thank you so much for your help. I have not seen her swim on her own. She has moved to different locations in the tank however I have not been home to see how she moves. Tonight I found her in the back corner again with her nose in the sand. I moved her to see if she would swim and she just moved where I pushed her. I decided to put her in her feeding cup since I know she is comfortable there and see if she would move any. She just slid to the bottom and then leaned her head out the opening. I left her alone for a while and then took her out of the feeding cup (by the way the cup stays in the tank the whole time it is just something to give her a place to eat from that the other seahorses do not go into) and let her drift and she just floated down to the sand. She will not try to curl her tail around anything and just started to fall over backwards slightly and then flipped and slowly fell forward until her nose was again in the sand. I put her back into the feeding cup and would like to know if there is anything I should do. I have not fed her since my return which was Saturday night (it is now Tuesday evening). Trying to be objective I think she is slightly less swollen (I can see some of the ridges along her side which were not noticeable before). I cannot tell if she has been eliminating. Usually when I see them eliminate it is in mid swim and it is just a long semi thick tube looking thing. I have not seen pellets. To sum up:
Should I let her loose in the tank?
Is there anything else I could observe that may help with a diagnosis?
Thanks again for all your help.
LaurieDecember 21, 2007 at 12:10 am #3928Pete GiwojnaGuest
Thanks for the update. From your description of the seahorse’s behavior it’s obvious that she is not having a problem with positive buoyancy, so we can rule out internal gas bubble syndrome as a possibility.
But it’s clear now that your female has a more serious problem than simply over indulging on feeder shrimp. Rather, it sounds like she is struggling with negative buoyancy, a condition that can have a number of different causes.
For example, the type of behavior you describe — great difficulty in swimming, laying horizontally on the bottom, and the inability to assume her normal upright posture — could be either an indication of generalized weakness or it could be due to negative buoyancy as the result of swim bladder disease or a buildup of fluid accumulating within his brood pouch or coelomic cavity.
As in many other bony fishes, the seahorse’s gas bladder functions as a swim bladder, providing the lift needed to give them neutral buoyancy. In essence, the swim bladder is a gas-filled bag used to regulate buoyancy. Because the seahorse’s armor-plated body is quite heavy, this organ is large in Hippocampus and extends from the neck well down into the body cavity along the dorsal boundary.
When the swim bladder is inflated with just the right amount of gas, the seahorse achieves neutral buoyancy, which just means that if neither tends to rise or sink. It is thus weightless in the water, with the buoyancy from its gas bladder exactly canceling out the pull of gravity. This facilitates swimming and makes holding its body upright effortless.
But a number of things can disrupt the normal functioning of the gas bladder and the gas gland that inflates it, resulting in either too little or too much gas being secreted into the swimbladder. When too much gas is secreted into the swimbladder the seahorse becomes too buoyant. Hyperinflation of the swimbladder thus results in positive buoyancy and the tendency to float. Likewise, if too little gas is secreted into the swimbladder, exactly the opposite occurs in the seahorse becomes too heavy. Under inflating the gas bladder therefore results in negative buoyancy and the tendency to sink.
The negative buoyancy that results from an underinflated gas bladder makes it difficult for the armor-plated seahorse to swim normally, rise from the bottom, or even hold itself erect. An underinflated swim bladder is sometimes a problem a seahorse can correct on its own, as more gas is gradually secreted into the swim bladder from the gas gland. However, this is a gradual process and may take several days to accomplish.
But an underinflated gas bladder can also result from infection, and I have seen several cases of swim bladder disease that were associated with internal parasites, which sometimes also contribute to generalized weakness, so I think it it would be prudent to isolate the seahorse in a hospital tank in case it has something that is contagious and then treat her with a good antiparasitic that is effective against internal parasites, such as metronidazole or praziquantel.
Metronidazole is an antibiotic with antiprotozoal properties that is very effective in eradicating internal parasites in general and intestinal flagellates in particular (Kaptur, 2004). It is ideal for this because it is rapidly absorbed from the GI tract, has anti-inflammatory effects in the bowel, and was designed specifically to treat protozoal infections and anaerobic bacterial infections by disrupting their DNA (Kaptur, 2004).
If the seahorse is still eating, administering the metronidazole orally via gut-loaded shrimp is often extremely effective (Giwojna, Dec. 2003). Keep the seahorses on a strict diet of gut-loaded brine shrimp for 5-10 days. When administered properly, metronidazole is wonderfully effective at eliminating intestinal parasites, and there should be signs of improvement within 3 days of treatment (Kaptur, 2004).
Gutloading simply means to fill live shrimp up with medication by feeding them food that’s been soaked in the desired medication. Once the feeder shrimp are full of the medicated food — that is, their guts are loaded with it — they are immediately fed to the seahorses, which thus consume the medication along with the shrimp. It’s a neat way to trick seahorses into taking their medicine, just as our moms used to do when were little, crushing up pills in a spoonful of jelly or jam. Another term for gutloading is bioencapsulation, since the medication is neatly contained within a living organism rather than a capsule. Gutloading allows the seahorses to be treated in their main tank, where they are completely at home, surrounded by their tankmates and the rest of the herd, and is thus a very stress-free form of treatment.
There are a number of ways to gutload shrimp, but many hobbyists find it easiest to gutload adult brine shrimp with metronidazole as described below. It is impossible to determine precisely what dosage of medication each individual fish ingests when gutloading, but metronidazole is a very, very safe drug and you cannot overdose a seahorse using this method of treatment. Feeding each seahorse its fill of shrimp gut-loaded with metronidazole for 5-10 days assures that they receive an effective dose of the medication.
Adult brine shrimp can be gut-loaded or bio-encapsulated as follows. To medicate the brine shrimp, dissolve approximately 100 mg of metronidazole per liter or about 400 mg per gallon of water and soak the shrimp in the resulting freshwater solution. If the metronidazole you are using comes in liquid or capsule form, you can use it as is. But if the metronidazole is in tablet form, be sure to crush it into a very fine powder (you may have to use a household blender to get it fine enough) and dissolve it in freshwater at the dosage suggested above. Soak the adult shrimp in freshwater treated with the antibiotic 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 antibiotic 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.
Keep the seahorses on a strict diet of such medicated brine shrimp throughout the treatment period to get as much of the antibiotic into the seahorses as possible, and mix up a new batch of medicated freshwater to soak the brine shrimp in for each feeding.
You should be able to obtain a medication at your local fish store that has metronidazole as all as its primary ingredient, Jana. Administering it to your seahorses via gut-loaded adult brine shrimp is a very safe, gentle treatment, that should not stress your seahorses in any way. If your seahorse’s underinflated swim bladder is due to internal parasites or anaerobic bacteria, the metronidazole may help. Or he may be able to reinflate are swimbladder and restore neutral buoyancy on her own over a period of days.
If the seahorse’s not eating, then treatment with praziquantel would be a better. Praziquantel and metronidazole can be obtained from the following sources:
Click here: Fish Medications
In any case, Laurie, it doesn’t sound like fasting the seahorse is helping so I would see if you can get her to eat and help her to regain her strength. Provide her with some of her favorite live foods or whatever it takes to get a little nutrition into her, and we’ll go from there.
Isolate the sick seahorse, treat her with a good antiparasitic such as praziquantel or metronidazole, and then concentrate on building up our strength again with the few good meals. Hopefully your female seahorse will respond to the medication or be able to gradually reinflate its swimbladder on its own.
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