- This topic has 11 replies, 2 voices, and was last updated 15 years ago by Pete Giwojna.
February 7, 2009 at 5:51 am #1616KeyEquineMember
I have come across an opportunity to get a couple of seahorses locally here in Calgary. There is a woman moving to the States, so she is selling her two H. Kuda seahorses and I would really like to take them on. The only trouble is that my tank is not established enough to handle seahorses yet. So the solution we have come up with is that I set up a 20 gallon tank using 100% her water and live rock from the tank where the seahorses have been living. The idea is that they can live in the temporary tank in water conditions they are used to while my larger tank is maturing and finishing it\’s cycle.
Does this sound like a reasonable option to you? If you have any suggestions I would really appreciate your opinion. If you think it is okay to go ahead with this plan, what would you recommend as far as filtration, etc, above and beyond the live rock that will be in there.
Also, how do I know when it is safe to put seahorses into my new tank? The ammonia, nitrite and nitrate cycle has been performed so those levels are down, and I am planning to pick up the cleaning crew tomorrow so that they can settle in.
Thank you very much! I really value your opinion.
Post edited by: KeyEquine, at: 2009/02/13 06:42February 7, 2009 at 7:50 am #4662Pete GiwojnaGuest
I’m glad to hear that you were able to line up a couple of healthy seahorses, one way or another!
Yes, I do think setting up a 20-gallon aquarium with the same saltwater and live rock from the Hippocampus kuda seahorse tank is a sensible plan. The live rock will contain both nitrifying and denitrifying bacteria to carry out the nitrogen cycle and provide the aquarium with some instant biological filtration, and a 20-gallon aquarium is large enough to support a couple of H. kuda temporarily. You’ll want to include an external filter of some sort on the 20-gallon tank in order to provide water movement and maintain good aeration/oxygenation and circulation, as well as some chemical and biological filtration.
It would also be a good idea to add some marine BioSpira to the tank to provide additional biological filtration as quickly as possible, if it’s available to you in Calgary. Go to a well-stocked fish store at your earliest convenience and obtain some Bio-Spira and add it to your temporary aquarium according to instructions. Bio-Spira is a product offered by Marineland which contains the live bacteria necessary to convert ammonia and nitrite into harmless nitrate. It is available for both freshwater and marine aquariums, so of course be sure to get the Bio-Spira for saltwater. Just use it as explained below and it should help assure that things go smoothly:
BIO-Spira is a "live" bacteria culture that is sold refrigerated and must be kept refrigerated until used. It can not be overdosed. Repeated dosing of your aquarium with ammonia removing liquids (such as BIO-Safe, Amquel, Ammo-lock and Aqua-Safe) can inhibit the beneficial action of BIO-Spira. Ammonia removing liquids should only be used to initially treat tap water. It is normal to have a small (<2 ppm) amount of ammonia or nitrite during the first few days after set-up. These concentrations are not harmful and will quickly drop to zero with proper use of BIO-Spira.
DIRECTIONS FOR USE:
Shake well before each use. Use 1 ounce (29.6 ml) of BIO-Spira per 30 gallons of water. BIO-Spira cannot be overdosed. Keep refrigerated. Be sure to shut off any UV sterilizers and remove medication by means of a water change or activated carbon.
I would also add a Polyfilter Pad (from Poly-Bio Marine, Inc.) to the external filter in your 20 gallon tank. It will absorb any excess nitrogenous wastes that the live rock can handle.
Regarding your new tank, Claire, if it has completed the nitrogen cycle and both the ammonia and nitrite have peaked and then dropped back to zero, it is indeed time to add your cleanup crew. I like an assortment of snails (especially Astrea and nassarius snails) along with perhaps a few microhermit crabs (Paguristes cadenati, the Scarlet reef hermit is seahorse safe and my favorite if my sanitation engineers include any hermits). Feed your cleanup crew as necessary (vegetable-based flake foods will suffice for the herbivorous snails and hermit crab and a few pieces of frozen Mysis will take care of the scavengers that prefer a meatier diet), and the metabolic wastes produced by the scavengers and the aquarium janitors will keep feeding the nitrifying bacteria in the new tank so that the population doesn’t begin to die back due to a lack of ammonia.
Some people like to wait 4-6 weeks after installing the cleanup crew and macroalgae before they add any seahorses. This serves as a quarantine period for the invertebrates and allows the new aquarium additional time to mature and stabilize. In a case like yours, however, Claire, you will have to use your own judgment to determine whether the pair of H. kuda would be better off remaining in the temporary 20-gallon aquarium that long or if they would be better off in the new, larger aquarium even though it hasn’t matured yet. I would be inclined to move them into the larger aquarium as soon as feasible since the smaller 20-gallon tank certainly isn’t mature either end the risk of picking up any sort of parasites or pathogens from snails and/or microhermit crabs is slight.
Best of luck with your new seahorses, Claire!
Pete GiwojnaFebruary 10, 2009 at 7:36 am #4669KeyEquineGuest
Well, there has been a bit of a hitch in the plan of the temporary tank. I went yesterday and picked up the water and live rock from the tank the seahorses are currently in. The horses themselves looked healthy and happy from what I could tell. When I got home I filled my 20 gallon with the water and rock and then decided to test it to see where I was starting off. The Nitrite was at about 0.3 and the Nitrate was just about off the charts! I was a bit upset as you can
imagine. So I guess I have to do some water changes to get these levels down.
My question is, is it still better to put them in the small tank once I have these levels back down than in my three week old tank? I will have had to do a few water changes by then. (I haven’t picked up the seahorses yet, of course) They are obviously in this high Nitrite/Nitrate environment right now which worries me, I emailed the lady to notify her but I don’t think she’s read it yet.
Any input would be greatly appreciated. I have three hermits and three snails in my large tank right now that seem to be doing well. Not sure if that matters. And the ammonia/nitrite/nitrate levels are staying at zero for about two weeks now, since getting my live rock. Thanks!
ClaireFebruary 10, 2009 at 8:34 am #4670Pete GiwojnaGuest
That’s quite a dilemma!
Okay, this is what I would be inclined to do under the circumstances. When you pick them up, I would acclimate the two Hippocampus kuda seahorses to your larger aquarium, which seems to have the better overall water quality and stability at this point, even though it may not have cycled completely as of yet. Due to the larger volume of water, it will be more resistant to dramatic changes in the ammonia or nitrite level so the water quality should not deteriorate as rapidly.
Go ahead and complete your preparations with the temporary 20-gallon aquarium as well. Make the water changes you are planning and work on getting the nitrate levels down. That way, you will have a backup tank ready if the water quality in the larger aquarium does start to go downhill after you add the seahorses.
And the first thing that I would do is to get some marine BioSpira and add it to both aquariums according to directions as to what is possible. It can help get the ammonia/nitrite levels down quickly and can keep them at acceptable levels thereafter, if the beneficial bacteria it contains are still viable. That will help the water quality in both aquariums and give you a better chance of avoiding any serious complications.
Best of luck with your new seahorses, Claire.
Pete GiwojnaFebruary 10, 2009 at 11:49 am #4671KeyEquineGuest
Thank you for the input. I like the sounds of that plan. The only hangup is that I have discovered that Bio-Spira isn’t sold in Canada. I have some ‘Seachem Stabilizer’, is that a similar idea?February 11, 2009 at 6:43 am #4672Pete GiwojnaGuest
Okay, you’ll just have to make do without the Marine BioSpira if it’s not available north of the border.
I am not familiar with SeaChem Stabilizer, so I cannot say if it’s an equivalent product or anything that might be helpful in this case. Unless it includes a culture of live nitrifying bacteria, it is unlikely to accelerate the cycling process or be very useful in this sort of situation.
Remove, it’s important to avoid adding any ammonia-removing liquids or ammonia-sequestering products (such as BIO-Safe, Amquel, Ammo-lock, Aqua-Safe, etc.) while the tank cycles. You want a nice high ammonia spike, followed by a nice high nitrite spike, when the aquarium cycles in order to build up the largest possible population of the nitrifying bacteria that feed on ammonia and nitrite, so using any type of filtration or additives that could reduce the amount of ammonia or nitrite at this time will actually hinder the cycling process and be very counterproductive in the long run.
Best of luck managing your new Hippocampus kuda and preparing the temporary 20-gallon aquarium to serve as a backup tank, Claire!
Pete GiwojnaFebruary 12, 2009 at 7:07 am #4674KeyEquineGuest
Hello again Pete!
Well, tomorrow I am going to pick up my new seahorses and I was hoping you could give me an idea of what I should be watching out for with seahorses in a new tank… I am excited but nervous!
An overview of my tank:
20 lbs live sand
60 lbs live rock
external filter with live rock rubble and activated carbon
temp: 75 degrees
salinity: 1.024 (maybe a bit high but their current tank is 1.025)
Thank so much!
Post edited by: KeyEquine, at: 2009/02/12 21:07February 12, 2009 at 9:20 pm #4675Pete GiwojnaGuest
Hey: did you make a typo on the water temperature, Claire? 45° is way too cold — you’ll want to warm your tank up to about 75°F for tropical seahorses like Hippocampus kuda. Maintain stable water temperatures between 72°F-75°F and you’ll be just fine. Aside from the temperature, the new tank is looking good.
The main thing you need to watch out for in a new aquarium that may not have completely cycled is "new tank syndrome" — a build up of ammonia and/or nitrate to toxic levels.
The most obvious symptoms of ammonia poisoning and nitrite toxicity are a loss of equilibrium, hyperexcitability, increased respiration and oxygen uptake, and increased heart rate. At extreme ammonia/nitrite levels, fish may experience convulsions, coma, and death. Seahorses exposed to less extreme ammonia/nitrite levels will struggle to breathe. They will be lethargic and exhibit rapid respiration. They may appear disoriented, periodically detaching from their hitching posts only to sink to the bottom.
Ammonia poisoning and nitrite toxicity are completely reversible providing the seahorses weren’t exposed to toxic levels for too long, and the best first aid you can provide for ammonia/nitrite poisoning is to immediately transfer the seahorses into clean, well-aerated saltwater with zero ammonia and zero nitrite. (This is where your temporary backup tank will be helpful, Claire.)
Recognizing the symptoms of new tank syndrome (i.e., ammonia/nitrite poisoning) and treating the seahorses using methylene blue to reverse the harmful effects of the ammonia/nitrite, if necessary, can save the day should such a problem arise.
The methylene blue can be used either as a quick 10-second dip in a concentrated solution, as discussed below, or it can be added to the hospital tank for prolonged immersion in a lower dose in more severe cases.
Exposure to moderate levels of ammonia and nitrite, or high levels of nitrates, can change the normal hemoglobin in the seahorse’s blood stream to a form (i.e., methhemoglobin) that is no longer able to transport oxygen. If this becomes severe enough, it will leave the affected seahorse starved for oxygen, which makes it very weak and fatigued. As a result, the affected seahorses may detach themselves from their hitching posts periodically and rest on the bottom, unable to exert themselves in their weakened condition. As you can imagine, being deprived of oxygen really wipes them out in terms of loss of energy and stamina. And it also results in respiratory distress, and rapid, labored breathing as they try to oxygenate themselves and compensate for the lack of normal hemoglobin.
One of the properties of methylene blue is that it can reverse this process and convert the methhemoglobin in the red blood cells back into normal hemoglobin, which can then pick up and transport oxygen again as usual. That’s why it is so helpful in relieving shipping stress and treating ammonia exposure and nitrite poisoning. For this reason, you may want to pick up some methylene blue at your local fish store and keep it on hand in case it is ever needed (the Kordon brand of methylene blue is best, in my opinion). So be prepared to give the seahorses a quick dip in methylene blue if it becomes necessary.
The usual criteria for determining whether or not methylene blue is needed to help seahorses recover from exposure to high levels of ammonia or nitrite, or if simply transferring the seahorses to clean saltwater with no ammonia or nitrite will suffice, is their respiration. If the seahorse has labored breathing — huffing or rapid respiration — then methylene blue is called for. Likewise, if the seahorse is experiencing convulsions or it’s behavior otherwise indicates it is suffering from more than temporary disorientation and loss of equilibrium, such as lying prostrate on the bottom, unable to right itself again at all after two or three hours have passed, it may benefit from methylene blue to assist its recovery.
Commonly known as "meth blue" or simply "blue," methylene blue 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 when you treat the seahorses with methylene blue, Claire:
If you can obtain the Kordon brand of Methylene Blue (available at most well-stocked local fish stores), there are 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, Claire: 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.
In summation, Claire, keep a close eye on the seahorses for any signs of ammonia poisoning or nitrite toxicity and pick up some methylene blue from your local fish store in case it’s needed.
Aside from that, you might want to give the Hippocampus kuda a visual screening to make sure they are healthy before you bring them home and introduce them to your main tank, as we have discussed before. Here are the warning signs and symptoms to check for when you’re giving new seahorses a visual inspection or screening, Claire, as outlined in "Syngnathid Husbandry for Public Aquariums:"
When performing an initial physical exam, the posture and buoyancy of the seahorse should be closely scrutinized. A seahorse bobbing at the surface is abnormally and positively buoyant. Buoyant animals will often struggle to maneuver deeper into the water column. They should be evaluated for air entrapment problems such as air in the brood pouch (males) or hyperinflated swim bladders. If the tail is extended outward caudodorsally or ‘scorpion-style,’ examine the subcutis of the tail for gas bubbles (subcutaneous emphysema). Subcutaneous emphysema of tail segment also appears to be a condition restricted to males.
Just as abnormal is a seahorse that is lying horizontally at the tank bottom for extended time periods. This may be an indication of generalized weakness or it may indicate negative buoyancy associated with swim bladder disease or fluid accumulation in the brood pouch or the coelomic cavity.
Evaluate the seahorse’s feeding response. Seahorses normally forage almost constantly during daylight hours. An individual that consistently refuses appropriately sized live food is behaving very abnormally and should receive nutritional support to meet its caloric needs.
The rate and pattern of breathing should also be evaluated. Rapid breathing and ‘coughing’
(expulsion of water in a forceful manner through the opercular opening or the mouth) suggest gill disease.
The entire body surface including the fins should be examined for hemorrhagic regions,
erosions, ulcerations, excessive body mucus, unusual spots, lumps or bumps as well as the presence of subcutaneous gas bubbles. Evaluate both eyes for evidence of periorbital edema, exophthalmia, and any lenticular or corneal opacities. Since seahorses are visual predators, maintaining normal vision is absolutely essential to successful foraging. The tube snout is also very important to normal feeding activity. It is utilized like a pipette to literally suck prey out of the water column.
Evaluate the tube snout for evidence of edema, erosions, and successful protraction/retraction of the small, anterior, drawbridge-like segment of the lower jaw. Close evaluation of the tail tip for erosive/necrotic lesions should also be performed.
Finally, the anal region should be closely evaluated for redness, swelling, or tissue prolapse. For closer evaluation it may require getting the seahorse in hand. If this is the case, wear non-powdered latex gloves to prevent injury to the integument of the animal.
If the seahorses pass this visual examination, and are eating well and behaving normally, with none of the red flags or warning signs discussed above, you can be confident that they are healthy specimens in good condition. That’s a quick checklist you can use to determine if the two Hippocampus kuda appeared to be healthy or not before you bring them home.
Best of luck with your new seahorses, Claire!
Pete GiwojnaFebruary 12, 2009 at 10:16 pm #4676KeyEquineGuest
Oops! Yes, I meant 75 degrees… not to worry.
Thanks for the information!February 13, 2009 at 11:20 am #4677KeyEquineGuest
Trouble with new seahorse! I brought the two Kuda horses home tonight and did a drip acclimation since there shouldn’t have been any built up toxins from the quick trip between tanks. They seemed fine for the first hour or two, although the female did hang upside down for a few minutes from the hitching post. But then about three hours after being released into the new tank I noticed the female having twitching fits, where she would twitch for about one minute and turn a lighter color, almost as though she was glowing… very disturbing. So I did a concentrated dip in the Meth Blue I had on hand, and now she is back in the tank. She is still having the odd twitch, but maybe a bit better. I’m not sure if I’ve done the right thing!!
I know she came from a tank with elevated ammonia/nitrite/nitrate, so is this the effects of the environment or the move?
Please help!February 13, 2009 at 9:53 pm #4678KeyEquineGuest
Update – This morning the female seahorse is looking quite a bit better. Still not swimming a lot but she did come off her perch and follow her buddy around on a little adventure. I haven’t seen any sign of the twitching/convulsions since last night. I fed them, she didn’t eat but showed mild interest, the male took a minute but then he started hunting and ate five or six mysis shrimp.
I would still appreciate your opinion on what happened to her last night and if there is anything more I should do to help her…
One other question, should I have an airstone in the tank to help with oxygenation?February 14, 2009 at 12:48 am #4679Pete GiwojnaGuest
I’m sorry to hear that your new female Hippocampus kuda had such a difficult time acclimating to her new aquarium. It’s very difficult to say what may have caused the spasmodic twitching that you describe, but if it was some sort of convulsions due to ammonia poisoning or nitrite toxicity, then the quick dip in methylene blue was an appropriate first aid measure and should have helped the situation. The methylene blue is not at all harmful so administering the dip was good thinking — it could only help the seahorse rather than causing any harm.
Erratic behavior, neurological symptoms, and seizures can also result when a seahorse is suffering from major organ failure, particularly if the liver and/or kidneys are involved. Seahorses have primitive aglomerular (having tubules but no glomeruli) kidneys, whose primary function is to filter waste from the blood (Evans, 1998). The seahorse’s kidneys are also hard at work maintaining its blood and tissues at the proper osmotic concentration at all times (Seahorse Anatomy, 2004). This is necessary because seahorses live in seawater that is four times saltier than their blood and body fluids, and they are constantly losing water via osmosis across their gills, through their skin, and in their urine as a result (Kollman, 1998). Marine fish risk dehydration because salt cannot diffuse into their bodies but water is being continual lost to the concentrated seawater that surrounds them ((Kollman, 1998).
To compensate for this, marine fish drink seawater continuously to replace lost fluids and then excrete the excess salts they have taken in through the kidneys, in their feces, and from their gills (Kollman, 1998). As a result, their kidneys produce a very concentrated, salty urine (Kollman, 1998). Expelling excess salt this way is very energetically demanding and comes at a high metabolic cost because the salts must be pumped out of their bodies against a strong pressure gradient (Kollman, 1998).
Dehydration is always a risk whenever a seahorse is being transferred to a new aquarium with a higher specific gravity or salinity than it is accustomed to, so if your new aquarium has a higher specific gravity than the tank your new female was living in, it is possible that the female H. kuda may have become dehydrated. Dehydration could cause the sort of seizure-like behavior or periodic twitching you reported, Claire, and if so you may want to remove a little of the salt water from the aquarium and replace it with freshwater to lower the specific gravity slightly. That could help the seahorse to recover if it was becoming dehydrated. In severe cases, dehydration can be fatal, but if the female is looking better today that’s a good sign that she is already recovering regardless of whether the problem was dehydration or toxic effects due to elevated ammonia/nitrite levels.
Adding a shallow airstone anchored just beneath the surface of the aquarium would also be a good precaution that may be helpful. That will assure good surface agitation and better oxygenation by promoting efficient gas exchange at the air/water interface, and increasing the dissolved oxygen levels is beneficial in treating ammonia/nitrite poisoning.
Feed the seahorses sparingly the next few days and keep a close eye on the ammonia and nitrite levels in your new aquarium, as discussed below:
Natural Seawater Value = 0.010 mg/L
Acceptable Range = 0.000 to 0.050 mg/L
Optimum Level = 0 at all times
Ammonia is highly toxic to both fish and invertebrates in even small amounts (> 0.05 mg/L or ppm). Causes of ammonia toxicity include: immature biofilter (new tank syndrome), impairment of the biological filtration due to antibiotics and other medications, overfeeding, overstocking and dead specimens that go undetected (Webber, 2004). Ammonia levels can also rise after the addition of new animals, after a water change, or following a heavy feeding. Any ammonia level above 0.05 mg/L is a cause for concern, and the source must be found and corrected immediately. Be sure to maintain a good schedule of water changes.
Natural Seawater Value = 0.010 mg/L
Acceptable Range = 0.000 to 0.100 mg/L
Optimum Level = 0 at all times
Nitrite is slightly less poisonous to fishes than ammonia, but deadly to many invertebrates at very small concentrations. Residual levels of nitrite are common in marine aquariums. Levels of 0.05 or less are of little concern in a fish-only aquarium. If the levels are higher than this, the source should be found and corrected immediately. Even trace amounts of nitrite can wreak havoc among the live corals and delicate invertebrates in a reef tank. High levels of nitrite result from the same causes as ammonia.
Best of luck with your new Hippocampus kuda, Claire! Here’s hoping the female makes a quick recovery not in the worse for wear and that the water quality in your new aquarium can handle the increased bioload without any problems.
Post edited by: Pete Giwojna, at: 2009/02/13 19:50
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