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Problems with my female

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    Good day all,

    I noticed tonight my adult female has some type of growth on her. It is on her upper, and lower snout, behind her gills, and looks like it might be moving down her upper torso. To look at it, it is very faint. Almost glassy looking. Almost looks like a slime coating. I did stress her out about 4 days ago when I removed her from my adult tank, and put her in with my juveniles. I had to seperate her from the males to avoid them mating. I had another brood born on the 28th, and that was it for me. Boy tanks, and girl tanks from now on. No more of the coed stuff. Anyway, she didn\’t eat well for the first day or two, but is back to eating again, and other than the growth she doesn\’t exhibit any other symptons. Her respirations are fine, her eyes are clear. She\’s not slugish in any way, and I\’ve seen no scratching. It\’s like she doesn\’t even know it\’s there. She has been eating alot of live brine loaded with selcon, marine snow, and Vibrance II. I\’m still in the process of switching from live to frozen foods with the juveniles. I also add garlic to the water with every water change. This same tank is the one I had to treat for ICH a few weeks ago.

    I took a magnifying glass, and all I could see was a milky white, almost clear grassy looking growth. Should I be worried about this. I didn\’t find anything in my book \"Guide to Seahorse Disease\", (working notes).

    Got any ideas.
    Thanks again! PS all the juveniles seem fine so farr.
    Best rgds

    Post edited by: seagazer, at: 2006/09/01 20:13

    Pete Giwojna

    Dear Seagazer:

    I don’t think I’ve ever experienced anything like the glassy-looking growth you describe on the snout and head of your seahorse, but my best guess would be that it might be some sort of Myxobacteria (marine columnaris). Myxobacteria infections are often described as a milky white, slimy film that most often develops on the head of the fish. In its initial stages, the plaque that builds up could appear translucent, but as additional layers of the bacteria build up in a haystack fashion, the slimy coating turns whitish and eventually yellowish. Such infections are sometimes referred to as "bacterial fungus," and indeed Myxobacteria infections are often confused with fungus although they are caused by gram-positive bacteria.

    Marine columnaris is a highly contagious disease caused by a Myxobacterium (Flexibacter sp.) that corresponds to the columnaris infections so commonly seen in freshwater fish (Basleer, 2000). The bacterium Flexibacter is a long, slender rod-shaped organism (0.5- 1.0 microns in diameter, and some 4-10 microns long) that is easily identified under the microscope by its characteristic gliding motion (Dixon, 1999). They are unusually mobile bacteria. They are very active when observed microscopically, gliding rapidly across the viewing field (Dixon, 1999). This family of bacteria (Cytophaga or Myxobacteria) causes a condition commonly known as columnaris because of their tendency to stack up in columns (Prescott, 2001b). When large numbers of the bacteria pile up, they form distinctive haystacks several layers thick where the infection is heaviest (Dixon, 1999).

    These bacteria are typically associated with stress, and columnaris is primarily an epithelial disease that often presents as a grayish white film that spreads over the fish’s skin, particularly on the head region (Giwojna, Nov. 2003). The whitish plaques spread by radial expansion and may penetrate into deeper tissues, becoming yellow or orange due to masses of pigmented bacteria that stack up in columns forming the haystacks that are characteristic of the condition (Basleer, 2000). Columnaris is often described as a milky, slime-like film that can be observed with the naked eye (Giwojna, Nov. 2003).

    If caught early and treated promptly, antibacterial compounds are often effective, especially when accompanied by a decrease in water temperature. Some of the effective medications for treating columnaris include oxytetracycline (administered orally) and especially combination sulfa drugs that include trimethoprim or neomycin combined with various sulfa compounds (Giwojna, Nov. 2003).

    For more information on Myxobacteria are marine columnaris, see the following discussion on this forum, which covers the condition in some detail, including the recommended treatment regimen:

    Click here: – Seahorse, Sea Life, Marine Life, Aquafarm Sales, Feeds and Accessories – Re:concerned – Ocean Rider,com_simpleboard/Itemid,144/func,view/id,1840/catid,2/

    If you feel the classy growth on the head of your seahorse could be a Myxobacteria infection, I would recommend treating her just as described in that thread, except that there would be no need to administer the formalin baths in your case, Seagazer.

    The only other thing that comes to mind is the possibility of subcutaneous emphysema (external gas bubble syndrome), but that’s a long shot that’s very unlikely. Occasionally the gas bubbles that build up just beneath the skin are all but transparent and look like air bubbles. It’s unlikely for such emphysema to cover over an extensive area of the head such as you describe, but occasionally two or three of the adjacent gas bubbles will coalesce to form a larger growth. But if the glassy growth you observed was due to subcutaneous emphysema, it would be upraised like a blister, and your post mentioned nothing about the growth being bubble like or blisterlike, so so I don’t really suspect you’re dealing with GBS, but I thought I would trot out the possibility anyway since it is often associated with stress, particularly when a seahorse has been transferred to a shorter (i.e., more shallow) aquarium that it has been living in.

    I think you are correct that this problem has developed due to the stress your female has been under recently. It is always stressful for a pair-bonded seahorse to be separated from its mate, and it is always stressful for a seahorse to be uprooted and transferred into a strange new environment, so I’m sure your female was quite stressed out following the transfer, as indicated by refusing to feed at first.

    Regardless of whatever else you do, I would suggest feeding her with Vibrance-enriched frozen Mysis, since the Vibrance includes beta-glucan as a primary ingredient. The beta-glucan is a potent immunostimulant that combats stress and will boost the female’s immune system and help her recover from this problem. Feeding your seahorses Vibrance-enriched frozen Mysis assures that they get a daily dose of beta-glucan along with their meals.

    Best of luck treating your female’s glassy growth, Seagazer, as well as with your plan to segregate the sexes.

    Pete Giwojna


    Hi Pete,

    I’ve already read that discussion, and think it’s a very good chance of diagnosis for this female. I’ve been on line, and on the phone all morning trying to find:

    Nifupirinol, Neomycin, and Merbromin.

    Fishypharmacy isn’t open weekends, and of course this is a long weekend. Do you have any suggestions on where I might get this stuff overnighted to me from?

    The tank the female is now in is my jevenile tank. I’ve got 52 two month old ponies in there. Should I just treat the entire tank, and if so should I remove any corals. (mushrooms, gorgoneans, pollips)

    Thanks again
    Your the best

    Post edited by: seagazer, at: 2006/09/02 14:34

    Pete Giwojna

    Dear Seagazer:

    Unfortunately, Merbromin is no longer being manufactured. I don’t know any place that still has that item in stock. I wouldn’t advise using Merbromin, Betadine or any other similar disinfectants in your case, Seagazer, since the growth covers much of the head and it is very important to avoid getting any of those substances in the seahorse’s mouth, eyes, or gills.

    Since you need to get the medications in a hurry, I would make the rounds of your local fish stores and pick up some triple sulfa as well as a medication that includes either neomycin or kanamycin as its active ingredient. Combining an aminoglycoside antibiotic (e.g., neomycin sulfate or kanamycin sulfate) with sulfa compounds such as Triple Sulfa, sulfathiozole sodium or TMP-sulfa are the antibiotics I would suggest for this condition.

    If you cannot obtain them locally, you might try the following source for seahorse-related medications and appliances:

    Best of luck resolving this problem, Seagazer!

    Pete Giwojna


    Good day all,


    I’ve been treating my female since the 7th with Neomycin (bath 6cc), and Triple sulfa 332mg (bath). My hospital is a 5 gallon bucket. I’ve done 50% water changes every morning replacing the medication. I started out with 1.011 spg, and have been using 1.023 replacement water everyday.

    She is eating very lightly. Her respirations seem good. I haven’t noticed any change in the growth on her snout/neck/gills yet. I have formalin coming. Am I being impatient? I was told by the drug supplier that I should continue the treatment for 10 days. While that seems like a long time to me, I wanted to verify that with you.

    What do you think?
    Thanks again:whistle:

    Post edited by: seagazer, at: 2006/09/12 08:18

    Pete Giwojna

    Dear Seagazer:

    Yes, sir — once you begin antibiotic therapy, it’s very important to use the correct dosage and to maintain the treatment regimen to the end in order to minimize the risk that strains of bacteria that are resistant to the antibiotics could develop.

    For best results, most antibiotics are administered for 10-14 days, so I would maintain the antibiotic therapy for the full 10 days. That’s a good combination of antibiotics for such problems, and if the growth on her face doesn’t respond to the combination of triple sulfa and neomycin sulfate, there are too many other alternatives.

    You certainly could add a formalin bath every other day to your treatment regimen to see if that might make a difference, but I would definitely complete the regimen of antibiotics as well. Myxobacteria can kill a seahorse quickly when the bacterial plaques involve the head of the fish, so I think the antibiotics are helping; at least they seem to be preventing the growth from spreading further…

    Be sure to gradually reduce the water temperature in your hospital tank/bucket to as low as 66°F-68°F if possible, and use the increased dosage of the antibiotics that is appropriate for marine aquaria.

    When administering antibiotics, the proper dosage for a marine aquarium is usually at least twice the recommended dosage for freshwater. In the case of neomycin, some seahorse keepers increase the dosage of neomycin sulfate up to four times the recommended dosage for saltwater tanks, or eight times the suggested dosage for freshwater (Keith Gentry et al.).

    Best of luck clearing up the growth on the snout and face of your female, Seagazer.

    Pete Giwojna

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