- This topic has 6 replies, 2 voices, and was last updated 9 years, 4 months ago by FishFace814.
July 31, 2014 at 5:20 am #2054FishFace814Member
I’m new to this site and joined because of an emergency. I have 3 seahorses (2 brazilians and 1 lined I think, but I’m not sure on the species exactly) 5 red legged hermit crabs, 1 tiny blue legged hermit, 2 astrea snails, and a live rock and sand in my tank, along with decor. 2 days ago, I found one of my seahorses stuck to my overhang filter, and I turned it off to let her loose. She seemed fine and swam around at the top to eat with the others that night. However, since then she hasn’t eaten. I can put food in front of her, even leave it on something so she doesn’t have to chase it, and she’ll stare at it but won’t eat it. I noticed that her tail had a few odd bends in it, and she won’t use it to hitch. She rests her body or head on the decor and lets her tail hang. Her breathing is normal, so I’m thinking the tail injury is causing all of her problems, but I want to make sure. There are no visible tears in her skin, though. The other two are acting normally, happily eating frozen mysis at meals. It’s only her. Is there anything I can do? I at least want to figure out a way to get her eating, and then worry about the tail for long-term.July 31, 2014 at 10:04 pm #5710Pete GiwojnaGuest
Dear Fish Face:
I’m very sorry to hear about the problems your female seahorse is having, FF. If she has one or more kinks in her tail, then it sounds very much like she may have gotten her tail stuck in the intake for your external filter and suffered an injury to her tail as a result.
The fact that she has subsequently stopped using her prehensile tail to cling to convenient hitching posts and is no longer eating is an indication that the injury to her tail has become infected. Seahorses with tail infections act as if their tails are very tender and stop using them to grasp onto objects. That is very typical behavior for seahorses with tail rot or white tail disease, for example, and I suggest treating your female seahorse just as if this was a full-blown case of tail rot.
The tip of the tail is especially prone to infection because blood-oxygen levels are often deficient in the extremities — oxygen tension is lowest in the most distal part of the tail — and the bacteria that are responsible for tail rot prefer a low oxygen environment. Even minor scrapes and injuries to the tail can easily become infected, especially if the seahorses stressed, which impairs its immune system. The seahorse’s tail is prone to scrapes and abrasions as well as injuries such as stings from anemones or bristleworm spicules because it is used to grasp objects and often in contact with the substrate.
In this case, FF, I believe it must have been very stressful for the female seahorse to be stuck up against the intake for your external filter for an extended period of time, and if her tail was injured in the process, it has very likely become infected as a result.
The recommended treatment is to transfer the affected female to your hospital tank so that she can be treated with broad-spectrum antibiotics as soon as possible. If you don’t have a suitable hospital tank or quarantine tank up and running at this time, you can easily set one up as follows:
A hospital tank is usually pretty spartan because the substrate can sometimes interfere with the medications that are used. So most of the time, hospital tanks are bare bottomed and about a 10 gallon tank is typical for a seahorse hospital tank.
This is what I normally advise home hobbyists regarding a suitable hospital tank, FF:
Basic Hospital Tank set up
Live sand and live rock are not necessary in a hospital tank. A bare-bottomed aquarium with plenty of hitching posts will suffice for a hospital ward or Quarantine Tank (QT). Ideally, the hospital tank should have one or more foam filters for biofiltration and aeration along with a small external filter, which can easily be removed from the tank during treatment but which can hold activated carbon or polyfilter pads when it’s time to pull the meds out. It’s important for the hospital ward to include enough hitching posts so that the seahorse won’t feel vulnerable or exposed during treatment. Aquarium safe, inert plastic plants or homemade hitching posts fashioned from polypropylene rope or twine that has been unraveled and anchored at one end are excellent for a hospital tank. No aquarium reflector is necessary. Ambient room light will suffice. (Bright lights can breakdown and inactivate certain medications and seahorses are more comfortable and feel more secure under relatively dim lighting.)
So just a bare tank with hitching posts is all you need for your hospital ward. No heater. No reflector. No lights. No substrate. You can even do without the sponge filters or external filter if need be, just adding a couple of airstones to provide surface agitation and oxygenation. That’s it.
In a pinch, a clean 5-gallon plastic bucket (new and unused, NOT an old scrub bucket!) can serve as a makeshift hospital tank. It should be aerated and equipped with hitching posts and perhaps a heater, but nothing else. This makes a useful substitute when the Quarantine Tank is occupied or in use and a seahorse needs treatment.
Stay on top of water quality in the hospital tank/bucket with water changes as often as needed during treatment, and and when you are treating the occupants for a health problem, re-dose with the medication(s) according to directions after each water change.
As you can see, hospital tank is pretty easy to set up because it’s not intended to house the seahorses long-term, only while they undergo a treatment regimen that usually lasts 10-14 days.
For filtration, I keep things really simple in a hospital tank, using only foolproof air-operated sponge filters for my dwarf seahorses. Avoid sponge filters with weighted bottoms or other metal components, however, since they will rust when exposed to saltwater. Sooner or later this will cause problems in a marine aquarium (sooner in the small setups that are most suitable for H. zosterae). Select a sponge filter that has no metal parts and is safe for use in saltwater. The proper units will have suction cups to anchor them in place rather than a weighted bottom.
The sponge filters I find that work well are the Oxygen Plus Bio-Filters (models 2, 3, 4, or 5) or the Tetra Brilliant foam filters. They have no metal components, making them completely safe for use in saltwater, and just one of these foam filters will do the job on a tank of 5 gallons or less. They do not have a weighted bottom but are equipped with suction cups instead. Two of the smaller models can be used on larger 25-gallon tank like yours, Lori, but one of the larger models, like the one at the link below, would be sufficient for your 10-gallon aquarium:
Click here: Foam Aquarium Filters: Oxygen Plus Bio-Filter 2
Avoid the Oxygen Plus Bio-filter 6, 11, and the Multi sponge, which all have a weighted bottom (metal), that rusts when exposed to saltwater. If you want more filtration, you’re better off going with two of the smaller suction cup sponge filters rather than any of the models with weighted bottoms. For instance, for a 12 -gallon tank, I’d suggest using two well-established foam filters, one at either end of the tank for the biofiltration.
All you need to operate sponge or foam filters is an inexpensive, diaphragm-operated air pump (whatever is available at a reasonable price from your LFS will do just fine), a length of airline tubing to connect the air pump to the foam filter(s), and a set of air valves (gang valves) to regulate the air flow to the filters. That’s all — nothing to it! The inexpensive Apollo 5 air pumps work great for sponge filters, but whatever air pump you have on hand should certainly do the job.
Cleaning the foam filters is a snap. Simply immerse them in a bucket of saltwater and gently squeeze out the sponge until it’s clean and releases no more sediment or debris. Run a bottlebrush through the inside of the tube, wipe off the outside of the tube, and you’re done. The filter is ready to go back in the aquarium with no impairment at all of the biofiltration. Takes only a couple minutes.
Once you have your female transferred to the hospital tank for treatment, FF, you can try providing her with some of her favorite live foods to coax her to eat (she won’t have to compete with the healthy seahorses for the tasty live treats while she is quarantined).
If live adult brine shrimp (Artemia sp.) are available locally from any pet shops or fish stores, they will do in a pinch. Just be sure to disinfect them by soaking them in freshwater for 5-10 min. before you introduce them to the aquarium.
Gammarus amphipods and suitably small live ghost shrimp are also acceptable, but live marine feeder shrimp would be the best option, since they are irresistible to seahorses and are “feed-and-forget” live foods that will survive indefinitely in the saltwater until they are eaten or removed. Live Mysis (Mysidopsis bahia) and Hawaiian volcano shrimp or red feeder shrimp (Halocaridina rubra) are ideal for this purpose, and are always my preferred choice for perking up the appetite of an ailing seahorse.
With regard to good sources for live foods, you can get Gammarus amphipods (green iron horse feed) and Hawaiian volcano shrimp (red iron horse feed) from Ocean Rider and live Mysis from Sachs Systems Aquaculture. All of these live shrimp are what I’d like to call “feed-and-forget” foods, FF. They are tough, rugged little shrimp that you can toss in your tank with no acclimation whatsoever. They are agile and elusive enough that your filters won’t eat them and the seahorses won’t be able to capture them all right away. Some will hide and evade well enough that your seahorses will still be hunting down the stragglers for the next day or two. Best of all, you can toss a nice batch of them in your aquarium, secure in the knowledge that they won’t perish and pollute it, but thrive and survive as real, live, “catch-me-if-you-can” prey items that seahorses cannot resist. Nothing stimulates a seahorse’s feeding instinct like the frantic movements and evasive maneuvers of natural, living prey.
The Ocean Rider Aquaculture Facility in Hawaii (<>) is a good source for the following live foods but the shipping costs from Hawaii can be considerable:
Green Iron Horse Feed (Gammarus amphipods)
Red Iron Horse Feed or Volcano Shrimp (Halocaridina rubra)
As I mentioned, the live Mysis from Sachs Systems Aquaculture would also be a good choice for live Mysis shrimp. They provide live Mysis in lots ranging anywhere from 100 to 5000 for very reasonable prices which include the cost of priority shipping. For example, you can obtain 200 live Mysidopsis bahia for about $35 from Sachs and your seahorses will love them. Or the or the very smallest (1/4″) of the common shore shrimp (Palaemonetes vulgaris) from Sachs would also be a good choice:
Or the live Mysis or post-larval Feeder Shrimp from Drs. Foster and Smith would also be a good choice for this. You can obtain 100 live Mysidopsis bahia for $33.99 or 100 bite-size Feeder Shrimp for $39.99 from liveaquaria.com and your seahorses will love them. Just copy the following URL (everything within the angle brackets below), paste it in your web browser, and press the “Entered” key, FF, and it will take you directly to the right webpage:
All of the sources listed above are high-health aquaculture facilities that provide disease free live foods. You can buy be feeder shrimp or live foods in quantity and set up a small holding tank for them so that you can dole them out as live treats for your seahorses whenever it’s convenient.
When it comes to broad-spectrum antibiotics, there are a number of different medications you can consider for treating tail infections, FF. Just remember that infected seahorses should be treated with antibiotics in isolation (otherwise the antibiotics may harm the biofilter in your main tank, creating more problems).
There are a few treatment options to consider. Feeding the seahorses with live shrimp that have been gut-loaded or bio-encapsulated with tetracycline/oxytetracycline or minocycline (Maracyn-Two) sometimes produces good results (Giwojna, Oct. 2003). Furan2 is another good option when the tail rot has been detected early on, in its initial stages, especially if the medication can be administered orally via gutloaded adult brine shrimp.
Tetracycline antibiotics (administered orally only) or immersion in the following antibiotics are known to be effective in treating tail rot and other tail infections: Sulfa 4 TMP, Neosulfex, and Neo3 — all broad-spectrum antibiotics consisting of trimethoprim (TMP) and easier kanamycin kanamyacin and/or neomycin combined with various sulfa compounds to produce a potent synergistic combination of antibacterials — are the antibiotics available to hobbyists that seem to work best for tail rot. Unfortunately, Neosulfex and Neo3 are no longer available, but Sulfa 4 TMP can be purchased online without a prescription from National Fish Pharmaceuticals.
And hobbyists can often achieve similar results by creating their own version of these medications by combining neomycin sulfate and/or kanamycin with various sulfa compounds. One that seems to work well is combining neomycin sulfate with triple sulfa.
Here are the instructions for treating with Neomycin and Triple Sulfa together. Dose the Neomycin at 40mg per gallon and replace what is removed with water changes (so, for 10 gallon hospital tank, add 400mg the first day, then each day following, do a 50% water change and add back 200mg). Continue the Neomycin for 10 days. At the same time that you are treating with the Neomycin, dose the Triple Sulfa according to package instructions but for a full 10 days.
You may be able to get neomycin sulfate and triple sulfa compound at a well-stock LFS. If not, you can obtain both neomycin sulfate powder and triple sulfa powder from National Fish Pharmaceuticals. You can order them online at the following site: <<>>
Kanamycin sulfate used alone or in conjunction with neomycin sulfate would also be an excellent choice for treating tail rot, both of which can be combined safely with triple sulfa.
Kanamycin sulfate powder
USE: Gram-negative bacteria for resistant strains of piscine tuberculosis and other bacterial infections. Works especially well in salt water aquariums.
DOSAGE 1/4 teaspoon per 20 gallons of water. Treat every 24 hours with a 25% water change before each treatment. Treat for 10 days. For piscine tuberculosis, use for up to 30 days.
This is a potent broad-spectrum, gram+/gram- antibiotic. It is
wonderfully effective for aquarium use because it is one of the few
antibiotics that dissolves well in saltwater and that is readily
absorbed through the skin of the fish. That makes it the treatment of
choice for treating many bacterial infections in seahorses.
Kanamycin can be combined safely with neomycin to further increase its efficacy. Like other gram-negative antibiotics, it will destroy your biofiltration and should be used in a hospital tank only.
Combining the kanamycin with neomycin is often especially effective, because they kanamycin is absorbed well and can therefore attack the infection from the inside out (i.e., internally) whereas the neomycin, which is not absorbed well, attacks the infection area from the outside (i.e., externally).
Neomycin sulfate powder
USE: Gram-negative bacteria (Pseudomonas), piscine tuberculosis and other bacterial infections. Works well in freshwater or saltwater aquariums.
DOSAGE 1/4 teaspoon per 10 gallons of water. Treat every 24 hours with a 25% water change before each treatment. Treat for 10 days. For piscine tuberculosis, use for up to 30 days.
Neomycin is a very potent gram-negative antibiotic. Most of
infections that plague marine fish are gram-negative, so neomycin
sulfate can be a wonder drug for seahorses (Burns, 2002). As
mentioned above, it can even be combined with other medications such
as kanamycin or nifurpirinol for increased efficacy. For example,
kanamycin/neomycin is tremendous for treating bacterial infections,
while nifurpirinol/neomycin makes a combination that packs a heckuva
wallop for treating mixed bacterial/fungal infections or problems of
unknown nature. Keep it on hand at all times.
Neomycin will destroy beneficial bacteria and disrupt your biological
filtration, so be sure to administer the drug in a hospital tank.
You can get both kanamycin sulfate and neomycin sulfate from the following vendor:
Click here: Fish Medications
As I mentioned above, tetracycline in oxytetracycline can be effective treatments for tail rot when they are administered orally. However, they are useless as bath treatments for marine fishes. This is because calcium and magnesium bind to tetracycline and oxytetracycline, rendering them inactive (Roy Yanong, US Department of Agriculture). Adding tetracycline or oxytetracycline to saltwater in a hospital tank is therefore completely ineffective (Yanong, USDA), but administering the antibiotics orally can produce good results.
Okay, Fish Face, those are my thoughts on treating your female seahorse for a suspected tail infection. If the problem is so severe she will longer accept live foods either, then you will need to force feed the seahorse to keep her strength up while the antibiotics have a chance to work on the infection. Let me know if force feeding becomes necessary and I can provide you with some guidance in that regard.
Pete Giwojna, Ocean Rider Tech SupportAugust 1, 2014 at 6:14 am #5711FishFace814Guest
Thank you for the advice, but I have no access to live food where I live, nor can I tell what medication she needs in the time needed. I have decided to try to feed her frozen mysis one more time, as she is looking a bit more active. If she doesn’t eat, I’m going to force feed her, so I can have a bit more time to figure it out. I have already picked up a small dropper and some clove oil, and I hope this isn’t too risky of an operation. I’m unsure if the risk is worth the outcome, but if she doesn’t eat she’ll die. I don’t know if I want her to die by my hands or let nature take over, but I guess if the only way she’ll possibly live is through my force feeding attempts, then it needs done. This is scary.August 1, 2014 at 8:04 am #5712FishFace814Guest
I’m an idiot. I got afraid and rushed into the procedure, thinking I knew exactly what to do. I did get some food in her mouth, then I squirted clean water over her face to clean off the clove oil and revive her. But then I put her back in the tank with her sisters. I hope I cleaned enough of the clove oil off, and it doesn’t affect them as well. I think she is now dying before my eyes though, her skin is very ashy gray when it’s normally black, and she is hanging upside down, breathing very slowly. I hope she isn’t dying, maybe the clove oil’s effect is still wearing off, but from the looks of it she’s going to die by my hands. She’s thrashing around on the ground now and it’s so sad to watch. Her sisters are watching her too.August 1, 2014 at 3:25 pm #5713FishFace814Guest
She survived the night, thankfully, and has returned to her prior activity of hanging on her chin. I do not see any signs of an infection in her tail though, only a kink or two. Her tail has gotten more slim though, along with the rest of her. Hopefully I gave her enough food to give her strength for a few more days, because I can’t put her through that again. I will return to the store today and see if I can find any of the antibiotics you listed, and I’ll also get her a hospital tank (it may have to be a bucket or something extremely small.) But how do I cycle it so quickly? Do I use water from their tank?August 1, 2014 at 9:27 pm #5714Pete GiwojnaGuest
Dear Fish Face:
I understand why you used the clove oil to sedate your seahorse before attempting the force feeding, sir, and it’s a very intimidating procedure for the uninitiated so it’s no wonder you felt panicky during your very first attempt.
Some hobbyists do feel it’s easier to tube feed their seahorses after they have been sedated, while others feel that sedation only complicates the procedure. Sometimes sedating the seahorse can make tube feeding a little less stressful for both the patient and the caregiver, but beware that it is quite possible to sedate the seahorse to death using clove oil if you’re not careful, especially if you’ve never used it before. (In fact, clove oil is often used to euthanize fish painlessly simply by prolonging the “sedation” to the point of no return.)
At any rate, it’s great to hear that your seahorse survived the crisis, and I think you did a fine job of handling a very tricky situation for your first attempt at this sort of thing, Fish Face.
However, since your seahorse had such a close call this time and didn’t tolerate the procedure very well, before you resort to the more invasive tube feeding again, FF, I would suggest that you first try force feeding the affected seahorse by hand. 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 tail 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 her open mouth far enough, her feeding instincts will kick in and take over so that she 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). Force feeding the seahorse by hand sounds much more difficult than it actually is, and seahorses will often respond well to this method of feeding, FF.
Even the professional curators at the large public aquariums will use this technique when their highly prized (and very expensive) seadragons are experiencing problems with weak snick, as explained in the discussion thread below:
In a message dated 5/4/2009 6:11:43 A.M. Central Daylight Time, [email protected] writes:
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.
7007 SeaWorld Drive
Orlando, Florida 32821
Okay, that’s another feeding option for you to consider, Fish Face, which I think you and your seahorse will find to be considerably less dramatic than sedating the pony in order to administer another tube feeding.
I would strongly recommend following up with antibiotic therapy in a hospital tank as we discussed in my previous post, FF. If you have to set up a makeshift hospital tank, it will be worthwhile for you to purchase a new five-gallon plastic bucket for this purpose, sir, and you needn’t worry about cycling the treatment tank.
The powerful broad-spectrum antibiotics you will be using don’t discriminate and will kill the beneficial nitrifying bacteria that provide biological filtration as well as any pathogenic or harmful bacteria, sir, which is why you don’t want to administer them in your main tank.
You will be maintaining water quality in the hospital tank by performing daily 100% water changes using freshly mixed saltwater that you have heavily aerated and carefully pre-adjusted to the same temperature, pH, and specific gravity as the main tank.
Of course, it is always a good idea to fill the hospital tank or hospital container with water from the seahorse tank initially, so that no acclimation will be necessary when you transfer the pony from the main tank to the treatment tank. But you will want to mix up enough new saltwater to perform at least 10-14 days worth of 100% water changes in the treatment container, in order to successfully complete a full regimen of the antibiotics.
Best of luck restoring your female to normal again, FF.
Pete Giwojna, Ocean Rider Tech SupportAugust 2, 2014 at 7:06 am #5715FishFace814Guest
Thank you for that idea. She was much more accepting of that approach, probably because she got to rest in my hand. She spat out the shrimp, but I think I did get her to swallow a shrimp tail. In the morning, I’ll use bigger ones. Hopefully her digestive system is still up at that time.
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