Ocean Rider Seahorse Farm and Tours | Kona Hawaii › Forums › Seahorse Life and Care › seahorse sick?
- This topic has 3 replies, 2 voices, and was last updated 14 years, 3 months ago by Pete Giwojna.
March 7, 2009 at 9:07 am #1632TraceyMember
I started to stock my cycled tank in January – started with small pair \’angostus\’ according to LFS. Male had a blister on his head that become ulcerous and he died two weeks ago. Introduced new female a week later who was much more lively and ate whenever she had the opportunity. Original female stopped eating a week ago and died 3 days ago. Neither were good eaters from the start – ate frozen but had to be target fed and only ate small amountsand sometimes not at all, also were both really inactive – never swam except to get to a different plant . Water params have been perfect at every testing and I tried \’Bactonex\’ and fresh water dip for sick originals in case of parasites. Now new female has extrememly fast respirations and seems to have lost weight since I got her a week ago. I am desperately upset that I am doing something wrong. Please help.March 8, 2009 at 1:07 am #4706Pete GiwojnaGuest
I’m very sorry to hear about the problems you have been having with your Hippocampus angustus. It is terribly difficult to try to diagnose health problems from afar when you cannot see the seahorses or the system they are in, and you have no laboratory tests, cultures, skin smears, wet- mounts, necropsy reports or anything concrete to go on to guide your diagnosis. But I would be happy to share my thoughts on the matter with you based on the meager information I have and suggest some possible treatment options.
It sounds like the original pair of seahorses were not entirely healthy when you purchased them and that the male died as a result of an infection (most likely marine ulcer disease, which is typically associated with Vibrio or Pseudomonas bacteria). The original female was exposed to the same pathogens, which likely were the cause of her eventual demise, and the new female has in turn been exposed to the same infection and may be falling ill now as a result.
Problems like this are not uncommon when purchasing fish from your local fish store (LFS), Tracey. The problem with obtaining seahorses from your LFS is that they are typically maintained in aquaria that share a common filtration system with all of the other fish tanks in the store. Of course, those other fish tanks house a wide selection of wild fish that have been collected from all around the world, and any pathogens or parasites those wild fishes may have been carrying can be transmitted through the common water supply to the seahorses. That makes fish from your LFS potential disease vectors for a whole laundry list of disease organisms and makes it mandatory to quarantine such specimens before they are introduced to your display tank.
So if you will be trying your luck with wild-caught seahorses, or taking a chance on pet-shop ponies, it’s very important to examine the seahorses closely before you make a purchase in order to make sure they are not carrying a disease or suffering from any health problems, and equally important to quarentine new arrivals before you introduce them to your main tank to make sure they don’t bring any disease pathogens or parasites into the aquarium.
For future reference, Tracy, here are the warning signs and symptoms to check for when you’re giving a seahorse at your local fish store (LFS) a visual inspection, as outlined in the "Sygnathid Husbandry Manual for Public Aquariums, 2005 Manual":
Physical Examination — Visual Assessment
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 [or gill parasites].
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 testicular 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 seahorse passes this visual examination, and is eating well and behaving normally, with none of the red flags or warning signs discussed above, only then should you consider taking him home. That’s a quick checklist you can use to determine if the seahorses at your LFS appear to be healthy or not before you make a purchase.
The Quarantine Tank
Once you have found healthy specimens with none of the symptoms or problems outlined above and make your purchase, it is equally important to quarantine the new seahorses before you introduce them to your main tank!
In its simplest form, quarantining aquarium fish simply involves introducing them to a quarantine tank (normally with the same aquarium parameters as the tank they will be eventually going in) all by themselves for a period of several weeks to assure that they aren’t carrying any diseases. The idea is that any health problems the wild fish have will manifest themselves in isolation during this quarantine period, and they can then be treated with the appropriate medications without affecting the health of the rest of the fishes in your display tank. While they are in quarantine, some hobbyists will also treat wild fish prophylactically for internal parasites using praziquantel or metronidazole, and for any external parasites they may possibly be carrying using formalin bath(s) and/or freshwater dips.
A bare-bottomed aquarium of at least 10 gallons (the bigger the better) will suffice for a Quarantine Tank (QT). Ideally, the hospital tank should have one or more foam filters for biofiltration along with a small external filter, which can easily be removed from the tank during treatment, if necessary, but which can hold activated carbon or polyfilter pads when it’s time to pull the meds out. No aquarium reflector is necessary. Ambient room light will suffice. (Bright lights can breakdown and inactivate certain medications and the fish in quarantine will be more comfortable and feel more secure under relatively dim lighting.)
For seahorses, it’s important for your quarantine tank/hospital tank to include enough hitching posts so that the ponies won’t feel vulnerable or exposed during their stay in quarantine. Aquarium safe, inert plastic plants or homemade hitching posts fashioned from polypropylene rope or twine that has been unraveled and anchored at one end work well for this if you’re short on such decorations.
Cycling the sponge filters is important because otherwise the only way to maintain water quality is by making partial water changes every day or two throughout the treatment period. Breaking in the biological filtration will eliminate the need for such frequent water changes and assure that the quarantine period is less stressful for the fish by eliminating transient spikes in the ammonia and/or nitrate levels.
Be sure to avoid sponge filters with weighted bottoms or other metal components since they will rust when exposed to saltwater. Sooner or later this will cause problems in a marine aquarium. 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.
In this case, Tracey, my best guess is that you are dealing with a serious bacterial infection. You mentioned that the male seahorse developed a blister that became ulcerated, which suggests a problem with ulcerative dermatitis or marine ulcer disease. When marine ulcer disease is left untreated, the affected area will develop into an open sore or ulceration and the tissue erosion will begin eating into the underlying musculature. Such infections are most often associated with Vibrio or Pseudomonas bacteria.
At the first sign of a problem like this, it’s important to isolate the affected seahorse so that the rest of the herd isn’t exposed to the same pathogens, and to begin treating the seahorse aggressively in isolation with potent broad-spectrum antibiotics immediately for at least 10 days. The medications that are most useful in resolving Vibrio infections are chloramphenicol (i.e., Chloromycetin), which you probably will not be able to obtain, Baytril, which is a prescription antibiotic that may also be difficult for you to obtain, or a combination of doxycycline + kanamycin, both of which can be obtained from National Fish Pharmaceuticals without a prescription. Furan2 or Nitrofuracin Green are also sometimes helpful when the infection is detected early on, and Furan2 is available from many well-stocked pet shops and fish doors. I will provide you with instructions for using these antibiotics later in this message.
Here is some additional information regarding marine ulcer disease to give you a better idea of the type of infection I suspect you are dealing with, Tracey:
MARINE ULCER DISEASE, A.K.A. ULCERATIVE DERMATITIS, A.K.A. HEMORRHAGIC SEPTICEMIA, A.K.A. "FLESH-EATING BACTERIA"
Marine ulcer disease is a particularly nasty type of infection that most hobbyists have come to know as "flesh-eating bacteria," and indeed it can often be attributed to bacteria, most notably Vibrio or Pseudomonas species (Giwojna, Nov. 2003). Vibrio in marine fish is the equivalent of the Aeromonas bacteria that plague freshwater fishes (Dixon 1999; Basleer 2000), causing external hemorrhagic ulcers (bloody lesions). Vibriosis is probably the most common bacterial infection of captive seahorses and one of the most difficult to eradicate from your system. Vibrio bacteria are motile gram negative rods, which measure about 0.5 X 1.5 micrometers (Prescott, 2001). When grown on suitable media they appear as shiny, creamy colored colonies (Prescott, 2001).
Marine ulcer disease or hemorrhagic septicemia can manifest itself in a number of forms. The most common of these are the external hemorrhagic (bloody) ulcers, which appear as localized open wounds on the body (Dixon, 1999). It may be helpful to think of this condition as a form of skin rot. The first symptoms are usually small, discolored areas of skin that often become red and inflamed (Giwojna, Nov. 2003). These may become large bloody spots or lesions (the characteristic ulcers) as the disease progresses, leading to sloughing of the skin and localized swelling (Giwojna, Nov. 2003). (I have found that many times hobbyists have a tendency to dismiss these ulcers as "heater burns," especially when they appear on the flanks or pouch of the seahorse, and to delay appropriate treatment on the basis of this misdiagnosis. Avoid this all-to-common mistake!) In severe cases, the underlying musculature also becomes infected, and the rapid tissue erosion that can result is one of the most alarming aspects of ulcer disease. At this advanced stage, the infected fish can longer be saved (Giwojna, Nov. 2003).
Badly infected fishes may develop a distended, fluid-filled abdomen due to internal bacterial infection (septicemia) of the kidneys, liver or intestinal tract (Dixon, 1999). This disrupts the normal circulation of the blood and lymph, causing fluids to accumulate in the intestine and abdominal cavity (Dixon, 1999).
The most dangerous form of hemorrhagic septicemia occurs when the bacteria spread internally and become septic, infecting the blood (Dixon, 1999). The bacteria release toxins into the bloodstream, making it the most virulent of these infections (Dixon, 1999). This insidious form of the disease does not produce the telltale external ulcers, and acute infections can kill quickly with little warning due to the lack of outward signs (Dixon, 1999). Affected fish become listless and lethargic (Dixon, 1999), which may be hard to pick up on with seahorses. Respiration is rapid and seahorses usually darken in color and go off their feed. These behavioral indicators are especially difficult to detect in seahorses due to their lazy lifestyle and habit of changing colors frequently. Seahorses may succumb to the acute form of this disease before the aquarist realizes anything is amiss, and hobbyist often ascribe such mysterious losses to Sudden Death Syndrome.
In seahorses, this disease sometimes takes the form of bilateral edema of the periorbital tissue (Bull and Mitchell, 2002, p19). The eyes themselves are not affected, as in popeye or Exopthalmia; rather, the tissue around both eyes swells up. The eyes are thus unaffected but are encircled by rings of swollen tissue. Hobbyists have described this condition to me by saying that their seahorse had developed "doughnut eyes." These characteristic doughnut eyes are often accompanied by swelling of the soft tissue around the tube snout (Bull and Mitchell, 2002, p19). Some cases develop this peculiar facial edema as well as the usual skin ulcers and tissue erosion (Bull and Mitchell, 2002, p19).
Hemorrhagic septicemia or marine ulcer disease can be a very stubborn and difficult infection to treat, especially when it is due to Vibrio and the disease is acute or advanced. However, if the condition is detected early and treatment is begun when the discolored patches of skin or other symptoms are first noticed, antibacterial agents are often helpful (Giwojna, Nov. 2003). The professional aquarists treat this disease aggressively, using bivalent Vibrio vaccines, immunostimulants such as a beta-glucan, and injections of antibiotics (Bull and Mitchell, 2002, p19).
Aside from administering beta glucan (a primary ingredient in Vibrance) orally, such measures are beyond the grasp of we home hobbyists. We must make do by treating the affected specimens in isolation using wide spectrum antibiotics such as chloramphenicol, Baytril, doxycycline, kanamycin, oxytetracycline (orally), neomycin sulfate, sulfonamide or streptomycin, or Furan2 or Nitrofuracin Green (in mild cases that are detected early). As with other bacterial infections, lowering the water temperature during the course of treatment can help a great deal. This is your best course of action when you are confident that the problem is due to a bacterial infection, such as Pseudomonas or Vibriosis (Giwojna, Nov. 2003).
Chloramphenicol is the treatment of choice. It can be given orally or used as a bath (Prescott, 2001c). Therapeutic baths lasting 10-20 hours are administered in a chloramphenicol solution consisting of 40 mg per liter of water (Prescott, 2001c). If the seahorse is still eating, the chloramphenicol can also be bioencapsulated by gut loading feeder shrimp or ghost shrimp with flake food soaked in the antibiotic solution. Even if the affected seahorses does not eat, feeding medicated shrimp to its tankmates is a good way to help prevent this contagious disease from spreading to the healthy seahorses (Prescott, 2001c).
All things considered, artchic, I would say that chloramphenicol (i.e. Chloromycetin) is the treatment of choice for marine ulcer disease (i.e., flesh-eating bacteria) and most Vibrio infections, in general. It is effective both as a bath for prolonged immersion or when administered orally. If the affected seahorses are no longer eating, then administering the chloramphenicol to the treatment tank would be a good option for you if your other seahorses develop any symptoms of this disease.
The treatment protocol for Chloramphenicol or Chloromycetin is as follows:
Chloramphenicol can be used to treat Vibriosis at 40 mg/ litre of water (which comes out to about 150 milligrams per gallon) in a bath for 10-20 hours. It is important to watch the quality of the water, and if it starts to become turbid, the water must be changed. It is best to treat in a separate tank. In stubborn cases, a series of such baths may be necessary to resolve the problem, in which case a complete water change should be performed before the medication is redosed.
Chloramphenicol can also be used as an additive to the feed, if the fish are still eating (all to often in a major infection they will refuse to eat, but this treatment may be most useful in preventing the horizontal spread of the infection). When used as an addition to the feed use 500 mg per 100 gram of feed. (In the case of seahorses, the flake food medicated with chloramphenicol in this way would first be bio-encapsulated in live feeder shrimp, which would then in turn be fed to the seahorses.)
If you do obtain the chloramphenicol, be sure to be very careful when handling it. Remember, in a few rare individuals exposure to chloramphenicol can cause a potentially fatal side effect (aplastic anemia). These are rare cases and almost always involve patients who were being treated with the medication, but I would use gloves when handling it as a precaution and if you crush crush up tablets of chloramphenicol, be very careful not to inhale any of the power.
Because of this side effect, which affects one in 100,000 humans, chloramphenicol is no longer available as a medication for fishes and can therefore be difficult to obtain. If you find that is the case, your next best alternative is to obtain doxycycline and kanamycin from National Fish Pharmaceuticals and use them together to form a synergistic combination of antibiotics that is often very effective in treating Vibrio infections.
USE: broad spectrum antibiotic derived from oxytetracycline. Use for both gram-positive and gram-negative bacterial disorders, including fin and tail rot, septicemia, and mouth rot. Unlike tetracycline antibiotics, it will not be deactivated by the high pH levels found in marine aquaria. Works in a similar manner to chloramphenicol.
DOSAGE: add 1/4 teaspoon per 20 gallons, every 24 hours for 10 days. Do a 25% water change before each treatment.
This is a potent broad-spectrum, gram+/gram- aminogylcoside 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 certain other antibiotics such as doxycycline or neomycin (as well as metronidazole) to further increase its efficacy. Like other gram-negative antibiotics, it will destroy your biofiltration and should be used in a hospital tank only.
USE: gram-negative bacterial infections and resistant forms of piscine tuberculosis (mycobacteria). Works especially well in saltwater aquariums.
DOSAGE: add 1/4 teaspoon per 20 gallons. Treat every 24 hours and perform a 25% water change before each treatment. Treat for 10 days. (When treating piscine tuberculosis, treat for 30 days.)
Both the doxycycline and kanamycin can be obtained online from National Fish Pharmaceuticals at the following URL:
Baytril is another good antibiotic for treating ulcerative dermatitis and tail rot, but it is a prescription medication that you would need to obtain from your family Vet. It would be your next best option if you cannot obtain the chloramphenicol or the doxycycline hydrochloride + kanamycin sulfate.
Baytril is a potent new broad-spectrum antibiotic that is effective against both gram-negative and gram-positive bacteria and is widely used to treat marine fish. However, it is a prescription medication and you would need to obtain it from a veterinarian. A 7-day treatment regimen for the liquid form of Baytril is recommended as follows:
Day 1: a five hour bath in Baytril at a concentration of 22.7 mg/ml.
Day 2: perform a 50% water change in the treatment tank and administer a 5-hour bath in Baytril at half strength (11.4 mg/ml).
Days 3-7: repeat the procedure for day 2 — a 50% water change followed by a five hour bath in Baytril at a concentration of 11.4 mg/ml.
If you cannot obtain Baytril, then treating the seahorse with with Furan2 + acriflavine or with Nitrofuracin Green would probably be the next best option.
Furan2 is a good combo medication that consist of two nitrofuran antibiotics (nitrofurazone and furazolidone) plus good old methylene blue. That gives it both bacteriostatic and bactericidal properties, and makes it active against various gram-negative and gram-positive bacteria. The methylene blue stains the water in the treatment tank as and prevents the photosensitive nitrofuran antibiotics from being deactivated by light. Methylene blue is effective in preventing fungal growth, and it has antiprotozoal and antibacterial properties as well, by virtue of its ability to bind with cytoplasmic structures within the cell and interfere with oxidation-reduction processes. This makes the combination of methylene blue, nitrofurazone and furazolidone very broad spectrum and fairly potent.
Best of all, Furan2 can be safely combined with Aquarium Pharmaceuticals antiparasitic medications such as acriflavine to increase its effectiveness and guard against secondary infections.
Thus, when combined with an effective antiparasitic medication, a good combination drug like Furan2 can be the ultimate weapon in your medicine cabinet. It is effective against a wide range of diseases, making it a versatile shotgun for restoring order when trouble breaks out in your tank. When you suspect an infection is at work, but don’t know whether you’re dealing with fungus, bacteria, protozoan parasites or a mixed infection, Furan2 + Aquarium Pharmaceutical acriflavine is an effective combination that produces good results! Furan2 is especially effective for treating mild skin infections.
However, Tracy, you have to take special precautions when administering nitrofuran antibiotics such as this because they are photosensitive and can be deactivated by light. That means you’ll need to darken the hospital tank while you treat the seahorse. Do not use a light on your hospital tank, and keep an opaque lid or cover on the aquarium during the treatments. Remove this cover from the aquarium only long enough to feed your seahorse.
You should also be aware that Furan2 will cause discoloration of the aquarium water, turning it a shade of blue-green. This is harmless and can be removed after the treatments using activated carbon filtration.
Nitrofuracin Green is another combo medication with similar ingredients that is equivalent to Furan2. The instructions for using it are as follows:
A special formula consisting of two nitrofuran antibiotics (nitrofurazone and furazolidone) + methylene blue and sodium chloride.
USE: anti-microbial, anti-protozoan, antibacterial, and anti-fungal. Wide spectrum. Good for newly arrived fish in quarantine situations. Also be good for healing wounds and ammonia burns on newly arriving fish. Widely used for shipping or packing water. Works well for sores on fish in Koi ponds.
DOSAGE: add 1/4 teaspoon per 20 gallons every 24 hours, with a 25% water change before each daily treatment. Treat for 10 days.
Okay, that’s the rundown on the treatment options for ulcerative dermatitis or marine ulcer disease, Tracey. I suspect that your new female may have picked up an infection from the original female, and I would recommend treating her with a quick dip in methylene blue to aid her respiratory distress, as explained below, and then treating her with the type of broad-spectrum antibiotics that are most useful in combating Vibrio infections.
Here are the instructions for treating seahorses with methylene blue, Tracey:
Commonly known as "meth blue" or simply "blue," this is a wonderful medication for reversing the toxic effects of ammonia and nitrite poisoning (commonly known as "new tank syndrome"). Since hospital tanks are usually without biological filtration, and ammonia and nitrite can thus build up rapidly (especially if you are not doing water changes during the treatment period), it’s a good idea to add methylene blue to your hospital ward when treating sick fish.
Methylene blue also 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.
In addition, methylene blue treats fungus and some bacteria and protozoans. Methylene blue is effective in preventing fungal infections, and it has antiprotozoal and antibacterial properties as well, by virtue of its ability to bind with cytoplasmic structures within the cell and interfere with oxidation-reduction processes. A "must" for your fish-room medicine cabinet. However, be aware that it is not safe to combine methylene blue with some antibiotics, so check your medication labels closely for any possible problems before doing so.
If you can obtain the Kordon brand of Methylene Blue (available at most well-stocked local fish stores), the 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 or exposure to high-level of nitrates:
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. Remember that methylene blue will have an adverse impact on the beneficial bacteria that carry out the nitrogen cycle, so don’t use it in your main tank — rather, use the methylene blue as a quick dip or for treating the seahorses for a prolonged period in your hospital tank.
In summation, Tracey, I would recommend giving the new female H. angustus a quick dip in methylene blue to help her breathe better and then treating her aggressively with antibiotics in your hospital tank as soon as possible. The following antibiotics have proven to be effective in treating such infections when they are detected early (I have listed them in order of preference):
Chloramphenicol (i.e., Chloromycetin)
Doxycycline hydrochloride + kanamycin sulfate
Furan2 + acriflavine
Furan2 or Nitrofuracin Green
if you lose the new female as well, Tracey, then I would recommend breaking down your seahorse tank, sterilizing the aquarium and all of the associated equipment and decorations, and then starting over from scratch before you obtain any more seahorses. Vibrio infections can be very difficult to eradicate from an aquarium when there has been an outbreak of vibriosis, and sterilizing the entire aquarium system is the only way to be sure it isn’t harboring a reservoir of disease that would cause problems for any healthy seahorses that were introduced to the aquarium thereafter.
Also, you are obviously very concerned that you are doing something wrong with your seahorses that could be contributing to the problems you have been having. If you are a new seahorse keeper, Tracey, you might benefit from the training course on the care and keeping of seahorses that Ocean Rider now offers.
This basic training is very informal and completely free of charge. Ocean Rider provides the free training as a service to their customers and any other hobbyists who are interested in learning more about the care and keeping of seahorses. It’s a crash course on seahorse keeping consisting of 10 separate lessons covering the following subjects, and is conducted entirely via e-mail. There is no homework or examinations or anything of that nature — just a lot of good, solid information on seahorses for you to read through and absorb as best you can, at your own speed:
Aquarium care and requirements of seahorses;
Selecting a suitable aquarium for seahorses;
size (tank height and water volume)
aquarium test kits
Optimizing your aquarium for seahorses;
water movement and circulation
hitching posts (real and artificial)
Cycling a new marine aquarium;
The cleanup crew (aquarium janitors & sanitation engineers);
water quality & water changes
aquarium maintenance schedule
Compatible tank mates for seahorses;
Courtship and breeding;
Rearing the young;
Disease prevention and control;
Acclimating Ocean Rider seahorses.
Lesson 9 is devoted entirely to disease prevention and control, and you might find it useful for avoiding health problems in the future.
If you would be interested in participating in the seahorse training, just contact me off list ([email protected]) with a short e-mail describing your experience as a marine aquarist and a seahorse keeper, and include additional details about your seahorse tank (size and dimensions of the aquarium, how long it has been established, the filtration system, and the aquarium inhabitants), and I would get you started on the lessons right away. Include your full name (first and last) which we need for our records.
Best of luck treating your new female and resolving this problem once and for all, Tracey.
Pete GiwojnaMarch 9, 2009 at 1:40 pm #4709TraceyGuest
Thankyou for all this info, Pete. My poor little girl died yesterday morning. I do not plan to restock until I am certain I am dealing with a reputable supplier.
Tracey:(March 10, 2009 at 12:40 am #4710Pete GiwojnaGuest
I’m very sorry to hear that you lost the remaining female as well — all my condolences on the loss of your Hippocampus subelongatus! The bacteria most often associated with marine ulcer disease (a.k.a. ulcerative dermatitis, hemorrhagic septicemia, or flesh-eating bacteria) are Vibrio and Pseudomonas, which are highly infectious and very difficult to eradicate from an aquarium.
Since you have had an outbreak of a highly contagious infection that was transmitted from one seahorse to the next and eventually killed all of the ponies, Tracey, I think it would be prudent to sterilize the tank and all of the equipment in it, and then recycle the aquarium from scratch again before you consider keeping any new fish in the aquarium. And I would be very careful not to spread the infection from the contaminated tank to any of your other aquariums.
Do NOT disperse your live rock, substratum, macroalgae, equipment or accessories from the infected tank to your other aquaria, Tracey, or you risk inoculating them with server your/Pseudomonas and spreading the infection to all your tanks! And you must be extremely careful to avoid accidentally cross-contaminating your other tanks from your infected seahorse tank. Any nets, hydrometers, or other equipment used in your seahorse tank should be sterilized after every use and not placed into or used in any other tanks. Avoid working in your seahorse tank or your hospital tank with your bare hands, scrub/disinfect your hands and arms thoroughly after working on your seahorse tank, and do not place your hands in the seahorse tank and then place your hands in another aquarium. These bacteria can even be transferred from one aquarium to another by splashing water droplets or as an aerosol via the mist generated from a protein skimmer or an airstone. Be careful!
Sterilize the seahorse tank and all the equipment it contains by using a strong bleach solution and then air drying it completely. You can attempt to recycle the live rock by sterilizing it, converting it to dead rock, reseeding it with beneficial bacteria, and then allowing it to be slowly recolonized by healthy sessile life. Once the rock has been sufficiently killed (Bleach/Vinegar/Air dry) it can be placed in a sump to regain its bacteria bed and time will do the rest.
Here is the method that Paul Anderson (Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, University of Florida) recommends for sterilizing systems with stubborn Mycobacteria infections (mycobacteriosis is another very stubborn infection that is contagious and difficult to eradicate):
"Effective disinfectants against mycobacterium include spraying with 70% Ethanol and allowing the equipment to air-dry, and bleach baths (I use 50ppm bleach baths with a minimum contact time of one hour, this has been reported to be effective against M. marinum) followed by sodium thiosulfate neutralization baths. Ultraviolet light sterilization is also recommended in myco-positive systems. If you’ve got myco-positive tanks among other systems, common sense suggests performing husbandry on these systems last in your rounds.
"A note on ethanol: I have found in my experience that seahorses are very sensitive to ethanol, so I advise being very cautious to avoid overspray into adjacent tanks (Paul Anderson, pers. com.)."
So if you want to be really sure you are eradicating any disease organisms in your seahorse tank, Tracey, you might first disinfect the affected tank and all of its equipment with 70% ethanol, allow it to air dry, and then set it up anew and fill it with freshwater, start everything operating again, and administer a good stiff dose of chlorine bleach for as long as it takes for you to feel confident of the results. That will assure that the bleach solution is circulated throughout your protein skimmer, filters, and all the other equipment, thus sterilizing them early both inside and out. I can’t imagine any marine pathogens or parasites that could survive the ethanol disinfection process, followed by prolonged immersion in freshwater treated with an effective dose of beach.
Once you had run the aquarium with freshwater and bleach for long enough to be quite sure that any disease organisms had been eradicated, you could use sodium thiosulfate to pull out the bleach, and add artificial salt mix to achieve the desired salinity/specific gravity. With this method of sterilization, you can keep your skimmer, ultraviolet sterilizer, pumps and powerheads, etc., since all of the equipment gets sterilized thoroughly along with the rest of the tank.
One note of caution: whenever you are using significant amounts of chlorine bleach, it’s very important to work in a well ventilated area and avoid inhaling the fumes. Also be sure to take whatever precautions are necessary to prevent those fumes from entering any nearby aquaria with live specimens via air pumps.
And, as Dr. Anderson noted, when you’ve had a disease outbreak that warrants breaking down and sterilizing the system, it’s a good idea to install and maintain UV sterilization on that tank in the future when it’s up and running again.
Best of luck sterilizing your seahorse tank and equipment and getting it running smoothly again, Tracey.
Just semi-a quick note off list ([email protected]) if you would like to receive the sea horse training program, including the lesson that is to avoid it to disease prevention and control.
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