Ocean Rider Seahorse Farm and Tours | Kona Hawaii › Forums › Seahorse Life and Care › Seahorse with no face?
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January 20, 2011 at 12:39 am #1862AnonymousInactive
One of my seahorses at work has absolutely no snout. She is otherwise plump, and content looking. She swims around fine, and looks as though she is hunting, but from eyeballs down, theres nothing. When feeding the ponies last night, she looked interested in food, and chased some mysis around the tank, but I didn’t see her snick anything.
I noticed about 2 weeks ago that she was missing her snout, and she’s still doing okay.
Is it possible she’s just not eating, if so how has she maintained her weight?
I will watch again while feeding her tonight, but have you heard of this before? Could it be that she got snout rot bad enough to disintegrate her whole snout!? I’m hesitant to try and treat her for anything, because she seems healthy otherwise.
Any ideas would be appreciated.
Thanks, LisaJanuary 20, 2011 at 9:06 am #5254Pete GiwojnaGuest
I am very sorry to hear about your female seahorse that has lost her snout. It’s difficult to determine how she may have arrived at this pitiful condition but it was most likely the result of snout rot or a traumatic injury that amputated her tube snout. Snout rot is progressive and I have seen seahorses that have lost most of their tube snout as a result of such infections. But it takes time for the tissue erosion to advance to the point where the snout is actually eaten away and I cannot imagine that you would not have noticed such a problem before your female’s entire snout was lost to the infection.
So I’m thinking that your female has probably lost her tube mouth as the result of some sort of disastrous injury. A large crustacean such as a stomotopod (mantis shrimp), reef lobster (Enoplometapus), or a sizable crab could inflict such injury in an attack on the seahorse. Or her snout may have been amputated by some piece of apparatus or aquarium equipment in a freak accident of some sort. (I can imagine the impeller from a water pump or powerhead doing that sort of damage, for example, if your female’s snout was pulled into the intake.)
It’s hard to imagine your female surviving this sort of traumatic injury, Lisa, because the loss of the tube snout would seriously affect the ability of the seahorse to generate enough suction to slurp up its prey. The appropriate treatment would be a regimen of broad-spectrum antibiotics to prevent secondary infections from setting in at the site of the injury, but any such treatment is bound to be a futile gesture if the disfigured seahorse is unable to feed. A well fed seahorse in good condition can sometimes last weeks without food before it starve to death, but they tend to go downhill fast once they have finally exhausted their limited energy reserves.
So I think the first thing you need to do is to determine if the affected seahorse can still actually eat, Lisa. If, as I suspect, she has lost the ability to produce sufficient suction in order to suck up the frozen Mysis, you might try force feeding the seahorses by hand instead.
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 oral cavity/esophagus far enough, her feeding instincts will kick in and take over so that she swallows 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, Lisa, although I have never tried this technique on a seahorse that had lost its snout completely.
If the female seahorse is still unable to swallow the Mysis when you assist her by hand feeding, Lisa, then I don’t see much hope for her and you may want to think about euthanasia.
If there is a silver lining in this case, perhaps it is that the rest of the seahorses are unlikely to be affected in any way. If your female lost her tube snout in some sort of freak accident, chances are none of the other seahorses will be so unfortunate. And if her tube snout was eaten away by snout rot, most such problems are the result of secondary infections that set in at the site of a mechanical injury, and snout rot is therefore not normally contagious at all.
Here’s an excerpt on snout rot from my new book, (Complete Guide to Greater Seahorses in the Aquarium, unpublished) which explains how snout rot normally proceeds, Lisa:
Snout rot is a dreadful disease that afflicts all Syngnathids. It’s a dangerous disease that requires immediate treatment in order to save the seahorse.
Snout rot is the result of an infection, which can be either bacterial or fungal in nature (Giwojna, Oct. 2003). The initial symptoms are discoloration and slight swelling in the affected area of the snout. At this early stage, the seahorse is often not bothered by its affliction and eats and feeds normally. But don’t let that lead to complacency — you cannot afford to take a "wait-and-see" approach with this affliction! As the disease progresses, the infection will begin to eat away the underlying tissue, and if left untreated, snout rot is both disfiguring and deadly (Giwojna, Oct. 2003).
The tip of the snout is often the first area affected, becoming inflamed and eroding away, and once its mouthparts are involved, the seahorse can usually no longer be saved. It is unable to feed, its jaws disintegrate, and the tip of the snout is progressively eaten away (Giwojna, Oct. 2003). I have seen seahorses with over half their snouts missing, and euthanasia is the only recourse for fish in this pathetic condition.
I have seen several cases of snout rot as a secondary infection in seahorses recovering from protozoan parasites that attack the gills, and in those cases the progression of the disease was somewhat different (Giwojna, Oct. 2003). The barrel of the snout was often affected rather than the tip, and instead of the end of the snout eroding away, one or more holes were eaten through the snout elsewhere (Giwojna, Oct. 2003). Although its jaws and mouthparts are intact when this happens, the seahorse’s ability to feed is still impaired because it can’t generate adequate suction through its suddenly "leaky" snout. In such cases, the snout rot may be preceded or accompanied by other unusual ailments, such as weak snick, trigger lock or "lockjaw (Giwojna, Oct. 2003)."
There is considerable anecdotal evidence suggesting that bacterial snout rot can be differentiated from the fungal form of the disease by a close visual inspection (a hand lens or magnifying glass may be required for this). If the snout rot is due to a fungal infection, the affected area of the snout is often pinkish and may appear lumpy or raised, whereas when bacterial infection is at work, white tissue is exposed upon flaking or sloughing of the skin (Giwojna, Oct. 2003). Thus, many hobbyists maintain that if the affected area of the snout looks pinkish, it’s fungus, but if the affected area appears whitish, it’s a bacterial problem (Giwojna, Oct. 2003). This information can help guide you to the appropriate treatment.
Medications with powerful antifungal agents such as nifurpirinol (the active ingredient in Furanase) are a good treatment for snout rot when a fungal infection is indicated (Giwojna, Oct. 2003). A wide spectrum antibiotic such as kanamycin or neomycin, or both combined together, is a good choice when bacterial snout rot is indicated (Giwojna, Oct. 2003).
If you are unsure whether bacteria or fungus is involved, combining nifurpirinol (Furanase) with kanamycin and/or neomycin is an excellent option, as is treating with a good combination drug that has both antifungal and antibacterial properties (Giwojna, Oct. 2003). Treatment should take place in a hospital ward or quarantine tank to avoid nuking your biofilter.
Furan2 is another good choice for an antibiotic for snout rot when the lesion appears pinkish or reddish rather than white (nifurpirinol or Furanase is also one of the nitrofuran antibiotics), The active ingredients in Furan 2 consist of two nitrofuran antibiotics (nitrofurazone and furazolidone) plus good old methylene blue.
However, you have to take special precautions when administering nitrofuran antibiotics because they are photosensitive and can be deactivated by light. (I suspect that’s the main reason for adding methylene blue to the medication — the dye in the methylene blue will darken the aquarium water and absorb light, which will help prevent the nitrofuran antibiotics from being deactivated.) So be sure to leave the aquarium light off on your hospital tank if you opt to treat the seahorse with Furan 2.
For best results I would recommend applying anti-fungal and antibacterial ointments affected area of the snout topically each day, while treating the seahorse with antibiotics in your hospital tank. The medications the pros prefer for this are 1% Silver Sulfadiazine Cream and Animax (or a triple antibiotic ointment).
The Silver Sulfadiazine Cream is specific for fungus, whereas the triple antibiotic ointment tackles secondary bacterial infection of the lesion. Here is how curators use these topical creams to treat similar lesions on the snouts of their prized Seadragons:
"It was best to treat the animal out of the water (although I know this can be a problem with seadragons). Animax was applied first and left on the animal out of the water for 30 seconds. The animal was then placed in a second bucket of tank water to allow the Animax to disperse and the seahorse to breathe before applying the Silver Sulfadiazine Cream. The Animax is rather liquidy, so it sloughs off the animal quickly in water. The Silver Sulfadiazine Cream was then applied with a small wooden applicator (the blunt end of a toothpick might also work well) and the animal returned to the tank. The Silver Sulfadiazine Cream is thicker in consistency so it stays on the animal for quite a while. It might make sense to treat the animal during an off-feed time of day if treating the snout. If the animal is off-feed, it might make sense to tube feed the animal." (Paul Anderson, pers. comm.)
You might need to obtain the Silver Sulfadiazine Cream and Animax from a veterinarian, but you could always get a triple antibiotic ointment off-the-shelf at any drugstore that would probably work as well as the Animax.
Okay, Lisa, that’s a quick look at snout rot, but I don’t know if a secondary infection of some sort is involved in the case of your female or if she fell victim to some sort of a traumatic injury. If she can still feed despite the loss of her snout — with or without handfeeding — then you might want to consider treating her with broad-spectrum antibiotics to prevent infection from setting in (or from progressing any further).
If the female cannot feed even with your assistance, I would consider euthanasia. If euthanasia should become necessary, the "clove oil and tank water" technique discussed below is a perfectly painless procedure that can be performed by the home hobbyist:
Article by Aquatic expert, BuddyHolly
Clove Oil and Tank Water Method
Buy pure clove oil. You can get it at a health food store. For a larger fish such as a goldfish, you’ll want to make sure you have enough on hand. Two ounces minimum. Put the fish in a medium to large sized mixing bowl (depending on the size of the fish) in his own water from his tank. In a small jar or or something with a lid (I use a cleaned out jelly jar – about 6 ounces) mix the clove oil with tank water. Use ? ounce for bettas, an ounce for larger fish, and have more on hand for really large fish such as goldfish, oscars, pacus, etc. Put the lid on and shake it like crazy over and over until the liquid in it is white. Then pour a little into the mixing bowl with the fish. Swirl it with your hand. The fish might fight it just a little bit and then slow down. Then pour a little more in and swirl again. He should just go to sleep and appear dead. If he doesn’t, try a little more of the clove solution, always shaking very well before an addition to the bowl. When he goes to sleep, leave him in the solution for a good 10 minutes and then put him in a small cup or ziplock baggie and put him in the freezer. Pain free death. Very humane. We should all go so easily.
Best of luck dealing with this unfortunate development, Lisa. Please let me know if your female is somehow able to eat and recover from the loss of her snout.
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