Ocean Rider Seahorse Farm and Tours | Kona Hawaii › Forums › Seahorse Life and Care › Sick tank syndrome and running out of ideas
- This topic has 5 replies, 2 voices, and was last updated 15 years, 4 months ago by Pete Giwojna.
January 19, 2008 at 7:58 pm #1337TammieMember
I am new to this forum.
I have four seahorses, one reidi (which I have had for nearly two years) and three kudas (which I have had for nearly one year). A few months ago I had an ammonia spike in all my fish tanks. Everyone where I lived had the same thing happen so I think it was a general problem with the water. Many hobbists lost their horses, so I am fortunate (thanks to the advice of many experts) but I have had no end of problems.
My male Kuda would unhitch and swim around bending forward < and twitching. His pouch was wide open and his colour would change from black to almost pure white. He does something similar when he is courting the females but this is different. The movements are more \"violent\" and stressful. I tried myxicine (a broad spectrum antibiotic) but it seemed to make the twitching much worse. Eventually that stopped. Then he had a bloated pouch twice and trouble swimming. Both times I evacuted, what seemed like, a lot of air. Following that he developed a weak snick. I hand fed him for three weeks. I didn\’t have to resort to tube feeding but I had to catch him and put the tail of the mysis shrimp into his snout and he would snick them up. I gave him two freshwater dips (which he tolerated well) and a course of triple sulfa. He came good and is eating his usual amount.
Also, one of my females has had a cloudy eye for about two months. I have tried myxicine and a freshwater dip. She was better for a while but in the last two days she has had trouble locating her food so I have been handfeeding her as well.
The water seems fine. Ammonia is 0, Nitrates and Nitrites are fine. Ph is about 8.2. Tank temperature is 24C.
Yesterday I bought a UV filter to help clean up the display tank and time will tell if it is effective. My reidi and the other female kuda appear to be fine (fingers crossed).
This morning I noticed the male Kuda twitching again and he seemed really distressed. He is still eating well so I think I have time. I put both him and the female with the cloudy eye in the hospital tank and I am treating them with triple sulfa. He seems more settled.
It is night time here and I don\’t want to turn on the lights and disturb them. I can see the shapes of both of them hitched and upright, I will take that as a good sign for now.
I keep my medications in the fridge. I currently have:
Formalin (I am really scared to use this)
myxicine (I don\’t think my male Kuda tolerates this well)
melafix (I don\’t know if seahorses tolerate this)
I am running out of ideas on what to do and I am considering pulling the tank apart, cleaning it thoroughly and setting it back up but I am more likely to loose my horses this way. If anyone out there has had a similar experience I would love to hear how you treated it.
Also, does anyone know whether it is safe and/or helpful to mix triple sulfa and methylene blue?
Tammie (and Dasher, Dancer, Prancer and Rudolph)January 20, 2008 at 6:16 am #3944TammieGuest
Woke up this morning and all is well. The male Kuda is more relaxed. He had some twitching but not as violent and he didn’t change colour. He ate his breakfast with his usual gusto! The female was swimming around but not all that interested in eating (I don’t think she likes the hospital tank). I hand fed her a few mysis shrimp. Her eye is looking clearer than yesterday.
The triple sulfa seems to be working.
I was reading on this website that Kuda’s are better placed with experienced seahorse owners. My poor fish! Even though I have had seahorses for two years, I still consider myself a beginner. When they are healthy and thriving, I may change my status to novice.
Another question: At what point would you consider a Formalin dip? Is it appropriate to dip all four seahorses as a precaution?
LonnieJanuary 21, 2008 at 1:23 am #3946Pete GiwojnaGuest
Welcome to the Club! I’m sorry to hear about the recent difficulties you’ve been having following the ammonia spike in your aquariums, but I would be happy to help you get the situation back to normal again. As you know, an ammonia spike is stressful to seahorses and can suppress their immune systems, leaving them vulnerable to opportunistic infections. I suspect that is what may have led to your male Hippocampus kuda’s buoyancy problems and bloated pouch, as well as the cloudy eye on your female H. kuda, and you did well to bring all of your seahorses safely through the crisis caused by the rise in the ammonia levels.
It’s good to hear that the seahorses that had been adversely affected are doing better today. It’s encouraging that the male is eating like a horse again and that the female’s eye appears to be clearing up a little. I would complete the regimen of triple sulfa you have begun in the hospital tank since it seems to be helping.
Yes, you are quite correct that the energetic pouch displays (i.e., Pumping) that male seahorses perform during courtship are quite similar to the behavior of your male H. kuda, Tammie. In addition to performing the abdominal crunches and pumping water in and out of their pouches, the courting males also brighten in coloration during these displays, so it would not be unusual for a dark-colored male to turn almost white during these courtship displays.
However, males also Pump vigorously for other reasons as well. For example, their courtship displays are virtually identical to the motions that gravid males go through when delivering their young, and the same pumping motions are used to cleanse and flush out their pouches prior to mating and receiving a new clutch of eggs. So I would trust your instincts regarding your male kuda, Tammie — if the abdominal crunches and pumping he has been doing recently seems different than his normal courtship displays, perhaps more agitated and distressed, then there is a good chance that there is something irritating his pouch and that that is what’s triggering this behavior.
If that’s the case, then I would suggest performing a pouch flush or series of pouch flushes to help cleanse his pouch and relieve the irritation if the problem recurs. Flushing the pouch can be a little tricky if you have never performed the procedure before, so first I will run through several different methods of flushing out the pouch so you can get a better feel for what’s involved, and then recommend the procedure that I think might be most effective in your case.
For example, if you have a pouch kit from Ocean Rider, here are the instructions for using your pouch kit to perform such a pouch flush, Tammie:
Pouch Kit Instructions
Click here: Seahorse.com – Seahorse, Sea Life, Marine Life, Aquafarm Sales, Feeds and Accessories – Pouch Wash
The antibiotic pouch kit should be like a fire extinguisher in the kitchen and used only in an emergency and NEVER as a prophylactic. Please perform this procedure in a separate vessel so that the antibiotic wash does not flow into the holding tank. You may wish to trim the plastic tip of the syringe attachment to accommodate the orpheus of your seahorse. You can express the air in the pouch by gently inserting this tip into the opening.
PLEASE KEEP REFRIGERATED shake well before using
What you need to do:
First: Find someone to help you!
Second: Keep the head and gill area of the seahorse submerged at all times! You may cut the end of the tip to fit your needs.
Third: The Procedure should be preformed in a separate hospital tank where the antibiotic flush will not harm your biological filter:
*Have one person hold the seahorse upside down with the head in the water and his tail and abdomen out of the water. He may wrap his tail firmly around your finger. Insert the tip of the pipette into the opening in the pouch being careful not to insert it too far. (You may cut the end of the tip to fit your needs.)
*Gently massage out any air bubbles into the pipette.
*Remove the pipette and express the air bubbles from the pipette.
*Rinse the tip of the pipette with alcohol and let dry.
*Withdraw approximately 2 ml’s of pouch wash into the pipette. The quantity will actually vary according to the size of the males pouch. The extra large males can easily use 2 mls of pouch wash and the smaller males less than one.
*Reinsert the tip into the pouch and gently force the liquid into the pouch and then gently suck it out. Do this twice and then release the male into his tank.
*He may seem slightly stunned or shocked. Don’t panic! Simply turn off the lights and allow the male to rest. If you have any red shrimp he may enjoy them at this time.
*You may have to repeat this procedure again the following day.
*Return him to his normal diet of frozen mysis shrimp enriched with Vibrance the day after the procedure.
*You may email ocean rider with questions, or if you are a member of the Ocean Rider Club ask them for assistance.
Flushing the pouch can be a tricky procedure and I know it’s intimidating the first time you perform the procedure, Tammie, so I’ll provide you with some additional instructions by myself and others that explained some of the other approaches to flushing the seahorse’s pouch in greater detail. For starters, here are detailed instructions from Leslie Leddo and myself explaining how to perform a pouch flush:
"Pouch Flush Techniques and Tips"
By Leslie Leddo
You will need:
·A small syringe. I like to use a 1-cc syringe.
·A catheter of some sort. It needs to be something that is plastic, very narrow, cannulated, blunt tipped, semi pliable, but not so soft that it bends from just a bit of pressure, on one end and fits snugly on to the tip of a syringe at the opposite end. Some suggestions would include an a plastic intravenous catheter, with the center introducer needle used to puncture the skin and vein order to introduce the catheter removed, a plastic pipette, or the syringe tips that come inside some of the aquarium test kits. If you have access to an IV catheter any size, between an 18 and 25g will work well.
·A bowl. I like to use something with a wide rim so I have space to move freely and have enough room should I need another pair of hands…i.e., an assistant. The syringe and pipette/catheter are both used to flush the pouch as well as to aspirate the previous days flush from the pouch.
How to prepare the Syringe and Catheter:
Draw about 1cc of the medicated flush solution into the syringe by pulling back on the plunger.
Invert the syringe so the tip is pointed up. With the syringe inverted, gently tap it until all the air bubbles come to the surface just below the syringe tip; with the syringe still inverted depress the plunger until all the air is removed from the syringe and a small amount of the solution is emerging from the syringe tip.
Attach the catheter or pipette to the tip of the syringe, depress the plunger of the syringe to fill (prime) the catheter or pipette with the solution.
Okay, now you are ready to flush the pouch. Proceed as follows:
Gently place the horse in the bowl filled with his own tank water. Very gently and slowly introduce the tip of the catheter through the pouch opening, into the pouch. When you enter the pouch you may meet some resistance. If you encounter resistance when inserting the catheter, I have found that it helps to try different angles, rather than pushing forcefully. I have never dissected a seahorse, but from all the evacuations and flushes I have done it feels to me as if the opening to the pouch is more than a simple opening. It feels like a short tunnel, with folds or pockets of tissue along the walls of the tunnel. I have had to flush/evacuate several different horses. They all seem to be built a bit differently.
I have had success entering the pouch opening straight and then angling the catheter down a bit as well as entering at an angle from the start.
Once you have the catheter tip inside the pouch, depress the plunger of the syringe, flushing the pouch until you see some of the solution coming back out of the pouch. Continue to flush the pouch with about .2 to .3 cc.
Once the pouch has been flushed, you want to leave a small amount of flush inside the pouch. Pulling back on the plunger aspirate the some of the fluid until some of the solution has been removed from the pouch, leaving enough so that the pouch remains softly full, but is not at all taught or tight. Place your horse back in his tank
The next day, prior to the new flush, aspirate the previous days flush from the pouch. Using the syringe with the catheter/pipette attached to the tip, insert it as described above. Pull back on the plunger of the syringe withdrawing the flush from the day before.
Now you are ready to administer the newly mixed flush by repeating the steps described above.
Antibiotic Pouch Washes
If you can obtain a suitable small glass eyedropper with a rubber squeeze bulb, the tip of which you can insert into the pouch orifice, you can use the eyedropper to flush the pouch instead. Otherwise, you’ll have to obtain a small pipette or use a small syringe and catheter for the flushes, as previously described in Leslie Leddo’s pouch flushing tips. You will be flushing the male’s pouch once a day for three consecutive days, using a medicated pouch flush solution.
The first thing you’ll need to do is prepare the pouch flush solution. I recommend using a combination of nifurpirinol and neomycin sulfate for the pouch flushes, since that combo works together synergistically to forms a wide spectrum antibiotic with potent antifungal as well as antibacterial properties (Basleer, 2000). Nifurpirinol and neomycin sulfate are the active ingredients in two different commercial products designed for aquarium use, and both of them should both be readily available at your local fish store. Prepare a 50:50 solution by taking approximately 1/10 teaspoon of nifurpirinol and 1/10 teaspoon of neomycin powder (from a capsule) and mixing them together with about 40 cc (or 2-1/2 tablespoons) of tank water from your seahorse setup. (Nifurpirinol comes in tablet form, so you’ll have to crush a tablet into as fine a powder as possible, using a blender if necessary, and then use 1/10 teaspoon of this nifurpirinol powder for the mixture.) Mix the nifurpirinol powder and neomycin sulfate powder with the tank water very well until the medication is thoroughly dissolved. Avoid any undissolved residue that remains. (You will have to make up a new batch of this solution each day for 3 days.)
If you can’t find both nifurpirinol and neomycin, then you can use either one alone, or substitute kanamycin capsules alone, to make your medicated pouch solution. In that case, just use 1/10 teaspoon of the antibiotic powder and mix it thoroughly with about 20 cc (or 1-1/2 tablespoons) of tank water. Again, make a new batch of pouch-flush solution each day.
And here are instructions from Keith Gentry explaining how to do a pouch-flush directly with Diamox:
In cases of recurring pouch emphysema, diamox can be administered as a solution injected into the pouch via an narrow gauge irrigating cannula or plastic 26 or 28 gauge IV catheter sleeve attached to a 0.5 or 1ml syringe (larger syringes should not be used).
Using a blender, mix ½ of a 250mg Diamox tablet with a cup of seawater at the same specific gravity as the tank. Fill the syringe with about .5ml of this solution, avoiding the residue at the bottom of the cup. The seahorse should be held as per the procedure for pouch evacuations.
Insert the catheter sleeve slowly and gently a small way into the pouch opening and inject this solution SLOWLY into the seahorse’s pouch, leaving the solution in the pouch. Make sure you are familiar with the location of the pouch opening.
Never use a metal needle for this procedure.
The procedure may have to be repeated twice to be effective. In stubborn cases, it is recommended to concurrently administer broad spectrum antibiotics. Diamox and antibiotics have been used simultaneously and successfully without appararent side effects.
I believe the dosage of antibiotic is one 250mg tablet of neosulfex per 10 gallons. It’s important you treat the horse in a quarantine tank. Diamox and neosulfex can kill your
For neomycin and sulfa you can use up to 4 times the marine dosage listed on the instruction or are up to 8 times the recommended freshwater dosage. [End quote]
Finally, here are Neil Garrick-Maidment’s instructions for performing his extremely successful pouch flushing procedure:
Hope you don’t mind me interjecting on the point about gas bubble in the
pouch but it is important to emphasise a few things.
When I devised and developed this treatment quite a number of years ago, I
was shocked to hear some of the ways people were clearing the bubbles within
the pouch, from cocktail sticks to straws, which caused irreparable damage
to the pouch and the Seahorse. It is vital that great care is taken when
doing this process and the purchase of a fine blunt ended pipette from the
chemist is the best way.
When handling the Seahorse make sure you have a
firm grip with the pouch facing outwards under the water, its best to have
the tail curled around the little finger to add stability. Then insert the
pipette almost vertically, through the pouch opening so the pipette goes
down into the pouch (almost parallel with the body) and not in towards the
body which will cause major internal and secondary problems.
Once the pipette is safely in the pouch then a fine nozzled hand spray (it must be
fine to fit into the end of the pipette) must be used to flush down through
the pipette, you will notice bubbles of gas being vented from the pouch as
you flush the pouch, initially with water from the tank, this stops shock to
the animal and at the same time clears the pouch. This same method (do not
remove the pipette in between stages) should then be used to add medication
When withdrawing the pipette use a slight twisting motion and remove in
exactly the same direction as it has gone in. The Seahorse will seem a
little shell shocked after this but the immediate release from floating etc
will provide instant relief.
I have had 100% success with this process but
you must be in mind of the Seahorse and its discomfort at all times.
Just before starting make sure you have all your equipment and medication in
place, there is nothing worse than getting part way through and realising
you have forgotten something.
Hope this helps
Neil Garrick-Maidment [close quote]
One of these techniques should work well for you, depending on what medications and equipment you have on hand or have access to for performing the pouch flushes. But in your case, Tammie, I think Neil’s pouch flush technique would produce the best results for your male kuda.
As for the formalin, I do feel you that your female H. kuda may benefit from a formalin bath to help clear up her cloudy eye, but the formalin bath can be stressful so I would not treat the best of the seahorses that are not showing any such symptoms. Here are the instructions for administering a formalin bath to your female kuda, Tammie:
Formalin (HCHO) is basically a 37% solution of formaldehyde and water. It is a potent external fungicide, external protozoacide, and antiparasitic, and is thus an effective medication for eradicating external parasites, treating fungal lesions, and reducing the swelling from such infections. It is a wonder drug for treating cases of Popeye caused by trematodes, and also eradicates external nematodes.
In my experience, provided it is administered properly, seahorses tolerate treatment with formalin very well at therapeutic dosages. For a long term bath the correct dose is 15 to 25 mg/L. [Note: 25 mg/L equals 1 ml (cc) of 37% formalin per 10 gallons of water.] This is done every other day for 3 treatments.
For a short term bath (dip) the correct dose is 250 mg/L. This would equal 1 ml (cc) of 37% formalin per 1 gallon of water. This should be for about 45 minutes to 1 hour. In my opinion, formalin is a safe, effective treatment for parasitic infections in seahorses providing you don’t exceed these dosages and observe the following precautions for administering the medication properly:
Many commercial formalin products are readily available to hobbyists, such as Kordon’s Formalin 3, Formalin-F sold by Natchez Animal Supply, and Paracide-F, sold by Argent go to top Chemical Laboratories. Or whatever brand of formalin is available at your fish store should work fine, Pam.
A formalin bath simply involves immersing the seahorse in a container of saltwater which contains the proper dosage of formalin for a period of 30-60 minutes before transferring it to your hospital tank. Include a hitching post of some sort in the container and follow these instructions: place the fish in a three-gallon bucket or a similar clean, inert container containing precisely one gallon of siphoned, aerated tank water. Medicate the bucket of water with with the appropriate amount of formalin for a concentrated bath according to the directions on the label. Place an airstone in the bucket and leave the fish in the bath for 30 minutes. If at any time the fish becomes listless, exhausted or loses its balance, immediately place the fish in clean, untreated water in your hospital tank.
I want you to be aware of these precautions when administering the formalin bath:
Formalin has limited shelf life and degrades to the highly toxic substance paraformaldehyde (identified as a white precipitate on the bottom of the solution); avoid using any formalin product which has such a precipitate at the bottom of the bottle.
Formalin basically consumes oxygen so vigorous aeration must be provided during treatment.
Time the bath closely and never exceed one hour of chemical exposure at this concentration.
Observe the seahorse closely during the bath at all times, and it show signs of distress before the allotted time has elapsed, remove it from the treatment immediately.
If you can obtain Formalin 3 from Kordon at your LFS, Pam, these are the instructions you should follow for your formalin dip:
METHOD 2 (DIP) FOR THE PREVENTION OR TREATMENT OF FISH DISEASES
(a) To a clean, non-metallic container (i.e., a plastic bucket), add one or more gallons of fresh tap water treated with Kordon’s AmQuel . For marine fish use freshly prepared saltwater adjusted to the same specific gravity (or salinity) as in the original tank. Make sure the temperature in the container is identical to that in the aquarium
(b) Add 1 teaspoons of Formalin·3. This produces a concentration of 100 ppm. formaldehyde.
(c) Agitate the solution with an airstone and adjust for a moderately strong flow of air.
(d) Remove the fishes to be treated and deposit them in the container for a treatment period of not more than 50 minutes. Immediately after the treatment period, or if signs of distress are noted, remove the fishes to a previously prepared recovery tank. The fishes may be returned to their original tank, but the presence of the original disease-causing agents in the tank water may result in a reoccurrence of the disease condition.
(e) Observe recovering fishes. Make sure that tankmates do not molest them during recovery.
(f) Repeat treatment as needed, every week. Each treatment is very stressful to the treated fishes. Do not reuse the dip solution.
For additional information on treating fishes with Formalin 3 by Kordon, see the following web page:
Click here: KPD-54 Formalin-3
If you get another brand of formalin, just follow the instructions that it comes with for a concentrated bath or dip (not prolonged immersion or a long-term bath). After the bath, return your female to the hospital tank to complete the regimen of triple sulfa.
Best of luck clearing a your female’s cloudy eye and getting your seahorse tank back to normal again, Tammie! I think installing an ultraviolet sterilizer on your main tank was a rise precaution and may well help prevent such problems in the future.
Pete GiwojnaJanuary 21, 2008 at 3:55 pm #3947TammieGuest
Thank you for your advice. It is so nice to have someone with the expertise that you have available. You must really care!
Both my females are in a Formalin dip right now!!! The other female had a few white spots on one of her fins behind her gill and her gills were pale so I figured I would give it a try.
I can tell you that they are coping way better than I am. I don’t know why this treatment scares me a bit – kind of like the first time I had to do a pouch extraction – yikes.
They have been in for 15 minutes now. Neither is very active but they are breathing. I sure hope I don’t kill them.
LonnieJanuary 21, 2008 at 4:40 pm #3948TammieGuest
Whew! The formalin dip is complete and both are alive. The female with the white spots (looks more like cotton than spots) is hiding. I will check her in the morning when she has forgiven me. At the moment she is a bit shocked by all the handling. The female with the cloudy eye isn’t hiding but she isn’t very happy with me. She is perched near the male. I am going to turn out the tank lights and leave them in peace until morming.
Both females are hitched upright – I hope that is a good sign.
I have one question. Does all this handling, ie from the display tank to the hospital tank to the formalin dip back to the hospital tank stress them. Tomorrow the male and female with the cloudy eye are due back in the diplay tank. Do you have any recommendations on the maximum moves per day/week etc.
When preparing the formalin dip, I used water from the main tank and then replaced it with new water. I am careful to keep the hospital tank and the main tank roughly the same. I often use water from the main tank to fill the hospital tank. I am hoping it reduces the stress the horses are under.
Anyway, I suppose fungus/bacteria/parasites will definitely kill them so this is their best chance.
The male is much better. He was courting the female this morning in his ‘usual’ way. No more twitching.
I hope that this is near the end of my problems.
TammieJanuary 22, 2008 at 4:06 am #3951Pete GiwojnaGuest
It sounds like he did an excellent job of administering the formalin treatments. I know it’s intimidating the first time you perform such baths, but providing the treatment water is well aerated and you observe the necessary precautions, it has been my experience that seahorses tolerate the formalin very well. Many times only one of the formalin baths is needed, so hopefully it won’t be necessary to repeat the procedure.
Of course, any time seahorses must be handled for any sort of treatment or be transferred from their familiar surroundings to a strange new environment, it is always stressful to a certain degree. But handling the seahorses properly (see discussion below) can minimize this stress. Ordinarily, though, the seahorses will forgive you and forget all about the traumatic transfer by the time their next feeding rolls around, so they rebound pretty quickly. As a rule, you want to minimize handling and transferring the seahorses as much as possible, but some conditions that respond well to topical treatments require the medication to be applied to 2-3 times a day for a week to 10 days, and the seahorses often do well under such circumstances. (The more they are handled, the more accustomed to the whole procedure they become.)
In your case, Lonnie, the transfer back to the main tank should be relatively easy on the seahorses, since they will be happy to be returned to their familiar surroundings and the more spacious accommodations in the seahorse tank. Here are some suggestions for handling the seahorses to assure that all goes well:
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.
Best of luck with your Hippocampus kuda and H. reidi seahorses, Lonnie!
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