- This topic has 5 replies, 2 voices, and was last updated 16 years, 5 months ago by Pete Giwojna.
September 2, 2007 at 1:26 am #1271ScubagalMember
My female seahorse has recently quit eating, but I could not determine anything wrong with her. I have now noticed that her upper tail is swollen around where the oppening is and the opening is open wide and looks whiteish on the inside puffing out. I have heard about gas bubble disease and don\’t know if this is what it could be. Help. I have dealt with weak snit before, but this something new.
Thanks!September 2, 2007 at 4:11 am #3802Pete GiwojnaGuest
I’m sorry to hear that your female seahorse has developed a problem. It’s difficult to be certain without a photograph to go from, but her problem does not sound like tail bubbles or subcutaneous emphysema, which is the most common form of gas bubble disease.
Rather, the swelling in the region of her vent suggests that your female may have become egg bound, and that there is now some prolapsed tissue protruding from her vent as a result. Here is an excerpt
my new book (Complete Guide to the Greater Seahorses in the Aquarium, unpublished) that discusses egg binding in more detail:
Egg Binding: a Health Risk for Breeding Females.
<quote> Egg binding occurs when a female has ripened (hydrated) a clutch of eggs and is unable to deposit them with a mate or release them for some reason. As more eggs develop, the egg bound female becomes increasing bloated and great pressure begins to build up internally. The abdomen will be very swollen, especially around the vent, and often prolapsed tissue or other material will begin to protrude from the vent as the pressure builds. The affected female will show rapid respiration and may go off her feed. If the pressure cannot be relieved, death results.
Tracy Warland describes a typical case in a female Potbelly (Hippocampus abdominalis) as follows: "Went into the shed one morning to find an adult mare, probably fully mature, in distress. She had been living quite happily in the main tank with about 10 males to meet any desire she might have. Anyway she was lying on the bottom of the tank, panting. I removed her immediately and placed her in sick tank, thought it could be parasites so gave her several 5-minute freshwater baths, but these did not seem to help. I had checked all parameters of large tank the day before so I knew the water was pristine, no other horse was stressed.
When I was putting her back after a freshwater bath, I was supporting her upright for a few minutes to see if she could hitch somewhere. I applied very slight pressure to her belly, and out shot masses of orange stuff. I collected some and checked under the microscope and it looked very much like roe, but the yolk was almost smashed, with globules of a fat-like substance within the centre. We’ve had roe before, due to unsuccessful egg transfer, so we picked up some of bottom of tank and checked it out! I put it down to women’s problems, egg bound, could not discharge unfertilized eggs, these became rotten within her and therefore caused perhaps fever like symptoms."
Egg binding is uncommon in seahorses. Most females have no problem simply dumping their eggs and spilling them on the bottom when a receptive male is unavailable. But there are two circumstances that sometimes promote egg binding. One of them is when breeding seahorses are kept in a tank that’s too shallow. Courtship will proceed normally and the female will hydrate her clutch of eggs in due course, but the pair will then be unable to complete the copulatory rise due to the lack of depth. In such a situation, the female is very reluctant too dump her eggs while a receptive male is standing by, eager to receive them. If she retains the ripened eggs too long in hope that they will be able to complete the egg transfer despite the inadequate vertical swimming space, she may become egg bound.
The other situation that may predispose females to egg binding is when the sexes are segregated. For example, Heather Hall reports that the London Zoo was so successful in breeding and raising the prolific Cape Seahorse (Hippocampus capensis) that, at one point, they were forced to separate the males and females in order to bring a halt to the population explosion that resulted (Bull and Mitchell, 2002, p 30). However, they were soon forced to abandon their experiment in enforced abstinence because it proved stressful to the seahorses and the isolated females began developing swollen abdomens and experiencing difficulty with egg binding when deprived of the opportunity to breed (Bull and Mitchell, 2002, p 30).
There is no ready cure for egg binding and attempts to manually massage the eggs from the body usually only result in internal injuries. However, there is a folk remedy that’s commonly used to treat egg binding in freshwater fish. This treatment consists of placing the affected fish in a bath of Epsom salts (magnesium sulfate) for 10-15 minutes at a dosage of one tablespoon of Epsom salt for every one-gallon of water (Duedall, 2004). The Epsom baths are repeated once a day until the patient recovers (Duedall, 2004).
I have no idea if this remedy would have any affect on a marine fish, but many freshwater hobbyists swear by it, and egg binding is fatal if unresolved so you really have nothing to lose by trying it. Epsom salts are certainly inexpensive and readily available. If you want to give it a go, I suggest administering a 10-15 minute freshwater bath with one tablespoon of magnesium sulfate per gallon added to the bath water. Mix in the magnesium salts thoroughly, aerate the container, and observe the usual precautions for any freshwater dip. Repeat once daily as needed.
As always, prevention is the best cure. If you provide your seahorses with a reasonably tall aquarium and avoid separating the males from the females, there is a very good chance you will never see a case of egg binding. <end quote>
Okay, that’s the quick rundown on egg binding, scuba gal. If it sounds like you’re female’s problem could indeed be due to egg binding, you may want to try a 10 minute freshwater bath in Epsom salts as described above. I don’t know if it would resolve the problem, but I can tell you that egg binding is a fatal condition if it is not corrected and the pressure cannot be relieved.
Best of luck providing your female with relief, scuba gal.
Pete GiwojnaSeptember 2, 2007 at 11:32 pm #3807ScubagalGuest
Thanks Pete. I just gave her her fist bath in Epson salt. She seemed to do just fine in it. I must admit that ther white stuff sticking out of the vent is greater today and that she also has another hole that has developed a little below the vent. It doesn’t sound too good, but as you said, I have nothing to lose trying this. I will keep you posted.September 3, 2007 at 1:28 am #3808Pete GiwojnaGuest
It’s good that she tolerated her first freshwater bath of Epsom salts so well. About all you can do in a case like this is to repeat the Epson salt baths once a day and hope that the baths will stimulate the release of the eggs and relieve the blockage.
The prognosis for this condition is poor, but if it’s any consolation, egg binding is of course not at all contagious so none of the other seahorses should be affected. The fact that more prolapsed tissue now seems to be protruding from her vent is an indication that the pressure is building up internally, but the appearance of a second opening could actually be a good sign. The seahorse’s vent is the cleft that is formed by the openings of the anus (uppermost) and the urogenital pore. The opening for the anus is superior, so the opening that is lower down is the urogenital pore, from which the female extrudes her eggs during mating. If the urogenital pore or ovipositor is now evident and open, perhaps your female will be able to drop the eggs that are clogging up the works and feel herself. (Prolapses will often repair themselves once the internal pressure has been relieved.)
If you are treating your female in a hospital tank, you might consider adding a good broad-spectrum antibiotic to help prevent secondary infections, but of course you want to avoid treating the main tank with antibiotics.
Best of luck resolving the sticky problem, Scubagal.
Pete GiwojnaSeptember 10, 2007 at 1:08 am #3816ScubagalGuest
Well, I must admit that I am not holding out a lot of hope. I did the epson salt bath 6 days in a row, missed one day and then one more. There hasn’t been any sign of good change. The white stuff sticking out of the vent is worse. How many days should it take if an improvement is gonig to happen?
Thanks.September 11, 2007 at 12:52 am #3817Pete GiwojnaGuest
I’m sorry to hear that the first aid treatments you have been trying have not relieved the egg binding. As I said, the Epsom salt baths are the only possible treatment I know of for this condition, and although they appear to work well for freshwater fish that are egg bound, I don’t know if they will have the same result on a marine fish. You’re really entering uncharted territory, so I have no idea how long it would take for the blockage to be cleared if the Epsom salt baths are going to be helpful.
I’m not surprised that the prolapsed tissue protruding from her vent is getting worse. The longer the female is egg bound, the greater the pressure will build up within her coelomic cavity, and the more internal pressure there is, the more tissue will become everted.
In seahorses, prolapses are most common among the stallions and typically involve the lining of the pouch.
A prolapse or a partial prolapse of the pouch occurs when part of the lining of the marsupium becomes everted and protrudes through the mouth of the pouch. Prolapses in males can thus occur during or shortly after parturition as a result of the birth spasms during a strenuous delivery, or when courting males are performing their vigorous pouch displays and pumping water in and out of the pouch, or as a complication of recurring pouch emphysema. .
Treatment involves anesthetizing the seahorse, reinserted the prolapsed tissue with a blunt probe, and follow-up treatment with antibiotics as a precaution against secondary infections, as described by Tracy Warland below:
"Treatment was a little tricky – anesthesia, I use Benzocaine 1ml per litre of sea water (in a separate bucket obviously – and glove up as this is likely to soak through to your skin) a soluble aesthetic you could use clove oil and get similar results. You will need to work quickly once horse is under, take about 1 minute at most, work with horse under the water, with a blunt probe (sterilized of course) push distended pouch lining back into pouch opening and then massage pouch in downwards direction gently and hopefully it will fall back into place. An isolation recovery tank to revive him, perhaps with some soluble oxytetracycline or similar broad spectrum antibiotic, he should awake within a minute or so and be ready to eat almost immediately. Keep isolated if possible for a few days, changing water and perhaps adding some stress coat or similar product, keep away from females for about a week or so, just in case he gets the urge to display and ruin your handiwork (Tracy Warland, pers. com.)."
Of course, in females, prolapses typically occur as a result of egg binding, and the prolapsed tissue protrudes from the seahorse’s vent rather than the pouch. You could attempt the same sort of treatment as explained above for stallions with prolapsed pouches, but I don’t believe that would be helpful since you would be merely treating the symptom (the prolapsed tissue) and not the cause of the problem (egg binding). So I don’t believe performing a procedure to try to repair the prolapse would be beneficial in your case, scubagal.
You might possibly consider inducing your female to ingest two drops of cod liver oil or a single grain of Epsom salt, which are commonly used remedies for constipation in fishes, in the hope that this might help unclog her plumbing and help relieve the blockage. This is typically accomplished by placing two drops of cod liver oil directly in the fish’s mouth so that it is swallowed.
Other than that, the only other thing I could suggest would be to try administering a regimen of Diamox in your hospital tank, if you happen to have the medication on hand. Diamox (the tablet form of acetazolamide) has some mild diuretic properties which could possibly help reduce the swelling in her abdomen and relieve some of the resulting pressure. But I have never tried using Diamox on an egg bound seahorse, and I have no idea if it would actually be helpful. I’m really just grasping at straws here, but at this point, you probably don’t have anything to lose by trying it.
Best of luck inducing your female to release her eggs and clear the blockage, scubagal.
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