- This topic has 5 replies, 2 voices, and was last updated 9 years, 5 months ago by Pete Giwojna.
June 2, 2014 at 5:04 pm #2051pauly10132000Member
Pete,I could really use some direction on how to treat my seahorse that I believe to have weak snick symptoms. I will copy my original e-mail to you from February so you know my tank specifics.Pete,I am interested in taking your seahorse training program. I have been reading through forums for some time now and I would like to be 100% prepared before getting my first pair of seahorses. We do currently have a 75 gallon saltwater aquarium with a mix of fish and corals that has been up and running for 2 years. I recently set up the tank that will be for my seahorses. The tank dimensions are 25H x 30L x 18W. The light is a Coralife T5 HO with a 10k daylight and a Actinic, both 31 Watts. I have a 4 stage canister filter with a spray bar. The tank has a powerhead in it but I think it will be to powerful for seahorses. I’ve read post both saying to use and not to use a powerhead. I know that it needs to be safeguarded for the seahorses. I have had the tank setup for about a month and currently only has live sand a little live rock and 3 turbo snails in it. I have read that the tank needs to be very well established before adding seahorses that’s why i’m reading up now. I won’t be adding seahorses until the end of May at the earliest. Thank you for the time and dedication you put into training people the right way to have seahorses and I look forward to taking your training course.Thank you,PaulI completed your coarse some time ago and while I was not quite ready to get my seahorses, someone from our LFS had a situation and needed a home for these two. We have had them for about 6 weeks now. They have been absolutely perfect, no problems at all. I got the two ponies and a hula fish all from the same person who had a professional company care for their tank. I maintained the same food and feeding schedule as the previous owner to reduce any stress. They get frozen mysis twice a day according to the feeding guidelines in your course. Water parameters are all at their normal levels. The male overnight seemed to not be able to snick has food on the first try, almost like he could not see it. he gets it after a couple of tries. two days now he only eats maybe 3 mysis per feeding and he normally eats at least 10. He looks fine, moves fine just can’t snick. The female still is eating normal at this point. Also the male does look like he is breathing harder and at a faster pace. Since this tank has been established they have been it’s only inhabitants. Nothing new has been added or done before or after noticing this problem. I really need to know what to do to try and get him back to good health. The original owner purchased these two from Seahorse Source. They used no additives to the food and only feed mysis. I know your course says to use viberance or some form of supplement, I was just trying to keep everything the same for them. So at this point when I feed him, he does not really move around a lot to chase the mysis, he will hitch somewhere and I target feed him the mysis. At this point he still eats 2-3 twice a day, but far less then his normal. Sorry for all the rambling just looking for help. I did read many post in the forum that members have wrote but i’m looking for more guidance.Thank you,PaulJune 2, 2014 at 7:56 pm #5691Pete GiwojnaGuest
Yes, sir, the loss of suction during feeding that you describe is commonly known as “weak snick,” and it can become a serious problem if it progresses to the point that the seahorse can no longer slurp up enough food keep it going.
Weak snick and related feeding disorders are usually due to either a physical injury or an infection affecting the seahorse’s hyoid bone trigger mechanism or the underlying musculature with which it generates the powerful suction that it uses when feeding. Such mechanical injuries can sometimes be caused by ingesting a foreign object while feeding, or the problem may be due to protozoan parasites that attack the gills and eventually affect the muscles that operate the buccal suction pump and/or the opercular suction pumps. In some cases, the loss of suction has been traced to muscle degeneration in this region resulting from nutritional deficiencies, so that’s another consideration to keep in mind.
As Tami Weiss puts it, “In the hobbyist world, we see weak snick a lot with tanks with a high organic load… The hypothesis is that it is caused by a profusion of ciliates attacking/irritating the hyoid bone. Two treatments that have been effective for many home hobbyist and relieving this problem are freshwater dips and formalin baths. Freshwater dips need to be temperature and ph matched, and are for 8-15 minutes. That is usually the first line of defense. If that doesn’t work, formalin either as a short dip or a longer term bath is also used.”
This is what I usually advise home aquarists regarding administering freshwater dips, Paul, which would be the first treatment option I would recommend in your case, sir:
A freshwater dip is simply immersing your seahorse in pure, detoxified freshwater that’s been preadjusted to the same temp and pH as the water the seahorse is accustomed to, for a period of at least 10 minutes (Giwojna, Dec. 2003). It doesn’t harm them — seahorses typically tolerate freshwater dips exceptionally well and a 10-minute dip should be perfectly safe. Freshwater dips are effective because marine fish tolerate the immersion in freshwater far better than the external parasites they play host to; the change in osmotic pressure kills or incapacitates such microorganisms within 7-8 minutes (Giwojna, Dec. 2003). A minimum dip, if the fish seems to be doing fine, is therefore 8 minutes. Include some sort of hitching post in the dipping container and shoot for the full 10 minutes with your seahorses (Giwojna, Dec. 2003).
If you will be using tap water for the freshwater dip, be sure to dechlorinate it beforehand. This can be accomplished using one of the commercial dechlorinators, which typically include sodium thiosulfate and perhaps a chloramine remover as well, or by aerating the tap water for at least 24 hours to dissipate the chlorine (Giwojna, Dec. 2003).
If you dechlorinate the dip water with a sodium thiosulfate product, be sure to use an airstone to aerate it for at least one hour before administering the dip. This is because the sodium thiosulfate depletes the water of oxygen and the dip water must therefore be oxygenated before its suitable for your seahorse(s). Regardless of how you detoxify the freshwater for the dip, it’s important to aerate the water in the dipping container well beforehand to increase the level of dissolved oxygen in the water. Many hobbyists leave the airstone in the dipping container throughout the procedure.
Adjusting the pH of the water in the dipping container so that it matches the pH of the water in the aquarium is a crucial step. Ordinary baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) will suffice for raising the pH of the water. If there is too much of a difference in the pH, there is a possibility the seahorse could go into shock during the dipping procedure. Preadjusting the pH will prevent that from happening. If you will are unsure about your ability to accurately adjust the pH in the dipping container, avoid this procedure altogether or be prepared to monitor the seahorse very carefully or shorten the duration of the tip to no more than about 2 minutes.
Observe the horse closely during the dip. You may see some immediate signs of distress or shock. Sometimes the horse will immediately lie on its side on the bottom. That’s a fairly common reaction — normal and to be expected, rather than a cause for concern, so don’t be alarmed if this happens. Just nudge or tap the seahorse gently with your finger if it lies down on its side. Normally, the seahorse will respond to the slight nudge by righting itself again and calm down for the duration of the dip. However, if it does not respond, stop the treatment.
Most seahorses tolerate the treatment well and experience no problems, but if you see continued signs of distress — twitching, thrashing around etc. — stop the treatment immediately and return the seahorse to normal strength saltwater. How well the seahorses tolerate a freshwater dip can vary from individual to individual and from species to species. Hippocampus barbouri seahorses, for example, often have a low tolerance for freshwater and should either not be dipped or the freshwater dip should be shortened to 1-2 minutes as a safeguard for this species…
After you have completed the dip and returned the seahorses to the aquarium, save the dip water and examine it closely for any sign of parasites. The change in osmotic pressure from saltwater to freshwater will cause ectoparasites to lyse (i.e., swell and burst) or drop off their host after 7-10 minutes, and they will be left behind in the dipping water. Protozoan parasites are microscopic and won’t be visible to the naked eye, but some of the other ectoparasites can be clearly seen. For example, monogenetic trematodes will appear as opaque sesame seeds drifting in the water (Giwojna, Aug. 2003) and nematodes may be visible as tiny hairlike worms 1/16-3/16 of an inch long. Other parasites may appear as tiny dots in the water. Freshwater dips can thus often provide affected seahorses with some immediate relief by ridding them of these irritating pests and can also aid their breathing by flushing out gill parasites.
If you suspect a problem with parasites, the dip should be extended for the full 8-10 minutes if possible for best results. .
If more than one seahorse is affected, do not dip all of them simultaneously. I would dip them individually so you can keep a close eye on each seahorse throughout the dip and make sure it is tolerating it well. That way, you can use the same dipping container and dipping water for all of the seahorses as you dip them in sequence. I like at least a gallon of water in the dipping container, but that depends on what I’m using. If it’s a clean three or five-gallon bucket, I will fill it about half full with freshwater adjusted to the aquarium temperature.
Freshwater dips are the first treatment option for cases of weak snick, Paul, and they will often resolve the problem when it is detected early and treated promptly. If that’s not the case for your seahorse, then I would recommend administering a formalin bath instead, as explained below:
If used according to the instructions, formalin is very effective in treating a very wide range of ectoparasites and is a very good medication to use for this type of problem. But it’s very important to follow the directions to the letter, because formalin is not a safe medication to overdose and because it depletes the oxygen in the water very quickly. It’s very important to keep the treatment container well aerated throughout the treatment period, sir.
This is what I normally advise home hobbyists regarding the use of formalin, Paul:
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, Paul.
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 or returning it to the main tank, depending on whether the problem you are treating is contagious. 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 if it shows 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, Paul, 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) or follow the following directions, courtesy of Ann at the org:
FORMALIN Short-Term BATH Dosage and Preparation Instructions
Active Ingredient: 37% Formaldehyde
Indication: external parasites
Brand Names: Formalin, Formalin-MS
1. Do NOT use Formalin that has a white residue at the bottom of the bottle. White residue
indicates the presence of Paraformaldehyde which is very toxic.
2. “Formalin 3” by Kordon contains only 3% Formaldehyde. Dosing instructions will need to be modified if using this product.
• Fill a small tank with aged, aerated, dechlorinated marine water. Match the pH, temperature, and salinity to that of the tank the Seahorse is currently in.
• Add an artifical hitch and 1-2 vigorously bubbling airlines. Formalin reduces dissolved O2 so heavy aeration is required.
• Add 1ml/cc of Formalin per one gallon (3.8 liters) of tank water. Allow several minutes for the Formalin to disperse.
• Place the Seahorse into the dip water for 45-60 minutes unless it is showing signs of an adverse reaction. If the Seahorse cannot tolerate the Formalin dip, immediately move it back to the hospital tank.
• Observe the Seahorse for 24hrs for signs of improvement.
Okay, Paul, that’s the quick rundown on treating seahorses with formalin, either as a bath or via prolonged immersion in a hospital tank. If used properly, formalin is safe and effective in treating ectoparasites of most every kind, but you must use it carefully according to instructions and be sure to keep the treatment container well aerated, or you can overdose the seahorses or lose them to asphyxiation because of insufficient dissolved oxygen in the treatment container.
Véronique LePage, from Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada was looking into nutrient deficiencies in weak snick in sea dragons. Weak snick occurs in sea dragons as well, which is not surprising considering their physiology is so similar to seahorses. One researcher (Véronique LePage) at a vet college in Ontario discovered that several seadragons she had observed with weak snick had muscular weakness or degeneration (myopathy) around the muscles of the face and head. This was due to a vitamin E and selenium deficiency, and once treated, the snick resumed. (as reported by Tami Weiss).
Likewise, the Birch Aquarium also found myopathy, necropsy and degeneration of the head and jaw muscles in syngnathids (Tami Weiss).
You mentioned that you had not been fortifying or enriching the frozen Mysis you feed to your seahorses, Paul, and in light of the findings I have just mentioned, I would suggest that you begin enriching the Mysis using a product rich in vitamins (especially Vitamin E and selenium) in addition to administering a freshwater dip or formalin bath to the affected seahorse(s).
You do not need to use the Vibrance powder, which is only available from Ocean Rider, for this purpose, Paul – many other commercial supplements can be used as an alternative to Vibrance:
There are quite a number of enrichment products available that you can considered as an alternative to Vibrance, if you want to alternate the product you use to fortify the frozen Mysis before feeding it to your seahorses, to further vary their diet, sir. Some of the commercial enrichment products commonly used by professional breeders are listed below:
AlgaMac 2000 (Biomarine Aquafauna)
Astaxanthene biological pigment Natu-Rose
DHA Easy Selco
Kent Marine Zoe
Selco (Aquatic Ecosystems)
Such products are typically rich in amino acids, highly unsaturated fatty acids (HUFA) and vitamins, but the Vibrance formulations are the only ones that include beta glucan as a primary ingredient to stimulate the immune system.
Here is a discussion of weak snick excerpted from my new book (Complete Guide to the Greater Seahorses in the Aquarium, unpublished), which will explain more about this disorder and how it can be treated, Paul:
FEEDING DIFFICULTIES: WEAK SNICK, TRIGGER LOCK, & LOCK JAW
Seahorses suck! That’s a fact. Our amazing aquatic equines are supremely well adapted for suctorial feeding, which just means that their tubular snouts are designed for generating a powerful suction and slurping up small prey whole (Giwojna, Feb. 2004). Basically, their tubular mouths operate like slurp guns, a method of feeding that is often adopted by fish accustomed to taking prey from the bottom or plucking small crustaceans and larvae from the leaves of underwater plants (Evans, 1998). The anatomy of the seahorse’s head has evolved to accommodate this method of feeding (Giwojna, Feb. 2004).
For example, a tubular mouth is an advantage for suctorial feeding because it acts like a pipette and the narrow opening accelerates the inrush of water via the Venturi effect, thus maximizing the suction generated by the powerful head muscles (Giwojna, Feb. 2004). The seahorse’s oral or buccal cavity and gill chambers (opercular cavities) act as dual suction pumps that draw the water inwards with considerable force (Evans, 1998). Expansion of the buccal and opercular cavities causes a sudden drop in pressure within the mouth (Evans, 1998). The suction thus created allows the seahorse to suck up food through its slurp-gun snout faster than the eye can follow. In essence, the seahorse inhales its food in the blink of an eye, and cavitation caused by the sudden inrush of water traveling at tremendous velocity through the narrow snout and characteristic movements of its head and skull bones produce the distinctly audible “snick!” which announces the demise of its prey (Giwojna, Feb. 2004).
Every seahorse keeper is familiar with the seahorse’s “trigger,” located at the underside of its jaws at the base of its throat, which moves downward sharply when the seahorse strikes, thereby expanding its oral (buccal) cavity and generating the suction to draw its prey inwards. This trigger is actually the seahorse’s hyoid bone, and it is pulled downward by contraction of the powerful sternohyoideus muscle that runs from the hyoid bone to the cleithrum (one of the bones of the pectoral girdle), which forms part of the seahorse’s bony exoskeleton (the cleithral ring) just behind its head (Evans, 1998).
The suction generated by the sudden downward contraction of the hyoid bone when a feeding seahorse “pulls the trigger” on its intended prey is greatly enhanced by the nearly simultaneous expansion of its gill chambers or opercular cavities (Giwojna, Feb. 2004). The additional suction thus created by the seahorse’s opercular pump is produced by contractions of the hyohyoideus muscles and dilator operculi muscles (Evans, 1998). The water pulled into the gill chambers this way is then expelled from the opercular cavity through a small pore. (This narrow opening accelerates the stream of water passing through it in the same way as its narrow tubular snout does.) The seahorse’s bony coronet evolved atop its head in part to provide solid anchorage and attachment points for the large muscles that operate its buccal suction pump and twin opercular suction pumps, which enable it to feed so efficiently (Giwojna, Feb. 2004). This is the perfect feeding mechanism for an ambush predator, ideal for extracting small prey items from heavy cover or sucking up suspended prey neatly from the water column, and the seahorse is perfectly adapted for its role as the sniper of the seagrass jungle (Giwojna, Feb. 2004).
Of course the seahorse’s turreted, independently operating eyes are the perfect targeting system for this sophisticated feeding apparatus (Giwojna, Feb. 2004). Side-mounted, hemispherical eye turrets provide nearly 360 degrees of vision and allow the seahorse to look upwards and downwards (or forward and backwards) simultaneously in search of potential prey or possible predators (Giwojna, Feb. 2004). As soon as it detects a likely prey item, both eyes lock on it simultaneously and track it intently, thus providing excellent depth perception. This allows the seahorse to judge distances with remarkable accuracy as it draws a bead on its intended victim (Giwojna, Feb. 2004).
The hyoid bone is the trigger which fires the seahorse’s slurp-gun snout, and the moment its prey closes within striking distance, the powerful sternohyoideus muscle contracts and pull the trigger (Giwojna, Feb. 2004). The buccal cavity expands, followed the almost instantaneous contraction of the hyohyoideus muscles and dilator operculi muscles, which likewise expand the opercular cavities (Evans, 1998). The resulting drop in pressure creates a sharp inrush of water, which draws the prey irresistibly into the seahorse’s mouth (Evans, 1998). Once the prey has been sucked in, the mouth is closed. At this point, the buccal and opercular cavities are contracted and the excess water is forced out in a strong stream via the tiny opercular pores (Evans, 1998).
All this happens in an instant, faster than the eye can follow, and the powerful suction that is generated often macerates large prey (Giwojna, Feb. 2004). When the resulting debris is expelled from the gill chambers, it looks remarkably as if the seahorse is shooting smoke out of its ears, thus giving a feeding seahorse an uncanny resemblance to the legendary fire-breathing dragon (Giwojna, Feb. 2004).
However, when this remarkable feeding mechanism is injured or disrupted by parasites and/or secondary infections, a number of problems arise. Weak snick is an unusual affliction that results when a seahorse is unable to generate adequate suction to feed properly. Seahorses develop weak snick when their sophisticated feeding apparatus, or the muscles that operate it, are incapacitated as a result of injury or infection, or by muscular degeneration associated with vitamin deficiencies.
For example, I have often seen it in seahorses as a result of protozoan parasite infections (Amyloodinium, Cryptocaryon, Brooklynella, Uronema, etc.). I tend to suspect that’s the cause when the weak snick is accompanied by rapid respiration and labored breathing, or when more that one seahorse develops the condition, or when the weak snick victim’s tankmates are bothered by odd ailments such as “trigger lock,” appetite loss, lockjaw, heavy breathing, or the first signs of snout rot, which all early indications of masked protozoan parasite infections (Giwojna, Dec. 2003). These organisms typically attack the gills first, from which they spread to the throat and mouth (oral or buccal cavity). As their numbers build up in the gills and they spread from within, invading the esophagus and oral cavity, symptoms such as rapid breathing, loss of appetite, weak snick, trigger lock, and snout rot begin to appear (Giwojna, Dec. 2003).
This is how I believe the disease progresses in such cases: the burrowing of the embedded parasites causes hyperplasia of the underlying tissue, and when sufficient numbers of them build up in the gills, we see the initial symptoms of respiratory distress, labored breathing, and huffing (Giwojna, Dec. 2003). During a heavy infestation, the parasites may attack the key muscles that expand the opercular cavity, or sheer numbers of the parasites can clog the gills to the extent that the opercular pump is impaired, resulting in weak snick due to a decrease in suction (Giwojna, Dec. 2003). In severe cases, this will eventually result in death by asphyxiation.
In less severe cases, the parasites will continue to spread from the gills into the throat, buccal cavity, and eventually the snout itself (Giwojna, Dec. 2003). When this happens, the irritation caused by the burrowing parasites and the hyperplasia of the infected tissue can cause loss of appetite or difficulty swallowing and the victim may go on a hunger strike (Giwojna, Dec. 2003). If the swelling and hyperplasia occlude the gills, throat and snout sufficiently to prevent the seahorse from generating adequate suction when attempting to feed, weak snick is the result (Giwojna, Dec. 2003). If the burrowing of the embedded parasites allows secondary fungal or bacterial infections to take hold, the seahorse can develop snout rot (Giwojna, Dec. 2003). When such secondary infection(s) affect the sternohyoideus muscle that controls the hyoid bone trigger mechanism, ailments such trigger lock, sticky trigger, or lockjaw result and again the seahorse is unable to feed (Giwojna, Dec. 2003). Weak snick can be caused in this way as well if the sternohyoideus muscle is affected to the extent that hyoid trigger still operates, but so feebly that the buccal pump can no longer generate sufficient suction to feed (Giwojna, Dec. 2003).
Another common cause of weak snick in many instances is a mechanical injury to the seahorse’s hyoid-bone “trigger” mechanism. This sometimes happens when a seahorse accidentally ingests a foreign object when feeding off the bottom. The offending particle is often a piece of gravel or crushed shell. When a hard, sizable foreign object such as this is ingested, it can lodge in the throat or snout, and the seahorse may have difficulty expelling it again. (The seahorse’s feeding mechanism is much better suited for sucking things in than spitting them out again.) When that happens, the seahorse is almost always able to clear the offending object eventually, but sometimes not before it causes considerable irritation or the repeated efforts to eject it cause a muscular strain to the hyoid trigger mechanism. The seahorse then acts as though it has a very bad sore throat. The suction it generates is weak and both the act of pulling the trigger and the act of swallowing appear to be painful. The seahorse feeds reluctantly or halfheartedly as a result, and may eventually stop feeding altogether. Such mechanical injuries can also open the door for snout rot.
Suspect a mechanical injury when the weak snick or sticky trigger is not accompanied by respiratory distress, when only one of your seahorses is affected and exhibiting unusual symptoms, or when you witnessed the seahorse struggling to expel a foreign object. In such cases, most often the problem clears up on its own after two weeks to two months as the injury heals. No treatment is necessary and the key to a successful outcome is keeping the patient eating while the healing takes place. That’s what treatment should concentrate on.
When these feeding difficulties arise, it’s a good idea to try tempting the affected seahorse with live adult brine shrimp. Seahorses suffering from weak snick induced by an injury may have better luck slurping up smaller, lighter, soft-bodied prey like brine shrimp; if so, that will be enough to keep them going while they heal. You’ll want to enrich the brine shrimp to maximize its nutritional value, and gutloading the shrimp with an enrichment product high in HUFA and vitamins, such as Vibrance, is a good way to fortify it beforehand. Brine shrimp are filter feeders that will ingest whatever is suspended in the water with them, so all you need to do is add a pinch or two (or drop or two) of the enrichment formula to a small container of saltwater swarming with brine shrimp at least 30 minutes before you offer the shrimp to your seahorse.
Some hobbyists dealing with weak snick have had good success in coaxing the affected seahorse to feed by transferring the seahorse to a critter keeper or breeder net or similar enclosure that can hang within the main tank itself, and then adding a generous amount of live adult brine shrimp to the container. Within the enclosure, the affected seahorse does not have to compete with its tankmates for the live food, and it is easy to maintain an adequate feeding density within the confined space so that there is always a big juicy brine shrimp passing within striking distance of the hungry seahorse. Add one or two hitching posts within the critter keeper or breeder net so that your male can anchor in place and wait for a tasty brine shrimp to pass within easy reach, and give him an hour or two within the enclosure to eat him fill of the softbodied adult brine shrimp. You can monitor his progress from a nonthreatening distance away from the tank to see how she is doing. In most cases, the seahorse quickly becomes familiar with the routine of being transferred to the special enclosure at feeding time and associates it with tasty live foods and a full belly — positive reinforcements that make it a very nonthreatening, stress-free procedure for the affected seahorse — and, as a result, it may actually come to look forward to it after a few feedings. You can repeat this feeding process two or three times daily in order to fatten him up again, if your schedule allows.
In short, Paul, if the affected seahorse is experiencing respiratory distress or any other indications that suggest the problem could be due to protozoan parasites, then the freshwater dips or formalin baths I described earlier may be helpful in relieving the problem, and that’s the first thing I would try. But if the affected seahorse is not showing any other symptoms other than a loss of suction when feeding, then you’re most likely dealing with a muscular strain or mechanical injury, and keeping your seahorse eating by providing it with abundant softbodied adult brine shrimp to slurp up is probably the best approach to this problem.
If you do not have access to live adult brine shrimp, then target feeding the seahorse, as you have been going, or even handfeeding the pony are also good options. Try target feeding some of the smaller frozen Mysis, such as the Marine Mini Mysis by H2O Life or the Hikari frozen Mysis, which may be easier for the affected seahorse to slurp up and swallow than the larger brands of frozen Mysis, such as Piscine Energetics Mysis relicta…
In either case, keeping the seahorse feeding or providing it with adequate nourishment is the key to resolving weak snick and other related feeding disorders. Many times the problem will resolve itself over time providing you can keep the seahorse well fed in the meantime. Providing your pony with plenty of softbodied adult brine shrimp that are easy to slurp up and swallow is one way to accomplish this.
But sometimes the problem progresses to the point where the seahorse cannot even suck up the softbodied adult brine shrimp. When that’s the case, Paul, handfeeding the seahorse instead is often the best approach. 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 head end 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 the seahorse’s open mouth far enough, it’s feeding instincts will kick in and take over so that the seahorse slurps up the frozen Mysis almost reflexively. That’s a much less stressful and less invasive method of force feeding a seahorse that sometimes works well (especially if the seahorse is accustomed to being hand fed and doesn’t shy away from the aquarist). When this method of force feeding works well, it can be maintained indefinitely to provide the seahorses with good nourishment until it has recovered and can feed normally again on its own.
For example, even the magnificent seadragons sometimes develop problems with weak snick and similar feeding disorders, and professional aquarists will use this same method to provide their prized dragons with good nourishment until they recover, as discussed below:
Over the years, we have seen mouth problems develop in some of our dragons. Sometimes it’s attributed to injury. Sometimes we don’t know what causes it, but we are often successful in getting them to recover on their own with just supportive feedings until we observe that they are back to catching food normally. Sometimes this can take a long time…as in a month or two of force feedings before they are back to catching enough on their own to sustain themselves.
Although I have not had experience force feeding ribbon dragons, I have both force fed and tube fed leafy and weedy seadragons. Typically, we force feed numerous frozen mysids to a sick dragon up to 3 times a day. By force feeding, I mean that we very gently place a mysid in the mouth of the animal and then lightly hold a finger in front of it so that it can’t easily spit out the food. Usually they learn pretty quickly that they are getting food this way and start to slurp mysids up as soon as they are put in their mouth. I usually try to get 6-10 mysids in per feeding. It takes good eyesight and a steady hand to make sure you don’t injure their mouth with this method. We have also tube fed using a thick slurry of cyclopeeze or pulverized and moistened pelleted food…usually giving around .3cc per feeding…though it’s dependent on the size of the animal. I think we usually use a 2-3mm french catheter cut down to fit on a small syringe. Again we do this 3 x day. We find that the animals do better with the frequent feedings and usually they go right back to searching for food after being released.
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Best of luck getting your seahorse over this hurdle and back to feeding normally on its own again, Paul!
Pete Giwojna, Ocean Rider Tech SupportJune 4, 2014 at 12:24 am #5692pauly10132000Guest
Again, let me thank you for all your expert diligent help with my pony. Tonight I gave him the fresh water dip you recommended. The water temp. and PH where matched exactly to the aquarium. He was in the dip for 12 exact minutes. He look fine the entire time, Moving around and hitching on his post. I then returned him to the aquarium. He then found a place to hitch and his breathing rate was very rapid. Much more than it has been throughout this issue.I assume that has to do with going into the fresh water and back. After a bit he was moving around and his breathing slowed to the before dip rate. # hours later I gave them their normal feeding. He ate mostly the same as the last 3 days. Shows much interest but not able to do a really good snick. If he gets a piece in his snout in the first try, his second snick looks a little stronger than before the dip. My questions are, If the dip worked how long before seeing good results. Is more than 1 dip required. Also, we try to feed him about every 4 hours during the day since he only eats about 3 mysis per feeding, giving him every opportunity to eat as much as he can. Is that ok. Thank you very much for your time helping with all questions in this forum. You are a great asset to Ocean Rider.
PaulJune 4, 2014 at 7:26 pm #5693Pete GiwojnaGuest
It sounds like you did a very good job of handling the freshwater dip, sir, and you are taking a sensible approach to feeding the seahorse under the circumstances. As long as you can spare the time, it is very helpful if you can offer the affected seahorse several feedings a day, target feeding him individually to give him the best chance of getting his fair share of the Mysis. If you are able to feed him several times a day, and he is able to get around three of the Mysis down during each of these feedings, that’s not bad at all.
Under those circumstances, Paul, the pony should be getting enough nourishment to sustain itself and keep its strength up. If it looks like it has a fairly full belly at the end of the day, rather than showing the concave, pinched-in abdomen typical of emaciated seahorses, and the seahorses still producing normal fecal pellets, that’s a pretty good indication that he is still getting enough to eat despite not being able to generate his usual powerful suction.
It’s difficult to say whether or not the freshwater dip will resolve a problem like this or not because weak snick can have a number of different causes and the freshwater dips are helpful only when it is the result of ectoparasites that attack the gills and then move inward, invading the buccal cavity and esophagus the seahorse. How quickly a freshwater dip helps to resolve the problem often depends on how early you detected the problem with weak snick and how advanced it has become.
In your case, being a diligent aquarist, it sounds like you picked up on the problem right away, Paul, so there’s every reason to think that the freshwater dip may be helpful for your seahorse, providing protozoan parasites or other gill parasites are at the root of the issue.
If the weak snick is due to a muscular strain or mechanical injury resulting from ingesting a foreign object and then struggling to expel it again, the freshwater dip will not be helpful. When the weak snick results from such an injury, it simply requires time for the healing to occur, and the key to a successful outcome is to assure that the seahorse gets adequate nourishment throughout the healing process. It can take several weeks for a seahorse to recover from such a mechanical injury…
Likewise, if the weak snick is a result of a secondary bacterial or fungal infection affecting the throat and esophagus of the seahorse, and the muscles that operate its suctorial feeding mechanism, then a freshwater dip won’t be of much use.
Also, as we discussed briefly in my previous post, some cases of weak snick are known to be caused by muscle weakness and muscular degeneration (myopathy) of the musculature that powers the opercular pumps and buccal pump that generate the seahorse’s suction ability. This myopathy was a result of nutritional deficiencies, especially inadequate levels of Vitamin E and selenium, and supplementing the seahorses diet to provide those nutrients was able to restore the stinging ability of the seahorse to normal again.
Obviously, a freshwater dip will have no helpful effect in cases of weak snick that are resulting from such nutritional deficiencies, but a freshwater dip is a good place to start when treating a problem like this. In your case, Paul, I would suggest addressing a possible nutritional deficiency in addition to administering one or more freshwater dips, sir.
If you feel the seahorse is getting enough frozen Mysis each day when you are feeding him as much as he can manage every four hours, then I would recommend fortifying the frozen Mysis with one or more of the enrichment products I mentioned in my previous e-mail before you feed your pony each of its meals.
Or, if you can obtain live adult brine shrimp in your area, a another very good option would be to disinfect the live adult brine shrimp and then gutload it with one of these enrichment products, as described in my earlier post, and then allowing the affected seahorse to eat its fill of the fortified adult brine shrimp throughout the course of the day. Oftentimes the bite-sized, softbodied adult brine shrimp are easier for the seahorse to slurp up and swallow when it is suffering from weak snick, and if you fortify them or gutload the adult brine shrimp beforehand, it can be very nutritious and beneficial if nutritional deficiencies are involved. That’s also a good way to keep the seahorse well fed and maintain its conditioning when it is recovering from a weak snick that is due to muscular strain or mechanical injury and simply requires time for the healing to occur.
So those are some other options that you should explore in addition to trying the freshwater dips and/or formalin bath(s), sir.
If you feel the freshwater dip was helpful in your case, judging from how well the seahorse is feeding before and afterwards, some hobbyists will administer a series of such dips one or two days apart. A series of three such dips seems to be fairly typical for hobbyists that go that route, Paul.
But as you noted, sir, being handled and subjected to the freshwater dip (or formalin bath) is stressful to the seahorse, which accounts for its rapid breathing after you completed your freshwater dip and returned the seahorse to the main tank.
For this reason, when they are confident the problem is the result of protozoan parasites (most often uronematids) or other ectoparasites or gill parasites, many hobbyists prefer to reduce the specific gravity in their aquarium to a therapeutic level, which in essence acts as a continuous, stress-free freshwater dip. If that’s something you would like to consider, let me know and I will provide you with detailed instructions explaining how to administer the hyposalinity in your main tank safely. It must be done carefully so that you don’t reduce the salinity too much, and when you decide to return the salinity to normal again, it must be done very gradually over a period of several days because there is a danger of dehydration when you are raising the salinity of the aquarium water.
In short, Paul, I would concentrate on enriching or fortifying your seahorses food (either the frozen Mysis or some live adult brine shrimp, if possible) and providing your pony with good nutrition while it is recovering from this problem.
Pete Giwojna, Ocean Rider Tech SupportJune 9, 2014 at 10:18 am #5695pauly10132000Guest
Thanks again for all the help. An update to my male pony and his weak snick. He still is not 100%. The last two days he definitely is eating more than he has been. I gave him baby brine shrimp for two days and I have been fortifying their food with Selcon concentrate and Kent marine zoe, rotating between the two every couple of days. So at this point as long as he continues to get enough food in him to keep him going he should be good.
PaulJune 11, 2014 at 3:15 pm #5696Pete GiwojnaGuest
Thanks for the update, sir!
It’s encouraging to hear that you have been able to get a couple of good enrichment products to use for fortifying the frozen Mysis and that the seahorse is eating better lately.
It sounds like you are doing a very good job of handling the situation, Paul, and as long as you can continue to provide him with the enriched frozen Mysis, I think your seahorse will continue to get better and should eventually make a full recovery.
Keep up the good work.
Pete Giwojna, Ocean Rider Tech Support
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