Seahorse Club
Aquarium & Livestock

Feed Ezy Frozen Mysis

Seahorse Club
Aquarium & Livestock

Feed Ezy Frozen Mysis

Seahorse Club
Aquarium & Livestock

Feed Ezy Frozen Mysis

Seahorse Club
Aquarium & Livestock

Feed Ezy Frozen Mysis

Seahorse Club
Aquarium & Livestock

Feed Ezy Frozen Mysis

Seahorse Club
Aquarium & Livestock

Feed Ezy Frozen Mysis

Weak snick

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  • #1819

    Hi Pete. Somehow he is hanging in there and has slightly improved. I realised why he reacted so badly to the freshwater dip – I had followed Tracy Warland book but she didnt say anything about making sure the PH was the same. I didnt adjust it. Measured it later and it was 7.4 so no wonder it knocked him about.:(

    I am managing to get about 6 small shrimp in a day but it takes about 3 hrs throughout the day. He is not yawning or struggling for breath anymore. However, once he has a shrimp he looks like he is choking and his breathing gets laboured. It is worse if he tries brine shrimp and doesnt go near them now. After his choke he not so keen to try anymore food. He is not eating from my hand (he usually takes a week to trust me after a treatment so is shying away). He is hopeless at catching anything because he misses the shrimp completely. He can suck in the shrimp once he gets them stuck on his nose (takes three sucks but he can do it) but that is pretty rare and I have to shower him with shrimps. Other than being very skinny he is good colour and doing his usual thing but not as actively.

    Should I make sure it is not parasites in his snout by treating with Praziquantel? I have used methyl blue and not keen on handling formalin. I figure that I would need to force feed him because I wont be able to practiacally get enough treated shrimp in him (at his rate of capture I would be injecting a few hundred). What do think? I was thinking of putting him down but he is trying really hard and doesnt look so miserable. If it is mechanical damage it looks like he will be ages before he heals. Could you so I am not ready to give up. Could you give me instructions on force feeding if you think it is okay (is 25g catheter sleeve okay or do I need smaller) and how to add the Praziquantel if it is appropriate. I havent got it yet but pretty sure my vet will be okay if I go in with a copy of your instrucitons.
    Regards and many thanks

    Pete Giwojna

    Dear Carol:

    If you would like to treat the seahorse for protozoan parasites but you feel you may not tolerate freshwater dips or a formalin bath, then it would do no harm to treat the main tank with praziquantel instead.


    This is a very effective antiparasitic that works equally well against external and internal parasites alike. Like metronidazole, this is a very safe medication that won’t harm the beneficial nitrifying bacteria in your biofilter, so you can use it to treat the main tank.

    However, like most antiparasitic medications, invertebrates will not tolerate praziquantel, so be prepared to relocate any snails, decorative shrimp, or microhermit crabs for the duration of the treatments.

    Praziquantel can be administered orally via bio-encapsulated feeder shrimp, just like metronidazole, or it can be administered as a series of baths or as a one-time treatment for the main tank. When using it as a bath, the following concentrations are appropriate:

    Praziquantel bath at 10ppm for 3 hours or 1ppm for 24 hours.

    When treating ectoparasites, it can be added directly to the water in the treatment tank (dose one time and leave in the water for 5-7 days).

    The following instructions usually work well for bioencapsulating the praziquantel:

    Forgot loading live adult brine shrimp, just mix 2.5 mls of the liquid praziquantel to 1000 mls of water, soak the adult brine shrimp (Artemia spp.) in the resulting solution for about 30 minutes, and then feed them to the seahorses for 5 days in a row, and then repeat the same treatment regimen again two weeks later.

    [Note: 20 drops equals 1 ml, so 50 drops of the medication equals 2.5 mL (20 drops/ml x 2.5ml = 50 drops). Also 1000 mls equals ~ 1 quart, so in order to gut load the adult brine shrimp with the liquid form of the medication, you would place 50 drops of the medication in a quart of water and soak the brine shrimp in that for half an hour before feeding it to your seahorses.]

    If the medication you have is in tablet form (usually 100mg tablets), just crush one to a very fine powder — you may even have to blend it in a household blender to get it fine enough for the artemia to ingest — and add this to 1000 mls (1 litre) of water and repeat as above.

    You can use either saltwater from your aquarium or dechlorinated freshwater for soaking the adult brine shrimp in the praziquantel, but I prefer to use the freshwater since that may help the adult Artemia to absorb more of the medication and the freshwater also helps to disinfect the live brine shrimp while they are soaking.

    Wow, it sounds like you’re doing an outstanding job of very patiently working with the seahorse until he can manage to get a handful of the frozen Mysis down each day, Carol. It is very unusual for a seahorse to have more trouble swallowing the soft hyphen bodied adult brine shrimp than the frozen Mysis, but if that’s the case with your male, then it sounds like the Mysis is a better choice for you under the circumstances. If it becomes increasingly difficult to get some good nutrition into him this way, then you may need to consider force-feeding the seahorse at some point.

    Yes, of course, I can go over the instructions for force-feeding or tube feeding your seahorse, if it becomes necessary, Carol. The proper size of catheter to use for tube feeding depends on the size of the seahorse. In general, you want to use the catheter with the widest diameter that will still fit within the tube snout of your seahorse. Many times it’s best to obtain several catheters within the range of perhaps 18 gauge-25 gauge so you can determine which one is best suited for your particular bony.

    Tube feeding usually does not cause the fish to lose the desire to eat on its own. For one thing, we never resort to tube feeding unless a seahorse has stopped eating for an extended period of time and force feeding is the only remaining option. Secondly, because seahorses have only a small, vestigial stomach, you can only inject a small amount of the gruel when you tube feed — 0.05 to 0.10 cc for most seahorses and up to 0.25 cc for the really large specimens — and that small amount of food usually passes through their system fairly quickly. So the seahorse will be hungry again a few hours after receiving a tube feeding, if its digestion is working properly.

    But tube feeding can be detrimental when it has to be maintained indefinitely. It is a stressful procedure and probably causes some irritation to the seahorse’s snout and esophagus, so it’s only a short term solution and can become problematic if it has to be maintained for more than a week or so. That often creates a quandary for the seahorse keeper — if you don’t tube feed the seahorse, you could end up dealing with starvation syndrome, yet you cannot tube feed a seahorse indefinitely without eventually reaching the point where it is counterproductive due to the irritation it causes.

    Just a month ago I was working with another hobbyist who had a Hippocampus reidi that had lost its appetite and was starving. It had no interest in live foods and was wasting away, so it became necessary to begin tube feeding the seahorse. After daily tube feeding for over 10 days, the situation reached a crisis point when she could no longer tube feed the seahorse because swelling of the esophagus had apparently caused a partial obstruction, which would not allow any of the gruel to be injected. We were considering a treatment to reduce the swelling and irritation, but could not do so because she was leaving town the next morning and the treatments would be beyond the ability of her fish sitter to perform in her absence. And even attempting the tube feedings was out of the realm of possibility for the fish sitter who would be looking after her aquarium during her absence. So she had to leave town for eight days with the seahorse not eating and unable to be tube fed. When she finally returned, she fully expected to find the seahorse had died, so you can imagine her tremendous relief and happiness to find out that not only was the seahorse still alive, it had resumed eating on its own again. That pony has since made a full recovery and is none the worse for wear, but that illustrates the dilemma and difficulties that can arise when tube feeding must be maintained for an extended period.

    When it becomes necessary, tube feeding is usually performed once a day, Carol, depending on how well the seahorse tolerates the procedure. If you try the daily tube feedings, which is customary, I think it is an excellent idea to try offering him foods to eat on his own during the day (preferably live shrimp gutloaded with kanamycin) and if you don’t see him eating, you can then tube feed him in the evening. That’s usually how most hobbyists proceed.

    Here is some information regarding tube feeding in case it becomes necessary:

    Force-feeding — a last resort when all else fails

    Force feeding can save a seahorse’s life in an emergency, but it’s best reserved as a last resort. It’s not a long-term solution, but rather a stopgap measure to provide desperately needed nutritional support for a seahorse when all else fails. If the tube feeding has to be continued for more than two or three days, it is apt to do more harm than good. But it could buy you a little more time to line up choice live foods.

    Tube feeding is appropriate when a seahorse has gone without eating for a prolonged period and has exhausted its energy reserves. This can happen when a seahorse is beset with internal parasites and stops eating, or perhaps when a seahorse is undergoing extended treatment with a medication that suppresses the appetite. And, of course, it is very common — perhaps even the rule — in wild-caught seahorses that have run the gauntlet from collector to wholesaler to retailer before finally reaching the hobbyist (Lidster, 1999). In such cases, tube feeding can help strengthen the seahorse and keep it going until it has a chance to recover and resume feeding on its own.

    The most common method of force feeding seahorses is better referred to as tube feeding since no force is involved. The following description is based on Leslie Leddo’s tube-feeding technique, as discussed in her online article (Leddo, 2002b). It is similar to the previous technique, except that a very fine catheter is attached to the syringe and inserted into the seahorse’s snout before the food is injected. Basically a small amount of food, very thoroughly mashed and diluted in distilled water, is very gently injected via a very small gauge plastic catheter inserted into the horses snout no further than the trigger. It works best if only a small amount of food — no more than 1-2 mm on the barrel of the syringe — is squirted into the seahorse’s mouth at one feeding. It’s invasive, but actually very gentle, and the seahorse is much more likely to keep the food down this way.

    Whichever method of force feeding you try, it’s helpful to hold the seahorse cupped in your hand for a minute or two after a feeding session before you release it. Doing so makes it much less likely that the seahorse will regurgitate the food you so painstakingly put into it. Here are detailed instructions for tube feeding, as explained by the author (Leddo, 2002b):

    <begin quote> "Tube Feeding: When All Else Fails, an Alternative to Starvation"
    by Leslie Leddo

    Is your seahorse on a hunger strike? Have you tried all the non-invasive methods and various of types of foods to no avail? Are you concerned you may lose him to starvation? There is another alternative that may help to jump-start his feeding response. Tube feeding is an option when all else has failed. It is actually easier than you might imagine. Sit back, relax, and read on.

    What you need:

    * Someone with access to medical supplies. A local sympathetic veterinarian is a good option.
    * A high quality food. Frozen Mysis or a high quality flake can be used. My preference is Mysis relicta from Canada. It has an outstanding nutritional profile. It is 69.9% protein and rich in HUFAs.
    * A very narrow catheter. I use a plastic intravenous catheter with the introducer needle removed from the center and properly disposed of in a Sharps container, perhaps prior to leaving the vet’s office with your supplies. I would suggest an 18 to 25-gauge depending on the diameter of your horse’s snout. I used a 20-gauge on my 6"-7" erectus. The smaller the horse or the narrower the snout, the smaller the catheter you will need. The catheter size is inversely proportional to the # gauge it is assigned. So an 18-gauge catheter has a wider lumen than a 24-gauge catheter
    * A 1 cc syringe.
    * A bowl. It should be wide enough and deep enough to allow for your horse to remain submerged while your assistant holds him and you administer the feeding.
    * An assistant. Preferably someone who is not too squeamish.
    * Tank water.
    * A spoon.
    * A small bowl.
    * Distilled water.
    * An area to work that is well lit.

    What to prepare:

    * Gather all your supplies.
    * Review the anatomy of the GI tract of the seahorse, paying particular attention to the esophagus, stomach and intestines.
    * Clear and clean a well-lit workspace.
    * Wash and rinse your hands well.
    * Prepare the food by placing a small amount of previously defrosted and enriched Mysis in the small bowl. With the convex side of your spoon, mash the Mysis into a smooth paste.
    * Add a few drops of distilled water and mix thoroughly. You will need to experiment and play here a bit in order to get the paste to a consistency that will easily, smoothly, and consistently flow through the tip of the catheter when gentle pressure is applied to the plunger of the syringe. The smaller the diameter of catheter (the larger the gauge number) you are using, the more dilute and thinner the gruel will need to be.
    Once you have a consistency you think is appropriate, draw some of the gruel into the syringe and attach the catheter to the syringe. The tip of the syringe is usually threaded and the catheter will screw on to it. Gently apply pressure to the plunger of the syringe to be sure the gruel flows through the tip of the catheter easily, smoothly and consistently. Adjust the consistency of the gruel as necessary by adding more distilled water or more Mysis paste until it flows smoothly through the catheter with VERY gentle pressure on the plunger. No force should be exerted at all.
    * Flush the syringe and catheter several times by drawing a small amount of distilled water into the syringe and pushing it back out.
    * Draw into the syringe a little more gruel than you intend to feed. I fed between 0.2cc and 0.25cc to a 6"-7" erectus. You are going to have to estimate the appropriate amount based on the size of your horse. This is where refreshing your knowledge of the seahorse’s internal anatomy will come in handy. Since the seahorse’s digestive tract is basically a straight tube from snout to anus, you can use their length as a general guideline to estimate the portion size.
    * Start with the plunger of the syringe fully depressed, pull up on the plunger and draw about 0.3cc to 0.4cc of the Mysis mixture into the syringe. Any air in the syringe will need to be removed. Invert the syringe holding it vertically tip up, plunger down. Gently tap on the syringe several times. The air will displace the gruel appearing as a bubble at the tip of the syringe. Gently depress the plunger with the syringe remaining in the inverted position, so you will be pushing up on the plunger. Continue to depress the plunger until all the air has been expressed from the syringe and a small amount of gruel appears at the syringe tip.
    * Attach the catheter to the syringe and prime it by depressing the plunger until a few drops of gruel emerge from the catheter tip.

    OK now you are ready to actually feed the little bugger… whoops… sorry… your sweet little hunger-striking horse.

    How to proceed:

    Round up your assistant. Take a few deep breaths and relax.

    Fill the large bowl with your horse’s tank water.

    Remove your horse from the tank by gently scooting him into a small container and gently release him into the bowl of tank water.

    Have your assistant firmly but gently hold the horse, keeping him submerged at all times. His head and neck should be between their thumb and forefinger, snout pointing up, with his body lying across their palm. Encourage him to curl his tail around their pinky. This will help to keep the horse calm. If you have never held a seahorse in your hand you may be surprised at how strong they are. He may struggle or even snick. Boy, oh boy — was I surprised at how powerful their snick is!

    Take the previously filled and primed syringe into your dominant hand.

    Loosely hold the horse’s snout between the thumb and forefinger of your other hand.

    Closely observe the snout tip. It will open and close in synchrony with his respiration.

    As the snout opens, insert the tip of the catheter into the snout about ½ way between the snout tip and trigger.

    Slowly and gently depress the plunger. Try to time injecting tiny bits of the gruel just prior to the closing of the snout. If he is ingesting the gruel you will actually see him swallow and pass some of the food through his gills. He may snick, it will feel strange but don’t be alarmed. The first time my boy did it I thought for sure the catheter would break off in his snout. It never did. He did however dent it a bit. That snick is powerful!

    If the gruel is coming back out of his snout either you are injecting the gruel too quickly, the catheter tip is not far enough into his snout or you are close to the end of the feeding and his GI tract is full. First check to see if you are close to the end of the estimated amount of the feeding. If so, he is probably full and you are done. If not, try injecting the gruel a little slower, taking care to try and synchronize advancing the plunger just prior to the closing of the snout. If the gruel continues to come back out try advancing the catheter tip just a tad further. Finish the feeding. You may need to give him and yourself a little break if either of the above situations occurs and too much of the feeding is lost. Refill the syringe and give him the rest of the estimated amount.

    Wooooooo-Hoooooooo!!! That’s it! You did it! Tell him what a good boy he was, return him to the tank, give yourself a big pat on the back, thank your assistant and take the rest of the evening off in front of your tank with a cup of tea… well… OK, if you insist a cold beer, a glass of wine, or a good stiff drink of your choice. It wasn’t that bad now was it? I bet it was easier than you had anticipated. I thought it was.

    Some tips:

    Practice pushing the gruel through the catheter. If it is too thick it will stick and you will need to push harder. You will need to thin it with some distilled water so that it flows out smoothly.

    Ask your veterinarian for several size catheters. Use the one with the widest diameter (lowest # gauge) that will easily insert into the horse’s snout.

    Have the vet remove the introducer needle in his office, so you do not have to worry about needle disposal.

    It may be necessary to do this several days in a row until the feeding response is initiated or returns. I would suggest offering a variety of foods prior to each daily tube feeding. If you have been tube feeding for several days and he shows no interest in eating on his own, you may need to gradually decrease the amounts of the feeding so he is actually hungry or possibly fast him for a day or two. It is my feeling that, if at all possible, allowing him to remain in his own tank with other horses and offering a variety of foods (live as well as frozen) may be beneficial in helping to encourage him to eat.

    I hope you never need to use the information I presented here, but if you should I would like to wish you good luck and hope this information has proved useful (Leddo, 2002b). <end quote>

    Force feeding can save a seahorse’s life in an emergency, but it’s best reserved as a last resort. It is appropriate when a seahorse has gone without eating for a prolonged period and has exhausted its energy reserves. This can happen when a seahorse is beset with internal parasites and stops eating, or perhaps when a seahorse is undergoing extended treatment with a medication that suppresses the appetite. And, of course, it is very common — perhaps even the rule — in wild-caught seahorses that have run the gauntlet from collector to wholesaler to retailer before finally reaching the hobbyist (Lidster, 1999). In such cases, tube feeding can help strengthen the seahorse and keep it going until it has a chance to recover and resume feeding on its own.

    For example, during one such incident a hobbyist reported that his seahorse hadn’t eaten for over a week. This particular hunger strike started during treatment for internal parasites, so the seahorse was weak and debilitated to begin with. On that occasion, only one tube feeding was necessary before the seahorse began eating on her own again.

    Dr. Marty Greenwell notes that syngnathids in general and seahorses in particular are vulnerable to emaciation in captivity because of their rapid intestinal transit time and very limited fat stores (Bull and Mitchell, 2002, p24). At the Shedd, he regularly tube feeds newly acquired seahorses that arrive badly emaciated. In such circumstances, Dr. Greenwell advises, "…syngnathids are at a high risk for loss of body condition. With this in mind, anorectic seahorses and pipefish almost always require nutritional support. At Shedd Aquarium, anorectic syngnathids are tube fed a high quality, commercial fish flake food gruel. Because of the very small, vestigial stomach, only limited volumes of gruel can be administered at any given time, i.e., 0.05 to 0.10 cc for most seahorses and up to 0.25 cc or more for the large Hippocampus sp., trumpetfish, and the sea dragons. Offering nutritional support can mean the difference between survival and death in sick and/or anorectic syngnathids (Bull and Mitchell, 2002, p24)."

    That’s an introduction to force feeding that will hopefully allow you to get some food into your seahorse, Carol. It’s best used as a last resort, but in a case like yours, it can sometimes be a real life saver.

    Some hobbyists feel it’s easier to tube feed their seahorses after they have been sedated, while others feel that sedation only complicates the procedure. Sometimes sedating the seahorse can make tube feeding a little less stressful for both the patient and the caregiver. In that case, Carol, there is an excellent discussion of the procedure with step-by-step instructions and photographs available online at the following URL:

    As you can see, Carol, clove oil is the best option for the home hobbyist when it comes to sedating seahorses but, as you know, If you overdo it, it is quite possible to sedating your seahorse to death using this technique, so be very careful if you decide to give it a try.

    Best of luck nursing your plucky H. barbouri stallion through this latest crisis, Carol.

    Pete Giwojna

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