- This topic has 7 replies, 4 voices, and was last updated 16 years, 6 months ago by Pete Giwojna.
August 27, 2007 at 9:23 am #1267ljayneMember
My bonded pair of seahorses have been doing great until the past couple of days. When they arrived they were fine and ate great when I finally fed them 24 hours after they were here. They have been very active and looking around and coming to the feeding station and eating very, very well.
The down turn seemed to start Thursday. Thursday was my first fast day. On Friday I expected them to be very hungry. I had finally gotten in my order of PE shrimp and prepared them in the way it was recommended. The PE shrimp are much larger than the shrimp I had been feeding so I did not think too much when they only ate 2 each. Friday night again they did not seem to eat much. On Saturday I noticed a slight peak in my nitrates and did a 3 gallon water change about mid day. That morning again they did not seem too eat very much. I noticed the activity level had dropped some and especially the male. He just seemed to stay at the feeding station in the red macroalgae and just kinda hang there. I noticed the female did pretty much the same thing over to the side on a piece of fake coral so I did not worry.
Today not much has changed except the male is really not interested in eating. This morning he ate maybe one shrimp. I tried the Hawaii red shrimp but they darted off too fast. Tonight he ate one PE shrimp and then went off to the dark side and just hung out. I tried to get him another red shrimp but again it just went darting off.
I keep looking to see if their bellies look ok. The female definitely has the () but the male seems to be more ll (straight). They were both so frisky at first and now seem to be very subdued.
If you have any advise I would appreciate it.
LaurieAugust 27, 2007 at 12:37 pm #3781llovelessGuest
I would recheck the water parameters; temperature, sp gravity, nitrites, and ph. If any are out of range take action to return them to normal.
Have your ponies hunted down and eaten the volcano shrimp? If not how are they acting?
I am not an expert, but this should help til others more qualified chime in.
llovelessAugust 27, 2007 at 10:47 pm #3782Pete GiwojnaGuest
It sounds like the decrease in appetite began when you switched from the smaller frozen Mysis to the jumbo PE Mysis relicta. If that’s the case, try switching back to the smaller frozen Mysis that they had been eating so well previously, and see if that makes a difference. (Some seahorses have very definite preferences regarding the size of the shrimp that they eat best. So if your new pair of seahorses seem to prefer the smaller Mysis, stick with that for the time being. Later, as they grow, the size preferences of your seahorses may change, and I expect that you will find they will eat the large PE frozen Mysis equally well once they mature. Just keep your PE Mysis frozen and it will last indefinitely.)
If the red feeder shrimp are proving to be too elusive and too adept at hiding to make easy prey, you might also consider crippling or disabling the live shrimp to slow it down and make it easier to target before you offer it to your seahorses. The most humane way to do this is to cool the live shrimp down so that it’s barely moving when you put it in the aquarium. Put several of the red feeder shrimp in a small container of saltwater and chill it in your refrigerator or even your freezer until the shrimp’s metabolism has slowed down to the point that they are barely moving. When you’ve done it right and chilled them down sufficiently, their legs will still be twitching and moving around enough to attract the interest of the seahorse and trigger a feeding response, but the red shrimp will be too lethargic and torpid for coordinated movements or evasive maneuvers. Drop the disabled shrimp right in front of the seahorse one or two at a time and they should be sitting ducks. To save time, you can also accomplish the same thing by removing most of the shrimp’s legs to cripple it and slow it down. The live red feeder shrimp or volcano shrimp (Halocaridina rubra) from Hawaii are ideal for this since they are bite-sized morsels that are easy to swallow.
I agree with Loveless then it would also be a good idea to double check your water quality and it would be helpful if you can update me on your current aquarium parameters:
Ammonia (NH3/NH4+) =
Nitrite (N02) =
Nitrate (N03) =
specific gravity =
water temperature =
it might also be a good idea for you to check the dissolved oxygen levels in your aquarium, Laurie. Seahorses will become increasingly sluggish and lethargic when they are not getting enough oxygen. So low O2 and/or high CO2 levels could be one reason that they have become less active, and inadequate oxygen is also commonly associated with a loss of appetite.
If you would like to monitor the dissolved oxygen levels in your seahorse tank, which I recommend, the Tetra Oxygen Test Kit (TetraTest 02) is a good liquid reagent test kit for fresh or saltwater with simple color scales for comparing readings that tests for 02 in the range of 2-14 PPM. It will cost you between $8.50 to $14 depending on where you shop and should be available at any well-stocked LFS. Salifert also makes a nice 02 Test Kit (their 02 Profi-Test) that will run you about $20.
Either of those test kits fit the bill very well and are worthwhile investments for the seahorse keeper.
Dissolved Oxygen (02): Optimum level = 6 – 7 ppm
High levels of dissolved oxygen are vital to the well being of both fish and invertebrates. The key to maintaining high O2 levels in the aquarium is good circulation combined with surface agitation (Webber, 2004). Wet/dry trickle filters and protein skimmers facilitate efficient gas exchange and oxygenation. It is important for the hobbyist to monitor the dissolved oxygen levels in the aquarium because a drop in O2 levels is often an early indicator of impending trouble — a precursor of problems ahead. A drop in O2 levels will tip off the alert aquarist and allow corrective measures to be taken, nipping the problem in the bud before it adversely affects his seahorses. For example, a drop in O2 levels could be an early indicator of overcrowding — a signal that your system has reached its carrying capacity. Or it may merely signal a rise in the water temperature due to a summertime heat wave or indicate that the tank is overdue for a water change and/or a thorough cleaning to remove excess organics and accumulated detritus. Or it could be telling you that your tank is under circulated and you need to increase the surface agitation and water movement.
The point is that checking the O2 levels in your aquarium can alert you to impending problems and allow you to do something about them before they have dire consequences. A drop in O2 levels is often the first sign of a water quality problem and it can tip off the alert aquarist that trouble is brewing before his seahorses are gasping for air in obvious respiratory distress. Checking the dissolved oxygen levels regularly is the next best thing to continuously monitoring the Oxidation-Reduction Potential (ORP) or redox of the water, which is a luxury few hobbyists can afford.
So I would suggest that you purchase an inexpensive test kit for dissolved oxygen, Laurie. In the meantime, to be on the safe side, you can increase the surface agitation and aeration and in the aquarium in order to promote efficient gas exchange at the air/water interface and to provide better oxygenation. A simple airstone anchored just below the surface of the water is a quick, easy way to accomplish this.
It doesn’t sound like your new acquisitions are in dire straits, Laurie. As long as their abdomens are not sunken or pinched in, they are getting enough nourishment and are in no danger of starvation.
And it isn’t unusual for seahorse stallions to be a bit more sedentary than their mates. It is SOP for male seahorses to be somewhat less active than the females. Males tend to be real homebodies that will often choose one particular hitching post as their home base and spend much of there time perched right there (think of your Dad hunkered down in his favorite easy chair in the den). Researchers studying seahorses in the field therefore refer to males as "site-specific" because they can be found at the same tiny patch of reef or seagrass day after day, rarely straying from their chosen spot. Mature males are often naturally more shy and retiring than females, which can be quite brazen at times. I suspect this is due to their parental duties — during the breeding season, pair-bonded males are ordinarily ALWAYS pregnant, and they can’t risk exposing their precious cargo to any more risk than absolutely necessary.) The unfettered females tend to be far more footloose and fancy free, and in the wild they typically roam over a home territory of up to 100 square meters. So I wouldn’t worry if your male only tends to wander around the tank on occasion, whereas your female is more active and explores more.
In summation, I would suggest switching back to the smaller frozen Mysis to see if that makes a difference in the eating habits of your ponies. If that doesn’t work, try crippling some of the red feeder shrimp so they will be easy to catch and your stallion can get a good meal. And increase the surface agitation and aeration to make sure that your dissolved oxygen levels are nice and high.
Best of luck getting your newcomers eating like horses again, Laurie! Please let me know your current aquarium parameters at your earliest convenience.
Pete GiwojnaAugust 28, 2007 at 1:24 am #3784ljayneGuest
Dear Pete & lloveless,
Thanks so much for your replies. I will check parameters when I get home. I have a DO meter that one of my co-workers is going to set up so I will be able to test the oxygen. This morning the male ate 1 PE shrimp maybe 2 – and the female ate 2. I say maybe 2 because they (both seahorses) were right together and I put the shrimp close to the male and looked away for a minute and when I looked back it was gone – so not sure which one ate that. I will switch back to the smaller khari (sp?) shrimp tonight. I will let you know as soon as I get all the tests done.
LaurieAugust 28, 2007 at 7:26 am #3786ljayneGuest
Here are my parameters:
Ammonia (NH3/NH4+) = 0.25
Nitrite (N02) = 0
Nitrate (N03) = 30
pH = 8.07
specific gravity = 31
water temperature = 74.5
I put the air stone in as soon as I got home. My co-worker did not get my DO meter calibrated and none of the fish stores in town had a DO test kit. So I will have to wait until tomorrow when my meter is ready. I also rearranged my return to agitate the surface some more.
I switched to the little shrimp and the female ate fine. The male ate one and did not seem really interested. I did put one in the red macroalgae that he stays on and he finally ate that. So I placed a few more there and he ate them. I guess he has decided to be semi-shy. I did not try the red shrimp since he did eat some and thought I would try that tomorrow as I am about out of the shrimp – some died and some are hiding in the tank.
As I mentioned on Saturday I did a 3 gallon water change and also added bio filter medium to the Freedom Filter which is supposed to help reduce nitrates. I think though that may take a little while before the bacteria builds up.
I would appreciate any help. I do feel a little better since he has eaten some.
LaurieAugust 28, 2007 at 10:38 am #3788LeslieGuest
Could you please verify your specific gravity for us. Is it really 1.031? If so what did you use to measure it? That is unusually high and if accurate could be part of your problem. Your specific gravity should be no higher than 1.026.
LeslieAugust 28, 2007 at 9:09 pm #3789ljayneGuest
Sorry to cause you concern over the specific gravity – I thought specific gravity was the 31 and salinity would be 1.024. I guess I had them backwards. I took the reading before I topped off the tank which I have to do each day. Once I top off the tank I get a reading of 1.023. I may get a little more fluctutation now that I am agitating the surface more so I will watch this closely.
I am so excited this morning they were both very perky and gobbling up everything. The male was moving around a lot and even went chasing after some of the shrimp. I used the smaller shrimp again.
I am thinking it must be the oxygen as that is the only major change. I readjusted the return jets to really ruffle the surfice and had the air stone in at the top of the tank for about 3 hours. I did not want to leave it in too long as I have read it can create a spike in ammonia.
I really appreciate all your help.
LaurieAugust 29, 2007 at 2:36 am #3790Pete GiwojnaGuest
Thanks for the update! It’s great to hear that your new seahorses have perked up again and regained their appetites. I think you’re back on track again, so stick with the smaller frozen Mysis and maintain the increase surface agitation and extra aeration.
Okay, that makes perfect sense now — if your salinity is 31 ppt, that would correspond to a specific gravity of 1.023, which is just fine. You do have a trace amount of ammonia right now but that should disappear over the next few days as your biofilter adjust to the heavier bioload in the aquarium.
Your nitrates are a little on the high side, of course, but it sounds like you’re already taking steps to bring them down. For a seahorse tank, we liked the nitrates to remain below 20 at all times, and ideally below 10 ppm, if possible. Adding the special filter media to your Freedom Filter in order to help reduce the nitrates was good thinking.
Don’t hesitate to leave the airstone in your aquarium to facilitate the surface agitation and oxygenation, Laurie. An airstone cannot cause an ammonia spike, although sometimes it may appear that way. What sometimes happens is that in an aquarium with low O2 and high CO2 levels, the pH is naturally somewhat depressed. When you subsequently increase the dissolved oxygen levels and drive out more of the CO2, the pH will be elevated back into the normal range again. It is actually the shift in pH that can cause a transitory ammonia spike under certain circumstances.
This downward pH shift that occurs in an aquarium with low O2/high CO2 can actually help protect fish from harmful ammonia levels simply due to the fact that ammonia is less toxic at low pH and becomes much more toxic at higher pH. This is because ammonia exists in water in an equilibrium between two different forms — a nontoxic ionized form usually referred to as ammonium (NH4+) and an un-ionized form (NH3), which is highly toxic. Ammonium (NH4+) is completely harmless to fishes since the ionized ammonia molecule cannot cross the cell membrane and enter their cells. Note that only difference between harmless NH4+ and deadly NH3 is the addition of a hydrogen ion (H+), which converts toxic ammonia to nontoxic ammonium. At low pH, the extra hydrogen ions (H+) of acidic water are readily available to attach to the ammonia molecule, converting most of the ammonia to ammonium: NH3 + H+ —> NH4+. But at high pH, under alkaline conditions, exactly the opposite occurs. At high pH, the abundance of hydroxide ions (OH-) in alkaline water strips the extra hydrogen ion (H+) away from ammonium, rapidly converting most of it to deadly ammonia: OH- + NH4+ —> NH3 + H20. In other words, the higher (more alkaline) the pH, the more ammonia is present in the dangerous un-ionized form (NH3), which easily crosses cell membranes and enters the body.
So if an airstone races the dissolved oxygen levels and drives out more carbon dioxide from the aquarium water, this will tend to raise the pH, and a significant upward shift in pH can convert harmless ammonium in the tank into dangerous ammonia. But that shouldn’t happen in an established aquarium where the nitrifying bacteria can easily convert all of the ammonia into nitrite and finally nitrate as fast as the ammonia is produced. And if the pH in your aquarium is currently a little above 8, then adding an airstone should not significantly alter the pH, and there should therefore be no increased conversion of ammonium into ammonia. In your case, I would say that it should certainly be safe to leave the airstone in the tank to promote efficient gas exchange at the air/water interface and raise the levels of dissolved oxygen, which is something that your seahorses seem to be responding to very well.
Best of luck with your new arrivals, Laurie!
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