Hello, Frank Indiviglio here. The biggest stumbling block in keeping the fascinating seahorses, pipefishes and seadragons (Family Syngnathidae) is providing them with a balanced diet – all are confirmed live-food specialists, and need a variety of prey items if they are to thrive. However, once past that hurdle we are sometimes faced with a dilemma unique to these fishes – a buildup of gas in the male’s pouch.
Seahorse and their relatives are well known for their unusual reproductive strategy. Females deposit eggs in the male’s special brood-pouch, where they develop and hatch. Male seahorses have even been shown to adjust the salinity of the water in the pouch to meet the special needs of the incubating eggs.
For reasons not fully understood, gas sometimes accumulates in the pouches of male seahorses and related fishes. Animals so afflicted float head down at the surface and soon expire.
The standard treatment is a bit delicate, but often effective. The gas must be physically expelled from the pouch via massage with a thin glass pipette. The pipette must be inserted into the pouch very carefully, and the seahorse should be held underwater during the procedure. Moving the pipette slowly and gently about within the pouch will usually quickly disperse the gas.
The pouch should then be flushed several times with an anti fungal medication. I’ve had good results with Methylene Blue, which is best used in a separate container as it colors the water and may kill beneficial aerobic bacteria.
The treatment may need to be repeated several times before the condition is cured, but, as anyone who has kept these droll fellows can attest, it is well worth the effort!
I was introduced to seahorse husbandry by my grandfather, back in the 60’s, and have been fascinated by them since. Please check out the book I’ve written on Seahorse Care and Natural History and the numerous articles I and others have posted on this site (The Natural History and Care of Native Seahorses).
For more about how seahorse fathers care for their young, please see New Research on Seahorses.
Please write in with your questions and comments.
Thanks, until next time,