10 Reasons Why Seahorses Turn White, With Solutions.

A Seahorse’s appearance is not permanent, they can change their color based on their environment, mood, lighting, diet, and development phase. But what will make a seahorse turn white or pale? Let’s take a look!

It’s always important for owners to always track their seahorse’s appearance, behavior, and overall health. This is to make sure that you catch any issues and treat them before it becomes fatal.

There are several reasons why a seahorse’s exterior would become white. Sometimes it could be a health issue or a response to their environment.

Here are ten potential reasons for a seahorse to turn white.

1. Response To Their Environment.

A seahorse’s skin has chromatophores which is an organ used for camouflage. These organs contain pigment sacs that become more visible as small radial muscles pull the sac open making the pigment expand under the skin.

This allows them to change their color to get brighter or darker based on their environment. This camouflage ability enables them to constantly change color depending on mood and behavior.

We see them change color as fast as us moving them from their holding aquarium to a shipping bag due to stress.

They can also change color when you introduce more additions to their tanks as well as any other changes to their surroundings.

They can become pale even fully white as well as really dark. This is merely their response and adaptation to the changing environment.

SOLUTION: Reduce stress, improve water quality, and encourage lighter shades.

2. Ectoparasitic Infestation.

Ectoparasites are often caused by poor quarantine and pre-treatment practices. Normally seahorses harbor these parasites with no problem.

However through the stress of capture and transportation, weeks in holding facilities with little to no food, and the sometimes volatile conditions that can occur in closed systems such as aquariums, their immune systems are weakened.

Such parasites are given a chance to overtake their host. Symptoms of manifestation present as white spots, patches, or blisters.

Their skin can also become washed out turning pale to white due to the stress and being immunosuppressed.

Other symptoms you can watch out for are cloudy eyes, erratic behavior, and stress-induced discoloration hence they turn white or pale.

SOLUTION: Quarantine, if not use Formalin, Methylene Blue, or Malachite Green

3. Vibrio Bacterial Infection.

Disease-causing bacteria are everywhere waiting for a chance to enter their host and totally take over. The bacterial genus Vibrio is a malicious flesh-eroding bacteria.

This bacteria can remain dormant until given an opportunity to strike. Often when water quality in a closed system is bad, this causes these bacteria to overtake.

With bad water conditions, seahorses don’t do well, their fragile immune systems get targeted and these bacteria take over.

The most common symptom is eroded and blistery skin to the point of the seahorse turning pale/white. If left untreated these bacteria will feed off the flesh until the seahorse is totally consumed.

Other symptoms to watch out for are swelling, rapid breathing, and cloudy eyes.

SOLUTION: Combination drugs such as Furan II and Paragon II are highly effective.

4. Males light up to get females’ attention.

Seahorses take mating very seriously especially the males since they carry the pregnancy therefore they do whatever it takes to find a mate.

The idea of finding a mate is harder than you may think since the female will not deposit her eggs to just any male.

She first has to get a desired male she’s interested in, therefore males become ritualistic and flamboyant in aids to get the attention of their female mate.

Male seahorses are also found to change their color becoming brighter to the point of being white to get noticed by the female.

We know that the color of seahorses can easily be changed based on emotion and displays personality. Something that the male uses to attract females for a bonding pair to be completed.

5. Snout Rot.

Similarly, this is caused by a flesh-eating pathogen that erodes the snout of a seahorse.

The disease may be caused either by fungal infection or bacterial infection, either of which is highly dangerous and life-threatening.

In the case of a fungal infection, the seahorse will present with a pinkish snout, but if the infection is caused by a bacterial infection the snout will be white.

If left untreated this pathogen will migrate to other parts of the body totally eradicating healthy flesh and consuming its host.

Other symptoms to be careful for are discoloration of the snout, swelling of the snout, lockjaw, loss of appetite, and tissue erosion.

SOLUTION:  Use of Furan II and Paragon II provided the seahorse is in quarantine.

6. Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia.

Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia is a serious, highly contagious, and fatal disease of fish. It affects a large number of fresh and marine fish species including seahorses.

Seahorses affected by VHS present with hemorrhages on the body, eyes, gills, bulging eyes, swollen (fluid-filled) abdomens, and discoloration coloration.

Affected fish may have abnormal swimming behavior. Hemorrhages may also be seen in the muscle and
organ tissues.

SOLUTION: There is no specific treatment or cure.

7. Marine Velvet (Amyloodinium).

Velvet is much more of a threat to your aquarium fish and will appear as fine white particles that cover the skin and fins of the fish. 

It has a white dust-like appearance that is abundant throughout the fish’s body. This is caused by a dinoflagellate parasite that spreads rapidly.

The white appearance is merely an advanced symptom since marine life may have this parasite without any initial symptoms.

This issue is common in new aquarium additions since fish are taken from large breeding tanks which may be harvesting parasites and infections.

SOLUTION: Treat with Mardel Coppersafe® for ten days with necessary tank changes.

7. Pinto coloration pattern

White patches on a seahorse could be localized areas of depigmentation developing the Pinto pattern, that is so attractive and desirable in some specimens of Hippocampus erectus.

In a few rare seahorses with the proper genotype, this sort of depigmentation is normal and occurs at a certain stage of development.

This pinto-patterned Seahorse is a result of selectively breeding the Hippocampus erectus that initially showed this coloration.

They display blotches of black and white throughout their body; hence their name.

This color pattern may or may not be permanent but they one of the hardiest varieties. This coloration isn’t something to be concerned about.

SOLUTION: No treatment is required, coloration may be permanent or temporary.

8. Seahorses Are Individuals.

We know that seahorses can change their color ranging from dark to light to the point of being pale.

This unique feature is not only camouflage but also a way for them to express themselves, displaying individual personality.

The exact same species of seahorse can go from black to grey to white to brown to orange and can even get as light as yellow.

This is definitely a feature that they make use of which transcends through the clear glass attracting anyone who may sight it.

A complete force of nature, yet so magical and fairytale-like.

9. Old Age.

The latter years of many living creatures’ life are always fragile with many disfigured functions and inabilities.

Their color-changing feature is something that can be worn out throughout their lifespan, especially older seahorses who have lived long lives.

Their health is directly related to the care they receive, the water quality in which they swim in, and the nutrient value of their food.

Over the years they can become less functional due to bad maintenance and overall bad health.

This could be the reason for sudden discoloration and in fact, they can lose their color-changing ability or rather come to a neutral tone which may be white.

SOLUTION: Better care and overall maintenance ensuring specific water parameters.

10. Mutation.

A mutation is a change in DNA structure that results in the alteration of species. Mutations are a way to birth new species.

While breeding, mutations can occur affecting their pigment and color-changing ability. Sometimes these changes can only be seen through a development phase.

Such mutations can result in variations of color, patterns, and unique overall appearance. Just another reason for color change in seahorses.

SOLUTION: It’s genetic, and may not be prevented or treated.

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