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swollen Nautilus....


Jan 19, 2007
Hi all.

I need some help and ideas (please!!) on how to treat one of my experimental animals which is ill. It's a sub-adult Nautilus pompilius, which was doing fine until about 6 days ago (just when I went away for a couple of days - why do they always do that??), eating heartily and proving itself quite clever in my learning experiments. Since then it's been refusing food, and has turned into a 'sinker' ie. seems to have lost its buoyancy regulation ability. I can feel that it's lost alot of weight over the last couple of days, although a lot of that might have been just digesting what was in the crop.

It has a small wound on its hood from a bite, which looks to be healing ok. No hood bleaching.

I don't have any battery power in my camera so I'll try this explain as best I can.

Basically the animal's soft tissue appears swollen - the mantle that lines the inside of the shell is really puffy and much larger than in the other healthy animals. The tentacles, eyes and siphon all look normal. The poor thing can't close its hood - it's kind of pushed open by what appears to be swelling of the mantle. It's breathing by holding its siphon up higher than usual. I'm guessing the swelling is related to the hood wound, although the hood itself doesn't look or feel swollen. Do cephs even have a swelling response? (demonstrating my ignorance here!!) Any ideas about treatment? I've tried argentyne before on wounds but it seems to have little effect. I have no idea how to treat inflammation in an animal that won't take too kindly to ice...

General info about housing - recirc tank, 320 gallons, UV scrubbers on 24/7, 2 protein skimmers, 10 animals (9 very healthy), nitrite 0, ammonia 0, nitrates 10, phosphates 15, pH 7.9 - 8.2, temp 17 C. All normal for our system.

So, any ideas or suggestions are very welcome. I'll try to get some pictures tomorrow too.

Thanks, from me and from Nautilus#1.

Only comparitive questions, no experience but please keep us informed as to what you try and the results. I would like to try a naut next year and anything you learn will be helpful.

Can the nautilus get air under it's skin like octos do with their mantle and seahorses do when they have Gas Bubble Syndrome? I know Jean said they tried recompression with one of the octos, a treatment I have been successful with on Gas Bubble Syndrome (GBS) in male horses, but was unsuccessful in releaving the problem. The other teatment for seahorses is Diamox (both bath and injested), a prescription drug for humans to treat Glucoma and is a recommended "on hand" drug for GBS.

Can you tell if there may be infection under the shell from the bite. When I asked on TONMO what drugs might be good to have on hand for Octo infections, the only one that was mentioned was Tetracycline (available for fish without a perscription - Fish Cycline by Thomas Labs in USA - but perscription for humans). There are two other bacteria fighters (Kanamycin Sulfate and Neomycin Sulfate) that are commonly used with seahorses but I don't know if they would be lethal for cephs. If you are thinking bacterial infection, I would isolate the naut. The antibacterial drugs are biological filter killers for one thing and there is the possibility of spreading the infection if it is Vibro (common in horses and cephs).

I wish I could be of more help but recording what happens may be beneficial to the rest of us!
I found an article on the Pathology of Captive Chambered Nautilus (Nautilus pompilius by Marcia E. Pereira, Tabitha C. Viner, and Ellen Bronson

It's from a 2006 conference of the American Association of Zoo Veterinarians. I will try to find more info on this article if I can...
swollen Nautilus

here are a couple of pictures for anyone interested - I hope they work - not sure about attaching photos.

First photo - The white band you can see on the inner surface of the shell in the first (and 3rd pic) is the swelling - in healthy animals it is completely flat, just like skin. The black area is space where the body is moved away from the shell, then the solid white below the tentacle sheaths is hardened and enlarged tissue.

Second photo - You can see how the body is pushed forward and up by the swelling, compressing the funnel. The hood wound (in front of the eye) is clear as well. You can see how it has necrosed slightly in the third pic. The brown colour is from the argentyne.

Third photo - The pigmented area below my thumb in the third pic does extend out a little in healthy animals, but its flat, like a membrane, not solid like in this guy. The swelling extends all the way around the inner surface of the shell.

Update - he looks a little better tonight - swimming around a little and showing more normal tentacle extension. I'll offer him so food once I've finished working with his tank-buddies. Fingers crossed.


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Here's the reply from my aquarist friend at the Waikiki Aquarium...

Hi Jenn,

Sounds initially like a bacterial infection gone systemic? If it's been a week since the wound happened then I'd guess infection. Since it's affecting the buoyancy it may be a little too far gone but never know. Not sure on treatments for this since I don't know dosages for cephs. You can try and experiment with baths but probably need something internally, either ingested or IM into the hood area. Maybe if you can get some Baytril and just look up dosaging and guesstimate
something? Not sure what other antibiotics you could get your hands on.

In regards to the healing over of the hood. Think of it as if you stepped on a nail. The outside may look like it's healing up but the puncture put some nasties way inside and it will take a few days for that to fester and inflame and get infected.
Argentyne (sp?) I believe is topical only.

Hope that helps a little. Do you know of any other people on the ceph list that may have experience with this?

Here are some more references...

Scimeca, J. M. and D. Oestmann. 1995. Selected diseases of captive and laboratory reared cephalopods. Proc. Int. Assoc. Aquati. Anim. Med. 26:79.

Sparks, A. K. 1985. Cephalopod viruses. In: Sparks, A. K. (ed.) Synopsis of Invertebrate Pathology, Exclusive of Insects. Elsevier Science Publishers Biomedical Division, New York, New York. Pp. 141-143.
Update time:

I took a skin scraping today from the wound on the mantle - absolutely crawling with protozoa (gross!!). Fortunately the UV filter is keeping the rest of the tank water clean, so nobody else seems infested. We have him isolated in his own tank now. We dipped him in a really dilute solution of formalin to kill the microorganisms, and hopefully tomorrow we'll finally get some antibiotics for the secondary infection. He's still swollen but maybe breathing a little better. Although formalin tends to make animals gasp, so it might just be that...

He's a trooper - normally when I notice there is something wrong with a Nautilus it is dead within hours - just the way they are, I think. But this guy has been hanging on for almost two weeks now. I have my fingers crossed.
Update - he died:sad: Not exactly the news I was hoping for....

So I feel quite miserable about the whole thing. Normally they go down hill so quickly that there's not really much we could do to treat them before its too late, but I had plenty of time to get invested with this one.

So the (alas unsuccessful) treatment regimen went: topical argentyne on the wound, isolation, skin scrapings which showed protozoan infection, 20 minute formalin dips once a day to kill the protozoans. I would have liked to have tried some antibiotics as well, but this is a university and simple things like obtaining drugs for a sick animal apparently are very complicated.

Only one thing left to do......Anybody wanna see the necropsy pictures?

Thanks to everyone who offered advice, good vibes and support. You guys rock.

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