Treatment of Cuticular Mycosis in Wild-Caught Common Sea Fans (Gorgonia ventalina)
American Association of Zoo Veterinarians Conference 2012
Ginger L. Takle, DVM; Bob Snowden, BA; Elizabeth Galvanek, CAHT; Kristine Trotta, LVT
Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium, Pittsburgh, PA, USA


Gorgonia ventalina, the common sea fan, is a protected coral species found throughout the Caribbean. Mass mortalities associated with infection from Aspergillus spp. have been documented in wild G. ventalina.1-3 Approximately two months after entering captivity from a multi-species coral rescue, 23 G. ventalina colonies began experiencing clinical signs consistent with fungal infection including purpling of tissue, gall formation, and focal death of skeleton. Cytology, biopsy, and culture confirmed multifocal cuticular mycosis with isolation of Aspergillus sydowii. Previously reported treatment of this disease has centered on surgical excision of diseased colonies, which can result in significant loss of tissue. In an effort to retain coral shape and size we divided the coral colonies into four medical treatment groups: daily itraconazole bath, every other day itraconazole bath, topical daily clotrimazole, and topical clotrimazole every other day. Best results were observed with the daily itraconazole bath, although significant improvement was observed in all four groups. Treatment duration ranged from 14 to 138 days and rate of regression of lesions was variable from colony to colony. Based on this treatment study our recommendation for medical treatment of sea fans with A. sydowii is daily itraconazole baths.


The authors thank the Department of Aquatic Life at the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium for their assistance in the care of these corals.

Literature Cited

1.  Alker AP, Smith GW, Kim K. Characterization of Aspergillus sydowii (Thom et Church), a fungal pathogen of Caribbean sea fan corals. Hydrobiologia. 2001;460:105–111.

2.  Nagelkerken I, Buchan K, Smith GW, Bonair K, Bush P, Garzon-Ferreira J, et al. Widespread disease in Caribbean sea fans: II. Patterns of infection and tissue loss. Mar Ecol Prog Ser. 1997;160:255–263.

3.  Smith GW, Harvel CD, Kim K. Response of sea fans to infection with Aspergillus sp. (fungi). Rev Biol Trop. 1998;46(Supl.5):205–208.


Speaker Information
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Ginger L. Takle, DVM
Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium
Pittsburgh, PA, USA

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