Fish, Tanks and Ponds

Fish, Tanks and Ponds
A comprehensive guide to fish

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Alternative treatments and therapies

Oranda goldfish
Oranda goldfish


The first and only priority when faced with a sick pet is to select a treatment which is going to improve the health of that pet. Alternative treatments such as homeopathy and herbalist remedies are increasing in popularity as people seek more natural remedies in preference to chemical treatments.

The aim of any treatment

The sole aim of any therapy is to cure the condition it is designed to treat. There are thousands of tried, tested and proven medicines out there, some people prefer to use what they see as more natural remedies in preference to the more traditional chemical remedies which is fine when they are choosing that treatment for themselves.

Do alternative treatments work

Well there is no hard scientific evidence that they do, this doesn't mean they don't of course but just that no one has managed to prove scientifically that they do.

James Randi offered $1,000,000 to any manufacturer of homeopathic medicines if they could prove under scientific conditions that any of their products worked. That prize has never been claimed!!!

There are lots of positive comments about these treatments on various forums but these are often nothing more than simple statements and are almost always with out proof or reference. Is it enough that a person with good intention should force on a pet an unproven and probably ineffective treatment when there are properly tested and proven alternatives available?

Some commonly used alternatives

Garlic: There are a lot of claims made for garlic and what it will do.

  • Appetite stimulant.
    There has been one study and this is backed up with lots of anecdotal evidence that garlic does indeed increase appetite.
  • Cure for Ichthyophthirius multifiliis
    Some of the chemicals found in garlic do kill the protozoa at very high doses. When tested it took 570mg/l of garlic extract to kill the parasite totally (a clove of garlic typically contains about 4mg of the active ingredient allicin, meaning that 142 cloves of garlic per litre of water would be required as an effective white spot therapy) while it only took 0.25 mg/l of malachite green to do the same.
  • Cure for Marine ick
    This is unproven and seems to be based on nothing more than it kills the fresh water version of the disease which is actually a completely different and unrelated parasite. Copper based treatments are 100% effective.
  • Cure for internal worms
    When fresh garlic was used mixed in with food it was demonstrated that it was effective. Whether the same will apply to processed garlic is still un-proven.
    Flubendazole is tested, safe and 100% effective.

Is garlic safe

No, it has been shown that garlic makes fish anaemic quite quickly and that it causes liver damage in the longer term. More and still more.

Tea tree oil (Melaleuca)

  • Anti-bacterial properties
    Melaleuca has been scientifically tested and proven ineffective against both bacterial infection and even background bacteria in the water column. More
  • Anti fungal properties
    It is ineffective against established fungal infections but may act as a preventative.
  • Promotes healing
    There is some anecdotal evidence that Melaleuca does promote healing. see the link above

If used in concentrations below 4% or particularly below 0.25%, tea tree oil may fail to kill bacteria and create selection pressure, which may result in them becoming less sensitive to tea tree oil and even some antibiotics in vitro. One popular aquarium remedy using tea tree oil only 1% of tea tree oil in the bottle the rest is water and emulsifier. This is then diluted even further. Probably making it useless. There is also a lot of evidence to suggest that it is toxic to pencil fish even at these miniscule doses.

There are safe, effective fully tested alternatives available for all the above conditions.

Pimental racemosa

Bay essential oil
Sold in another popular aquarium 'cure all'

Bay Oil is moderately toxic and a mucous membrane irritant: ref Rockport, MA: Element Books, 1995), 19
Does have some broad spectrum antibacterial, fungicidal and anti protozoa  properties but isn't reliable against established infections. The delay caused through treating ineffectively may mean the death of the fish.

Is natural better

Well cyanide is a natural product! Just because something is natural should we assume that it is any better, more effective or ant safer than a manufactured alternative?

Beware of anecdotal evidence and misleading claims made by the supporters of these remedies, statements like "I tried it and it worked for me" are meaningless.

 Look for some proper research on the subject and then decide what is going to be the most effective cure rather than the one which you 'prefer' to use based on a whim.