Aquarium Medications Part 4 | Organic Aquarium Treatments
Including; Melaluca, Pimenta, Naphthoquinones
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By Carl Strohmeyer-PAMR 40+ years experience
I will examine a few “homeopathic” treatments that I have used; as well as information about the symptoms and possible treatment of Lymphocystis
The benefit of most organic “natural” remedies is although these may not be as strong/effective as synthetic/chemical treatments this type of remedy generally has a much larger safety margin with much less side effects and basically non existent expiration times (I have used Melafix effectively years past the so-called “best used date”).
PIMENTA EXTRACT (PIMAFIX);
USE: Pimenta extract is effective for a broad range of mild bacterial and fungal diseases that typically afflict fish and other aquatic animals.
Pimenta Extract has shown to be more effective against gram negative bacterial infections which are more common in aquatic infections. This generally makes Pimafix a better choice over Melafix, although they can be combined for more broad range effectiveness.
The Pimenta extract treatment has been shown in Lab tests to be effective in curing such difficult-to-treat fish diseases, like ragged fins and bacterial dropsy (early stages).
Pimafix is often effective where its sister product, Melafix is not. Since they have different anti-microbial properties, combining both is safe and occasionally more effective.
My own use and notes of this product show it to be a useful product (often even more useful when combined with Melafix) for MILD bacterial infections or fungal (Saprolegnia) infections.
This all said, Pimafix is not for serious infections, so even though this is a good first response treatment (again with a possible combination with Melafix), I do NOT recommend Pimafix when the infection is serious or if Pimafix is not effecting a cure, a stronger medication such as Kanamycin, Minocycline or Nitrofurazone SHOULD be used.
Please see this article for more about these medications:
Possible Dangers:One caution I would offer for the use of Pimafix is for marine aquariums; although I have not observed any problems, human and other animal studies have shown that the active ingredient in Pimafix is highly toxic when ingested and since most marine fish drink the water around them to regulate osmotic pressure in their bodies, the potential of over use exists in marine aquaria. As well, I would most definitely not use with marine invertebrates!
Another caution with Pimafix is that it contains refined Clove Oil (refined so as to dissolve in water).
I found one such reaction in an aquarium forum by a person who seems quite knowledgeable, but in this case is making non-scientific anecdotal claims based not in controlled studies, but the knowledge that Clove oil can be and is lethal at certain dosage.
An example of this type of thinking as noted in the previous paragraph, is the use of Tylenol (acetometaphin) in humans; which used properly is effective for headache relief and more, but when over used or worse, when combined with alcohol can be lethal to one’s liver.
DOSAGE: Refer to Pimafix (link) instructions on how to use Pimafix
MELALUCA TEA, TTO (Tea Tree Oil), cajeput oil found in MELAFIX:
USE: Due to antiseptic properties, Melafix may help repair damaged fins, ulcers, mild eye infections, and open wounds, often caused by rough handling, fighting, and occasionally “ammonia burns”. Although a fish bath or hospital tank with Methylene Blue is often more effective.
Melaleuca alternifolia is a plant that belongs to the family Myrtaceae, of which aboriginals of New South Wales (Australia) have long used as an antiseptic.
The oil is acquired from the tea tree leaves through a process of steam refinement.
However it is noteworthy that Melafix employs the TTO found in the related Melaleuca leucadendron tree (AKA the Cajeput tree) found in SE Asia, New Guinea and surrounding areas.
More about Aquatic uses of Melafix;
Melafix is sometimes effective against early stages of Aeromonas bacteria which often attack open wounds, sores, and abrasions.
As well it is noteworthy that Melafix (TTO) is more useful in “battling” Aeromonas by aiding in healing the fish prior to this opportunistic gram negative bacterium even gets a “foot hold” (especially since TTO has little proven effectiveness against full blown gram negative infections).
As to eye infections, Melafix is an excellent first response to eye infections and often is all that is needed for mild case, however more serious case generally should included medicated baths, direct applications of medications to the eye (such as Methylene Blue or Potassium Permanganate), along with in tank treatment with stronger gram positive medications such as Erythromycin (Erythromycin Phosphate is the better choice over commonly sold Erythromycin Sulfate).
Eye Infection Reference:
Melaluca tends to be more effective against gram positive bacteria (which is often the cause of eye infections), which are less common in aquatic diseases, making Melafix a lesser choice to Pimafix which is more effective against gram negative bacteria (as noted earlier, they can be combined).
More importantly, MULTIPLE excellent University level human and veterinary studies (most out of Australia) show that Tea Tree oil (used to manufacture Melafix) can be an effective EXTERNAL treatment against many bacterium (primarily gram positive).
I have used Melafix quite a bit with mixed results.
An absurd claim put out by an old Goldfish site that is present in some Google Groups is that Melafix will burn the gills of injured fish; I have NEVER seen ANY evidence of this and quite the opposite I have found it soothing to the fish with wounds (see the university study link that disproves this common internet myth).
First Response use of Melafix; I am attempting make the point in this article that Melafix or Melafix combined with Pimafix is a good first response treatment for mild/moderate injuries, torn fins, damaged gills (often from high ammonia). However, ongoing use for advanced gram negative bacterial infection not only have been proven to be not effective, but also have a dangerous negative effect on aquarium Redox.
Since Melafix has been proven scientifically to be primarily effective only on gram positive bacterium which are far less often a cause of serious aquarium and pond bacterial infections than gram negative infections such as Columnaris, the use of this product for said infections is totally useless. Gram negative Pseudomonas MAY be the only possible exception but this is not generally a common cause of virulent infections in fish.
My point about thinking scientifically means that if, for example you had a fish with symptoms of Aeromonas (which is an extremely opportunistic infection that often strikes in less than optimum conditions) and then changed water and performed other maintenance tasks that improved water conditions, while at the same time used Melafix to treat the fish, then your fish recovered; this is NOT proof that the Melafix cured your fish. More than likely the water improvement tasks helped the fish fight the infection themselves.
Even with gram positive infections such as Aquatic Streptococcus which Melafix may be effective for (in mild cases or in conjunction with other treatment methods), the potential user should note that the ingredients in Melafix are not very strong against a virulent Streptococcus infection.
Melafix’s properties as an antimicrobial are limited (at least at the concentrations found in Melafix). However I do find it useful for a first response to injury of all kinds to fish where I HAVE observed some good results here and often the fish are more calm (IMO) after use of this product.
An analogy so as to better understand how and what to use Melafix for is these:
As with Pimafix (and even more so since it is effective for less bacterium), I do not recommend Melafix for serious infections, rather a first line of defense as already noted and in combination with the slightly more effective Pimafix.
* As with Pimafix, I would be careful in Marine Aquarium use, although with fish generally this is not a problem (although effectiveness is questionable since marine fish diseases even more so than freshwater diseases tend toward gram negative). With marine reef tanks I would not recommend the use of Melafix.
* As with Pimafix too, Melafix is a strong Redox Oxidizer, which ongoing use, especially for diseases of gram negative bacterium, will result in an unhealthy Redox balance, which then can further lower fish disease resistance.
* Many claim that Melafix can cause problems with Labyrinth fish and Pencil Fish, which research has shown to be a half truth.
I can correct this incorrect statement in that part of the patent for Melafix (& Pimafix) is the process of refining of the oil OUT of both these products.
I would venture a guess that those who have had problems are certainly not imagining it, however that some sort of chemical reaction happened (again I refer to my Tylenol/alcohol combination analogy I made in the Pimafix section).
Currently the best scientific information shows that there may be link between the tea tree oil in Melafix and toxicity in Labyrinth fish/Pencil fish, but this link is NOT what many in aquatic forums are anecdotally assuming.
Basically Tea Tree oil (melaleuca, Melaleuca alternifolia) is a phenol-containing essential oil.
My current hypothesis (based on early tests), is that since the best research shows similarities between TTO and Turpentine (both are terpenes, but then so is beta carotene), is that in an acidic environment, in particular an environment with nitric acid (which is quite possible in an aquarium), the chemical reaction can produce chemicals that may harm the liver in certain fish that have a tendency to ingest the water around them such as Labyrinth fish/Pencil fish (via the surface).
Certain terpenes such as turpentine are actually explosive when combined with nitric acid (this chemical reaction is used in rocket fuels!).
This would also explain why this reaction has not been observed in my tests with Melafix (even at double doses) with Labyrinth fish/Pencil fish since I conducted these tests in a balanced Redox mineral/electrolyte environment.
At this point my advice is to maintain a non acidic environment, proper mineralization and Redox, which is something I have been a big proponent of for many years now based on scientific evidence of the benefits therein.
Another evidence pointing toward this conclusion is that based in emails, browsing of Forums (Betta forums in particular), and speaking with clients and colleagues; is that in almost every case where Melafix has been a problem the person using this product was incorrectly keeping the Betta in an acidic, poorly mineralized, poor Redox environment of which they were unfortunately given misguided advice to do so.
This also brings up an important point about Melafix use in general for all fish and that is that both Melafix and Pimafix are acidic and negatively affect Redox Balance, so while these products certainly have their place in aquarium use, continued use will most definitely cause issues with Redox Balance and therefore long term fish immunity.
Product Resource: Wonder Shells; Unique Versions only from AAP
I recommend reading these articles:
PLEASE reference this excellent university level study for more about the positives and negatives of Tea Tree oil found in Melafix:
DOSAGE: Refer to Melafix instructions or to purchase, please see this site:
Naphthoquinones are compounds present in several families of higher plants.
In folk medicine plants containing Naphthoquinones (such as Henna) have been employed for the treatment of various diseases.
A relatively new product that contains Naphthoquinones is Kordon Herbal Ich Attack & Rid Fungus.
Ich-Attack is effective against protozoan parasites on fishes while safe for most aquatic invertebrates, whether fresh or brackish water, or marine.
Dinoflagellate infections treated by Ich-Attack are photosynthetic single-celled organisms which include Oodinium (velvet disease), Amyloodinium (coral fish disease), Tetrahymena, as well as other infectious dinoflagellates.
Kordon Herbal Ich-Attack (aka Rid-Fungus) is especially suitable for tropical marine aquariums containing aquatic invertebrates, it also treats their fungal infections, while not adversely affecting coral reef animals, including corals, anemones, starfish, snails, crabs, and shrimp.
Herbal Ich-Attack was led/created by Dr. Michael Tierra (a well known herbalist whose books on natural botanical treatments are widely read) whose work to determine which herbals can be used together to cover a wide spectrum of external fungal and other aquatic diseases.
*As with Usnea, well controlled in depth tests of products containing Naphthoquinones such as Herbal Ich Attack have not been performed that I know of as of writing this update, however albeit somewhat anecdotal feedback from reliable aquarium maintenance professionals shows positive results, although these results also showed this treatment to not be as effective as similar chemical treatments such as the very effective AAP Super Ich Plus or slightly less effective SeaChem ParaGuard.
This feedback from these professionals has this product used with shrimp, snails, & crabs, for both fungus and Ich but 100% safety has not been confirmed with delicate corals or octopi.
THERAPEUTIC OILS (Kordon Fish Therapy Bath)
Therapeutic oils have become very popular among many natural human health care professionals and have spun off such companies as "Young Living Essential Oils" and "DoTERRA Essential Oils", so use in fish is a natural progression in my view.
The therapeutic oils found in Kordon's Fish Therapy Bath have some science and proven use behind them (oils include citrus, neem, and lavender oils). Most notably the use of citrus oils to treat termites, fleas, etc. Lavender Oil also has repellant abilities.
Neem oil is reported to be effective as an insecticide as well as some anti-inflammation properties, anti-fungal and limited anti-bacterial (possibly tuberculosis), although anti-bacterial activity seems to indicate more effectiveness toward gram positive bacterium and most fish diseases are gram negative.
Where does this leave us with this product (Kordon Fish Therapy Bath in particular)?
I would not substitute Kordon Fish Therapy Bath for Methylene Blue for fish suffering from ammonia poisoning, low oxygen damage, pH shock, or other bath medications such as Potassium Permanganate or combinations of Methylene Blue with Furan 2/Kanaplex or Maracyn Plus for more serious problems.
Product Resource: Kordon Fish Therapy Bath from AAP
Further Fish Bath Information:
OREGON GRAPE ROOT, as an aquarium (& pond) treatment;
Oregon Grape Root is one of those "wonder herbs" with actual science to back it up, unlike many "natural treatments". What is not proven is its effectiveness in aquarium or pond fish use, but based on the science around how this herb works, likely this will become an effective addition to many other proven aquarium treatments.
Oregon Grape Root has potential to aid in antibiotic effectiveness in treatment of difficult to treat diseases such as Columnaris as it contains a specific multi drug resistance pump inhibitor (MDR Inhibitor).
Oregon Grape Root is a bitter herb with cooling, draining and detoxifying benefits.
Potential Treatment for:
Reference: Oregon Grape Root - It could save the world
Online Source for Oregon Grape Root (not affiliated with AAP):
USNEA LICHEN, usnic acid aquarium (& pond) treatment;
Please note that we have a more in depth article dealing with just Usnea for aquarium pond treatment, please visit this link:
I have found it effective for bacterial (gram negative, but primarily positive), fungal and even parasites such ich.
Usnea may also be a better choice than the drug metronidazole (as per human studies) for parasites and anaerobic bacterial treatments in aquariums.
Usnea also shows promise as a safe albeit mild Cryptocaryon (saltwater ich) treatment for Marine Aquariums.
More information about Usnea;
* Whitish patches or irregular growths on the fish most commonly on the tail and fins. These start as white pin-prick like growths on their fins or epidermis. In the early stages Lymphocystis is often mistaken for Ich (Ichthyophthirius multifiliis). It soon clumps together to form a cauliflower-like growth on the skin, mouth, fins, and occasional gills
As noted: unless the fish is already very "compromised", Lymphocystis is not a fish disease that kills. Generally a healthy fish will over come the infection just as humans over come the common cold.
More about Lymphocystis: University of FLorida; Lymphocystis Disease in Fish
Back to Usnea, this remedy is still in the testing phase, but early results when used in a "Fish Bath" are promising.
This lichen is boiled like a tea then added to a fish bath or occasionally directly to the aquarium.
DOSAGE: None established yet. I boil one small sprig in 6 oz. of water.
For my full article about Usnea, please visit this link:
If interested in some Usnea, you can purchase (.2 oz, enough for 200 gallons of treatment for $2.69) via the PayPal Pay Now button Below.
OTHERS; Such as Microbe-Lift Herbtana & Artemiss
There are many other organic/natural treatments coming into the aquarium/pond keeping marketplace.
Microbe-Lift's Herbtana is a good example of such a product that has little or no controlled testing and no published ingredients, but has some positive anecdotal reviews.
The fact this product is sold at discounters including Amazon, not professional aquarium supply companies does not lend itself to credibility when anecdotal reviews and lack of published ingredients are all factored in.
While I would not write off this product as there may may be other modes of operation other than immune system improvement, I will have to say for now that many controlled tests support products such as Herbal Ich Attack with its known ingredients as well as the even more 100s of tests supporting the use of Wonder Shells and Medicated Wonder Shells for both immune improvement and disease prevention (also with KNOWN proven ingredients).
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