AlgaeFix: Experiences, Experiments, and Thoughts
As described in the title. I think it's worth sharing. If you prefer a briefer read, scroll down to the "Thoughts" section to see the real meat of this article - which describes how AlgaeFix works, why I believe it presents a risk to livestock, and how that risk can easily be reduced.
My first experience was an overwhelmingly negative one.
I had an incurable case of severe green water in a certain tank, that persisted for months. Believe me when I say incurable! I tried everything. I've easily beat green water in other tanks, but not this one. The only thing that had any real effect was continuous diatom filtration, and it came right back when discontinued.
I heard AlgaeFix worked wonders on green water. So as a last resort I tried it. Within minutes, every guppy in the tank was stunned; drifting without control, with periodic bursts of erratic movement. I performed massive water changes. Some recovered, some died. The green water was slightly reduced, but recovered quickly; the AlgaeFix was obviously effective, but the exposure was too brief.
I checked my dosage, and was sure I hadn't overdosed. Normally I would have thrown the bottle straight into the trash, but desperation makes you do funny things. So I tried again, but this time with a half dose.
This time, some of the guppies soon showed mild respiratory distress. Like in a tank with too little oxygen, or too much CO2. I kept an eagle eye on them over the course of the next few hours, ready to perform another massive water change should symptoms worsen. But instead, they recovered fully. The green water did not, and was finally gone - never to return after that single half dose.
I found that curious. So I searched extensively for other people's experiences. Most reported no issues. A minority, but still a significant number, reported problems like mine.
I also found some suggested that when a massive amount of algae is rapidly killed, as you'd expect with green water, that this results in equally rapid oxygen depletion. Makes sense, but it didn't seem like a perfect explanation.
I killed more algae with the second reduced dose, yet it had far less effect on the fish than the first. Others had killed equally massive green water blooms with the full dose, without issue. And some had used it with only minor algae of other types, yet had fish deaths. This explanation didn't quite fit.
A year went by, and still I wondered about this. I did some more research, and then it was time for an experiment.
I crossed my fingers and added a full dose of AlgaeFix to a different, healthy tank, with no green water or other types of algae. Mild and temporary respiratory distress again occurred in a few fish, disappearing in an hour or two. Perhaps oxygen depletion due to dying algae partially explained my first awful experience, but as there was no algae this time, there shouldn't have been any respiratory distress.
I waited a few weeks, did a few water changes. Tried the full dose again, same temporary respiratory distress. Apparently whatever negative effect AlgaeFix was having is something the fish could adapt to.
A few more weeks, and a few more water changes. This time, I added the full dose, but split it into quarter doses, spread out throughout the day. No symptoms of respiratory distress at all.
The active ingredient of AlgaeFix, Busan 77, is a surfactant. In more familiar terms, it's similar to soap; though this isn't a perfectly accurate comparison.
It alters the surface tension of water, and enhances its wetting properties. Both of these affect the exchange of gasses, water, and other chemicals transfer across semi-permeable membranes, like those that encapsulate cells.
The method by which it kills algae is known. With the properties of water altered, excess water moves into the algal cells faster than they can eliminate it. The end result is that the algal cells, being rather rigid, literally burst.
Now doesn't that sound like it would also have some effect on gills? I certainly think it does.
My Googling has been less than satisfactory, as many of the relevant papers are on sites that require money to access. But this much I have been able to find:
Gills (and lungs) make their own surfactants. They are an essential mechanism by which they self-regulate gas exchange and other processes. Exposure to additional surfactants does disrupt O2 exchange, though I can't find whether it increases or decreases it. It does increase the absorption of many other chemicals, and surfactants are often used explicitly for this purpose.
Maybe others can provide other details.
Regardless, I find sufficient evidence to believe that adding a full dose of AlgaeFix, all at once, is a stressful event for fauna. Whether that stress is small enough to go unnoticed, or big enough to cause deaths, depends partially on other factors like dissolved oxygen content.
But in all cases the stress can be reduced by dividing doses up into smaller doses with a few hours between each, which gives fauna time to adapt.
This doesn't seem to change its effectiveness on algae. Though I admit I have little experience here, as I still consider AlgaeFix a method of last resort, at least in a tank. My favorite use is in a bucket, as a plant dip to remove algae.
That's all. If you have your own experiences, experiments, and thoughts, please share!
Similar experience, can't remember the product...
I had the same thing happen, probably about 10 years ago. Sure, it got rid of the algae, but wiped out a whole tank of fish. I saw the same thing you did - respiratory distress.
I tossed the product straight out. I don't remember what it was, but it was from an allegedly reputable manufacturer.
Cool find. I never touch the stuff.
Next time you get green water, accelerate their growth. Blast it with light. They'll consumer all the nutrients and die off.
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that is something i have to keep an eye on in my live food cultures. if i expose my algae cultures to too much light, they produce fast but burn out pretty quick. i have never used the method to clear green water from a tank though...
then again, i dont get green water problems, with how much light and CO2 i blast into my tanks...
I hate to admit it but, I've gotten rid of green water several times using flocculents such as SeaChem Clarity. I had to constantly exchange the micropad in the filter but it did work. Fortunately, I didn't lose any fish. Anyway, I learned not to disturb more than a third of the substrate at any one time so, I haven't had green water in years.
I used RCS which I have plenty of culls for, since they are more sensitive to most chemicals than fish.
I have elephant noses, which I can assure anyone, are some of the highest respiration rate and sensitive to chemical fish livestock out there. They where fine even if you treated 3 days in a row.
Algaefix is not suitable for GW from what I've seen and heard.
Hair algae and that's about all.
Plant cells and animal cells are extremely different on several major factors.
This is a Biology question on many exams: "What ways are plant and animal cells different? List 5 key differences"
Equating them is a huge stretch without support.
The EPA's Environment toxicity report on aquatic organism is a bit like the NO3 issue, it's for Blue Gill and trout, trout are extremely sensitive vs a war water tropical fish species. Even so, the EPA report suggest that fish are more at risk to dose than invertebrates(they tested Daphia only).
Plants are not at risk, going about 73ppm, vs 0.28 for Daphia and 0.21 for Blue Gill.
Duckweed is .63 ppm or so.
Without specific test on specific species, it's hard to say. Shrimp are definitely far more sensitive to this product than ANY fish. I've tested this and see no evidence of any fish issues with perhaps 20-30 species, many of which are touchy species compared to things like guppies. Tetras, rare plecos, elephant nose, small cichlids, typical stuff plant folks keep. It is more toxic to green algae that diatoms of BGA, 6x to 100x etc more so.
Most of the diatoms are about like the sensitive fish in terms of toxicity.
CO2 kills fish to, but plenty of people use it:icon_idea
If you do not use it correctly, you will kill your fish with CO2, plenty/many do.
Point is: shrimp will die long long before any fish does. I also tried the 1/2 dose, this had no difference on the algae(still killed it effectively), and still killed a few RCS. Fish had no issues.
Fish stress when you dose CO2 also, but we still have people dosing CO2 24/7 without the same critique:icon_excl
Similarly, we add Excel and CO2 to shrimp tanks, but that reduces the fry production.
How much risk you want to apply/accept is something we all do in this hobby. Suggesting that it's too risky is no different than people saying CO2 is too risky. It is very specific to hair algae and thus a 1-2x treatment type of thing for a few days. So it's not something hobbyists use 24/7/365.
Note: Algaefix and Algae Destroyer(copper based) are 2 very different products, I've sure a few folks have thought they are the same thing.
Toxicology test suggest 2-3x a Excel dosing as Glut is very toxic to many species also, but many do it.
Like Glutaraldehyde, Busan 77 is also a microbiocide. Same with H2O2....and you can kill fish and stress them using those products as well.
Let me address this first, should anyone skim my original post and believe I must be an idiot because they then see:
1) Busan 77 affects algae by causing their cells to absorb water until they burst.
2) It affects animal gills by disrupting O2 exchange in the cells.
Both of which are well documented, no stretches or assumptions on my part.
Rapid fish death, with symptoms of respiratory distress, is also an atypical result. Still, it does happen, regardless of whether you personally have witnessed it or not.
Now while I didn't make the particular "huge stretch" you previously claimed, I admit I have made a stretch in presuming to know the reason for these rapid fish deaths. I have only tenuous documentation in my favor, and a few experiments.
If I'm wrong, then nothing whatsoever is lost by splitting AlgaeFix into smaller, more frequent doses. If I'm right, and people take my advice, it may prevent a few needless deaths; which is a definite gain.
Yet I've waited two years to write up this information. Between my own uncertainty, and those who seem to feel the need to discredit any new idea, I felt it likely that no one would end up trying it. Making both the initial write-up, and subsequently addressing misleading statements like the first I've quoted from you, an utter waste of effort.
I sincerely hope this will not be the case.
They do tell us that a certain amount of Busan 77, constant over a period of a few days (or weeks), was lethal to 50% of the test species.
They don't tell us when within that test period the fish died.
If, for example, the death rate were observed only to rise over time and particularly at the end, then this suggests only chronic toxicity is a factor.
But if there is also a distinct peak at the beginning, then this could support my hypothesis of respiratory distress, caused by a sudden increase in the amount of chemical.
Now if you can provide any report that includes this information, that would be truly useful.
I just added the recommended dosage of Algaefix to my 55 gal. I was planning on hitting it three days in a row (no fauna). Should i do water changes between dosage or just wait till the end? I am keeping an eye on the filter and am ready to change the filter floss. Also would adding a flocculant help remove the algae from the water faster?
It's hair Algae on the substrate and some of the older plant growth. As for the water i don't know it it's tannis or algae. It's yellowish clouding that always comes back within a few hours of water changes. As soon as i added the Algaefix the water turned from a cloudy yellow to more of a white color.
Did a 50% water change and hit it with the second dose. Same as before, water got a little cloudy when added. It definitely is taking it's toll on the Algae! Filter floss was pretty dirty so i went ahead and changes it. I would say the Algae was reduced about 40% after the first 24 hours.
There's an algaecide from API called Algae destroyer advanced has anyone used it? any good?
If I recall correctly, Algae Destroyer used to contain a different active ingredient, Simazine, which worked by shutting down photosynthesis. It was just as effective at killing plants as algae.
Now Algae Destroyer appears to contain the same active ingredient as AlgaeFix, in the same amount.
Despite the change, I'm guessing they kept it as two separate products just so people could continue to buy a brand they're familiar with; only adding "Advanced" to the name to signify the reformulation.
Maybe because of its old reputation, I haven't seen any reports of using Algae Destroyer in planted tanks. If you want to make 100% sure there are no differences, I'd suggest contacting API.
I used my first dose 2 nights ago and I got a spike of nitrite. I thought it was just temporary from excess ammonia from dead/dying algae so I did a 80% water change last night. As of tonight I again have registered nitrites, .25-.50, where before I never got any. Does anyone suppose algaefix kills beneficial bacteria?
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